For the corresponding sermon to this scripture passage, listen here: http://crossview.info/sermons/2014_06_08_AM.mp3
Today’s Scripture Focus: I Peter 4:1-11
Our scripture focus today reminds suffering Christians that Christ also suffered, and therefore gave us an example of how to endure hard times. The phrase “whoever suffers in the body is dead to sin” is a somewhat confusing phrase—does this mean it’s not possible for us to sin if we are in pain? Experience tells us this can’t be true. One explanation is that the “he” who suffers is talking about Christ, who remained faithful during excruciating pain. Most likely, Peter is saying that when we are in Christ, physical and emotional suffering brings us closer to God, rather than pushing us further away. God doesn’t spare us pain, but neither does God waste it.
Building on this thought, verses 2-4 remind the Christian of the way their lives used to be. Before baptism, the 1st Century believers of Asia Minor addressed suffering and pain through drinking, eating, sex, and social gatherings. All of these provided temporary relief for the symptoms of suffering, but only contributed to the cause! Now, these early believers had found a remedy in Christ to life’s hardships. They found that serving Jesus didn’t numb their pain—in fact, through social pressure it sometimes made it worse—but through that same pain they were able to experience true healing in Christ and the church.
Another troubling phrase is found in verse 6—”For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead….” What does this mean? This verse is tied back to the teaching in I Peter 3:19-20 that Jesus descended to hell and preached to all those who died never having heard the gospel. Although this is a historic teaching of the Christian faith, we don’t understand much about it as scripture has very little to say on the subject. We do know that scripture teaches clearly—and verse 6 and 7 emphasize—that all will be judged based on how they conquered their body’s desires and how they responded to God’s Holy Spirit.
Verses 7-11 offer an alternative way of life for Christians. Rather than spend the short time we have in this life simply going from one bodily pleasure to another, or wasting time resisting temptations and pressure from society, we should instead serve one another in love, taking care of others who are suffering, extending hospitality to one another, and using the gifts God has given us to make life better for God’s people. When we focus on our own suffering, or how we have been mistreated by others, then pain becomes the center of our lives. The best solution is to focus on alleviating the pain of another. We find our own problems then becomes a little smaller.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
Can you think of a time you experienced severe ongoing pain? How did you deal with it? Did it draw you closer to God or push you further away?
Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?
What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?