The consideration of Christ's sufferings is urged for purity and holiness. (1-6) And the approaching end of the Jewish state, as a reason for sobriety, watchfulness, and prayer. (7-11) Believers encouraged to rejoice and glory in reproaches and sufferings for Christ, and to commit their souls to the care of a faithful God. (12-19)
Verses 1-6 The strongest and best arguments against sin, are taken from the sufferings of Christ. He died to destroy sin; and though he cheerfully submitted to the worst sufferings, yet he never gave way to the least sin. Temptations could not prevail, were it not for man's own corruption; but true Christians make the will of God, not their own lust or desires, the rule of their lives and actions. And true conversion makes a marvellous change in the heart and life. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, and conversation. When a man is truly converted, it is very grievous to him to think how the time past of his life has been spent. One sin draws on another. Six sins are here mentioned which have dependence one upon another. It is a Christian's duty, not only to keep from gross wickedness, but also from things that lead to sin, or appear evil. The gospel had been preached to those since dead, who by the proud and carnal judgment of wicked men were condemned as evil-doers, some even suffering death. But being quickened to Divine life by the Holy Spirit, they lived to God as his devoted servants. Let not believers care, though the world scorns and reproaches them.
Verses 7-11 The destruction of the Jewish church and nation, foretold by our Saviour, was very near. And the speedy approach of death and judgment concerns all, to which these words naturally lead our minds. Our approaching end, is a powerful argument to make us sober in all worldly matters, and earnest in religion. There are so many things amiss in all, that unless love covers, excuses, and forgives in others, the mistakes and faults for which every one needs the forbearance of others, Satan will prevail to stir up divisions and discords. But we are not to suppose that charity will cover or make amends for the sins of those who exercise it, so as to induce God to forgive them. The nature of a Christian's work, which is high work and hard work, the goodness of the Master, and the excellence of the reward, all require that our endeavours should be serious and earnest. And in all the duties and services of life, we should aim at the glory of God as our chief end. He is a miserable, unsettled wretch, who cleaves to himself, and forgets God; is only perplexed about his credit, and gain, and base ends, which are often broken, and which, when he attains, both he and they must shortly perish together. But he who has given up himself and his all to God, may say confidently that the Lord is his portion; and nothing but glory through Christ Jesus, is solid and lasting; that abideth for ever.
Verses 12-19 By patience and fortitude in suffering, by dependence on the promises of God, and keeping to the word the Holy Spirit hath revealed, the Holy Spirit is glorified; but by the contempt and reproaches cast upon believers, he is evil spoken of, and is blasphemed. One would think such cautions as these were needless to Christians. But their enemies falsely charged them with foul crimes. And even the best of men need to be warned against the worst of sins. There is no comfort in sufferings, when we bring them upon ourselves by our own sin and folly. A time of universal calamity was at hand, as foretold by our Saviour, Mt. 24:9, Mt. 24:10 . And if such things befall in this life, how awful will the day of judgment be! It is true that the righteous are scarcely saved; even those who endeavour to walk uprightly in the ways of God. This does not mean that the purpose and performance of God are uncertain, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way; that they go through so many temptations and tribulations, so many fightings without and fears within. Yet all outward difficulties would be as nothing, were it not for lusts and corruptions within. These are the worst clogs and troubles. And if the way of the righteous be so hard, then how hard shall be the end of the ungodly sinner, who walks in sin with delight, and thinks the righteous is a fool for all his pains! The only way to keep the soul well, is, to commit it to God by prayer, and patient perseverance in well-doing. He will overrule all to the final advantage of the believer.
1 Peter 4:1-19 . LIKE THE RISEN CHRIST, BELIEVERS HENCEFORTH OUGHT TO HAVE NO MORE TO DO WITH SIN.
As the end is near, cultivate self-restraint, watchful prayerfulness, charity, hospitality, scriptural speech, ministering to one another according to your several gifts to the glory of God: Rejoicing patience under suffering.
