1 Peter 4

CHAPTER IV.

We should suffer patiently, after the example of Christ, 1.

And no longer live according to our former custom, but disregard

the scoffs of those who are incensed against us because we have

forsaken their evil ways, who are shortly to give account to

God for their conduct, 2-5.

How the Gospel was preached to Jews and Gentiles, 6.

As the end of all things was at hand, they should be sober,

watchful, charitable, benevolent, good stewards of the bounty

of Providence; and, when called to instruct others, speak as

the oracles of God, 7-11.

Of the persecutions and trials which were coming upon them, and

how they were to suffer so as not to disgrace their Christian

character, 12-16.

Judgment was about to begin at the house of God, and even the

righteous would escape with difficulty from the calamities

coming upon the Jews; but they must continue in well-doing, and

thus commit the keeping of their souls to their faithful

Creator, 17-19.

NOTES ON CHAP. IV.

Verse 1. As Christ hath suffered] He is your proper pattern;

have the same disposition he had; the same forgiving spirit, with

meekness, gentleness, and complete self-possession.

He that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin] This

is a general maxim, if understood literally: The man who suffers

generally reflects on his ways, is humbled, fears approaching

death, loathes himself because of his past iniquities, and ceases

from them; for, in a state of suffering, the mind loses its relish

for the sins of the flesh, because they are embittered to him

through the apprehension which he has of death and judgment; and,

on his application to God's mercy, he is delivered from his sin.

Some suppose the words are to be understood thus: "Those who

have firmly resolved, if called to it, to suffer death rather than

apostatize from Christianity, have consequently ceased from, or

are delivered from, the sin of saving their lives at the expense

of their faith." Others think that it is a parallel passage to

Ro 6:7, and interpret it thus: "He that hath mortified the

flesh, hath ceased from sin." Dr. Bentley applies the whole to

our redemption by Christ: He that hath suffered in the flesh hath

died for our sins. But this seems a very constrained sense.

Verse 2. That he no longer should live-in the flesh] Governed

by the base principle of giving up his faith to save his life; to

the lusts of men-according to the will of his idolatrous

persecutors; but to the will of God; which will of God is, that he

should retain the truth, and live according to its dictates,

though he should suffer for it.

Verse 3. The time past of our life] This is a complete

epitome of the Gentile or heathen state, and a proof that those

had been Gentiles to whom the apostle wrote.

1. They walked in lasciviousness, ενασελγειαις. every species

of lechery, lewdness, and impurity.

2. In lusts, επιθυμιαις. strong irregular appetites, and

desires of all kinds.

3. In excess of wine, οινοφλυγιαις. wine, and φλυω, to be

hot, or to boil; to be inflamed with wine; they were in continual

debauches.

4. In revellings, κωμοις. lascivious feastings, with drunken

songs, &c. See Clarke on Ro 13:13.

5. In banquetings, ποτοις. wine feasts, drinking matches, &c.

6. In abominable idolatries, αθεμιτοιςειδωλολατρειαις. that

is, the abominations practised at their idol feasts, where they

not only worshipped the idol, but did it with the most impure,

obscene, and abominable rites. This was the general state of the

Gentile world; and with this monstrous wickedness Christianity had

everywhere to struggle.

Verse 4. They think it strange] ξενιζονται. They wonder and

are astonished at you, that ye can renounce these gratifications

of the flesh for a spiritual something, the good of which they

cannot see.

Excess of riot] ασωτιαςαναχυσιν. Flood of profligacy;

bearing down all rule, order, and restraints before it.

Speaking evil of you] βλασφημουντες. Literally, blaspheming;

i.e. speaking impiously against God, and calumniously of you.

Verse 5. To judge the quick and the dead.] They shall give

account of these irregularities to Him who is prepared to judge

both the Jews and the Gentiles. The Gentiles, previously to the

preaching of the Gospel among them, were reckoned to be dead in

trespasses and sins, Eph 2:1-5;

under the sentence of death, because they had sinned. The Jews

had at least, by their religious profession, a name to live; and

by that profession were bound to give to God.

Verse 6. Was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead]

This is a most difficult verse; the best translations I have seen

of it are the following:-

"For this indeed was the effect of the preaching of the Gospel

to the dead, (the unconverted Gentiles,) that some will be

punished as carnal men; but others, (those converted to

Christianity,) lead a spiritual life unto God."-WAKEFIELD.

