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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter 4

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verse 1

4. Christ’s example, also, of holiness to be followed, 1 Peter 4:1-6.

1. Christ hath suffered 1 Peter 3:18.

Arm yourselves As a soldier called to a warfare.

The same mind The same thought and purpose of suffering innocently and in God’s cause, that Christ manifested.

For Some understand this clause, of the believer’s identification with Christ in his suffering and death, as in Romans 6:7-11, and Galatians 2:20. But this is too Pauline for St. Peter’s style of expression; and, besides, the words hardly admit of it. Referred to Christ himself, it states, as a fact, the rest from sin that followed his suffering, and presents a valid reason for the arming, namely, that they, having the same purpose, should likewise have no more to do with sin.

Verse 2

2. That… live Rather, so as no more to live; this the end in arming.

Lusts of men Making, not the base desires of ungodly men their law, but the will of God, and his will alone, for the rest of their earthly life.

Verse 3

3. The will of the Gentiles Βουλημα , in contrast with θελημα , will of God. The latter has more of authority, the former is here more expressive of strong desire, which the Gentiles would persuade Christians to follow again as before conversion. But the apostle tells them, sufficient is the time past to have wrought that which they would have you still do, and may try to compel you to do.

When we walked The habitual Gentile conduct. The passage shows those addressed, even if Jews, had been liable to Gentile vices.

Lasciviousness Unbridled conduct; a general term, with its particulars following.

Lusts Sensual impurity.

Excess of wine Swillings of wine; beastly drunkenness.

Revellings Night carousals; going, after supper, into the streets with torches, frolic, and drunken songs.

Banquetings Drinking bouts.

Abominable Lawless. All idolatry is against God’s law; but in this connexion, doubtless, are included the obscene and filthy practices at many of the idol feasts.

Verse 4

4. Think it strange Are surprised at the strange sight of men who are not rushing with them into the same sink of debauchery.

Speaking evil Literally, blaspheming: railing at them for their singularity, and slandering them as enemies of society; abusing Christianity for requiring a different life, and reviling the Christ whom they served. It was natural that these heathen should thus vent their vexation; ungodly men sometimes do the same thing now.

Verse 5

5. Give account Since these profligates and revilers must render an account to Christ, his maligned and suffering people may safely leave their vindication in his hands, following his own example, 1 Peter 2:23.

Ready to judge The blessed side of Christ’s readiness for his second advent, St. Peter sets forth in his speech in Solomon’s porch. Acts 3:19-20. And he is, on his part, fully prepared to take his seat on the judgment throne, as he has ever been since the apostle wrote. Not the nearness of the event, but its certainty, is intended.

The quick and the dead It obviates no difficulty to take these words figuratively. They must, we think, be taken in their usual sense, as in Acts 10:42, Romans 14:9, and 2 Timothy 4:1, meaning those who are living when Christ comes, and those who are then dead.

Verse 6

6. For That the dead are to be judged, is the particular statement, the reason for which is now to be assigned.

For this cause In view of the judgment. We agree with Alford that dead, here, is, as in 1 Peter 4:5, the physically dead, and not, as Wordsworth, the “dead in sins;” but he is in error in holding its equal comprehension in both verses. For in 1 Peter 4:5 it is universal; in this verse we are told, (literally,) it was evangelized to deads that is, that part of all the dead (note on Luke 20:35) to whom the gospel was preached, saying nothing of that part to whom it was not preached. We reject the view of Alford and others that the reference is to a preaching of the gospel to men after death, which is nowhere taught in Scripture, and contradicts its whole tenor. The plain meaning is, that the gospel was preached to men when living, who are now dead, just as it would be perfectly correct to say that it was preached to saints in glory, or to souls that are in perdition; meaning, that it was preached to them when here on the earth. The aorist shows its cessation. We think, moreover, that judged, in both verses, must refer to the same judge and the same judgment-day. This sweeps away a whole class of expositions.

Judged according to men The gospel is preached to men with reference to, and for the sake of, their living holily, and being prepared for the judgment. They who are dead when Christ comes, will be judged according to men who are still in the flesh, that is, as surely, and upon the same righteous principles, as they will be who are living at his advent.

Live according to God A true, spiritual, and holy life in this world, and a life of glory in heaven, even such a life as he requires and gives to all who obey his gospel.

