4:1 So, since Christ suffered in the flesh, you also arm yourselves with the same attitude, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin, 4:2 in that he spends the rest of his time on earth concerned about the will of God and not human desires.
Verses 1-6 ‘It is important to weigh passages like this against some of the contemporary teaching on health and wealth. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that the Christian will always be prosperous and avoid suffering; rather, Jesus suggests the opposite may often be true.’ (see Lk 6:20-26; Jn 16:1-4) (NBC)
‘Mention of baptism in 1 Pet 3:21 may have prompted Peter to follow the same sort of argument as Paul uses in Rom. 6. Baptism symbolizes the believers entry into the benefits obtained by Christs suffering and death. In undergoing it the person baptized is regarded as mystically sharing those sufferings and death. The consequence of such a death in Rom 6:11 is to count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is what Peter is stating here, adding a note of urgency by contrasting time spent in the past on indulging oneself with the opportunity for serving God in the future.’ (NBC)
Arm yourselves also with the same attitude – ‘That is, evidently, the same mind that he evinced-a readiness to suffer in the cause of religion, a readiness to die as he had done. This readiness to suffer and die, the apostle speaks of as armour, and having this is represented as being armed. Armour is put on for offensive or defensive purposes in war; and the idea of the apostle here is, that that state of mind when we are ready to meet with persecution and trial, and when we are ready to die, will answer the purpose of armour in engaging in the conflicts and strifes which pertain to us as Christians, and especially in meeting with persecutions and trials. We are to put on the same fortitude which the Lord Jesus had, and this will be the best defence against our foes, and the best security of victory.’ (Barnes)
Do we look upon our attitudes as weapons? But they are, and right and strong attitudes will lead to victory. ‘Outlook determines outcome, and a believer must have the right attitudes if he is to live a right life.’ (Wiersbe)
He who has suffered in his body is done with sin – Paul has just been writing of suffering for doing good (1 Pet 3:17), and he continues this thought here. His meaning is, therefore, ‘he who has suffered for doing what is right, and despise his suffering has remanied obedient to God, has made a clear break with sin.’ Of course, the suffering may be very overt, as can be the case when Christians are persecuted under a hostile political regime. At other times, it may be more subtle, as in weariness due to the pressures of constantly ‘swimming against the tide’, or the frustration of constantly having one’s beliefs ridiculed or misrepresented, or the isolation of finding that one has little in common with ‘normal’ people and their interests and pursuits.
‘Thus, following through with a decision to obey God even when it will mean physical suffering has a morally strengthening effect on our lives: it commits us more firmly than ever before to a pattern of action where obedience is even more important than our desire to avoid pain.’ (Grudem)
What is being described in this verse is a decisive act, rather than an ongoing process. It is not so much the development of character, as a decisive break with sin, which is being spoken of. This is consistent with the baptismal thought which has occured in 1 Pet 3:21. Just as Christ’s suffering ends his conquest of sin and ushered in his resurrection life, so we have the inestimable privilege of suffering with him and putting sin behind us in newness of life. Peter’s teaching is mirrored in that of Paul in Rom 6:8-12.
‘The expression here has a proverbial aspect, and seems to have meant something like this: “when a man is dead, he will sin no more;” referring of course to the present life. So if a Christian becomes dead in a moral sense – dead to this world, dead by being crucified with Christ – he may be expected to cease from sin. The reasoning is based on the idea that there is such a union between Christ and the believer that his death on the cross secured the death of the believer to the world. Comp. 2 Tim 2:11; Col 2:20 3:3.’ (Barnes)
‘Some interpret this to refer to the character-building effects of suffering. But the preceding reference to baptism (1 Pet 3:21; cf. Rom 6:1-10) indicates that Peter is thinking of the union of believers with Christ in his suffering and death, a union particularly symbolized by baptism. (Rom 6:4) Though Christ was always sinless, (1 Pet 2:22; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15) He nevertheless fully identified with sinful humanity by coming in3 the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3) and becoming subject to temptation, suffering, and death. (Mk 1:12,13; Heb 2:10 4:15) Christ died to sin (Rom 6:10) in the sense that after his death and Resurrection he was no longer subject to the power of sin and death.’ (New Geneva)
Suffering is worse than sin, and if suffering can help us in our fight against sin, then God be praised for it. Christ willingly submitted to the worst sufferings, though he would not submit to the least sin.
v2 is an explication and an elaboration of what it means to have ‘done with sin’, v1. The person who has made a clean break with sin is not dominated by human lusts but by God’s will.
There is a clear sense of ‘before and after’ in vv2f. The present verse looks to how one will spend the rest of his earthly life; the next verse will look back on time that has been wasted in godless and useless activities.
The rest of his earthly life – ‘My wife and I were in Nairobi where I would be ministering to several hundred national pastors at an Africa Inland Mission conference. We were very excited about the conference even though we were a bit weary from the long air journey. We could hardly wait to get started, and the leader of the conference detected our impatience. “You are in Africa now,” he said to me in a fatherly fashion, “and the first thing you want to do is to put away your watch.” In the days that followed, as we ministered in Kenya and Zaire, we learned the wisdom of his words. Unfortunately, when we returned to the States, we found ourselves caught up again in the clockwork prison of deadlines and schedules. Peter had a great deal to say about time. (1 Pet 1:5,11,17,20; 4:2-3,17; 5:6) Certainly the awareness of his own impending martyrdom had something to do with this emphasis. (Jn 21:15-19; 2 Pet 1:12ff) If a person really believes in eternity, then he will make the best use of time. If we are convinced that Jesus is coming, then we will want to live prepared lives. Whether Jesus comes first, or death comes first, we want to make “the rest of the time” count for eternity. And we can! Peter described four attitudes that a Christian can cultivate in his lifetime (“the rest of his time”) if he desires to make his life all that God wants it to be.’ (Wiersbe)
From henceforth, he lives for the will of God. ‘The will of God is not a burden that the Father places on us. Rather it is the divine enjoyment and enablement that makes all burdens light…We may not always understand what he is doing, but we know that he is doing what is best for us. We do not live on explanations; we live on promises.’ (Wiersbe)
The two approaches to life represented here are incompatible. ‘The two cannot be blended: no-one can serve two masters. Those who have been given new life through Christ will look with fear and revulsion at the life-style that once swept them along with the crowd. Equally, those living in the licentious fast lane will look with scorn and contempt at the pious life of “born-again” Christians.’
4:3 For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire. You lived then in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and wanton idolatries.
Peter’s readers, or, at least, many of them, had personal experience of living pagan-like lives. Because you have ‘done with sin’ (v1) you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do. To believers who think they might indulge themselves in some sinful pursuit in the future, Peter says, ‘You have done quite enough of that in the past’.
‘Enough indeed! Those converted pagans would wince at Peter’s irony. How they would wish to erase those wasted years from their memory!’ (Clowney)
‘Much of our time being already misspent, we had need work the harder for the kingdom of heaven. He who has lost his time at school, and often played truant, had need ply it the harder, that he may gain a stock of learning; and he who has slept and loitered in the beginning of his journey, had need ride the faster in the evening, lest he fall short of the place to which he is travelling. Some are in their youth, others in the flower of their age, others have grey hairs, the almond tree blossoms, and yet perhaps have been very regardless of their souls and heaven. Time spent unprofitably is not time lived, but time lost. If there be any such here who have misspent their golden hours, they have not only been slothful, but wasteful servants. They had need now to redeem the time, and press forward with might and main to the heavenly kingdom. ‘The time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles.’ 1 Pet 4:3. It may suffice us that we have lost so much time already, let us now work the harder. They who have crept as snails, had need now fly as eagles to the paradise of God. If, in the former part of your life, you have been as willows, barren in goodness, in the latter part, be as ‘an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits.’ So 4:13. Recompense former remissness with future diligence.’ (Thomas Watson)
Pagans = From Gk. ethnos, foreigners, Gentiles, non-Jews, or (in this case) non-Christians (since Peter has earlier referred to the church as the new Israel).
