1 Peter: Lesson 11: Living Like the End is Near


In 1 Peter 3:16, Peter mentioned Christians “having a good conscience.”  Later, he reveals baptism saves, as the appeal of a good conscience toward God.  Unless one never sinned, being righteous on his own, baptism can only save because, through it, God forgives, giving the “unrighteous” a clean conscience.  

The Mind of Christ

Peter now gets into what living the baptized life looks like.  He ties who we are back to Christ and His suffering. 

Read 1 Peter 4:1a

  • Now that Christ suffered to save you, delivered to you in baptism, what is the Christian to arm [a command, an imperative] himself with?

“thinking”: Greek, ennoiaEnnoia comes from the Greek word for mind or thought, nousEnnoia all ties in with the ideas of “point of view, attitude, and conception.” 

In the Septuagint, in Proverbs 2:11, 3:21, 16:22, and 23:19, ennoia includes a sense of “resolve” or having a “settled disposition.”  A Christian is not only to have the same pattern of thought or perspective as Jesus, but this includes the necessary resolve that Christ had when He suffered.

Read 1 Peter 4:1b-2

“for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”: “Whoever” misplaces the emphasis on who did the suffering in this verse.  Peter is referring to Jesus.  The Greek has “for the one [singular] who suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” meaning Christ’s suffering on the cross for our sin is finished.  Peter is repeating what he said earlier, “because Christ suffered in the flesh.”

Thus, we find this cause-and-effect pattern:

Jesus The Christian
Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, 
for the one who suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin [His work of earning our salvation now complete], so no longer live the rest of the time in the flesh, for human passions, but for the will of God.

This arming ourselves with Christ’s mind is not a passive endeavor on our part: We get up to go to church, attend Bible class, read the Scriptures, and meditate on God’s Word.  This is the cooperation our Lutheran Confessions mention about cooperating with God in our sanctification.

As soon as the Holy Spirit has begun His work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and holy Sacraments, we can and should cooperate through His power, although still in great weakness.  This cooperation does not come from our fleshly natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts that the Holy Spirit has begun in us in conversion….  But this is to be understood in no other way than the following: the converted person does good to such an extent and as long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him.  [SD, II, para 65-66]

Peter will now use “the rest of the time in the flesh” one has as a bridge to continue on this topic. 

Read 1 Peter 4:3

“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want”: This is an understatement about lost or excessive time spent in immoral pursuits.  This points back to “God’s patience [that] waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20).  Don’t test God’s patience like the evil spirits did for 120 years (Genesis 6:3-4).  God “imprisoned” them to keep them from inflicting further harm.  So, this time reference also emphasizes how a Christian should use his “remaining time.”

“The Gentiles”: Not simply someone who is not Jewish.  Within Jewish culture, “the Gentiles” referred to those outside one’s own community.  Thus, unless Jewish Christians are fully “Jesused,” having the mind of Christ, this is still a disparaging term.  Either way, Peter uses this expression to highlight their previous behaviors.

  • What were the common practices of the Gentiles in Peter’s day?

“sensuality, passions”: These deal with sexual behavior.

“drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties”: These all deal with drunkenness.  The word for “orgies” is komos, drunken carousing, often involving eating.  This is a movement from private to public drunkenness, not sexual activity, “orgies.”  Peter covered that topic earlier.

“lawless idolatry”: The cause of the previous mentioned behaviors.  As an outgrowth of our fallen nature, this is the cause of our sinful actions.

  • Discuss: What does one’s idolatry lead someone to do today?

Read 1 Peter 4:4

“the same flood of debauchery”: Greek, anachusis.  The ESV provides an excellent translation here, keeping the water imagery Peter used intact.  This ties back to 1 Peter 3:20: “in which a few, that is, eight persons [Noah and his family], were brought safely through water.”  As God judged the “evil spirits” through the flood, the implication is that those who also test God’s patience by continuing to live in sin will, likewise, be judged.

Excursus: How the Maligning the Christians Links to Christ

“With respect to [their lawless idolatry,] they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.”  The Christian is to relate to his maligning as to that which Jesus suffered on the Cross.  Prophesying of the Messiah to come, the Old Testament book of Wisdom reads:

Reasoning incorrectly, they said among themselves…

Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our deeds; he denounces us for our sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our upbringing.  He claims to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child of the Lord.  To us, he is a reproof of our thoughts; even seeing him is a burden to us, because his life is unlike that of others and his ways go in a different direction….

