Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
1 Peter 4:1. Christ then having suffered as regards the flesh. The words ‘for us,’ which the A. V. inserts, have the support of some good authorities. They are wanting, however, in the oldest of all our manuscripts as well as in some important Versions, and are rightly omitted by the R. V. and the best critics. The ‘suffered’ is a general expression here, covering His death as well as what He endured previous to that. That His death is in view appears from the definition of the ‘suffered’ by the’ being put to death’ in 1 Peter 3:18. What Peter says here, too, is not exactly ‘ in the flesh,’ but ‘as to the flesh’ or ‘fleshly-wise.’ The term used is precisely the same as in 1 Peter 3:18. It is introduced twice in this verse, perhaps with this touch of comfort in it, that, as in Christ’s case, so in the case of Christians, it is only the perishable side of being that suffering can hurt. The ‘then’ does not indicate a return from a digression. It carries out to further issues a fact which has formed the ruling idea in all that has been advanced since 1 Peter 3:7.
do ye also arm yourselves. A strong appeal to do on their side what Christ did on His. The course which they have to run is one of conflict. They must have an equipment for their warfare, if they are to wage it worthily, and the armour or equipment which will make them ready is that with which their Captain Himself faced his curriculum of suffering. The idea of a spiritual armour, which appears repeatedly in the Pauline Epistles (Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8), and meets us also in the Old Testament (e.g. Isaiah 59:17), is taken up this once and in briefest possible form in Peter’s writings. The verb ‘arm yourselves’ occurs nowhere again in the New Testament, although it is common enough in Classical Greek, both in the literal sense and in the figurative.
with the same mind, because he who has suffered as regards the flesh, has ceased from sin. Although the several parts of this sentence seem intelligible enough, the exact sense of the whole, specially in view of what is immediately connected with it in the next verses, is extremely difficult to determine. Some excellent exegetes have felt a haze overhanging it, which has tempted them to doubt its genuineness. The problem, however, is not to be disposed of in that fashion. The only uncertainties of reading are these Are we to read ‘ in the flesh,’ or have we here exactly the same phrase as before, viz. ‘as regards the flesh’? And are we to read ‘from sin,’ as in the A. V. and the text of the R. V., or, as in the margin of the R. V., ‘unto sins’? In both cases the balance of evidence seems on the side of the latter supposition. The first question is as to the sense of the word which is rendered ‘mind’ here. It occurs only once again in the New Testament, and there in the plural, viz. Hebrews 4:12, where it is translated ‘intents’ in the A. V. and R. V. Its best understood meaning (according to some, indeed, its only meaning) is thought, consideration, conception. If this is adhered to, the idea which results may be variously construed. Some take it to be = arm yourselves with the same thought, that is to say, with the thought of having to suffer according to the flesh as Christ suffered, and do so because he who has so suffered has ceased from sin (so Huther, etc.). Others (including Calvin, the Genevan, Wiesinger, Mason, etc.) understand the latter words to express the contents of the thought, and put it either in the general form = arm yourselves with the same thought, namely, the thought that he who has suffered according to the flesh has ceased from sin; or in the more definite form = arm yourselves with the same thought, or conception, of what suffering is, which Christ Himself had when He suffered, namely, that he who has so suffered has ceased from sin. But this disturbs the connection with the opening clause, which speaks not of what Christ or others thought about suffering, but simply of the fact that He suffered. In some of its forms, too, this rendering deals with the very definite phrase ‘the same thought,’ as if it were ‘this thought,’ or ‘this very thought.’ The noun in question, however, has another meaning, namely, disposition, intention, or purpose. This is a rare use. But it seems capable of being made out as an occasional occurrence, both in the Classics (e.g. Xen. Anab. iii. 1, 13; Plato, Legg. 769 E; Eurip. Hel. 1026, etc.) and in the Septuagint (Proverbs 3:21; Proverbs 5:2). Here it gives the clear and congruous idea, that in their conflict Christians were to arm themselves with the same purpose with which their Lord Himself endured suffering. What that purpose in His case was, appears from the previous section. It was to do good to wrong-doers, by bringing them to God.
because he who has suffered according to the flesh has ceased from sin. This is added to establish and enforce the counsel. But how it does that is greatly disputed. Some suppose Christ Himself to be the subject of the sentence, and take it to mean that by suffering in the flesh He put an end to sin itself, and brought in an everlasting righteousness; or that He thus made an end of sin-offering. But this introduces dogmatic ideas, which the context does not suggest; while violence is also done to some of the terms. Others suppose it means that Christ, having once suffered, is now done with sin, and is ‘fortified against its assaults.’ The expression, however, seems to be a general one, stating a principle which is not to be limited to the single case of Christ Others give the ‘suffered’ an ethical sense, or a metaphorical, supposing that it refers either to the crucifying of the old man (Calvin, etc.), or to the ideal dying of the believer with Christ in baptism (Schott, etc.). But this is inconsistent with the sense of the same term ‘suffered’ in the first clause. Some of the best interpreters retain the reading of the Received Text (which admits of being rendered either ‘has ceased from sin,’ or ‘has been made to cease from sin’), and hold that this must be taken in the active sense of a ceasing from sinning. So some construe it as = he who suffers on account of his opposition to sin, has broken with sin and shows that its power over him is gone (Weiss). And others, in various ways, understand it to refer to the influence of suffering in subduing sinful inclination and ripening moral character. Even this, however, appears to come short of the almost axiomatic force of the sentence. For it is by no means a general truth that suffering effects cessation from sin. The difficulty will be lightened, however, if we adopt the other reading, ‘unto sins.’ This gives us a phrase, ‘is done with sins,’ or ‘has been brought to an end as regards sins,’ which may fairly express the cessation of a certain relation to sin, and present a parallel to the Pauline formula, ‘he that is dead is freed from sin’ (Romans 6:7). We have then a general proposition, which holds good of both the subjects referred to in the verse, Christ and the Christian, each according to his peculiar relation to sin. And, taking the ‘suffered’ to cover here, as in 1 Peter 3:18, the article of death itself, we make the import of the whole this Christ suffered and died, with the purpose of doing good; confront your sufferings with the same purpose; let them not provoke you to evildoing, but pledge you to well-doing; be confirmed in this by the consideration that he who has once suffered unto death according to the flesh, is done with sin; Christ thus terminated His relation to sin; and those who suffer and die with Him should recognise their old relation to sin at an end, themselves done with sin.
This paragraph brings to an end the series of counsels which began with chap. 1 Peter 2:11, and have dealt with what is essential to a becoming ‘conversation among the Gentiles.’ Christian duty in relation to the impurities of heathen associates is now enforced in the strongest terms and with a gleam of gravest irony. Christ’s example in suffering is still the key-note. That example, having been already used at length to point the blessedness of suffering for righteousness sake, is now made the ground for enforcing absolute separation from the vices of paganism, a separation as absolute as if one were dead to them. The terms in which Peter expresses this resemble, more than anything else in his writings, Paul’s method of speaking of the believer as dead, dead with Christ, dead to the law, dead to sin, freed from the law by death as the woman is loosed from the husband’s law by the husband’s death, freed from sin by becoming dead. The section is not a mere resumption of a statement (that, namely, in 1 Peter 3:18), which has been lost sight of for a time in another train of reflection. It is the natural continuation of a train of exhortation which has not been broken, but has turned, and still turns, on the necessity of seeing that, if we suffer, it be only for well-doing, not for evil-doing. It contains one great difficulty, the declaration (in 1 Peter 4:6) about a preaching of the Gospel to them that are dead. That passage has seemed to some interpreters so intractable that they have given it up in despair. Luther imagined that some corruption had crept into its text. Others have been driven to regard it as the gloss of some copyist or annotator. It is undoubtedly akin, however, to the former paragraph in 1 Peter 3:19-20, and the results reached on the one should throw some light on the other.