"For this purpose hath the Gospel been preached even to the

dead, (i.e. the Gentiles,) that although they might be condemned,

indeed, by men in the flesh, (their persecutors,) yet they might

live eternally by God in the Spirit."-MACKNIGHT.

"For this cause was the Gospel preached to them that were dead;

that they who live according to men in the flesh, may be

condemned; but that they who live according to God in the Spirit,

may live."-KNATCHBULL.

There are as many different translations of this verse, and

comments upon it, as there are translators and commentators. That

of Sir Norton Knatchbull, could the Greek text bear it, appears

the most simple; but that of Dr. Macknight, which is nearly the

sense given by Mr. Wesley in his Paraphrase, is more likely to be

the true one among those already proposed.

But if the apostle had the same fact in view which he mentions,

1Pe 3:19, 20,

then the antedilevians are the persons intended: For this cause-

that Christ is prepared to judge the quick and the dead, and to

dispense righteous judgment in consequence of having afforded them

every necessary advantage, was the Gospel preached by Noah to them

also who are dead-the antediluvian world, then dead in trespasses

and sins, and condemned to death by the righteous judgment of God;

but in his great compassion he afforded them a respite, that

though they were condemned as men in the flesh, (for this was

their character; my Spirit will not always strive with man,

forasmuch as he is FLESH, Ge 6:3,)

yet, hearing this Gospel by Noah, they may believe, and live

according to God in the Spirit-live a blessed life in eternity

according to the mercy of God, who sent his Spirit to strive with

them. This appears to me to be the most consistent sense;

especially as the apostle seems to refer to what he had said of the

Spirit of Christ in Noah preaching to the spirits in prison-the

rebellions that lived before the flood.

See the notes on 1Pe 3:19, 20.

Verse 7. But the end of all things is at hand] I think that

here also St. Peter keeps the history of the deluge before his

eyes, finding a parallel to the state of the Jews in his own time

in that of the antediluvians in the days of Noah. In Ge 6:13,

God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me. This

was spoken at a time when God had decreed the destruction of the

world by a flood. Peter says, The end of all things is at hand;

and this he spoke when God had determined to destroy the Jewish

people and their polity by one of the most signal judgments that

ever fell upon any nation or people.

In a very few years after St. Peter wrote this epistle, even

taking it at the lowest computation, viz., A. D. 60 or 61,

Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. To this destruction, which

was literally then at hand, the apostle alludes when he says, The

end of all things is at hand; the end of the temple, the end of

the Levitical priesthood, the end of the whole Jewish economy, was

then at hand.

If these words could be taken in any general sense, then we

might say to every present generation, The end of all things is at

hand; the end of all the good which the wicked enjoy, and the

end of all the evil which the righteous suffer.

Be-sober, and watch unto prayer.] Be sober-make a prudent and

moderate use of all you possess; and watch against all occasions

of sin; and pray for the supporting hand of God to be upon you for

good, that ye may escape the destruction that is coming upon the

Jews, and that ye may be saved from among them when the scourge

comes.

Verse 8. Have fervent charity] αγαπηνεκτενη. Intense love;

for love shall cover a multitude of sins. A loving disposition

leads us to pass by the faults of others, to forgive offences

against ourselves, and to excuse and lessen, as far as is

consistent with truth, the transgressions of men. It does not

mean that our love to others will induce God to pardon our

offences. See Clarke on Jas 5:20.

Verse 9. Use hospitality] Be ever ready to divide your bread

with the hungry, and to succour the stranger.

See Clarke on Heb 13:2.

Without grudging.] ανευγαγγυσμων. Without grumblings. Do

nothing merely because it is commanded, but do it from love to God

and man; then it will be without grumbling.

Verse 10. Hath received the gift] χαρισμα. A gift; any

blessing of providence or grace. I cannot think that the word

means here the Holy Ghost, or any of his supernatural gifts or

influences; it may include those, but it signifies any thing given

by the mere mercy and bounty of God: but perhaps in this place it

may signify some or any office in the Church; and this sense,

indeed, the connection seems to require.

Stewards of the manifold grace] Whatever gifts or endowments

any man may possess, they are properly speaking, not his own; they

are the Lord's property, and to be employed in his work, and to

promote his glory.

