The Time That Is Past
“They are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."
- 1 Peter 4:3–5
When the first Adam succumbed to temptation and ate the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world and all of His descendants received a nature inclined to hate and disobey God. In order to redeem His people, the second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, had to decisively resist temptation and thus break with sin on our behalf. When we have been united to Christ, His perfect obedience is imputed to us, and our nature is transformed. In Christ we break with sin and are progressively enabled to live unto righteousness.
The apostle Peter has powerfully reminded us of all these facts (1 Peter 3:18–4:2). In today’s passage, Peter continues to remind us of the need to break with our sinful past and be willing to show this change in our willingness to suffer for doing God’s will rather than do evil in order to avoid pain. We show that we are truly in Christ if we are willing to suffer persecution rather than do evil (4:1–2).
In 4:3, Peter tells us that the “time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do.” The term “Gentiles” here refers to non-believers and not to one’s ethnicity. As we have seen, the ethnic Gentile who has trusted in Christ is, in a significant way, no longer a Gentile at all. Rather, he becomes a part of Israel, which is used by Peter to refer to the true people of God (2:4–10).
In 4:3 Peter essentially says that once we have trusted Christ we can no longer behave as we once did. Believers simply cannot engage in the ungodliness described in verses 3–4. We had enough of that in the past; now that we are in Christ, we must live accordingly.
All who are in Christ will certainly turn from past sins, though never perfectly in this life. That is why Peter must remind us to live righteous lives even though he knows all those in Christ will certainly begin to do so. As we live according to God’s law rather than according to the sinful patterns of the past we will be harassed by non-believers. However, we must never fear them, for they will suffer eternal judgment (vv. 4–5). But those of us who are in Christ will receive eternal reward, for Jesus has already taken our punishment.
As Christians, we are all too often ridiculed when we do not agree with our culture’s permissive attitude towards sexuality and substance abuse, or with the embrace of relativity and disrespect for authority figures. When people make fun of you for avoiding sin, remember the eternal judgment they will suffer and respectfully warn them about it. Always stand firm and seek Christian fellowship so that you may not live according to the sins of your past.
Passages for Further Study
- Ex. 32
- Hos. 14:9
- Zeph. 1:2–6
- Gal. 5:19–21
- Rev. 21:5–8
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