1 Peter 4:1
This passage is the most difficult in the entire Epistle. We can see a meaning in each of its sentences taken separately, but when we take them together their meaning, as a whole, is obscure. As far, however, as I can understand it, I would entitle the paragraph, The persecuted Christian reminded of the necessity of suffering for righteousness. Peter here states the fact that suffering for righteousness is no strange thing, but what Christians must reasonably look for.

I. CHRIST'S SUFFERING BIDS HIS PEOPLE BE READY TO SUFFER. The sufferings of our Lord alluded to here are not his substitutionary sufferings - they are referred to in the eighteenth verse; of them, to the world's last moment, it will be true, "I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me." But there is another class of our Lord's sufferings in which his people can, and according to their likeness to him must, shape - the suffering he bore in the maintenance of holiness in an evil world; of this he could say, "The disciple is not above his Master." There is sometimes confusion in Christian minds, in finding that Christ is said to suffer for us, and yet that in many places we are called to suffer with him. Let us be clear on this point, we are "redeemed by the precious blood of Christ;" God requires nothing from us for our redemption, but, when thus redeemed, much of Christ's suffering becomes the pattern of ours; and of that he says, "He that taketh not up his cross and cometh after me cannot be my disciple."

1. Christ's experience would lead us to expect that holiness must suffer on earth. For three and thirty years he, the Embodiment of perfect love to God and man, lived and moved upon this earth, and what was the result? He was "despised and rejected of men;" the longer he lived, the more he wrought, the wider he was known, the wilder and louder and fiercer became the cry, "Away with him! Crucify him!" Goodness condemns wickedness when the lips say nothing; the very presence of a good man in an ungodly circle is a protest against evil. On one side at least there will always be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman; and the nearer his people approach conformity to their Lord's character, the more may they be sure of conformity to their Lord's death.

2. What Christ's sufferings have made possible to us should lead us to be willing to suffer for its attainment. Our Lord's sufferings had no other end than our sanctification, to secure God-likeness in us. How great a boon must this be, when it could be purchased at no less a price than what comes to mind, when we speak of our Lord as "the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" and for which he did not regard that Drice as too great to pay! And if we find, when we try to secure and maintain this great blessing, that it can only be done at much cost to ourselves, how impossible it is for us to shrink from it, when we remember the greater cost of this to him ] It were a solemn thing to refuse through cowardice to "fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ."

3. The claims of Christ should lead us to resolve to suffer if need be for him. Where Christ's sacrifice is present to the mind, there is no room for self left; the "I" in us is destroyed; the blood of Christ, when rightly apprehended, not only blots out our sin, but also our self. We come now to the difficult part of this passage, but I think it brings before us this truth -

II. THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE NECESSARILY ARISES FROM THREE CAUSES.

1. Suffering through mortification of the flesh. It seems natural to suppose that when, having said, "Christ hath suffered in the flesh," the apostle goes on to say, "For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin," he is still referring to Christ. But it cannot be so, for of him" who did no sin" it cannot be said that he hath "ceased from sin;" it must refer to us. Yet how can it be said of them whom he has called to arm themselves with the same suffering mind as Christ, that they have "ceased from sin"? I think we have here a parallel to what we read in Romans 6:6-11," Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him," etc. That contains a priceless truth, which we do not half realize. It speaks of a death in us, corresponding to our Lord's death; that this is to be the sublime result of his death - the death of sin in his people; and it is this which Peter here holds up to us, "He that hath suffered in the flesh [hath put to death the flesh], hath ceased from sin," etc. But that destroying the flesh is suffering, to take our natural desires and passions and nail them to the cross is crucifixion - a slow, lingering death, which involves unutterable pain till it is complete.

2. Suffering through difference from the world. "For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles," etc. We have here a true picture of the pagan character, and it is hardly possible for us to imagine the contrast which was manifest when such a one became converted to Christ. Glaring evils had to be renounced at once, lifelong associations had to be severed at a blow. That was the case here; and what was the result? They were evil spoken of, and that is where the suffering always comes in when we break with wrong associations. We shall be thought strange by others, and shall seem to be condemning them, assuming that we are better than they. And to be misjudged, misrepresented, reviled, is suffering; but, as Christians, there is no help for it, we must sever ourselves from what is worldly.

