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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 4

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Verses 1-9

Formerly and Now

1 Peter 4:1. The first verse of chapter 4 is directly in connection to what is previously said. You can derive that from the word “therefore”. That word makes clear that a conclusion follows. When Christ was on earth He “suffered in the flesh”. That does not refer to His work on the cross, but to His life in the midst of people who were hostile to God, how religious as they may have been. He did not give in to their carnal desires and in no way He could be tempted to sin. The will of God was decisive for His life and to Him He entrusted Himself. The result of that was that He had to endure sufferings. He suffered, because He was fully focused on God and did not want to have anything to do with sin. He did not want to do anything independently from His God. That is the thought you should arm yourself with.

The appeal to arm yourself proves that there is a battle to be fought. If you want to win the battle like the Lord Jesus has won, you are to arm yourself. The weapon is not a material weapon, but it consists of a thought. The content of that thought is Christ and that He has suffered in the flesh. When you are being tempted to sin, then you should take out this weapon: the thought that Christ has suffered in the flesh. He has suffered and He has endured and has overcome.

The essence of this thought is that Christ has endured the suffering in the flesh, because He lived in the full confidence of His Father in doing His will. Satan tempted Him by offering Him the kingdom without having to suffer for it (Matthew 4:8-2 Samuel :). Men have tempted Him by trying to make Him King without Him having to suffer for it (John 6:15). The Lord has rejected each temptation and chose to suffer, because this was God’s way to glory.

A person who in this view looks like the Lord Jesus is Joseph. Joseph also suffered, because he did not want to have any part in sin. He was not willing to cooperate with the sins of his brothers and he neither wanted to cooperate with the sin that Potiphar’s wife wanted to tempt him with (Genesis 37:2; Genesis 39:9). Due to that he suffered like the Lord Jesus for the sake of righteousness. You are to arm yourself with the same mind, meaning that you choose to suffer instead of sinning.

The point is that you do not give in to sin, what the world continually seeks to tempt you to. When you suffer in the flesh, that is in the body, it is clear that you have dealt with sin and that you do not surrender yourself to it. When you do surrender to it you do not suffer. Enjoying sin in not suffering. You can choose to enjoy sin (Hebrews 11:25), but you must consider that it is a passing pleasure that has a bitter and often permanent after taste. Christ did not have anything to do with sin and due to that He suffered. The same goes for you, who follows Him, as you have confessed, as I hope, with your baptism.

1 Peter 4:2. With your conversion and baptism “the rest of the time” has come to live “for the will of God”. You have thrown away enough time in the past by trying to fulfil your lusts. May I ask you how you spend your time now in contrast to the past? It cannot be the case that you just go on to excessively consume movies and other kinds of entertainment, can it? You should have ceased being obsessed with sports and recreation together with the world, shouldn’t you? You are not continually occupied anymore with making your house more and more comfortable, are you?

It is not always about things that are wrong in themselves. The point is that these things determine the life of people who do not consider the will of God, but live after their own desires.

1 Peter 4:3. You also belonged to those people in the past and you also lived the way they do. That must have changed when you converted to God and when you surrendered yourself to the Lord Jesus, hasn’t it? Since then your life has had a totally different principle and a totally different content and a totally different purpose. When that is reality for you, it will be seen by a real change in using your time.

For you have spent enough of your past lifetime in carrying out “the desire of the Gentiles”. Away with that! That is past tense now! Peter reminds us of that time. Sometimes it is necessary and useful to be reminded of the past. That is not to blame you again for your sins, but to show you from where you have been redeemed, from what kind of a horrible pit you were saved. It will help you to increase in gratefulness towards God and in your devotion to the Lord Jesus.

Just look at the will of the Gentiles, what they desire and compare that to the will of God, what He has planned for you. The Gentiles live in total rebellion against God and they fully follow their own will wherein they satisfy their lusts in the most perverted way. They do not allow anyone to tell them to do anything and they swallow all unrighteousness like water. They surrender themselves to everything that can satisfy the physical and spiritual needs. Thereby they have no respect with anyone and they also sacrifice the health of their own body. Unlimited sex, uncontrollably consuming food and drink and a total surrender to demons are the ingredients of this life of debauchery.

1 Peter 4:4. They find it strange that you do not join them in “the same excesses of dissipation”. Your new conduct is very strange and incomprehensible for those who used to be your friends in the past. Because you do not have part in their dealings anymore, they will talk all kinds of evil about you. They do not understand that God takes care of you. When you have received something they may for instance talk around that you have stolen it. Do not mind about that at all and do not worry about it.

