COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
" 4:1Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2, KJV)
The Spirit now shares with us the secret to gaining daily victory over sin. For those in Christ, sin still remains an issue. This is because we carry about in us the remnants of the "old man." Although he has been crucified, yet enough life remains in him to call for our attention and demand to be dominant in our lives. He will not be subdued automatically, or without our personal involvement. In overcoming sin, there is a certain frame of mind that is imperative. It was first possessed by Christ Jesus, and it must now be possessed by us. Without this mind-set, it is not possible to subdue the flesh or resist the devil. If our thoughts are not shaped by proper perspectives and considerations, the devil and the world will gain the advantage over us. Although this is not a common teaching in professed Christendom, it is most essential. Once our thoughts dwell upon this matter, the essentiality of such a mind will become evident to us.
A FOUNDATION FOR GOOD REASONING
" 4:1a Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh . . . " KJV The word "forasmuch," or "therefore"NKJV, NIV builds upon the teaching that has gone before. It is a way of introducing the conclusion of the Holy Spirit and the deduction of faith. This is a powerful example of spiritual reasoning.
The suffering of Christ is now viewed from another perspective. First, it was seen as a vicarious suffering, in our behalf-one that led to His voluntary death for the sins of the world. Here, however, we are introduced to Christ's suffering from a broader perspective. The focus is not on His death, but on the countenance of His soul throughout His life, being consummated in His death. When Jesus died, He suffered, "the Just for the unjust"(3:18). Now, however, we will behold His suffering as the thing that qualified Him for His atoning death-the suffering that kept Him from sinning. The remainder of our text will confirm, that this is the suffering of reference-the suffering of a holy life in an unholy world. His was the suffering of a pure spirit in the midst of a defiled realm.
By saying "suffered for us in the flesh," the Spirit means Jesus entered into the realm of suffering because of us, or in order to save us. This is the point of Hebrews 2:14-17. "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same."14 In being made "like unto His brethren," Jesus partook of the suffering of believers, "that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God."17,NKJV Because our salvation depended upon Christ's intercession as well as His death, it was necessary for Him to taste of the bitter dregs of life, as well as the grievous cup of death. Thereby, He was made suitable for the work of intercession. Thus it is written, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15).
Isaiah described the coming Savior as "a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering"NIV (Isa 53:3). Although this suffering found its zenith in His death, it was present throughout His life. It is said of our Lord, "Though he were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb 5:8). Jesus was "obedient unto death," a process ended at the cross, but began when He "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Lk 2:52). All through Christ's life, there was a category of suffering that resulted from His determination to do the will of His Father in the midst of an environment that militated against that purpose. There are several indications of this in Scripture.
When Jesus was preparing to raise Lazarus from the dead, He was surrounded by unbelief. It was a grief to Him, as is indicated by the following words. "When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled" (John 11:33). This is why He later "wept" - not because Lazarus died, but because of the rampant unbelief that dominated that place. As He made His way to the tomb, it is written, "Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb" (11:38). This is the language of suffering.
On another occasion, Jesus was in a synagogue, when He confronted a man with a "withered hand." The people, ruled by unbelief, "watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him." After calling the man forward, and confronting the people with the propriety of doing good and saving life on the Sabbath day, it is written, "And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts . . . " (Mk 3:1-5). That was a form of suffering.
We must not fail to see this aspect of our Savior's life in the world. When He said, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me" (Mk 9:19), it was a grief to Him. Confronting the belligerence of the scribes and Pharisees, the hardness of the lawyers, and the "little faith" of His followers were all sources of sorrow to the Savior. He did not abandon His mission because of such things, but endured them, moving toward the final suffering of the cross. It was His endurance under the lesser sufferings that enabled Him to hold up under the greater suffering. He was a "Man of sorrows" before His death, as well as during it.
A MIND SUITABLE FOR SPIRITUAL BATTLE
" 4:1b . . . arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." KJV Here is a weapon that is not often emphasized-a proper "mind." Many a spiritual battle has been lost simply because a correct mind was not possessed. This is "the mind of Christ," which approaches life in the only manner acceptable to God. Not only are we said to "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16), we are also admonished, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). It is a mind so determined to do the will of God, it will not be moved away from that resoluteness. This is precisely the mind-set that causes the child of God to "suffer" when confronted with sin, temptation, and hardness of heart in others. Those who are not afflicted by sinful influences, whether within or without, are simply not resolved to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The sixth chapter of Romans expounds being armed with "the same mind" as our Lord. This is the godly way of thinking, and is available to everyone who is in Christ Jesus. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin" (vs 6-7). This mind takes hold of what has occurred in Christ Jesus. It reasons upon that basis, concluding that we have a primary response to God. "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (v 11). This mind draws conclusions that enable the individual to resist the devil. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (v 12). It reasons in this manner: just as surely as I once yielded myself to sin, so now I can yield myself to God. " . . . as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (v19).
