Peter has clearly established in the first 3 chapters that Christians will face persecution. This does not mean that they are outside of God’s grace (the primary concern that lead to the writing of 1 Peter, read more here), rather it shows they are truly following the Christ. Christians should do all they can to avoid suffering and seek peace (read here), but we cannot compromise our convictions and conduct. Our unwillingness to compromise on these will sometimes lead to us facing persecution.
Prepare for Persecution
Peter’s advice is that we should prepare ourselves for this situation. We need to “arm ourselves” with the knowledge that we will suffer. This knowledge comes from the fact that we know that Christ has suffered (read here). The implication drawn by Peter is that followers of Christ should prepare to suffer as well.
Peter immediately states his primary reason for Christians to arm themselves. The reason is those who suffer have refrained from sin. Christians who are willing to suffer for their faith are also willing to put forth the effort needed to fight the war that sin rages within all of us. We will lose this battle some, but we will no longer be people who practice sin.
Sins we will no longer practice
In verse 2 Peter describes what this new lifestyle looks like. This new lifestyle leaves the old way of living. The old way of living was after our “own lusts.” The new way of living conforms to the will of God. This is the life of the Christian. We battle against our inwards lusts while striving to do God’s will.
There was a time though when this was not a battle at all in our lives. There was a time, described in verse 3, when we did not concern ourselves with God’s will, but only the will of our lusts. While in that time Peter describes several activities that our pre-redeemed selves participated in.
1. Living in sensuality: Lack of restraint in regards to sexual morality. This word deals with a desire to use ones body both to create sensual desires within yourself and within others. Anytime we are using our bodies and movement of our bodies in this way, then we are living after the ways of the Gentiles.
2. Lusts: This is a very generic word that refers to a variety of sinful desires. Most likely here it is in relation to sensual desires.
3. Drunkenness: Excess of wine is what the older translation have. It is an indulgence in alcohol that leads to a state of no longer having full capacities.
4. Revelries: This is connected with drunkenness. It is the activities that normally go with a group of people who are drunk.
5. Drinking Parties: These are parties where the goal is for participants to get drunk. It seems Peter here is not only saying Christians shouldn’t participate in these activities, but that Christians should not be where these are taking place.
6. Lawless Idolatry: The practice of faith in the true God is far different than the practice of faith in idolatry. Christians should view their old way of life as lawlessness.
This change in lifestyle was a source of the persecution that Christians faced. They had once participated in these activities with their fellow countrymen, but now the refuse. Their refusal to live this way and instead live a holy life caused friction. This friction resulted in persecution. Today, when we live holy lives and different lives than we did in our past we can suffer the same result.
Judgment vs. the Gospel
Peter reminds Christians of the fact that all men will face judgment, including those who speak against them. This has been a constant reminder in the book; namely that God will judge those who cause Christians harm. This judgment is the reason the gospel is preached. God will judge people, but God does not want anyone to face His wrath. Sin will be punished, but the choice is between rather the individual will face the punishment for their sins or whether they will accept Jesus as their substitute.
Verse 6 can cause some issues, but I think it’s basic meaning is this. Those who were judged by (wicked) men on this earth, will live according to God’s judgment. This is a reminder that our faith is not a matter of popular opinion, but rather a matter of God’s standard of righteousness.
Peter’s point is that we will face the world’s judgment. Due to this we should be prepared. This preparation is seen in our holy conduct and in our acknowledgment that only God will judge us!