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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Peter 4

 

 

Verse 1-2

1 Peter 4:1-2. Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered — Even the ignominious and painful death of the cross, with all those previous and concomitant evils, which rendered his death peculiarly bitter; for us — And that from a pure and disinterested principle of love; arm yourselves likewise with the same mind — With a resolution such as animated him to suffer all the evils to which you may be exposed in the body; and particularly to suffer death, if called by God to do so for your religion. For this will be armour of proof against all your enemies. For he that hath — In conformity to our Lord Jesus; suffered in the flesh — Or, who hath so suffered as to be thereby made inwardly and truly conformable to Christ in his sufferings, hath, of course, ceased from sin — From knowingly committing it. “He hath been made to rest,” says Macknight, “from temptation to sin, consequently from sin itself. For if a man hath overcome the fear of torture and death, no weaker temptation will prevail with him to make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.” That he no longer should live in the flesh — Even in his mortal body; to the lusts — The desires, of men — Either his own or those of others; should no longer be governed by those irregular and inordinate affections which rule in unregenerate men; but to the will of God — In a holy conformity and obedience to the divine precepts, how contrary soever they may be to his carnal and sensual inclinations, or apparently to his worldly interests.


Verses 3-5

1 Peter 4:3-5. For the time past of our life may suffice us αρκετος ημιν, is sufficient for us; to have wrought the will of the Gentiles — The expression is soft, but conveys a very strong meaning, namely, that in no period of our lives ought we to have wrought the will of the Gentiles; and that whatever time we spent in so doing was too much. When we walked in lasciviousness — In various kinds and degrees of it; lusts — Inordinate desires; excess of wine οινοφλυγιαις, being inflamed with wine; revellings κωμοις, luxurious feastings; see on Romans 13:13; banquetings ποτοις, drunken entertainments; and abominable idolatries — With all the shameful vices connected therewith. Wherein they think it strange, &c. — The word ξενιζονται, thus rendered, was used by the Greeks to express that admiration and wonder with which a stranger is struck, who beholds anything uncommon or new. The meaning here is, On account of your former manner of life, they wonder that you now shun their company, and run not with them to the same excess of riot you formerly ran into; speaking evil of you — As proud, singular, silly, wicked, and the like; who shall give account — Of this as well as all their other ways; to him that is ready — So faith represents him now; to judge the quick and the dead — Those who are now alive, and those who shall be found alive at his coming to judgment.


Verse 6

1 Peter 4:6. For for this cause — Or to this end; was the gospel preached — Ever since it was intimated to Adam, in the promise made to him after the fall, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head; to them that are dead — Who have died in their several generations, and especially to our forefathers, the descendants of Abraham, and the other patriarchs, by Moses and the prophets; that they might be judged according to men in the flesh — Or, that though they were judged in the flesh according to the manner of men, with rash, unrighteous judgment, were condemned as evil- doers, and some of them put to death, they might live according to God — Agreeably to his word and will; in the spirit — In their soul, renewed after the divine image, as his devoted servants and witnesses in the midst of their persecutors, and so be prepared to live with him in a future world.


