“But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.”
Now the Sanhedrin reacts. Like most organizations in authority they resent anything which is going to remove that authority. This is the principle of power lust. In the Greek it says they were cut to the quick. This goes to show that they were listening to Peter and that they were thinking but didn’t like what they heard. And as a result, they intended to kill them, which expressed the purpose of the enraged Sanhedrin. They had received legitimate criticism with regard to the crucifixion. They, of course, rejected the criticism as legitimate but had taken it as a personal insult and affront to their authority. This was exposing their power lust and so they sought to kill Peter and the other apostles who were taken into custody. In their anger they were about to commit the judicial blunder of killing these apostles. So the negative volition of the Sanhedrin had put them in the position of losing their temper which cut off their ability to think straight. The only way that any order could be restored was for someone to remain calm.
But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Gamaliel now speaks to the Sanhedrin which was about to do a terrible thing: destroy Peter and the other apostles. First he has Peter and the other apostles put out of earshot. Anger leads to emotion which halts clear thought. In other words, Gamaliel was warning them not to do something contrary to the law and try to destroy these men. So he cited some cases from history to show that there was a precedent for handling this particular problem. Remember this was a judicial body that was suppose to have respect for law.
“They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. They took Gamaliel’s advice but could not refrain from flogging them. So even though they agreed they showed the direction in which they are going. Stay away and leave these men alone, meant to let the apostles go without any punishment. While the Sanhedrin agreed in principle they can’t keep their personal feelings out of it. The Sanhedrin was vindictive, and while they agree to let the men go they beat them. This was unjust and unfair. They did not completely follow the instructions of Gamaliel, because he said to leave them, to let them alone.
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” The Sanhedrin had accomplished nothing. They received good advice from Gamaliel. So, they had a warning from without (from the apostles) and a warning from within (from Gamaliel), but rejected both. The apostles and other disciples however rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus.
In order to orient to suffering, a believer must exhibit the same mental attitude that Jesus Christ exhibited when He suffered in His humanity. What was His attitude? Peace, joy, stability, single-mindedness, humility and obedience to the plan of God. (Isaiah 26:3-4; Hebrews 12:2; II Timothy 1:7; II Corinthians 13:11; II Corinthians 10:5-6; Philippians 2:5-8) Jesus Christ fully understood the plan for Him. This plan involved intense suffering, both physical and mental. Knowing this, He was still willing to die for our sins. (Matthew 26:39)
We are given a command in Scripture to arm ourselves with the same mental attitude as Christ had. This, once again, is a command, not a request. This command is a military term referring to a fully armed Greek soldier. What is the believer’s equipment? We have studied this equipment before in Ephesians 6. The one offensive weapon mentioned in Ephesians 6 is the Word of God. In this verse we are commanded to arm ourselves with the same mind as Christ. You will recall that the Word of God is the mind of Christ. In other words, there will be no orientation to suffering apart from Divine Viewpoint Thinking.
I Peter 4:1 is a reference to undeserved suffering. “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also for the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” The reason we know this is because it is a reference to what Christ accomplished at the Cross with regard to sin. The suffering He endured was totally undeserved. The word “cease” actually means to pause, to desist, to refrain or to stop. When you are armed with the mind of Christ, then the suffering that comes your way will not be due to sin in your life. Christ has delivered us from the power of sin over us. Therefore, when we are under the control of the Holy Spirit and are thinking divine viewpoint, any suffering that comes our way is undeserved and is for our benefit.
I Peter 4:2 gives us a reason for undeserved suffering, namely, so that the believer will choose to do the will of God. “So as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” God wants the believer to stop living like the unbeliever as described in verse 3. God has a purpose and a will for every believer during his life on earth. However, it is up to the individual believer to discover God’s will for himself. I Peter 4:3 describes the lust patterns of the sin nature and uses the word “Gentiles” to denote the unbeliever. The lust patterns described here is lasciviousness (lust pattern of the soul), drunkenness, carousing, pagan feasts and idol worship. Using our volition, we are commanded to refrain from this type of behavior, because as believers in Jesus Christ, we how have a new nature. Our sin problem has been dealt with by Christ, and we have been delivered from the penalty and power of sin. We are to start living like the Royalty that God says we are. There is nothing more comforting when you are experiencing undeserved suffering than to know that you are in the will of God.
