1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), 2 so as not to spend what remains of one's life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God. 3 For the time that has passed is sufficient for doing what the Gentiles like to do: living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not plunge into the same swamp of profligacy, and they vilify you; 5 but they will give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God.

7 The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. 8 Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. 11 Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

12 Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. 16 But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. 17 For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? 18 "And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?" 19 As a result, those who suffer in accord with God's will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.  Version: New American Bible

COMMENTS

General:

  • Since we are called to be tough -- to suffer -- it isn't surprising that Peter urges us to be tough on sin (v.1ff).
    • Christ's suffering steels us to embrace suffering (v.1).
    • We all have choices to make about how to spend our time. Let's choose to use it in the Lord's service (v.2).
    • We mustn't live as we did before we became Christians (v.3; also 1:14ff).
    • The world mocks followers of Christ for pursuing holiness (v.4).
    • One reason to live right is that we are accountable to God; we will be judged (v.5).
  • In light of judgment, we are called to a life of:
    • Sobriety and prayer (v.7).
    • Mutual love (v.8).
    • Forgiveness (v.8).
    • Hospitality (v.9). Hospitality in ancient times wasn't something you did for friends, but (and especially) for strangers. Considered an act of piety!
    • Using of our gifts for God -- both "teaching gifts" and "service gifts" (vv.10-11).
  • Returning to the theme of suffering, Peter reminds the churches not to be surprised by suffering, but to expect it (v.12).
    • There is glory in suffering, though not for its own sake -- spiritual masochism.
    • Rather, there is glory in suffering for Christ and in response to the call to follow him (v.13ff).
    • Suffering prepares us for the judgment (v.17ff).
    • As we suffer, we must entrust ourselves to our faithful creator (v.19; see also 5:10).

Advanced:

  • The word the NAB renders "swamp" in v.4, anachusis, means "flood; excess." There may be an allusion to the Flood (see 3:20-21).
  • V.6 connects with 3:18ff; repentance is in view. The NAS may yield a better translation: "For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God." We are more than mere animals; we are created in God's image, and must rise above the animal mentality of the masses. Yet also consider the possibility that 3:19 refers to non-human spirits, while 4:6 refers to the dead.
  • V.7 suggests the nearness of eternity (the next age), not necessarily a prediction of the immediate end of the world.
  • Some see in v.12 an allusion to the Neronic fire of July 64 AD, after which Christians were burned alive, among other punishments. This is possible, though far from definite.
  • V.16 is one of the three N.T. verses containing the word Christian.
  • V.17 says it is time for judgment to begin with the house of God, a clear echo of Ezekiel 9:6. Recall that in the Hebrew OT God's temple (hekal) equates to the NT Greek house (oikos). Unfortunately this fact is obscured in the NIV version; "family" does not suggest the OT allusion at all. 
  • For further suggestions on reading the letters of Peter, click on 52 Tips. Or take a look at my book, James, Peter, John, Jude: Life to the Full (1995; second edition 2006, re-covered 2012).

Thought questions:

  • What is my attitude towards sin? Am I tough on my sin, or am I soft? Am I "armed"?
  • Which spiritual gifts am I using to serve others? When I serve, do I inwardly (or outwardly) complain, or am I cheerful?
  • Is my suffering mainly self-inflicted, or is it the result of my Christian commitment? And when I bear the normal sufferings of life (illness, fatigue, pressure, etc), am I gracious, positive, and faithful? That is, do I endure in a Christian way?

 

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