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Chapter Four - The New Life Contrasted With The Old
Conversion to God involves an inward and an outward change. When born again one receives a new nature with new desires and new ambitions. The whole behavior is changed from that of a selfish worldling to a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The great importance of this is emphasized in the opening verses of this chapter.
“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; 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. 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: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 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. But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 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” (1 Peter 4:1-11).
With Christ Himself as our example of patience in suffering how can we, who owe all to Him, do otherwise than arm ourselves with the same mind and so endure as beholding Him by faith? Many times God uses suffering to keep us from going into that which would dishonor Him. And when exposed to severe temptation it is as we suffer in the flesh that we are kept from sin. In this we may see the difference between our Lord’s temptations and those which we have to face. He was tempted in all points like as we, apart from sin. He did not have a sinful nature as we do. He was from His birth the Holy One. He could say, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.” With us it is otherwise. When Satan attacks from without there is an enemy within, “sin, the flesh,” that responds to his appeal, and it is only as we reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God that we are enabled to mortify the deeds of the body. This means suffering, often of a very severe character. But, we are told, Jesus “suffered being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). So infinitely pure and holy was He that it caused Him intense suffering even to be exposed to Satan’s solicitations. He overcame by the Word of God, and the devil left Him for a season, to return in the hour of His agony as He was bearing our sins upon the cross.
Let us therefore resist every temptation to gratify the flesh, cost what it may, for it is our new responsibility to live no longer in the flesh according to carnal desires, but in the Spirit to the glory of God. A careful consideration of Galatians, chapter 5, will help to make clear what Peter here presents to us as to our responsibility to refrain from ways that once characterized us. In their unsaved days these whom he addresses wrought the will of the Gentiles when they fellowshipped with the ungodly in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and the abominations connected with idolatry. Although after the flesh, the Jews sought to curry favor with their pagan Gentile neighbors by participation in these evil things, even as Israel of old failed so grievously at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:1-3). Since their conversion to God all this was changed. Their former companions could not understand why they so suddenly and completely turned from lives of self-indulgence to what seemed to them great abstemiousness and austerity. They who applauded them before, now spoke evil of them. But they were to live as those who should give account not to men, but to Him who is about to judge the living and the dead when He returns in power. In that day those who despised them for their holy lives would answer to God too. “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.” Those who had preceded them in the path of faith were obliged to contend with similar conditions. The good news preached to them who, though now dead, once had to face the ridicule and even persecution of wicked men who had no understanding of spir- itual things, was revealed to them that even while living as men in this scene and judged by their fellows as fools and fanatics, they might actually live unto God in spirit. There is no thought or suggestion here of the gospel being carried to men after death as Romanists, Mormons, and others, would have us believe.
Verse 7 (1 Peter 4:7) The Christian is ever to keep the end in view. He is to live not for the passing moment, but as one who knows that the end of all things-that is, all things of this present order, is at hand. It will be ushered in at the Lord’s return; therefore, the importance of sobriety and watchfulness unto prayer.
Verse 8 (1 Peter 4:8) emphasizes that upon which Paul lays so much stress in 1 Corinthians 13:0, the importance of fervent love among those who are of the pilgrim company. The world hates believers. This is all the more reason why they cling to one another in love, even though they cannot be blind to the faults of others, but love covers the multitude of sins, rather than exposing and holding them up to censure. This does not mean that we should be indifferent to evil. We are taught elsewhere how to deal with and to help those who are overtaken in a fault or who drift into sin. See Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20.
It is incumbent on those who love Christ to be gracious to one another, using hospitality ungrudgingly, as verse 9 (1 Peter 4:9) tells us.
Verses 10 and 11 (1 Peter 4:10-11) have to do with the exercise of spiritual gifts and Christian service generally. Each is responsible to use the gift he has received to minister for the blessing of the rest, “as good stewards of the grace of God.” A steward is held accountable to fulfil faithfully the trust committed to him by his master.
They who speak, addressing the church when assembled together, are not to give out their own or other men’s theories, but are to speak as the oracles of God, declaring only that which He has revealed. Those who minister (or serve) in any capacity are to do it according to the ability God gives, so that in all things He may be glorified through Christ Jesus to whom all praise and dominion eternally belong.