1 Peter 4:2. to the end, no longer according to men’s lasts but according to God’s will, to live the remaining time in the flesh. Two connections are possible, between which it is difficult to decide. The verse may be attached to the immediately preceding clause, in which case it must be translated, as in the A. V. and the margin of the R. V., ‘that he should no longer live the rest of his time,’ etc. In this case it becomes part of the genera proposition as to the end put to one’s relation to sin by the suffering of death, explaining the moral intention of the change of relation. Or it may be joined with the counsel ‘arm yourselves,’ the intervening clause being then regarded as a parenthesis. In this case it expresses the practical object they are to have in view in facing their sufferings with the purpose which distinguished Christ; while at the same time it indicates how the general proposition is to be applied to their own case. The ‘lusts of men’ and the ‘will of God’ are contrasted as two opposite services to which one’s life may be dedicated (as in 1 Peter 2:24. Peter has spoken of living ‘ unto righteousness’); or as two opposite patterns or standards to which one’s life may be conformed. The latter idea is more consistent with the longer formula, ‘live the remaining time in the flesh;’ with which compare 1 Peter 1:17. Analogous phrases occur in Acts 15:1, ‘circumcised after the manner of Moses,’ and Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25, ‘Walk in the Spirit,’ ‘live in (i.e according to) the Spirit.’ This also makes it probable that the ‘lusts of men’ here are not the lusts of human nature in the readers themselves (or in the man described as suffering), but the lusts indulged by the heathen around the readers. These are an objective standard of life to which they are not to conform. Their standard is to be God’s will. Bengel notices the contrast between the ‘lusts’ which are various, and the ‘will of God’ which is one. Compare Paul’s contrast between the ‘ works of the flesh’ which are discordant and make life itself a discord, and the ‘ fruit’ of the Spirit which is a unity, and makes life a unity (Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:22). Neither of these words here rendered ‘remaining’ and ‘live’ occurs elsewhere in the New Testament. The latter, too, is never applied to any order of life lower than the intelligent life of man. The phrase ‘in the flesh’ means simply ‘in the mortal, bodily life.’ Peter never uses the word ‘flesh’ (at least in this Epistle), in the ethical sense which it often has in Paul, as denoting the sinful nature of man or the ‘principle and realm of earthliness.’
1 Peter 4:3. For sufficient is the time past to have wrought the will of the Gentiles. Here the A. V. inserts two phrases, viz. ‘of our life’ and ‘us,’ which weight of evidence compels us to omit. According to the best authorities, too, the idea of’ will’ is not expressed, as the A. V. leads us to imagine, by the same word as in the previous phrase ‘God swill.’ Here it might be rendered the ‘inclination’ ‘intent,’ or (with the R. V.) ‘desire’ of the Gentiles. The verb ‘wrought’ is of a form and a tense, which serve to throw the action entirely into the past as now finally done with. The adjective ‘sufficient’ occurs only twice again in the New Testament, viz. in Matthew 6:34 ( ‘sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’), and Matthew 10:25 (‘it is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master’). It is here the note of pained feeling uttering itself in irony. The sentence is an example of what grammarians call litotes, less than the reality being said in order to suggest the more. ‘ The past may suffice; there is a figure in that, meaning much more than the words express: It is enough, Oh! too much, to have so long, so miserable a life’ (Leighton). The allusion to the ‘desire of the Gentiles ’ (which is practically equivalent here to the desire of the heathen), especially as that desire or intent is interpreted by the following catalogue of sins, suits Christians who had been heathen, rather than Christians who had been Jews.
walking, or rather, as the perfect tense implies, walking as ye have done; in reference to a continuous course of life now done with. The A. V., following the readings which we have seen cause to reject, makes it ‘when we walked,’ as if Peter courteously included himself in the description, in order to soften its edge.
in excesses; not, as both the A. V. and the R. V. render it, in lasciviousness. No doubt uncleanness is the foremost thing in view in these excesses (cp. Rom 13:13 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19). But Peter begins with a wide, plural term, sufficient to include unbridled conduct of all kinds, and then goes on from the general to the particular.
lusts; pointing specially to fleshly lusts and appetites strictly so called, although the term is not confined to these (see on 1 Peter 1:14).
wine-swillings. The word is of rare occurrence even in the Classics. In the New Testament this is its solitary occurrence. The cognate verb, however, is used in the Greek Version of Deuteronomy 21:20, in the sense of being a drunkard. The noun denotes both the thirst for drink and indulgence in drink. Here it is in the plural, and means ‘debauches,’ or, as the R. V. renders it, ‘wine-bibbings.’
revellings. Wycliffe strangely renders it, ‘immeasurable eatings;’ Tyndale, ‘eating;’ and Cranmer, ‘excess of eating.’ The term occurs again only in Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21. It is the word which is so familiar to us in the Classics as the name given to the drunken merry-makings of various kinds, which were so considerable an element in Greek life. They were recognised entertainments, celebrated on festal days, in connection with the worship of Bacchus and other gods, or in honour of the victors at the national games. Those of the last-named class were of a comparatively orderly kind. The others were attended with great licence, and generally ended in the revellers sallying out into the streets, and wakening the echoes with song and dance and noisy frolic.
carousings. Another word of which this is the only New Testament instance. It means social drinking-bouts or roysterings, rather than merely ‘banquetings,’ as the A. V. makes it.
and lawless idolatries. Here, as so often elsewhere, idolatry and immorality are associated as going hand in hand with each other. The ‘abominable’ of the A. V. and R. V. scarcely conveys the point of the adjective. It describes the idolatries as unlawful, outside the pale of Divine law. In the only other passage of the New Testament in which it occurs (Acts 10:28) it expresses the idea that fellowship between a Jew and a man of another nation was contrary to Jewish law. This mention of ‘idolatries’ as the last and worst of the things after which the ‘desire of the Gentiles’ ran, clearly indicates the Gentile extraction of Peter’s readers. From the time of the captivity idolatry was the sin which the Jew specially forswore. It could not with any semblance of justice be spoken of as a characteristic Jewish vice in Peter’s day. The passage in Romans 2:22, which is often cited in support of the opposite view, deals with an entirely different matter, the inconsistency on the part of one who professes to hate idolatry and yet commits sacrilege.
