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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 4

Caton's Commentary on the Minor EpistlesCaton's Commentary

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This chapter is taken up wholly by exhortations to the brethren. In consideration of the fact that Christ had suffered, he urges them to arm themselves with the like mind and spirit that they might thereby bear their afflictions with more patience; that by so arming themselves they would no longer live as do men, wholly governed by the desires and appetites of the flesh, but as they ought to live live as God desired them to live. He tells them their conduct before con-version ought to be sufficient to satisfy the Gentiles that since conversion some important change had occurred. They could see that your former course was abandoned. Not understanding your enlighten-ment, they think strange of you. The Gentiles pursue a course of conduct for which they shall answer before him who shall judge all that are now living, and also all that are dead. Because he will judge those that are dead, is the reason all such, at one time or another, had a message of love given to them. But the end will come, and, in view of that event, you must be sober and vigilant, exercising great love among yourselves, administering needful things to the brethren without hesitation, for you are only stewards of God, and carry away with you none of the gifts of God. In speaking, you should speak as the word of God directs, and give as the ability is bestowed upon you by the Father. In this way you will honor God through Christ. Be not astonished that trials beset you. By patient endurance you thus partake of the Savior's sufferings. Your reward will cause you great joy. You suffer ill for the cause of Christ, and in that case God's Spirit is with you and he is glorified. Be careful, however, not to suffer for taking human life or the property of another, for then your punishment is just. The same is the case where you do any wrong or interfere with the affairs of others. But in suffering for the name of Christ do not be ashamed, but glory in that name. The judgment will come, and the righteous will be judged first, and if they are saved, requiring as it does the observance of all things imposed upon you, what suppose you will the sentence be to all those who obey not God as he has required of them in the gospel ? Suffer, then, according to the will of God, and thereby commit the keeping of your souls unto him in all well-doing, for he is faithful.

Verse 1

Verse 1. Forasmuch, then, as Christ has suffered.

It being a fact that Christ suffered for us in the flesh, it is a strong reason why you should make every effort to secure your own salvation. You are engaged in a warfare. Your enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil. These must be resisted. You must be properly equipped for this struggle.

Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.

The mind is the necessary means for successful resist-ance. Christ performed the will of his Father even unto suffering the death of the cross, and was afterwards seated in glory. Doing the will of the Father is to have and be armed with the mind of Christ. Like mind and like deter-mination in us will result in our victory over all our enemies, and insure to us the consequent reception by the Father, and the bestowal upon us by him of the reward of eternal life.

Verse 2

Verse 2. That he no longer should.

Having taken a stand for Christ, we thereby announce that sin has no longer any claims upon us. We cease to sin. This is our claim and our duty. We live no longer in the lusts of the flesh. We owe to them no allegiance whatever. It is now an enemy to us, and as such we are fighting against it. The will of God is against the lusts of the flesh, and we are living now as subjects to God's will, and by that will we are governed and controlled.

Verse 3

Verse 3. For the time past of our life.

The life we lived before conversion in all the excesses indulged in by the Gentiles is here alluded to. These excesses were in accord with our wills and desires at the time we engaged with the Gentiles therein. For us that has been sufficient. Being enlightened now by the gospel of Christ, we no longer so walk, we no longer so conduct ourselves, and we can not and at the same time obey God.

Verse 4

Verse 4. Wherein they think it strange.

The Gentiles think it strange that we do not continue to commit these excesses with them as we did before our conversion to Christ, and for this reason these Gentiles speak evil of us.

Verse 5

Verse 5. Who shall give an account.

These unconverted ones who speak evil of us will be required to give an account, not only for the excesses in which they indulge, but also for the wrongs they do to us and for all their evil speaking against us.

To him who is ready to judge.

The account the Gentiles will be required to give will be to one appointed as Judge ; even to Jesus Christ. Paul says: "He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath appointed ; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" ( Act_17:31 ). Jesus will be the Judge. It is so ordained. God has appointed him to be the Judge.

The quick and the dead.

By the quick the apostle means the living. By the dead he refers to those who once lived on the earth, and have passed away in the ordinary and natural manner. All that once lived, as well as the living, will be judged.

Verse 6

Verse 6. For this cause was the gospel preached to them.

