We have been talking about holiness under pressure, and Peter has been preparing these saints for a time of intense persecution. We are dealing also with hard facts on the ground, with rival interpretations of those facts battling it out. And those rival interpretations could not be farther apart than when dealing with two invitations—one an invitation to an orgy, and the other to face the lions in the Coliseum. And each group says to the other one, “What is wrong with you?”
“Forasmuch 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; 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. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you . . .” (1 Pet. 4:1–19).
Summary of the Text:
Christ laid down His physical life for us, suffering as He did so, and we are instructed to “arm ourselves” with the same demeanor (v. 1). Again, we cannot duplicate the atonement, but we are required to imitate it. This imitation means you are done with sinning. Living this way binds you to the will of God, not to the lusts of men (v. 2). We used to live the same way they do, when we plunged headlong into riotous lusts (v. 3). That grotesque lifestyle is normal for them, and so they think normal people are weird (v. 4). They are going to give an accounting for themselves before the one who judges the living and the dead (v. 5). This is why the gospel was preached to those who (now) dead, so that fleshly men might dismiss them, while they are alive before God in the Spirit (v. 6).
The old aeon was coming to a close; it was right at hand (v. 7). They were to be sober, given to prayer. And above everything else, they were to have fervent love in their midst (v. 8). Fervent love covers a multitude of sins. Cruise control love does not, incidentally. Examples? Show hospitality without begrudging it (v. 9). As every man has laid up, lay out (v. 10). Preachers should speak as though they are on a mission from God, because they are (v. 11). Ministers should give according to their graces, so that God might be glorified (v. 11). His name is to be praised above every name.
A fiery trial is coming, and believers must not think it odd (v. 12). Not only is it not odd, but it is an occasion for joy — it is to partake of Christ’s sufferings, and that means we shall also be partakers of Christ’s gladness (v. 13). If you are reproached for the sake of Christ, you are blessed in it (v. 14). Why? Because the spirit of glory and God rests upon you. They hold Him contemptible, but He is glory to you.
Don’t suffer because you are a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer, or a busybody (v. 15). That’s no good. But if it is suffering because you are a Christian, there is no shame in it, but rather glory (v. 16). The coming turmoil begins with the Christians. But if the overture has to do with the believers, what will the crescendo of the symphony be for the unbelievers (v. 17)? If the righteous barely make it, then what of the ungodly (v. 18)?
What then is the conclusion? Let those who suffer for the right reasons (in accordance with God’s way of doing things) commit the safekeeping of their souls to God. That committing is manifested in well-doing, rendered to a faithful Creator (v. 19).
The hedonists say that it is good to dive headlong into riotous living—cocaine, easy women, raves and more. Believers say that it is good for us to suffer with integrity, following in the footsteps of Christ. But this suffering does not appear to the world to be noble suffering. To all of them, it looks like a stupid waste over a bunch of nothing. Looking like an idiot is part of the suffering.
The difference between these two “schools” of interpretation is this. Unbelievers read the chapter, and sometimes just the paragraph. Believers read the book. And when you read the book, you know how the whole thing ends. It is the difference between short-term thinking and long-term thinking. It is the difference between the demand for instant gratification and delayed gratification. These schools of thought are as far apart as are Heaven and Hell.
Fervent Love and Lots of Sins:
Anemic love covers very little, and adequate love covers a bit more. But we are told to cultivate and preserve a fervent love. Our love is to be constant, eager, and zealous. We should cultivate that kind of love, knowing what that kind of love is going to want to do. It is going to want to cover up, cover over, the rudeness and thoughtlessness of others. What kind of sin is Peter talking about? He is not urging us to become accomplices in the outrages of others—we are not to become the bagmen for bank robberies, the wing man for adulterers, or anything else of that kind. We reject the sins of vv. 3-4. We are not talking about excess of riot, in other words. So what is he talking about? He is addressing the rubs and chafes of life in community together. Love covers a multitude of sins, he says, followed by “show hospitality without grumbling.” They didn’t RSVP. They didn’t bring a hostess gift. They didn’t say thank you to the cook when they left. How many of those irritations should love cover? The word is multitude.
The Spirit of Glory:
This is true blessing. If you are reproached because of your love for Christ, and your allegiance to His Word, then you are truly blessed. How does that blessing come to you? (Remember that you have read the whole book, and not just one paragraph.) The spirit of glory does not greet you and then pass on. The spirit of glory is not your momentary friend. The spirit of glory is not a fleeting shadow. No. The spirit of glory, and of God your Creator, rests on you.
This hearkens back to the earlier phrase in this book—unspeakable joy and full of glory. Who is that glory? The glory of the Christian is Christ, and always and only Christ.