"They Think It Strange"
1 Peter 4:3-5
Christians recognize there is a significant difference between how we live our lives and how unregenerated sinners live theirs. Because we seek after God and restrain ourselves from sinful activities, the rest of the world views our conduct as odd and unnatural. And, one of the sobering realities which grows out of this contrast is that unrepentant sinners will speak evil of Christians because of their manner of life.
Peter reminds the Christian of these facts in I Peter 4:3-5: "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead."
Let's take a closer look at the text. First, Peter tells saints that, before they obeyed Christ, they had spent enough time living a sinful life: "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles. . . ." We would say, You've had enough of that kind of life already-and you don't need to go back to it!
This rebuke serves as a strong reminder to all Christians that there is a special way we are to live our lives, and it certainly is not in the pursuit of sinful passions in which we indulged ourselves before.
Peter then lists six sins which characterize this former way of life so that there is no mistaking what he is talking about. Lasciviousness refers to sensuality (NASB) or lack of restraint (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Lusts refers to evil desires in context. Excess of wine is a clear picture of drunkenness. Revellings are uninhibited carousals, and banquetings are drinking parties. Abominable idolatries would include any unlawful conduct associated with pagan idolatry.
As we can see, the nature of sin has not changed through the centuries. These six sins enumerated by the apostle paint the picture of men who have given themselves over to wantonness and unrestrained passion. It might have been wine in the first century and Kentucky moonshine in 1997, it might have been a drunken feast in Peter's day and a beer bust in ours, it might have been pagan festivals in their day and pool hall brawls in ours, but it all amounts to the same thing: A sinful course of life! The apostle reminds Christians, "You certainly don't need to spend any more time engaged in that type of behavior!"
Of course, when the rest of the world sees that we do not engage in these popular, but sinful, activities, they will be surprised: ". . . Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you." Since you are not with them, you must be against them, and they will begin to denounce you. 2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution," and this speaking evil of Christians is simply one form of persecution.
Since you do not "run with them," or participate in their activities, you will be labeled as narrow-minded, extremist, bigoted, judgmental, prudish, unfriendly, and anti-social. The unregenerated sinner will not understand your reasons for behaving as you do, and, therefore, will ridicule your conduct. He will judge you by his own flawed standard of behavior.
Those who refuse to obey the gospel, however, will be judged just as certainly as they have judged Christians: ". . . Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead" (v. 5). Here is a sobering reminder that there will be a final day of reckoning. God will judge each man's life. The quick and the dead is a phrase which indicates the universality of judgment. All men, whether living or dead, must answer for their conduct. As 2 Cor. 5:10 reminds us, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The Christian, who has lived in faithful obedience to God's Word, anticipates that day with great joy. The unrepentant sinner has no such hope.
I Peter 4:3-5, then, is a powerful reminder to each one of us to remain faithful in our service to God regardless of the enticement of the world or the sting of persecution. We know the consequences of sin, and we dare not spend a single day pursuing it as others do. Yes, men will malign us and "say all manner of evil" against us (Matt. 5:11) because we do not behave as they do, but we have heaven in mind. The unregenerated sinner neglects the certainty of judgment in which he will have to give an accounting of his life.
Better to endure the ridicule of the world than the disappointment of our Father!
By John N. Evans
From Expository Files 4.10; October 1997