Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this 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. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.Sometimes various pastors I know talk about going through Scripture so that you can't escape dealing with portions that are difficult. It sounds nice when they say it, sort of like you know they can't get away with a lot of nonsense. When it comes around to yourself, though, things are a little more difficult. Verse one of chapter four makes no sense to me. I don't understand how Christ's suffering in the flesh is a way of thinking or living in the flesh having ceased from sin. I know there are people who believe in some sort of instantaneous sanctification that happens after we're saved, but I haven't found that view supported throughout Scripture or even in the lives of people who profess that view. It could be interpreted in the same way as the other verses about "living in sin" and that makes sense although I haven't looked up the Greek. Maybe I should. Ok. "Has made an end to fault or failure." No progressives or such in the grammar, but translation is a tricky work and my Greek isn't nearly good enough to be authoritative. I'm going to let this sit and keep going to see if context helps.
Whatever the previous verses mean, it is clear that we are to behave differently. The past carries all sorts of sin, but for now we are not to join in with them. This reminds me of some of my friends in the Special Forces. Drinking parties were the norm. When we didn't join in, they moderated their own drinking, but they thought we were weird. They didn't malign us, though. We all must give an account.
And then another odd verse. The gospel was preached to the dead. Jesus did it in those three days he was dead. That they too might live in the spirit. That always seems to be such a victorious part of the story. All those who died before Christ who believed in his coming got to be rescued!
Back to the beginning. We are not to continue to live in sin, certainly. But what more does this mean? That after we die (is that the suffering mentioned?) we get to cease from sin? Or that through Christ's death an end to sin has been made? Is it that through Christ's suffering and death we are set free from sin and given the Holy Spirit (God's will) to live by? Perhaps. Perhaps there is more that I'll discover in another ten years. That's the cool thing about Scripture. There's always more to learn.