Living in debauchery – is living without any moral restraint, especially with regard to sexual immorality or violent behaviour.
Drunkenness – Although Scripture does not condemn alcohol consumption outright, it does frequently condemn its excessive ues, Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21.
Orgies are banquets and feast associated with sexual immorality.
Carousing is indulging in drinking parties or binges.
Detestable idolatry is lit. ‘illegal acts of idol worship’. In the ancient world, idolatry was often associated with sexual immorality.
Peter’s hearers ‘would not dispute his description of their past. But there were pagan moralists who condemned many of the same vices. Has not Peter overdrawn the picture? Paul answers that question in Romans 2. The moralists are themselves hypocrites, practising in one way or other exactly what they condemn. The forms of sin may differ, but all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The division of the city of Berlin after World War 2 brought contrasts of many kinds: the freedom of the West expressed itself in the flaunting of commercialized sex. In contrast to the neon glitter of flesh shows in the West, the drab avenues of the East seem puritan in their restraint. Yet the Communist effort to legislate morality without God has opened other floodgates of repression and murder.’ (Clowney)
4:4 So they are astonished when you do not rush with them into the same flood of wickedness, and they vilify you. 4:5 They will face a reckoning before Jesus Christ who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.
They think it strange – saying, perhaps, ‘What’s wrong with you? You didn’t used to mind a bit of harmless fun?’ This suggests that Peter’s readers included not only converted Jews, but also those who were from a pagan background, ‘for there would be no surprise involved if former Jews, who had previously led a morally upright life, did not participate in pagan life.’ (Grudem)
‘Unsaved people do not understand the radical change that their friends experience when they trust Christ and become children of God. They do not think it strange when people wreck their bodies, destroy their homes, and ruin their lives by running from one sin to another! But let a drunkard become sober, or an immoral person pure, and the family thinks he has lost his mind! Festus told Paul, “You are out of your mind!” (Ac 26:24, NASB) and people even thought the same thing of our Lord. (Mk 3:21) We must be patient toward the lost, even though we do not agree with their lifestyles or participate in their sins. After all, unsaved people are blind to spiritual truth (2 Cor 4:3-4) and dead to spiritual enjoyment. (Eph 2:1) In fact, our contact with the lost is important to them since we are the bearers of the truth that they need. When unsaved friends attack us, this is our opportunity to witness to them. (1 Pet 3:15) The unsaved may judge us, but one day, God will judge them. Instead of arguing with them, we should pray for them, knowing that the final judgment is with God. This was the attitude that Jesus took (2:23), and also the Apostle Paul.’ (2 Tim 2:24-26) (Wiersbe)
Dissipation – The word is used in Eph 5:18, and the related adverb in Lk 15:13 of the prodigal son. ‘It suggests wastefulness, perhaps both of money and of life.’ (Grudem)
They heap abuse on you – They were not just surprised (see the beginning of the verse), but hostile. ‘Why did this happen? No doubt because silent non-participation in sin often implies condemnation of that sin, and rather than change their ways unbelievers will slander those who have pained their consciences, or justify their own immorality by spreading rumours that the “right”]eous” Christians are immoral as well.’ (Grudem)
This phrases stands for a single word in the Gk., meaning ‘blaspheming’. This may refer to the idolatry of the pagans, and their antagonism, not to Christians, but to God himself.
‘How different the will of God now seems! Once it loomed like a dark prison, curbing our desires, threatening our freedom to do as we pleased. Now we find that his yoke is easy and his burden light. The law of love is the law of liberty.’ (Clowney)
But God holds unbelievers accountable for their actions. Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead links with v7 – ‘the end of all things is near’. The idea is that the unbelieving world is ripe for judgement, and that no event in the plan of redemption remains unaccomplished prior to the consummation of all things. Sinners are living ‘on borrowed time’. It is not only ‘the living’ but also ‘the dead’ who will be judged: the final judgement will be universal and comprehensive. Death is not the great escape, the eternal sleep that many imagine it to be. None will escape judgement. All will stand before their Maker on that great day.
The phraseology seems to suggest that it is Christ as judge, rather than the Father as judge, who is in view here. After all, Peter has just described Christ’s exaltation to the Father’s right hand, 3:22. Christ is ‘ready’ to judge because by his death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation he had completed everything preparatory to his coming as judge.
‘In the movie Casualties of War, Michael J. Fox plays Private Erikson, a soldier in Vietnam who is part of a squad that abducts and rapes a young Vietnamese girl. He didn’t participate in the crime.
Afterward, as he struggles with what has happened, he says to the other men in his squad, “Just because each of us might at any second be blown away, we’re acting like we can do anything we want, as though it doesn’t matter what we do. I’m thinking it’s just the opposite. Because we might be dead in the next split-second, maybe we gotta be extra careful what we do. Because maybe it matters more. Maybe it matters more than we ever know.”
Death, for all of us, is a breath away. And the nearer death is, the closer we are to answering to God for all we have said and done.’-Joel Sarrault in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership. See: Mt 12:36; Lk 12:20; 1 Pet 4:5.
4:6 Now it was for this very purpose that the gospel was preached to those who are now dead, so that though they were judged in the flesh by human standards they may live spiritually by God’s standards.
Peter (like Paul in 1 Thess 4:13-18) is aware that his readers might have concerns about believers who have died.
For this is the reason links the thought of the present verse with that of the previous one, and also looks ahead to the end of the verse (‘…so that they might be judged…’). Grudem paraphrases: ‘It was because of the coming final judgement that the gospel was preached, even to those who believed in Christ and then later died.’
Those who are now dead – The NIV here gives an interpretative translation. The NIV Study Bible states, ‘The word “now” does not occur in the Greek, but it is necessary to make it clear that the preaching was done not after these people had died, but while they were still alive.’
‘This may well refer to Christians who have heard the gospel while alive, and died before the Lord’s return (so Selwyn, Stibbs and Dalton). Others interpret ‘the dead’ as meaning those who are spiritually dead; and a third view connects this verse with 3:19, and sees in it a further reference to the ‘spirits in prison’. In this case the thought of judgment (= death, here) is subordinate to that of life (the fullness of God’s life, denoted by zosi, as opposed to the transitoriness of man’s life, implied in 4:2 by the verb bioo, similarly translated).’
‘The assumption that the sentence “the gospel (was) preached even to the dead” must have its meaning determined by the earlier passage in 1 Pet 3:19-21, has exercised an unfortunate influence upon the exegesis. Possibly the two passages had no connection in the mind of the author. For explaining the reference to “the dead” the connection with the preceding verse is fully sufficient. It is there stated that Christ is “ready to judge the living and the dead.” “The living and the dead” are those who will be alive and dead at the parousia. To both the gospel was preached, that Christ might be the judge of both. But that the gospel was preached to the latter in the state of death is in no way indicated. On the contrary the telic clause, “that they might be judged according to men in the flesh,” shows that they heard the gospel during their lifetime, for the judgment according to men in the flesh that has befallen them is the judgment of physical death. If a close connection between the passage in 1 Pet 3 and that in chapter 4 did exist, this could only serve to commend the exegesis which finds in the earlier passage a gospel-preaching to the contemporaries of Noah during their lifetime, since, on that view, it becomes natural to identify the judgment in the flesh with the Deluge.’ (Vos, in ISBE)
Judged according to men in regard to the body – Saints and sinners alike suffer the penalty of sin in respect of physical mortality. They are ‘dead and buried’ as far as the world is concerned. Believers, however, live according to God in regard to the spirit, for they inherit eternal life beyond the grave. (‘Spirit’ is without the definite article in the original, so the reference is probably to ‘the spiritual realm’.) The faith of those who have died in Christ will not have been in vain.
