For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong

by Mike Ratliff

17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. 1 Peter 3:17-22 (NASB) 

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered unjustly on behalf of those He came to save because it was God’s will. He perfectly accomplished God’s purposes in this. Even though those in “emergent christianity” are attempting to hijack our Lord’s Crucifixion for their own purposes, let us never forget that His violent, physical execution did terminate His earthly life when He was “put to death in the flesh”, nevertheless, He was “made alive in the spirit” on the third day. This is not referring to the Holy Spirit, but to Jesus’ true inner life, His own spirit, which is contrasted with His humanness, His flesh, which was crucified and lay dead for three days in the tomb. His deity, His Spirit, remained alive, literally “in spirit” (Luke 23:46). In light of our Lord’s suffering for righteousness, Christians should have a “Christian” perspective on suffering in the flesh as well.

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) 

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)

Verse 1 is the key for us. The word οὖν is translated here as “therefore” and this is pointing both to what Peter spoke of in 3:17-22 about our Lord’s suffering on the Cross for our sake and here in 4:1 Χριστοῦ, “of Christ” παθόντος “has suffered”  for us σαρκι “in flesh… Since this is true, what are we supposed to do? Well, we should see that this is what God used to bring the greatest triumph of all time through our Lord, therefore, we should also be willing to suffer in the flesh, knowing that it potentially produces tremendous victories. If we arm ourselves with this same mindset, we become servants of the gospel rather than purveyors of it. Remember my brethren; the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not inside us. It is not within any of us. It is outside of us. We are to serve it, it is not to serve us. With this mindset, we will look at suffering the same way our Lord did. We should voluntarily accept the potential of death as a part of the Christian life. Also, if we are martyred, we have ceased from sin.

In vv2-4 we see clearly that Christians are called to be separate from the sins of the flesh. Yes, all sin, but we are being sanctified. We walk in repentance. As we mature, these sins should be further and further in our past. We should grow more and more Christlike as we serve the gospel and learn what it means to suffer for righteousness’ sake. In v5 we see something that I see that is missing in much of what professes to be Christian in today’s version of the Church. So many say and do things that I wonder if they have given any thought to the account they will have to give at their judgment about those things. I see a great lack of discernment and wisdom in these people.

What does it mean in v6 about the gospel being preached to those who are dead? The preaching of the gospel not only offers a rich life, a ceasing from sin, and a good conscience, but also an escape from final judgment. Peter was talking about believers who had heard and believed the gospel when they were still alive, but who had died by the time he wrote this epistle.

My brethren, I pray that God will open your understanding to the purpose of suffering in the life of the believer. I do not claim to be an expert in it, but I do know about suffering and I also know about how God has changed the focus of this ministry as the magnitude of that suffering has changed. I know this, this life is short. Eternity is forever. If suffering is what it takes for God to cause me to serve Him for His glory as He sees fit then so be it. His grace is sufficient.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

5 thoughts on “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong

  1. Hello Mr. Ratliff. Excellent article, as always. I wonder, however, can you define what you mean by suffering? Or, better yet, do you define suffering as exclusively meaning physical persecution, i.e. what our Lord went through prior to His crucifixion — the physical assault upon Him, punching and flogging, etc.?

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  2. Christ’s suffering prior to His crucifixion was heinous and cruel yet was not part of the atonement. Those sufferings, the punching and flogging, the insults, the degradations were examples of the “the sufferings of Christ” that were what all Christians can partake of if they obediently stand firm and do not waver in the face of persecution. The Cross was where the Atonement took place and we do not partake of those sufferings. How could we? It was there that our sins were placed on Him and he “atoned” for them, suffering Hell so to speak for our sins. Our sufferings right now in the USA are not like that. Which is because of our Westernized, Christian culture. However, if you look at Africa and Asia Christians are brutalized, tortured, and if they do not recant are killed in very horrible ways just like the Christians in the 1st and 2nd Centuries. The sufferings I go through in my discernment ministry have never even come close to that. I have been threatened. I have been accused of things I will not mention here. I have been told that I am the seed of Satan. I have been told that if I ever set foot in a certain cities that I am a dead man (I don’t believe any of that). However, I did get into a discussion online with an Islamist apologist who I kept cutting off all his excuses and proving that he was wrong on all his points where all he had left was to call me all sorts of profane names, using names I will not repeat here and threatening to kill me and all my family making me watch as each one was killed then I was to be cut into pieces, etc. etc. etc. Well now, is that persecution? It can certainly be trying and it caused a large amount of grief with my wife. I am convinced that things in our society will continue to worsen. I believe that each of us, unless God takes us out of here first, will have to stand before these evil people and make a stand. Either we choose to stand firm in Christ and they kill us or we choose to compromise and then we prove our disingenuous. I am not a prophet, but that is what it looks like what is coming. Suffering is always the way of those who refuse to compromise. Never forget that.

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  3. Thank you for responding. I’m sorry that you have had to go through that, but you are not alone. I too have experienced similar things, including the Islamic death threat. Like you, I too have been led into a discernment ministry, and as a result have experienced these things as well. It is an interesting experience, and not one I would recommend to those with a thin skin. I believe my career in Corrections serves me well in this ministry the Lord has placed me in, as the verbal abuse I take each day doesn’t really affect me. I’ve been called worse by inmates (although having a fatwa placed on me is unique). The reason I asked my question is because I do not feel as if I am suffering in anyway with the verbal abuse and threats; nor do I “feel” persecuted. But I do believe it is coming here in America and the western world, as intolerance to Christianity continues to grow and spread. Thank you again for your articles. I always find them not only instructive, but encouraging as well.

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  4. Bob, I totally agree with you that we really aren’t suffering persecution here like our brothers and sisters are in other parts of the world. When I took on Rick Warren, Rob Bell, the Emergent Church movement, and tried to correct John Piper in space of about 3 years I thought I was walking on coals every day. When I refused join the crusade to crucify John MacAruthur about that same time those who were doing so adde me to their hit list. I don’t know, it just gets old after while. However, I go back and reread Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and then I get back to work. 🙂

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