Ceased From Sin (Chapter 4 Verses 1-11)
Therefore, because of what Christ has suffered in his body on that tree (2.24), and for doing good, arm yourselves with the same attitude as he (vv1-6). The second part of this verse is quite difficult too (v1b). What it can’t mean is that Christ is done with sin, because he never started with it, he was sinless (2Corinthians 5.21; 1John 3.5; 1Peter 2.22). And, does suffering relieve a person of their sins? I don’t think so. One way we could read it is, he who suffered in his body, being Jesus, and suffered for sin on the cross, our sin, made an end of sin. It was all finished with when his suffering was over. Surprisingly some say that what is meant is that when people suffer they cease to sin, well we know that just isn’t so, for many people suffering causes them to sin even more. Why even Christians sometimes grumble and complain about God’s fairness and justice when they suffer. So that is not Peter’s meaning. Remember these are suffering Christians whom Peter writes to, and it is how they are dealing with this suffering that is his main concern, he wants to encourage and strengthen them in their faith. With that in mind, Peter refers here (v1b) to Christians specifically, that when their suffering for Jesus’ sake is at an end. That is when they have died, the suffering in body is a reference to death. The moment a Christian dies they enjoy the final cleansing, they are with the Lord and cease from sin (Philippians 1.23), and forever. Not so the ungodly. So Peter strengthens these sufferers in this (3.14). Because Jesus died for their sins in his body, they when they have finished their sufferings and laid their bodies to rest, they will be free from sin completely and forever. Let this attitude rule their minds in the midst of their sufferings. Jesus’ atoning death means it will all be over, the suffering and the sin too.
And the result of such thinking (v2)? Not evil human desires but a stronger motivation for doing God’s will. You can see the background of some of these believers (v3). Are they perhaps thinking that because they are suffering at the hands of these pagans that the best course of action is to go back and join them, do what they are doing? No, says Peter, you have done enough of that in the past, get on with living your lives for God. Oh yes they, the world, don’t understand (v4). They think you are weird because you don’t indulge the way they do, but then that is how it should be, that quality life again (2.12). No, not strange, not weird in the wrong sense, not cultish. But joyfully pure, pleasantly holy (1.16). The righteousness of God is not cold, and hard, it is warm, lovely, it is beautiful.
(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)