The "therefore" here refers back to Christ's suffering in 3:18 (the verse I hope you will memorize). 1 Peter 3 is about suffering, in the flesh, according to the will of God. 1 Peter 4 is about living, in the flesh, according to the will of God. We are to suffer in doing what is right (Romans 6 is a great parallel passage for this).
Can believers truly "cease" from sin? We have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). We are released, freed, acquitted, and loosed from the power of sin. We are no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:6). We are freed from the power of sin because we died with Him (Colossians 2:11-12). We have that power, but we do not always make the right choice. Our goal can be to "cease from sin" by striving for a holy life.
The Amplified Bible helps me understand 4:1-2 better:
The Gentiles might scorn the followers of Jesus for not participating in their desires, but the time will come when they will be judged for their actions here on earth.So, since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God], so that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living by [his] human appetites and desires, but [he lives] for what God wills.
Peter says that God will judge the living and the dead. Then, he says that the gospel has been preached to those who are dead (1 Peter 4:5-6). This could mean those spiritually dead in sin, those who believed but then died before the Second Coming of Christ, those who died without hearing or believing the gospel, or all the dead.
Did those who missed their opportunity have a second chance after they died? The famous commentator William Barclay interprets the passage this way (The Letters of James and Peter, p.295), but I do not see this view supported by other Scripture (see Hebrews 9:27).
Here is the interpretation from two commentaries:
In verse 6 Peter, in contrast with verse 5, encouraged his readers with the fact that rather than facing judgment for their sins, those who had heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ faced an altogether different future. The penalty for their sin has been paid by Christ on the cross. The last earthly effect of sin is physical death. Believers still die physically; they are judged . . . in regard to the body (cf. suffering in this life “in his body,” v. 1). But for Christians physical death does not lead to judgment but to eternal life. They live . . . in regard to the Spirit. Those armed with a Christlike attitude will live forever in God’s presence.
(The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, p. 853)
We must not interpret 1 Peter 4:6 apart from the context of suffering; otherwise, we will get the idea that there is a second chance for salvation after death. Peter was reminding his readers of the Christians who had been martyred for their faith. They had been falsely judged by men, but now, in the presence of God, they received their true judgment. “Them that are dead” means “them that are now dead” at the time Peter was writing. The Gospel is preached only to the living (1 Peter 1:25) because there is no opportunity for salvation after death (Heb. 9:27).
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, 1 Pe 4:4, p. 420-421)The remainder of the chapter contains ten exhortations ("ten commandments") to follow before Christ returns.
(By the way, we will learn more about Christ's return when we do 2 Peter but here are some verses to look at if you want to explore this further: Daniel 12:9-13; Hebrews 1:1-2; Acts 2:16-21; 1 Peter 1:5,20; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18; 1 Corinthians 15:22-24.)
The "Ten Commandments"
- Be of sound judgment and sober spirit - Do not give way to frenzy in light of persecution and the return of Jesus.
- Pray - In your calm and sound state, let prayer be your top priority during persecution.
- Keep fervent in your love - "Fervent" was "used to describe the taut muscles of an athlete who strains to win a race" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, 1 Peter 4:8-9, p. 853). The Amplified Bible says, "Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]."
- Be hospitable - "Generous to guests, strangers."
- Employ your spiritual gifts - 2 Timothy 1:6, 1 Corinthians 12:1. Many distinguish between speaking gifts and serving gifts here.
- Do not be surprised at "fiery" suffering - Accept it! Suffering is normative for the follower of Christ. You could be a "low maintenance project" for the enemy, but that is not what God wants! The word used for "fiery" is from the root pyroō, "to burn." This may very well have been related to the fact that Nero accused Christians of burning Rome and burned Christians for their faith, using them "as living torches to light the imperial gardens at night" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, 4:12, p. 854). Perhaps Peter thought they would do this in Asia Minor also. Remember that the fire burns away the dross and makes us shine forth as gold (1:7).
- Keep on rejoicing in suffering - We learned about this in James 1? HERE is the post if you have forgotten. James 1:2-4 in the Phillips version is an essential passage to memorize!
- Do not be ashamed in suffering - But be ashamed if you suffer because you have broken the law or sinned.
- Glorify God in suffering - The unbelieving world is watching our witness. Will we react or respond with grace?
- Entrust your soul to our faithful God in suffering - This is an accounting term, "A technical meaning is 'to deposit,' 'to entrust,' in the legal sense of leaving an object in another’s keeping, with strict penalties for embezzlement. A transferred sense develops out of the technical use" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 1179). God would not embezzle - He adds interest in our eternal account because He is faithful!
Those "ten commandments" are very, very convicting. As I have reread and edited some of the old posts for 1 Peter from three years ago, I have been reminded of the "fiery" ordeal of persecution I was going through at the time. I had a person "rake me over the coals" for things I did not say or do and for motives I did not possess. All the time thinking I was ministering and helping that person by listening to heartaches and problems, inviting that person to my home in order to meet people for ministry, and carrying some of the load so that person could be more effective in ministry. I felt nothing but compassion and love for that person. It was devastating to be so falsely accused!
It took me from June - September to finally work through it going to a prayer retreat for five days where I made the choice to forgive. I thought I had worked through it, but all those old emotions have resurfaced, and I have had to entrust myself to my faithful Creator once again, choosing to forgive, straining to fervently love! It has been painful but good.
This was three years ago, and I have not had this kind of drama since then. This person has a pattern of persecuting and judging others and then pulling away. I have heard what that person has said about me behind my back, but it has not usually bothered me until doing this post. Since that was my last time of "suffering for doing good," it was good to remember how painful that can be.
I am not usually around "drama people" like that anymore, but I need to continue to have a soft heart toward them and fervently love from the heart and "forgive and disregard" offenses.
2015 Update: I am totally free from anything related to the above. It has been five years. I continue to choose not to be around "drama people" anymore. It does not mean that there are not people in my life who are going through very tough things, but they are open to growing, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Go through the "ten commandments" and pray for an "I will" statement to come out of it.
For a study on suffering and persecution see Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-22; 2 Timothy 3:12; James 1:2-4, 12; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:1, 10.
Lord, we entrust ourselves to You. You know our suffering and pain and are there to give us perspective on all of it. Amen.