1 Peter 4
Pulpit Commentary
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
Verse 1. - Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh. St. Peter returns, after the digression of 1 Peter 3:19-22, to the great subject of Christ's example. The words "for us" are omitted in some ancient manuscripts; they express a great truth already dwelt upon in 1 Peter 2. and 3. Here the apostle is insisting upon the example of Christ, not on the atoning efficacy of his death. Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind. The word rendered "mind" (ἔννοια) is more exactly "thought" (comp. Hebrews 4:12, the only other place where it occurs in the New Testament); but it certainly has sometimes the force of "intention, resolve." The Christian must be like his Mustier; he must arm himself with the great thought, the holy resolve, which was in the mind of Christ - the thought that suffering borne in faith frees us from the power of sin, the resolve to suffer patiently according to the will of God. That thought, which can be made our own only by faith, is the Christian's shield; we are to arm ourselves with it against the assaults of the evil one (comp. Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11). For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin. The thought is that of Romans 6:6-11. Some translate the conjunction ὅτι, "that," and understand it as giving the content of the ἔννοια: "Arm yourselves with the thought that," etc.; but this does not give so good a sense, and would seem to require ταύτην rather than τὴν αὐτήν ( " this thought," rather than "the same thought." Some, again, understand this clause of Christ; but this seems a mistake. The apostle spoke first of the Master; now he turns to the disciple. Take, he says, for your amour the thoughts which filled the sacred heart of Christ - the thought that suffering in the flesh is not, as the world counts it, an unmixed evil, but often a deep blessing; for, or because, he that suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin. If, when we are called to suffer, we offer up our sufferings to Christ who suffered for us, and unite our sufferings with his by faith in him, then those sufferings, thus sanctified, destroy the power of sin, and make us cease from sin (comp. Romans 6:10).
That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
Verse 2. - That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh. On the whole, it seems better to connect this clause with the imperative: "Arm yourselves with the same mind, that ye no longer should live the rest of your time;" rather than with the clause immediately preceding: "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live," etc.; though both connections give a good sense. The Greek word for "live" (βιῶσαι) occurs only here in the New Testament. Bengel says, "Aptum verbum, non die fur de brutis.' "In the flesh "here means simply "in the body," in this mortal life. "The rest of your time" suggests the solemn thought of the shortness of our earthly pilgrimage: bye for eternity. To the lusts of men, but to the will of God. The datives are normal; they express the pattern or rule according to which our life ought to be fashioned. God's will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That will is ever the same, a fixed, unchanging rule; the lusts of men are shifting, uncertain, restless.
For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
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.
Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
Verse 4. - Wherein they think it strange. Wherein, in which course of life, in the fact that the Christians once lived like the Gentiles, but now are so wholly changed. The word ξενίζεσθαι means commonly to be a guest, to live as a stranger in another's house (Acts 10:6, 18; Acts 21:16); here it means to be astonished, as at some strange sight, as such guests would no doubt sometimes be (comp. ver. 12 and Acts 17:20). That ye run not with them to the same excess of riot. The Greek words are very strong, "while ye run not with them," as if the Gentiles were running greedily in troops to riot and ruin. The word for "excess" (ἀνάχυσις) is found here only in the New Testament; it means" an overflowing;" the rendering sentina ("a sewer" or "cesspool") is doubtful. The word rendered "riot" (ἀδωτία) occurs also in Ephesians 5:18 and Titus 1:6, and is used in the adverbial form in describing the recklessness of the prodigal son (Luke 15:13). It means that lost state in which a man is given up to self-indulgence, and saves neither reputation, earthly position, nor his immortal soul. Speaking evil of you; better, perhaps, translated literally, blaspheming. The words "of you" are not in the original; they who revile Christians for well-doing are blasphemers, they speak really against God.
Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
Verse 5. - Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. The judgment is at hand; the Judge standeth before the door; all men, quick and dead alike, must give account to him. It is better to suffer now for well-doing than then for evil-doing. Men call you to give account now (1 Peter 3:15); they themselves must give account to God.
