“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin:
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. “
That the apostle expected imminent suffering to befall the children of God is evident from the following context. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (I Peter 4:12). And that he connects this suffering with the suffering of Christ is also apparent from the same context. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings . . .” (I Peter 4:13).
Always the believing church of Christ in the world is partaker of His sufferings.
But what does this mean? To understand this phenomenon we must see, in the first place, that there is a suffering of Christ which is quite unique, that is, which He suffered all alone, and which we both cannot and need not suffer. Of this aspect of Christ’s suffering the apostle had written earlier (I Peter 3:18). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. . . .” Obviously this suffering which was in our behalf only He could suffer. When He suffered the torments of hell, when He endured the wrath of God over against our sins, He suffered vicariously. He suffered in our stead, in our behalf, so that we would not have to endure this suffering, for we could not bear it.
To this aspect of Christ’s suffering the apostle does not refer in the text, nor is it implied, as the translation would seem to indicate. The translation has: “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh. . . .” However, the original text omits the words “for us.” Literally, according to the original, the text should read: “Christ therefore having suffered in respect to the flesh, also ye arm yourselves with the same mind. . . .”
This leads us to understand, in the second place, that there is an aspect of the suffering of Christ in which we do partake. Peter has in mind that aspect of the suffering of Christ of which the apostle Paul also wrote: “For unto you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).
And again it must be understood that the apostle is not speaking of suffering in general. There is indeed much suffering in the world, suffering in which not only the children of God partake, but also the world of the wicked itself. Bodily and mental afflictions befall both the righteous and the wicked alike. Hospitals, mental institutions, and funeral homes are stark reminders of a universal suffering. But the suffering which the apostle has in mind is not general, but very particular—it is the suffering of the believing children of God which is imposed on them by the world of the wicked simply because these believing children of God belong to Christ.
As Christ bore the reproaches, the slander, the maltreatment, and even death at the hands of the wicked, so are we to be ready to suffer. As Christ suffered in the flesh while He was in the midst of the world of the wicked, so are we to be armed with the same idea in mind. There is a sense therefore in which Christ is the example in Whose footsteps we are to follow; but the apostle has in mind something even more significant. The believers must be prepared for this aspect of suffering because they are in Christ. He has regenerated and sanctified them by His grace and Spirit. Thus in principle they are like Him. They are holy as He is holy; and as He was without sin, so are they in principle. Therefore as the world hated Him, so will the world hate us. It is with this thought that we must be armed. So must we be ready to suffer in the flesh.
Armed with the mind of Christ!
To be armed presupposes that a battle is to ensue. The battle is spiritual in nature, while the combatants are the people of God versus the world of the wicked. Though our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers in high places, make no mistake about it, that battle is not mythical, nor mystical, but against the forces of evil as it may be found in flesh and blood persons who are governed and arrayed by the power of darkness. Jesus Himself described the nature of the enemy when He said, “a man’s foes are those of his own household.” In that context He also said, “he that is not willing to leave father and mother, wife and children for My sake is not worthy of Me.” And this implies that though our battle is not carnal, nevertheless the battle lines cut through your own flesh and blood. Historically, too, the real battle of the church of Christ is not fought out there in the world, but most generally within the church itself and within our own homes. The wicked therefore with whom we do battle are not those who live on the other end of the world, but they live very close to us, dwelling in our generations. That does not mean that the wicked of the world leave us alone, but always they are joined with the wicked carnal seed as. it comes to manifestation in the organic development of the church in the world. This was clearly demonstrated in the case of Christ, for it was Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the leaders of the Jews who were united against Him.
In that battle we are going to suffer in respect to the flesh. In that battle we must be Christ-like, that is, we must be like-minded with Him. And what was the mind, the thought that pervaded the mind of Christ when He was caused to suffer in the flesh? It was this: I am innocent; I have done nothing amiss, and. yet they persecute Me. Such is the thought, the mind that must be in us when we are buffeted by the wicked. Let this mind be in you, that he who suffers in the flesh has ceased from sin.
Suffering then in the flesh is proof of the fact that we do not walk in sin. If we would walk in sin and follow after the world and its corruption, we would experience no suffering at all. Then the world would love its own, and even bless you. But as soon as it becomes manifested that you have ceased from sin, you will have the mind of Christ, and you will needs suffer. Armed then must we be with the mind of Christ!
O, indeed, this cannot mean that when we suffer we sin no more. Nor should we say with the perfectionist we have no sin. This would indeed be contrary both to fact and to Scripture. Does not the apostle John say: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”? (I John 1:8, 9) The former we refuse to say, lest we deceive ourselves, while the latter we continue to confess because we have the consciousness of forgiveness and of cleansing. It means that we believe we are in principle righteous through the forgiving grace and cleansing blood of Christ. It means that though we still sin, we hate it, and though we walk in the midst of the world we do so no more as sinners, but as saints of the Most High, That is the significance of suffering in the flesh because we have the mind of Christ and have ceased from sin.
The end result of this will be twofold. No longer will we live to the lust of men, but we will live the rest of the time to the will of God.
By “the rest of the time” the apostle evidently, refers to the time we have yet to live upon this earth. The reference is from the time of our conversion to the time of our death. During that time we live in the flesh, that is, in the present body in which we are still enticed to follow after the lusts of the flesh.
By “the lusts of the flesh” is meant all kinds of lust, probably with the emphasis on sexual lusts, but not these exclusively. They to whom this epistle was directed once lived in these lusts. Then they walked according to these lusts. Since their conversion from paganism, however, this has changed. No longer do they live in lusts. In the verses that follow our text the apostle explains what their former conduct had been, and how now through the grace of God this had changed. So great had the change been that their former companions in evil had noticed and thought it strange. For, says the apostle, “The time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banqueting, and abominable idolatries.” This rather detailed description of their past life not only relates how far the natural man goes in seeking to satisfy his flesh, but also that this desire of the Gentiles is motivated by and closely associated with some form of religion. The latter is implied in the “abominable idolatries.” In the service of Bacchus, their idol god, they indulged in all sorts of wild orgies. As the apostle Paul describes it inRomans 1, even the created sexual relations were abandoned, so that men with men (and we suppose even women with women) left the natural course to do things unseemly and contrary to nature. Homosexuality and Lesbianism of today is not something new, nor is it new that now these forms of lust assume a cultist, religious connection. This wickedness was in the open already in the days of the apostles. And they to whom this epistle is directed lived in these sins.
But the gospel came, and with it the grace of Christ that changed them. So they no longer live their lives in this body of flesh to the lusts of men, i.e., human lusts. By grace they have ceased from sin, and they now live as saints. Not unnoticed are they by their former companions in lust, who not only think them strange, but hate and persecute them. They are determined by the grace of God no longer to live according to the lust of the flesh, but to the will of God.
The mind of Christ with which they are now armed, moves them to seek to do the will of God for the rest of their lives upon the earth. The will of the flesh is brought into subjection to the will of God for their lives.
And what is the will of God for their lives? That they live holily, honoring the law of God which is good, fighting against sin and corruption, revealing the new man which is in Christ Jesus. Yes, even when this entails reproach, mockery, and even persecution unto death.
As Christ suffered as the innocent One, so be ye armed in your mind to suffer for His sake.
Such indeed have ceased from sin, and live in respect to the will of God.
The time is short. Not long do we have to live in the body of this flesh. Seventy or perhaps eighty years, and we are completely delivered from all the evil lust. But he who lives to the will of God, and has ceased from sin, has the principle of eternal life. Such life has no end, but issues into a most blessed relation with the living God. This is eternal life, that we may know Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.