1 Peter 4:4. on which account they think it strange that ye run not with them into the same effusion (or, slough) of profligacy, speaking evil of you. The ‘wherein’ of the A. V. (which the R. V. also retains) is so far misleading, as it naturally means to the English reader ‘in which vices’ The sense, however, is not = they think it strange that ye run not with them in’ their vices into the same slough, etc. The construction of the sentence, which is somewhat dubious, may be put either thus, ‘at which matter they are astonished, namely, the matter of your not running with them,’ etc.; or thus, ‘at which state of affairs they are astonished, seeing that you do not run with them,’ etc.; or best, perhaps, thus, ‘on which account (i.e on account of the fact that ye did once walk in these excesses) they are astonished when ye do not now run with them,’ etc. The several terms are remarkable for their force and vividness. The first verb, which occurs repeatedly in the N. T., with its primary sense of ‘receive a stranger,’ ‘lodge,’ etc. (Acts 10:23; Acts 28:7; Hebrews 13:2), has here the secondary sense of ‘counting strange’ or ‘being astonished,’ which it has also in 1 Peter 4:12, and in Acts 17:20. The second (comp. also Mark 6:33; Acts 3:11) conveys the idea of eager companionship in running. The noun rendered ‘excess’ by the A. V., and the text of R. V., is not found elsewhere in the N. T. In the Classics, where also it is of very rare occurrence, it seems to mean primarily effusion or outpouring, and secondarily an estuary. Different senses are proposed for it here, some preferring the local sense of ‘sink,’ ‘slough,’ ‘puddle’ (Alford, Fronmüller, etc.); others that of ‘stream’ (Schott, etc.), or ‘flood’ (margin of R. V.); others the more general sense of ‘overflowing’ (Huther, Hofmann); others again the sense of ‘softness’ (Gerard)or ‘wantonness’(de Wette). The old Greek lexicographers explain it as=‘slackness,’ ‘looseness,’ etc. The other noun, rendered ‘riot’ by the A. V. and R. V., means rather dissoluteness or lewdness. In Greek ethics it denotes the prodigal squandering of one’s means, and then a profligate, dissolute mode of life, the two ideas of wasteful expenditure and expenditure on one’s appetites being near akin. It occurs again in Ephesians 5:18 (A. V. ‘excess’), and in Titus 1:6 (A. V. ‘riot’). The adverb is found once, viz. Luke 15:13, in the phrase ‘with riotous living.’
speaking evil of you, i.e slandering, reviling you. It is the term which, when used of God, is rendered blaspheme. With what power do these few bold strokes depict the rush of the mass of the heathen over all barriers that stand in the way of vicious indulgence, and their haste to drag others with them on to the same goal of a life of appetite! Wordsworth thinks the point of the comparison is the idea of ‘foul streams flowing together into one and the same sink;’ a metaphor which he considers peculiarly expressive ‘in countries where after violent rains the gutters are suddenly swollen, and pour their contents together with violence into a common sewer.’ With this N. T. picture of the banded troops of the Gentiles ‘rushing together in a filthy confluence for reckless indulgence and effusion in sin,’ compare such pictures in the polite literature of the heathen as that which Ovid draws of the Bacchic orgies (Met. iii 529, etc.; see also Dr. John Brown, in loc.).
1 Peter 4:5. Who shall give account; the same phrase as in Hebrews 13:17, Acts 19:40, and found on Christ’s own lips, e.g. Matthew 12:36; Luke 16:2.
to him that is ready to judge. The formula ‘ready to’ (which is used again only in Acts 21:13; 2 Corinthians 12:14), along with the tense in which the ‘to judge’ is cast, points to the last judgment as certain and near, and to the Judge as prepared to judge once for all. This Judge, too, as we may infer from the general conclusion to which chap. 1 Peter 3:17-22 led up, is Christ, the Christ who is reviled when Christians are reviled, the Christ who, in the time of His own suffering, committed His case to Him that judgeth righteously.
the quick and the dead, or simply, quick and dead. Here, as in a good many passages of Scripture (e.g. Leviticus 13:10; Numbers 16:30; Psalms 55:15; Psalms 124:3; Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 4:12), the adjective ‘quick’ has its ancient sense of ‘living,’ which is now for the most part lost. Compare Shakespeare’s
‘I had rather be set quick i’ the earth.’
Merry Wives, iii. 4, 90,
and the still current ‘cut to the quick,’ ‘quickset,’ ‘quicksilver,’ etc. The universality and impartiality of the judgment are thus expressed. For the phrase ‘quick and dead’ is not to be limited either to the heathen slanderers, or (with Schott) to the Christians who are to get their rights, whether alive or dead, at Christ’s coming. It is for the comfort of suffering believers to know that there is a judgment in waiting for their revilers, and that this judgment is in the hands of Him who will impartially give their rights to all, whether alive or dead, whether heathen or Christian.
1 Peter 4:6. For to this end was the gospel preached also to the dead, in order that they might be judged indeed according to men as regards the flesh, but live according to God as regards the spirit. There is much difference of opinion as to the sense of individual terms in this obscure passage. The main points in dispute, however, are the time, scene, and subjects of this preaching. The preaching itself can be understood only as an offer of grace. It is expressed by the well-known verb which always means to ‘bring good news,’ to ‘publish the Gospel,’ etc. Does the passage, then, speak of an offer of grace made to men after they have entered the world of the dead? Many of the most influential interpreters of the present day hold strongly that it does. Not a few affirm that only dogmatic prepossession can account for the contrary opinion. It must be admitted that the prevalent view fairly meets some of the most pressing requirements of the exegesis, and that it establishes an easy connection with the preceding verse. For the whole statement then takes this form ‘Christ is ready to judge quick and dead; and with justice shall the dead, no less than the living, be judged by Him; for His Gospel is preached to all, in the other world, if not in this.’ This interpretation, nevertheless, is burdened with very serious difficulties. Either this preaching in Hades is identified with the preaching mentioned in 1 Peter 3:19; in which case it is open to the objections already taken to the theory of a presentation of the Gospel, by the disembodied or quickened Redeemer, to the souls of the disobedient of Noah’s time in Hades. Or it is supposed that Peter now states the general truth, of which that was only a particular illustration, namely, that, through Christ’s visit to Hades, the Gospel is proclaimed to all, and that upon this basis Christ can righteously judge all, whether dead or living. But there are various considerations which tell against this reading of the verse. It does injustice, for example, to the time to which the preaching is referred. It disposes of the historical tense ‘was preached’ as if it were ‘is preached,’ or ‘shall be preached,’ and of a Gospel ministry which is distinctly described as past, as if it were a continuous process. It involves the assumptions that the term ‘dead’ must mean all the dead, and that what is given as the statement of an already accomplished fact is the statement of a general principle. It overlooks the circumstance that the act of being ‘judged according to men’ is represented as subsequent to the preaching. It introduces an irrelevant idea, when it introduces the idea of its being a righteous thing that all men should be judged by Christ because, in the other world, if not in this, the Gospel shall first have been preached to all. For Peter is not dealing with any such question as to how it shall stand with those who have not heard the Gospel in this world, but with a plain case where the Gospel is known, the case where Christians are slandered by their heathen neighbours for their fidelity to the Gospel. It is difficult, too, to see how the idea in question bears upon the exhortation which Peter is pointing. How should the mention of a Gospel preached to the dead in the under world bear upon the position of living Christians who are misrepresented by living detractors in the upper world? What encouragement to patient endurance of heathen slander should Christians find in the information that their heathen persecutors are assured of a new period of favour in the other world? Or how should the mention of Christ’s graciousness towards the unrighteous dead incite the righteous living to a persevering separation from heathen impurity? These considerations, and others of like kind, render this popular view of the passage very doubtful indeed. On the other hand, it must be frankly confessed that it is far from easy to make out an entirely satisfactory interpretation. All would run smoothly, indeed, if we could follow Augustine in taking the ‘dead’ here in the sense of the spiritually dead. But, in spite of the twofold use of the term by our Lord Himself in the saying, ‘Let the dead bury their dead’ (Matthew 8:22), it is impossible to give it a different meaning in 1 Peter 4:6 from what it has in 1 Peter 4:5. The use of the word ‘judge’ in the one clause, is also the natural key to its use in the other. This makes it unlikely that Peter’s ‘judged according to men’ is parallel in sense to Paul’s ‘delivering men to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus’ (1 Corinthians 5:5), and ‘when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord that we should not be condemned with the world’ (1 Corinthians 11:32). It is generally agreed, therefore, that the judgment spoken of must mean more than either the mortification of the flesh, or the chastening of God, and that what is referred to is physical death as the penalty of sin, the judgment from which none, not even the saved, are exempt. Subjection to this judgment, however, merely qualifies the proper object of the preaching. The two things have something like this relation to each other ‘in order that, though once judged indeed, as other men are, as regards the flesh, they might, as regards the spirit, have an enduring life such as God lives.’ The terms ‘in the flesh,’ ‘in the spirit,’ are used here as in 1 Peter 3:19. Taking all this together we have to choose between two interpretations, of which the one regards the heathen, the other the Christians, as the parties first in view. On the former interpretation the argument becomes this ‘Be not disturbed or led astray by your revilers; they have their account to give to Christ Himself, all of them, whether they be dead or living when He comes; for the object with which the Gospel was preached to those now departed, as it is preached to those now living, was to lead them to the life of God; and if they frustrate this object, it will only make their condemnation surer.’ On the latter it amounts to this, ‘Have done for ever with the vile, pagan life; the heathen will persecute you, and justify their persecutions by reviling your character; be not moved by that. Christ is Judge, and the cause of all is safe with Him, of those who die, not less than of those who survive. Your brethren who have died have their case, nevertheless, secure with Him; for the very object with which the Gospel was preached to them was that, though in their bodies they met the doom of death which is common to men, yet in their spirits they should have a life like God’s; and, should you have to suffer even unto death, it will be with you as it is with them.’ This latter interpretation is on the whole to be preferred. It fits in with the idea of the previous verse and the counsels of the whole section. It does justice to the prominence given to this ‘life according to God in the spirit’ as the great aim of the Gospel. It also points to feelings which (as we gather from Romans 8:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, etc.) were apt to disquiet the first converts, kindling as they did with the prospect of Christ’s speedy return, namely, the perplexity caused by the non-exemption of Christians from death, ‘the wages of sin,’ and the fear that those who died before Christ’s coming should somehow suffer loss.