So, then, the effect of the final judgement will be twofold: the ungodly will be held accountable, v5, but the godly will be vindicated. Let Christians be strengthened and comforted by this, especially in the face of doubt, ridicule and misrepresentation, 2 Pet 3:4.
Service, Suffering, and Judgment
4:7 For the culmination of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer.
The end of all things is near – ‘End’ = telos, which can also mean ‘goal’. This is is not only the climax of the present world order ‘but also the purpose towards which God has been and is working’ (NBC). ‘All the major events in God’s plan of redemption have occurred, and now all things are ready for Christ to return and rule…Peter thinks in terms of “redemptive history.” From that perspective all the previous acts in the drama of redemption have been completed – creation, fall, the calling of Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, the kingdom of Israel, the exile in Babylon and the return, the birth of Christ, his life, death and resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to establish the church. The great “last act,” the church age, had been continuing for about thirty years by the time Peter wrote. Thus the curtain could fall at any time, ushering in the return of Christ and the end of the age. All things are ready. “The end of all things” (the “goal” to which “all” these events have been leading) “is at hand”.’ (Grudem)
Hillyer understands this expression as referring, not to our Lord’s second coming, but to the transience of this present age, which is drawing to a close.
‘The miserable destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our Saviour is now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution and your sufferings is but very short. Your own life and that of your enemies will soon come to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself will not continue very long. The conflagration will put an end to it; and all things must be swallowed up in an endless eternity.’ (MHC)
Peter had heard the promise from the lips of his Master. Angels had repeated it. The NT as a whole teaches it. Peter draws attention to the consummation of all things, 1 Pet 1:5,8-12; 4:13,17; 5:4,10.
Other NT writers draw the same connection between the nearness of the end and the need for godly living: Paul (Rom 13:11), the writer to the Hebrews (Heb 10:25), James (Jas 5:8f), and John (1 Jn 2:18).
‘To be sure, the early Christians had to be warned against trying to calculate the date of the End from the events surrounding them. What they could be sure of was that the End was near, but how near was not to be a matter for speculation. Hence Peter’s line of thought here is that the persecution afflicting the church should be viewed as one sign of the world’s imminent end. Thus, he injects a note of urgency into Christian living. If the coming of Jesus is near, then Christians must be ready for him.’ (Marshall)
Marshall, while noting that many early Christians probably did think that Christ would return in the very near future, the thrust of biblical teaching is that he might return at any time, and that they therefore needed to be ready for that event. This issue is dealt with in 2 Pet 3:8-13. Moreover, ‘although the New Testament writers often use the future coming of Jesus as a motivation for Christian conduct, another strand in their thought teaches us that Christ is spiritually present with us always and we are, therefore, to live in a way that pleases him.’
‘”The end is near:” our contemporaries expect to see that warning crudely lettered on a sandwich-board carried by a figure with long hair and dirty sandals. The figure appears often enough in cartoons and advertising, but rarely on city streets. Yet the smug assumption that only a “crazy” would prophesy the end has begun to ring hollow in our atomic age. How different is the Christian expectation of the end from the foreboding that sees atomic annihilation! The Christian looks for the Lord who will bring judgement, justice, and the wonder of a new creation.’ (Clowney)
The entire period between Christ’s resurrection and his return is referred to in the NT as ‘the last days’.
Barclay (DSB) considers the possibility that the NT writers were mistaken in thinking that the end of the present world order was just around the corner; but if this was the case, he asks, why was this teaching not quietly removed from the writings by later scribes and editors? Among the alternative approaches reviewed by Barclay, one that carries particular weight is the consideration that, in an important sense, the end has already begun; the last days are already upon us. See, for example, 1 Cor 10:11.
For Bede, the thrust of this passage is that the timing of the end is uncertain, and yet sure to come: ‘Peter says this so that you will not be fooled into thinking that judgment is a long way off or even that it will never come. Its timing may be uncertain, as far as we are concerned, but it is sure to come sooner or later.’ (ACCS)
Therefore… – The nearness of final judgement has implications for Christian attitudes and behaviour in the here and now. Peter will mentioned clear-mindedness, self-control, prayer, love, hospitality, speaking, and serving.
‘Christians in the early church expected Jesus to return in their lifetime. (Rom 13:12 1 Jn 2:18) The fact that he did not return does not invalidate his promise. (2 Pet 3; Rev 22:20) No matter what interpretation we give to the prophetic Scriptures, we must all live in expectancy. The important thing is that we shall see the Lord one day and stand before him. How we live and serve today will determine how we are judged and rewarded on that day. This attitude of expectancy must not turn us into lazy dreamers (2 Thess 3:6ff) or zealous fanatics. Peter gave “ten commandments” to his readers to keep them in balance as far as the Lord’s return was concerned:
- Be clear minded-v.7
- Be self-controlled-v.7
- Love each other deeply-v.8
- Offer hospitality- 1 Pet 4:9
- Minister your gifts, including those of speaking and serving-vv.10-11
- Do not be ashamed-vv.15-16
- Glorify God-vv.16-18
- Commit yourself to God-v.19
- Continue to do good-v.19.’
Or, Peter’s teaching regarding how to live in anticipation of the end may be summarised as follows:-
1. Live each day as though Christ could return at once (1 Pet 4:7).
2. Keep a clear head, not getting carried away by self-indulgence (1 Pet 4:7).
3. Stay disciplined and alert for prayer (1 Pet 4:7).
4. Make active expressions of love a priority (1 Pet 4:8).
5. Be faithful in the stewardship of your gifts, investing your time and talent where they will make an eternal difference (1 Pet 4:10).
6. In everything, praise God as the source of your energy and the reason for your service (1 Pet 4:11).
(Life Application Bible Commentary)
Be clear minded – lit. ‘be sober’; – and self-controlled – calmly watchful. The former contrasts with drunkenness, the latter with madness. ‘Preoccupation with the second coming, particularly by those who have set a date for it, has often led to hysteria rather than sober wisdom.’ (Clowney)
So that you can pray – or, rather, ‘so that you can pray more effectively.’ Clear thinking and self-discipline will enable us to turn what we read in the newspaper, hear on the news, experience at work, into appropriate prayer. This type of praying – thoughtful, clear, informed – contrasts with the ecstatic type favoured in some circles.
‘Sobriety and a clear mind have one value above others. They equip us for prayer. Peter does not think of prayer as an effort to induce ecstasy, but as sober, direct, profoundly thoughtful communication with the Lord. His whole letter points us to the depth and glory of our fellowship with Christ. We have not seen him, but we love him; we set him apart as holy in our hearts. Peter’s love for Christ is intensely personal; he is overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord. He does not, therefore, advocate prayer as a cold, rational exercise. But we might say that he advocates it as a fervent, rational exercise. Fervent love, agonizing intercession, these are marks of true prayer. Peter knew of Christ’s agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Prayer tastes the agony of struggle or the delight of communion with God. Yet prayer seeks the Lord, not a transformation of consciousness. Prayer demans alertness. Peter failed in Gethsemane. He slept when Jesus had charged him to watch and pray. Peter goes on to speak of the fervent love for others that we should show, and of the service of love. Thoughtful and earnest prayer will seek God’s blessing on those whom we love and serve.’ (Clowney)
‘This admonition had special meaning to Peter, because he went to sleep when he should have been “watching unto prayer.” (Mk 14:37-40) You find the phrase “watch and pray” often in the Authorized Version of the New Testament. (Mk 13:33; 14:38; Eph 6:18; Col 4:2) It simply means to “be alert in our praying, to be controlled.” There is no place in the Christian life for lazy, listless routine praying. We must have an alert attitude and be on guard, just like the workers in Nehemiah’s day. (Ne 4:9) An expectant attitude toward Christ’s return involves a serious, balanced mind and an alert, awake prayer life. The test of our commitment to the doctrine of Christ’s return is not our ability to draw charts or discern signs, but our thinking and praying. If our thinking and praying are right, our living should be right.’ (Wiersbe)
4:8 Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Love each other deeply – or, ‘constantly’. The word describes some that is stretched. Are we seeking actively to ‘stretch’ our love, so that it is deeper and more constant? Love is stretched and strengthened by exercising it. ‘If love collapses at its first test, it is not worthy of the name.’ (Clowney) ‘Love never fails’, 1 Cor 13:8. The measure of what our love should be is, of course, the love of Christ, on which see Eph 3:17-19.
