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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

1 Peter 4

Verse 1

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh: "Forasmuch then" reaches back to 3:18, where Peter talks about the sufferings and death of Christ. The apostle reestablishes the connection between suffering servants and a suffering master. He makes the point that since Christ suffered during His pilgrimage on earth, He expects His followers to be willing to do the same.

arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: Christianity is not a refuge for the weak: it is an army of the strong. And this Christian army is to be prepared for the spiritual battle that is sure to come in every generation. The struggle demands a weapon, which is the thought and will of Christ--the same willingness to suffer as Christ did. Unwavering faith in the cause, a readiness to suffer and die, and patience in whatever trials may come will help a Christian to be "armed."

for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin: Early Christians may have viewed suffering as a total waste. Suffering, as viewed through the mind of Christ however, is not a total waste. Some good things come out of suffering. Suffering together with Him will not only bring us glory with Him, it will help us deal with the powers of sin.

The phrase, "hath ceased from sin," is an expression that means "hath got release...from sin, i.e. is no longer stirred by its incitements and seductions" (Thayer 497-1-3973). Peter is obviously not saying that Christ suffered and, thus, ceased from sin. Christ did suffer temptation, just as we do, but He did not commit sin (Hebrews 4:15). Peter is also not saying that the Christian will never sin again after he suffers in the flesh. The apostle is saying that "the person who has suffered in his body is finished with sin" (New Century Version), that is, he has been released from the power of sin. He will still suffer temptation, but he will not have the same inclination to succumb to it that he once had--he will have the faith and determination to overcome. His suffering helps to strengthen him so that he can overcome. That suffering allows him to identify with Christ and to imitate Him. To such a Christian, allurements of the world grow dim. Those made of martyr material do not easily surrender to evil.

This passage does not sustain the idea that suffering can atone for sin as one school of thought teaches. Neither does the passage teach that suffering can have such a purifying effect that it can insulate us from all sin as many now teach. Such beliefs are contradictory and unscriptural. And, too, this passage cannot refer to all suffering in the world. It is limited, contextually, to suffering for righteousness’ sake--for the cause of Christ--in imitation of Christ.

Verse 2

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

Those who arm themselves with the mind of Christ do so that they may live in the Spirit rather than walking after the flesh. "In the flesh" has to do with the physical nature of man, the time of one’s existence in the body. During that period of time, "lusts" or desires are possible. The "lusts of men" indicates evil and is set in contrast to doing "the will of God" (1:14).

Verse 3

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles: "The time past" is time forever gone by. Before obeying Christ, the sinner "wrought the will of the Gentiles"--that is, lived in the excess of sin as people of the world do. Paul said such time is gone forever for the newborn Christian (Romans 13:11-12). Peter is not saying that there is a time in life when it is acceptable for a person to live in such sin. He is saying that more than enough time has already been wasted in living the sinful life--now the Christian should stop living in that old way.

when we walked in lasciviousness: In describing life out of Christ and life characteristic of heathen, Peter lists six forms of sensuality, three that are social and three that are personal.

lasciviousness: The word "lasciviousness" (aselgia) means "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence" (Thayer 79-2-766). "Lasciviousness" is the translation of a word which refers to actions that excite disgust and shock public decency. In the New Testament, the prominent idea in the word is that of sensuality (Wuest, I Peter 112).

lusts: The main idea of "lusts" is that of "strong desires of any kind," not just sexual desires. While the previous word, "lasciviousness" refers to "outward actions and overt deeds as distinguished from the ’lusts’ (epithumia, desires) which are inwardly entertained (Woods, First Peter 108).

excess of wine: This entire phrase means "to bubble up, overflow, drunkenness" (Thayer 442-2-3632). All of the conduct described in verse three refers to "excess" (anachusis) or "a pouring out, overflowing" (Vine, Vol. II 57) of evil. The Revised Version translates the expression as "winebibbings."

revellings: Peter uses the word "revellings" (komos), referring to "feasts and drinking-parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry" (Thayer 367-2-2970). The word indicates wild merry-making or carousals.

banquetings: This word means "literally, a drinking, signifies not simply a banquet but a drinking bout, a carousal" (Vine, Vol. I 170). "Banquetings" were drinking matches (potos) or drinking parties wherein each sought to outdo all others. These drinking parties were a part of the heathen way of life.

and abominable idolatries: Peter places fleshly sins and service to idols on the same level. "Abominable" means "contrary to law and justice, illicit, criminal. These idolatries were forbidden by Roman law. They must have been pretty bad" (Wuest, I Peter 112). All such was disgusting to God.