For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Verse 6. - For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead. The conjunction "for" seems to link this verse closely to ver. 5, while the καί ("also" or "even") gives an emphasis to" them that are dead" (καὶ νεκροῖς). We naturally refer these last words to the καὶ νεκρούς of the preceding verse. The apostle seems to be meeting an objection. The Thessalonian Christians feared lest believers who fell asleep before the second advent should lose something of the blessedness of those who should be alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord. On the other hand, some of St. Peter's readers may, perhaps, have thought that those who had passed away before the gospel times could not be justly judged in the same way as those who then were living. The two classes, the living and the dead, were separated by a great difference: the living had heard the gospel, the dead had not; the living had opportunities and privileges which had not been granted to the dead. But, St. Peter says, the gospel was preached also to the dead; they too heard the glad tidings of salvation (καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη). Some have thought that the word "dead" is used metaphorically for the dead in trespasses and sins. But it seems scarcely possible to give the word a literal sense in ver. 5 and a metaphorical sense in ver. 6. Some understand the apostle as meaning that the gospel had been preached to those who then were dead, before their death; but it seems unnatural to assign different times to the verb and the substantive. The aorist εὐηγγελίσθη directs our thoughts to some definite occasion. The absence of the article (καὶ νεκροῖς) should also be noticed; the words assert that the gospel was preached to dead persons - to some that were (lead. These considerations lead us to connect the passage with 1 Peter 3:19, 20. There St. Peter tells us that Christ himself went and preached in the spirit "to the spirits in prison;" then the gospel was preached, the good news of salvation was announced, to some that were dead. The article is absent both here and in ver. 5 (ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς). All men, quick and dead alike, must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; so St. Peter may not have intended to limit the area of the Lord's preaching in Hades here, as he had done in 1 Peter 3. There he mentioned one section only of the departed; partly because the Deluge furnished a conspicuous example of men who suffered for evil-doing, partly because he regarded it as a striking type of Christian baptism. Here, perhaps, he asserts the general fact - the gospel was preached to the dead; perhaps (we may not presume to dogmatize in a matter so mysterious, about which so little is revealed) to all the vast population of the underworld, who had passed away before the gospel times. Like the men of Tyre and Sidon, of Sodom and Gomorrah, they had not seen the works or heard the words of Christ during their life on the earth; now they heard from the Lord himself what he had done for the salvation of mankind. Therefore God was ready to judge the quick and the dead, for to both was the gospel preached. That they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. The gospel was preached to the dead for this end (εἰς τοῦτο), that they might be judged indeed (ἵνκριθῶσι μέν), but nevertheless live (ζῶσι δέ). The last clause expresses the end and purpose of the preaching; the former clause, though grammatically dependent upon the conjunction ἵνα, states a necessity antecedent to the preaching (comp. Romans 6:17, "God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart;" and Romans 8:10, "If Christ be in you, the body indeed is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness." The meaning seems to be - the gospel was preached to the dead, that, though they were judged, yet they might live. They had suffered the judgment of death, the punishment of human sin. Christ had been put to death in the flesh (1 Peter 3:18) for the sins of others; the dead had suffered death in the flesh for their own sins. They had died before the manifestation of the Son of God, before the great work of atonement wrought by his death; but that atonement was retrospective - he "taketh away the sin of the world;" its saving influences extended even to the realm of the dead. The gospel was preached to the dead, that, though they were judged according to men (that is, after the fashion of men, as all men are judged), yet they might live in the spirit (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:5, "To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"). The verb κριθῶσι, "might he judged," is aorist, as describing a single fact; the verb ζῶσι, "might live," is present, as describing a continual state. According to God. God is Spirit; and as they that worship him must worship in spirit, so they who believe in him shall live in spirit. The future life is a spiritual life; the resurrection-bodies of the saints will be spiritual bodies, for" flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." But κατὰ Θεόν may also mean "according to the will of God" (as in Romans 8:27), according to his gracious purpose, and in that life which he giveth to his chosen, that eternal life which lieth in the knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
Verse 7. - But the end of all things is at hand. The mention of the judgment turns St. Peter's thoughts into another channel. The end is at hand, not only the judgment of persecutors and slanderers, but the end of persecutions and sufferings, the end of our great conflict with sin, the end of our earthly probation: therefore prepare to meet your God. The end is at hand: it hath drawn near. St. Peter probably, like the other apostles, looked for the speedy coming of the Lord. It was not for him, as it is not for us, "to know the times or the seasons" (Acts 1:7). It is enough to know that our own time is short. When St. Peter wrote these words, the end of the holy city, the center of the ancient dispensation, was very near at hand; and behind that awful catastrophe lay the incomparably more tremendous judgment, of which the fall of Jerusalem was a figure. That judgment, we know now, was to be separated by a wide interval from the dale of St. Peter's Epistle. But that interval is measured, in the prophetic outlook, not by months and years. We are now living in "the last times" (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 2:18). The coming of our Lord was the hennaing of the last period in the development of God's dealings with mankind; there is no further dispensation to be looked for. "Not only is there nothing mere between the Christian's present state of salvation and the end, but the former is itself already the end, i.e. the beginning of the end" (Schott, quoted by Huther). Be ye therefore sober; rather, self-restrained, calm, thoughtful. The thought of the nearness of the end should not lead to excitement and neglect of common duties, as it did in the case of the Thessalonian Christians, and again at the approach of the thousandth year of our era. And watch unto prayer; rather, be sober unto prayers. The word translated "watch" in the Authorized Version is not that which we read in our Lord's exhortation to "watch and pray." The word used here (νήψατε) rather points to temperance, abstinence from strong drinks, though it suggests also that wariness and cool thoughtfulness which are destroyed by excess. The Christian must be self-restrained and sober, and that with a view to perseverance in prayer. The aorist imperatives, perhaps, imply that St. Peter's readers needed to be stirred up (2 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 3:1), to be aroused from that indifference into which men are so apt to fall. The exhortation to persevere in watchfulness would be expressed by the present.
