I Peter 4

I Peter 4: Faithful is He Who Calls You

Peter reminds us as he continues in his instructions on how we are to live, that we will find ourselves suffering for doing good if it is God’s will.   The next verse, I Peter 3: 18 reminds us this is exactly what the Lord Jesus did- He died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God.

Now comes some verses that have created a lot of speculation over the years as to what actually occurred.  “ For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous (just) for the unrighteous (unjust), to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit, through which also He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

Notice what these verses tell us:   the Lord Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.  And it is this Spirit through whom He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed God long ago when He went and preached to those who disobeyed God in the days of Noah.  The word- when- gives us the time frame- it occurred long ago in the days of Noah.  It was the Spirit of Christ, God the Son, who preached through Noah before the flood.  This verse tells us God waited patiently ( with longsuffering). In fact we know that in 120 years of preaching righteousness, only Noah and his family believed and thus only Noah and his family ( 8 souls) entered the ark and were saved from God’s judgment and wrath in a flood that destroyed all of mankind.

Talk about dead congregations!  The Spirit of God preached through Noah for 120 years and only saw 8 who entered into salvation provided by God.   Jesus told us in Matthew 24:  “ As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them  all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”   Invitation after invitation in churches across the land go unheeded.  Churches see their numbers dwindle, their annual number of baptisms declining is prophetic and occurring right before our eyes.

Peter refers to those people as ‘ spirits in prison.’ We can take this scripture to mean to where these unbelievers  are at this present time, held in an unseen world ( Luke 16) awaiting their eternal sentence to be pronounced at the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 19.   It can also fit a description of where they were spiritually in the days of Noah when the Spirit of God preached to them through Noah- they were imprisoned by their sins and unbelief.

The Lord Jesus told us- narrow is the gate and straight the way that leads to eternal life, but few enter in to the only way.  Many however, enter the wide gate and the broad way that seems right to man but leads to eternal destruction.

The ark represents God’s salvation.  Notice they were saved through the water.  Water baptism is a symbol outwardly of what takes place inwardly when we are saved, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ.  We hear these words spoken at the water baptism,’ buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life.’

But there is something else I want us to see here before we leave these verses.  Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:24: “ Faithful is He who calls  you, who will also do it.”   God is Holy and His Holiness calls for God to judge sin.  Here once again in Genesis, God reveals He is Judge. To be true to Himself He must exact the penalty for sin. Just as He had told Adam and Eve when they disobeyed Him and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would surely die. He had to condemn them.  His Holiness compelled Him to become their judge, but His everlasting love compelled God to be their Redeemer.  It was God who came looking for them. It was God who took the life of  an innocent animal to cover them in their nakedness. It was God who gave them the promise of a Redeemer who was coming who would crush the head of the serpent.

And so we see the twofold nature of God- He is both Judge and Redeemer. For 120 years, God called  the people to salvation from His judgment by preaching through Noah.  God had to judge the sin then just as He will in every generation that passes from this world to their next- for He is Holy and must be true to Himself.  But He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b) God took no pleasure in the death of the wicked at the flood, and He is the same today as He will be forever.

Faithful is He who calls you – Who will also do it.  God called them to enter the ark- the method by which He could save them through the waters of judgment. Like Jesus said upon entering Jerusalem that last time- O  Jerusalem, Jerusalem- how I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. ( Matthew 23:37) God wanted to gather those people into the ark, but they were not willing.