1 Peter 4:7. But the end of all things is at hand. This indicates another turning- point in the Epistle. The subjects which are now introduced, however, are not unconnected with the previous section. The ‘end’ is the new view-point from which they are offered to the eye, but the graces themselves are such as relate specially to what Christians should be in face of temptations to heathen vice and under the burden of heathen persecution. In speaking of the ‘end,’ Peter refers neither to the mere destruction of Jerusalem, nor to the end of the lives of individuals, but to the termination which awaits the present system of-things as a whole when Christ returns. The death of the individual believer has a very secondary place in apostolic teaching. The event with which the New Testament is accustomed to fill the Christian’s vision of the future, and which it proposes as a supreme motive to a circumspect walk, is an event of universal, not of merely personal, importance that Second Coming of Christ which is to put an end to the present world itself. This ‘end,’ too, is ‘at hand’ a rendering which occurs again in Romans 13:12, Philippians 4:5, and better conveys the impending imminence of the event than the ‘draweth near’ or ‘draweth nigh,’ which appears elsewhere (Luke 21:8; James 5:8). The same expressive term is applied to the advent of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:4), to the approach of the traitor and the ‘hour’ of the Son of man (Matthew 26:45-46), to the entrance of the ‘day’ (Romans 13:12), etc. This vivid realization of the nearness of the end, which appears in all the apostolic writings, is specially characteristic of Peter. To all the New Testament writers, but perhaps specially to him, and his comrade John, their own time was the ‘last time,’ the dispensation beyond which there was to be no other, and the close of which was so near that nothing seemed to stand between them and it. Yet the chronology of the ‘end,’ as Christ Himself had taught them (Acts 1:7), was not disclosed to them, and there were things which they knew must intervene before that time (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:7). ‘This principle is to be held fast,’ says Calvin. ‘that ever since Christ first appeared, nothing is left to believers but with minds in suspense to be always intent upon His Second Advent.’
be therefore sound-minded. The word here rendered ‘sober’ by the A. V., after Cranmer and the Genevan (Wycliffe gives ‘prudent,’ Tyndale ‘discreet,’ the Rhemish ‘wise’), means literally ‘sound-minded,’ and is so used in the description of the healed demoniac as ‘in his right mind’ (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35). Then it comes to mean sober-minded y discreet, self-controlled. It points to what Jeremy Taylor calls ‘reason’s girdle and passion’s bridle,’ the healthy self-restraint which keeps the curb on appetite, extravagance, and all intemperate feeling or action. Its cognates occur almost exclusively in the Pastoral Epistles. The noun itself is found only thrice in the New Testament, in Acts 26:25 (of Paul’s ‘words of truth and soberness’); 1 Timothy 2:9, where ‘shame-fastness’ and ‘sobriety’ are coupled, the former denoting the ‘innate shrinking from anything unbecoming,’ the latter the ‘well-balanced state of mind resulting from habitual self-control’ (Ellicott); and 1 Timothy 2:15, where it is the fence of ‘charity and holiness.’ In the Classical ethics it was opposed to licentiousness and excess, and was defined by Socrates as the ‘foundation of manly virtue.’
and sober. This is an idea nearly akin to the former, though perhaps more limited. It is better translated ‘be sober than ‘watch.’ Only in two out of the six New Testament occurrences of the verb does the A. V. depart from the rendering ‘sober’ (here and in 2 Timothy 4:5). The primary sense is that of freedom from drunkenness. The secondary sense is that of wariness, and thus in the New Testament it comes to have a much larger meaning than that of the mere denial of gross appetite. It is more than doubtful, however, whether it ever means vigilance in the sense of wakefulness. See also on 1 Peter 1:13.
unto prayers. The true reading here is neither ‘prayer,’ nor ‘the prayers’ (as if the social prayers of the Church were exclusively in view), but ‘unto prayers.’ Prayer of all kinds, therefore, whether private or public, personal or social, seems to be in view. This is the end to which the cultivation of the previous graces should look, the great interest which it should advance. Soundness of mind and sobriety are essential to the prayerful frame, and specially so where the believer suffers from the contagion of vicious surroundings and the distraction of trial. Tyndale’s rendering, therefore, expresses the point most happily, ‘Be ye, therefore, discreet and sober, that ye may be apt to prayers.’ The prayerfulness which sustains the believer under heathen revilings, and brings health to the life of the Church itself, must be fed by a mind lifted above the agitations of passion and fear. This circumspect walk, too, in which self is ever under control and prayer ever in view, not fanatical excitement or retreat from duty, is what should be fostered by the thought of the imminence of the end.
The thought of Christ’s readiness to judge both quick and dead leads naturally to that of the close of the world. Peter passes thus to a new series of counsels bearing on what befits men who see the Judge approaching and the end at hand. While the former exhortations dealt mainly with the external relations of believers, these are occupied with the life within the Church itself. They fall into three series, all more or less influenced by the idea of the trials which the present order of things brings with it to Christians. In the first series certain personal and social duties are stated, which affect the inner life of the Church, and become urgent in view of the rapidly advancing end.