Verse 7

1 Peter 4:7. The end of all things is at hand — Of our mortal lives, and of all the joys and sorrows, goods and evils connected therewith, and so of all your wrongs and sufferings. Many commentators indeed understand St. Peter as speaking only of the end of the Jewish commonwealth, city, temple, and worship. Thus Whitby understands him: “This phrase, and the advice upon it, so exactly parallel to what our Lord had spoken, will not suffer us to doubt that the apostle is here speaking, not of the end of the world, or of all things in general, which was not then, and seems not yet to be at hand, but only of the end of the Jewish state.” Thus also Macknight: “This epistle being written about a year after the war with the Romans began, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state, Peter, who had heard his Master’s prophecy concerning these events, and the signs of their approach, had good reason to say that they had approached.” But, as Dr. Doddridge justly observes, this was an event in which most of those, to whom the apostle wrote, were comparatively but little concerned. It is probable, therefore, that the apostle either referred to death, which may be considered as the end of the whole world to every particular person; or the consummation of all things, which may be said to be at hand in the sense in which our Lord, long after the destruction of Jerusalem: says to the church, (Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:20,) Behold I come quickly. To the same purpose is Mr. Scott’s interpretation: “All Christians must expect tribulations in the world, but these would soon terminate; for the end of all things was at hand, and death was about to close their course of trials or services; nay, judgment would not be so long delayed, as that the intervening space should, in the estimation of faith, be at all compared with eternity.” Be ye therefore sober — Temperate in all things, and moderate in all earthly cares and pursuits; remembering their end approaches, and the fashion of this world passeth away. Or, be prudent and considerate, as σωφρονησατε also signifies. Look before you, and provide for eternity. And watch unto prayer — To which temperance, moderation in worldly desires and cares, prudence, and consideration, are great helps, tending to produce a wakeful state of mind, and guarding against all temptations to sin and folly. And this watchfulness is so connected with prayer, that the one cannot exist without the other. See on 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9.


Verse 8-9

1 Peter 4:8-9. Above all things — See that you remember the distinguishing badge of your religion and have, maintain, fervent charity, love, among yourselves — One toward another: for love shall cover a multitude of sins — It will cause us to excuse them in others, and will entitle us, through divine mercy to the expectation of forgiveness for our own numberless failings. See on James 5:20. Love covereth all things, 1 Corinthians 13:7. He that loves another covereth his faults, how many soever they be. He turns away his own eyes from them, and, as far as it is possible, hides them from others. And he continually prays that all the sinner’s iniquities may be forgiven, and his sins covered. Meantime the God of love measures to him with the same measure into his bosom. Use hospitality one to another — Ye that are of different towns or countries; without grudging — The expense which may attend the exercise of a virtue, which in present circumstances is important and necessary. Practise it with all cheerfulness.


Verse 10-11

1 Peter 4:10-11. As every man hath received the gift — Or, a gift, spiritual or temporal, ordinary or extraordinary, (although the latter seems primarily intended,) so minister the same one to another — Employ that gift for the common good; as good stewards of the manifold grace of God — Of the talents wherewith his free love has intrusted you. If any man speak — In public assemblies, or in the social meetings of his Christian brethren; let him speak as the oracles of God — Let all his words be according to that pattern, both as to matter and manner, and more especially when he speaks in public. By this mark we may always know who are, so far, the true or false prophets. The oracles of God teach that men should repent, believe, and obey; he that treats of faith, and leaves out repentance, and fruits worthy of repentance; or treats of repentance and its fruits, but omits inculcating faith; or who does not enjoin practical holiness to believers, does not speak as the oracles of God; he does not preach Christ, let him think as highly of himself as he will. If any man minister — Serve his brother in love, whether in temporal or spiritual things; let him do it as of the ability which God giveth — That is, humbly and diligently, ascribing all his power to God, and using it with his might; that God in all things — Whether of nature or of grace; may be glorified through Jesus Christ — The wise dispenser of these gifts; to whom — As our great Redeemer and Saviour; be praise and dominion — Greek, η δοξα και το κρατος, the glory of them, and the power of dispensing them; or the glory of his wisdom, which teaches us to speak, and the might which enables us to act.


