1 Peter - Lesson 11

By Curt Niccum

1 Peter 4:1-11

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The class will learn that as God’s children born of imperishable seed we must follow the pattern set by Jesus, the elder brother. This applies to how we live and die and to how we act towards insiders and outsiders.
  2. The class can explain the difference between the world and its selfishness and the kingdom of God and its selflessness. This distinguishes the church as resident aliens.


  1. Bibles for every student
  2. Copies of worksheet for lesson #11
  3. If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.


Concerned about the impact of persecution on the church, Peter writes 1) to assure the Christians of their place in God’s kingdom and 2) to urge them to live as members of that kingdom rather than to capitulate to the surrounding culture. Peter, again using a military metaphor (compare 1:13 and 4:1), challenges Christians to battle against the temptations that our surrounding culture places before us. Rather than capitulate to society’s focus on selfishness and instant gratification, Christians must live in this world employing the mind of Christ. Christ, the sinless one, dies to remove our sin. As a result our relationship to the world must be one that avoids sin, and our relationship with citizens of God’s kingdom must follow Christ’s own example of selflessness.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Devotional Period (5-10 minutes)

  1. Read 1 Peter 4:1-11.
  2. Sing at least two songs (you may choose from the following)
    1. When My Love to Christ Grows Weak (include the third stanza)
    2. Soldiers of Christ Arise
    3. Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus
    4. To Christ be True
  3. Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
    1. For those struggling with sin
    2. For the Benevolence Ministry and its service toward others

Introduction (2 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors.
  2. Distribute study sheets.

Review (5 minutes)

  1. Remind the class that Peter began the body of the letter callingChristians to action using a military metaphor (gird the loins of your mind, 1:13).
  2. Note that he followed this with a charge not to continue in the sins typical of their former way of life (1:14).
  3. Instead, we are to be holy as He is holy (1:15-16).
  4. Read 1 Peter 4:1-3.
  5. Discuss the similarities between the two passages: call to(military) action, change from previous lifestyle, example to be imitated (note that Jesus is the example this time).

Learning Experiences (20 minutes)