Faithful is He who calls you- who will also do it.  John the Baptist made two proclamations regarding the Lord Jesus: (1.) Behold the Lamb of God , which takes away the sin of the world. (2.) He that sent me to baptize with water—the same is that which baptizes with the Holy Spirit.(John 1)  Christ will do a twofold work for those who accept Him as Savior- He takes away our sin and baptizes us in the Spirit. He came that we might have life- ( eternal life, His life in our life) and life more abundantly ( a spirit filled, spirit-empowered life). This two fold act occurred at salvation.  “ Now this is life eternal, that they may know you, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” ( John 17:3)

So here is the picture so far:  we are a building of living stones, the superstructure laid upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus our Cornerstone. The furnishings of this superstructure are supplied by the Holy Spirit and include:  indwelling, cleansing, controlling, guiding, empowering, filling and anointing. We are now the dwelling place of  God Almighty. Our heart is His home. Do you see how He is faithful?  The One who calls you- will also do it.  The question then we ask is: What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answers: “ The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” ( John 6: 28-29)

So we see in the first sin in Eden, a God who seeks sinners, who because of their guilt and shame were hiding from Him.  I want you to contemplate this revelation of God:  My God is a  God who when He  was wronged, wounded and  grieved at the sin of His creation which He loves seeks out the sinner to restore them to Himself. This same God through the Spirit preached to the lost in the days of Noah for 120 years, waiting patiently while the ark was being built.   Thus begins the story of redemption and once again Peter reminds us of what it costs God to redeem us. Here on Father’s Day – we stand in awe as we realize : “ How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” I John 3) And in order for you and I to be redeemed it took the sacrifice of God’s only Son who died in our place that we might become the children of God.  What a costly adoption procedure!


“Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude ( mind-KJV), because he who has suffered in the body is done with sin, and as a result does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. “ Notice the instruction to ‘ arm yourselves also with the same attitude.’ We are being told to prepare for the battle. Paul would instruct us to put on the whole armor.

What did Paul also tell us in Romans 6? “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?  Do you believe this truth?  It is foundational to your living out your new identity.

We have been born again by the incorruptible seed, the Word of God. The Spirit of God using the Word of God will produce a son of God. And that son of God ( which you and I are) has a new nature , a new nature that is not going to live in sin.  If we could be compared to a pig before we were saved, then we understand why we are compared to a sheep after we are saved. We have a new nature. No longer the nature of a pig who loves to wallow in the filth of a pig pen, we now have a new nature, the nature of a sheep who hates the filth of a pigpen.  A sheep who falls into a pigpen would be very uncomfortable and want out as soon as possible and want to cleansed immediately.  May I say- if you are living in a pigpen of sin and are not uncomfortable- something is wrong with you.

A child of God  with a new nature longs to please the Lord in all he/she does. They do not want to please their old nature.  And thus the battle takes place- in which the old nature battles against the new nature, the flesh against the Spirit for control of the body.   The battle is for the mind, that is why the KJV  says ‘ arm yourselves likewise with the same mind ( attitude, NIV).’

We are to arm ourselves so that we no longer live the rest of our time on earth after we are saved in the pursuit of evil human desires, but to the will of God in the pursuit of holiness.

I Peter 4: 3 describes in no- nonsense language some of the sins we lived in before our conversion.  Peter says you spent enough time in the past behaving this way- choosing to live in this pagan lifestyle.   I have on occasion at business dinners and banquets been asked by fellow employees, as well as business acquaintances- ‘ do you not drink anything, Tim? ‘  The answer I sometimes give is:  “ I drank enough from 1963 to 1977 to last a lifetime.” In other words, I spent enough time in the past living that way.   Sometimes this invites further conversation or immediately ends the conversation.

I know some of these people think it is strange  I do not do these things. I heard once from a third party that someone  I had shared scripture with- called me a ‘ Bible Thumper.”

If we are to pursue holiness for the Word of God tells us we are to be holy as God is Holy, what is involved?

First of all the word ‘pursue’ suggests two thoughts:  diligence and effort are required and secondly, this is a lifelong task.  Peter will tell us  in 2 Peter 1: “ His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

The question is do you know Him?  And do you know the great and precious promises He has given us that we might participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires? We must study to show ourselves approved, a workman who needs not to be ashamed  and who correctly handles the Word of God.( 2 Timothy 2:15)

Peter tells us the reason the gospel is preached to those who are dead- is because it is the gospel by which we are saved. And we were all spiritually  dead in sin and trespasses when we heard the gospel.  Jesus in parables told how many had an excuse when the received the invitation  that basically said they had other priorities.  Jesus said this is the verdict- light has come into the world and men preferred darkness.   Paul tells us all are without excuse because God Himself has revealed Himself through His creation and through man’s conscience.  So that when they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. ( Romans 1)

Peter tells us the end of all things is near.  Isn’t it interesting what Peter writes in 2 Peter about the last days:  “ First of all , you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, : “ where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world at that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” ( 2 Peter 3)

So the end of all things is near. And it is a lot nearer now than it was in Peter’s day two thousand years ago.  We see the signs everywhere in our society.