Verse 4

Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them: "They" are the former companions of the person who has been converted. "Run" means "to run in company with...to run in a troop with others like a band of revellers" (Wuest, I Peter 112). While they were once fellow participants in sin, they are now amazed at the change--they are now like strangers to each other. God’s people are not to keep company with the unconverted in their "excess of riot." Today it is common to hear some say they can go to bars and clubs where there is drinking, dancing, etc. but not participate. The teaching of this passage clearly shows we are not to run in company with those who are committing such sins.

to the same excess of riot: This Greek word for "excess" (anachusis) means "An overflowing, a pouring out" (Thayer 43-2-401). Vine says this word "is used metaphorically in 1 Peter 4:4, excess, said of the riotous conduct described in verse 3" (Vol. II 57).

The Greek word for "riot" (asotia) means "incorrigibleness, an abandoned, dissolute, life; profligacy, prodigality" (Thayer 82-2-810). Peter here draws a graphic picture of the overflowing of wickedness and of the ungodly tides that rush to fill all the hollows of evil. Such wickedness is a waste--an overflowing of waste, such as the prodigal son in Luke 15:13 was involved in. James says to lay aside such activities: "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21).

speaking evil of you: This kind of speaking involves language designed to injure, to malign, and to blaspheme those who would no longer run with them (1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 2:19-23).

Verse 5

Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Sinners will "give account" (logos), "a word or saying, also means an account which one gives by word of mouth" (Vine, Vol. I 25) to the Master of those servants they are blaspheming! (Matthew 25:31-46). The Lord Jesus Christ is ready, prepared, and authorized to judge (2 Timothy 4:1) all mankind. "The ’quick’ (living) and the dead" is a common phrase to indicate the universality of judgment (Acts 10:42; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

God assures His people that He will have the final word (2 Corinthians 5:10); they should, then, bear trials, insults, and injuries with patience. The Judge of all the earth will come. Peter says that the Lord is coming, so we should bear up under the problems and trials of life.

Verse 6

For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Other translations of the New Testament provide insight into the meaning of this passage:

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in the regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit (NIV).

The Good News was preached to those who are now dead. By their dying, they were judged like all men. But the Good News was preached to them so that they could live in the spirit as God lives (The New Century Version).

For this cause: The "cause" that Peter refers to is given later in this verse: since those who have died are going to be judged, they heard the gospel while they were still alive and had an opportunity to obey it.

That these to whom the gospel was preached were not the same as those contemplated in 1 Peter 3:19-20, follows from the fact that those who were the objects of Noah’s preaching rejected that patriarch’s warnings and perished in disobedience in the flood; whereas, these who were the objects of the preaching to which Peter refers had accepted the gospel, and, though dead, had the approbation of God in the spirit realm (Woods, I Peter 110).

Peter writes this passage to encourage the persecuted saints who suffered the taunts of those with whom they no longer ran. He wants them to overcome the storms of life sent their way as other faithful ones had before them. Compare with 1 Corinthians 4:7-13.

Salvation is confined to this present life, and preaching is to the embodied. That which was preached was the gospel (Romans 1:16); and it was preached to those who, at this writing, were dead but who were alive and in the body at the time the preaching was done. It was not preached to them while they were dead or in a disembodied state in Hades.

that they might be judged according to men in the flesh: Even though they were judged and persecuted by men when they were alive, they endured faithfully as a Christian. The people to whom Peter is writing are undergoing the same kinds of persecutions; and he writes to encourage them to be faithful.

but live according to God in the spirit: Even though these people were persecuted by men, they lived according to the will of God--"according to God in the spirit." That is the reason the gospel was preached to them.

"In the spirit" (pneuma) means according to "the rational spirit, the power by which a human being feels, thinks, wills, decides; the soul" (Thayer 520-1-4151). This word suggests the disembodied or "unclothed" spirit of man (2 Corinthians 5:3-4). While "in the spirit" may refer to the higher, nobler life of the spirit, the weight of evidence, contextually, seems to refer to their state after death (See 1 Corinthians 15:44).