3. Suffering through, spiritual discipline. "For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead" etc. The word "dead" here must be taken to mean those who are dead whilst they live. But. even with that alteration, it is difficult to see clearly what the verse means. Now it is said that the construction of the Greek allows of the insertion of the word "although;" just as in a passage in Romans 6:17, which we never read without mentally inserting the word "although." If that be so, the meaning is evident: "For to this end was the gospel preached even to them who were dead in sins, than [although] they might be judged, condemned, persecuted, put to death according to men in the flesh, they might live according to God in the spirit." Spiritual life is God's end with us, let men do with us what they may. And the spiritual life is often developed by means of what men do to us. Every act of persecution is to be followed by a deeper peace, a holier purity, a higher power.

III. THE COMING END ASSISTS CHRIST'S PEOPLE TO BEAR SUFFERING IN A RIGHT SPIRIT. Looking at this superficially, some might think this a hard gospel; the follower of Christ is to arm himself with the expectation of suffering. But look what comes before, and what follows after this. What comes before? "Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh." What follows it? "The end of all things is at hand." This hard demand stands between the cross and the crown; that makes all the difference.

1. The coming end calls us to estimate reasonably the extent of the sneering. Read it as it is in the Revised Version. "Be ye therefore of sound mind." The apostle is here calling the persecuted to regard their sufferings reasonably, in connection with the fact that "the end of all things is at hand." The earth-trials of God's people are, after all, but the momentary cloud in the day of heavenly sunshine, which shall have no evening, of which now in Christ we have the dawn.

2. The coming end calls us to vigilance lest we lose the coming blessing. That "coming end" wilt be the beginning of the glorified life - that life in which what we have sown here we shall reap; that life in which we may have "an entrance ministered to us abundantly," or in which we may be "saved yet so as by fire." Beware lest under the pressure of temptation you conform to the world, you be ashamed of Jesus, you refuse your cross, and thereby lose your crown. Suffering there must be; look to the end, anticipate the glory which it begins, and against all that would rob you of the fullness of that glory, watch unto prayer. - C.N.







Christ suffered in the flesh.
The Redeemer of the world is in one sense infinitely above us; but in another sense He is actually beside us. His sympathy is as true as His sovereignty.

I. TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE SUFFERINGS OF JESUS WERE. "He suffered in the flesh." No one can read the Gospels without seeing indications of those sufferings.

1. There can be no doubt that Jesus was exempted from many of the physical ills from which we suffer. We can only think of Him as healthy, not only because of His birth, but because the exacting nature of His self-forgetful work required a perfect physique. Besides this, we must remember that many of our physical sufferings we bring on ourselves. Idleness, self-indulgence, artificial modes of life, irregularities, are the causes of many of the ills which flesh is heir to; but the life of Jesus was exquisite in its simplicity and unstained by a single vicious propensity. And this reminds us further that He could not have suffered, as we do, from a sense of personal sin, from the remorse which follows after our utterance of an unkind word, or the indulgence of an evil propensity, or from the tumult of passion which rises up within a sinful heart. Yet He was a sufferer. "He was a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief." "Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses." But besides these His whole life was a martyrdom. His sensibility, not only to physical pain, but to mental and moral agony, must have been exquisite.

2. Think, too, of His utter loneliness. His was the solitude of a holy soul surrounded by sinners; of a heavenly spirit in contact with things earthly and sensual; of a mind whose higher thoughts not a single being on earth could appreciate; whose truest objects in living and dying as He did none could comprehend.

3. That expression, "in the flesh," reminds us of His uncongenial surroundings. He lived and died among a despised people, and was regarded as an outcast even by some of them! Often must He have felt as the Jews did when, exiled from home and fatherland, they hanged their harps upon the willows, and wept as they remembered Zion, saying, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?"

