Preparing to Suffer Like Christ (1 Peter 4:1-6)
What images come to your mind when you think of what it looks like to be a Christian? Do images of warriors, wrestlers, runners, and boxers cross your mind? They should because that are the words that God uses in His Word, the Bible, to describe the life of a believer. We should be preparing to suffer like Christ as a warrior prepares for battle, as a wrestler prepares for a match, as a boxer prepares for a fight, and as a runner prepares for a marathon. God uses these images in the Bible to describe the life of a believer because He wants to remind us that fulfilling the Great Commission is not a passive effort. Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is something in which we become totally involved. And we know this to be true, we do not become better at basketball by sitting on the sidelines watching the game, we get better by training and participating.
Passivity is one of the main enemies of biblical masculinity and it is most obvious where it is needed most. It is a pattern of waiting on the sidelines until you are specifically asked to step in. Even worse than that, it can be a pattern of trying to duck out of responsibilities or to run away from challenges. Men who think conflict should be avoided, or who refuse to engage with those who would harm the body of Christ or their family, not only model passivity but also fail in their responsibilities as protectors. If our sinful desires are allowed to run wild, then it will ultimately destroy human beings, not only yours, but also those around you. (Stinson & Dumas, 2011)
In our passage today, we see that since Jesus Christ suffered in the flesh, so will believers. Therefore, we should prepare ourselves to suffer for the decision to suffer indicates that we have ceased to let sin have power over us. Here in verse 1, we get the main point of the passage. We are to arm ourselves with the intention to suffer. The term arm yourselves has military connotations, and is in other tests as well, for example Ephesians 6:11-17.
 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
This passage is calling us to arm ourselves with the attitude that suffering is inevitable. Like soldiers preparing for battle, we believers should prepare ourselves for suffering. And that is why we study a passage like this and a book like first Peter, in order to prepare you all for suffering. It would be easy for me to turn to a book like Deuteronomy and give you all the promises that God gives. However, I want to prepare you for when your life gets hard.
If you have a false theology that believes that if you will have just enough faith or do the right things that God will make you healthy and wealthy then you will fall when hardships come. I want to prepare you all to be able to not only handle persecution, but to glorify God amidst suffering in persecution in order to fulfill the Great Commission. Your efforts to bring good news of everlasting life will be met with joy in some and anger with others and I want you all to be prepared for when it comes. Just like how a solider is prepared.
Our passage today starts in Chapter four verse one. Here in this verse we see that “He who has suffered” refers to believers and relates back to the command to prepare themselves for suffering. Peter explained why they should prepare themselves to suffer, seeing the commitment to suffer as evidence that they have broken with a life of sin.
The point is not that believers who suffer have attained sinless perfection, as if they do not sin at all after suffering. What Peter emphasized was that those who commit themselves to suffer, those who willingly endure scorn and mockery for their faith, show that they have triumphed over sin. They have broken with sin because they have ceased to participate in the lawless activities of unbelievers and endured the criticisms that have come from such a decision. The commitment to suffer reveals a passion for a new way of life, a life that is not yet perfect but remarkably different from the lives of unbelievers in the Greco-Roman world and today living for Christ will also be remarkable different in our culture as well. (Schreiner, 2003)
In verse 2, we see that Christians should arm themselves with the intention to suffer, so that they live the remainder of their lives in carrying out God’s will instead of fulfilling the human lusts that dominated their lives before conversion. Believers are summoned to suffer in the sense that they are called to do God’s will and to turn away from a life of sin.
In other words, choose suffering for righteousness because if you do not, you will choose sin. But if you do choose suffering, you will prove that your bondage to sin has been broken. When you suffer for what is right, it is a sign that you have renounced sinful human desires and embraced the will of God as a higher value. (Piper, 1994)
We live out this verse by demonstrating to everyone that we are no longer slaves to our fleshly desires, but slaves to the almighty God. We will all be slaves to something, we will either be slaves to our flesh, that leaves us craving for more, or we will be slaves to God, who promises to fulfill us when we hunger and thirst after him. I encourage you to submit to the good master, rather than the one that tries to get as much as possible out of you.
For an extreme example take a drug addict, what happens when you become a slave to drugs? You want more drugs. And then you build a tolerance and have to take even more drugs to get the same high that got you addicted in the first place. Drugs promise to make you feel better, but what they actually do is wage war against your body demanding more and more from you, until your body finally collapses. On the other hand, what does Christ promise for those that seek after Him in Matthew 5 verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Jesus promises that instead of being an empty hole like sin, that we will be satisfied. In other words, the more we hunger and thirst for the true living God, the more satisfied we will become.
In verse 3, we see a list of what it will look like for you to be serving your flesh rather than God, and that same list is also a list of the darkness that will try to persecute you. In verse 4, we see that those people that practice these things will insult you. The will try to make you look like a fool. Better to embrace suffering like Jesus did, if it is God’s will, than to choose sin.
In verse 5, we see that the main point of this verse is that believers should not succumb to the temptation to renounce their faith so they can enjoy the praise of society. Such approval is short-lived, and those who mistreat believers now will be judged in the future.
The point of verse 6 is to encourage us that even though there is a judgment coming beyond the grave, and even though all of us die, nevertheless those who hear and believe the Gospel will live in the spirit according to the will of God.
So why would anyone persecute of insult someone that is trying to do good? There are different reasons, a few of the main ones is because darkness hates light. Someone that is in darkness hates when light is brought in because it reveals what they are doing is wrong. Another reason is because misery enjoys company. They would rather pressure you into doing wrong with them because it makes them feel less convicted. And the final reason is because living a Christian life will call you to live a different life that is counter cultural. And because you are different, people will look at you with a great deal of suspicion.
One of the reasons that Peter was writing this letter was to encourage believers that were being mocked by Romans. These non-believers were saying, “Ha, you say that you have such good news. You say that you escape judgment. You say your God is great and saves you and gives you joy. Well, all we have got to say is: you are missing a lot of parties and you die like everybody else. So if you die and go to the worms, and we die and go to the worms, we say, Eat, Drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
Did the Romans have a point? Do people today say or at least at the same way? However, we know that the Gospel was not preached to dead Christians in vain. The reason the Gospel was preached to those who have died is so that even though it looks like they have been judged like everybody else, they have not. They are alive in the spirit. They are with the Lord. And the sufferings that they experienced here are not worthy to be compared to the glory that has been revealed to them. (Piper, 1994)
Therefore, we can summarize this passage into 5 pieces:
1. Verse 1: Christ, the one we love and follow suffered.
2. Verses 1-2: When we suffer, we make a clean break with sin.
3. Verses 3-4: Any amount of past sinning is sufficient. It is enough.
4. Verse 5: Our enemies will be brought to justice.
5. Verse 6: We who embrace the Gospel will triumph over death.