Verse 12-13

1 Peter 4:12-13. Think it not strange, &c. — Wonder not at the fiery trial — The dreadful series of furious and bitter persecutions. The original expression, εν υμιν πυρωσει, is literally, the burning which is among you; denoting the grievous persecution which the Christians in Pontus, &c., were suffering for their faith; including both martyrdom itself, which frequently was by fire, and all the other sufferings joined with or previous to it. The metaphor is bold, but noble: it expresses in a lively manner the painful and dangerous nature of their trials. Which is to try you — Is permitted by the wisdom of God for the trial of your faith in Christ, and in the truths and promises of his gospel; of your hope of eternal life, your love to God, his people, and his ways, of your resignation to his will, your patience and meekness; as though some strange thing happened unto you — Different from, or beyond, all which you were taught to expect. But rejoice in these trials, inasmuch as ye are therein partakers of Christ’s sufferings — Sufferings endured for his sake, in defence of his truth, and in proof of your faith in him; that when his glory shall be revealed — At the great and glorious day of his second appearance; ye — In the participation of it; may be glad with exceeding joy χαρητε αγαλλιωμενοι, may rejoice transported with gladness.


Verses 14-16

1 Peter 4:14-16. If ye be reproached for Christ — Reproaches and cruel mockings were always one part of their sufferings, and to an ingenuous mind, reproach is often worse than the spoiling of goods, or even than bodily pain; happy are you — The apostle alludes to Christ’s words, Matthew 5:11, Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, &c. For the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you — Conquering all reproach, and spreading a lustre around you, while he supports and comforts you in a glorious manner under all your trials. The apostle alludes to Isaiah 11:2. “The Spirit of glory, which rested on the persecuted disciples of Christ in the first age, was a Spirit of fortitude, enabling them to suffer the greatest evils without shrinking, a virtue which the heathen greatly admired. For which reason, when they put the first Christians to death for refusing to worship idols, they were so struck with the constancy, patience, meekness, and benevolence wherewith they suffered, that it led many of them to think well, both of a religion which inspired its votaries with such admirable virtues, and of those votaries themselves. And as this constancy in suffering, from which the Christians derived so much glory, proceeded from the aid of the Spirit of God, the apostle justly termed it, both the Spirit of glory, and the Spirit of God.” — Macknight. But let none of you — Who have the honour to bear the Christian name; suffer — By your own fault; suppose as a murderer, or as a thief &c. — At the time St. Peter wrote this epistle, the unbelieving Jews in Judea were extremely addicted to murder and robbery, and every kind of wickedness, as we learn from Josephus; for they robbed and killed, not only the heathen, but their own brethren, who would not join them in their opposition to the Romans. Hence the apostle judged it proper to caution the Christians, especially the Jewish Christians, in this manner, lest, being corrupted by such bad examples, they should be led to the commission of any such crimes. As the apostle is here cautioning them against those sins which, if they committed them, would expose them to punishment from the civil magistrate, by αλλοτριοεπισκοπος, here rendered a busy-body in other men’s matters, he cannot well be supposed to mean merely one who pries into the concerns of private families, as such a one could not properly be ranked with such criminals as are here mentioned. But he might mean one that affected to inspect and direct the behaviour of persons in public offices, from a factious disposition to find fault with their conduct, and thereby to raise commotions in the state; which Lardner hath shown was the practice of the Jews in Alexandria, Cesarea, and other places. Or we may, with L’Enfant. understand the word in the more general sense of meddling with other people’s affairs, from avarice, anger, revenge, malice, or other bad passions. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian — That is, because he is a Christian; and if he suffer in a Christian spirit, let him not be ashamed — Of his sufferings; but let him glorify, or praise, God on this behalf — That is, for having judged him worthy to suffer in so good a cause; and for enabling him to do it with fortitude and patience. It may be proper to observe that this, with Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28, are the only passages of Scripture in which the disciples are called Christians, after their Master.