1 Peter 4:5. You can surrender it to Him Who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23). He is ready to “judge the living and the dead”. The judgment about the living will be carried out by the Lord Jesus when He comes to establish His kingdom (Matthew 25:31). He will carry out the judgment over the dead between the expiration of the millennial kingdom of peace and the beginning of the eternal condition (Revelation 20:11). Both the dead and the living will have to “give account” to Him with Whom they did not want to have anything to do and they therefore mocked, persecuted and slandered those who confessed Him.

1 Peter 4:6. With a view to that judgment a joyful message was already proclaimed in the past. The Scripture calls that the “everlasting gospel” (Revelation 14:6-Judges :). The content of that gospel is that each one who acknowledged himself guilty before God and accepted God’s judgment over his life as a man in flesh as just, was made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. So through all ages it has been the Holy Spirit Who gives life and in that way enables us to have part in the resurrected Christ and His future. This is an encouragement for the believers to whom Peter writes and that is also an encouragement for you who also has accepted the gospel, though it is both for those and for you in its richer form: the gospel of grace.

In 1 Peter 4:5 you have read that the Lord Jesus is ready to come and judge all ungodliness (cf. James 5:9). That means that the end of all things is near. That is already the situation when Peter writes this letter. How much more does that apply to the time we live in. That it has not been yet, is due to the patience of God, Who does not want that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

1 Peter 4:7. When you think of the end that is near, it may encourage you. It will not last long anymore and then all boasting of man will cease. Also everything, in which a man may put his hope, will come to an end. Hereby you may think of his self-made religion with his self-shaped imaged of God. Materialism and spiritualism will be judged at the coming of the Lord Jesus. Then also all slandering, mocking and persecution will come to an end for those whom have put their trust in the Lord Jesus.

When the Lord Jesus comes and when He has judged all unrighteousness, the millennial kingdom of peace can begin. When you focus on that, it will give you strength to bear and to endure what otherwise you are not able to bear and endure. Don’t allow yourself to be fired up by the news of the day, through which you may take a wrong action.

“Be of sound judgment”, respond calmly and consider. Let yourself be led by God’s Word. Keep your eyes fixed on the coming of the Lord. Then you will be able to see all things around you in its true perspective.

Be of “sober [spirit]” too, meaning that you do not allow the spirit of times to blur your view, but that it remains pure. See everything that comes towards you in the light of God and of the future, so that you may see the things as they really are and not as they seem to present themselves to you. That watchfulness does not make you overconfident, but it leads you to “pray”. The real awareness that you live in the end of times will lead you to a deep dependence on God.

1 Peter 4:8. After having presented the relation to God like that, attention is now being paid to the relation of Christians to one another. What is important “above all”, is that they have “fervent … love for one another”. A real and firm relationship among Christians is especially noticeable by the interest in one another. Then you also get to know each other, regarding both the strong characteristics and the weaknesses.

In the end of times it is more than ever important that the company of believers meet and encourages one another (Hebrews 10:24-Lamentations :). Real love seeks what is for the benefit of the other. Then they do not dig up the weaknesses and sins (Proverbs 16:27), but on the contrary, they cover them (Proverbs 10:12). Seeing other people’s mistakes and enlarging on them is not the love of the Lord. He does not see sins anymore in those who are His, but He covers them with His love.

That does not mean that you should not call evil by its name. It certainly does mean that sin is to be judged as soon as possible and after that there is also forgiveness. Love cannot live with sin. When a person commits a sin, love will do everything to convince the brother that has sinned about that, so that the sin can be confessed and be put away (Matthew 18:15). The devil will always try to cause disharmony among believers, often by using small matters. He will absolutely not succeed when we have fervent love for one another.

1 Peter 4:9. That love will also be expressed by being “hospitable”. That is not only regarding your friends, but also and especially people who you do not know. ‘Hospitality’ literally means ‘love for strangers’. When a believer, whom you do not know, comes to you, you not only ought to offer him a meal, but also a home. Let him feel to be welcome and that your whole house is available to him. That doesn’t mean that you should be naive, but that you must have such an attitude.

It is also for a reason that Peter adds to it that you must do it without grumbling, for that can easily happen. An unexpected guest can actually disturb your program enormously. You may find it also awkward, because you may just have cleaned up and put everything in the right order and now have to fetch everything back for that strange guest. And not to mention the costs that this visit may possibly bring. Therefore take account of this word and do not take action by grumbling or by even trying to figure things out, but show an abundance of hospitality. Invite one another, receive one another and serve one another.

Now read 1 Peter 4:1-9 again.

Reflection: What is the most important thing in the end of times?

