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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 4

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-6


The writer had dropped his pen, but takes it up again at 1 Peter 2:11 . To “abstain from fleshy lusts that war against the soul,” is limited and defined in the next verse. The pagans round about were speaking against the Christians as evildoers. Their increasing numbers were emptying the Pagan temples, and threatening in so doing, not only the Pagan religion but the state itself, for the Romans worshipped the state in the person of the emperor, and at this time Rome controlled the world. The duty of the Christians, therefore, was to have their conduct so seemly and consistent in the eyes of their watchful and jealous neighbors that by their “good works,” those neighbors might in the day of their visitation by divine grace glorify God for them.

There were two ways in which this seemliness was to show itself, or rather two obligations to be borne by the Christians toward the pagans, one was submission (1 Peter 2:13 to 1 Peter 3:7 ), and the other testimony (1 Peter 3:8 to 1 Peter 4:6 ).

The submission was comprehensive in scope, covering the three classes of the social order: governmental (1 Peter 2:13-17 ), industrial (1 Peter 2:18-25 ), conjugal (1 Peter 3:1-7 ).

The testimony was to be marked by four things: readiness, intelligence, meekness and consistency of life (1 Peter 3:15-16 ).

The last point calls for amplification because of some obscurity in the text that follows. It is the writer’s desire all through the epistle to use the example of Christ to enforce his exhortations. For example, in chapter 2 (1 Peter 3:18-22 ), household servants are urged to patience under even unjust treatment by their Pagan masters on the ground that when Christ “was reviled,” He “reviled not again,” “but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.’’ And so here it is said that it is better to “suffer for well-doing than for evil doing” (1 Peter 3:17 ). Why? Because Christ so suffered even unto death (1 Peter 3:18 ), but was quickened and raised from the dead; and even more, has “gone into heaven and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (1 Peter 3:22 ). We Christians should arm ourselves with the same mind” that He had (1 Peter 4:1 ).

We, too, should be willing to suffer in the flesh. He who has this purpose in his heart “hath ceased from sin” in the sense indicated in 1 Peter 4:2-4 ; i.e., he will separate himself from all evildoers even if he suffer for it so far as his life in the flesh is concerned. There were some indeed, who had suffered even unto death (1 Peter 4:6 ); but it was to this end that the Gospel had been preached to them while they were alive, that they might know that, though they were thus judged, thus treated according to the will of men as regards the flesh, yet they would live by the will of God as regards the spirit. And, or course, as Christ triumphed over His enemies and entered into glory, the same would be true of them.

A further difficulty appears at 1 Peter 3:19 , where Christ in triumphing over His enemies is represented as preaching “unto the spirits in prison.” “Preaching” here is not the word commonly used for preaching the gospel, but means “to herald” or “to proclaim.” That which Christ heralded or proclaimed was His triumph over His enemies through the Cross (Colossians 2:13-15 ). “Spirits” presumably, does not refer to men but angels, the evil angels who “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,” “in the days of Noah.” (See our comments on Genesis 6:8 , and compare also 2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 1:6-7 ).


1. Explain 1 Peter 2:11-12 .

2. Name the two “outward” obligations of The Living Hope.

3. Name the three kinds of submission enjoined.

4. In what four ways was the testimony to be marked?

5. Explain 1 Peter 4:1-6 .

6. Explain 1 Peter 3:19-20 .

Verses 7-19


HOSPITALITY (1 Peter 4:7-11 ) by which we understand spiritual rather than physical hospitality, though the latter need not be excluded from the thought. 1 Peter 4:10-11 for example, suggest 1 Corinthians 12:0 ; Romans 12:3-8 ; Ephesians 4:7-16 , etc., in which Paul is teaching the duty of the members of the Body of Christ to minister to one another of their spiritual gifts without judging.

PATIENCE (1 Peter 4:12-19 ) 1 Peter 4:12 shows that the opposition to the Christians at this time was exhibited in more than a “speaking against” them as earlier passages record. “The fiery trial among you” is the rendering of the Revised Version it was already there. 1 Peter 4:13 is characteristic of Peter, who always throws forward the fact of the present suffering of Christians unto the light of their future gory, for which reason he is called the apostle of hope (see 1 Peter 1:3 ; 1 Peter 1:7 ; 1 Peter 1:11 ; 1Pe 5:1 ; 1 Peter 5:4 ; 1 Peter 5:10 ). If Christians were unwilling to suffer for righteousness’ sake it was an evidence of a low spiritual state. Let them remember therefore, that time of judgment he had referred to in 1:17.

FIDELITY (1 Peter 5:1-4 ) In this instance “elders,” in the sense of pastors are particularly addressed, when once more the heavenly glory is brought forward as a motive for their conduct.

SE RV ICE (1 Peter 5:5-11 ) Elder in this instance has reference, not to office, but age. The younger members of the flock, and indeed all of them, are to gird themselves with humility “to serve one another” (RV). Fear should move them to do this, “for God resisteth the proud.” The hope of reward should move them, for He “giveth grace to the humble,” hence the exhortation of 1 Peter 5:6 . It costs something to humble one’s self. It makes us anxious about our possessions or our position in life, but let us cast that anxiety upon God, for it is His business to care for us (1 Peter 5:7 ). “It matters to Him about you,” is a literal and beautiful rendering of that verse. But there is another reason for humbling ourselves in service the activity of the evil one (1 Peter 5:8-9 ). It is he who would restrain us from doing it. Be watching out for him at such a time, resist him in the comfort of knowing that you are not alone in such experiences. Moreover, the conflict will not be for long, and glory follows (1 Peter 5:10 ).


1. Name the four inward obligations of The Living Hope.

2. Define spiritual hospitality.

3. How is Peter sometimes designated, and why?

4. What motives should move us to serve once another?

5. Give a literal translation of 1 Peter 5:7 .

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/1-peter-4.html. 1897-1910.
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