II. HOW THESE SUFFERINGS WERE ENDURED BY HIM.

1. It is evident that He accepted them as God's appointment for Him here. "The cup which My Father hath given Me shall I not drink it?" indicates His attitude to trouble right through. If a day's ministry brought Him no result, He did not repine; if His own nation rejected Him, He meekly accepted the result, though with unutterable sorrow over the issues of it to them; if the Cross was to be faced, He went forth willingly to Calvary, there to die — the just for the unjust — to bring us unto God.

2. Notice also that our Lord never allowed Himself to be absorbed in His own sorrows. He was always ready to enter into other people's joys and griefs, whatever His own sorrows might be. He is not so absorbed in the joys of heaven that He will not listen to the faltering cry of the lowliest penitent. I have known some sufferers who have been armed with the same mind. Their unselfishness has been sublime. Their couch of pain has proved the centre of joy and peace to those who circle round them.

III. BUT HOW CAN WE DO THIS?

(A. Rowland, LL. B.)

I. CHRIST SUFFERED IN HUMAN NATURE. His sufferings in the flesh were —

1. Great, corporeal, social, mediatorial.

2. Ignominious. Poverty, obloquy, persecution, crucifixion.

II. CHRIST SUFFERED FOR MEN.

III. CHRIST SUFFERED WITH A SPIRIT WHICH MEN SHOULD CULTIVATE.

1. Profoundly religious.

2. Self denyingly philanthropic.

IV. THE POSSESSION OF THIS SPIRIT IS THE POWER TO DELIVER US FROM MORAL EVIL.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Use sin, as Christ was used when He was made sin for us; lift it up, and make it naked by confession to God. And then pierce —

1. The hands of it, in respect of operation, that it may work no more.

2. The feet of it, in respect of progression, that it go no further.

3. The heart, in respect of affection, that it may be loved no longer.

(J. Trapp.)

Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind
I. THE HIGH ENGAGEMENT TO THIS CONFORMITY. "He suffered for us in the flesh." We are the more obliged to make His suffering our example, because it was to us more than an example; it was our ransom. This makes the conformity reasonable in a double respect. It is due that we follow Him, who led us as the Captain of our salvation; that we follow Him in suffering and in doing, seeing both were for us. What can be too bitter to endure, or too sweet to forsake, to follow Him? Were this duly considered, should we cleave to our lusts or to our ease? Should we not be willing to go through fire and water, yea, through death itself, yea, were it possible, through many deaths, to follow Him? Consider, as this conformity is due, so it is made easy by His suffering for us. Our chains which bound us over to eternal death being knocked off, shall we not walk, shall we not run, in His ways?

II. THE NATURE OF THIS CONFORMITY, to show the nearness of it, is expressed in the very same terms as in the pattern; it is not remote resemblance, but the same thing, even "suffering in the flesh." But that we may understand rightly what suffering is here meant, it is plainly this, "ceasing from sin." So that this "suffering in the flesh" is not simply the enduring of afflictions, which is a part of the Christian's conformity to His Head, but it implies a more inward and spiritual suffering. It is the suffering and dying of our corruption, the taking away of the life of sin by the death of Christ: the death of His sinless flesh works in the believer the death of sinful flesh, that is, the corruption of His nature, which is so usually in Scripture called "flesh." "Ceased from sin." He is at rest from it, a godly death, as they who die in the Lord rest from their labours. Faith so looks on the death of Christ, that it takes the impression of it, sets it on the heart, kills it unto sin. Christ and the believer do not only become one in law, so that His death stands for theirs, but one in nature, so that His death for sin causes theirs to it (Romans 6:3).