Verses 10-13

Serve One Another as Good Stewards

1 Peter 4:10. The Lord has given something to each one to serve to the other. With your gift you can serve those, who are the most important people on earth to God: the companionship of believers. What was given to you, in order for you to be able to do that, is called “gift” as a grace of God. Grace plays a major role in this letter. The Lord wants to use His own to pass on His grace to His own.

You are able to pass on the grace that you have received, to other believers. The Lord has distributed the gifts in such a way that you are able to serve all believers and that you can be served by all believers. Therefore you are not supposed to keep the gift that you have received, for yourself, but you ought to pass it on. Your gift is not given to you for your own pleasure or for your own honor or importance, but it ought to be useful and for the joy of the other. In that way there is an interaction between the believers. Each of the believers is a gift to all others (Ephesians 4:7).

When you use the gift that you have received from the Lord in such a way that the Lord has intended you to, you are a ‘good steward’. A steward is someone who manages something that belongs to another person. What you have received is from the Lord and He expects you to be faithful in making use of it (1 Corinthians 4:1-Deuteronomy :). In future he will demand your accountability on that (cf. Luke 16:1-1 Chronicles :).

What God has given of His grace is “manifold”. Hereby you should consider a diversity of His grace. Haven’t you already experienced in your life how much grace you have received? Has the Lord not often used brothers and sisters then?

Just try to think about everything you owe to brothers and sisters and thank God for the ways He made that all happen. Have you not often been richly blessed at the gatherings and have the meetings in the homes not often been encouraging for you?

The fact the God has arranged things like that at the same time makes clear that a ‘one-man-ministry’ in the church is not according to His will. God did not concentrate all gifts in one person, but He definitely gave a great diversity of gifts. Thereby He for instance gives to one a word of wisdom and to another a word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8-2 Samuel :).

1 Peter 4:11. The gifts are divided in two main categories by Peter. The one category is ‘speaking’, the other category is ‘serving’ (cf. Acts 6:2-Numbers :). First he deals with ‘speaking’. What an encouraging and edifying effect can words have on a person! This speaking for edification especially happens in the meeting. Of course it should be a speaking “the utterances of God” and not by giving one’s own opinion on certain things. It should undoubtedly be in accordance with God’s Word, but it should also be according to God’s will that it is said at the right time.

When it happens like that in the meeting it will be to a great blessing of all attendants. Each attendant will feel himself to be personally addressed. That may imply that you are comforted or encouraged or exhorted by what is said (1 Corinthians 14:3). It is just what you need, and God, Who guides the speaker by His Spirit in speaking ‘the oracles of God’, knows that. That, however, doesn’t raise the speaker above criticism, for he remains in himself a fallible person. Therefore everything that has been said must be tested whether it is according to God’s Word (1 Corinthians 14:29).

The ‘serving’ is distinguished from the ‘speaking’. ‘Serving’ regards to the sharing with others of the material goods. We can all serve others with the means we have. That must happen with sincere motives and not for attaining a good reputation. It should not be for one’s own honor, but to God’s honor. Therefore God has to give the power to do it, He has to work in your heart.

When you are open to the will of God in both your speaking and serving, He will make clear to you what you should say or do. He gives the gifts and also the power to use those gifts. He first gives you an order to do something and then He gives you everything you need to execute that order. It is a service that in no way can happen in one’s own power, in the power of the flesh. Only then it can happen to the glory of God. The Lord Jesus is the One through Whom you are capable to do everything to God’s glory. He will give the power for that forever and ever.

1 Peter 4:12. Peter comes back to the suffering. By addressing his readers as “beloved”, he makes them feel his warm love. With this word “beloved” he certainly does not only indicate his own love, but he also means by that, that they are beloved of God. They may have been doubting about that because of the persecution they have to endure.

There is still more warmth besides the warmth of love. That warmth is more of a heat. It is the “fiery ordeal” of the persecution that they are experiencing in their midst. The enemy wants to intimidate them and wants to bring them to deny the Lord Jesus as the glorified Lord. That persecution can cause them to start doubting the love of God. However, the suffering that comes in their midst, they should not see as something that accidentally happens to them and less as something that God sends in order to make their life miserable.

When people kindle a fire, it destroys everything that it comes into contact with. When God kindles a fire He also keeps it in control, so that it only affects those matters He allows to be consumed by the fire. The fire in which the three friends of Daniel found themselves, chose, under the guiding hand of God, only the ropes of the three friends, while it did not affect the other parts of their body; not one hair of their head was singed (Daniel 3:24-:).