1 Peter 4:8. Before all things having your love one to another intense. The ‘and’ of the A. V. is cancelled by the R. V. and the best authorities. This exhortation and the following are put in the participial form, as being immediately connected with the broad counsels of 1 Peter 4:7. The preference which is given to brotherly love is not given as if it were superior to prayer and the other virtues, or as if these were to be subordinated to the interests of that, but because without it nothing else can make the inner life of the Church what it should be. Neither is it brotherly love in itself that is enjoined (for that is taken for granted), but the duty of giving it fullest scope. It is to be cultivated with ‘persevering intensity’ (Huther), as the disposition to which the soul without risk can surrender itself entirely, and which, the more it is cherished, adds new grace to sobriety and the other virtues, and deepens the life of the Church. On the ‘fervent’ of the A. V. see 1 Peter 1:22.
because love covereth a multitude of sins. A reason for the pre-eminence assigned to unreserved brotherly love. The reason is found in what love does now and naturally, within the Church. The better reading is the present ‘covereth,’ not the future ‘shall cover.’ The sentence recalls the similar statement in Proverbs 10:12. Although Peter’s version varies somewhat from it ( e.g. in introducing a ‘multitude’ for ‘all,’ using a different term for ‘sin,’ etc.), it is plain that he has the Old Testament statement in his mind, whether he is quoting directly from the Book of Proverbs or using what had come to be a current saying. The parallelism in which it is set with ‘hatred’ makes its point quite clear. It is that love works for concord, throwing a covering over sins, forgiving them, excusing them, making as little of them as possible, while the genius of hatred is the opposite. ‘ Hatred stirs strife, aggravates and makes the worst of all, but love covers a multitude of sins: it delights not in undue disclosing of brethren’s failings, doth not eye them rigidly, nor expose them willingly to the eyes of others’ (Leighton). This also is Peter’s idea. What he has in view is the influence of love upon the life of the Church. He speaks of it, therefore, as being of the nature to act as Paul describes it in his great hymn of charity, when he says it ‘beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things’ (1 Corinthians 13:7). Thus the sins referred to are our neighbour’s sins, and the covering meant is the veil of charity. The passage says nothing of the effect of love on ourselves. Far less does it lend any countenance to the Roman Catholic notion of a justification on the ground of a faith informed and animated by love. Neither is Peter’s meaning quite the same as that of James. The latter, also, makes use of this proverb (James 5:20), in illustration of what love is in relation to the sins of others. But the case which he has in view is that of the erring brother, and the covering of sins is that which love effects when it seeks and secures the brother’s reclamation.
1 Peter 4:9. hospitable one to another without murmuring. The duty of hospitality occupies a very notable place in the New Testament teaching, in respect both of private Christians and of those in office (cf. e.g. Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:10; Titus 1:8; Hebrews 13:2; 3 John 1:5-8, etc.). The characteristic Eastern virtue became of still more urgent importance among Christians in the early times of their uncertainty and trial, when families were broken up, friends divided, and homeless wanderings made a necessity. Taking it for granted, however, that the laws of hospitality are honoured, and that believers who have the power will be ready to open the door to every needy brother, Peter deals here with the spirit in which all should be done. It should be ‘without grudging,’ or rather (as the Rhemish Version and the Revised render it; while the A. V. has the support of Wycliffe, Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan), ‘without murmuring,’ that is, without giving vent to hard or selfish thoughts about the cost and trouble. The word (which is strange to Classical Greek) occurs again in John 7:12, Acts 6:1, Philippians 2:14, in all which cases the A. V. renders it murmuring. Only when hospitality is offered in this spirit does it answer to the high strain of love which should prevail among Christian brethren.
1 Peter 4:10. Even as each man received a gift, ministering the same one to another. The possession of gifts being taken for granted, the love which pledges all to open-hearted hospitality, pledges each also to use his gift for the good of others. The ‘gift’ is to be understood generally, not of official gifts merely, but (as in Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:28) of spiritual gifts of all kinds. The receipt of the gift is represented as having taken place at a definite period in the past ‘received,’ not ‘hath received’ as the R. V. puts it. It is not explained, however, whether the period referred to is the time of one’s first entrance into the truth, or the time of baptism, or that of the laying on of hands, in connection with which the special spiritual gifts of the Apostolic Age seem usually to have been communicated (comp. Acts 3:28, Acts 8:18-20, Acts 19:5-6; 1 Timothy 4:14). The law of love is to be fulfilled by ‘ministering’ (on which word see chap. 1 Peter 1:12) what is so received. The gift is not to be ‘rendered unfruitful through neglect, or perverted to the purposes of a selfish ostentation (Lillie), but is to be used as a store at the service of the Church’s need. And ‘even as’ it was received, so is it to be ministered. This ‘even as’ is understood by some to refer to the spirit of the ministering; in which case it would mean that as the gift was freely bestowed, so it should be freely and ungrudgingly used. Others think it implies that the gift was to be used according to the intention of its bestowal. The point, however, seems to be that the recipients of spiritual gifts should serve the Church each according to the measure of what he had received, or (and this seems more consistent with such parallel statements as Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:7) each according to the kind of gift received.
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. The character belonging to believers as the possessors of gifts is hereby added. They are stewards, not owners, of what they have, and they are to use it as ‘good,’ that is, honourable, stewards, against whom there shall be no reproach. What is virtually entrusted to their keeping is the ‘grace’ of God itself, from which all their particular ‘gifts’ are derived. In reference to the variety of gifts that grace is fitly termed ‘manifold’ on which see chap. 1 Peter 1:6. It is possible that Peter’s mind goes back here upon his Lord’s parables of the Talents and the Unjust Steward (Matthew 26:0; Luke 16:0).
1 Peter 4:11. If any man speaketh, as oracles of God. The words cover all the various gifts of speech, prophesying, teaching, exhorting, etc., which were known in the Church, whether official or non-official. They are enumerated in Romans 12:6-8, and 1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28. Such gifts are a part of the stewardship. They who speak in the Church are to do so, therefore, as ‘oracles of God.’ The term ‘oracles,’ which in the Classics means oracular responses, is used in the New Testament to designate Divine utterances or revelations, specially those of the Old Testament (Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2). Once it is applied to those of the New Testament itself, viz. in Hebrews 5:12, where it seems to denote the Divine testimony to Christ, or Christian doctrine as derived from revelation. It is not meant here, however, merely that those who spoke should see that what they said was accordant with Scripture or the Word of God, but that they should speak as if they themselves were oracles of God, utterers not of thoughts of their own, but of thoughts which they owe to Him.
if any man ministereth. This gift, too, is not to be limited to the official ministry of the deacon. It includes all those kinds of service, in relation to the poor, the sick, strangers, etc., which are associated with the gifts of teaching in such passages as Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28. Nothing more distinguished the primitive Church than its self-denying, enthusiastic attention to such interests. Tertullian of Carthage (A.D. 160-240) speaks of it as one of the chief felicities of marriages in Christ, that the wife was free to care for the sick and distribute her charities without hindrance, and as one of the greatest disadvantages of mixed marriages that the Christian wife was not allowed by the heathen husband to visit the house of the stranger, the hovel of the poor, the dungeon of the prisoner. (See Neander, Ch. Hist. i. 354, Bohn.) Such gifts, however, were to be used as of the strength which God supplies, that is, with the faithfulness of stewards, and with the humility befitting men who were conscious that they drew not from stores of their own, but from what God Himself furnished. The term, which the A. V. renders ‘giveth,’ is the one which in Classical Greek expressed the munificent act of the citizen who undertook to bear the heavy expense of supplying the chorus for one of the great dramatic representations. It then came to be applied, as here, to other kinds of liberal ministering or furnishing.
in order that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The object is finally added which the possessors of gifts are to set before them, and with a view to which they are to use these various gifts in the spirit already enjoined. It is that not they, but God Himself, may have the glory. God will be honoured ‘in all things,’ i.e. specially in all the gifts and ministries within the Church, just as Christian stewards recognise that all these things come to the Church from God through Christ, and are therefore to be rendered to God again through Christ in the form of service to His Church.
to whom is the glory and the dominion onto the ages of the ages. Amen. The form of this sentence, and the addition of the ‘Amen,’ lead some to suppose that Peter repeats here some familiar liturgical formula, perhaps one of those in use in the Jewish services. Whether that is the case or not, we have the same doxology in Revelation 1:6, and there it is applied to Christ. Here, however, most interpreters rightly recognise God, who is the principal subject of the whole sentence as also the subject of the doxology. The ‘glory’ of the R. V. is a better rendering than the ‘praise’ of the A. V., as the term answers to the former ‘glorified.’ The idea of the everlasting is expressed according to the Hebrew conception of eternity as the measureless succession of cycles of time. If the whole is taken in the form ‘whose is’ or ‘to whom is,’ rather than ‘to whom be,’ the sentence is introduced not as a mere ascription of praise, but as giving the reason why the glorifying of God should be the great object of the exercise of gifts. God is to be glorified in all things, because the glory in all belongs to Him, and it is the Church’s honour to realize this.