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
Verse 8. - And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; more literally, before all things, having your love towards one another intense. The existence of charity is taken for granted. Christians must love one another; love is the very badge of their profession. The apostle urges his readers to keep that love intense, and that before all things; for charity is the first of Christian graces. (On the word "intense" (ἐκτενής), see note on 1 Peter 1:22.) For charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Read and translate, with the Revised Version, for love covereth a multitude of sins. If St. Peter is directly quoting Proverbs 10:12, he is not using the Septuagint, as he commonly does, but translating from the Hebrew. The Septuagint rendering is quite different, Πάντας δὲ τοὺς μὴ φιλονεικοῦντας καλύπτει φιλία. But it may be that the words had become proverbial. We find them also in James 5:20, "He which converteth the sinner... shall hide a multitude of sins." St. James means that he will obtain God's forgiveness for the converted sinner; but in Proverbs 10:12 the meaning (as is plain from the context) is that love covers the sins of others; does not stir up strifes, as hatred does, but promotes concord by concealing and forgiving sins. This is probably St. Peter's meaning here: "Take care that your charity is intense, for only thus can you forgive as you are bidden to forgive, as you hope to be forgiven." Perhaps he was thinking of the "seventy times seven," to which the Lord had told him that forgiveness was to extend. But his words may well be understood as implying more than this. Love shown in forgiving others will win forgiveness for yourselves: "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." Love manifested in converting others will cover their sins, and obtain God's forgiveness for them. In the deepest sense, it is only the love of Christ energizing in his atoning work which can cover sin; but true charity, Christian love, flows from that holiest love. "Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." Therefore in some sense Christian love, flowing from the love of Christ, and bringing the Christian very near to Christ, covers sins; for it keeps the Christian close to the cross, within the immediate sphere of the blessed influences of the atonement, so that he becomes a center of grace, a light kindled from the true Light, a well of living waters fed by the one fountain which is opened for sin and for uncleanness. The mutual love of Christians, their kindly words and deeds, check the work of sin; their prayers, their intercessions, call down the forgiveness of God. Therefore, in the view of the approaching end, charity is before all things precious for our own souls and for the souls of others.
Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
Verse 9. - Use hospitality one to another; literally, being hospitable (comp. Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:2 3John 5). Hospitality must have been a necessary, and often a costly, duty in the early ages of the Church. There was no public provision for the poor. Christians traveling from place to place would find no suitable shelter except in the houses of Christians. They would be obliged to avoid the public houses of entertainment, where they would be exposed often to danger, always to temptation; only the private houses of Christians would be safe for them. Hence the use of the "letters of commendation," mentioned by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 3:1). Those who brought such letters were to be received in Christian homes. The well-known 'Teaching of the Twelve Apostles' speaks of this right of hospitality, and gives cautions against its abuse. Tim apostle is not speaking of ordinary social gatherings; they have their place and their utility in the Christian life, but they do not, as a rule, afford scope for the higher self-denials of Christian charity (comp. Luke 14:12, 13). Without grudging. Such hospitality would be always costly, often inconvenient, sometimes attended with danger, as in the case of the first British martyr; but it was to be without murmuring. Murmuring would take from the hospitality all its beauty; it should be offered as a gift of love, and Christian love can never murmur (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:7).