The fire is used by God to test the believer. The test of your faith is necessary because it purifies your faith from the elements that may cloud the faith in one way or another. Faith is being clouded by, for instance, still trusting in your own power or by thinking that you need to fulfil certain conditions in order to gain favor of God. That all has to be removed, for you must learn to unconditionally trust in God alone.

The idea that as soon as a person comes to faith, all difficulties and worries become past tense, is a serious misconception. The gospel is not a success formula for a life without problems. False evangelists may want you to believe that by accepting the gospel you will be healthy and wealthy and that you will gain prosperity and a good reputation. Those are liars, who bring a message that they themselves invented. If you believe such foolishness you will surely find it strange that you as a believer still have to face suffering.

The reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is different. If you believe in it and you desire to live in that faith, you will on the contrary have to do with sufferings. Such a life identifies you with Christ. And what was His part on earth? It was nothing more than suffering, was it?

1 Peter 4:13. Peter is trying to encourage you. Instead of being discouraged by suffering which is your part, because of your relation with Christ, you are allowed to rejoice in it. You may share “the sufferings of Christ”, which of course only refers to the sufferings that men did to Him and not to the sufferings for the atonement of sins. Sharing the sufferings of Christ, meaning going through something of which you know He also went through, gives a deeply inward joy (Acts 5:41; Luke 6:22-Isaiah :). Paul very much wanted to share the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10), because he wanted to look like Christ as much as he possibly could. The more you share the sufferings of Christ the deeper you can rejoice in the joy of it now already.

This joy will extend to “rejoice with exultation” when the Lord Jesus comes in His glory. Then He will reveal Himself and will be seen by all (Revelation 1:7). They will be present at that time and accompany Him with exceeding joy. The situation will be completely changed. From being suffering Christians they will be changed to glorified Christians. Though, the joy of the sufferings has not been changed, but has been expanded to an expression of a joy that in no way can be reduced. It’s an exuberant expression of joy. The time of suffering is over. The time of singing has come (Song of Solomon 2:11-2 Kings :). The glory has come in the Person of Jesus Christ Who reveals Himself to the world as the Conqueror.

Now read 1 Peter 4:10-13 again.

Reflection: How could you serve to others and be served by others?

Verses 14-19

Judgment Begins With the House of God

1 Peter 4:14. The glory that is spoken about in 1 Peter 4:13 has not come yet. At present you may still be reproached “for the name of Christ”. It is the same suffering as the suffering that is called ‘Christ’s sufferings’ in the previous verse, but with another emphasis. There the emphasis is more on the suffering itself; it is a suffering that also Christ has endured for doing the will of God. It is a part of each who follows Him. With the suffering ‘for the name of Christ’ the emphasis is more on the relation with Himself.

To be reproached for His Name is a suffering that is a direct consequence of coming out for His Name in word and in deed. The world sees in the believer the representative of Christ, Whom Himself, when He was here, was the great Representative of God. Due to that He experienced: “The reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me” (Psalms 69:9). To Him it was no disgrace and that goes also for you when you are reproached for His Name. Peter even says “you are blessed” when that happens.

Christ’s sufferings and the suffering for the Name of Christ are an exceptional way of the revelation of “the Spirit of glory and of God”. In the suffering you experience that the Spirit brings you in your inner being into contact with ‘the glory’ that is His home. He is also the Spirit ‘of God’, the Spirit Who gives you the awareness of God’s full interest and support in the suffering you find yourself in.

That is without a doubt a wonderful encouragement to endure this suffering with joy. You go through an unprecedented experience of God’s presence that others will also notice, for that Spirit “rests on you” (cf. Acts 6:15). While you’re enduring suffering on earth, you possess something that comes from the glory which connects you to it. You not only have a promise of a coming glory, but you have Him Who belongs there.

I have read the biography of a Chinese church leader who had spent twenty years in detention barracks, because of his faith in the Lord Jesus. In that book he speaks all the time about God as ‘the Presence’. To him the presence of God and His Spirit was nearly a tangible reality in the midst of the suffering. They were ‘present’, he was sure of Their presence. That gave him the strength to do the heavy forced labor and to testify of his Lord and Savior towards his fellow prisoners.

1 Peter 4:15. After presenting the privileges of suffering, because of the relation with Christ, Peter warns of a form of suffering that ought not to happen to you. That form of suffering is the suffering because of the sins you have committed. Peter mentions some of them. The “murderer, or thief, or evildoer” are people who take or damage the life or possessions of other people (materially or spiritually).

