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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 4

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-6

Learning to Crucify the Flesh and Take Up Our Cross Daily The underlying statement of 1 Peter 4:1-6 is for believers to follow Christ’s example of crucifying the flesh and taking up our cross daily. The opening verse (1 Peter 4:1) exhorts us to make the decision to suffer if need be. Our weapon in order to survive this battle is the decision to suffer in the flesh as Christ did and to lay down our lives if necessary. A good example of such devotion is seen in the Islamic war against Israel and the West when young men choose to become suicide bomber, strapping bombs their bodies and blowing themselves up in order to kill those around them. We see this same mindset during World War II when the Japanese soldiers committed many acts of suicide as “kamikaze” pilots crashing their planes in American ships. Such a decision to lay one’s life down for Christ makes him a formidable weapon against the kingdom of Satan. It involves a commitment to devote ones’ entire energies to doing the will of God and denying one’s own needs, regardless of the costs (1 Peter 4:2). However, such a lifestyle brings confusion and anger and persecution from the world (1 Peter 4:3-5).

This passage in 1 Peter 4:1-6 explains that we are to be followers of that which is good in the midst of persecutions. It opens with the statement, “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;” (1 Peter 4:1). The statement in 1 Peter 4:1 is found as a conclusion to the previous passages on good works (1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 3:22), which began by saying, “whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works , which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation,” (1 Peter 2:12). Thus, the underlying emphasis of 1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 4:11 is to conduct oneself in a lifestyle of good works before the Gentiles despite persecutions as a testimony of God’s redemptive work in our lives in order that they, too, may believe and obtain this future hope of an eternal inheritance. 1 Peter 5:1-9 will exhort us to apply this principle within the Church.

Just as Christ was obedient and submissive to His authority, the Heavenly Father, even unto death, so should we be willing to do the same. Since our obedience will also involve suffering for our faith, we should be willing to suffer to the same degree that Christ suffered. If Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8), then we too can only learn obedience by the same divine rule.

Hebrews 5:8, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;”

It is interesting to note that Peter was the one that most resisted Jesus’ announcement of His pending suffering on Calvary; for at the time he did not understand its significance. Now, in his epistle, Peter makes a great deal of emphasis upon our need to follow Jesus’ example of suffering for righteousness sake. We are to follow His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21) by crucifying our flesh daily (1 Peter 4:1-6) in order to fulfill in our Christian duties.

1 Peter 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

1 Peter 4:1 Comments - 1 Peter 4:1 tells us that our weapon in this warfare to persevere until the end is our decision to suffer in the flesh if need be just as Christ had to suffer in the flesh in order to fulfill God’s will in His life.

1 Peter 4:2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

1 Peter 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

1 Peter 4:3 Comments - The list of vices in 1 Peter 4:3 clearly reflects the two-fold aspect of pagan worship addressed in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which are fornication and foods offered unto idols. These two major topics in 1 Corinthians are two of the four issues that those the Jerusalem council decided to ask of the Gentiles. Note:

Acts 15:20, “But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”

Acts 15:29, “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

Acts 21:25, “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.”

In submission to the church apostles and elders a Jerusalem, Paul delivered these ordinances to the Corinthian church earlier while he lived there. In this epistle, Paul expands upon them:

1 Corinthians 11:2, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”

Note also that Jesus told the church in Pergamos in the book of Revelation that these were the two doctrines of Balaam.

Revelation 2:14, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication .”

Therefore, the practice of feasting in idolatry and fornication appears to have been a common practice in Asia Minor among the temple worship of the Greeks. We also see in Romans 1:18-32 how idolatry was followed by fornication as God turned mankind over to a reprobate mind. Thus, these two sins are associated with one another throughout the Scriptures.

1 Peter 4:6 “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead” - Comments - This is a clear reference to the previous statement in 1 Peter 3:18-19 where Jesus preached to those in prison, or hell, as most scholars understand this verse to say.

1 Peter 3:18-19, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ;”

Verses 1-11

Obedience to Christ Jesus (Illustration of Sermon): Perseverance - The Believer’s Response is to Decide to Walk in Love and Submission with His Fellow Man in Light of This Blessed Hope Once we have been enlightened to our blessed hope of the Heavenly Father (1 Peter 1:3-12), and exhorted to choose to sanctify ourselves by growing in maturity through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:13 to 1 Peter 2:10), Peter illustrates what a lifestyle of sanctification looks like as we obey to Jesus Christ with good works by submitting to authority and enduring persecution for righteousness sake (1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 4:11).