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Verse 10. - As every man hath received the gift; rather, according as each received a gift. The aorist ἔλαβεν, "received," seems to point to a definite time, as baptism, or the laying on of hands (comp. Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6; 1 Timothy 4:14). For the gift (χάρισμα), comp. Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4, "There are diversities of gifts." Even so minister the same one to another; literally, ministering it towards one another. The gifts of grace, whatever they may be, are talents entrusted to individual Christians for the good of the whole Church; those who have them must use them to minister to the wants of others (comp. 1 Peter 1:12, where the same word, διακονεῖν, to minister, is used of the gift of prophecy). As good stewards of the manifold grace of God. We seem to see here a reference to the parable of the talents (comp. also 1 Corinthians 4:1; Titus 1:7). Christians must be "good stewards (καλοὶ οἰκονόμοι)." There should be not only exactness, but also grace and beauty in their stewardship - the beauty which belongs to holy love, and flows from the imitation of him who is "the good Shepherd (ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός).";;The gifts (χαρίσματα) are the manifestations of the grace (χάρις) of God; that grace from which all gifts issue is called manifold (ποικίλη), because of the diversities of its gifts, the variety of its manifestations.
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Verse 11. - If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. St. Peter proceeds to give examples of the proper use of gifts. One of those gifts is utterance. The apostle means all Christian utterance, whether public in the Church, or private in Christian conversation or ministrations to the sick. The second clause may be also rendered, as in the Revised Version, "speaking as it were oracles of God." It is more natural to supply the participle" speaking" than "let him speak," after the analogy of διακονοῦντες ("ministering") in ver. 10. For the word λόγια, oracles, see Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; also Hebrews 5:12, in which last place the Scriptures of the New Testament seem to be intended. The apostle's meaning may be either that the Christian teacher was to speak as do the oracles of God, that is, the Scriptures, or (and the absence of the article rather favors this view) that he was so to yield himself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that his teaching should be the teaching of God; he was to seek no praise or reward for himself, but only the glory of God. Those who with single-hearted zeal seek God's glory do speak as it were oracles of God, for he speaketh by them (camp. Mark 13:11). If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth. Again it is better to supply the participle "ministering." Whatever a man's gifts may be, he must minister them for the good of the whole Church (see ver. 9; also Romans 12. S; 1 Corinthians 12:28). And this he must do as of the strength which God supplieth; the strength is not his - God giveth it. The verb χορηγεῖ, rendered "giveth," is used in classical Greek first of supplying the expenses of a chorus, then of liberal giving generally; it occurs in 2 Corinthians 9:10. The compound, ἐπιχορηγεῖν, is more common; St. Peter has it in the Second Epistle (1. 5, 11). That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The glory of God should be the one end of all Christian work. The Lord himself had said so in the sermon on the mount, in words doubtless well remembered by the apostle (Matthew 5:16; camp. 1 Corinthians 10:31). To whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen; rather, as in the Revised Version, whose is the glory and dominion for the ages of ages. It is thought by some that St. Peter is here quoting from some ancient form of prayer; the use of the "Amen," and the resemblance to Revelation 1:6 and Rev 5:13, seem to favor this supposition. It is uncertain whether this doxology is addressed to God the Father or to the Lord Jesus Christ; the order of the words is in favor of the latter view, and the doxology closely resembles that in Revelation 1:6.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Verse 12. - Beloved, thank it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; literally, be not astonished at the burning among you, which is coming to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were happening to you. St. Peter returns to the sufferings of his readers. The address, "beloved," as in 1 Peter 2:11, shows the depth of his sympathy with them. He resumes the thought of 1 Peter 1:7; the persecution is a burning, a fiery furnace, which is being kindled among them for a trial, to try the strength of their faith. The present participles imply that the persecution was already beginning; the word πύρωσις, a burning (see Revelation 18:9, 18), shows the severity. St. Peter tells them its meaning: it was to prove them; it would turn to their good. Persecution was not to be regarded as a strange thing. The Lord had foretold its coming. St. Paul, in his first visit to Asia Minor, had warned them that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (On the word ξένιζεσθαι, see note on ver. 4.) The thing was not strange; they were not to count it as strange; they must learn, so to speak, to acclimatize themselves to it; it would brace their energies and strengthen their faith.
