1 Peter 4:3
(3) For the time past of our life.--There are two words in the English here which do not stand in the true text, and sadly impede the sense. They are "of our life," and "us." The first is added by some scribe to point the contrast with "the rest of his time." The second--which should be "you," if anything at all--is simply put to fill the gap after the word "suffice." If "our life" and "us" were right, we should have St. Peter, quite unlike his wont, identifying himself with the bad life here described, as though he himself had shared in it.

May suffice.--It is the same word as in Matthew 6:34; Matthew 10:25, and would be, literally, For sufficient is the past. There is an irony in the word similar to that in 1Peter 3:17, "it is better."

To have wrought.--Rather, to have perpetrated. The Greek word denotes the accomplishment of a criminal purpose, as in Romans 2:9; 1Corinthians 5:3; and one passage more horrid still.

The will of the Gentiles.--Just as, in 1Peter 4:2, there was a contrast between man's manifold and conflicting lusts and God's unity of will, so there is a contrast now between God's "will" and (for the Greek word is quite different) the heathen's "wish." "To have perpetrated the heathen's wish" means to have done the bad things which the heathen wanted them to be guilty of. The heathen were fain to catch them at malpractices. (See Note on 1Peter 2:12, and the word "speaking evil" below.)

When we walked.--A participle in Greek, which gives no support to the use of "we," but means simply having proceeded. Thus it does not directly state that they had so proceeded, for the participle explains the foregoing verb: "The past is sufficient to have done what the heathen want you to have done--viz., to have walked."

Lasciviousness.--It should be plural, expressing the repeated acts of sin. The word in Greek means any outrageous debauchery, so that it may be said to include all the words that follow.

Excess of wine, in like manner, should be plural. It is a contemptuous word (wine-swillings), and differs from the word translated "banquetings", below, because the latter is more refined, and also implies company, which the first need not. The "revellings" might mean any roystering parties, but contains more of the notion of making a pretext of a meal than "banquetings," which consist solely of drinking.

Abominable idolatries.--It is not as idolatries that they are called abominable, but because of the abominable adjuncts of the idol-festivals. This clause is the main support of those who think that the Letter was written to converts from heathenism and not from Judaism. How, it is urged, could St. Peter have said to persons who had been brought up as Jews, "The time past is long enough for you to have proceeded in abominable idolatries"? The argument is most convincing as it stands. If they had been living in idolatry, it is incredible that they were of Hebrew race: if they were of Hebrew race, it is incredible that they should have lived in idolatry. But, as a matter of fact, St. Peter does not say that they ever had lived in those sins. Quite on the contrary, he says, in 1Peter 4:4, that the heathen found, to their surprise, that the Christians would not go with them in these things; and that, finding it to be so, they "blasphemed" or slandered them in this very respect. It may, perhaps, be answered that the Apostle is alluding to a period long past, and contrasting it with the present which so puzzled the Gentiles. But there is no ground for taking "the time past" to mean the time up to the date of their conversion to Christianity. It is simply "your past time" (i.e., the whole up to the date of the Letter), in contrast with "the rest of your time" (1Peter 4:2, literally, your remaining time), i.e., the whole subsequent to the date of the Letter; so that it cannot mean, "The heathen think it strange that you do not join their profligate courses as you used in old days," in which case we should naturally have expected him to say, "They think it strange that ye no longer run with them." Besides, it seems plain, from 1Peter 4:2, that. whatever may be meant by "perpetrating the wish of the Gentiles," it was still a present danger when St. Peter wrote, or there would be little point in mentioning it at all. But if he means that, up to the date of the Letter, some of the recipients of it had been living in "abominable idolatries," how could he continue that the Gentiles were astonished that they did not do so? for if the idolatries meant were the heathen's own idolatries, the heathen would have been aware of their joining them, and it would have been no "slander" to say so. The conclusion is, that neither before nor after their conversion had they been really proceeding thus. St. Peter is, in fact, only putting in words the slander of the Gentiles, at which he had hinted in 1Peter 2:12-15; 1Peter 3:16. "For the future," says he, "live to the will of God, not to the lusts of men. The past is long enough (without invading the future) to have perpetrated what the heathen want you to have perpetrated--viz., to have been proceeding in debaucheries and abominable idolatries--slandering you in that very point wherein they are puzzled if you do not run with them to the same excess of riot." As an historical fact, these are the very calumnies which we find to have been brought against the early Christians--idolatries and all. The filthy idolatry ascribed to the Christians by the heathen may be found recorded in Tertullian's Apology, and (so it is said) on the walls of Pompeii. But what, then, does St. Peter mean when he says that the past is sufficient to have perpetrated what the heathen wanted? It certainly implies that some of them had, even since their conversion, been doing what the malicious heathen would be glad to see them do. But we have already noticed that he is speaking ironically in using the word "sufficient," and the irony continues through the rest of the clause. "Some of you have been living, up to the present time, more or less to human lusts (1Peter 4:2). You have done so quite long enough now. You have quite sufficiently gratified the Gentiles, who long to prove that you are no better than themselves." The argument is like that which Nestor, in Homer, addresses to the wrangling Greek captains:--

"Sure Priam would rejoice, and Priam's sons,

Could they but learn this feud betwixt you twain."