I Peter 4:3-5 speak of the separation of believers from Satan’s world system. “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you. But they shall give account to Him Who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Failure to do so will bring suffering in the form of divine discipline. We are to separate ourselves from:
Another source of undeserved suffering comes from unbelieving friends. They are amazed that you no longer run to the same excesses in your social life that you once did. Therefore, they speak evil of you as a result. This maligning is undeserved suffering. Believers are commanded to separate from the unbeliever’s excesses, even though he can expect maligning for his stand. However, God in His grace makes provision by turning undeserved suffering into blessing. It is a blessing in itself to pass a test of undeserved suffering by not reacting to or maligning the unbeliever.
Once the believer is oriented to suffering by making good choices, by separating from those that would distract him and through the control of God the Holy Spirit, he can produce divine good works even while suffering. In I Peter 4, Peter was writing to a group of believers in Asia Minor who had been spared persecution from Nero up until this time. However, Peter was warning them of impending danger as Nero searched for Christians to torture and kill. Thus the phrase “the end of all things is near.” By application, Peter was warning all Church Age believers that the end of the Church Age was near. There is no prophecy that must be fulfilled before the Rapture of the Church can take place. (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) We are told that things will get increasingly worse as the time of the Rapture nears. This, of course, will also include several categories of suffering.
I Peter 4:6 speaks of the final suffering for those who fail to believe in Christ. “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. What we have in this verse is orientation to divine judgment. There are going to be only two judgments for human beings: 1) The Judgment Seat of Christ for believers and 2) The Great White Throne Judgment for unbelievers. For this purpose would be better translated “because of the fact” of judgment, the Gospel was proclaimed to the spiritually dead. At some time the spiritually dead heard the Gospel, if they were positive at God consciousness, so that they are without excuse. That introduces a purpose clause; “that though they are judged,” which is the Greek word “krino” meaning judged and condemned. (Hebrews 9:26-28) No one could be judged for rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior if they did not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel (based on their volition at God consciousness).
In I Peter 4:7 we are told to have a stabilized thought pattern means thinking divine viewpoint. “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” This kind of thinking eliminates the possibility of getting upset and falling apart when suffering comes. In Greek this is a command not a request. In other words, once and for all be stabilized in your mind. Of course, as we have studied, stability of the mind comes from Bible doctrine circulating in your soul. This gets you ready for suffering. For the purpose of prayer is also a command in the Greek and means that we are to develop a consistent, stable prayer lives. Once again, you cannot develop a prayer life apart from knowledge of God’s Word. God’s Word teaches us how to pray effectively. When suffering comes, and it will, we can be ready to pass the test if we have developed a stable thought pattern and a consistent prayer life. This is part of our divine production in suffering. Divine production is not necessarily overt activity. It may be and quite often is inward activity (thinking). Do you realize that you can glorify God by your thinking?
I Peter 4:8 tells us to have fervent love for one another. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” The love in this verse is impersonal (unconditional love) love. It is a mental attitude love produced in the life of the believer by God the Holy Spirit. As we have studied, we are commanded to love one another as believers in Jesus Christ. This is the kind of love that will sustain and encourage us and others in a time of crisis. (Galatians 5:22; I John 4:20)
The word cover in this verse means to blot out, to veil or to hide. God’s love in Christ has “covered” all sins of the human race. However, the love spoken of here is referring to covering sins not yet committed or potential sin. This sin is personal sin of the believer that can be prevented because the believer is being controlled by the Holy Spirit who is the one manifesting this love in us. Paul is encouraging the believers in Asia Minor to be united in Christ by exhibiting this love one towards the other even during the coming suffering. Suffering is inevitable, but our attitude during suffering is optional.