In 1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 4:11 we are told that our obedience to Christ is based upon our willingness to persevere in the midst of persecutions. Obedience requires some degree of suffering. Paul wrote in Hebrews, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” (Hebrews 5:8). This is why the opening verse of this next section explains that we serve Him by “abstaining from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul,” (1 Peter 2:11). The preceding passage (1 Peter 2:4-10) explains that we as a people of God have been separated unto a holy calling. Thus, the believer’s next response to this blessed hope of election (1 Peter 1:3-12) and exhortation to holiness (1 Peter 1:13 to 1 Peter 2:10) is to serve Him in obedience. Within the context of 1 Peter our souls are “fully hoping in the grace being brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13), so that our minds are to be focused upon our eternal inheritance, rather than worldly lusts. These fleshly lusts mentioned in 1 Peter 2:11 pull our focus away from Heaven and turns our hope towards the cares of this world.

Having exhorted us into a lifestyle of holiness by explaining that we are elected as a chosen people through the purchased blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:13 to 1 Peter 2:10), Peter then gives us practical advice on conducting ourselves in the fear of God and love towards mankind (1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 4:11). In the previous passage of 1 Peter 2:4-10 Peter has drawn a picture of what a mature Church looks like when the believers corporately grow into spiritual maturity through the Word of God, which he exhorts in 1 Peter 2:1-3. Peter will then give practical examples of our “spiritual sacrifices” in the lengthy passage of submission. We are to do good works as a testimony to the Gentiles of our blessed hope (1 Peter 2:11-12) by submitting to those in authority over us: all believers to government (1 Peter 2:13-17), slaves to their masters (1 Peter 2:18-25), wives to husbands (1 Peter 3:1-6), and husbands honoring wives (1 Peter 3:7). In summary it is a walk of love from the heart (1 Peter 3:8-12). However, this love walk will mean persecution and suffering, but Christ serves as our example of suffering for righteousness sake (1 Peter 3:13 to 1 Peter 4:11). Our choice to submit to those in authority is actually our way of entrusting ourselves into the hands of a faithful creator (1 Peter 4:19).

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Introductory Remarks 1 Peter 2:11-12

2. Submission to Authority Within Society 1 Peter 2:13 to 1 Peter 3:12

3. Walking in Love 1 Peter 3:13-22

4. Crucifying the Flesh 1 Peter 4:1-6

5. Exhortation to Watch and Pray 1 Peter 4:7-11

Verses 7-11

Exhortation to Watch and Pray After having exhorted us to Christian service by submitting ourselves to others, this section closes by encouraging us to continue to watch and pray (1 Peter 4:7), being most careful to walk in love with others (1 Peter 4:8). 1 Peter 4:8 reveals that the commandment of love, which we can call the “love walk,” is the fundamental commandment that our motives and actions are to be judged by. If we endeavor to measure our lives by love, we will not fail to enter into eternal life. This self-evaluation of our love walk is most easily done by watching and being alert with prayer (1 Peter 4:7). Peter then gives his readers examples of this love walk and shows them how to do this self-evaluation (1 Peter 4:9-11).

The Commandment of Love After having described the will of men in 1 Peter 4:3-6 as unbridled sins, Peter then shows his readers how to fulfill the will of God mentioned in 1 Peter 4:2 by obeying the commandment of love (1 Peter 4:7-11), which often requires suffering in the flesh (1 Peter 4:1).

1 Peter 4:8 Comments - Frances J. Roberts says, “For if it be so that human love covereth a multitude of sins, how much more is it true of the divine love of God the Father.” [100]

[100] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King’s Farspan, Inc., 1973), 109.

1 Peter 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” Comments - The classical writers reveal that the concept of sacred mysteries being utters as divine oracles was practiced in the ancient world. Regarding the use of oracles, the ancient Greeks regarded divine oracles as a form of worship until the time of the Persian war (490-479 B.C.). [101] The temple of Apollo located at Delphi was famous in the ancient world for delivering oracles to men by those in a trance, or they interpreted dreams or patterns in nature. [102] The Greek historians Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) [103] and Plutarch (A.D. 46-100) [104] mention this place of oracles in their writings. While the Romans as a nation did not regard oracles as a religious practice, this custom continued within the Empire, but not without the contempt of the Romans. [105] This practice was later outlawed under the Roman emperor Theodosius (A.D. 379-385). [106] King Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor shows its popularity among ancient eastern cultures (1 Samuel 28:7-25). The damsel who prophesied over Paul and Barnabas in Philippi is an example of the proliferation of divination in the New Testament times (Acts 16:16-24). The Sibylline Oracles, [107] a collection of Greek oracles compiled by Jews and Christians in the early centuries before and after Christ, reflect the widespread popularity that the Sibyl prophetesses held in ancient Greek and Roman history. Regarding the concept of “mysteries” ( μυστη ́ ριον ) revealed through oracles, Plutarch, writing about the Pythian priestesses who prophesied at Delphi, speaks of “interpreters of the sacred mysteries.” [108] Thus, when Paul refers to the mysteries hidden from the ages being revealed to the Church (Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 1:26; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:3, 1 Timothy 3:9), or when Luke, Paul, and Peter speak of the “oracles” ( λόγιον ) (G3051) of God (Acts 7:38, Romans 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, 1 Peter 4:11), they are speaking in a cultural language that the Greeks and Romans understood, where pagans frequently sought oracles through divine utterance at the temples to reveal hidden mysteries for their lives.

