by Mike Ratliff
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14 NASB)
I have heard many Christians explain their lack of spiritual maturity as not important because, after all, they are not under law but under grace. Some take this concept even further and say things like, “God is not angry!” This is said in reference to the call for Christians to walk in repentance and put to death the sins that cling so close, et cetera. However, if these same people would bother to put into context Paul’s statement about Christians not being under law, but under grace, they would quickly see that it is part of a call for all of us to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is a command to walk in repentance. This is a command to walk before the face of God in total submission to Christ’s Lordship. There are no exceptions. There are no sins overlooked. What God calls sin is sin. It matters not at all that to proclaim that homosexuality is a sin, for instance, may be offensive to some.
1 Χριστοῦ οὖν παθόντος σαρκὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς τὴν αὐτὴν ἔννοιαν ὁπλίσασθε, ὅτι ὁ παθὼν σαρκὶ πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας 2 εἰς τὸ μηκέτι ἀνθρώπων ἐπιθυμίαις ἀλλὰ θελήματι θεοῦ τὸν ἐπίλοιπον ἐν σαρκὶ βιῶσαι χρόνον. 3 ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις, ἐπιθυμίαις, οἰνοφλυγίαις, κώμοις, πότοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις. 4 ἐν ᾧ ξενίζονται μὴ συντρεχόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς ἀσωτίας ἀνάχυσιν βλασφημοῦντες, 5 οἳ ἀποδώσουσιν λόγον τῷ ἑτοίμως ἔχοντι κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς. 6 εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη, ἵνα κριθῶσιν μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ ζῶσιν δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι. (1 Peter 4:1-6 NA28)
1 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; 2 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. 3 For 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, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 4:1-6 KJV)
1 Since 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, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For 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. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For 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)
1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-6 NASB)
Jesus Christ suffered (παθοντος) in the flesh (σαρκι) at the Cross. Peter is telling us that since He did this, Christians should “arm” (οπλισασθε) themselves with the same way of thinking (εννοιαν). Why? Peter tells us that the one who has “suffered in the flesh” has ceased from sin (αμαρτιαις). What does this mean? First, the word Peter used here that is translated “sin,” αμαρτιαις, means, “to miss the mark” or “to miss the true goal and scope of life.” This is an offense in our relation to God with emphasis on the resulting guilt. Therefore, this is not referring to each individual sin that we commit each day, but to the fallen sin nature that resides in our flesh with emphasis on its penchant for dragging us into sin. Second, Peter is telling us to arm (οπλισασθε) ourselves with a particular way of thinking (εννοιαν). The “arming” is referring to equipping oneself with armor and weapons to prepare for battle. With what are we to arm ourselves? It is the same (αυτην) “way of thinking” or “mind” (εννοιαν). This is referring to mind, intention, or purpose. We are being instructed to equip ourselves with the same intentional purpose that Christ had when he willingly suffered in the flesh. His purpose was to free His people from being in bondage to their sins through His suffering, therefore, we must be willing to suffer in order to sever the nerve center of sin in our lives. Even though this does not utterly kill our flesh, our penchant for sin, when we endure suffering for the sake of Christ it shows that our purpose in this life is not to live for our own pleasures (επιθυμιαις), but according to the will (θεληματι) of God and for His glory (v2).
This sure flies in the face of those false prophets who are saying that it is wrong to command believers to walk in repentance doesn’t it? Some decry this teaching because they say they cannot repent or that this is legalism, et cetera. No, those who say those things are rejecting that it is possible to live under the Lordship of Christ. While it is impossible for any of us to live in perfect obedience, we are not called to do so in our own strength. No, we are called to learn the truth, live the truth, and endure suffering in this evil age because of the truth. We do these things by the grace of God according to His will. This requires us to become humble and submissive, also by His grace.
Look carefully at vv3-4. First, Peter gives us a general list of sinful activities that are marks of unbelievers. We can do nothing about our participation in these things in our past, but from this point on, as Christians, we are to no longer participate in them like those of the world. The lost do not understand why we do not live according to fleshly pursuits like they do. They then will “malign” (βλασφημουντες) us for our abstinence. We get the English word “blaspheme” from this word. This word means, “to revile, to speak evil of, rail, et cetera.” This can also lead to more severe suffering, but this in itself is a cause for Christian suffering. I know of no one who enjoys being maligned for their Christian walk, their stance on morals, on abortion, on the right and wrong way to walk the Christian life, et cetera. No, words can bite and hurt and are used by our enemy in his attempt to defeat us.
However, in v5, we see that these tools of our enemy will give an account and be judged by the Lord. In v6 we have a hard passage to interpret. What does this mean: “For 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.”? Those “who are dead” refers to Christians to whom “the gospel was preached” when they were alive but who have since died. Even though believers will experience physical death, they will then live in the spirit the way God does in Heaven with Him.
The key for us in this passage is to understand that this life is short and not the emphasis for the Christian. Instead, we are to walk in obedience, self-denial, humility, carrying our crosses, and following Jesus in submission to Him and to everyone He wills. We must be willing to suffer shame for the name of Christ. Suffering for Christ and the Gospel severs the nerve center of sin in our lives. Therefore, we must walk according to God’s truth and preach the Law and the Gospel to all who will hear. We preach the Law to show them where they truly stand before God then we give them the Good News. God will save His people from among them. However, day in and day out we must walk before the face of God according to God’s truth. We are changed forever and we must walk according to that no matter who does not like it nor what they say about us. We are accountable to God not men.
There are many false prophets spouting their filth all across this globe. They are perverting the truth and leading people to follow what is a lie. They will be judged for this. What should we do about this? We must tell the truth. We must show all who will listen who is teaching lies from the pit of hell, but who proclaim that what they are selling is God’s truth. We must never stop pointing people to God’s truth, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, while revealing the truth about the purpose driven gospel or the emergent social gospel or the word-of-faith lies. We must be willing to suffer shame for the name of Christ by dying to self. This will free us from the power of sin in our lives. Never forget, if we are obedient in standing on God’s truth, those who oppose it will attack us.
Soli Deo Gloria!