1 Peter 4:12. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial. So far the translation of the A. V. is a very happy one. The same verb is used here as in 1 Peter 4:4 (which see), and with the same sense. The affectionate address, ‘Beloved,’ which has been used already at a serious turning-point in the Epistle, is repeated here in token of the writer’s sympathy with the readers, and to conciliate their attention to what he has yet to say on a painful subject. What he says first of all is to deprecate their looking on their trials as things beyond understanding or expectation. The heathen thought it strange that Christians adopted a manner of life so different from what prevailed. And they were wrong in so thinking. Christians themselves were equally wrong in yielding to the sense of mere bewilderment at their persecutions, however strange it might seem at first that they, who were taught to regard themselves as God’s elect ones and His heirs, should be left to suffer as they did at the hand of His enemies. The trial itself is expressed by a term which is well represented by the ‘fiery trial’ of the A. V. In the Classics it means a burning, or a firing, and is used of the material processes of cooking, roasting, etc., but also at times metaphorically of burning desire, proving by fire, etc. In Proverbs 27:21 it is rendered ‘furnace,’ and the cognate verb is used of the trial of character as being like the smelting of metals (cf. Psalms 65:10; Zechariah 13:9). The only other passages of the N. T. in which the noun occurs are Revelation 18:9; Revelation 18:18, where it is rendered ‘burning.’ This ‘burning’ is said to be among you, a clause which is overlooked by the A. V., and which represents the fiery process as not remote but already at work in their midst
which comes upon you with a view to probation (or, as the R. V. paraphrases it, to prove you). The ‘which is to try you’ of the A. V. makes that future which Peter gives as present. The trial was then taking place, as the terms imply, and that with the object of proving and so purifying them. The idea, therefore, is so far the same as in chap. 1 Peter 1:7.
as though a strange thing were befalling you. The ‘some’ of the A. V. is uncalled for. Tyndale’s rendering of the verse deserves notice ‘Dearly beloved, be not troubled in this heat which is now come among you to try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you.’ The picture is that of sufferings already in operation or immediately impending. As to the apparent strangeness of such a lot Jeremy Taylor says: ‘Jesus made for us a covenant of suffering. His doctrines were such as, expressly and by consequent, enjoin and suppose sufferings and a state of affliction; His very promises were sufferings; His Beatitudes were sufferings; His rewards, and His arguments to invite men to follow Him, were only taken from sufferings in this life and the reward of sufferings hereafter.’
In this second series of exhortations to Christian duty as that is affected by the prospect of the end, Peter takes up again the case of persecution which he has touched on more than once already. The present statement, however, is neither a simple reiteration of former statements, nor a mere interlude. It gathers into a focus various things which have been previously said on the subject of suffering, particularly at the hand of the slanderous and persecuting heathen (1 Peter 1:6-7, 1Pe 2:19-21 , 1 Peter 3:16-17, 1 Peter 4:1-4). It offers at the same time a still deeper insight into what tribulation endured for Christ’s sake means, and gives additional reasons for regarding it neither as a perplexity nor as loss, but as a discipline which is both intelligible and honourable now, and which will yield a priceless return when Christ reappears. The truths, therefore, now brought under the eye of those threatened Christians are such as these that the trials of the righteous come only by God’s will, that their object is the probation of faith, that they bring with them the honour of fellowship with the suffering Lord, and that they are the earnest and measure of a glory yet to be revealed. But if they have the promise of such blessedness, it is, as Peter urges again in the most pointed terms, only if indeed they are not induced by our own fault, but borne simply for righteousness’ sake.
1 Peter 4:13. But in as far as ye partake in the sufferings of the Christ, rejoice. The article ‘the’ is prefixed to ‘Christ’ here, as if Peter had now in view His official character, or wished to call special attention to Christ’s as the only sufferings of interest in the present connection. It is the simple ‘Christ’ in the previous notices of His sufferings (chap. 1Pe 1:11 ; 1 Peter 1:19, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 Peter 4:1). In any case it is not the sufferings of the mystical Christ, but those of the personal Christ that are meant. The fellowship intended is fellowship with Christ in the things which He Himself suffered. Peter is not referring apparently to the deep mystery of a fellowship of life between Christ and believers in all things, which is the theme which Paul expounds (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:10, etc.), but to the simple fact that the world hates Christians because it hates Christ in them, and they, therefore, have to endure the same contradiction of sinners which He had to endure. In this sense they share in His sufferings, and because this is the case their trials may well be a cause of joy to them, and not of amazement. ‘The point goes higher,’ says Leighton. ‘Though we think not the sufferings strange, yet may we not well think that rule somewhat strange, to rejoice in them? No, it will be found as reasonable as the other, being duly considered; and it rests upon the same ground, which is well able to bear both. . . . But add we this, and truly it completes the reason of this way in our saddest sufferings, that in them we are partakers of the sufferings of Christ.’ The term rendered ‘inasmuch as’ by the A. V. means in 2 Corinthians 8:12, however, in proportion as; and in Romans 8:26 it seems to have the same sense (= we know not what we should pray for, in proportion to the need, to the propriety of the case). Here, therefore, the idea is probably that we should rejoice in our trials not merely because we are participants in what Christ suffered, but in so far as that is the case with us. The only sufferings which can bring us joy are those which we share with Him, sufferings like His. And the measure of the participation is the measure of the joy.
in order that also in the revelation of his glory ye may rejoice exultant. The particular expression, ‘the revelation of His glory,’ is peculiar to this passage. The same idea, and in part the same phrase, have met us, however, already in chap. 1 Peter 1:8. Peter had listened no doubt to his Lord’s own prophecies of the time when ‘the Son of man shall come in His glory’ (Matthew 25:31, etc.). He speaks here, therefore, of two joys which are open to the Christian. He distinguishes between them, and at the same time indicates the relation in which the one stands to the other. There is a present joy, a ‘ light sown for the righteous, a gladness for the upright in heart’ (Psalms 97:11), which suffering, instead of quenching it, should kindle. And there is the joy which the unveiling of the glory of the once suffering Christ shall bring with it, a joy ‘exultant’ (on which term see chap. 1 Peter 1:8) surpassing this life’s measure. When the former is enjoined in the ‘rejoice’ of the first half of the verse, it is expressed in the present tense; what is meant being a disposition of joy which has to be maintained all through the burdened present. When the latter is presented in the ‘rejoice’ (unfortunately changed by the A. V. into ‘be glad,’ as if there had been a change in the term) of the second half it is given in a different tense, which points to a joy destined to enter once for all in connection with one great event, the revelation of Christ’s glory. And the former is in order to the latter. The capacity for finding a softened, holy joy in the sufferings of the present, in so far as these are shared with Christ, is the condition of the capacity for entering into the radiant joy of the future glory.