‘The word pictures an athlete straining to reach the goal. It speaks of eagerness and intensity. Christian love is something we have to work at, just the way an athlete works on his skills.’ (Wiersbe)
It has been said that ‘people need love, especially when they don’t deserve it.’
Love is deep enough when it covers over a multitude of sins – in the sense of being willing to forgive them, Mt 18:21f. This ‘could be a reference to Pr 10:12. This verse has been used to argue that love can earn forgiveness of sins, not only for the one who displays it, but also for the one who receives it as well. This is not consistent with other biblical teaching. The most likely meaning is that true love will overlook its neighbour’s faults. (see Mt 6:14-15; 1 Cor 13:4-7; Jas 5:20) It could also be taken to refer to God’s love covering over our sins, which gives the motive for us to love one another.’ (NBC)
‘Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts abound – to Satan’s perverse delight (cf. Heb 12:15; by contrast, 1 Cor 13:4-7).’ (Grudem)
“Even the most devoted couple will experience a ‘stormy’ bout once in a while. A grandmother, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. ‘On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,’ she said.
“A guest asked the woman what some of the faults she had chosen to overlook were. The grandmother replied, ‘To tell you the truth, my dear, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!'”
‘When you find it necessary to criticize another’s work, these words by John Wanamaker should prove valuable: “Whatever you have to say to people be sure to say it in words that will cause them to smile and you will be on pretty safe ground. And when you do find it necessary to criticize someone, put your criticism in the form of a question which the other fellow is practically sure to have to answer in a manner that he becomes his own critic.”‘
4:9 Show hospitality to one another without complaining.
But even willing and repeated forgiveness is not enough. Deep love will be exercised in practical deeds of kindness.
Hospitality to one another is one practical expression of earnest love between Christians (v8). It may be offered reluctantly, grudgingly, or without grumbling. The test here would be the individual or family who, when faced with a needy guest, say (and think), “No problem.”
Hospitality would have been very important in the world of the NT, when travelling evangelists and teachers would have relied on the hospitality of local Christians, and when persecution might have made believers homeless at almost any time. Our own situation today might be very different, but there is still social isolation, deprivation, and homelessness, and therefore an urgent need for hospitality in Christ’s name. Now, as then, both evangelism and Christian fellowship work at least as effectively in ordinary homes as they do in church buildings.
‘Our Christian love should not only be fervent and forgiving, but it should also be practical. We should share our homes with others in generous (and uncomplaining) hospitality, and we should use our spiritual gifts in ministry to one another. In New Testament times hospitality was an important thing, because there were few inns and poor Christians could not afford to stay at them anyway. Persecuted saints in particular would need places to stay where they could be assisted and encouraged. Hospitality is a virtue that is commanded and commended throughout the Scriptures. Moses included it in the Law. (Ex 22:21; Deut 14:28-29) Jesus enjoyed hospitality when he was on earth, and so did the Apostles in their ministry. (Ac 28:7; Phm 22) Human hospitality is a reflection of God’s hospitality to us. (Lk 14:16ff) Christian leaders in particular should be “given to hospitality.” (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:8) Abraham was hospitable to three strangers, and discovered that he had entertained the Lord and two angels. (Gen 18; Heb 13:2) We help to promote the truth when we open our homes to God’s servants. (3 Jn 5-8) In fact, when we share with others, we share with Christ. (Mt 25:35,43) We should not open our homes to others just so that others will invite us over. (Lk 14:12-14) We should do it to glorify the Lord.’ (Wiersbe)
4:10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.
Another expression of Christian love (v8) is the proper exercise of spiritual gifts. Gifts are properly exercised when they are used, not for self-advancement or self-display, but for the benefit of others.
A more literal rendering would be, ‘As each has received a gift, employ it for one another…’. The sense then is that we should use a gift in the same way that it has been given to us – freely, ungrudgingly, unstintingly.
The reference to ‘gift’ (singular) should not be pressed to mean that each believer has been given one, and only one, gift. The NT has five lists of gifts, and these all differ. Moreover, as Grudem points out, there are various types within any one gift (e.g. evangelism, teaching, helping), and so a complete list is virtually limitless. Then again, each gift is ‘chanelled’ through the personality of the individual exercising, contributing yet again to the endless variety.
To serve others – ‘Peter speaks of gifts of the Spirit to focus not on ourselves, but on God and on others. He would have us look to the Lord for the gifts we need to serve him and others in his name. Peter’s focus is often lost today. Christians eagerly discuss spiritual gifts, but in a way that would surely distress the apostle. Their concern is not how they can serve others and bring glory to the Lord. Rather they seek self-fulfilment. They want to discover their gifts so as to establish their own identity. In a Christian context, they want to “do their own thing.” That gifts are granted for service is lost from sight.’ (Clowney)
‘Gifts are discovered in service. We may rightly ask about the gift we have received, but we will not gain the answer by introspection. Indeed, the gift that we have received may not be all that the Lord has for us. We may seek greater gifts, as Paul reminds us.’ (1 Cor 12:31) (Clowney)
‘If the testing of gifts in service is ignored, disappointment and calamity may follow. Some candidates for the gospel ministry in Britain and America move through an academic programme of preparation, and present themselves for a pastoral call with little or no record of service other than academic achivement. In contrast, most Third World pastors seek further preparation after their gifts for ministry have been shown in years of service.’ (Clowney)
Faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms – This challenges local congregations to consider whether they are willing to recognise a variety of gifts and ways of exercising ministry. The expression is sometimes use of varied colours, as of gems.
Two things are required for the exercise of any Christian ministry: (a) aptitude (‘whatever gift he has received’; and (b) stewardship (‘faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms’).
‘It is true that every Christian must handle the word of God with reverence, and seek the help of the Spirit to make it known to others. Yet there are also those with special gifts of the Spirit for the preaching and teaching of the word of God. They have a special charge to tend and feed the flock of God (5:2). There is some danger that, in reacting against clericalism, the church may forget the importance of the ministry of the word of God by those called to be under-shepherds of the flock.’ (Clowney)
Everyone’s job the spread the gospel. ‘It is high time that the old tradition, that the clergy alone ought to teach and spread religious knowledge, should be exploded and cast aside for ever. To do good and diffuse light is a duty for which all members of Christ’s Church are responsible, whether ministers or laymen. Neighbours ought to tell neighbours, if they have found an unfailing remedy in time of plague. Christians ought to tell others that they have found medicine for their souls, if they see them ignorant, and dying for want of it. What saith the apostle Peter? “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another.” (1 Peter 4:10.) They will be happy days for the Church when that text is obeyed.’ (Ryle, J. C. (1859). Expository Thoughts on Mark (p. 69). London: William Hunt.)
4:11 Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ.
