Suffering Unjustly for Our Joy


“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, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1–2)

For what are you willing to voluntarily and unjustly suffer? The answer to that question tells us much about what we value or where our allegiance lies. In the passage above, Peter expresses a similar resolution, but he also shows how such suffering leads to holiness.

Notice Peter’s logic in the passage. He begins by giving the reason we ought to think like Christ in our suffering: Christ also suffered in the flesh. The logic may escape us if we miss the “therefore” that begins the verse, pointing us to the prior context. Directly before this verse, we see the nature of Christ’s suffering in 1 Pet. 3:18: “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.” In other words, we ought to “arm ourselves with the same way of thinking” as Christ thinks in his suffering, because “Christ suffered once for sins…[to] bring us to God.” Jesus endured the unjust cross, in part, because he considered bringing us to God and his subsequent rule over all things (see 1 Pet. 3:22) to be more valuable. In other words, Christ considered unjust suffering worth enduring for the sake of our salvation and the sake of his glory. (For the trickier parts of 1 Pet. 3:18–22, see this article by my colleague and friend, Joshua Greever.)

Peter calls us, then, to have that same mentality—think about your unjust suffering as a means to magnify Christ and draw unbelievers to him. Why should we consider the suffering Peter describes here as “unjust”? First, because earlier Peter compares our suffering to Christ’s suffering (see 1 Pet. 2:21). The way Christ suffered was unjust because he was innocent and didn’t deserve to suffer (1 Pet. 2:22–25). Second, Peter’s discussion of suffering throughout the book describes this suffering as unjust and at times in contrast to suffering that would be just (1 Pet. 1:6–7; 2:12–16, 18–20; 3:9, 14). So, Peter wants us to think like Jesus about our suffering when it is unjust. This way of thinking is amazingly counter-intuitive but amazingly biblical. We should want justice. We should want God to judge and make all things right again. But in this life, Peter calls us to endure unjust suffering. Such suffering reveals that we value Jesus above getting justice for ourselves.

But Peter doesn’t end there. He wants to press into our lives even further. He further grounds this call, to think like Jesus about unjust suffering, in the fact that this way of thinking leads to the end of sin in our lives. The NET translation articulates this well: “So, since Christ suffered in the flesh, you also arm yourselves with the same attitude, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin,” (1 Pet. 4:1 NET). Peter does not mean that those who suffer unjustly will never sin. Instead, Peter means that those who suffer unjustly do away with their sin. How does that work?

Peter’s logic is amazing, and I don’t want you to miss it. What you suffer unjustly for reveals what you value most. If that’s the case, then those who suffer unjustly for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of Jesus’s name show that they value the gospel and Jesus above receiving justice. That same kind of mentality flows into how we should think about our sin. If we value the gospel and Jesus’s name above all things, then we will do whatever is in our power to not tarnish his reputation. We will seek to obey him and show his value in our lives above all else.

In other words, as he says in the passage, we will “live for the rest of the time in the flesh” not following the way of this world “for human passion” (which he describes in the next verse), but living “for the will of God.” To live in sin is to value this world more than our Lord. To fight against sin and overcome it shows that we value our Lord—we love and cherish and enjoy the Lord Jesus Christ more than the fleeting pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). So, if you’re wrestling with sin right now and can’t seem to overcome it, consider the truths of this passage. What promises of God that will be ours in the age to come must you fight to believe that will motivate you to defeat sin in your life? How valuable to you is your deepest possible joy (a joy found only in God)? How valuable are the eternal lives of those around you, both those who are for you and those who cause you to suffer unjustly? Defeating sin is worth it. Enduring unjust suffering for the sake of the gospel is worth it.

I am eager to see in our students, and especially in evening program students, this kind of fortitude, this kind of way of thinking. As an institution, we want to equip our students for gospel proclamation, come what may. We want our students to be “devoted adults” whose devotion to and delight in our Sovereign God and Sacred Book are so profound and so deep that they will gladly and even unjustly suffer for the sake of his name and for the sake of the truth. Pray with me to that end.

Lance Kramer, Th.M.
Director of Evening Programs

If you know of anyone who may be interested in taking evening classes, completing an undergraduate degree in theology, or earning a master’s degree in exegesis and theology, consider sending them this prayer letter and encourage them to register and attend one of our upcoming evening preview nights on March 18 or April 29. To learn more about our evening programs, visit the Evening Degrees page.

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that our students, faculty, and staff would not lose heart at Bethlehem College and Seminary, but be strengthened for gospel ministry.
  2. Pray that the Lord would equip students in our evening programs to be faithful men and women who can endure hardship for the sake of the gospel.
  3. Pray that the Lord would guide you or others to consider taking classes at Bethlehem College and Seminary, especially in our evening programs.
  4. Pray for rest for our students and faculty as they enter Spring Break.
  5. Pray for the full funding of the Serious Joy Scholarships needed to support this year’s students.