The weight of the entire passage is for the encouragement of those who were enduring trials, insults, and even death. They could know beyond any doubt that it did pay to be a Christian and that they would not only live through it; they would forever live beyond it!

Verse 7

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

But the end of all things is at hand: Peter continues his exhortations regarding faithfulness. An event of tremendous proportion was at hand (engizo) or "has come nigh, is at hand" (Thayer 164-1-1448). The vantage of two thousand years having passed makes it evident that the end of the world (kosmos) was not under consideration. Neither could the "end" have been the judgment day in that judgment of all the world (Acts 17:30) will follow the end of the world (Matthew 25).

Peter wrote this letter in A.D. 67, the eve of the total destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This destruction was "at hand." It would bring to an absolute end (telos) "the present order of things," that is, the vestiges of a law that Christ had already taken out of the way, nailing it to His cross (Colossians 2:14). Thayer defines the word "end" as "the end of all things (i.e. the present order of things)" (620-1-5056).

"Tribulation, such as was not since the beginning..." (Matthew 24:21) would make great demands on Christians during this period; and persecutors would likely not make a difference between the Jews and these who followed a Jew from Nazareth.

be ye therefore sober: Since the end is at hand, "be ye therefore sober." They were to be of sound judgment and sober spirit; they were to keep their wits. There is a tendency sometimes for Christians not to keep their wit under certain circumstances.

and watch unto prayer: The Lord gave this same advice when he foretold the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:36). The idea is to be constant in prayers, whether public or private.

Be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer: Guy N. Woods comments on this phrase as follows:

An injunction to sobriety was especially pertinent in view of the fearful trials soon to come. A sound mind and a sober disposition prompting to regular and persistent prayer would best avail them in the midst of the dangers with which they were soon to be assailed (Woods, I Peter 112).

The Greek word (nepho) is translated into the English as "watch".

It means "to abstain from wine, is used metaphorically of moral alertness, and translated to watch in the A.V. of 2 Timothy 4:5": "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."

"Sober" according to Vine, "signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants; in the N.T., metaphorically, it does not in itself imply watchfulness, but is used in association with it." (Vine, Vol. IV 44) The word nepho is used in the following verses:

  • Thessalonians 5:6,8 watch and be sober

  • Timothy 4:5 Watch thou in all things

  • Peter 1:13 Be sober

  • 1 Peter 4:7 Watch unto prayer

  • 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober

The Pulpit Commentary has the following teaching on this passage:

The word translated "watch" in the authorized version is not that which we read in our Lord’s exhortation to "watch and pray". The word used here rather points to temperance, abstinence from strong drinks, though it suggests also that wariness and cool thoughtfulness which are destroyed by excess. The Christian must be self restrained and sober, and that with a view to perseverance in prayer. The Aorist imperatives, perhaps, imply that St. Peter’s readers needed to be stirred up (2 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 3:1) to be aroused from that indifference into which men are so apt to fall. The exhortation to persevere in watchfulness would be expressed by the present.

He must be sober unto prayer. Excess in meat or drink or other pleasures of life unnerves the mind; excess weakens the body, brings misery into families, and is the cause of poverty.

It also ruins the soul; the drunkard, the glutton, the man of pleasure cannot pray; His vices burden his soul and weigh it down to the earth; he cannot lift up his heart in prayer to God. Prayer demands the exercise of all our highest strength.

Verse 8

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: In this time of trouble and persecution, the most important principle for these brethren to remember is to "love one another." As a faithful member of the Lord’s body, they could not forget that they were living a different life from the people in the world. Since the trials ahead would put pressure on day-to-day relationships among the saints, their love had to be "fervent" (ektenees) love or love that is "strained, stretched" (Vine, Vol. II 90).

for charity shall cover the multitude of sins: "Cover" (kalupto) means "to hide, veil, i.e. to hinder the knowledge of a thing" (Thayer 323-1-2572). (See also 2 Corinthians 4:3.) Fervent love covers a multitude of sins, throwing a kind mantle over the faults of others (Proverbs 10:12). Instead of seeking revenge for wrongs suffered, love will hide a "multitude" (pleethos) of sins--"a great number, sc. of men or things" (Thayer 516-2-4128). While in James 5:20 the text talks about our working with brethren to secure pardon of their sins from God, in this text the idea is loving one another to the extent that we forgive them of their sins against us (1 Corinthians 13:5). Peter does not refer to our sins against God.