Verse 7

5. The coming end of all things, enforcing this law of holiness, 1 Peter 4:7-11.

7. The end of all things Absolutely, in the final consummation. To refer this to the destruction of Jerusalem, with Dr. Clarke and others, assumes an unlikely interest in that event on the part of those to whom St. Peter is writing, and furnishes no proper basis for the exhortations which follow.

At hand Not in time, but in the apostle’s vivid conception of eternal realities. He has himself given us the divine arithmetic by which he reckons, (2 Peter 3:8, where see notes;) and the Holy Spirit, under whose inspiration he wrote, well knew that it was not literally near, and did not inspire him to write an untruth. Practically, to every man that end is very near, and it becomes us to walk daily with it in view.

Sober Self-restrained.

Watch So as to have the habit of prayer. The three belong together. These counsels are for personal life.

Verse 8

8. As to social relations, first of all stands intense love one for another. See notes on 1 Peter 1:22-23.

Shall cover Rather, covers, as with a mantle.

Sins Not our own, but those of our brethren; their faults and offences, which love overlooks and forgives, reversing the too human rule of leniency for self and strictness for others. The Romanists vainly hold the apostle as meaning that deeds of benevolence to the poor procure pardon of sin, for, as Luther rightly says, “Faith only can cover sin for thee before God.”

Verse 9

9. Hospitality As would often be necessary toward those who might be driven from home, or otherwise suffering.

Without grudging Not murmuring at the cost or trouble.

Verse 10

10. So also in the exercise of supernatural gifts, referring to the charisms bestowed upon the primitive Christians, though doubtless including God’s gifts of a temporal character. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Corinthians 12:28.

As good stewards Put in trust, for the Lord’s gracious purposes, with the precious gift, to be used for him in doing good to others, and not for one’s own personal and selfish ends. The rule is, according as every man hath received, and applies to the use of our talents, money, influence, and whatever God has given.

Verse 11

11. Now follows a pair of specimens of the gifts just mentioned.

If… speak As a teacher, preacher, or exhorter.

Oracles of God As communications of God’s doctrines, and not the speaker’s own. In Romans 3:2 the phrase means God’s revelations in the Holy Scriptures, and, for us, it has here the same practical import.

Minister The reference is not to the deacon distributing church alms, but to any service which one brother might render to another out of his own means.

The ability which God giveth This, no more and no less, is the rule for the Church of all ages, and the measure of every man’s duty in the kingdom of Christ. Romans 12:6-8. The apostle, perhaps, had in mind our Lord’s parable of the talents. Matthew 25:14-30.

God… glorified As he will be by such an entire consecration and employment by every man of his gift in doing all possible good to the souls and bodies of men.

To whom Christ; for to him as Mediator belongs the glory of all good gifts bestowed and of their right use, and the power that empowers for doing good.

Verse 12

12. Think it not strange Be not surprised. The heathen were surprised (1 Peter 4:4) at the life of Christians, but Christians need not be at persecution by the heathen.

Fiery trial The word means a burning, a being on fire, and the trying of metals by fire. It may mean here an actual suffering by fire, though perhaps only some severe trial which would be as if by fire. Bloomfield thinks there is an allusion to the questio, a torment by fire.

Try you See notes on chap. 1 Peter 1:7. The Greek shows that those addressed were then passing through trials, but the whole passage points to an increase in their severity. The Neronian persecution began A.D. 64.

Verses 12-19

6. Special consideration of the persecution then imminent, with warnings as to the conduct appropriate, 1 Peter 4:12-19.

Returning to the general subject introduced at 1 Peter 3:13, the apostle reminds his readers that (1) they should expect to share Christ’s glory as well as his sufferings, 12, 13; (2) they should see to it that their sufferings are really for his sake, and not for crime, 14-16; and (3) that they will know but the beginning of God’s judgments, the terrible weight of which will fall on the ungodly, 17, 18.

Verse 13

13. Rejoice Habitually.

Partakers of In actual bodily sufferings for Christ’s sake, thus identifying them with him. Then, at the time of the revelation of his glory, (1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:13,) in the day of judgment, they will “also reign with him.” 2 Timothy 2:12.

Be glad Better, rejoice.

The first rejoice is in sorrow and pain: this is with triumphant exultation.

Verse 14

14. Reproached Railed at and assailed with opprobrious epithets. The apostle doubtless alludes to our Lord’s words in Matthew 5:11.

Happy Blessed. See notes on 1 Peter 3:14.