Verse 17

1 Peter 4:17. For the time is come — Foretold by Christ, Matthew 24:9; John 16:2; that judgment must begin at the house of God — In the Christian Church; God’s own family, which he first visits, both in justice and mercy. The judgment here spoken of is thought by many commentators to signify the particular distress which was to happen before Jerusalem should be utterly destroyed. the Christians were to expect to feel some of the first effects of that general calamity: it was to begin with them, as Christ had plainly foretold in the passages just referred to. It was God’s method of old to begin with sending calamities on his own people; and indeed a state of trial seems highly proper before a state of recompense. See 1 Peter 1:6. There seems to be an allusion in this passage to Ezekiel 9:6, and Jeremiah 25:29. By us here, the apostle meant the Christians of that age, whether formerly Jews or Gentiles; for they appear to have been now persecuted generally everywhere. And if it first begin at us — Who have truly turned to God, and are taken into his favour through Christ, his beloved Son; what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? — Who, through unbelief and obstinacy, reject the counsel of God against themselves? how terribly will he visit them! The words, who obey not the gospel of God, properly describe the unbelieving Jews: they were not chargeable with idolatry; they acknowledged, and in a sense worshipped, the true God; but they rejected the gospel which God had revealed by his Son, and therefore the divine wrath was executed upon them in so dreadful a manner. See on 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. Whoever compares the accounts in the Scriptures, or ancient fathers, concerning the persecutions which befell the Christians about this time, with the sufferings of the Jews, as related by Josephus, will easily see that the distress only began with the Christians, and was light compared with what afterward fell upon the Jews: for when Jerusalem was destroyed, the Christians escaped with their lives, and enjoyed more peace and tranquillity than they had done before.


Verse 18

1 Peter 4:18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved — Escape with the utmost difficulty. So the word μολις, rendered scarcely, signifies. That is, If it be not without much difficulty that the Christians are secured and preserved in those overflowing, devouring judgments which are coming on the Jewish nation; where shall the ungodly and the sinner — The impenitent and unbelieving, the obstinate and wicked part of the Jewish nation; appear? — That is, what will become of them? Dreadful will be their destruction. The meaning of the apostle, however, may be, If the righteous, ο δικαιος, the righteous man, be scarcely, or not wholly saved from suffering, that is, from chastisement, (in which light the apostle represents the persecutions to which the Christians were exposed,) if God judges, and, by various temporal afflictions and calamities, punishes him, where shall the ungodly and impenitent sinner appear? How terrible will be the wrath which will fall upon him? If the faults of the loyal subject, yea, of the dutiful son, be not passed over unnoticed, unchastised, by the holy and just Governor and Judge of the world, what has not the enemy and rebel to fear? Perhaps this may be the chief meaning of the apostle, and not the deliverance of the Christians from the Roman invasion, in which very few of them were concerned, to whom the apostle addressed his epistle; namely, those sojourning in Pontus, &c. See chap. 1 Peter 1:1. And the passage may be intended to signify also the difficulty with which pious men get to heaven, through this dangerous and insnaring world. Compare Acts 14:18; Acts 27:7-8; Acts 27:16. where the word μολις, here used, signifies with difficulty. “The turn of the latter clause of the verse in the original, που φανειται, is very lively; it seems as if the apostle were solicitous to lead the sinner to consider where he should hide his head, since wherever he was he would find God immediately appearing against him as an irresistible enemy. This he might say, by way of warning to persecutors, and to encourage Christians to hope that God would vindicate their cause, and preserve them from turning aside to crooked paths. And this the connection with the following verse favours.” — Doddridge.


Verse 19

1 Peter 4:19. Wherefore let them that suffer — This temporary chastisement; according to the will of God — Namely, for a good cause, and in a right spirit; commit the keeping of their souls to him — Intrust themselves to God’s care, either to preserve their lives, if he see good, or to save their souls if they suffer death; or, whatever becomes of their bodies, let them commit their souls to him as a sacred depositum: in well-doing — Persevering to the end in the way of duty and obedience, notwithstanding all the sufferings to which they are exposed. In other words, let it be their care to do well, and suffer patiently, and God will take care of the rest. As unto a faithful Creator — In whose wisdom, power, goodness, truth, and faithfulness to his promises, they may safely trust: for as he called them into existence when they were not, he is able to preserve them without any visible means, and will dispose of them as he sees will conduce most to their eternal welfare.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-peter-4.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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