Verse 9

Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

Peter sets forth an obvious and concrete way in which love can be manifested. Hospitality was so vital, especially in first-century days, and the command to "be hospitable" was given to every Christian (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2) and required of overseers in the church (Titus 1:8). How important it must be then in the sight of God.

hospitality: Thayer says the word "hospitality" means "hospitable, generous to guests, (given to hospitality)" (654-2-5382). Christians are to extend hospitality to others without "grudging," that is, without murmuring, muttering, or complaining. The word is used in Acts 6:1 of the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews. Peter was a realist! He knew that the "use" of hospitality could become a burden and that Christians could be tempted to complain. The responsibility, the expense, the inconvenience are to be borne without complaint (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

Verse 10

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

As every man hath received the gift: The word "gift" (charisma) means "a gift of grace; a favor which one receives without any merit of his own" (Thayer 667-1-5486). It signifies a gift of grace, a blessing of God graciously bestowed, a gracious divine endowment. Peter views all the Lord’s people, "every man," as having received a special gift that they are to use as good stewards in the house of God. Peter does not view this gift as an office or a special place in the hierarchy of God, but it is a gift.

"Hath received" denotes gaining or receiving with emphasis being placed on the time. It is not clear whether the time was at baptism (Acts 2:38) or at the time of imposition of apostolic hands. (Acts 8:16). This gift was to be used for edification and in the service of one another, the purposes of spiritual gifts according to 1 Corinthians 12.

even so minister the same one to another: Gifts were given to be used in the service and edification of one another. A person’s gift was not his own; gifts, in this sense, belonged to the whole body, the church (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:11).

as good stewards of the manifold grace of God: "Stewards" (oikonomos) refers to "believers generally" (Vine, Vol. IV 74). Stewards were the managers of households. The saints were to see themselves as appointees and trustees of the house of God. They were to see themselves as servants with gifts for a division of labor, and as those who will give account (Matthew 25:14-19).

Verse 11

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God: It is evident from 1 Corinthians 12 and from this passage that there are both utterance and non-utterance gifts were given. "If any man speak" or exercises his utterance gift, he must speak as the "oracles" (logion), "the utterances of God through Christian teachers" (Vine, Vol. III 144; Thayer 379-2-3051), that is, the word of God. Oracles are divine utterances or revelations (Acts 7:38). This gift was used correctly only when what was stated was in harmony with the word of God (Hebrews 5:12). Some gifts were speaking, (utterance) and some were non speaking (non-utterance). Only to the extent that one stayed with the word of God was he exercising his gift correctly.

if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: The word "minister" (diakoneo) refers to "the ministry of believers one to another in various ways," (Vine, Vol. III 373). No church office is in view in this passage. It is rather a general service performed by Christians one to another. Non-utterance gifts that required doing rather than speaking were given by the Lord, and they were vital to the life and health of the body. All Christians are in the ministry!

that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ: to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen: Although spiritual gifts were given to serve others, ultimately they were given to mankind to glorify God. Every word we speak and every step we take in the service of God is to be to the glory of God through Christ. The apostle says that God is to be glorified by us and then adds that He is worthy (Revelation 1:6; 1 Peter 5:11).

Verse 12

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you: Once again the apostle turns to the subject with which this letter is primarily concerned. Suffering for righteousness sake had been their past and their present, and, beyond doubt, would be their future. "Beloved" means "the divinely-loved ones" (Wuest, I Peter 118).

Those who had been cast into the crucible of suffering must also know that suffering is not "strange" (xenos) or foreign or alien to Christianity. "Strange" means "to be surprised, astonished at the novelty or strangeness of a thing; to think strange, be shocked" (Thayer 432-1-3579). Peter knew that in all ages there would be Christians who could not reconcile suffering and salvation. Peter is literally saying, "stop thinking it is a thing alien to you" to suffer for Christ (Wuest, I Peter 118). (See also 2 Timothy 3:12.)

