1 Peter 4 – What does it mean to suffer in the flesh?

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Since Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought: The commitment that God calls us to have is not greater than the commitment that Jesus had in enduring suffering for our salvation. In the last few days, we need to have a great commitment to God in order to endure great tribulations.

We read in 1 Peter 4 “for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin”. These are well-known sayings, but do we really understand what it means to us in our daily lives?

What does it mean to suffer in the flesh?

“So then, Christ having suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind. For he who has suffered in the flesh is done with sin, in order to live, no longer according to the lusts of men, but according to the will of God, during the time that remains to him to live in the flesh.” 1 Peter 4, 1-2.

Three things are clear from the above verses:

That we ourselves must suffer in the flesh to be done with sin – it was not just Christ who suffered for us.

It’s through only suffering in the flesh we can be done with sin

That it is entirely possible to stop sinning and do the will of God.

1 Peter 4 – What does it mean to suffer in the flesh?

Christ suffered in the flesh

When Peter wrote that “Christ suffered [for us] in the flesh,” he was not referring to the physical sufferings of Christ. It is clear that only the physical suffering of a person does not allow him to stop sinning. We see this in the many examples around us and throughout history.

No, Christ suffered in the flesh when he became like men when he partook of the same flesh and blood as children and was tempted in all things like us, without committing sin! (Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 4:15) It was in this human flesh and blood that he became obedient unto death. And he learned obedience by the things he suffered. (Philippians 2, 8; Hebrews 5, 8)

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We find evidence of this suffering when he implored his father with loud cries and with tears, when his sweat became like lumps of blood, so intense was his struggle in temptation. (Luke 22, 41-44; Hebrews 5, 7) And yet, through all these sufferings, all his desire was the following: “Father…that my will not be done, but yours. A great battle and great suffering took place in Jesus for it to be accomplished. And the result was that he overcame his own will so that God’s will could be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6, 10)

“Then I said: Behold, I come (In the scroll of the book it is a question of me) to do, O God, your will. Hebrews 10:7.


We must suffer in the flesh

It’s our turn now, to suffer in the flesh, so we can stop sinning. Jesus makes this clear when he explains who his disciple (or pupil) can be: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and let him follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses it for my sake will save it”.  Luke 9, 23-24. (Luke 14, 26-27)

We encounter these sufferings at the time of temptation and when we have Christ’s purpose, which was “not my will, but yours, to be done.” But we discover that our flesh does not give up its passions and desires so easily. (James 1:14; Galatians 5:24). So, just like Jesus, we need to ask for help. We too must learn obedience through suffering (that is, by suffering in the flesh).

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But what is incredible is that since Jesus went through this too, however without committing any sin, he knows and understands the temptations and the sufferings that we must face. And it is precisely for this reason that he is able to come to our aid when we are tempted. (Hebrews 2, 17-18). “Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace, to succor in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16.

We are assisted by the power of the Holy Spirit which enables us to deny ourselves and to take up our cross, which simply means stating “No! to every temptation, faithfully, over and over again, until the temptation is overcome. No, again and again, at our own will; to the lusts and desires of the flesh. When these desires are given up, it hurts. To suffer in the flesh is to experience this. But when we do this faithfully, when we resist temptation without falling back, we gradually stop sinning in this area.

The Results of Suffering in the Flesh

Suffering in the flesh results in the glorious results quoted at the end of the verse quoted below. We now have the option to live in accordance with God’s will rather than our own desires.. (1 Peter 4, 2) We no longer need to fulfill the desires of the flesh, but we walk in the Spirit who guides us toward the will of God, in order to be able to obtain the fruits of the Spirit as our own nature.

We grow in love, in joy, in peace, in long-suffering, in goodness, in kindness, in faithfulness, in benevolence, in self-control. (Galatians 5, 16-25) We stop sinning and we obtain the divine nature! (2 Peter 1, 4) We become disciples, people who want to follow Jesus. Indeed, he wants us to become his brothers!

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Hebrews 2, 10-11
“It was fitting, indeed, that he for whom and by whom are all things, and who would lead many sons to glory, should raise to perfection by sufferings the Prince of their salvation. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers…”.

It is because of this promise and this joyous hope that we can say with one voice with the apostles:
2 Corinthians 4, 17-18
“For our slight afflictions of the present moment produce for us, beyond all measure, an eternal weight of glory, because that we look, not at visible things, but at those which are invisible; for visible things are transient, and invisible things are eternal”.

Romans 8, 17-18
“Now if we are children, we are also heirs: heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if we suffer with him, in order to be glorified with him. I believe that the sufferings of the present time cannot be compared to the glory to come which will be revealed to us.”

1 Peter 4, 12-13
“Beloved, do not be surprised, as if at a strange thing that is happening to you, at the furnace that is in your midst to test you. Rejoice, on the contrary, in your part in the sufferings of Christ, so that you too may rejoice and be glad when his glory appears.”