Gird the loins of your mind, Peter said earlier. Put on the whole armor of God said Paul in Ephesians 6.  Watch and pray said the Lord  said lest you fall into temptation.  Be vigilant for your enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy. Therefore Peter says be clear minded and self-controlled ( sober) so that you can pray. Let nothing cloud your thinking- drugs, alcohol, sin.  Why?  So that you can pray intelligently, and specifically.   Prayer is why we put on the whole armor. For it is in prayer- we do battle.

Next, an instruction so important, Peter prefaces by saying ‘ Above all..” love each other deeply (fervently,KJV) because love covers a multitude of sins.”    Remember what the greatest commandment is – to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, and with all your soul. And the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. On these all the  commandments are based.

Love forgives again and again- keeps no record of wrongs. Why do I love the Lord so much?  Because He has forgiven me so much.  He is like that song I recently heard- I Just want one more second chance and He is faithful to give us chance after chance after chance.

Remember the story Jesus told in Luke7 in response to the woman who had led a sinful life and evidently everyone knew it? She came to the Pharisee’s house where Jesus was eating and poured a alabaster jar of perfume on his feet. The host, Simon, was appalled this woman who was a sinner had done this and the Lord Jesus had not reacted to her touching him.   The Lord then told a parable of two men who owed to a certain money lender a debt. One owed 500 denarii  the other owed  50 denarii- but neither had the money to pay him back. The money lender forgave both men their debts. Which of them loved the moneylender more?  Simon, the Pharisee answered- I suppose the one who owed him more. You answered correctly the Lord said and went on to point out how Simon had neglected to show the Lord any acts of love or kindness.   Yet this woman had  poured out her perfume and her love on the Lord .

This woman who showed such great love for the Lord, had been forgiven many sins.  She was saved by grace through faith- her love did not save her- it was only evidence of her forgiveness.  ( One truth we do not want to overlook- although one man owed much and the other very little in comparison, neither one were able to pay their debts. We are all in debt and none of us can pay it.)   ‘ Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow’.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is actually a three part parable where we have a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son, we often miss something.  There are two fundamental truths that come out of this 3 part parable: (1.) The rejoicing over the recovery of the lost sheep, coin or son is compared to the rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of each sinner. (2.) In each of these three parables, the shepherd who lost his sheep; the woman who lost her coin; and the father who lost his son, none gave up the right of ownership. In the same way, since the Garden of Eden, God is presented as still claiming His ownership over His creation, even of those who claim they are not lost.

Each of us who are saved and walking with the Lord must realize, the God of All Creation came seeking us when we were lost. No wonder He is called the Hound of Heaven.

This love will also manifest itself in hospitality offered to one another without grumbling.  We read often of the early church opening the doors of their homes to feed and welcome others.

This love for the Lord will also reveal itself in sharing and using whatever gift God has given you to serve others.

And Peter reminds us each believer has received a gift  he/she has received for the purpose of sharing it with others.

Further instructions on how we are to act and for what reason are made clear in these next verses where Peter tells us: if we speak, we are to do it as one speaking the very words of God; if we serve, we are to serve with the strength the Lord provides and all is this is done in all things so that God may be praised through Jesus Christ- to Him be glory and the power for ever and ever, AMEN!

FAITHFUL IS HE WHO CALLS YOU- WHO WILL ALSO DO IT. What a great and precious promise from your Heavenly Father on this Father’s Day!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14