How Great is Our God in HEBREW,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Suffering in the Flesh-A Study in 1 Peter

1 Pet. 4:1-3 So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.  You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy... (this was the New Living Translation)

Here is the New King James translation:

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles...

So the sense is, "As Christ suffered in his human nature, so do you, according to sin by self-denial and mortification; for, if you thus suffer, you will be conformable to Christ in your baptismal vow and profession, make your corrupt nature suffer, by putting to death the body of his death and resurrection, and will cease from sin.'" (quote from MATTHEW HENRY'S COMMENTARY)

As you might be able to see here there is a slightly different twist between the manner in which the NLT version translated this text and the manner in which Matthew Henry looked at it.  In the former text, it speaks about physical suffering we may undergo...either from disease or the injury we may incur in the violence that unbelievers may inflict upon us.  Peter prefaces this passage by saying that if we suffer as a result of natural physical suffering or violence done to us, there is no shame in such fact we are to welcome it because by it, we understand the pain that the Lord suffered for us...and we have fellowship with him through our suffering.

However Matthew Henry takes the word "flesh" and says that in the first usage of the word, Christ suffered physically (in his flesh) and because of the victory he thus won over sin, we are to do violence to our "fleshly nature", in other words, our sin nature...and therefore, once we have stopped our sinfulness in its tracks, we are then "free from sin"....and I would take this to mean that "there has no temptation taken us but such as is common to man" (1 Cor 10:3) Once we have put a stranglehold on our sinful selves, we are no longer powerless in the grip of sin.  We have "a way out that we may be able to bear it (the temptation)."

As a person who suffers physical pain, I would naturally most closely align my understanding of this passage to the first explanation given here.  I know for a fact that my suffering has drawn me closer to the to stopping sin in its tracks?....It is true that your mind is not consumed with pursuing sinful desires and occupations....however there are new sins that present themselves.: self pity.  annoyance and impatience.  Anger.  blaming God.....  So these new sins would cast some doubt on the first interpretation of this text.

Yet, despite this, there is a tiny word in the NLT , that gives a different slant ...Peter is not talking about pain from illness necessarily.  He says "Those who suffer FOR Christ."  In other words, those who are beaten, enslaved, or martyred for the sake of their faith in Christ....these are the ones who are done with sin.  Because when your life is on the line, telling lies, gossiping, gluttony....all those temptations fade.

So does that mean that people, such as myself, who suffer physically--are excluded from this verse's meaning? No.  I believe it is possible to commit your suffering to the hands of the Almighty; to submit and say :"Lord, if it is your will today for me to continue in this illness, if, by it--you plan to accomplish something greater in me or in others as a result  of this pain, then Lord, have your way in  me."  This can be likened to the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  "Not my will, but YOURS be done."   So I think this verse is large enough in its expanse to cover these two and possibly even these THREE interpretations.

I realize that today's post is something off the topic of the Christmas season we are in....However I encountered these things in my Bible study this morning and since I'm on my daughter's borrowed computer, I had no other way of making record of these thoughts and I wanted to put them in print to secure my understanding of this passage.  I hope you have gained something through my musings here today.
God bless your Christmas - and grant you safe travel if you are traveling to see loved ones.
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