The “troublesome meddler” doesn’t look to fit into this row, but Peter still puts him next to these other crystal clear sins. The busybody is someone who meddles unasked in other people’s affairs. Meddling limits the room for others, it takes away the freedom of others to act according to what the Lord makes clear. The busybody is doing a work of which the devastating effects often become visible in the longer term. The world has no appreciation for it, like it has not for the other three. It is shameful when a person, who calls himself a Christian, has to endure such suffering.

1 Peter 4:16. However, a person may possibly suffer, because he really behaves as a Christian, after the meaning of the name ‘Christian’. That is because he shows features of Him to Whom the name ‘Christian’ refers, that is Christ. The name ‘Christian’ appears only here and in Acts 11:26 and Acts 26:28. In both places in Acts the name is used by unbelievers who refer to those who testify of their faith in Christ. Therefore it is the world that came up with that name. By what Peter writes here we see that the Spirit acknowledges this name formally.

A Christian is therefore a true follower of Christ. When you suffer “as a Christian”, thus because you are known as a follower of Christ and act as such, you do not have to be ashamed of it. On the contrary, you are allowed “to glorify God in this name”. Christ has always suffered for the Name of God and glorified Him therein. You are allowed to follow Him therein. That is a great privilege.

1 Peter 4:17. There is another reason why God uses the suffering of the persecution on behalf of His own. The time of the judgment over the world is still to come. Peter speaks about that in his second letter. We shall see that when we read and examine that letter together. In this first letter it is about God’s reign over His children. Therefore Peter speaks now about God’s judgment over His house, which is the church, but seen as a whole that consists of all believers who are held responsible for their own behavior.

That you are a member of the church is not only a privilege, but also a great responsibility. That’s the issue here. That responsibility is greater than that of the world. The church as the people of God and the house of God, as a matter of fact, confesses to know God and to obey Him. Therefore God’s judgment has to begin here before He executes His judgment over the world (cf. Jeremiah 25:29; Ezekiel 9:6).

God first judges what is the closest to Him, what is most responsible (Leviticus 10:3; Amos 3:2), in order to remove what is not according to His will. He wants that the wrong should be confessed and be put away. For that reason He uses the world in her persecution of His own. Therefore persecution is besides a test of faith also a speaking of God to the conscience of His people. He wants to bring His own to have the same judgment as He has. That will cause them to judge what He judges, so that they may not be judged with the world (1 Corinthians 11:31-Jonah :).

By speaking about “us” Peter puts himself under the judgment that God executes over His house. “For [it is] time” for that judgment while the church is still on earth. To the unbeliever the time has not come yet to be judged, but that will happen in future (Proverbs 11:31). The execution of God’s judgment over the world contains a serious warning for us not to catch up with her, doesn’t it? The judgment over the world is still to come and it will be terrible and definite. There will be no way to escape.

1 Peter 4:18. You are a righteous one and just take a look at the effort God is taking to lead you saved to that final goal. In the midst of all trials He continues His work in you. He guards you from falling away and from sliding into the world and He purifies your faith, so that you continue to respond to Who He is. Therefore “difficulty” here is with regard to all efforts of God in order to lead you safely through all dangers to finally give you the inheritance that He reserves for you (1 Peter 1:4-Deuteronomy :). That is a great encouragement.

To the world it is a great warning. That is embedded in the question “what will become the godless man and the sinner”, thus those who live without God and only for themselves. The answer to that question is: they will appear before the great white throne to be judged there according to their works (Revelation 20:11-Ezra :).

1 Peter 4:19. If you are aware of the previous you will be able to understand the admonition to, when you are suffering to God’s will, entrust your soul to the faithful Creator. You will surely not think of escaping the suffering by adapting yourself to the world and entrust your soul to her. The world, consisting of the ungodly and sinners, speeds to meet the judgment. Therefore it is not wise to take refuge in the world in order to escape the suffering. You speed to meet your inheritance. Therefore consider that the extent of suffering is the basis for the joy that you will have when you can take possession of the inheritance at the revelation of the glory of Christ (see 1 Peter 4:13).

The “faithful Creator”, your Maker, He Who completely knows you and knows how you feel, guides everything to the goal for which He has created all things. He is faithful and will achieve His goal with the world, with the inheritance and with you. On the way to His goal you are allowed, by doing good, to show that you have entrusted your whole life to Him. You do not seek to adapt yourself to the world, but you neither rejoice in the judgment that will come over the world. As long as you are here you are allowed to seek the good for the people in the world, so that, through your good works many more will get to know Him on behalf of Whom you work.

Now read 1 Peter 4:14-19 again.

Reflection: What does your suffering as a Christian consist of?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Peter 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-peter-4.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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