We may observe, further, that all through the Epistle St. Peter appears to have dread of a doctrine which was fast beginning to rise among the Asiatic Christians--that such sins as fornication and idolatry, being but bodily, were venial, especially in time of persecution. (See 1Peter 1:4; 1Peter 1:15; 1Peter 2:11; 1Peter 5:8.) Such pernicious doctrine was probably founded on a "wresting" of St. Paul's teaching (2Peter 3:16) on eating things offered to idols; from which it was concluded that the accompanying impurities were innocent likewise. This doctrine becomes very prominent in the Second Epistle; and in the Apocalypse there is even some reason to connect it specially with the Jewish element in the Church. (Comp. together 2Peter 2:15; Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:14-15, with Revelation 2:9.)

Verse 3. - For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles; rather, as in the Revised Version, the time past may suffice. The words, "of our life" and "us," are not found in the best manuscripts. St. Peter could not include himself among those who wrought the will of the Gentiles. The Greek word for "will" here is, according to the best manuscripts, βούλημα; in ver. 2 "the will of God" is θέλημα. The general distinction is that θέλω implies choice and purpose, βούλομαι merely inclination (compare, in the Greek, Philemon 1:13, 14). The change of word seems to point to such a distinction here. God's will is a fixed, holy purpose; the will, or rather wish, of the Gentiles was uncertain inclination, turned this way or that way by changeful lusts. The perfect infinitive, "to have wrought," implies that that part of life ought to be regarded as a thing wholly past and gone. The whole sentence has a tone of solemn irony. "Fastidium peccati apud resipiscentes" (Bengel); comp. Romans 6:21. St. Peter is here addressing Gentile Christians. Fronmüller's objection is peculiar: "Suppose that the readers of Peter's Epistle had formerly been heathens, his reproaching them with having formerly done the will of the Gentiles would surely be singular." They had done the will of the Gentiles; they were now, as Christians, to do the will of God. When we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries; better, as in the Revised Version, and to have walked. There is no pronoun. Lusts are the hidden sins of unclean thought, which lead to outbreaks of lasciviousness. The Greek word for "revellings" (κῶμοι) is one often used of drunken youths parading the streets, or of festal processions in honor of Bacchus. The word translated "banquetings" means rather "drinking-bouts." The word for "abominable" is ἀθεμίτοις, unlawful, nefarious, contrary to the eternal principles of the Divine Law; "quibus sanctissimum Dei jus violatur" (Bengel). St. Peter is probably referring, not only to the sin of idolatry in itself, but also to the many licentious practices connected with it. After the persecution of Nero, in which St. Peter perished, Christianity was regarded by the state as a religio illicita. Christianity was condemned by the law of Rome; idolatry is opposed to the eternal Law of God. This verse could not have been addressed to Hebrew Christians.

4:1-6 The strongest and best arguments against sin, are taken from the sufferings of Christ. He died to destroy sin; and though he cheerfully submitted to the worst sufferings, yet he never gave way to the least sin. Temptations could not prevail, were it not for man's own corruption; but true Christians make the will of God, not their own lust or desires, the rule of their lives and actions. And true conversion makes a marvellous change in the heart and life. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, and conversation. When a man is truly converted, it is very grievous to him to think how the time past of his life has been spent. One sin draws on another. Six sins are here mentioned which have dependence one upon another. It is a Christian's duty, not only to keep from gross wickedness, but also from things that lead to sin, or appear evil. The gospel had been preached to those since dead, who by the proud and carnal judgment of wicked men were condemned as evil-doers, some even suffering death. But being quickened to Divine life by the Holy Spirit, they lived to God as his devoted servants. Let not believers care, though the world scorns and reproaches them.For the time past of our life may suffice us,.... The word "our" is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions. The Arabic version reads, "the time of your past life"; and to the same purpose the Ethiopic version; and which seems to be the more agreeable reading, since it can hardly be thought that the apostle would put himself among the Jews dispersed among the Gentiles, who had walked with them in their unregeneracy, in all the sins hereafter mentioned, and best agrees with the following verse:

to have wrought the will of the Gentiles; or "when ye wrought", as the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions;

when we walked, or "were walking in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries". These converted persons, in the past time of their life, before conversion, "walked" in sin; which denotes a series and course of sinning, a persisting and progress in it, with delight and pleasure, promising themselves security and impunity: the particular sins they walked in are reducible to these three heads, unchastity, intemperance, and idolatry:

in lasciviousness, lusts; which belong to the head of uncleanness, and take in all kinds of it; as fornication, adultery, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts:

excess of wine, revellings, banquetings; which refer to intemperance of every sort, by eating or drinking: as gluttony, drunkenness, surfeitings, and all luxurious feasts and entertainments, attended with riotings, revellings, and obscene songs; and which are here mentioned in the Syriac and Arabic versions, and which lead to lasciviousness, and every unclean lust:

and abominable idolatries; which some understand of worshipping of angels; but they seem rather to intend the idolatries the Jews were led into by the feasts of the Gentiles, either at their own houses, or in the idol's temple; by which means they were gradually brought to idolatry, and to all the wickedness and abominations committed by them at such times: and it is easy to observe, that the two former, uncleanness and intemperance, often lead men into idolatry; see Exodus 32:6. Now when they walked in these things, they "wrought the will of the Gentiles"; they did the things which the sinners of the Gentiles, the worst of men, that knew not God, took pleasure in, and what they would have others do; and therefore, since the past time of their life had been spent in such a way, it was sufficient, and more than sufficient; see Ezekiel 44:6, for no time is allowable for sin; and therefore it became them for the future, and in the remaining part of life, to behave in another manner; not to do the will of the Gentiles, but the will of God; to which that grace of God obliged them, that had made a difference between what they were themselves formerly, and themselves now, and between themselves, and others.

1 Peter 4:2
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