Since therefore Christ suffered bodily [taking on our humanity] you also should arm yourselves with the self-same intention because the One who has suffered has done [away] with sin. So that for the time remaining in the flesh, let this person now live according to the will of God rather than giving in to human appetites. Consider your former time sufficient for working out the intentions of the peoples of the world for indulging in shameful, lustful, drunken, disorderly, abominable irreverence. And if this makes some deeply perplexed by your failure to join in such excesses, and they resort to vilifying you, then [know that] they will have to give [their] explanation for that to the One who is now [in place] to judge the living and the dead. For in fact it was to [such] dead men that the good news was announced, that they, on the one hand, having been judged according to what they have become as men in the flesh, might on the other hand live according to what they are [to be now] to God in the spirit!
The good news for Peter's readers is that because of Christ Jesus they are now completely safe; their life is completely taken care of. He has their condition covered from every angle. That's how Peter writes; that's how it was that he came to write this.
It certainly reads as if Peter was wanting this news to be announced across all generations, and in that respect when this is read in 2011 it has lost nothing of its stupendous, gob-smacking character. This appreciation of Jesus, and the proclamation of what He has achieved, does not simply leave us at Bethlehem, wondering about His birth; nor are we still at a picnic eating bread and fish beside Lake Galilee. We are not even left gorping in fear-filled wonder, as we warm ourselves by the fire in the courtyard of the priest's palace where Jesus was tried by such an unjust and sneering conspiracy. We don't even linger at the empty tomb or even stand there with the other disciples when He is taken from their sight. He achieved much else, says Luke, and for all that we don't hang around with the disciples at Pentecost or even over-stay our welcome in Paul's Rome lodgings. Not even there. What Jesus achieved in His "former time" with us, and what He began to achieve in the hundreds of years since, He still continues to bring about, and even today that work continues to drive us back to receive renewing grace for our work within the Creator's purposes in our empty, thankful hands. These purposes, says Peter to his readers, are not going to be thwarted, not then, not ever, and these purposes have everything to do with you being here and what your lives are henceforth to be. So get with it!
You have reservations about your former conduct! Good. Get over it. That was then! This is now! That has passed. One has now done all the suffering that can ever be suffered for all that, for all that you are now so hang-dog. Consider it enough! Consider it dead and gone. This is the wisdom that Peter urges upon his readers. One can almost see his hand reaching through the envelope, taking his readers by the collar and saying:
"They're going to be deeply perplexed aren't they? Your former associates? Those with whom you shared that spiritual disorientation, that living death, that excessive, ridiculous life-style that simply sneered at the idea that God might want something else for you."
Get over it! Jesus Christ in whom you believe, is taking His place as judge over the living and the dead. And that sneering, that perplexed vilification - "C'mon!", "Whatareya?" - is not outside His realm. But you, you are to leave it behind because you are located in His realm. Where else?
And then, Peter makes this equally remarkable statement. It was to such dead men walking, such sneering rebels, that John the Baptist and the Lamb of God came to give the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It was that Good News that took Peter by the ear and led him to where he was, right there, writing that letter. In the death of Jesus Christ that "old man" had been well and truly "nailed", because it was the gift of the Spirit of God to breathe new life into God's own family members. That was the Good News. That is what this is all about. You're safe! Completely safe! So get used to it. Live it. Become what you are! Children of your Heavenly Father who has incorporated you into His purposes as a steward of His household. Given new life to be lived out in God's family.