The Spirit The Holy Spirit, who rested on Christ, resteth upon you, filling your souls with glory and the presence of God. A blessed compensation truly for the patient endurance of unmerited reproaches.

Evil spoken of On the part of the persecutors Christ is blasphemed; on the part of the reviled Christians he is glorified.

Verse 15

15. Their sufferings must be for the name of Christ. To emphasize this, the solemn charge follows to see to it, for the sake of both themselves and the cause, that none suffer, bodily or by reproach, for any wicked crime.

An evil doer Guilty of misdemeanour.

Busybody… matters The admonition is good, taking the ordinary view of it. Robinson defines, an overseer of other men’s matters; perhaps an indiscreet zealot against heathen manners and customs. But as the apostle is specifying offences against civil law, it seems better, with Lardner and others, to understand it of political busybodies, or factious, seditious persons. How faithfully this injunction was heeded by the early Christians may be estimated from the testimony of Pliny’s letter to the Emperor Trajan, some forty-five years later. After saying that they were charged with no other crime than the being Christian, he adds: “They affirmed that the whole of their fault or error lay in this that they were wont to meet together on a stated day before it was light, and sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ, as to God, and bind themselves by an oath, not to the commission of any wickedness, but not to be guilty of theft, or robbery, or adultery; never to falsify their word, nor to deny a pledge committed to them when called upon to return it. When these things were performed it was their custom to separate, and then to come together to a meal which they ate in common.”

Verse 16

16. If… Christian The epithet is found in only two other places, Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28. It seems to have at this time become the common name applied in heathen communities to the followers of Jesus, but always with contempt and scorn. Still, it does not appear to have been adopted among themselves. The apostle exhorts that if any one of them is accused of being a Christian, however much it may bite or sting, he be not ashamed, as sensitive natures might easily be. Doubtless there were those, as there may be now, who could more bravely be tossed to the lions than endure the taunt.

On this behalf Rather, with the best texts, in this name. Accept the name, and glorify God in wearing it as a badge of the highest honour. Perhaps St. Peter was thinking of his own rejoicing that he was counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. Acts 5:40-41.

Verse 17

17. The time The season, the fit time, for God’s judicial dealings with a wicked and corrupt world. The apostle saw that the times were ripe for the stretching forth of the divine hand in terrible chastenings.

Judgment That severe trial which determines character through afflictions and distresses, purifying, as in a furnace, those who endure the test, and overwhelming the wicked with destruction. The apostle says, It is now the season of the beginning of this work at the house of God. The divine rule is to always begin his work of discipline and punishment with his own people. Isaiah 10:12-13; Ezekiel 9:6; Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 49:12.

House of God The us in the next verse, the “spiritual house” of 1 Peter 2:5, the “Church of the living God” of 1 Timothy 3:15, and the “ whose house are we” of Hebrews 3:6. There appears no special reference to the Jewish temple or to the destruction of Jerusalem.

If it first begin at us The sufferings of the righteous proceed from God’s judgment, for the purpose of chastening, (Hebrews 12:6;) and they should, therefore, glorify God in them; but that judgment does not end with them, for it proceeds onward from them to the wicked. If he deal thus with his faithful people who obey his gospel, how terribly will he deal with them that obey it not, and scorn the Christ in whom it commands them to believe? It may be delayed; it may seem to be escaped; they may prosper and attain high honor and power by their iniquity, and die calmly in their beds; but the awful, overwhelming end will surely come.

Verse 18

18. Scarcely be saved So severe the persecution, so terrible the trial, so powerful the influences to apostasy, and so weak his own nature, that the Christian will with difficulty endure to the end and be saved in heaven; but if he hold to his faith in Christ, his salvation is absolutely certain.

The ungodly and the sinner Not two classes, but one; he who is utterly the opposite of God in character and life, and a regardless transgressor of his law, making no effort to be saved. The question implies a strong denial that he will be saved at all.

Verse 19

19. That suffer In this time of distress.

Will of God As shown in his providential dealings.

Commit With most absolute, unfaltering trust, whatever befalls.

Their souls Their bodies and lives, indeed, but especially their souls, joining all holy obedience to their faith, so that they would be filled with his Spirit and kept from forsaking Christ in the hour of peril; and, if their lives were lost, they would be saved in heaven.

A faithful Creator Who, with all his wisdom, power, and love, is forever faithful to his faithful covenant people.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-peter-4.html. 1874-1909.
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