The Art of War
1 Peter 4:1-6
Truth Taught- As Christians, we must be armed in order to live our life for God’s glory.
About 500 BC in China Sun Tzu wrote what has been the definitive work on military warfare. This treatise is over 2500 years old and is still used by many military leaders today. Of course he was not a Christian and so I’m not quoting from this work as if it was the Bible in any way.
Sun Tzu Quotes…
If we are to live as Christian exiles and make an impact in this lost world we must see the Christian life as a nothing less than war. I say that to capture what Peter has been telling us. Let’s look together at some of Peter’s military and wartime ideas and terms.
1 Peter 1:1 (ESV)
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
In Chapter 3 he writes about the suffering of Jesus in war/military focus and the victory Jesus won over sin and death.
1 Peter 3:18–19 (ESV)
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
Now, our text for today builds on the idea of war. Peter writes that if we are going to fight the battle successfully in this world we must be armed. Let’s look together at Peter’s battle plan and the Art of War…
1 Peter 4:1–6 (ESV)
4 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
4 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Sun Tzu wrote that we must know ourselves and know our enemy. So, according to Peter who is our enemy?
1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)
Peter tells us that our enemy is within. The enemy that wages war against our soul is not Satan but our own human passions. This is a spiritual war and the enemy takes no prisoners.
Do we know our enemy? Our own sinful nature our desires and passions are waging a war against our souls. Peter’s writes that the war is currently being fought, in other words, our passions are right now attacking our souls. So, we know who the enemy is and we know what the enemy is currently doing.
Do we know ourselves? Are we somehow trying to convince ourselves that we are strong without God’s help? Possibly, we are telling ourselves that everything is ok and I don’t have to engage in battle. Perhaps we’ve convinced ourselves that there is no war.
There is a war our enemy is strong and merciless and we are weak and currently being attacked. We need some spiritual ammunition to fight in this spiritual war.
What does Peter tell us our ammunition is?
4 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking,
Because we are in a spiritual war we cannot achieve victory through the physical realm. He gives us the example of Jesus…
To achieve spiritual victory for His people Jesus suffered in the physical realm. He suffered in the flesh for the ultimate spiritual victory for all His people. His suffering won our justification but in order to win our sanctification God requires our suffering. We have been saved by the work of Jesus now God’s grace and our works will sanctify us.
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Peter tells us to arm ourselves with the same mindset or outlook that Jesus had. He was willing to suffer in the flesh or in the physical realm to secure a spiritual victory. The same is true for us. When we are armed with proper thinking and a proper mindset, namely that spiritual victory requires some level of physical suffering then we are on our way to see the spiritual victory.
When we fight against our natural passions to sin we will be engaged in a level of suffering but we do it knowing that sin will be overcome. It’s very much like a withdrawal from a drug. We must not live and engage in the things we used to. We cannot, as God’s people continue living like we used to live. We are in a war and when we are in a war we live differently.
Here’s Peter’s meaning in verse 1…Live with the same resolve that Jesus did. For us it is the attitude that I’m through with sin.
For example, a new Christian may not be able to keep all his old friends. For the sake of their soul some old acquaintances will need to be let go. For the sake of their new life sometimes friends must become strangers. Jesus tells us that even there will be family members that this will also be true of.
Matthew 10:35–36 (ESV)
35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
These are the things Peter writes about when he uses the word suffering in the flesh.
What are the results of abstaining from passions and sensual desires…
2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Are you resolved to live for God’s will and not your will any longer? If we can arm ourselves with this mindset, sin does not stand a chance. We can live consistently for God’s glory if our minds are renewed and focused.
The idea of resolve or arm yourselves with the same way of thinking means that when we take an assessment we make a premeditated choice to suffer rather than to sin or to indulge in human passions. We are determined that sin is off the table and if it requires suffering then so be it. It’s when we are armed with this way of thinking then we can be what God wants us to be. We cannot be half-hearted or wishy washy we must be determined to kill sin before it kills us.
Notice the implication of these verses…
Romans 8:12–14 (ESV)
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Doing battle with the sinful passions of our flesh will not save us but it does show whether or not we are saved and being sanctified. To sit on the sidelines or to not fight against sin is to show we are not Christians.
3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
As believers who are in the war we must be ready to move forward and advance in Christian living. Peter basically writes, have we not sinned enough to be sufficient now lets move forward?
Have we not sinned enough for ten people? Have we not engaged in the things lost people engage in? Have we not lived as Gentiles (lost people) enough? Then Peter gives us a list of the types of things he’s writing about…
living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.
We are able, I think, to see the types of things he is referring to. Indulging in human passions and sinful desires. We should notice that all these things go completely against God’s will for His people. We are not to indulge in sexual sins, drunkenness, or pagan worship. To engage in these things mean you have surrendered and are not fighting against them. The Apostle’s assessment is that these are the types of things the lost world desires and we used to desire but we must fight against them being willing to suffer rather than sin is his point.
In his example suffering may come when you don’t engage in these acts. they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
Will you cave when the pressure is on? Will you cower in the fear of man when you seek to do what God wants and your friends put pressure on you? What will you trade in order to be liked?
The response of non-Christians is not good when you begin to follow Christ and not them. They will often times become angry when you no longer participate in the sin you used to do. This is a level of suffering, isn’t it? When you no longer engage in their debauchery and no longer endorse their lifestyle they become angry and take it personal. By your actions you’re telling them that they have a moral issue; that they are sinners and you would rather not engage in that anymore. It won’t go well. As Christian we must choose suffering over sin. We must be armed with the mindset and be resolved that sin is no longer in charge, Jesus is.
5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
Peter closes here with the reminder to all believers engaged in this war that there would be a universal judgment upon all who cause His people to suffer. Part of the mindset of Jesus was that if anyone wrongs us we don’t have to get even because God will judge him or her. Peter picks up on this theme here. We can stay faithful to God’s will for us and if someone gets mad at us and even harms us or maybe even kills us for obeying God, even if that should happen we can still remain faithful because God stands ready to judge and they will give an account and punishment will be applied.
This judgment is of a universal nature, which includes those who were alive at the time Peter wrote and those who were already dead. Death does not disqualify one from God’s judgment.
Peter desires to strengthen Christ’s sheep. He does this by giving us Gospel ammunition to be used in the war against our passions.
He tells us to begin to think correctly. God wants us to be people of resolve. People who stand firm because we have seen that the stakes are high and that to not fight means we are not His.
He tells us to be people who are ready to advance in the Christian life. We have sinned enough now it’s time to move ahead and take back what is ours in Christ.
He tells us that regardless what happens suffering is better than sin. We can endure it because God will judge all who seek to harm us because of our Christian commitment. God will even the score. Our role in warfare is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and to not worry about the marginal details.
So, is there a human passion that is keeping you held captive? Is there an area of your life not engaged in warfare? Kill sin before it kills you.
Are you ready to embrace suffering in order to resist sin? War is hard, be resolved to not sin, not surrender to your passions and fight the war and beloved, enjoy the victory we have in Christ.
Teaching 1 Peter by Angus MaCleay
1 Peter by Karen Jobes
1 Peter by David Helm
1 Peter by John MacArthur
1 Peter by Peter Davids
1 Peter by Wayne Grudem
1 Peter by Edmond Clowney