1. for us--supported by some oldest manuscripts and versions, omitted by others.
in the flesh--in His mortal body of humiliation.
arm--( Ephesians 6:11 Ephesians 6:13 ).
the same mind--of suffering with patient willingness what God wills you to suffer.
he that hath suffered--for instance, Christ first, and in His person the believer: a general proposition.
hath ceased--literally, "has been made to cease," has obtained by the very fact of His having suffered once for all, a cessation from sin, which had heretofore lain on Him ( Romans 6:6-11 , especially, 1 Peter 4:7 ). The Christian is by faith one with Christ: as then Christ by death is judicially freed from sin; so the Christian who has in the person of Christ died, has no more to do with it judicially, and ought to have no more to do with it actually. "The flesh" is the sphere in which sin has place.
2. That he, &c.--"That he (the believer, who has once for all obtained cessation from sin by suffering, in the person of Christ, namely, in virtue of his union with the crucified Christ) should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God" as his rule. "Rest of his time in the flesh" (the Greek has the preposition "in" here, not in 1 Peter 4:1 as to Christ) proves that the reference is here not to Christ, but to the believer, whose remaining time for glorifying God is short ( 1 Peter 4:3 ). "Live" in the truest sense, for heretofore he was dead. Not as ALFORD, "Arm yourselves . . . with a view no longer to live the rest of your time."
3. may suffice--Greek, "is sufficient." Peter takes the lowest ground: for not even the past time ought to have been wasted in lust; but since you cannot recall it, at least lay out the future to better account.
us--omitted in oldest manuscripts.
wrought--Greek, "wrought out."
Gentiles--heathen: which many of you were.
when, &c.--"walking as ye have done [ALFORD] in lasciviousness"; the Greek means petulant, immodest, wantonness, unbridled conduct: not so much filthy lust.
excess of wine--"wine-bibbings" [ALFORD].
abominable--"nefarious," "lawless idolatries," violating God's most sacred law; not that all Peter's readers walked in these, but many, namely, the Gentile portion of them.
4. Wherein--In respect to which abandonment of your former walk ( 1 Peter 4:3 ).
run not with them--eagerly, in troops [BENGEL].
excess--literally, "profusion"; a sink: stagnant water remaining after an inundation.
speaking evil--charging you with pride, singularity, hypocrisy, and secret crimes ( 1 Peter 4:14 , 2 Peter 2:2 ). However, there is no "of you" in the Greek, but simply "blaspheming." It seems to me always to be used, either directly or indirectly, in the sense of impious reviling against God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit, and the Christian religion, not merely against men as such; Greek, 1 Peter 4:14 , below.
5. They who now call you to account falsely, shall have to give account themselves for this very evil-speaking ( Jude 1:15 ), and be condemned justly.
ready--very speedily ( 1 Peter 4:7 , 2 Peter 3:10 ). Christ's coming is to the believer always near.
6. For--giving the reason for 1 Peter 4:5 , "judge the dead."
gospel preached also to . . . dead--as well as to them now living, and to them that shall be found alive at the coming of the Judge. "Dead" must be taken in the same literal sense as in 1 Peter 4:5 , which refutes the explanation "dead" in sins. Moreover, the absence of the Greek article does not necessarily restrict the sense of "dead" to particular dead persons, for there is no Greek article in 1 Peter 4:5 also, where "the dead" is universal in meaning. The sense seems to be, Peter, as representing the true attitude of the Church in every age, expecting Christ at any moment, says, The Judge is ready to judge the quick and dead--the dead, I say, for they, too, in their lifetime, have had the Gospel preached to them, that so they might be judged at last in the same way as those living now (and those who shall be so when Christ shall come), namely, "men in the flesh," and that they might, having escaped condemnation by embracing the Gospel so preached, live unto God in the spirit (though death has passed over their flesh), Luke 20:38 , thus being made like Christ in death and in life quickened; for they are supposed to have been already "quickened together with Christ" ( Ephesians 2:5 ). This verse is parallel to 1 Peter 3:18 ; compare Note, the Old Testament Church; though not so fully as to the New Testament Church. It is no valid objection that the Gospel has not been preached to all that shall be found dead at Christ's coming. For Peter is plainly referring only to those within reach of the Gospel, or who might have known God through His ministers in Old and New Testament times. Peter, like Paul, argues that those found living at Christ's coming shall have no advantage above the dead who shall then be raised, inasmuch as the latter live unto, or "according to," God, even already in His purpose. ALFORD'S explanation is wrong, "that they might be judged according to men as regards the flesh," that is, be in the state of the completed sentence on sin, which is death after the flesh. For "judged" cannot have a different meaning in this verse from what "judge" bears in 1 Peter 4:5 . "Live according to God" means, live a life with God, such as God lives, divine; as contrasted with "according to men in the flesh," that is, a life such as men live in the flesh.
