Strangers And Aliens (18a): As It Was In The Days Of Noah

1Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. (1 Peter 4:1–6; ESV) 1Χριστοῦ οὖν παθόντος σαρκὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς τὴν αὐτὴν ἔννοιαν ὁπλίσασθε, ὅτι ὁ παθὼν σαρκὶ πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας 2εἰς τὸ μηκέτι ἀνθρώπων ἐπιθυμίαις ἀλλὰ θελήματι θεοῦ τὸν ἐπίλοιπον ἐν σαρκὶ βιῶσαι χρόνον. 3ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις, ἐπιθυμίαις, οἰνοφλυγίαις, κώμοις, πότοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις. 4ἐν ᾧ ξενίζονται μὴ συντρεχόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς ἀσωτίας ἀνάχυσιν βλασφημοῦντες, 5οἳ ἀποδώσουσιν λόγον τῷ ἑτοίμως ἔχοντι κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς. 6εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη, ἵνα κριθῶσι μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ ζῶσι δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι.

vv.1–3: Have This Mind In You
The chapter divisions we know in Scripture have their roots in the 4th century AD but were given their final form by Stephen Langton (c.1150–1228). When Peter dictated his epistles (it is evident that he had two different secretaries, which accounts for the stylistic differences between them) there were no chapter divisions. Indeed, in the earliest copies of Scripture, the text is in capital letters without any separation between the words. So, though the chapter divisions as we have them in our modern Greek and English Bibles, we should remember that they are not inspired.

In this case, we should postpone the chapter division since the passage before us is really a continuation of the previous passage. Verse 1 picks up on the theme of vs. 3:18, that Christ was the suffering servant and that we, by virtue of our mystical (i.e., Holy Spirit-ual) union with Christ are united to him in suffering. He is also extending the analogy with Noah, as we shall see.

Sometimes Peter gives an exhortation followed by a reminder of the gospel and redemptive history. Sometimes, however, as in this case, he grounds his exhortation in the objective accomplishment of redemption for us by Christ. We live our Christian life in a sometimes hostile environment in light of Christ’s suffering for us. Peter begins v. 1 with a grammatical construction (genitive absolute) that establishes the circumstances of our existence and Christian experience. The Messiah suffered in the flesh (σαρκὶ). This reality, of course, was quite contrary to the popular expectation and contrary even to the expectations of the scribes and pharisees. Contrary to the docetists, who denied that Jesus is true man, Peter reminds us of those things he witnessed decades before. It’s not hard for us to image how vivid those scenes must have been for him as he dictated this these lines. Our Lord’s arrest, his humiliation, including Peter’s denial, the beating, Golgotha must have flashed before his mind as he recalled those moments which would prove to be the turning point of all history. In light of what our Lord endured for our salvation we ought metaphorically to arm ourselves. This is an interesting expression. One wonders if Peter was remembering his own misguided and literal taking up of arms and his (quite skillful, it seems to me) removal of Malchus’ ear in defense of Jesus (John 18:10). Our Lord rebuked Peter and told him to put away his sword but not we are to take up a figurative sword (ὁπλίσασθε) by coming to “the same understanding” (τὴν αὐτὴν ἔννοιαν). This is the same sort of language Paul used in Philippians 2:5, “have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”. In that case Paul was calling us to pour ourselves out in self-sacrifice as Jesus, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, metaphorically poured out himself as a drink offering (see Strimple, “Philippians 2:5–11” [1979], 266–67). In this case, Peter calls us, in light of Christ’s suffering and ours to put an end to sin (πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας). Perhaps it is more proper to say that Peter here reminds us of what is true of us who believe. We who have suffered in the flesh have already put an end to sin. This reminder about Christ’s suffering and that of the Christians of Asia Minor is suggestive but only that. We know that those Christians did suffer martyrdom in the early 2nd century. As we shall see, the Christians, in what is modern day Turkey, were certainly suffering mockery for the sake of Christ as their brothers and sisters were being martyred in Rome.

We are not left in doubt about the sins Peter has in mind. We need to heed the reminder in order that we might “no longer live (βιῶσαι) the remaining time (ἐπίλοιπον…χρόνον) in the flesh in the desires of man (ἀνθρώπων ἐπιθυμίαις) but in to the will of God. The will to which Peter refers here is not God’s eternal, secret decree, which no human can know, but rather he refers to the revealed moral will of God. We know what that will is from the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), from the teaching of Jesus, and from the other Apostolic epistles. Peter makes it explicit in v. 3.

The time has passed (παρεληλυθὼς) to have worked (κατειργάσθαι) “in sensuality, desires, drunkeness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (ASV; ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις). Christ did not suffer to give us license to sin. We are free from the law that says “do this and live” (Lev 18:5) but we not not free from the consequent obligations that belong to the recipients of unspeakable grace. We who have been redeemed want to live as those who have been redeemed. We want to live as those who have been delivered through the flood waters of judgment, who have been graciously included in the church on the ark. We want to live as those who are clear eyed about the future we face as we seek to live, in union with Christ, in his grace, before a largely hostile culture. After all, it is from the very sorts of things that Peter lists here that we have been delivered.

We must seek to have the mind of Christ as he faced his great trial. He loved his brothers. He found joy with them but he lived his life in light of eternity, in light of what lay before him. By God’s grace alone, through faith alone, so ought we.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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