1 Peter 4:14. If ye are reproached in the name of Christ, blessed (are ye). A reassertion, but with a more definite reference to sufferings for Christ’s sake, of the blessedness already affirmed in chap. 1 Peter 3:14. The sentence is another echo of Matthew 5:11. The phrase ‘in the name of Christ,’ which is paraphrased by both the A. V. and the R. V. as ‘for the name of Christ,’ is best interpreted, as is done by most, in the light of Christ’s own explanation in Mark 9:41 in my name, because ye belong to Christ. It covers, therefore, all kinds of reproach endured on account of bearing Christ’s name and belonging to Him.
because the Spirit of glory and of (god resteth upon you. The form of this sentence in the original is uncommon, and has led to different interpretations. According to some, it means, ‘the element of glory and the Spirit of God rest upon you’ (Plumptre, etc.); a pos s ible rendering and one yielding a good sense here. According to others the sense is, ‘the name of glory and the Spirit of God rest upon you’ (Hofmann); a rendering which gives the pertinent idea that the name of Christ, which is the cause of reproach, is nevertheless the name of honour. Bengel, supposing that in James 2:1 we should translate ‘the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory’ (instead of ‘the Lord of glory’), suggests that the term ‘glory’ here may be a title of Christ, as if = the Glorious One; a partial analogy to which may be found in Simeon’s designation of the infant Saviour ‘the glory of Thy people Israel’ (Luke 2:32). The sentence, however, is understood by most to contain two titles (some of the oldest manuscripts, indeed, make them three, by inserting the words ‘and of power’ after ‘glory’) of the same Spirit. He is first described as the Spirit of glory, i.e to whom glory belong whose nature is glory, and whose gilt, therefore, is also glory; as God also has the titles ‘the God of glory’ (Acts 7:2), and ‘the Father of glory’ (Ephesians 1:17). And it is then added that this Spirit is God’s Spirit. His relation to suffering Christians is described as a resting upon them. The word is one which, either in itself or in a compound form, occurs in several suggestive passages of the O. T., in Numbers 11:25-26, of the prophetic Spirit resting on the seventy elders; in 2 Kings 2:15, of the spirit of Elijah resting on Elisha; and above all in Isaiah 11:2 (which is probably in Peter’s mind here), of the Spirit of the Lord that was to rest upon Messiah. It is found also in some interesting connections in the N. T., as e.g. of the resting apart awhile which Christ enjoined on the Apostles (Mark 6:31); in His charge to the slumbering three in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:45; Mark 14:41); of the resting of the blessed dead from their labours (Revelation 14:13, etc.). It implies, therefore, the restful complacency with which He makes His abode with them. This is the reason why even in reproach and persecution they are ‘blessed.’ They whom the Spirit thus visits, though the shame of the Cross in heathen eyes may be theirs, have glory already with them; for He is the Spirit whose nature glory is, and where He enters, there the earnest of all glory is. They with whom the Spirit is pleased to dwell, have God Himself with them; for He is the Spirit of God, and where that presence is, there is rest. It is possible that Peter’s designation of the Spirit here is shaped by his thoughts going back to the abiding presence of God as witnessed of old to Israel by the glory-cloud in the Holy of Holies. The words ‘on their part . . . glorified’ have such weight of ancient documents, both Manuscripts and Versions, against them as to make it more than doubtful whether they belong to the original text. They see in to have been a marginal explanation or addition which found its way at an early period into the text.
1 Peter 4:15. For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer. The ‘but’ with which the A. V. begins the verse is wrong. Peter’s word is ‘for;’ which is used here with an explanatory force, going back generally upon the ruling idea of the preceding verse. It is as if it had run thus ‘It is of reproach in the name of Christ, and of that only, that I speak; for let no one suppose that he can suffer with just cause as an evil-doer, and yet have the blessedness that I affirm.’ The ‘as,’ therefore, here has again the sense of ‘in the character of.’ Four different forms of evil are named, of which these first three go together as of one kind. The first two terms denote well-known specific forms of sin which deserve all the reproach that they entail. The third (on which see chap. 1 Peter 2:12) is a general term covering other like offences, which would give just occasion for the reviling of heathen neighbours.
or as a busy-body in other men’s matters. The fourth form of evil is marked off, by the repetition of the ‘as,’ from the former three as of a different kind and gravity. The word is one which is found nowhere else in the New Testament. There seems, indeed, to be no other independent occurrence of it in the whole range of Greek literature, except once in the late writings of the so-called Dionysius the Areopagite, where it is applied to the man who rashly intrudes into a strange office. Some suppose it, therefore, to have been constructed by Peter himself for his present purpose. The Vulgate, and some eminent interpreters, including Calvin, take the sense to be ‘one who covets what belongs to others.’ So Wycliffe gives ‘desirer of other men’s goods,’ and the Rhemish Version ‘coveter of other men’s things.’ Others take it to denote an ‘informer’ (Hilgenfeld). These meanings, however, are scarcely consistent with the elements of which the word is composed. Etymologically it may mean ‘one who assumes oversight of matters not within his province,’ or ‘one who pries into other men’s matters.’ The K. V. rightly adopts the less official of these two senses ‘a meddler in other men’s matters.’ Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan agree with this, all translating ‘busy-body in other men’s matters.’ The term points, therefore, to an offence, which came as close to the peculiar temptations of Christians, as the other three forms of evil (although these may have been once all too familiar to some of the early converts from heathenism) seemed to lie at a distance from them. It is that of officious interference in the affairs of their Gentile neighbours, in excess of zeal to conform them to the Christian standard. How this might be a temptation to some Christians may be seen from the appeal made to Christ Himself by one who heard Him ‘Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me’ (Luke 12:13). That these busy-bodies were already troubling some of the churches, at least in the form of triflers bustling about what was not their own, may be gathered from what Paul had to say to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11).
1 Peter 4:16. But if (any man suffers) as a Christian; that is, in the character of a Christian, or on account of his being a Christian. The verse is of great interest as one of three passages (Acts 11:20; Acts 26:28, and this one) to which the occurrence of the name Christian in the New Testament is limited, and the only passage of the kind in the Epistles. The history of the name is a question of importance. It has been held by some to have originated with the Roman authorities (Ewald). It has also been supposed to have been at first a term of ridicule (de Wette, etc.). The generally accepted account of it, however, is that it originated with the Gentiles at Antioch, that it was formed on the model of other party names, such as Herodians, Marians, Pompeians, etc. (as = the followers of Herod, Marius, Pompey, etc.), and that it designated those to whom it was applied simply as followers of the party-leader, Christ. That it arose outside the Church is inferred from such facts as these, that in the New Testament itself other names, such as ‘disciples,’ ‘brethren,’ ‘saints,’ ‘hose of the way,’ appear in use within the Church; that even Luke, who tells us where the disciples ‘were called Christians first’(Acts 11:26), does not himself apply it to believers; and that in at least two of the three New Testament instances (Acts 26:28, and the present verse) it appears to be a term used by those outside. As it is in the highest degree unlikely that the Jews (to whom the new religionists were Nazarenes, etc., Acts 24:5) should have coined a word out of the well-known Greek form of the name of their own Messiah in order to designate those whom they so bitterly opposed, it is necessary to suppose the Gentiles to have been the authors of the term. There are certain reasons, too, why it should have emerged first in Antioch, and there at the particular juncture noticed in the Acts. The Gentile element in the Church of Antioch seems to have been large enough to prevent the Church of Christ (for the first time, too, as far as can be gathered) from being easily identified with any Jewish sect, and to make it necessary for the Gentiles to find a distinctive name for it. And the time at which the Book of Acts states this to have taken place coincides with the time when Paul and Barnabas devoted a whole year to work in Antioch, and when, consequently, the growing Christian community there could scarcely fail to draw public attention to itself. The name which was thus made for the Church by those outside it, was soon adopted by Christians themselves, and gloried in as their most proper title, while it as soon became a term of obloquy with others. By the time of the great Apologists, and probably before the close of the second century, a play upon the name had become common, ‘Christians’ being pronounced ‘Christians’ i.e followers of the Good, or Kind, One; which form appears occasionally in the manuscripts.