The gospel was preached to them that were dead in Peter's day, because all men are to be judged, and thus no partiality shown. There is no respecter of persons with God.

All will be judged. Hence the gospel must be preached to all. Here we are liable to be misled by a word gospel.

When this word "gospel" is used, we are apt to think of the gospel of Christ. By the use made of the word by the religious world, it is so almost exclusively employed ; become crystallized, so to speak. This exclusive sense is not inherent in the word "gospel." From the days of Adam all along the ages until Christ came, from time to time a message was received by man from God. That message was news, joyful news, glad tidings, joyful message, gospel. This is the import of the word. The antediluvians received a message from the court of heaven. It was a gospel to them. After the flood, and during the days of Abraham and on down to the giving of the law from Sinai's smoking summit, messages from God were received. These were glad tidings a gospel to be observed and obeyed. Finally, the full development of God's gracious purpose in man's salvation burst upon an astonished world when that most wonderful of all announce-ments was made : "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" ( Act_2:36 ). The development is complete now. The news is full. Partial light was given as God saw fit, and duties imposed to correspond to the light given.

It may be said truthfully, however, that in all ages the basis of acceptance with God has been the same. The same principle is to be found in every age. Faith and obedience God has always exacted; faith in God, and obedience to his commands. In this there has been no change. As God devel-oped his purpose in regard to man's salvation, more light was given and new duties imposed. Still, faith and obedience were required. No more was demanded of Cain than was exacted of his brother Abel. The same thing was not required, nor to be performed in the same manner, of the Jew in Solomon's day that was exacted of Adam. As God saw fit, in his infinite wisdom, to give to the children of men additional light regarding his purpose, he imposed additional duties. While each soul must account for the deeds done in the body, the same things will not be required of Achan that will be required of the sons of Eli, nor of either that there will be of the Athenian philosophers who heard Paul's discourse on Mars Hill. At the great day the books will be opened, and another book, which is the Book of Life, and the judgment will be from these books. As each man's message has been, so he will be judged. This is simple justice, and God is a God of infinite justice. God is no respecter of persons. You and I, having the same light having the same gospel will fare exactly alike. So much will not, however, be exacted of Adam, for he did not have the same message. Now, if all are to be judged by the gospel of Christ as promulgated by the apostles, then there must be a post-mortem preaching of the same, or else there would be a failure of justice. From this I can see no possibility of escape. This pernicious and soul-destroying - doctrine of a message after death finds no warrant nor an intimation thereof in all the Bible, when the same is honestly and fairly interpreted, but finds its basis and its advocacy only in the desires, wishes and inventions of men.

I am impressed with the correctness of this view of the matter after a long and somewhat painful examination of the subject, and from a general view of God's dealings with his creatures, as the same is spread out before our vision in his revealed will, and from what I conceive to be the best, purest and most certain test of the original that has descended to us. It is in these words : "For to this end, even to the dead ones, was a joyful message delivered, that they might be judged indeed according to men in flesh, but might be living according to God in spirit." This is the translation of Joseph B. Rotherham from the Greek text of Tregelles. Others, however good and learned, may take another and a different view of this matter, as they have honestly and concienstiously done, and I am not finding any fault with them for so doing. I timidly and modestly suggest that the foregoing position relieves all perplexity and doubt, and dis-pels the mysticism thrown around the text by the enemies of the cause of Christ.

Verse 7

Verse 7. But the end of all things is at hand.

The things that troubled and oppressed, the end thereof approached. It may be that the apostle, remembering that many of their troubles arose from Jewish opposition to the faith of Christ, had in view the destruction of Jerusalem. This would relieve them from the source of their bitterest opposition. And he might refer to the time of their depar-ture hence, which would be the end to all things to 'them on this earth.

Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

A most proper exhortation in view of the approach of the end to their trials.

Verse 8

Verse 8. Above all things have fervent charity.

Have above all things, as the most important of all, burning, continual love for the brethren. This makes you better and stronger. You will then see no little foibles among one another, for this kind of love covers or shuts out of view, not one foible or sin, but many, even a multitude of sins.

Verse 9

Verse 9. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

Hospitality is good. Use it towards one another, and while so using it do not murmur. Do not use it unhesitat-ingly. Regard not the expense or trouble your hospitality costs you.