Verse 11. If any man speak] In order to explain or enforce

God's word, and edify his neighbour, let him do it as those did to

whom the living oracles were committed: they spoke as they were

inspired by the Holy Ghost. Those, therefore, at Pontus, &c., who

undertook to teach others, should speak by the same influence; or,

if not under this immediate influence, should speak as or

according to the oracles already delivered, grounding all their

exhortations and doctrines on some portion of that revelation

already given. This command is sent to every man upon earth in

holy orders, in pretended holy orders, or pretending to holy

orders. Their teaching should be what the oracles of God, the

Holy Scriptures, teach and authenticate.

Of the ability which God giveth] Perhaps the ministering here

may refer to the care of the poor, and the ability is the quantum

of means which God may have placed in their hands; and they are to

minister this as coming immediately from God, and lead the minds

of the poor to consider him as their benefactor, that he in all

things may be glorified through Christ Jesus. This is implied in

the essence of any charitable act: the actor is not the author,

God is the author; and the poor man should be taught to consider

him as his immediate benefactor. Those who give any thing as from

themselves, rob God; for to him the praise for all good, and the

dominion over all men and things, belong for ever and ever.

Verse 12. Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial]

πυρωσει. The burning. The metaphor is old, but noble; it

represents the Christians at Pontus as having fire cast upon them

for the trying of their faith, as gold is tried by fire,

1Pe 1:7,

to which the apostle alludes.-Macknight.

St. Peter returns here to what he had often touched upon in

this epistle, namely, to exhort the Christians to behave with

patience and integrity under their present severe persecution; to

which purpose he uses the following arguments:-

First, He intimates that it was not a strange or unusual thing

for the people of God to be persecuted.

Secondly, That if they suffered here as Christ did, they should

hereafter be glorified with him.

Thirdly, Besides the prospect of that future glory; they had at

present the Spirit of God for their support and comfort.

Fourthly, That it was an honour for any of them to suffer, not

as a malefactor, but as a Christian.

Fifthly, Though the afflictions began with the Christians, yet

the weight of the storm would fall upon the unbelievers. From

these considerations he exhorted them to persevere in their duty,

and trust all events with God. See Dodd.

Verse 14. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ] To be

reproached for the name of Christ is to be reproached for being a

Christian, that is, for being like Christ. This is the highest

honour to which any man can arrive in this world, and therefore

the apostle says to such? Happy are ye.

The Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you] As this

Divine Spirit rested upon Jesus, so does it rest upon his

persecuted followers. There is a various reading here, και

δυναμεως, and of power, which is found in some of the chief MSS.,

(the Codex Alexandrinus, and above twenty others,) the later

Syriac, all the Arabic, Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, some

copies of the Itala, Athanasius, Theophylact, Cyprian, and

Cassiodorus; and in them the whole verse reads thus: If ye be

reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of

glory, AND OF POWER, and of God, resteth upon you. This is

agreeable to our Lord's words, Mt 5:11, 12. So that what

constituted them unhappy in the sight of the world was their chief

happiness in the sight of God; they carried Christ the fountain of

blessedness in their heart, and therefore could not be unhappy.

On their part he is evil spoken of] καταμεναυτους

βλασφημειταικαταδευμαςδοξαζεται. By them he is blasphemed,

by you he is honoured.

Verse 15. But let none of you suffer-as a busybody in other

men's matters] αλλοτριοεπισκοπος. The inspector of another;

meddling with other people's concerns, and forgetting their own;

such persons are hated of all men. But some think that meddling

with those in public office is here intended, as if he had said:

Meddle not with the affairs of state, leave public offices and

public officers to their own master, strive to live peaceably with

all men, and show yourselves to be humble and unaspiring.

Verse 16. Yet if-as a Christian] If he be persecuted because

he has embraced the Christian faith, let him not be ashamed, but

let him rather glorify God on this very account. Christ suffered

by the Jews because he was holy; Christians suffer because they

resemble him.

The word χριστιανος, Christian, is used only here and in

Ac 11:26; 26:28. See the note on the former passage.

Verse 17. Judgment must begin at the house of God] Our Lord

had predicted that, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem,

his own followers would have to endure various calamities; see

Mt 24:9, 21, 22; Mr 13:12, 13; Joh 16:2, &c. Here his true

disciples are called the house or family of God. That the

converted Jews suffered much from their own brethren, the zealots,

or factions into which the Jews were at that time divided, needs

little proof; and some interpreters think that this was in

conformity to the purpose of God, (Mt 23:35:

That on you may come all the righteous blood shed from the

foundation of the world,) "that the Jewish Christians were to be

involved in the general punishment; and that it was proper to

begin at them as a part of the devoted Jewish nation,

notwithstanding they were now become the house of God, because the

justice of God would thereby be more illustriously displayed."