Just as surely as there are wayward thoughts to be cast down, so there are spiritual weapons to accomplish the task, As it is written, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:4-5). A key part of that spiritual weaponry is a proper mind-set: arming ourselves "with the same mind." An improper way of thinking makes men vulnerable to the devices of the wicked one.
Those who are in Christ Jesus are burdened with mortality, and grieved by the proclivities of the flesh. The condition is described in the following verses. "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom 8:23). "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" (2 Cor 5:4). The closer one is to Christ, the more pronounced and perceptible this groaning becomes.
"For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." This has reference to the person who has armed himself "with the same mind." It does not refer to Jesus, for Jesus did not sin, and thus could not "cease" from it. The text could remotely apply to Jesus in that after His death He never again will deal with sin in an expiatory way. But that is not the immediate intent of this verse. When we are "armed" with a resolute spiritual mind, even the intrusion of temptation hurts us, causing us to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom 7:24). Therein is a secret to overcoming sin. When even the attraction, or lure, to sin becomes offensive to us, we will not stumble thoughtlessly into it.
LIVING THE REST OF OUR TIME
People yield to sin because it is not offensive to them. Faith, however, removes the "pleasure" from sin, knowing such things are only fleeting, and for a season (Heb 11:25). When sin hurts us, causing suffering, it becomes easier to avoid it. However, when this is not the case, men will not "cease from sin." Sin must be seen as Jesus sees it. When that takes place, we are "armed with the same mind," and will cease from sinning." 3:22 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." KJV When we are "armed" with the mind of Christ, we are equipped to live for God. The NIV reads, "As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God." If Jesus suffered for us in His humanity, then it ought to be apparent to us that there is a higher motive for living than simply being in the world, taking advantage of its fleeting fancies. In this verse, the word "flesh" means life in this world, as in Hebrews 5:7: "Who in the days of His (Jesus) flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears . . . "
How are men to live? What is to be their motivation, and what is the objective of their life? That is the subject of our text. When we came into Christ, we became a new creation. As it is written, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new"NKJV (2 Cor 5:17). At that time, we entered a period called "the rest of our earthly life." It is separate and distinct from our former life, and devoted to a different objective. Life is not for the gratification of human desires ("to the lusts of men"), but to serve and please the Lord ("the will of God").
While sin is altogether too common in the professed church, it is entirely out of order. In Christ we die to sin, and are
freed from its dominion. We owe nothing to the flesh, and everything to Christ Jesus. Thus it is written, "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? . . . Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin . . . For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace . . . Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (Rom 6:2,6,15; 8:12). We have not been liberated to seek fleshly interests, or to become acclimated to this present evil world. The "rest of our time" is for the Lord.
Notice, "the will of God" is contrasted with "the lusts of men." What God desires versus what flesh desires. Both are calling for our attention, but we cannot hearken to both-only to one. Spiritual life cannot be maintained while living for the flesh. Regenerate life cannot survive a fleshly emphasis. In my judgment, this is largely unknown. There is too much flesh in the average church, and it betrays a most grievous condition.
Jesus affirmed the one doing the will of His Father was His "brother, and sister, and mother" (Matt 12:50). He also made clear the one failing to do that will could not possibly "Enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 7:21). Jesus set the agenda for the people of God when He said, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me" (John 5:30). He came down from heaven, He said, "not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38). How could any one hope to please the Lord or find a place in heaven by seeking their own will? It simply is not possible.
It is to be understood that every resource required for living to the will of God is supplied in Jesus. God's "Divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3). If this was not so, we could not live "to the will of God." But it is so, praise the Lord. He has also given us the Holy Spirit, who assists us in this work, changing us from one stage of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18).
There is a parallel passage to our text found in the twelfth chapter of Romans. It emphasizes the role of the mind, and discovery and fulfillment of the will of God. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove (discern, examine, or see whether a thing is genuine or not) what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God"NKJV (12:1-2).
Such a life is not an occasional thrust, but our vocation for "the rest of our time" in the flesh. We should beware of any religious thrust that allows for competitive interests, or does not make the will of God primary. Also, by living to the will of God, you will experience the greatest degree of satisfaction, and will be unashamed on judgment day.