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Dead, and Done with Sin – 1 Peter 4:1-6

1 Peter Bible Study Notes, Week 14

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude [or, resolve] because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.  1 Peter 4:1-6 (NIV)

Additional Reading: Romans 6:1-14

Things to Think About

Are you done with Sin?
What things have you missed out on because of your Christian faith?
Have you lost friends, or become estranged from relatives, because of your faith?
Are you ready for the Judgement?

Dead, and Done with Sin – 1 Peter 4:1

I’ve been thinking about this verse in 1 Peter and how suffering might cause a person to be “done with sin”. God uses suffering to refine, purify and prove a person (1 Pet. 1:7), but we will never really be done with sin, or stop sinning, in this present world with this present body. Then I realised that when Peter is speaking about suffering in 4:1, he is again really speaking about death (cf. 1 Pet. 3:18).

A dead person doesn’t sin. A dead person can’t sin (cf. Rom. 6:7). So what Peter is saying here is that we are to think of ourselves as dead. This attitude will help us to say ‘no’ to unhealthy human desires. We are to arm ourselves with this attitude which will help strengthen our resolve against sin.

Paul thought of himself as dead. In Galatians 2:20a he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” In Romans chapter 6 Paul explains that we have died with Christ. This death is symbolised by water baptism. But we have also been raised with Christ. In Romans 6:11-12 he wrote, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”

The context of this passage in 1 Peter, however, is about suffering for our faith. In this context, Karen Jobes (2009:265) writes, “those who suffer unjustly because of their faith in Christ have demonstrated that they are willing to be through, or done, with sin by choosing obedience, even if it means suffering.”

Before and After – 1 Peter 4:2-3

Life for the Christian is divided into two parts: the time before conversion, and the time after conversion.  Time before conversion is often spent gratifying our own desires. The time after conversion should be spent seeking and obeying God’s will. We are to be ruled by God’s will, not human passions.

The Christians in Asia Minor had previously lived as the pagans had lived, engaging in all sorts of wicked and immoral excesses. Many commentators believe that the Christians in Asia Minor were mostly Gentiles who had converted from paganism. I maintain, however, that many of the Christians who Peter addresses are Jewish. Not all Jewish people lived devout, religious lives.[1] Whether Jewish or Gentile, the Christian converts in Asia Minor no longer joined in with what the pagans chose to do. The Christians did not join their neighbours in immoral and idolatrous feasts and festivals. Nor did they enjoy “the popular forms of Roman entertainment such as the theatre with its risqué performances, the chariot races, and the gladiatorial fights with their blood and gore.” (Jobes 2009:262) Rather, they sought to do God’s will.

Many local customs revolved around pagan ceremonies and festivals. By not participating in local customs the Christians appeared antisocial, and their behaviour was seen with suspicion as being threatening to the Greco-Roman way of life. The pagans may have even felt betrayed when their friends and relatives converted to Christianity and withdrew from their society.

The Christians were being slandered (literally blasphemed) and abused for not joining in with their neighbours. The Christians were criticized for abandoning their past ways, but Peter reminds them “that human judgements are not the last word because God will judge everyone, not just those who believe in him.” (Jobes 2009:262)

Giving an Account – 1 Peter 4:5-6

It seems to me that a few Christians enjoy speaking about God’s Judgement, and even take delight in the thought that people who commit certain sins will be condemned by him. I don’t share their joyful judgmentalism. Other Christians, however, rarely think or speak about the Judgement. I think both positions are a mistake. Jesus came to the earth as Saviour, but when he returns one of his roles will be as Judge (John 5: 22, 27; Acts 17: 31; Rom. 2: 16). This Judgement will be universal; Jesus will judge the people still living at his return and he will judge the people who have died.

Every person will give an account of their words and actions. Those who do not know Jesus will face his Judgement and be condemned (cf. Matt. 7:23). Those who do know Jesus, and have been forgiven and redeemed by him, will be acquitted, but we will still need to give an account of what we have done with our gifts, including the gift of salvation itself (1 Cor. 3:12-15 cf. Matt. 25:13-31). Knowing that we will have to give an account should give us an extra incentive to make sure that we are truly following Jesus, and obeying and pleasing him with our lives. (See Peter’s previous comment about God as Judge in 1 Peter 1:17.)

The Realms of Flesh and Spirit – 1 Peter 4:6

Verse 6 is tricky to understand and I’m unsure how to interpret it. The “dead” in verse 6 may be Christians who accepted the preaching of the gospel but have since died “in the flesh”.[2] These Christians may even have been put to death for their faith, martyred because they were judged by human standards. However, “in the judgement of God, the opinions of men will be reversed and they will live in the new resurrection realm.” (Blum 1981:245)

The “flesh” (sarx) and “spirit” (pneuma) in this verse may again refer to pre-resurrection and post-resurrection spheres, or realms (Phil 3:20-21 cf 1 Pet 3:18).  While we are presently partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:3-4), in our post-resurrection state we will have an eternal, glorified body and will be partakers of the divine nature to a much greater extent.  In the Greek of verse 6 there is a decisive contrast between the aorist tense of judged and the present continuous live.  (Stibbs 1983:152)

There are no second chances after death.  We need to accept the gospel message today.  If we are to escape Judgement and condemnation, and instead receive the gift of eternal life and the promise of a glorious inheritance, we need to put our faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” John 5:24-27


[1] Karen Jobes (2009:268) notes that “In first century Galilee, wealthy Jewish patrons displayed their acculturation to the Greco-Roman world by commissioning decorative art for the synagogues of Galilee that displayed the astrological zodiac, Hercules, Medusa, and scenes reminiscent of the Dionysian cult … Although these aesthetic artefacts don’t necessarily imply pagan behaviour among the Jews of Galilee, they count as evidence for the possibility.”

[2] Note that “Paul uses the word sarx (flesh) differently than Peter, as a pejorative reference to the totality of fallen human nature, equivalent to the “old nature” of Rom. 6: 5-7 … In marked contrast, Peter in this section of his discourse (3:18; 4:1, 2, 6) consistently uses the term to refer to the time of earthly life before death.” (Jobes 2009:265)

Week 13: The Righteous for the Unrighteous – 1 Peter 3:17-22
Week 15: The Priority and the Protection of Love – 1 Peter 4:7-11
1 Peter Bible Studies Series

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