7. Resuming the idea in 1 Peter 4:5 .
the end of all things--and therefore also of the wantonness ( 1 Peter 4:3 1 Peter 4:4 ) of the wicked, and of the sufferings of the righteous [BENGEL]. The nearness meant is not that of mere "time," but that before the Lord; as he explains to guard against misapprehension, and defends God from the charge of procrastination: We live in the last dispensation, not like the Jews under the Old Testament. The Lord will come as a thief; He is "ready" ( 1 Peter 4:5 ) to judge the world at any moment; it is only God's long-suffering and His will that the Gospel should be preached as a witness to all nations, that induces Him to lengthen out the time which is with Him still as nothing.
sober--"self-restrained." The opposite duties to the sins in 1 Peter 4:3 are here inculcated. Thus "sober" is the opposite of "lasciviousness" ( 1 Peter 4:3 ).
watch--Greek, "be soberly vigilant"; not intoxicated with worldly cares and pleasures. Temperance promotes wakefulness or watchfulness, and both promote prayer. Drink makes drowsy, and drowsiness prevents prayer.
prayer--Greek, "prayers"; the end for which we should exercise vigilance.
8. above all things--not that "charity" or love is placed above "prayer," but because love is the animating spirit, without which all other duties are dead. Translate as Greek, "Having your mutual (literally, 'towards yourselves') charity intense." He presupposes its existence among them; he urges them to make it more fervent.
charity shall cover the multitude, &c.--The oldest manuscripts have "covereth." Quoted from Proverbs 10:12 ; compare Proverbs 17:9 . "Covereth" so as not harshly to condemn or expose faults; but forbearingly to bear the other's burdens, forgiving and forgetting past offenses. Perhaps the additional idea is included, By prayer for them, love tries to have them covered by God; and so being the instrument of converting the sinner from his error, "covereth a (not 'the,' as English Version) multitude of sins"; but the former idea from Proverbs is the prominent one. It is not, as Rome teaches, "covereth" his own sins; for then the Greek middle voice would be used; and Proverbs 10:12 , 17:9 support the Protestant view. "As God with His love covers my sins if I believe, so must I also cover the sins of my neighbor" [LUTHER]. Compare the conduct of Shem and Japheth to Noah ( Genesis 9:23 ), in contrast to Ham's exposure of his father's shame. We ought to cover others' sins only where love itself does not require the contrary.
9. ( Romans 12:13 , Hebrews 13:2 .) Not the spurious hospitality which passes current in the world, but the entertaining of those needing it, especially those exiled for the faith, as the representatives of Christ, and all hospitality to whomsoever exercised from genuine Christian love.
without grudging--Greek, "murmuring." "He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity," that is open-hearted sincerity; with cordiality. Not secretly speaking against the person whom we entertain, or upbraiding him with the favor we have conferred in him.
10. every--"even as each man hath received," in whatever degree, and of whatever kind. The Spirit's gifts (literally, "gift of grace," that is, gratuitously bestowed) are the common property of the Christian community, each Christian being but a steward for the edifying of the whole, not receiving the gift merely for his own use.
minister the same--not discontentedly envying or disparaging the gift of another.
one to another--Greek as in 1 Peter 4:8 , "towards yourselves"; implying that all form but one body, and in seeking the good of other members they are promoting the good of themselves.
stewards--referring to Matthew 25:15 , &c.; Luke 19:13-26 .
