Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 4:1-6
Prepared to Suffer for Righteousness
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
What are secrets to being prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake?
Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 that the Word of God is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God maybe thoroughly equipped for all righteousness. The Word of God is useful to equip us to have a godly marriage, to be a good son, a good daughter, a good employee, a good employer, to become a follower of Jesus Christ, etc.
But another one of the good works that Scripture is given for is also to prepare us to suffer for righteousness. “Therefore” is the first word of chapter 4 that points us back to Peter’s discussion in chapter 3. Listen to what Peter previously said:
It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 3:17–18
It is better if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. This is a miraculous concept. For these believers who are being persecuted for the faith, this, no doubt, would be an important lesson. How can they be prepared to suffer for righteousness?
But this is important for us to hear as well. In the Western church, by God’s grace, we have avoided much of the persecution that the rest of the world has encountered. However, in the last century alone, there were more martyrs for the faith than in all the centuries combined. Every day over 400 Christians die for the faith. In fact, in our Western church, we should not be surprised if persecution for our faith becomes more and more prevalent. Jesus promised that as we approached his second coming, persecution would increase. Look at what Christ said in describing the signs of the end times in Matthew 24:9: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (emphasis mine).
I can only speak as an American, but in my country, I feel as if we are not too far away from this. In our culture, if someone says something against gay marriage, they are boycotted, mocked, or persecuted. Our society is becoming more and more intolerant of Christian beliefs. It wasn’t this way only a few years ago. I am astounded by how far our country has gone in such a short time.
It is coming. Even now, you should expect to enter the work force and find certain levels of persecution because you live differently, because you don’t get drunk on the weekend, because your integrity level is high, because you have a chaste and monogamous relationship with your wife or husband when cheating is becoming the norm.
How do we prepare for this? How should we prepare to be treated unjustly by friends, coworkers, and sometimes family because of Christ? Peter addresses that in this text. In this passage, we will look at eight major principles about how to suffer for injustice and be holy in this ungodly age.
Big Question: How can believers be prepared to suffer unjustly according to 1 Peter 4:1–11?
Be Prepared by Remembering that Christ Suffered
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body.
Peter calls us to remember Christ both by pointing us back to Christ sufferings in 1 Peter 3:18 with the “therefore” but also with the rest of the first statement of chapter 4. “Therefore, since Christ suffered.” Peter is directing the eyes of these saints to Christ and his sufferings.
This would be important for these Christians to remember as they were suffering unjustly. They would need to remember their Savior. In fact, the Christians in the book of Hebrews were also suffering for the faith (Hebrews 10:32–34) and the writer tells them to fix their eyes on Jesus as well so they would not become weary. Look at what he says in Hebrews 12:2-3,