  1. In previous lessons we examined Peter’s adaptation of theHousehold Code which he used to describe the Christian life in response to pagan opposition: in the government, in the slave master relationship, and in marriage. In general, Peter speaks there in terms of a defensive stance. Christians are to respond in certain ways when accosted by unbelievers, even if subject to abuse. But Peter expects confrontation with the world precisely because Christians are on the offensive. Thus, he now returns to the original challenge (1:13) to be prepared for action. “Arm yourselves also with the same attitude” Christ had(4:1).
  2. Our best weapon in the battle against evil, therefore, is the mind of Christ. Q: In what sense is having the mind of Christ armament? How does this help Christians in battle? A: Christ,having his mind focused on the will of God, lived a human life,yet without sin (2:22). He won the greatest victory even though he died. In fact, his death proved to be victory (3:18).Jesus knew that death did not separate him from God, but it did destroy the power of sin over God’s people (4:2). That same mindset will keep the Christian separated from the world and its human desires and keep them focused on God’s will.How do we define Christ’s mindset? Peter does not exactly spell it out in this passage, although it certainly has been adequately explained in the rest of the letter. A comparison of the world’s actions as opposed to the church’s identifies what characterizes Christ’s attitude.
    1. Read the list of sins that the world holds forth as representative of its existence (4:3). Q: What motivation underlies all of these sins?
      1. A: It is likely that a wide variety of answers will be given to this question, many of them true in their own way or with respect to one or two of the sins. It is imperative that the class come to see one underlying theme: Selfishness. Selfishness characterizes the people of this world.
      2. Should that answer not be forthcoming, you may need to approach it from different angles.(Do not get too uncomfortable with a long period of silence. Give them time to think; they are not working from a convenient study guide.) You might discuss a particular sin problem such as drunkenness. Have the class list reasons why people get drunk. Some reasons would be peer pressure, incapacity to handle problems maturely, fear of pain, and pleasure. Q: Who is at the center of all of these motivations for drinking? A: The one drinking!Every reason is a selfish reason. Q: Does selfishness apply to the other sins as well? A:Yes!
      3. The one sin that class members might not conceive as selfish is idolatry. Ancient religion,though, was typically selfish in nature. Religion(outside of Judaism and Christianity) did not have ethical standards. (Jews and Christians constantly had to describe themselves to outsiders as philosophies rather than religions,for only the philosophers called for a certain lifestyle based on the knowledge of the divine world.) The purpose of religion was either to appease the spirit world in order to avoid calamity or to manipulate the spirit world into granting special requests. (A god who loves and seeks relationships with humans was a foreign concept to most people in the Roman Empire.)Religion was based on “what can a god or goddess do for me”?
    2. Read the list of activities Peter expects Christians to be involved in (4:8-10). Q: What three actions does Peter mention in these verses? A: Loving deeply, showing hospitality, using one’s gifts. Q: What characteristic motivates this Christian action? A: Selflessness.
      1. Loving deeply finds its model in Christ. Christ did not think of himself but freely gave himself up for others (3:18). Read Paul’s description of the same attitude: Philippians 2:1-11.The issue whether drunkenness is a disease or not is irrelevant to the question. Even if genetically disposed toward drunkenness, the question still applies to why the person took the very first drink.
      2. Hospitality is an important way to serve others.For it to be selfless, though, it should be done without any complaining.
      3. Note that even when God gives gifts, they are specifically for serving others (4:11; see also 1Corinthians 12:7).
  3. Some will react to the Christians’ “offensive” stance with a counter-attack of slander and sometimes worse (4:4). Peter reminds the church that Judgment Day is coming (4:5 and 7),and all (this is what the phrase “living and the dead” means)will have to give an account to the one who is prepared to judge. In the end, good wins. With a look back to 3:17-18,Peter assures the Christians that even those who have died in the Lord will also live in Him (4:6). The unbeliever will stand condemned (4:4-5).
    1. Note that Christ makes access to God possible by dying in the flesh and being made to live in the Spirit. That access is provided for those who responded to the good news, even if they too have physically died. Those who slander will give an account, those who believe will be made alive in the Spirit.
    2. In the Middle Ages people misread this verse(associating it with 3:19) and developed the idea thatJesus descended to hell and preached the gospel to its inhabitants. Such a view should be dismissed.
      1. The words for preaching in 3:19 and 4:6 are different. In 3:19 the word merely means to proclaim. No content is specified. In 4:6 the word is to preach the good news (from which the English word “evangelize” derives).
      2. In 3:19 the proclamation extends to “spirits,” a term for angels, demons, and other spiritual beings. 4:6 clearly speaks of human beings “in the flesh.”
  4. The end goal, again, is the praise of God (4:11). And fittingly,just as one aspect of having Christ’s mind is a healthy prayer life (4:7), Peter closes this discussion with a prayer: “To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 

Application (10 minutes)

  1. Although some of the sins that Peter lists are still common today, some aren’t. Have the class list other sins prevalent in contemporary society. (Make sure materialism is in the list.Many American Christians fail to recognize it as sin.)
    1. Discuss whether or not selfishness underlies these sins as well.
    2. Discuss how the church should take an offensive stance against these things.Encourage practical suggestions, not just abstract principles. If possible, get the class to commit to action. Perhaps the class can adopt or begin a ministry that opposes the world’s standards. (For example, abortion occurs frequently in the U.S. A class could commit to working with one of the many Christian adoption agencies, perhaps volunteering hours in the office, having workdays at the facilities, pay for an advertising campaign, or pay some of the operating expenses.)
  2. Close with a prayer.

Assignment (2-5 minutes)

  1. Each member should read 1 Peter 4:12-19.Each member should consciously take an offensive stance against the world’s expectations. Each should be prepared to share such an experience at the next meeting.

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