III. THE ACTUAL IMPROVEMENT OF THIS CONFORMITY. "Arm yourselves with the same mind," or thoughts of this mortification. Consider and apply the suffering of Christ in the flesh, to the end that you with Him suffering in the flesh, may cease from sin. Think that it ought to be thus, and seek that it may be thus with you. "Arm yourselves." There is still fighting, and sin will be molesting you; though wounded to death, yet will it struggle for life, and seek to wound its enemy; it will assault the graces that are in you. You may take the Lord's promise for victory in the end; that shall not fail; but do not promise yourself ease in the way, for that will not hold. If at sometimes you be undermost, give not all up for lost; he hath often won the day who hath been foiled and wounded in the fight. But likewise take not all for won, so as to have no more conflict, when sometimes you have the better in particular battles. Now the way to be armed is this, "the same mind." How would my Lord Christ carry Himself in this case? And what was His business in all places and companies? Was it not to do the will and advance the glory of His Father? Thus ought it to be with the Christian, framing all his ways, and words, and very thoughts, upon that model, the mind of Christ, and studying in all things to walk even as He walked; studying it much, as the reason and rule of mortification, and drawing from it, as the real cause and spring of mortification.

(Abp. Leighton.)

I. THE CARDINAL TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY Christ hath suffered for us."

II. THE CHRISTIAN'S CARDINAL DUTY — "Christ having suffered for us, arm yourselves with the same mind."

1. Arm yourselves with the same mind as to the method of conduct.

2. Arm yourselves with the same mind as to the purpose in view.

III. THE CHRISTIAN'S DAILY COURSE OF LIFE — that we should no longer live, etc.

(J. J. S. Bird.)

I. CHRIST'S "MIND" IS THE WEAPON WITH WHICH MAN IS TO FIGHT HIS WAY ON TO MORAL PERFECTION. His moral perfection is here taught. But to reach this what a battle man has to fight! By the "mind of Christ" we are to understand, of course, not His mere intellect, great as it was, nor His conscience, sublimely pure though it was; but the moral spirit that inspired and directed all His intellectual and moral powers. By His "mind" we mean, in one word, His moral character. Now this is the weapon by which alone man can win victories over evil, and obtain the crown of life, namely, conformity to the "will of God." Doctrines will not do it, however Scriptural; religious rites will not do it, however studiously observed. Who is the man in our world the most successful in putting down wrong? Not the legislator, however just the laws he enacts; not the moralist, however cogent his arguments and powerful his rhetoric; but the man who has the "mind of Christ" as his armour.

II. CHRIST'S "SUFFERINGS" ARE THE ARGUMENT FOR THE EMPLOYMENT OF THIS WEAPON. First, the sufferings of Christ were "in the flesh." He was in the flesh, but not flesh. Secondly, Christ suffered "in the flesh" in order to establish human holiness. "That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lust of men, but to the will of God."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The rest of his time in the flesh
Who can tell how long that may be for any one of us? The sands run swiftly through life's hour glass. The shadow hastens to go down upon the dial. The waves eat away so quickly the dwindling shoal of land which crumbles beneath us. The Christian finds nothing in such thoughts to make him sad. Every milestone marks the growing nearness of his home. The waves cannot be crossed too swiftly by the eager traveller. Before us lie the ages of eternity, filled with a blessedness of personal enjoyment and rapturous ministry which defy tongue to tell or mind to picture. But the blessed future must not divert our thoughts from the duties to be discharged during the rest of the time which we are to spend in the flesh. We must not be dreamers, but warriors. To arms! Arm yourselves with the same mind; and when we ask, "What mind?" we are told to arm ourselves with the mind that took Jesus to His death. In a venerable old church at Innsbruck, famous for containing the tomb of the great Emperor Maximilian, there is a magnificent bronze statue of Godfrey of Boulogne, the illustrious crusader. His head is covered with a helmet, and on the helmet rests a crown of thorns. Of course, there was a meaning in the mind of the artist other than that with which we now invest the strange conjunction. He doubtless designed to represent the sacred cause for which that helmet was donned. But we may discover an apt symbol of the teaching of our apostle, who unites in these verses the armour of the Christian soldier, and the recollection of Christ's suffering in the flesh. This witness of the sufferings of Christ first takes us to the Cross; and after gazing reverently on that spectacle of love, we are brought to a point where two ways diverge. And the only way of discovering and maintaining the right path is to imbibe the spirit of that wondrous death; nay, to bind it around us as a talisman of victory. "In hoc signo vinces."