[101] C. H. Prichard, “Oracle,” in A Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901), 629.

[102] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), “Oracle.”

[103] Herodotus writes, “…and he [Dorieus] asked the Spartans for a company of folks, whom he took away as colonists; he neither enquired of the oracle at Delphi in what land he should plant his settlement, nor did aught else that was customary…” ( Histories 5.42) See Herodotus III, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1938), 46-47.

[104] Plutarch tells us that the Sibylline prophetesses of Delphi used poetic verses with their prophecies, saying, “…for when we drew near that part of the rock which joins to the senate-house, which by common fame was the seat of the first Sibyl that came to Delphi from Helicon, where she was bred by the Muses…Serapio made mention of certain verses of hers, wherein she had extolled herself as one that should never cease to prophesy even after her death…” ( Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 9) He later writes, “…but I am constrained to claim your first promise, to tell me the reason wherefore now the Pythian prophetess no longer delivers her oracles in poetic numbers and measures…and also the temple of Tellus, to which the oracle appertained, and where the answers were delivered in verses and song.” ( Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 17) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch’s Essays and Miscellanies, vol. 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 77, 86-87.

[105] The Roman poet Lucan (A.D. 39-65) reflects the contempt for such oracles by the Romans when he writes, “They had now come to the Temple, the only one which among the Libyan nations the uncivilized Garamantes possess. There stands Jupiter, the foreteller of destiny, as they relate; but not either brandishing the lightnings or like to ours, but Ammon with crooked horns.” ( Pharsalia 9.593-598) See H. T. Riley, The Pharsalia of Lucan (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), 359.

[106] C. H. Prichard, “Oracle,” In A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings (), 629.

[107] The Sibylline Oracles, trans. H. C. O. Lanchester, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English With Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes to the Several Books, vol. 2, ed. R. H. Charles (electronic edition), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004).

[108] Plutarch writes, “The interpreters of the sacred mysteries acted without any regard to us, who desired them to contract their relation into as few words as might be, and to pass by the most part of the inscriptions.” ( Wherefore the Pythian Priestess Now Ceases to Deliver Her Oracles in Verse 2) See William W. Goodwin, Plutarch’s Essays and Miscellanies, vol. 3 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), 70.

Romans 16:25, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,”

1 Corinthians 2:7, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:”

Ephesians 1:9, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:”

Ephesians 3:3-4, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)”

Ephesians 3:9, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”

Ephesians 6:19, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,”

Colossians 1:26, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:”

Colossians 2:2, “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;”

Colossians 4:3, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:”

1 Timothy 3:9, “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.”

Acts 7:38, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:”

Romans 3:2, “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”

Hebrews 5:12, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.”

1 Peter 4:11, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

The reference to pillars and foundations of the Church in 1 Timothy 3:15 suggests that Paul had in mind the ancient Greek and Roman temples with their practice of divination, and that he compares this pagan scene of worship to the New Testament Church and the Holy Scriptures, which serve as its pillars and foundation.

Comments Peter is saying that if anyone stands up to minister orally, he must be bound by the Holy Scriptures. In other words, an inspired sermon will conform to the Word of God; for it cannot contract the standard of the Scriptures. Otherwise, the minister is speaking in the flesh, by human reason, words originating from his mind and not inspired from his spirit.

Scripture References - Note:

Titus 2:1, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.”

1 Peter 4:11 “to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” Comments - The doxology found in 1 Peter 4:11 leads some scholars to suggest that it closes the Epistle and the remaining passages belong to a second letter. However, Guthrie [109] and Harrison [110] note other occasions where Paul places a doxology within his epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, Galatians and to Timothy.

[109] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grover, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 789.

[110] Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, c1964, 1971), 398.

Romans 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:21, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Galatians 1:5, “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Verses 12-19

Final Exhortation (Application of Sermon) (Glorification): The Believer Can Rejoice in the Midst of Persecutions in Light of This Blessed Hope Once we have been enlightened to our blessed hope of the Heavenly Father (1 Peter 1:3-12), and make the choice to sanctify ourselves by growing in the Word of God through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:13 to 1 Peter 2:10), and we are living obedient to Jesus Christ with good works by submitting to authority (1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 4:11), Peter then shows us how to apply our blessed hope to this life. We are to make the final choice of fulfilling our duties through perseverance by learning to rejoice in the midst of persecutions (1 Peter 4:12 to 1 Peter 5:9). The basis of our joy is the blessed hope we have reserved in Heaven for us in our future glorification. On the basis of our future glory with Christ in Heaven we are exhorted to be willing to suffer like Him (1 Peter 4:12-19), and serve others as He served us (1 Peter 5:1-9).

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Exhortation to Endure Suffering 1 Peter 4:12-19

2. Submission to Authority within the Church 1 Peter 5:1-9

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/1-peter-4.html. 2013.
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