Let us learn if his words are true and find out what will happen to him in the end.  For if the righteous man is the Son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.  Let us test him with insult and torture, so we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to his own words, God will protect him.  [Wisdom 2:1, 12-15, 17-22]

As Jesus was dying on the cross, people taunted Him to come down from the cross and prove He is Who He claimed to be.  The chief priests, scribes, and elders, who were Pharisees, echoed these taunts for a while (Matthew 27:39-42).  Then, they changed tactics: “He trusts in God.  Let God deliver him now, if he desires him.  For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

The mocking Pharisees changed from challenging Jesus to come down off the cross to God rescuing Him from the cross.  Here, they quoted from their Old Testament, from Wisdom, improperly understanding Scripture to malign Jesus.  The irony is God did “rescue” Jesus—in His resurrection, not from the cross.

So, if Peter is using Wisdom as a backdrop, he should next point to what God will do in the resurrection but, in this case, for those who “malign” Christians in their “lawless idolatry.”


Read 1Peter 4:5-6

“give account to him”: apodidomi, this is legal language for giving an account in court.

“the living and the dead”: This refers to everyone, whether they are alive when Christ returns or not.

  • Why was the Gospel preached in earlier times?
  • What does being “judged in the flesh” refer to in this verse?

The reason the Gospel was preached to those now dead is the same reason it is preached to those still alive, the only reason it is ever preached—so people might be saved (1 Peter 1: 12, 25).

“in the spirit”: This goes back to what happened to Jesus, who was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).  “Spirit” in this verse refers to the Holy Spirit.  Thus, for those who died in faith in times past, they too will rise like Jesus “in the Spirit” and live according to God.  Thus, this is not a bodiless existence but one brought into being by the resurrection of the body.  

Like earlier, Peter expects the receivers of his letter to know the Old Testament book of Wisdom.

The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and no torment will ever touch them.  In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to have died [1 Peter 2:15] and their departure was thought to be affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction.  But they are at peace.  Though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.  [Wisdom 3:1-4]

Peter now connects the next section back to the “remaining time” (vs. 2) and God’s readiness “to judge the living and the dead” (vs. 5).  What does this mean for the family of believers?

How the Christians Lives with the End in Sight

Read 1 Peter 4:7

“self-controlled”: Greek, sophroneo.  The ESV leaps to what one with a sophroneo will do: be self-controlled.  However, Peter is not talking about the result but the cause: a sound mind, thinking straight.  This is a command, an imperative.

  • What does this sound like, to which Peter earlier referred?

“sober-minded”: Greek, nepho.  Another command.  This is the opposite of the excess and drunkenness he spoke of earlier. 

  • How is Peter readdressing the points he made earlier?

for the sake of your prayers”: This is the Greek preposition, eis.  In this form, the accusative, it means “into.”  In other words, this is having the mind of Jesus and being sober in our prayers.  This is the same as “praying in Jesus’ name,” where He shapes our prayers (and when He does not but our sinfulness does, instead, we ask Him to make them what they should be).

What follows next are three statements, which serve to show what having a “sound mind” (the mind of Christ) and not succumbing to the non-sobriety he condemned earlier looks like.

Read 1 Peter 4:8-9

Since the completion of all things is at hand, above all

  • In vs. 8, with the mind of Christ and not succumbing to sin, what is the Christian to do?  Why?

“love covers a multitude of sins”: Christ’s sacrifice takes away sin (1 Peter 1:18-19, 2:24, and 3:18) and His sacrifice is lived out when Christians exercise love by bringing God’s love into action by, likewise, forgiving sins.  Psalm 32:1: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”  Rather than allowing grudges to pile up, we forgive others by “covering” these offenses through the merciful love we extend to others.

  • In vs. 9, with the mind of Christ and not succumbing to sin, what is the Christian to do?  How?

Read 1 Peter 4:10-11

  • In vs. 10, with the mind of Christ and not succumbing to sin, what is the Christian to with a gift he has received?
  • In what way?
  • How is this made specific by what one says and what one does?
  • With what result?

Link to the next Lesson.