See Macknight. But probably the word κριμα, which we here

translate judgment, may mean no more than affliction and distress;

for it was a Jewish maxim that, when God was about to pour down

some general judgment, he began with afflicting his own people in

order to correct and amend them, that they might be prepared for

the overflowing scourge. In Bava Kama, fol. 60, 1, we have the

same sentiment, and in nearly the same words, as in Peter, viz.:

"God never punishes the world but because of the wicked, but he

always begins with the righteous first. The destroyer makes no

difference between the just and the unjust, only he begins first

with the righteous." See Eze 9:1-7, where God orders the

destroyer to slay both old and young in the city: But, said he,

begin at my sanctuary.

And if it first begin at us] Jews, who have repented, and

believed on the Son of God; what shall the end be of them-the Jews

who continue impenitent, and obey not the Gospel of God? Here is

the plainest reference to the above Jewish maxim; and this, it

appears, was founded upon the text which St. Peter immediately

quotes.

Verse 18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved] If it shall

be with extreme difficulty that the Christians shall escape from

Jerusalem, when the Roman armies shall come against it with the

full commission to destroy it, where shall the ungodly and the

sinner appear? Where shall the proud Pharisaic boaster in his own

outside holiness, and the profligate transgressor of the laws of

God, show themselves, as having escaped the Divine vengeance? The

Christians, though with difficulty, did escape, every man; but not

one of the Jews escaped, whether found in Jerusalem or elsewhere.

It is rather strange, but it is a fact, that this verse is the

Septuagint translation of Pr 11:31:

Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more

the wicked and the sinner. For this the Septuagint and St. Peter

have, If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly

and the sinner appear? Such a latitude of construction can

scarcely be accounted for. The original is this:

hen tsaddik baarets

yeshullam, aph ki rasha vechote: "Behold, to the righteous it

shall be returned on the earth; and also to the wicked and the

transgressor."

The Chaldee paraphrast has given this a different turn: Behold,

the righteous shall be strengthened in the earth; but the ungodly

and the sinners shall be consumed from the earth.

The Syriac thus: If the righteous scarcely live, the ungodly

and the sinner where shall he stand?

The Arabic is nearly the same as the Septuagint and the

apostle; the Vulgate follows the Hebrew.

I have on several occasions shown that, when Cestius Gallus

came against Jerusalem, many Christians were shut up in it; when

he strangely raised the siege the Christians immediately departed

to Pella in Coele-syria, into the dominions of King Agrippa, who

was an ally of the Romans, and there they were in safety; and it

appears, from the ecclesiastical historians, that they had but

barely time to leave the city before the Romans returned under the

command of Titus, and never left the place till they had destroyed

the temple, razed the city to the ground, slain upwards of a

million of those wretched people, and put an end to their civil

polity and ecclesiastical state.

Verse 19. Suffer according to the will of God] A man suffers

according to the will of God who suffers for righteousness' sake;

and who, being reviled, reviles not again.

Commit the keeping of their souls] Place their lives

confidently in his hand, who, being their Creator, will also be

their preserver, and keep that safely which is committed to his

trust. God is here represented as faithful, because he will

always fulfil his promises, and withhold no good thing from them

that walk uprightly.

But they had no reason to hope that he would care for their

lives and souls unless they continued in well-doing. He who is

employed in God's work will have God's protection. The path of

duty ever was, and ever will be, the only way of safety.

1. THE apostle recommends fervent charity-unfeigned love both

to God and man. It is well said of this grace that it is a

universal virtue which ought to precede, accompany, and follow,

all others. A charity which has God for its principle, and Jesus

Christ for its pattern, never faileth. If our charity be

extensive enough to cover all the defects of our neighbour in

bearing with them; that of God is sufficient to cover all the sins

of a sincere penitent by blotting them out. If we ought to be

charitable to all, it is after the example of our heavenly Father,

who is loving to every man, and hateth nothing that he has made.

2 The difficulty of escaping the corruption that is in the

world is great; and, consequently, the danger of losing our souls.

In this great work, watchfulness, prayer; faith, and obedience,

are indispensably necessary. He who does not walk with God here

cannot see nor enjoy him hereafter.

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