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

I. NEGATIVELY. "Not to the lusts of men!" This does not mean that we are to neglect our bodily interests. What are the lusts? Animal instincts grown to a dominant force.

II. POSITIVELY. "To the will of God." This implies —

1. That God has a will.

2. That God has a will concerning men.

3. That God's will is revealed.What is the will of God concerning men? First, it is His will that we should believe in Christ (John 6:29; 1 John 3:23). Secondly, it is His will that we shall be purified from sin. "This is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Thirdly, it is His will that we should cultivate a practical gratitude for all the blessings of life (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Fourthly, it is His will that every man shall be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Homilist.
I.OUR TIME IN THE FLESH IS CHEQUERED.

II.OUR TIME IN THE FLESH IS SHORT.

III.OUR TIME HERE IS UNCERTAIN.

IV.OUR TIME HERE IS IMPORTANT.

(Homilist.)

To the lusts of men
1. To live after the lusts of men and to the will of God are opposite each to other as light and darkness.

2. We cannot at one and the same time both walk after our lusts and live to God's will. One lust loved, sufficient to condemn.

3. In the course of sanctification, we must begin at renouncing our own will, and the lusts of men. None sow a plant till weeds be pulled up; none put on new apparel till they have put off their rags.

4. It is not sufficient that we renounce our lusts and evil, except we yield obedience to the will of God.

5. It is not one action or two whereby a man is discovered what he is, but his constant course of walking or living.

(John Rogers.)

The flesh itself, under the calm subduing influence of your purer spirit, will become a dignified servant in waiting on its superior. Good gardeners know a better way of conquering the wild thorn than by uprooting and destroying it. They set it in their garden. They graft it on some queenly rose. Then the wild thorn expends its energy not upon itself, but upon that which is above itself; and as a reward is crowned with a glory which itself could not possibly produce.

(G. Calthrop.)

To the will of God
1. It is a good will.

2. A holy will.

3. A just will.

4. An impartial will.

5. A practicable will.

6. A supreme will.

7. An obligatory will.

(John Bate.)

I. THIS IS THE LESSON OF MAN'S PAST EVIL LIFE.

1. Sadness.

(1)Enough of sin, because of its —

(2)Degradation to self.

(3)Injuriousness to others.

(4)Rebellion against God.

2. Hope.

(1)Forgiveness for time past.

(2)Deliverance from time past.

II. NOTWITHSTANDING BAD MEN'S WONDER AT GOOD MEN'S CONDUCT, what Peter said two thousand years ago is true today. The thoroughly corrupt man finds it impossible to understand the Christly man.

1. He thinks his conduct strange, and so, perhaps, ignores him altogether.

2. Or he thinks his conduct strange, and is aggravated by it.

3. Or he thinks his conduct strange, and it leads him to inquire. This is the good effect.

III. BOTH CHRIST'S JUDGMENT AND CHRIST'S GOSPEL ARE FOR ALL.

(U. R. Thomas.)

The perfection of a man's nature is when his will fits on to God's like one of Euclid's triangles superimposed upon another, and line for line coincides. When his will allows a free passage to the will of God, without resistance, as light travels through transparent glass; when his will responds to the touch of God's finger upon the keys, like the telegraphic needle to the operator's hand; then man has attained all that God and religion can do for him, all that his nature is capable of.

What a glorious contrast to the will of the flesh is "the will of God"! This was the food of Jesus. To do this He came to earth. It was the fire cloud that lit His pathway, the yoke in carrying which He found rest, the Urim and Thummim, which dimmed or shone with heavenly guidance. There is no course more safe or blessed than to live in the will of God. God's will is good will. Where the will of God lies across the wilderness pathway, there flowers bloom, and waters gush from rocks of flint. Sometimes the flesh rebels against it, because it means crucifixion and self-denial, but under the rugged shell the sweetest kernel nestles, and none know the ecstasy of living save those who refuse the broad, easy road of the lusts of men, to climb the steep, upward path of doing the will of God from the heart.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

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