Peter does not provide any kind of a list of gifts (although various lists can be found elsewhere in the NT), but rather refers to two broad categories: speaking and serving.
If anyone speaks – A variety of gifts involve speech: teaching, preaching, evangelism, and prophesying.
Davids points out that this is not referring to casual conversation among ordinary Christians, nor is it restricted to the more formal utterances of their leaders. Peter is referring to the edifying speech of each believer. S/he should speak “as…the very words of God”. Davids adds: ‘While the “as” allows a slight distancing between their speaking and God’s words (does any spiritual gift ever operate in a 100 percent pure form without contamination from fallen humanity?), that is no excuse for substituting mere intellect or rhetorical skill for God’s inspiration: neither the counterfeit nor the diluted is good stewardship of God’s grace.’
The very words of God – Speaking for God means speaking the very words of God, and this function is not limited to those in ‘full-time’ pastoral ministry. Not, of course, that any of us can claim that the words we speak are the very words of God (that can only be said of the words of Scripture), but ratter ‘with the seriousness of purpose which one would use if one were speaking God’s words.’ (Grudem)
‘Reckon that every sermon is a wasted sermon which is not Christ’s Word. Believe that all theology is rubbish which is not the Word of the Lord. Do not be satisfied with going to a place of worship and hearing an eloquent discourse, unless the sum and substance of it is the Word of the Lord. My brothers and sisters, whether you teach children or their parents, do not think you have done any good unless you have taught the Word of the Lord. For saving purposes we must have the Lord’s Word, and nothing else.’ (Spurgeon at his Best, 360)
‘And therefore it is needful that ministers be well acquainted with the Holy Scriptures. It is a mark against a man that relishes any book more than the word of God. The world is full of books written on pretence and design to explain the scriptures; and men’s studies are full of them. There is also a blessing in them, and good use to be made of them; but also a bad use is made of them. Many ministers have found that they have preached better and to more profit to the people when they got their sermon by meditation on the word and prayer than by turning over many authors. From this neglect of the word also come a great many doctrines that are learned by man and borrowed from philosophy; which though they may have some truth in them, yet since it is divine truth that a minister should bring forth to the people, he should not rest on such low things.’ (Traill)
It is clear, then, that the ministry of the word is not restricted to
If anyone serves – This could include any form of help or encouragement within the fellowship of the church, or, by extension, any act of kindness shown to others outside the church. Perhaps Peter is thinking especially of the work of the deacons. Such work, even if menial, follows the example and teaching of Christ, who came, not to be served, but to serve, Mt 20:28.
He should do it with the strength God provides – lit. ‘out of the strength God provides’. We often try to distinguish between doing things ‘in our own strength’ and doing them ‘in God’s strength’. But what do we mean? On the one hand, doing things in our own strength means doing them from the energy which comes from human ambition and selfish pride. Such can become very tiring. But actions performed from higher, purer motives are done with more joy and patience, and with an increase of faith, so we will then be less likely to become ‘weary in well-doing’. (cf. Gal 6:9)
There is a temptation to think that the ‘speaking’ ministries are more important, more spiritual, than the serving ministries. But serving meals, organising rotas, and caring for the sick requires grace just as much as preaching and teaching. They should therefore be done in God’s strength, and with a view to his glory.
So that in all things (or, ‘everyone’) God may be praised – The thought here is not some much of praising God (which would suggest a mainly verbal activity) but of glorifying him. Cf. 1 Cor 10:31n.
‘God is to be praised not only for the new birth from which our service begins, but for the continuing grace that enables us, in serving others, to serve him.’ (Clowney)
‘How is God praised when we use our abilities? When we use them as he directs, to help others, they will see Jesus in us and praise him for the help they have received. Peter may have been thinking of Jesus’ words, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see you good deeds and praise you Father in heaven”.’ (Mt 5:16) (Life Application)
To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
To him be…the power – But is not God already omnipotent? No, the idea is ‘he wants the powers of the creation, and especially the powers of man, to be given more fully into Christ’s service.’ (cf. Rev 4:11; 5:12; 7:12) (Grudem)
‘Learn, First, It is the duty of Christians in private, as well as ministers in public, to speak to one another of the things of God, Mal 3:16; Eph 4:29; Ps 145:10-12. Secondly, It highly concerns all preachers of the gospel to keep close to the word of God, and to treat that word as becomes the oracles of God. Thirdly, Christians must not only do the duty of their place, but they must do it with vigour, and according to the best of their abilities. The nature of a Christians work, which is high work and hard work, the goodness and kindness of the Master, and the excellency of the reward, all require that our endeavours should be serious and vigorous, and that whatever we are called to do for the honour of God and the good of others we should do it with all our might. Fourthly, In all the duties and services of life we should aim at the glory of God as our chief end; all other views must be subservient to this, which would sanctify our common actions and affairs, 1 Cor 10:31. Fifthly, God is not glorified by any thing we do if we do not offer it to him through the mediation and merits of Jesus Christ. God in all things must be glorified through Jesus Christ, who is the only way to the Father. Sixthly, The apostles adoration of Jesus Christ, and ascribing unlimited and everlasting praise and dominion to him, prove that Jesus Christ is the most high God, over all blessed for evermore. Amen.’ (MHC)
4:12 Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you.
This looks like the beginning of a completely new section, especially bearing in mind the doxology and ‘amen’ of v11. Some have even seen this as the beginning of a completely different letter. But it is much better to see 3:8-4:19 as a single main section, having to do with Christian behaviour in a hostile world.
We need to bear in mind that 1 Peter was written to ten or more churches, spread throughout Asia Minor. It is not surprising, then, that knowing something about their individual circumstances, Peter writes as if some of them might experience persecution (1 Pet 1:6f; 2:12, 21; 3:14; 4:1f, 14, 16), and others were experiencing it (1 Pet 2:15, 18-20; 3:9, 14, 16; 4:4, 17, 19; 5:9-10).
Vv 12-19. ‘Peter now returns to the theme of suffering and suggests seven further reasons to encourage the Christian not merely to endure, but actually rejoice in it. The experience of suffering is
(i) a trial (v12; cf. 1:6-7) to prove the reality of our faith, and we can expect God to work to strengthen this;
(ii) nothing strange (v12), rather a sharing in Christ’s experience;
(iii) a pathway to glory for us, as it was for Christ (v13; see also Rom 8:17 and Col 1:24);
(iv) an opportunity for blessing, in a further experience of the Holy Spirit (v14);
(v) an opportunity to glorify God (v14);
(vi) a challenge to prove the relevance of the gospel as judgment begins with the household of God (v17);
(vii) an opportunity to commit ourselves to God and prove his faithfulness (v19). God’s people can commit the issues of life in full confidence to the one who gave them life. By contrast, the unrepentant sinner has nothing to look forward to here or hereafter once God begins to act in judgment.’ (NBC)
Dear friends – Peter is speaking with compassion and tenderness, for some of his readers are in the midst of suffering, and are asking, ‘How can any good come of this?’ This, of course, was the question posed in the book of Job and in many of the Psalms.
Painful trial you are suffering – lit. ‘fiery ordeal’ (or, in the light of Pr 27:21 (LXX) ‘refining fire’) ‘that has come upon you to prove you.’ So the image is not simply of suffering, but of a refiner’s fire which purifies and strengthens. ‘The fire of God’s judgement that we endure is not the fire of wrath that will consume the unbelieving. It is the purging fire of discipline.’ (Clowney) ‘The readers are encouraged to see God’s good purpose behind their difficulties, enabling them to grow stronger in faith and give more glory to God.’ (Grudem) This will be developed over the next few verses, showing that such trials should not cause them to be surprised…as though something strange were happening to them.
