Lesson 32—Prepare for the Battle
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:1
Lesson Goal: To grow in the understanding that being a follower of Jesus Christ is not always easy.
In today’s scripture, we are called to remember that a true follower of Jesus Christ will always bring conviction and condemnation (their own) to the ungodly. Through the life of the true believer, the Holy Spirit brings conviction to the unbeliever. Christ suffered at the hands of evil men for the cause of righteousness; so therefore, as a follower of Jesus Christ, we should expect the same. So we are instructed to “arm yourselves also with the same mind.” The true believer should expect to suffer and to endure persecution, simply for being a follower of Jesus Christ.
(Verse 1) “therefore”—this word points us back to what Peter has already written. It specifically points us back to 1 Peter 3:18. “Therefore” directs our attention to the fact of Jesus’ sufferings. By his death on the cross, He experienced His greatest suffering under the judgment of the just for the unjust. But this suffering led to His greatest triumph—victory over sin, the forces of evil, hell itself, and the power of death. “The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate proof that suffering can lead to victory over the forces of evil” (MacArthur).
“since Christ suffered for us in the flesh”—Peter is encouraging his readers to remember that the one who now sits “at the right hand of God” (1 Peter 3:22) once lived on earth enduring the pains and sufferings of this earthly life.
➢ What must it have meant to Peter to personally have witness Christ’s suffering?
Please take a few moments and ask God to illuminate your mind and heart, as you meditate and reflect upon the following. Try to place yourself in Peter’s sandals. He had a firsthand account of Jesus’ sufferings. When Jesus first spoke to His disciples of His crucifixion, Peter tried to rebuke the Lord (please read Matthew 16:21-25). From that day on, he watched Jesus suffer at the hands of evil men. He watched Him being tortured by the very ones for whom He would die. Peter understood firsthand the sufferings of Christ, but one other important thought was ever-present in his heart and mind. He, no doubt, remembered the words Jesus spoke to him of his own death (read John 21:18-19). As Peter encouraged others in the midst of sufferings for their faith, he knew his own sufferings and death waited just ahead (please read 2 Peter 1:14-15).
➢ Trying to place yourself in Peter’s sandals, what does this say about the heart, courage, and care Peter had for those to whom he wrote?
“arm yourselves also with the same mind”—in the light of what we have just read and studied, Peter had been arming himself with this thought for several years. The phrase he uses “arm yourselves” is the Greek word hoplzomai. It is only used here in this verse, referring to a soldier preparing for battle by putting on his armor. What is interesting, and worthy of our attention, is that Peter did not use the common word or the word for “light armor.” He uses a word that means “heavy armor.” In fact, this armor was the heaviest and most protective a soldier could wear.
The truth that Peter shares with his readers is plain and clear; as true followers of Jesus Christ, they (and we) are living on a battlefield. We must understand and prepare for the battle. In the words of John Phillips: “We need all the protection we can get to prepare ourselves for the battles ahead. God does not promise to carry us to the skies on flowery beds of ease. He does not hand out colorful brochures offering good health, prosperity, wide popularity and a long life to those who accept Christ.”
Peter had learned how to arm himself; now he offers instruction to all believers “to arm yourselves with the same mind.” Through his circumstances, through his struggles, through his battles and sufferings, Peter had learned the reality of Paul’s words recorded in Romans 8:37 (please read).
➢ Can you remember a time in your life when you personally experienced the “more than conquerors” power of God? Please explain.
“for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”—we need to understand that the “has ceased” does not mean that those who suffer become perfect or that they will never sin in life. The true believer’s goal is to cease from sin. We will not reach this goal until we die or the Lord returns, but we should continue striving for this goal (please read 1 John 2:28 and 3:9). Sin’s hold on the believer’s life has been broken, so the believer is no longer a slave to sin (read Romans 6:8). Please remember that Peter was preparing his readers for persecution and a real possibility of death because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus had taught, and Peter had listened (see Luke 9:23). When Jesus spoke of “taking up the cross,” Peter, and those who heard it, knew exactly what He was talking about. They knew the depth of the meaning of His words. Many of the readers of Peter’s letters knew that their suffering would lead to death. But they must daily confess Jesus as Lord, no matter the sufferings, even if it meant dying a physical death.
James Guthrie, a martyr who was killed (hanged) for his faith in Jesus Christ, said these final words: “Dear friends, pledge this cup of suffering as I have done, before you sin; for sin and suffering have been presented to me, and I have chosen the suffering part.”
In the words of John Phillips: “The world does not generally persecute the carnal, worldly backslidden believer. Such a believer poses no threat, awakens no conscience, and causes no inconvenience or conviction.”
Questions for Life Focus
A true believer, walking with Jesus, is a threat to the world. What kind of threat does the world, or the forces of evil, perceive you to be?
How is the world convicted of sin by the example of your faith in Jesus Christ?
How have you witnessed this battle in your own life?
This past week, what impression did you leave for the world? Did the world see Christ at work in your life?