Suffering As A Christian
The name “Christian” is not found very often in the New Testament, but is the distinctive title of those who belong to Christ. We read of it in Acts 11:26 where it was conferred upon the Gentile believers at Antioch by divine authority; for the word “called” there literally means “oracularly called,” and therefore it was not the Antiochians alone who bestowed this name upon the believers, but God Himself who so designated them. That it has become their well-known appellation is evident from Acts 26:28, where we read that King Agrippa ex- claimed, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian!” When Peter wrote this letter some years later he uses it as the commonly recognized name of the pilgrim company, and he tells us that it is praiseworthy to suffer as a Christian.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 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. 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. 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. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 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? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 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” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
In verse 12 (1 Peter 4:12) he writes of “the fiery trial which is to try you.” Primarily, the reference was to the great suffering that the Jews-whether Christian or not-were about to undergo in connection with the fulfilment of our Lord’s prophecy concerning Jerusalem’s destruction, shortly to take place (Luke 21:20-24). But it also has reference to the horrors of the Roman persecutions, which were to continue for two terrible centuries. The words are applicable to every time of trial and persecution.
Verse 13 (1 Peter 4:13) “Partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” The believer suffers in fellowship with his Lord. Our Lord has told us to expect this (John 15:18-21). We cannot be partakers of His atoning sufferings. They stand alone: none but He could endure the penalty for our sins and so make propitiation, in order that we might be forgiven. But we share His sufferings for righteousness’ sake.
Verse 14 (1 Peter 4:14) “Reproached for the name of Christ.” No one can be true to Christ and loved by the world-system, for everything that Jesus taught condemns the present order and leads ungodly men to hate Him and His people. But he who suffers for Christ’s sake now is assured of glory hereafter, which will fully answer to the shame now endured. “On their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.” The reproach of the world should not deter the Christian. He need not expect the approval of those who reject and misunderstand his Saviour. It is his responsibility so to live as to give the lie to the false reports of the ungodly and so to glorify the One whose name they spurn.
Verse 15 (1 Peter 4:15) No believer should ever suffer as “a busybody in other men’s matters.” Notice the company in which the busybody is placed. He is linked with murderers, thieves, and evildoers of every description, and that for a very good reason; for the busybody steals men’s reputations, seeks to assassinate their good names, and by his calumniations works all manner of evil. The follower of Christ is called upon to be careful never to misbehave so as to deserve the ill-will of the wicked. He is not to be dishonest or corrupt in life, nor to be given to gossipy interference in other people’s affairs. Thus by a holy and righteous life, he will adorn the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27-28).
Verse 16 (1 Peter 4:16) “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.” None needs to be ashamed to suffer because of his faithfulness to the hallowed name he bears. The disciples, as we have noticed already, were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26), and this name has clung to them ever since. It signifies their union with Christ, and therefore is a name in which to glory, however the world may despise it! Let us therefore never be ashamed of this name and all that it implies, but be prepared to suffer because of it, knowing that we may thus glorify the God who has drawn us to Himself and saves us through His blessed Son, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24).
Verse 17 (1 Peter 4:17) “Judgment must begin at the house of God.” Our Father-God does not pass over the failures of His people, but disciplines them in order that they may be careful to walk in obedience to His Word. If He is thus particular in chastening His own, how solemn will be the judgment of “them that obey not the gospel,” but persist to the end in rejecting the Saviour He has provided!
Verse 18 (1 Peter 4:18) “If the righteous scarcely be saved,” that is, if the righteous have to endure chastening at the hand of God and persecution at the hand of the world, what will it mean for unsaved and im- penitent men to answer before the judgment-throne for their persistence in refusing His grace?
Verse 19 (1 Peter 4:19) “Commit the keeping of their souls … in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” However hard the way and however perplexing their experiences, the suffering Christian may look up to God in confidence, knowing he can rely upon the divine love and faithfulness, and assured that all will work out for blessing at last.
Throughout the entire Christian era, which is that of the dispensation of the grace of God (Ephesians 3:2), believers in Christ are called out from the world and are responsible to live for the glory of Him who has saved them. But though separated from the surrounding evil, they are not to shut themselves up as in a monastery or convent in order to be protected from defilement, but are to go forth as God’s messengers into that very world from which they have been delivered, preaching to all men everywhere the gospel, which is God’s offer of salvation through the finished work of His beloved Son. Whatever suffering or affliction this entails is to be borne cheerfully for His sake, knowing that He will reward abundantly for all endured, when He returns in glory. His Church is to be in the World, but not of it, witnessing rather against its evil, and offering pardon through the cross. Tertullian declared that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. This has been demonstrated over and over again. Persecution can never de- stroy the Church of God. The more it is called to suffer for Christ, the stronger it becomes. It is internal strife and carelessness in life that endangers it. But so virile is the life it possesses that even this has never been permitted to destroy it, for although its outward testimony has at times been ruined by such things, God has always kept alive a witnessing remnant to stand for the truth of His Word.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19