But there is literal as well as figurative meaning in Peter’s reference to a ‘fiery ordeal’. ‘1 Peter is clearly written at a time when Christians have experienced persecution. The command in 1 Pet 4:12 not to think it strange that “the fiery trial” has occurred among the readers is strong evidence that this letter, written from Rome (= Babylon, 1 Pet 5:13), dates from around the time of Nero’s persecution of Christians after the fire in Rome (64).
Tacitus (Tacitus Ann. 15.38-44) describes the fire and how Nero shifted the blame for the fire from himself to the Christians and then began to persecute them. Tacitus is not at all sympathetic to Christianity, calling it a … and including Christians among the dregs of the Roman Empire.
His record of Nero’s persecution of them is therefore reliable, since he has no intention of making the Christians look good. Tacitus tells us that Nero had some Christians dipped in oil and then set afire to serve as lights in his gardens at night. Thus “the fiery trial” of 1 Pet 4:12 could refer both to the persecution that arose because of the fire and one mode of persecution that Nero used. The translations that offer words outside of the semantic field of “burning” or “fire” for the noun miss the historical allusion here, as well as the link with “the trial by fire” of 1 Pet 1:7, and the intertextual, eschatological connection made between this fire and a fire God will use to judge the earth and vindicate his people (2 Pet 3:7,12; Did. 16.5). The fact that 1 Peter deals so much with persecution (1 Pet 1:6-7 3:13-4:19) and mentions obedience to the government (1 Pet 2:13-17) makes the connection between this letter and the fire of 64 most probable.’ (DLNT)
Suffering and the Providence of God. ‘In the NT the fact that believers suffer ill-treatment and adverse circumstances is no longer a problem, since it is recognized that fellowship in Christ’s sufferings is fundamental to the Christian vocation. (cf. Mt 10:24-25: Jn 15:18 ff: Jn 16:33 Acts 9:16 14:22 Php 3:10 ff: 1 Pet 4:12-19) This recognition…completely disposed of the ‘problem of suffering’ for the first Christians. Knowing something of their glorious hope, (1 Pet 1:3 ff) and of the strengthening and sustaining power of Christ, (2 Cor 1:3 ff:12:9-10) they could contentedly face all situations (Php 4:11) and rejoice in all troubles, (Rom 8:35 ff) confident that through adversity their loving Father was disciplining them in sanctity, (Heb 12:5-11) developing their Christian character (Jas 1:2ff: 1 Pet 5:10???; cf. Rom 5:2ff), proving the reality of their faith, (1 Pet 1:7) and so ripening them for glory. (1 Pet 4:13) In all things God works for the spiritual welfare of his people; (Rom 8:28) and he supplies them with whatever material things they need throughout their earthly pilgrimage.’ (Mt 6:25-33 Php 4:19) (NBD)
Almost everyone would rather have sunshine than showers. But just imagine what our world would be like if it never rained again.
An example of such a place is in Northern Chile. Franklin Elmer, Jr., described a region between the great Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean where rain never falls. He wrote, “Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east; each noon it shines brightly down from overhead; evening brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen raging high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks are observed far out over the sea, the sun continues to shine on this favored and protected strip of land. One would imagine this area to be an earthly paradise; but it is not. Instead, it is a sterile and desolate desert! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there.”
Elmer then made this application: “Too often we long for total sunshine and joy in life. We have wished to be rid of burdensome responsibilities. But, like this sunny, unfertile part of Chile, life without its burdens and trials would not be creative, productive, or challenging. We need sunshine and showers.”
The storm clouds of suffering may at times blot out the sun and threaten to engulf us. But the trusting Christian recognizes that in God’s wise design and under his sovereign control they actually bring showers of blessing.
‘Opposition is a fact: the Christian who is not conscious of being opposed had better watch himself for he is in danger.’ (J. I. Packer)
See: 1 Pet 4:12 Heb 12:3
Cf. Eze 34:26 Job 2:10 1 Pet 4:12-13
4:12 Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you.
We participate in the sufferings of Christ not, of course, by making our own contribution to the atonement, but by following in his footsteps, 2:21. We identify ourselves with him in his suffering, and he identifies himself with us in ours. Our very suffering with him is evidence that we belong to him, and are following the path he has taken, and in that knowledge we rejoice. And if we rejoice now, in suffering, how much more shall we be overjoyed in the hereafter, in glory.
The sense of this verse is, ‘In so far as you share in Christ’s suffering, keep on rejoicing.’ That increased sufferings can lead to increased joy is the teaching of Acts 5:41, along with Acts 16:25 Rom 5:3 Col 1:24 Heb 10:34. Moreover, that we share in the sufferings of Christ is a sure indication that we will also share in his glory.
‘It is an honor and a privilege to suffer with Christ and be treated by the world the way it treated him. “The fellowship of his sufferings” is a gift from God. (Php 1:29 3:10) Not every believer grows to the point where God can trust him with this kind of experience, so we ought to rejoice when the privilege comes to us. “And they the Apostles departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Ac 5:41) Christ is with us in the furnace of persecution. (Isa 41:10 43:2) When the three Hebrew children were cast into the fiery furnace, they discovered they were not alone. (Dan 3:23-25) The Lord was with Paul in all of his trials, (Ac 23:11 27:21-25 2 Tim 4:9-18) and he promises to be with us “to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20, NASB) In fact, when sinners persecute us, they are really persecuting Jesus Christ.’ (Ac 9:4) (Wiersbe)
‘”Suffering” and “glory” are twin truths that are woven into the fabric of Peter’s letter. The world believes that the absence of suffering means glory, but a Christian’s outlook is different. The trial of our faith today is the assurance of glory when Jesus returns. (1 Pet 1:7-8) This was the experience of our Lord, (1 Pet 5:1) and it shall also be our experience. But it is necessary to understand that God is not going to replace suffering with glory; rather he will transform suffering into glory. Jesus used the illustration of a woman giving birth. (Jn 16:20-22) The same baby that gave her pain also gave her joy. The pain was transformed into joy by the birth of the baby. The thorn in the flesh that gave Paul difficulty also gave him power and glory. (2 Cor 12:7-10) The cross that gave Jesus shame and pain also brought power and glory. Mature people know that life includes some “postponed pleasures.” We pay a price today in order to have enjoyments in the future. The piano student may not enjoy practicing scales by the hour, but he looks forward to the pleasure of playing beautiful music one day. The athlete may not enjoy exercising and practicing his skills, but he looks forward to winning the game by doing his best. Christians have something even better: our very sufferings will one day be transformed into glory, and we will be “glad also with exceeding joy”.’ (see Rom 8:17 2 Tim 3:11) (Wiersbe)
4:14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you.
Here is an example of the suffering that Christians may experience.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed – Cf. Mt 5:11 Lk 6:22. The world around us may reject us, but Jesus accepts us: he calls us blessed. Because we are willing to be identified with Christ, our Saviour shows solidarity with us.
There is something powerfully evocative in the name of Christ. Talk to people about ‘God’ and they will think you perfectly reasonable. Mention the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be thought a crank or a fanatic.
The Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you – Echoing the Messianic prophecy of Isa 11:2, and indicating that the Messianic blessing extends to those who bear the name of the Messiah (=Christ). ‘Glory’ is itself suggestive of the ‘shekinah glory’ of the OT, now present with power within Christian believers.