Verse 10

Verse 10. As every man hath received the gift.

A gift is something that has been received from another. In this case it is God who is the dispenser of the gift. The gift here mentioned may be either of a temporal or spiritual nature. The exhortation is applicable to either. Such gifts are held by the Christian as a steward of God's grace, and as such they are here enjoined to minister of the same to one another.

Verse 11

Verse 11. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.

Where one speaks in matters pertaining to Christian doctrine or duty, he must do so with the utmost fidelity to God's word. This he is urged to do by the apostle with the greatest emphasis.

If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.

This, I take it, refers to administering to the necessities of the saints. In such cases the giving is to be measured by the greatness of the supply from on high.

That God in all things may be glorified.

The prime purpose of speaking as the oracles of God speak, and of ministering to the saints liberally, is that therein God's will is observed, and God thereby reverenced and glorified.

Through Christ.

Every gift from God under the present economy is through his Son Jesus Christ, and to that gracious giver the apostle ascribes the doxology of praise and dominion forever. Amen.

Verse 12

Verse 12. Beloved, think it not strange.

These Christians were being persecuted even to the extent of being burned . at the stake for their faith. They might well wonder if their Christianity led them only into right-doing that they should suffer. Yet the apostle says: Wonder not; this trial of faith has happened to the people of God before. You are not an exception ; you must expect to endure suffering.

Verse 13

Verse 13. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers.

So far from wondering at your affliction for the truth, I counsel you to rejoice. Your Savior suffered unjustly; you herby partake of the same. By and by that same Savior will come, and his glory will be revealed to you. Your reward then follows, when you will be glad, possessing a great and an exceeding joy.

Verse 14

Verse 14. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ.

If you suffer continually for being a Christian, that is, bearing the name of Christ, happy are ye. Words spoken in reproach or bitter ridicule. "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you" ( Mat_5:11 ). How be blessed or happy? Simply call up the reflection that the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Then in that case the reviler is reviling God, and you are glorifying him by bearing with patient endurance the reproach cast upon God through you.

Verse 15

Verse 15. But let none of you suffer as a murderer.

Taking the life of your fellowman, taking away his goods without the right to do so, or doing any forbidden thing, or meddling in any way with the affairs of your neighbors, are all wrong, and should you suffer punishment therefore, you suffer justly, and are not entitled to any sympathy, glory or credit, even if you bear the punishment courageously.

Verse 16

Verse 16. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian.

Here the difference is apparent. One who suffers for the cause of Christ should not be ashamed of his suffering, how-ever trying or ignominious it may be. He suffers unjustly. Hence he is told to give glory to God, because he is esteemed worthy to suffer in so great and noble a cause, and to bless his holy name for the strength imparted to endure the ordeal.

Verse 17

Verse 17. For the time is come that judgment.

The sense of this verse becomes easier by discarding the supplied words "is come." The judgment begins at the Church of God; that is, the righteous are judged first. The Lord himself explains this matter, and leaves us no room for doubt. He tells us all about it in Mat_25:1-46 :, com-mencing at the thirty-first verse, and completes the expla-nation at the end of that chapter.

If it begin at us, what shall be the end?

If the righteous, as such, are to be judged, what can be the fate of the unrighteous, those who have not obeyed the gospel? They, of course, will be judged likewise. The sentence in each case will be measured by the conduct of each while here on earth.

Verse 18

Verse 18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved.

I can not think the apostle here intimates any difficulty in the salvation of the righteous, for in his second Epistle he states plainly that the entrance into the everlasting kingdom shall be abundantly ministered. I think the thought is that, while in this life their hindrances are so great and the trial so heavy, their faithful endurance is hard to be sustained, and, if thy prove loyal and true to Christ and are saved, what hope can the ungodly and sinner have that obeyed not and suffered not for the cause of right?

Verse 19

Verse 19. Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God.

The conclusion is enforced with emphasis. Those that suffer for the cause of Christ, suffer for the truth, suffer for living as God requires, continue faithfully so to serve God, committing their souls and the keeping thereof to him. God sees all. God cares for his children. His mercies are great, and his promises sure.

Bibliographical Information
Caton, Nathan Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". Caton's Commentary on the Minor Epistles. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ntc/1-peter-4.html. 1916.
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