1 Peter – Lesson 4
1. What does Peter mean when he says, “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”? (See Isaiah 52-53 and Revelation 12:11)
Christ, who was without sin, led by example when He submitted to human authorities who literally bruised and crushed his flesh. Jesus not only died for us, he was maimed worse than any human. Scripture says, “Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14).
When we too are bruised and crushed in the flesh for our faith in Christ, we give meaning to the verse “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Whether we live or die through the ordeal, we derive strength from our faith in Christ. If we are truly being abused because we refuse to reject our Savior, we have duly died to sin. It is implied that we might have had a way out had we complied with our persecutors or denied Jesus. But to deny Christ to save our own life is a great sin (Matthew 16:25).
When we suffer in the flesh for our faith we are proving our partnership with Christ by giving up our flesh desires for the living hope. We conquer the enemy when we love Christ more than even our own lives. “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11).
2. Why do unbelievers persecute believers? (See also John 15:18-19)
Nonbelievers don’t reject believers; they reject the Holy Spirit in believers. They reject the Spirit because they love their sin and they hate having it exposed by God’s light. Believers radiate the light of Christ. And when believers choose to no longer participate in worldly behavior, nonbelievers feel the sting of conviction. Sometimes they will interpret the sting as judgment.
Nonbelievers attempt to rationalize their guilt by accusing believers of hypocrisy. They will point to the sins of our past life (before our new birth in the Spirit) and claim that we’re “no better” than them.
And they’re right.
The truth is, it is only by the grace of God that we are saved, not by our efforts. Only through the blood of Jesus Christ was our “ticket” to heaven paid for. We could never earn entrance on our own merit. In the midst of persecution we can acknowledge the fact that we are hypocrites and sinners; the very reason we recognize our need for a Savior. We can share the grace of God and assure them that forgiveness is available to all, setting them free from guilt and shame and into an abundant life of hope.
3. In verse 4:6 Peter again refers to preaching to the dead. How does he explain the situation in this chapter?
This supports the interpretation that Jesus in the Spirit preached to those who died without having heard the Gospel. This opportunity is not available during the New Covenant era after the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have but one life, after which is the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We should not expect a second chance to accept Jesus after death. All people will have the chance to accept or reject Him in his or her lifetime and receive personal grace. The choice is ours, but time is running out. Let today be the day of your salvation.
4. According to 1 Peter 4:10, are we all to minister to one another?
Some Christians confuse ministering with teaching. Not everyone has the spiritual gift of teaching, but all believers are called to minister to one another using the spiritual gift God has endowed upon us by His sovereign will. God has given every believer a spiritual gift to use for the “common good.” This means we risk disobeying God when we hide these gifts from the world. Scripture compares the use of spiritual gifts for the common good of the Church to the use of different body parts for the common good of the body. Just as a hand works to benefit other functions of the body, so too a believer with the spiritual gift of discernment works to benefit the spiritual gift of prophesy, etc. Each spiritual gift builds up every other spiritual gift into a functioning Church for the glory of God. We each minister when we use the spiritual gift given to us.
What does Peter say believers need to do to be prepared for the end times?
The end times is a period when the Gentiles are no longer given the opportunity to accept Jesus as their Savior. The period of salvation for those grafted into God’s grace comes to a close. The end times begins a turbulent period of seven years worse than any other period ever on earth. This period is called the Tribulation as foretold by Daniel.
The time of grace for Gentiles ends in a twinkling of an eye. Therefore, we must always be in right standing with God. We must not waste a day before making the decision to accept Jesus as our Savior. Our eternity is at stake. We show others our allegiance with Christ when we produce fruit for the kingdom. Our hearts will show our true motivation. Do not do anything to merely “check the box,” but rather obey God out of love and reverence for what He did for you. This is pleasing to God.
5. Do you feel surprised and strange when fiery trials come upon you? Why?
As believers we may feel entitled to a “better” life. We may credit ourselves for having “figured it out” and thus, believe we are better than nonbelievers. This is not the case. God wants not one to perish, but all to come to repentance (2 peter 3:9). We must humble ourselves and have compassion for nonbelievers. They will get their due. But how terrible for them! “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” We pray that they would come to faith.
God wants to train us for the great race to judgment at the end of our lives. The best endurance training is suffering while keeping the faith. Jesus suffered. Jesus tells us that it should be no surprise when people persecute believers because the persecutors are really persecuting Him (Matthew 5:11). Let’s shift our paradigm. Instead of bitterness toward our suffering, let’s feel blessed, rejoice and be glad, trust God and continue to do good. For we will be ready to meet our Lord on judgment day. I pray He blesses us with “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Dear God, let the Holy Spirit control our lives so that we may no longer be slaves to sin, but have the tools to win the fight against our old sin nature. Lord, go with us and take every opportunity to remind us of the living hope that you revealed to us. Use that reassurance, Lord, to carry us through our suffering. Guide us with how you want us to respond and what you want us to learn. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Personal Application Questions:
1. Read all of Isaiah 53. 700 years before Christ was even born the prophet Isaiah foretold of Christ’s sacrifice. What surprises you about the detail Isaiah recorded? Is there anything revealed in Isaiah about God’s plan that you didn’t know before?
2. One of the greatest scriptures “Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). How has your love expressed covered sins in your life? Have you expressed such love to others who have sinned against you? Are you kind to others’ imperfections and faults?
3. Have you ever resented the trials you are going through? What steps can you take today to shift your paradigm?