‘When genuine persecution happens, 1 Peter promises that the Holy Spirit will rest upon them. This may recall Jesus’ promise “When they arrest you, do not worry…for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:19-20; compare Mk 13:11 Lk 12:11-12). At times this glory could be visible to the Christian (Ac 7:55) or to others (Ac 6:15; compare Stephen’s term for God in Acts 7:2). Yet note that this “glory” did not always get the person out of trouble; it was the vision of glory that led to Stephen’s being stoned! In other words, through the Spirit of God, the Christians undergoing persecution for Christ will experience in the present a taste of the glory they will have in its fullness later.’ (1 Pet 1:7 5:4 refer to the coming glory) (HSB)
The Holy Spirit ‘is the Spirit of glory and he has a special ministry to those who suffer for the glory of Jesus Christ. This verse can be translated “for the presence of the glory, even the Spirit, rests on you.” The reference is to the Shekinah glory of God that dwelt in the tabernacle and in the temple. (Ex 40:34 1 Kings 8:10-11) When the people stoned Stephen, he saw Jesus in heaven and experienced God’s glory. (Ac 6:15 7:54-60) This is the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” that Peter wrote about in 1 Pet 1:7-8. In other words, suffering Christians do not have to wait for heaven in order to experience his glory. Through the Holy Spirit, they can have the glory now. This explains how martyrs could sing praises to God while bound in the midst of blazing fires. It also explains how persecuted Christians (and there are many in today’s world) can go to prison and to death without complaining or resisting their captors.’ (Wiersbe)
‘As the Spirit of the Lord constantly abides in all believers, in regard of some of his operations, Jn 14:16, especially in regard of his preserving the seeds and habits of grace, and keeping the saints from final apostasy, 1 Jn 3:9, so he has ordinarily a more glorious and more constant residence in regard of his comfortable and supporting operations, in the hearts of suffers more than others; and though he has not tied himself to fill the hearts of his suffering people always with sense and comfort, but may withhold the same from the dearest of them under their sharpest sufferings, and put them to live by faith as it was with David and Christ himself, Ps 22:1,2, etc., yet oftentimes their allowance of comfort is larger and their enjoyment of his sensible presence longer than what others have who are not put to suffer, and sweeter than what themselves have had before suffering: for this is here held forth as an encouragement made out in a special way to suffers.’ (Nisbet)
‘There is the joy of the Holy Ghost; and this is when the Spirit breathes upon our rejoicing in God, which is a grace very little in exercise with many, and maketh it set out sensibly and vigorously; and when he excites and stirs the passion of joy and of delight in the soul, so that there is an unspeakable and glorious joy in the soul, in the apprehension of God’s friendship and nearness unto him-‘In whom though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ (1 Pet 1:8) This joy followeth upon peace, and peace followeth upon righteousness-‘The kingdom of God-is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ (Rom 14:17) This joy will in general not fail to be according to the measure of the assurance of faith, as 1 Pet 1:8-‘In whom believing ye rejoice.’ So that the removal of mistakes about other things will allay doubts as to this.
Now, because some of these excellent communications of the Spirit, after they are gone, are brought into question as delusions of Satan: for vindication of them, we say that the special operations of God’s Spirit in any high degree, usually are communicated to people
-after much brokenness of spirit-‘Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice’, (Ps 51:8)
-after singular pains in religious duty-‘And I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and whiles I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin, the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me’, (Dan 9:3,21)
-or in time of great suffering for righteousness-‘Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you’; (1 Pet 4:14)
-or if they break in as the rain that waiteth not for man, then they do so humble and abase the person-‘Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’, (Isa 6:5)
-and there are found so many evidences of grace in the man-‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God’, (Rom 8:16) -or these things do so provoke unto holiness, and to have every thing answerable and conformable to these manifestations of God-‘Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.’ (2 Tim 2:19) The person under them loathes all things besides God’s friendship and fellowship-‘Peter said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here.’ (Mt 17:4) And these things carry on them and with them so much authority and divine superscription, whilst they are in the soul, that afterwards they do appear sufficiently to be special communications of God, and singular gracious operations of his Spirit, and no delusion of ‘Satan transforming himself into an angel of light’; (2 Cor 11:14) nor such common flashes of the Spirit as may afterwards admit of irrecoverable apostasy from God- ‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.’ (Heb 6:4,5,6) (Guthrie)
‘The wicked may have many comforts and still be cursed. The godly may have many crosses, yet still he is blessed. If the wicked has success and his path is smooth, yet there is still a curse upon him. All the curses of the Bible are his portion and, at the day of his death, this debt is sure to be paid. But a godly man, in the midst of all his miseries, is blessed. He may be under the cross but not under a curse. This shows the privilege of a believer. Blessedness has begun in him (Psalm 115.15). Let the condition of the righteous be ever so sad, yet he is blessed: he is blessed in affliction (Psalm 94.2), blessed in poverty (James 2.5), and blessed in disgrace – “the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4.14). This is strong medicine for the fainting Christian. He is blessed in life and death. May this not take away the murmuring and melancholy from a child of God? Will you repine and be sad when you are blessed?’ (Thomas Watson)
4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker. 4:16 But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name.
But not all suffering leads to blessing or to glory. The thieves who were crucified with Jesus acknowledged that they were ‘punished justly’, Lk 23:41. Peter is not promising blessing to those who suffer as a result of their own selfish or criminal activity.
‘Peter mentions murder and theft, not because he expects Christians to be guilty of such crimes, but because they are crimes that carry a death penalty, the penalty that Christians may have to face for the sake of Christ.’ (Clowney)
But why does Peter mention the meddler? It may be that Christians living in a pagan society are particularly prone to over-zealous interference in other people’s lifestyles.
Christian – cf. Acts 11:26; 26:28. ‘If ‘Christian’ was originally a nickname, it was, like ‘Methodist’ later on, adopted by the recipients. Increasingly, believers would have to answer the question ‘Are you a Christian?’, and there was no shame in accepting what was intended as a term of opprobrium when it contained the very name of the Redeemer. (1 Pet 4:16) And it had a certain appropriateness: it concentrated attention on the fact that the distinctive element in this new religion was that it was centred in the Person, Christ; and if the name Christos was unintelligible to most pagans, and they sometimes confused it with the common name Chrestos, meaning ‘good, kind’, it was a paronomasia which could be turned to good effect. And so, in the earliest 2nd-century literature, the name is employed without question by the Christian bishop Ignatius (in Antioch) and the pagan governor Pliny (in the area addressed in 1 Peter).’ (NBD)
The word means ‘follower of Christ’ (not ‘little Christ’).
Negatively, we should ‘not be ashamed’. Positively, we should ‘praise God’.
Do not be ashamed – For although to be known as a Christian may be shameful in the world’s eyes, in God’s sight it is an honour.
Praise God that you bear that name – Or, ‘praise God on that account.’
‘To suffer as a Christian is to suffer with such a spirit as becomes a Christian, which is:
When we suffer with patience. ‘Take, my brethren, the prophets for an example of suffering affliction and of patience’. (Jas 5:10) A Christian must not repine but say, ‘Shall I not drink the cup’ of martyrdom which my Father has given me? There should be such a spirit of meekness in a Christian’s suffering that it should be hard to say which is greater, his persecution or his patience. When Job had lost all, he kept the breastplate of innocence and the shield of patience. An impatient martyr is a solecism.
To suffer as Christians is when we suffer with courage. Courage is a Christian’s armour of proof. It steels and animates him. The three children or rather the three champions were of brave heroic spirits. They do not say to the king, ‘We ought not to serve your gods’, but ‘We will not’. (Dan 3:18) Neither Nebuchadnezzar’s music nor his furnace could alter their resolution. Tertullian was called an adamant for his invincible courage. Holy courage makes us (as one of the fathers says) ‘have such faces of brass that we are not ashamed of the cross’. This is to suffer as Christians, when we are meek yet resolute. The more the fire is blown the more it flames. So it is with a brave-spirited Christian. The more opposition he meets with the more zeal and courage flames forth. What a spirit of gallantry was in Luther who said, writing to Melanchthon, ‘If it be not the cause of God we are embarked in, let us desert it! If it be his cause and will bear us out, why do we not stand to it?’
