Study of 1 Peter: Pleasure and Pain

Questions for Chapter 4:

1. In the first section of Chapter 4 what does Peter have to say about pleasure and pain?

2. How do we manage the gifts given us by God?

3. What does Peter tell us about suffering for God's Word?

Answers to Questions:

Answer to Question 1:

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who believed that what is good is what brings pleasure. A consultation of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy turns up the following passage describing the Epicurean philosophy, "The feelings of pleasure and pain that accompany sense experiences are the ultimate good and evil; all statements about good and evil are meaningful only by reference to these feelings."

This philosophy was developed in the Third Century BC so it was one of the doctrines of life with which Christianity had to contend. Epicurus was sure that sense experience was the closest thing we could come to the truth, and thus he justified behavior that we might find immoral or harmful to society. He founded "Garden's" where groups lived together with "courtesans" and engaged in excesses in food and other worldly activities.

Most of the rest of Roman society were Pagans and in Paganism morality was not a strong point either. Such rituals as the "Saturnalia" and the "Bacchanalia" were sunk deep in pleasures of the flesh.

It is these earthly distractions, justified by pagan religion and some Greek philosophers that Peter warned about in chapter 4 of his letter. In verse 2 he says, "You must live the rest of our earthly lives controlled by God's will and not by human desires."

In verse 3 Peter says, "Your lives were spent in indecency, lust, drinking, orgies and the disgusting worship of idols." Today we suffer the same distractions of the flesh and, in addition, we have a kind of candy for the mind. Our modern culture continually tempts us away from our obligations to God with movies, music, television, (some) books, magazines and more.

In verse 4 Peter goes on to say, "the heathen are surprised when you do not join them in the same wild and reckless living." Note the word "reckless", which is from the same root as "reckoning", meaning that these people live as though they will never have to account for their actions. But, indeed, there will be an accounting.

Even so Peter, here, recognizes the influence friends will have upon friends. He is warning his listeners not to succumb to peer-pressure to engage in earthly pursuits merely because they are bid to do so. God will help those who resist such temptations and will reward those who accept that help.

Now, what does Peter say about pleasure and pain? Epicurus made the senses the fundamental basis for his philosophy of life. Far from being fundamental to Christianity, Peter notes that they are a distraction from our true purpose.

Answer to Question 2:

In verses 7-11 Peter is concerned with the talents and gifts given to us by God. He noted that it is important to work hard and do our best to help others with our gifts.

The good steward does not squander the wealth given him by his master. Rather he sees that good comes of his work. Ayn Rand developed a philosophy called Objectivism, which posited that as people work hard for themselves, they also benefit the rest of society. Though we would not advocate strict objectivism here, she did have a point. As people develop the productive talents in themselves, they also benefit others. A great dancer, by becoming a better dancer might bring joy to audiences, a good gardener will bring wonderful food to the table, a great builder crafts beautiful homes, a great preacher brings more souls to the Lord. Even a great industrialist brings jobs to people so that they may live fulfilling lives.

Thus Peter tells us to use our gifts and to hone our skills for the betterment of all mankind.

Answer to Question 3:

Peter ends this chapter of his letter by coming back to the idea of suffering. He notes that there are two kinds of suffering, the first is brought on by the negligence or willful disobedience of the commandments. Criminals who suffer because of their misdeeds can not take comfort in their trials. Yet a Christian who suffers because he is a Christian, can take comfort in the fact that he is sharing the suffering of Christ. The Christian's reward will be so much the greater because of this suffering.

In the present day, in the "First World", Christians do not generally undergo persecution. Yet private persecution does occur. Christians may be ridiculed for their beliefs. Witness the recent incident in Atlanta where Ted Turner criticized some staff members at CNN for their beliefs. Christians are often portrayed negatively in the press and on television. Peter reminds us that persecution makes us stronger and that we should take joy in our ability to resist it.

Of course, in the "Third World" persecution of Christians is more systematic, more widespread and more deadly. Peter sums up Chapter 4, saying, "So then, those who suffer because it is God's will for them. should by their good actions trust themselves completely to their Creator, who always keeps his promise."

Study 1Peter Chapter 5

Letters of Peter Home
Overview
1st Letter
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
2nd Letter
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3

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