let him not be ashamed; or, think it a shame (cf. specially Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:12).
but glorify God in this name. The reading ‘in this name’ is better supported than the one which the A V. renders ‘on this behalf,’ and which means simply ‘in this matter’ (it occurs again in the ‘in this respect’ of 2 Corinthians 3:10, and the ‘in this behalf’ of 2 Corinthians 9:3). The phrase ‘in this name’ goes back either upon the term ‘Christian,’ or on the ‘in the name of Christ’ in 1 Peter 4:14. Those who were called to suffer for being Christians were to regard that not as a shameful thing, but as an honourable, and they were to suffer not in the spirit which took honour to themselves, but in that which gave all the glory to the God who counted them worthy of such a vocation. How soon in the history of the Church was martyrdom courted for its own sake in the spirit of the subtlest glorification of self!
1 Peter 4:17. Because it is the season for the Judgment to begin with the house of God. A reason why, under persecution and in all circumstances, they should so conduct themselves as to glorify God. The reason lies in the thought that the judgment by which God is to search all is already on the wing. The judgment is conceived of as a process which makes the house of God its starting-point, which is even now commencing there in the Church’s baptism of suffering, and which cannot stop there. The language is scarcely consistent with the idea that the destruction of Jerusalem was already an accomplished fact. To a Jew like Peter that event would be too great a catastrophe to make it likely that he should speak of it as a beginning only of judgment. The phrase ‘house of God’ has the same sense here as the ‘spiritual house’ of chap. 1 Peter 2:5, and is immediately identified with the living members of the Church in the next clause ‘if it first begin at us.’ To the ‘house of God’ itself this judgment was a process of sifting and separation, a judgment like that referred to by Paul (1 Corinthians 11:31), which had for its object that those tried by it should not be condemned with the world. But if so, what must it be to that outer, heathen world?
but if first with us, what (shall be) the end of them that disobey the gospel of God? The term translated ‘disobey’ has the same strong, positive sense here as in chap. 1 Peter 2:7-8 (which see), and in chap, 1Pe 3:1 ; 1 Peter 3:20. The ‘end’ is meant in the literal sense of the conclusion which shall come to them, or the goal they shall be brought to, not in the metaphorical sense of the recompense. Peter seems to have in his mind the sense, if not the very terms, of the solemn declarations of the prophets, e.g. Jeremiah 25:15; Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 49:12; Ezekiel 3:16; Amos 3:3. The judgment of God works its searching course out of the Church into the world of heathenism. And if it visits even the household of faith as a refining fire, what end can it portend for those who withstand the Gospel of Him whose prerogative judgment is? The question is like Christ’s in Luke 23:31. The answer, most eloquent of awe, to the question about the ‘end’ is the answer left untold. ‘There is no speaking of it: a curtain is drawn; silent wonder expresses it best, telling it cannot be expressed. How then shall it be endured?’ (Leighton).
1 Peter 4:18. And if the righteous with difficulty is saved, the ungodly and sinner, where shall he appear? These words are taken from the Greek translation of Proverbs 11:31. As they stand in the Hebrew text, their sense is somewhat doubtful. According to some, they mean simply that ‘if the righteous man has his reward on earth, much more shall the unrighteous man have his punishment.’ According to others, they mean that ‘if the righteous man is recompensed on earth for his sins, much more shall the unrighteous man be requited for his sins.’ It is the latter idea that appears in the free translation of the Septuagint, and it is this that Peter follows. The words ‘in the earth’ show that in Proverbs the requital in view is that which comes in the form of temporal blessings and chastisements. These words are omitted in the Greek Version as well as here. The word rendered ‘scarcely’ by the A. V., the R. V., and most of the old English Versions, has the sense of hardly, not quite, in the Classics, although its primitive sense was ‘with pains,’ ‘with toil.’ In the New Testament it seems to mean ‘with difficulty’ (Acts 14:18; Acts 27:7-8; perhaps even Romans 5:7), as also in the Book of Wisdom ( Wis 9:16 ), where it corresponds to ‘with labour.’ Here, therefore, it does not express any uncertainty or incompleteness in the grace of salvation, but indicates with what difficulty and at what cost even the man who is in a right relation with God, is made secure in the judgment. And if that is so, how shall it be with the man who, as being both careless of God and in practice a sinner, is in a wrong relation to the Judge? The utmost emphasis is given to the description of the person, by putting the words ‘the ungodly and sinner’ before the interrogative ‘where.’ Again the question is left to suggest its own solemn answer, an answer which is given in Psalms 1:5. It is observed that the term ‘sinner’ was almost a synonym for ‘Gentile’ one outside the pale of God’s people. Interrogations like these are hard indeed to square with the idea that in Peter’s view the end of the despisers of grace was to be restoration.
1 Peter 4:19. Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to a faithful Creator in well-doing. The ‘wherefore’ introduces this advice as an inference from what has been said about suffering, the relation of suffering Christians to their persecutors, the feelings of Christians in reference to their sufferings, and especially the hastening judgment of God which already begins in the trials of His House. In view of all this, the advice with which the train of thought is brought to a close worthy of it, is to fearless faith and earnest well-doing. The word ‘also,’ which the A. V. wrongly omits, is taken by some (Huther, etc.) to qualify the ‘wherefore,’ as if the sense were ‘For this reason, too,’ etc. But the analogous statement in 1 Peter 3:14, and the fact that throughout the present paragraph the strangeness which Christians are tempted to discover in their own subjection to suffering, indicate rather that the ‘also’ qualifies the persons. The sense, therefore, is, ‘let those also who have to suffer, strange as it may seem to them that they should have to suffer, commit their souls,’ etc. The ‘according to the will of God’ does not refer to the submissive spirit in which the sufferers endure, but to the animating consideration that their sufferings come only by God’s purpose. Their souls are regarded as a deposit which they should be willing to leave confidently in God’s hands, the term rendered ‘commit’ (which the A. V. renders ‘commit the keeping of’) being used of entrusting persons or objects of value to one’s care (Luke 12:48; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:32; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 2:2). It is the word which Christ Himself used upon the Cross ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend (or, commit) my spirit’ (Luke 23:46). The God who is to be confidently trusted with so precious a deposit is designated a faithful Creator (the ‘as’ of the A. V. must be omitted on the ground of documentary evidence); Creator (which particular term is used only this once in the New Testament, and is to be taken in the literal sense, and not as if = possessor, or as if = Creator anew), and, therefore, One who has an interest in the work of His own hands; and faithful Creator, One whom we have every reason to regard as absolutely reliable.
in well-doing. The necessary accompaniment and evidence of a true trust in God, here put emphatically last as a caution against all indolent or immoral presuming on our special relationship to God. This is the single occurrence of the noun in the New Testament. ‘To do well and to suffer well should be the only care of those who are called upon to suffer; God Himself will take care of all else’ (Bengel).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27