God’s Word for You
1 Peter 4:1-2 Godly suffering
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 6, 2022
4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (NIV)
“Arm yourself” is a unique word in the Bible. It’s hoplisasthe (ὁπλίσασϑε). Some readers will know that a hoplite was a heavily armed and armored professional soldier in Greek armies. To “hoplite yourself” means to “arm yourself” in a military context, but this is a spiritual context. Here the word means “pick up and use this tool,” which is the attitude of Christ in his suffering. We should make our attitude the very same as that of Jesus when he suffered.
Peter means that we should take on this attitude to help us when we suffer. It will be a useful attitude to have. For while we aren’t suffering in order to end sin for the rest of mankind (Christ’s purpose and goal), we suffer on account of sin but for the sake of the gospel. Since this happened to Jesus, we can expect that it will or might happen to us. “If they persecuted me,” Jesus said, “they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). For the suffering of Christ remains a mystery. “He who cannot suffer, and yet for our sakes suffered,” was “first suffering, and then incapable of suffering: both from Mary and from God, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Pontius Pilate had him horribly whipped before handing him over to be crucified (Mark 15:15), as we confess in all three creeds:
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and
was buried” (Apostles’ Creed).
“For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered
death and was buried: (Nicene Creed).
“He suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose the third
day from the dead” (Athanasian Creed).
So the fact of our Lord’s suffering cannot be denied, and his suffering becomes for us the template, the shield and weapon, in our own suffering for his sake. Paul says, “We who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:11). On account of our connection with him, we are attacked by the devil and his bride, which is the sinful world. And this attack would be overwhelming and unbearable without our Savior’s help.
What does Peter mean when he says, “because he who suffered in his body is done with sin”? The emphasis of Peter is the end of the suffering. In our translation, this end is caught up in the word “has” and the past tense of “suffered.” When the suffering of the flesh is at an end; the man has died, and his days of sinning are over. This is only true of the Christian, because those who reject Christ will go on sinning in their torment in hell. The ungodly mocked and gnashed their teeth at the godly in this world (Psalm 35:16) and they continue this in the next (Matthew 8:12, 13:42). We also hear Jesus describe the rich man in hell who persists in his sinful misunderstanding of the means of grace. He begs Abraham: “Send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:28), to which the Patriarch replies with the words of God: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29). And Jesus warns about the returning Master: “He will cut him (a wicked servant) to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers” (Luke 12:46), and unbelief is persisting in sin.
But for the Christian, death is release from sin and all of sin’s hold over us. Now, while we wait for the total release from sin in our resurrection, we also have Christ to help us to serve God while we wait and “live the rest of this earthly life.” For tainted with sin as we are, we can also serve God in the glorious rebirth of our baptism. We can pray today, “Deal with us in our patience and in your abundant mercy,” and be certain that our trespasses are forgiven for Christ’s sake. And we can live, giving glory to God in whatever our hand finds to do, for God is with us (1 Samuel 10:7; Ecclesiastes 9:10). We think, study, ponder, and contemplate God’s will, God’s world, and God’s holy word (Psalm 119:95, 145:5; Ezra 7:10). And we use words that will uplift the godly and uphold God’s word (2 Samuel 23:2; Psalm 119:172). For even in suffering, we can do great good by the way we respond to that suffering. May God grant us patience and strength. How good it is to follow the Lord!
Pastor Timothy Smith