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Christ's suffering in the flesh is set before us then as an example; not His sufferings for us in atonement, which were His alone, but His sufferings in a contrary world, in precious, lowly grace. We are to arm ourselves with the same mind, which at least means a studious, decisive preparedness to willingly suffer wrong. To suffer in the flesh involves the refusal of sin's enticements, and hence ceasing from sin, the decision of heart to no longer live as subject to natural lusts, but rather as subject to the will of God. This is normal Christianity.
For in retrospect what believer cannot fully agree that his past life has Involved more than sufficient self-will, self-pleasing, and vanity? No doubt some have far more than others walked in the gross excesses listed in the end of v.3; but even a little is more then enough for those who have a true view of the sufferings of Christ.
Ungodly Gentiles no doubt think it strange that believers have no heart to indulge the baser passions in the same excessive follies as they; and for such a reason will speak against them. But both we and they will give account to a higher Judge, He who is ready to judge both the living and dead. Certainly these judgments are far separated as to time, but Christ is already prepared for both judgments. God has exalted Him, and nothing can hinder the judgment that He will execute at the precise time.
In v.6, it is because Christ is ready to judge that the Gospel was preached to them that are dead. It is not said the Gospel is preached to them, nor that it was preached to those who were dead. They are dead now, but the Gospel was preached to them when they were alive. This again refers to the days of Noah (Ch.3:20,21). The object of the preaching was that, while they might be judged according to men in the flesh (as men speak evil of a believer--v.4), yet they might live according to God in the Spirit. This would be the normal, proper result of the preaching received. Noah's family re-ceived it and suffered from men, but lived, while others died. How insignificant is man's callous judgment compared to living according to God in the spirit!But it is only very briefly that present conditions will exist: the end of all things is at hands The end is not merely a termination, but that which God has in view, a conclusion of eternal character. Time is but transient, however long it may seem. Sober watchful prayer Is therefore only becoming. We have no time for laxity.
And of greatest importance is fervent love among the saints. For love is the warmth and energy of God's own nature, in which believers by grace have a share. Light may expose sin, but love covers a multitude of sins. It is certainly not that we are to count-enance or protect what is evil, but love will lead another to Judge his own sin, and thus it is covered, not emblazoned abroad, God delights is such warmth of love.
Hospitality too, with a free heart, is a precious virtue. Let us be glad to show this to others, and never think of it as being an irksome duty. Abraham's example is most refreshing (Genesis 18:1-8).
As to helping others, each also has different abilities, and each is to his gift as being directly answerable to God, who has given It. "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful," and it should be a continual exercise of each believer to rightly dispense that with which he has been entrusted "of the manifold grace of God." This is grace in its many various aspects, such as can supply every believer with more than enough to minister for his entire life.
If one's gift is that of speaking, he is to do it "as oracles of God." That is, with a due sense of speaking for God, for which of course he must have solid, clear Scripture. Ministering is service of any kind, and to be engaged in diligently, as God gives ability. The object is that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, for to Him is praise and dominion forever. Such motives will always be accompanied by diligence.
Now the apostle returns to the subject of suffering, urging saints not to think it strange that they are to be tried by a "fiery trial." In fact, rather than strange, it is to be expected by a Christian, for men's hearts are naturally opposed to God. But we are told to rejoice because this is in some measure at least partaking of Christ's sufferings. And it is in prospect of the near revelation of Christ in His glory, when present suffering will give place to exceeding joy for the child of God. The contrast of course is marvelous beyond description; but in the midst of present suffering, to set our eyes on that precious prospect is the way of overcoming with rejoicing.
Chapter 2:14 has spoken of happiness in suffering for righteousness' sake: now verse 14 insists too that suffering reproach for the name of Christ is a matter of happiness for in this God will give to the soul a precious sense of the "Spirit of glory and of God resting approvingly upon the sufferer. For if Christ is evil spoken of by persecutors, yet on the part of the persecuted believer He is glorified. God cannot fail to take full account of this, for He greatly values the faith that glorifies his Son.
How sadly inconsistent however would be the contrast of one suffering as a murderer, a thief, or even as a busybody. Such suffering would be deserved, both as to present punishment and eternal loss.
But if one suffers as a Christian, he is encouraged not to be ashamed; for this is really worthwhile, and he may wholeheartedly glorify God on this account.The time is now come that judgment must begin at the house of God. God uses every kind of distress and trial In the discipline of His own house, the Church of God; and this includes the unjust persecutions of the world. This judgment will culminate at the judgment seat of Christ, when we shall see the precious fruits of His discipline in a way never properly known before. But since we are children of God now, then certainly we expect to have our Father's governing discipline.
And if there is such discerning judgment as to the house of God, what shall it be in His dealing (not as a Father, but) strictly as a Judge in reference to those who refuse to obey the Gospel of His grace? Simply the question as to their end is enough to awaken awesome dread in the soul. For if the righteous are, with difficulty, saved (that is, with the discipline of trial, sorrow, distress); where shall appear the ungodly, who have not known such things? Though the answer is not here given, Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 20:11-15 is plain that they shall appear before the Great White Throne, to be judged according to their works, and cast into the lake of fire. If the believer feels inclined to be envious of the unbeliever, let him stop and consider their contrasting ends.
And the subject is concluded with an encouraging exhortation to those who find themselves suffering according to the will of God: they are not told to appeal to the world, but to God, committing their souls to Him in doing well, regardless of consequences now. For He is a faithful Creator, taking full account of all that affects His creatures, always to be depended upon, no matter what present appearances may be.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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