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1 Peter 4 Part 2: Commitment to Wisdom and Prayer
1 Peter 4:3-7 Be sober-minded and of sound judgment in these end times.
“For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”
1 Peter 4:3-7 NASB1995
Here comes ol’ Peter, ready to smash all of the “fun” in life as he tells us to arm ourselves with Christ’s purpose and wisdom! He is admonishing his believers that the time is already past for them (and it was sufficient, which means nothing more need be added) to have carried out the desires of the Gentiles (or pagans), who are pursuing a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.
What does he mean by those desires? Well, let’s do some word parsing to help out so that we understand these pursuits that should be left behind :
Sensuality comes from the Greek word ἀσέλγεια or aselgeia, meaning unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence. That last one is particularly interesting, as insolence means being scornful or defiant, which probably drives one to excess in other areas.
Lusts come from the Greek word ἐπιθυμία or epithymia, meaning desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust
Looking at sensuality and lust in our modern world, we honestly make the Romans look like pikers. Our entertainment is stuffed to the gills with sensual images and outrageous acts and you can watch it in the privacy of your own home or on a smart phone. According to Fightthenewdrug.org, an organization dedicated to documenting the harm of pornography (and fighting to eliminate it from our culture), this seedy business is likely worth billions, mostly from from subscription and advertising revenue. Another article I spotted said that one of the biggest growing audiences for porn comes from the millennial generation. Lusts can range from the overt sexual desires to more mundane things, like gourmet food (heard of food porn?). Our degraded culture adores modern Epicureans like the late bad boy chef and gourmand Anthony Bourdain, who found great pleasure in food and drink and sex and drugs, yet he committed suicide. What was he looking for that wasn’t supplied by his lusts and addictions?
Drunkenness comes from the Greek word οἰνοφλυγία or oinophylgia, meaning an excess of wine (or other alcoholic beverage)
Carousing comes from the Greek word κῶμος or komos meaning a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honor of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry.
Sounds like Mardi Gras!
Drinking parties has a similar root to carousing.
When I was growing up, drinking and getting drunk was practically mandatory behavior (I don’t think that has changed much) if you were a product of public schools or secular universities. I won’t go into any personal stories because they are in the past (and confessed), but I recall some pretty serious drunken parties in the college dorms, at football games, during holiday celebrations, at the end of finals, you name it! Spring break now means students gather in a beach location to practice all sorts of debauched behaviors and drink (or take drugs) until they are physically ill. According to the CDC, excessive drinking costs the American economy billions of dollars in lost productivity and illness and that doesn’t even count the cost of drunk driving. I confess I still enjoy a nice glass of wine with a good dinner, but cultivating self-control as one of the fruits of the spirit is a must!
Sadly, I had a cousin who lived in northern Michigan who was a serious alcoholic. I had not seen her in many years and then I had a phone call from her older brother a few years ago. She had disappeared after a drinking binge one night during the winter and the remains of her body were found months later when the snow melted (they had searched for her extensively). She had passed out in the snow and died of exposure in a remote field. Sobering story, isn’t it?
Abominable idolatries comes from the Greek word ἀθέμιτος or athemitos meaning contrary to law and justice, prohibited by law, illicit, criminal and the Greek word εἰδωλολατρεία or eidololatria, meaning
the worship of false gods, idolatry
of the formal sacrificial feats held in honour of false gods
of avarice, as a worship of Mammon
in the plural, the vices springing from idolatry and peculiar to it
Back in the day of Peter, pagans worshipped the Greek and Roman Gods and considered the emperor to be a God, which is one reason why Christians were persecuted because they refused to worship the emperor. Those idolatries seem pretty straight forward, in retrospect, and false gods factor prominently in the Bible. But our modern culture has many new idolatries that the Romans didn’t even imagine (except possibly wealth). People now worship many aspects of wealth (mammon) or pop stars or or even science or animals or nature. Anything but God, the creator!
So Peter continues in the next verse about how the believer, who has left these things behind, will be maligned by those who are still running to trouble because we are not sharing in their dissipation. Dissipation is an interesting word, coming from the Greek word ἀσωτία or asotia, meaning an abandoned, dissolute life (prodigality, profligacy). My poor late cousin suffered from asotia. People pursuing the worst vices are most upset when they lose a hard-drinking buddy to AA or someone (a spouse, perhaps) pulls the plug on financing a porn habit. So we will naturally be maligned. Our society really doesn’t like “goody-goody” types like Christians who forswear all of the “fun” naughty things in life. If only they knew that we now have so much freedom and joy!
If we are maligned, we can rest assured that those who continue to pursue these things of the world will be judged by God (the Great White Throne judgment). They will give an account to Him of their lives; believers also give an account of our lives of faith and sanctification, as part of our glorification, having been saved by the blood of Jesus (what did we do with our salvation)? Then Peter gives us another challenging and perplexing statement, about how the Gospel has been preached to the dead. Here is what Commentary on Enduring Word says about these verses:
They think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation: When the world looks at our godly living, they think it strange that we do not follow them in their flood of dissipation (wastefulness). If life lived after the flesh is anything, it is a waste.
Speaking evil of you: When we don’t participate in the sin around us, we convict those who practice their sin, and they don’t like that – so they speak evil of us.
“It does not matter how your good deeds are received by men. If you are like God, you will find them received with contempt and ingratitude.” (F.B. Meyer)
They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge: When this account is required, all who live in the sins Peter described will clearly see how foolish they have been. Even if one seems to live the “good life” living by the world’s rules, his life will be a waste in the measure of eternity.
For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead: Peter also says that because of this eternal judgment the gospel was preached to the dead. The righteous dead know and live on in constant awareness of the reality of eternity – and are rewarded by this understanding as they live according to God in the spirit.
Peter has already told us that Jesus preached to the spirits in prison, preaching a message of judgment (1 Peter 3:19). Apparently during this same time Jesus also preached a message of salvation to the faithful dead in Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:22) who anticipated the work of the Messiah for them. This preaching to those who are dead was not the offer of a second chance, but the completion of the salvation of those who had been faithful to God under their first chance.
In doing this, Jesus fulfilled the promised that He would lead captivity captive(Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8) and He would “proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18).
It may also be that Peter here had in mind those in the Christian community who had already died, perhaps even dying as martyrs. If this is the case then Peter used their heroic example as a way to encourage his suffering readers to also be faithful.
So David Guzik isn’t really 100% sure what Peter means by “preaching the Gospel to the dead”, but his analyses seem pretty solid and he has good alternative explanations.
Finally (yes, I’m almost done), we are to be of sound judgment and sober spirit for our prayers. We must be watchful, because we don’t know when the end is near. As noted in the commentary above, a life lived pursuing anything other than God will be a waste in the measure of eternity, even if you think you have found the worldly “good life”.
My next devotional examines 1 Peter 8:8-11 Love, Hospitality and Gifts.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please help me to continue to put aside those behaviors that come from following this world instead of following you. Help me to be sober in spirit and of sound judgment as we await your return. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary by David Guzik on Enduring Word is used with written permission.