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
Verse 13. - But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings. St. Peter speaks in stronger language; he repeats the Lord's words in Matthew 5:12. Christians should learn to rejoice in persecution; they must rejoice in so far as, in proportion as (καθό), they are partakers of Christ's sufferings (see 2 Corinthians 9:10; Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 13:13). Suffering meekly borne draws the Christian nearer to Christ, lifts him, as on a cross, nearer to the crucified Lord; but this it does only when he looks to Jesus in his suffering, when the eye of faith is fixed upon the cross of Christ. Then faith unites the sufferings of the disciple with the sufferings of his Lord; he is made a partaker of Christ's sufferings; and so far as suffering has that blessed result, in such measure he must rejoice in his sufferings. That, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy; literally, that in the revelation of Ms glory also ye may rejoice exulting. The word for "exulting," ἀγαλλιώμενοι, corresponds with that used in 1 Peter 1:6 and in Matthew 5:12 (χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε). Joy in suffering now is the earnest of the great joy of the redeemed at the revelation of that glory which they now see through a glass darkly.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
Verse 14. - If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye; rather, if ye are reviled in the -Name of Christ, blessed are ye. There is, again, a manifest quotation of our Lord's words in Matthew 5:11. The conjunction "if" does not imply any doubt: the words mean "when ye are reviled." For "in the Name of Christ," camp. Mark 9:41, "Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my Name, because ye belong to Christ." So here the meaning is, "When ye are reviled because ye belong to Christ, because ye bear his Name, because ye are Christians" (camp, Acts 5:41). For the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. The form of the sentence in the Greek is unusual. Some regard the first clause, τὸ τῆς δόξης, as a periphrasis for δόξα, and translate, "For glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you." But there is no other instance of such a periphrasis in the New Testament (Winer, 3:18. 3); it is better to supply πνεῦμα. Men revile them, but God glorifieth them. The Spirit of glory, the Spirit which hath the glorious attributes of God, the Spirit which proceedeth from the Father who dwelleth in the glory, in the Shechinah, - that Spirit resteth upon them, and sheds on them the glory of holy suffering, the glory which hung around the cross of Christ. Two of the most ancient manuscripts, with some others, insert the words καὶ δυνάμεως, "the Spirit of glory, and of power, and of God." The Spirit is power from on high (Luke 24:49). (For "resteth," comp. Isaiah 11:2.) Ἐπί with the accusative suggests the thought of the Spirit descending upon them and resting there (comp. John 1:32, 33). The Spirit abides upon those who patiently suffer for Christ. On their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. These words are not found in the most ancient manuscripts, and are probably a gloss, lint a true one. Those who reviled the suffering Christians really blasphemed the Holy Spirit of God, by whom they were strengthened; the Holy Spirit was glorified by their patient endurance.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
Verse 15. - But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer; literally, for let none of you, etc. They are blessed who suffer in the Name of Christ, because they belong to Christ: for it is not the suffering which brings the blessedness, but the cause, the faith and patience with which the suffering is borne. The word for "evil-doer," κακοποιός, is used by St. Peter in two other places (1 Peter 2:12 and 14). Christians were spoken against as evil-doers; they must be very careful to preserve their purity, and to suffer, if need be, not for evil-doing, but for well-doing (1 Peter 3:17). Or as a busybody in other men's matters. This clause represents one Greek word, ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος; it means an ἐπίσκοπος, ill-specter, overseer ("bishop" is the modern form of the word), of other men's matters - of things that do not concern him. St. Peter uses the word ἐπίσκοπος only once (1 Peter 2:25), where he describes Christ as the Bishop of our souls. It cannot be taken here in its ecclesiastical sense, "let no man suffer as a bishop in matters which do not concern him; but if as a Christian (bishop), let him not be ashamed." The Jews were often accused of constituting themselves judges and meddling in other men's matters; it may be that the consciousness of spiritual knowledge and high spiritual dignity exposed Christians to the same temptation. Hilgenfeld sees here an allusion to Trajan's laws against informers, and uses it as an argument for his theory of the late date of this Epistle.