11. If any . . . speak--namely, as a prophet, or divinely taught teacher in the Church assembly.
as the, &c.--The Greek has no article: "as oracles of God." This may be due to Greek: "God," having no article, it being a principle when a governed noun omits the Greek article that the governing noun should omit it, too. In Acts 7:38 also, the Greek article is wanting; thus English Version, "as the oracles of God," namely, the Old Testament, would be "right," and the precept be similar to Romans 12:6 , "prophesy according to the analogy of the faith." But the context suits better thus, "Let him speak as (becomes one speaking) oracles OF GOD." His divinely inspired words are not his own, but God's, and as a steward ( 1 Peter 4:10 ) having them committed to him, he ought so to speak them. Jesus was the pattern in this respect ( Matthew 7:29 , John 12:49 , 14:10 ; compare Paul, 2 Corinthians 2:17 ). Note, the very same term as is applied in the only other passages where it occurs ( Acts 7:38 , Romans 3:2 , Hebrews 5:12 ), to the Old Testament inspired writings, is here predicated of the inspired words (the substance of which was afterwards committed to writing) of the New Testament prophets.
minister--in acts; the other sphere of spiritual activity besides speaking.
as of--"out of" the store of his "strength" (Greek, physical power in relation to outward service, rather than moral and intellectual "ability"; so in Mark 12:30 ).
giveth--Greek, "supplieth"; originally said of a choragus, who supplied the chorus with all necessaries for performing their several parts.
that God in all things may be glorified--the final end of all a Christian's acts.
through Jesus Christ--the mediator through whom all our blessings come down to us, and also through whom all our praises ascend to God. Through Christ alone can God be glorified in us and our sayings and doings.
for ever and ever--Greek, "unto the ages of the ages."
12. strange--they might think it strange that God should allow His chosen children to be sore tried.
fiery trial--like the fire by which metals are tested and their dross removed. The Greek adds, "in your case."
which is to try you--Greek, "which is taking place for a trial to you." Instead of its "happening to you" as some strange and untoward chance, it "is taking place" with the gracious design of trying you; God has a wise design in it--a consolatory reflection.
13. inasmuch as--The oldest manuscripts read, "in proportion as"; "in as far as" ye by suffering are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that is, by faith enter into realizing fellowship with them; willingly for His sake suffering as He suffered.
with exceeding joy--Greek, "exulting joy"; now ye rejoice amidst sufferings; then ye shall EXULT, for ever free from sufferings ( 1 Peter 1:6 1 Peter 1:8 ). If we will not bear suffering for Christ now, we must bear eternal sufferings hereafter.
14. for--Greek, "IN the name of Christ," namely, as Christians ( 1 Peter 4:16 , 3:14 , above); "in My name, because ye belong to Christ." The emphasis lies on this: 1 Peter 4:15 , "as a murderer, thief," &c., stands in contrast. Let your suffering be on account of Christ, not on account of evil-doing ( 1 Peter 2:20 ).
reproached--Reproach affects noble minds more than loss of goods, or even bodily sufferings.
the spirit . . . upon you--the same Spirit as rested on Christ ( Luke 4:18 ). "The Spirit of glory" is His Spirit, for He is the "Lord of glory" ( James 2:1 ). Believers may well overcome the "reproach" (compare Hebrews 11:26 ), seeing that "the Spirit of glory" rests upon them, as upon Him. It cannot prevent the happiness of the righteous, if they are reproached for Christ, because they retain before God their glory entire, as having the Spirit, with whom glory is inseparably joined [CALVIN].
and of God--Greek, "and the (Spirit) of God"; implying that the Spirit of glory (which is Christ's Spirit) is at the same time also the Spirit of God.
on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified--omitted in the two oldest Greek manuscripts and Syriac and Coptic versions, but supported by one very old manuscript, Vulgate, Sahidic, CYPRIAN, &c. "Evil spoken of," literally, "blasphemed"; not merely do they "speak against you," as in 1 Peter 3:16 , but blasphemously mock Christ and Christianity itself.
15. But--Greek, "For." "Reproached in the name of Christ" I say ( 1 Peter 4:14 ), "FOR let none," &c.
as . . . as . . . as . . . as--the "as" twice in italics is not in the Greek. The second Greek, "as," distinguishes the class "busybody in other men's matters," from the previous class of delinquents. Christians, from mistaken zeal, under the plea of faithfulness, might readily step out of their own calling and make themselves judges of the acts of unbelievers. Literally, "a bishop in what is (not his own, but) another's" province; an allusion to the existing bishops or overseers of the Church; a self-constituted bishop in others' concerns.