The same word "trial" is used in 1:7; here the figure intensifies with the addition of "fiery." Literally, "fiery" means "burning." Reference is made to a trial by fire in which gold ore was cast into a crucible or melting pot for the purpose of removing the impurities. Impurities rising to the top would be skimmed off as more and more heat was applied. This process would continue until the goldsmith could see his own face clearly in the surface of the liquid. The figure employed is not foreign to the scriptures. In Psalms 66:20 and Proverbs 27:31 the identical idea is present. The concept of suffering for righteousness sake is an ancient one. God has long been interested in quality; His people have known the furnace of affliction (Psalms 45:46).

as though some strange thing happened unto you: "Happened" (sumbaino) means "to go or come together" (Vine, Vol. II 194), suggesting happening by chance. The Lord’s people must know that the tests by fire were neither alien to the Christian walk nor did they come by happenstance. They were being tried.

Verse 13

But 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.

But rejoice: The theology of suffering is difficult to accept and especially so with the introduction of the word "rejoice." This word (agalliao) denotes not only rejoicing but "rejoicing greatly" or "with exceeding joy" (Vine, Vol. III 271). This teaching is a dramatic example of the gulf between our concept and God’s concept of the Christian life.

inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings: Rejoice "inasmuch" or "insofar as" it is for Christ’s sake. If Christians suffer because they have committed wrong, they should not rejoice. Righteousness sake is the basis of the suffering of God’s people. The primary reason for suffering is because of union with the Lord.

Christians are co-participants with the sufferings Christ endured while upon the earth. During His personal ministry, the Lord endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself. When His people are persecuted for His cause, they are partakers of the "afflictions of Christ" (Colossians 1:24).

that, when his glory shall be revealed: The Lord will "come in his glory" (Matthew 25:31) for the judgment of the earth (Luke 17:30); this time will be the revelation of his glory.

ye may be glad also with exceeding joy: The future has definite implications for life in the here and now (1 Thessalonians 2:19). "Suffering with him" will result in being "glorified together" with the Lord (Romans 8:17). This time will bring not only joy but exultation (1:6).

There is nothing in the text to suggest that suffering is limited to a chosen few. Peter and Paul (Romans 8) teach that suffering comes with the adoption of sons. It is on the divine menu and, coupled with obedience, is evidence of sonship when it is borne with rejoicing (Philippians 3:10-11; 1 Peter 2:21). Suffering is not an imperative: it is an indicative. It is not something that is prescribed--there is nothing that says you must suffer or you are not a Christian--but it is indicative of a person who really is a Christian. And, Christians are not told to seek it out. Instead, they are told not to worry about it when it comes. Paul teaches that suffering will continue until His glory is revealed (Romans 8:19).

Verse 14

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye: "Reproach" (onidizo) means "to reproach, upbraid, revile" (Thayer 446-2-3679). This is a strong term, identifying the nature of the persecution. "It was reproach which the world was casting in the teeth of the Christians" (Wuest, I Peter 119). (See Mark 15:32.)

for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: Peter sets forth the startling proposition that instead of seeing persecution as a deprivation, they should see it as a blessing and as an indication of a good, healthy, spiritual state. The blessedness is that "the spirit of glory" or "the Spirit of God" resided with them. Isaiah 11:2 uses a similar expression.

The word "rest" (anapauo) signifies "to give rest, to refresh." According to Thayer, it means "to keep quiet" (41-1-373). It speaks of the abiding presence of the Spirit or the Godhead itself (Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 8:26). God is not going to drop a burden on a Christian--He is going to restore or refresh him. "If ye be reproached ... the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you" (Acts 7:55-56).

on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified: Henry Alford, in his New Testament For English Readers, says this section is omitted in all the oldest manuscripts and versions. The Living Oracles, however, translates it as follows: "By them indeed, he is evil spoken of, but by you he is glorified." The passage seems to indicate that so far as the heathen are concerned, the Holy Spirit is reproached by them in their treatment of Christians; on the part of the saints, He is glorified. When the heathen mistreat Christians, they mistreat the Holy Spirit. When Christians however, bear up in times of trial, the Holy Spirit is glorified.

