“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NKJ)
In today’s text, the Apostle Peter writes to God’s persecuted “elect” who were scattered throughout what is now modern Turkey. In this broad statement, Peter describes for those early believers what Christian living should look like. This would be of great benefit to them as they deflected attacks by those who challenged their “good conversation in Christ” (1 Peter 3:16).
Jesus Christ “has once suffered for sins…that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit ” (1 Pet. 3:18). Since Christ suffered in the realm of the fleshly existence, Christians are to arm themselves with the same attitude that guided Him. To arm metaphorically means to “take on the same mind”. Christ “who suffered in the flesh” by way of the Cross dealt with the “sin issue” once and for all. As a result of Christ’s action, the believer has been released from the power of sin and can, by appropriating Christ’s power, cease from sin. Through the sanctification process, the believer is transformed and conformed into the image of Christ, turning from sinful behavior and activity. The Apostle Paul describes this process in Romans 6:6-8 (Phillip’s Translation):
“Let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken—for as dead man can safely be said to be free from the power of sin. And if we were dead men with Christ we can believe that we shall also be men alive with him.”
Peter gives a twofold purpose for believers arming themselves with Christ’s attitude.
First, believers are to be armed with the same mind as Christ so that they won’t spend the rest of their life chasing after evil desires. While the believer’s spirit has been redeemed by Jesus Christ, they must continue to deal with the reality of living in their physical bodies or “unredeemed flesh” (Rom. 7:17-19). While believers remain contained in their unredeemed flesh, they can, however, arm themselves with the mind of Christ. The believer’s life is not to be lived in satisfying the urgings of their old flesh but they are to “reckon themselves dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).
Second, believers are to be armed with the same mind as Christ so that they will be governed by the will of God. Christ was obedient to all God directed Him to do (John 4:34; 5:30). Obedience to God goes beyond issues of “time, talent and treasures” and originates in the believer’s heart. If we truly love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Furthermore, if we love Him we will also love others (1 John 4:20-21). This love is evidenced in our service and our desire to share the Good News of the Gospel. Many times, however, the believer’s love may be divided, still tethered to this world. Such divided affection results in “love breakers” more often than “law breakers”.
Peter’s message speaks to 21st century believers as we strive to live lives that glorify God. Today Christians are under attack by a society who challenges the authority of God’s Word as well as the authenticity of our faith. As we face these affronts, let us arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. Let us use these “divine appointments” as opportunities to share the redemptive love of God. Remember Peter’s counsel to the persecuted elect:
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:14-16, NIV)