16. a Christian--the name given in contempt first at Antioch. Acts 11:26 , 26:28 ; the only three places where the term occurs. At first believers had no distinctive name, but were called among themselves "brethren," Acts 6:3 ; "disciples," Acts 6:1 ; "those of the way," Acts 9:2 ; "saints," Romans 1:7 ; by the Jews (who denied that Jesus was the CHRIST, and so would never originate the name Christian), in contempt, "Nazarenes." At Antioch, where first idolatrous Gentiles (Cornelius, Acts 10:1 Acts 10:2 , was not an idolater, but a proselyte) were converted, and wide missionary work began, they could be no longer looked on as a Jewish sect, and so the Gentiles designated them by the new name "Christians." The rise of the new name marked a new epoch in the Church's life, a new stage of its development, namely, its missions to the Gentiles. The idle and witty people of Antioch, we know from heathen writers, were famous for inventing nicknames. The date of this Epistle must have been when this had become the generally recognized designation among Gentiles (it is never applied by Christians to each other, as it was in after ages--an undesigned proof that the New Testament was composed when it professes), and when the name exposed one to reproach and suffering, though not seemingly as yet to systematic persecution.
let him not be ashamed--though the world is ashamed of shame. To suffer for one's own faults is no honor ( 1 Peter 4:15 , 1 Peter 2:20 ),--for Christ, is no shame ( 1 Peter 4:14 , 1 Peter 3:13 ).
but let him glorify God--not merely glory in persecution; Peter might have said as the contrast, "but let him esteem it an honor to himself"; but the honor is to be given to God, who counts him worthy of such an honor, involving exemption from the coming judgments on the ungodly.
on this behalf--The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "in this name," that is, in respect of suffering for such a name.
17. Another ground of consolation to Christians. All must pass under the judgment of God; God's own household first, their chastisement being here, for which they should glorify Him as a proof of their membership in His family, and a pledge of their escape from the end of those whom the last judgment shall find disobedient to the Gospel.
the time--Greek, "season," "fit time."
judgment must begin at the house of God--the Church of living believers. Peter has in mind Ezekiel 9:6 ; compare Amos 3:2 , Jeremiah 25:29 . Judgment is already begun, the Gospel word, as a "two-edged sword," having the double effect of saving some and condemning others, and shall be consummated at the last judgment. "When power is given to the destroyer, he observes no distinction between the righteous and the wicked; not only so, but he begins first at the righteous" [WETSTEIN from Rabbins]. But God limits the destroyer's power over His people.
if . . . at us, what shall the end be of them, &c.--If even the godly have chastening judgments now, how much more shall the ungodly be doomed to damnatory judgments at last.
gospel of God--the very God who is to judge them.
18. scarcely--Compare "so as by fire," 1 Corinthians 3:15 ; having to pass through trying chastisements, as David did for his sin. "The righteous" man has always more or less of trial, but the issue is certain, and the entrance into the kingdom abundant at last. The "scarcely" marks the severity of the ordeal, and the unlikelihood (in a mere human point of view) of the righteous sustaining it; but the righteousness of Christ and God's everlasting covenant make it all sure.
ungodly--having no regard for God; negative description.
sinner--loving sin; positive; the same man is at once God-forgetting and sin-loving.
19. General conclusion from 1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:18 . Seeing that the godly know that their sufferings are by God's will, to chasten them that they may not perish with the world, they have good reason to trust God cheerfully amidst sufferings, persevering in well-doing.
let them--Greek, "let them also," "let even them," as well as those not suffering. Not only under ordinary circumstances, but also in time of suffering, let believers commit. (Compare Note,
according to the will of that the believer should suffer ( 1 Peter 4:17 ), is for his good. One oldest manuscript and Vulgate read, "in well-doings"; contrast ill-doings, 1 Peter 4:15 . Our committing of ourselves to God is to be, not in indolent and passive quietism, but accompanied with active well-doings.
faithful--to His covenant promises.
Creator--who is therefore also our Almighty Preserver. He, not we, must keep our souls. Sin destroyed the original spiritual relation between creature and Creator, leaving that only of government. Faith restores it; so that the believer, living to the will of God ( 1 Peter 4:2 ), rests implicitly on his Creator's faithfulness.