To suffer as Christians is to suffer with cheerfulness. Patience is a bearing the cross; cheerfulness is a taking up the cross. Christ suffered for us cheerfully. His death was a freewill offering. (Lk 12:50) He thirsted to drink of that cup of blood. Such must our sufferings be for Christ. Cheerfulness perfumes martyrdom and makes it the sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour to God. Thus Moses suffered cheerfully. ‘Moses, when he was come to years, chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season’. (Heb 11:24,25) Observe:’When he was come to years’: It was no childish act. It was not in his nonage, but when he was of years of discretion. ‘He chose to suffer affliction,:Suffering was not so much his task as his choice. The cross was not so much imposed as embraced. This is to suffer as Christians, when we are volunteers; we take up the cross cheerfully, nay, joyfully. ‘They departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name’. (Ac 5:41) Or as it is more emphatic in the original, ‘They rejoiced that they were so far graced as to be disgraced for the name of Christ’. Tertullian says of the primitive Christians, that they took more comfort in their sufferings than in their deliverance. And indeed well may a Christian be joyful in suffering because it is a great favour when God honours a man to be a witness to the truth. Christ’s marks in Saint Paul’s body were prints of glory. The saints have worn their sufferings as ornaments. Ignatius’ chains were his jewels. Never have any princes been so famous for their victories as the martyrs for their sufferings.
We suffer as Christians when we suffer and pray. ‘Pray for them which despitefully use you’.’ (Lk 6:28) (Thomas Watson)
4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? 4:18 And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners?
Peter explains the fiery ordeal of Christian suffering (v12) as the fire of divine judgement. Judgement begins in the Christian church, as a refining process, and then moves outside the church. ‘The idea is this: If even Christians must be judged (by purging), what fate must await unbelievers who will be punished for their sins?’ (Ryrie) The fire that purifies is also the fire that consumes.
Judgement, Gk krima does not necessarily mean ‘condemnation’ but refers to an evaluation which can have both positive and negative outcomes. ‘Peter has already referred to judgment, (1 Pet 1:17; 2:23; 4:5-6) and in every case it is God’s judgment and therefore probably the final judgment. Given the use of the same phrase in other New Testament passages, (Ac 24:25; Rom 2:2-3; Heb 6:2; 2 Pet 3:7; Jude 4; Rev 17:1; 18:20) this conclusion becomes firm. Thus 1 Peter is saying that the final judgment is beginning not with the pagans or the unbelieving Jews, but with the family of God, the church. The persecution they are experiencing is a phase of that final judgment.’ (HSB)
The family of God – lit. ‘the house of God’, which is consistently used in the LXX of the Temple, rather than of God’s household, or people. See Peter’s only other use of the word oikos at 1 Pet 2:5. And it is lit. ‘from’, rather than ‘with’, indicating the the judgement of God, which is beginning with God’s house (the church) will spread outward to destroy those who are disobedient to the gospel. The thought may well be borrowed from Eze 9 (see esp. Eze 9:6) and Mal 3:1-3.
‘The thought is simply: “If the purifying fire of God’s eschatological visitation…entails, for those united to Christ, such anguish as Peter’s readers are undergoing, what shall the consummation of that purifying divine presence mean for those who have rejected God’s good news – if not a conflagration of utter destruction?’ (Dennis E. Johnson, Q by Grudem).
‘Peter has already spoken of the refining of our faith through fiery trial. (1 Pet 1:7) He has told the Christians he addresses that they are God’s house, his spiritual temple (1 Pet 2:4f). Now, he takes from Malachi the image of the purifying of the house of God through fire…The fiery trials that Christians are experiencing are the refining fire of the Lord who has come to his temple. But if the very house of God, the people of his own possession, is purged by fire, what will the end be of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Peter answers that questions as Malachi does: the end will be destruction from the face of the Lord “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God.’ (2 Thess 1:7f) (Clowney)
‘If even God’s saints must endure these judgments, think of the wrath that awaits the unbelievers who now mock and persecute the people of God!’ (Clowney)
It is hard for the righteous to be saved – Even they must be tested and purified by God’s refining fire. ‘Hard’ means ‘with difficulty’. ‘It does not imply uncertainty of the outcome, but the difficulty of the road that leads to it.’ (Benetreau, Q by Clowney). In fact, the security of the believer’s salvation is not in doubt in Peter’s mind, 1:15.
What will become of the ungodly and the sinner? – In fact, of course, Peter has already made it plain that they will experience the fire of eternal punishment.
‘If the beginning of the final judgment, the purifying action of God within his church, is so severe, despite the fact that they are God’s own family and have obeyed the gospel, what will the conclusion of the final judgment be like when he turns his attention to those who have refused to obey him? It is a mercy that God turns his church to repentance and spares it from the fate of the unbeliever. That is precisely what Peter concludes, citing the Greek form of Pr 11:31 “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the unGodly and the sinner?” (1 Pet 4:18) Faith will be tested, (1 Pet 1:6 4:12) for Jesus said that the way to life was narrow, (Lk 13:23-24) but for the unbelievers, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.’ (Heb 10:31) (HSB)
4:19 So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good.
This verse effectively summarises the whole letter, and especially 3:8-4:19.
To suffer as a Christian is to suffer for doing good (3:17) and it is to suffer according to God’s will. Such suffering is not, therefore, accidental or meaningless, but wise (it falls within God’s gracious sovereign will), purposeful (refines and strengthens us), and limited (both in intensity and duration) To ‘suffer according to God’s will’ is to participate in Christ’s sufferings, v13.
Christians in their sufferings may be neglected or insulted by a hostile world, but they are not without help: they should commit themselves to their faithful Creator. Moreover, they can rejoice in their fellowship with a Saviour who also suffered, v13. Again, they can exult in the presence of the Spirit of glory who rests upon them, v14.
The word for commit means ‘to give to a person for safe keeping.’ ‘The Hellenistic world lacked our modern banking system. Someone undertaking a journey might deposit his funds with a neighbour while he was gone. Naturally, he would be concerned about his neighbour’s integrity! God’s grace appears in his entrusting the gospel to us; how much more readily may we commit our souls to the faithful keeping of our Creator!’ (Clowney)
Themselves is lit. ‘their souls’. There is an echo here of Lk 23:46, and an indication that even though men may destroy the body, the soul that has been entrusted to God will live for ever. This puts even the most intense physical suffering into perspective.
Creator – God is so called only this once in the NT. ‘Peter reminds us that the Lord whom we trust is the Architect of all things, accomplishing his great design. He feeds the birds and numbers the hairs of our heads; he will watch over us who commit ourselves to his care.’ (Mt 6:26,31) (Clowney)
‘Why did Peter refer to God as “a faithful Creator” rather than “a faithful Judge” or even “a faithful Saviour?” Because God the Creator meets the needs of his people. (Mt 6:24-34) It is the Creator who provides food and clothing to persecuted Christians, and who protects them in times of danger. When the early church was persecuted, they met together for prayer and addressed the Lord as the “God, which has made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.” (Ac 4:24) They prayed to the Creator! Our Heavenly Father is “the Lord of heaven and earth.” (Mt 11:25) With that kind of a Father, we have no need to worry! He is the faithful Creator, and his faithfulness will not fail.’ (Wiersbe)
Continue to do good – Committing ourselves to God’s care is not passive. It is not just fleeing to God to forget our present troubles. It is not only waiting for better times ahead. It involves an active commitment to well-doing, 1 Pet 2:12, 15, 20; 3:13, 16f. ‘Opposition and suffering open new doors of opportunity to show the love of Christ.’ (Clowney)