Verse 15

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief: This window on first century persecution reveals the extent of violence even among some of the Jews. They were given to murder and robbery. Christians could never allow themselves to be involved in such sins.

or as an evildoer: "Evildoer" (kakopoyos) refers to that which is morally or ethically evil. MacKnight reaches into the moral intent of the word, stating that he refers to an "adulterer, a sodomite, a perjured person" (624).

or as a busybody in other men’s matters: The Holy Spirit employs a unique word to describe those who improperly concern themselves with the affairs of others. "Busybody" (allotrioepiskopos) refers to "seeing over" what belongs to others. Thayer says, "one who takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others and in no wise to himself, (a meddler in other men’s matters)" (29-1-244).

The expression "belonging to another" literally refers to those who make themselves overseers of other men’s matters (Luke 12:13-14). We are again speaking of a temptation or a problem. In that Christians are to be zealous in reaching out to others, Peter warns against an ever present danger of overstepping one’s bounds. We are not to busy ourselves in that which does not concern us (Philippians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:11; 1 Timothy 5:13; John 2:21-22). We have not outgrown our need for this instruction!

Verse 16

Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

Yet if any man suffer as a Christian: "Christian, a word formed after the Roman style, signifying an adherent of Jesus, was first applied to such by the Gentiles and is found in Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16)" (Vine, Vol. I 191). A Christian (christianos) is a follower of Christ, an adherent of the Master (Acts 26:28). This is the name that was given to them (Isaiah 56:5) and the name by which they were called (Acts 11:26). There is nothing in the scriptures that sustains the popular view that the name was given in derision by enemies of the saints. This is the only name specified by the Holy Spirit as the one in which God’s people should glorify Him.

let him not be ashamed: Some suffering is disgraceful and should cause a person to be ashamed. Suffering as a murderer, or a thief, or as evildoer, or as a meddler is a shame. Suffering for such things is deserved (1 Peter 2:14).

But suffering because one has become a Christian is honorable. It is to be expected, endured with rejoicing, and taken as an occasion to glorify God.

but let him glorify God on this behalf: God is glorified when one suffers for being a Christian. The Revised Version and American Standard Version render "on this behalf" as "in this name" (Acts 5:41).

Verse 17

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: Judgment (krima), in this case, speaks of severe condemnation or trials. That which was at hand (verse 7) is here described as "a season that has come." This was not a reference to the final judgment of Matthew 25:31-46; the judgment herein is described as being upon them. The destruction of Jerusalem would bring severe trials for his people, the Christians (Matthew 24:15-22).

and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God: This is a manner of speaking often seen in the scriptures. "To the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles"; or "if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee" (Romans 11:21). "Us" and "the house of God" show who is to receive the judgment of God mentioned.

A terrible time of trial was coming upon their world. Christians would also suffer, even be put to death in some cases; but Christians, with their help and hope, were far better off than those who had neither. Those who "obey not the gospel" are without God or hope (1 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 12:6-11; James 1:2-4).

Verse 18

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

And if the righteous scarcely be saved: The righteous are those who "obey the gospel," verse 17, and do right (Matthew 7:21; 1 John 2:4). Even these with all their blessed assurances would find it difficult to weather the storm that was about to sweep over the Jewish world. "Shortened days for the elect’s sake" was their only hope (Matthew 24:22). The elect were the saints of God.

Christians in any age would do well to ponder the warning here. If sin is so disgusting, so bad, that God even disciplines His own to purify them, how much more severe will be His punishment of the wicked and those who just do not obey the gospel (Proverbs 11:31). The primary reference here is to the impending trial that was about to come upon them, but certainly there is a wide application for all ages of time.

where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear: Where, indeed! Peter does not answer his question. The answer is clear.

Verse 19

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God: This is Peter’s primary conclusion to the theology of suffering. Let those who suffer for righteousness’ sake, in accordance with His providence, move to a full peace of mind. Peter then explains how one can have this peace of mind.

commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing: To "commit" (paratitheemi) is "to place down (from oneself or for oneself) with anyone, to deposit; to entrust, to commit to one’s charge" (Thayer 486-2-3908). The picture is of one who turns over a deposit to one who is trusted. What a beautiful thought!

as unto a faithful Creator: God is faithful! Any or all deposits made with Him are safe: they are secure, and they are guaranteed. If we pursue the path appointed by God, we may rest assured that it is well with our soul.

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Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-peter-4.html. 1993-2022.