Listen To Awaz-e-Haq World Radio

To listen click on the "Play" button:

If you are in Afghanistan, Pakistan or India you may also listen via Medium-wave: Tune to 1467KHz at 14:30UTC. (That's 7:30pm Pakistan Time.)

Done With Sin (4:1-6)

In category:

It is a fact of life that people suffer. The question is, Why? In chapter 3 of his first inspired letter, the Apostle Peter reminds the followers of Christ that suffering may result from their own wrong actions. But suffering may also have meaning and purpose. Peter gives the example of Jesus to illustrate that suffering may be necessary in order to reconcile someone else to God. It is only because the innocent Jesus died on behalf of sinners that their sins can be forgiven.

From this we can learn another important truth. God often uses the very thing that brings destruction to also bring deliverance. Christ laid down His life in order to give life to others. Peter also gives the illustrations of Noah and of baptism. Water destroyed the earth, but that same water also lifted the ark above the destruction. Our old self is destroyed when we are baptized into Christ’s death, and it is in that same baptism that we are saved through the power of Christ’s resurrection.

In the same way, Peter points out that suffering by the follower of Christ can be the very thing that ensures his salvation. In the first 6 verses of chapter 4 he writes, “Forasmuch then as Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin; that you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past time doing the desire of the Gentiles, and having walked in lewdness, lusts, drunken binges, orgies, carousings, and abominable idolatries. They think it is strange that you don’t run with them into the same excess of riot, blaspheming: [NIV, “and they heap abuse on you.”] who will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For to this end the Good News was preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed as men in the flesh, but live as to God in the spirit.”

Peter says that the followers of Christ are to arm themselves with Christ’s mind or attitude. What was His attitude? It was one that made Him willing to die on our behalf. The Apostle Paul describes it this way, “Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8) When we have the same attitude as Christ, we too will be willing to suffer in order to do God’s will even if it means our death.

But why is it necessary to go through this kind of suffering? Peter’s answer to this question is that, “he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” But what does “ceased with sin” mean? There are two meanings. The Apostle Paul explains the first in this way: “We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? ...Thus consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore don’t let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” (Romans 6:2, 11-12) From this we can see that just as the body of a dead person can no longer respond to anything, the person who has submitted his life to Christ should no longer respond to the allure of sin. He is dead to it. It no longer has a hold on him. And this is something that the non-Christian cannot understand. Peter says that they think it is strange when the follower of Christ does not join them in doing evil things, and heap abuse upon him.

To avoid this abuse the follower of Christ might be tempted to give in and join the non-Christian in his evil practices. But Peter gives two reasons for not doing so. The first is that no matter how much or little time we have spent doing these things in the past, it is enough! It was this behavior which made Christ’s death necessary. How can the follower of Christ involve himself again in the very things that caused his Lord to sacrifice His life? Scripture says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

The second reason that a follower of Christ should not be intimidated into committing sin is that those who are abusing him will have to give account to the one who will judge both the living and the dead. Who is this judge? Peter himself provided the answer to this question when he preached to the household of Cornelius. He said, “...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth... he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:38, 42 NIV) In chapter 3, verse 15 of his first letter Peter had pointed out that Jesus is the defender of His people. Here we see that Jesus is also the judge of their persecutors.

How far will Jesus allow persecution to go? Peter says that it is possible that Christ may even allow his followers to be killed. When Peter writes, “...that they might be judged indeed as men in the flesh, but live as to God in the spirit.” (4:6) he is drawing a direct parallel to what he had already said about Jesus in chapter 3, verse 18. That verse says He was, “...put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;” Just as men put Jesus to death, they may kill His followers as well. But just as God’s Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, so too God will keep alive the spirits of those who are put to death for following Him. As the message which was given to the church in Smyrna says, “...Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life... He who overcomes won’t be harmed by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11) The term ‘second death’ refers to eternal punishment in hell.

And this brings us to the second meaning of the phrase ‘ceased from sin’. A person who has died can no longer sin or be tempted by it. One reason God allows Christians to suffer, even to be killed, is that it is better for a follower of Christ to die than to throw his salvation away by returning to a life of sin.