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
Verse 16. - Yet if any man suffer as a Christian. The word "Christian" occurs only three times in the New Testament - twice in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28), and here. "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." They were originally described amongst themselves as "the disciples," "the brethren," "the believers," "the elect," or" the saints;" by the Jews they were called "the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5), as still in Mohammedan countries. The name was probably invented by the heathen, and used at first as a term of derision; there is something of scorn in Agrippa's use of it. It did not at once become common among the disciples of the Lord. St. Peter (who preached at Antioch (Galatians 2:11), and is said to have been Bishop of Antioch) is the only sacred writer who adopts it instead of the older names, and that only ones, and in connection with threatened persecution. St. James may possibly allude to it in James 2:7. But it was not commonly used among' believers till after New Testament times. Then they began to discern its admirable suitableness. It reminded them that the center of their religion was not a system of doctrines, but a Person, and that Person the Messiah, the Anointed of God. The Hebrew origin of the word, the Greek dress, the Latin termination, seemed to point, like the threefold inscription on the cross, to the universality of Christ's religion to its empire, first over all the civilized nations, and through them, by continually increasing triumphs, over the whole world. It reminded them that they too were anointed, that they had an unction from the Holy One. Its very corruption through heathen ignorance, Christian from χρηστός, good (the Sinaitic Manuscript has χρηστιανός in this place) had its lesson - it spoke of sweetness and of goodness. See the oft-quoted passage from Tertullian: "Sed quum et perperam Chres-tiani nuncupamur a vobis (nam nec nominis certa est notitia penes yes) de suavitate et benignitate compositum est." Let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. The best-supported reading is ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ. This may be understood as an idiom, in the same sense as the reading of the Authorized Version; but it is better to translate it literally, in this name, i.e. either the name of Christ, or (more probably, perhaps) that of Christian. The heathen blasphemed that worthy Name; suffering Christians must not be ashamed of it, but, as the holy martyrs did, utter their "Christianus sum" with inward peace and thanksgiving, glorifying God that he had given them grace to bear that honored Name and to suffer for Christ. Bengel says here, "Poterat Petrus dicere, honori sibi ducat: sed honorem Dee resignandum esse docet."
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Verse 17. - For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. The house of God is the Church (see 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:16; and 1 Peter 2:5). The judgment must begin at the sanctuary (Ezekiel 9:6; see also Jeremiah 25:15-29). The beginning of judgment is the persecution of the Christians, as our Lord had taught (Matthew 24:8, 9, and following verses); but that judgment is not unto condemnation: "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 the fiery trial, "which is much more precious than of gold that perisheth," the refining fire of affliction. And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? Compare the passage in Jeremiah already referred to: "Behold, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my Name, and should ye be utterly unpunished?" Compare also our Lord's question, "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" Gerhard (quoted by Huther) rightly remarks," Exaggeratio est in interrogatione." The question suggests answers too awful for words.
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
Verse 18. - And if the righteous scarcely be saved. St. Peter is quoting the Septuagint Version of Proverbs 11:31. That version departs considerably from the Hebrew, which is accurately represented by the Authorized Version, "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more the wicked and the sinner." Probably the word rendered" recompensed," which is neutral in its meaning, is best understood here, not of the good deeds of the righteous, but of the sin which still cleaves to all human righteousness. The righteous shall be requited in the earth, that is, chastised for his transgressions. So it would be now, St. Peter says; judgment must begin at the house of God. He adopts the inexact Septuagint translation for its substantial truth, as we now sometimes use versions which are sufficient for practical purposes, though we know them to be critically inaccurate. We observe again the absence of marks of quotation, as often in St. Peter. Bengel well remarks that the awful "scarcely" (μόλις σώζεται) is softened by 2 Peter 1:11. Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? The" ungodly "are the impious, scoffers, and blasphemers; the" sinners" are men of profligate and dissolute lives. But the words are (probably) included under one article in the Greek; the men were the same; one form of evil led to the other (comp. Psalm 1:5; see also Matthew 19:25).
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Verse 19. - Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God; rather, let them also that suffer. St. Peter sums up his exhortation; he returns to the thought of 1 Peter 3:17, "It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing." In the hour of suffering, as well as in times of prosperity, we are in the hands of a merciful and loving Father; we are to learn submission, not because the suffering is inevitable, but because it is according to his will, and his will is our sanctification and salvation. Commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator; rather, as in the Revised Version, commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator. The conjunction "as" must be omitted, not being found in any of the best manuscripts. The word rendered "Creator" (κτίστης) Occurs nowhere else in the Greek Testament. God is our Creator, the Father of spirits, He gave the spirit; to him it returneth. We must imitate our dying Lord, and, like him, commit our souls to the keeping of our heavenly Father as a deposit which may be left with perfect confidence in the hands of a faithful Creator (see 2 Timothy 1:12). There is an evident reference here to our Lord's words upon the cross (Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5). St. Peter adds, "in well-doing." The Christian's faith must bring forth the fruits of holy living; even in the midst of suffering he must "be careful to maintain good works."

Pulpit Commentary


1 Peter 3
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