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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Peter 4:8

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Charitableness;   Commandments;   Kindness;   Love;   Thompson Chain Reference - Brotherly Love;   Charitableness;   Charitableness-Uncharitableness;   Charity;   Love;   Love-Hatred;   The Topic Concordance - Charity;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Love to Man;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Proverb, the Book of;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Hospitality;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Canaan;   James, the General Epistle of;   Peter, the Epistles of;   Proverbs, the Book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Hospitality;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Brotherly Love;   James, Epistle of;   Person of Christ;   Peter, First Epistle of;   Spiritual Gifts;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Forgiveness;   Peter Epistles of;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Prov'erbs, Book of;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Charity;   Fervent;   Peter, the First Epistle of;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for July 28;   Every Day Light - Devotion for April 8;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 8. Have fervent charityαγαπηνεκτενη. Intense love; for love shall cover a multitude of sins. A loving disposition leads us to pass by the faults of others, to forgive offences against ourselves, and to excuse and lessen, as far as is consistent with truth, the transgressions of men. It does not mean that our love to others will induce God to pardon our offences. James 5:20; James 5:20.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-peter-4.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


Changed lives of Christ’s followers (4:1-11)

Christ’s death dealt with sin once and for all. In that sense he has nothing more to do with sin. Christians are united with Christ in his death, and therefore they too should have nothing more to do with sin. They should live no longer to please themselves but to please God (4:1-2). Christians must have no more involvement with the disgusting practices of their former days, no matter how much their reformed behaviour brings jeers and insults from their former friends (3-4).
Ungodly people must one day face divine judgment and condemnation, but in the case of believers, Christ has already borne that judgment and condemnation. The only judgment of sin that they experience is the suffering of their present physical existence, which reaches its climax in death. Those believers who are now dead believed the gospel that was preached to them while they were still living (i.e. during their earthly lives). Therefore, although they experienced physical death as one of the natural consequences of sin, they now live spiritually with God (5-6).
The final great events of the world’s history could begin at any time. Christians should be alert, but should not get over-excited. They should control themselves, pray, and act with love at all times (7-9). They should use their God-given abilities with diligence, whether in teaching God’s Word or in giving practical help to others. Above all they must work in such a way as to bring praise and glory to God (10-11).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/1-peter-4.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins:

The approaching holocaust was to be met by Christians conscious of the community of their interests and of the deep love that each was to have for every other. A number of other very practical teachings are stressed in order that the Christian community might enter the period of fiery testing with their full moral and spiritual strength.

Love covereth a multitude of sins ... "The meaning is that love will overlook its neighbor's faults."[16] The teaching of this is quite similar to Proverbs 10:12 and James 5:20.

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Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-peter-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And above all things - More than all things else.

Have fervent charity among yourselves - Warm, ardent love toward each other. On the nature of charity, see the notes at 1 Corinthians 13:1. The word rendered “fervent,” means properly extended; then intent, earnest, fervent.

For charity shall cover the multitude of sins - Love to another shall so cover or hide a great many imperfections in him, that you will not notice them. This passage is quoted from Proverbs 10:12; “Love covereth all sins.” For the truth of it we have only to appeal to the experience of everyone:

  1. True love to another makes us kind to his imperfections, charitable toward his faults, and often blind even to the existence of faults. We would not see the imperfections of those whom we love; and our attachment for what we esteem their real excellencies, makes us insensible to their errors.
  2. If we love them we are ready to cover over their faults, even those which we may see in them. Of love the Christian poet says:

“Tis gentle, delicate, and kind,

To faults compassionate or blind.

The passage before us is not the same in signification as that in James 5:20, “He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” See the notes at that passage. That passage means, that by the conversion of another the sins of him who is converted shall be covered over, or not brought to judgment for condemnation; that is, they shall be covered over so far as God is concerned: this passage means that, under the influence of love, the sins of another shall be covered over so far as we are concerned; that is, they shall be unobserved or forgiven. The language used here does not mean, as the Romanists maintain, that “charity shall procure us pardon for a multitude of sins;” for, besides that such a doctrine is contrary to the uniform teachings of the Scriptures elsewhere, it is a departure from the obvious meaning of the passage. The subject on which the apostle is treating is the advantage of love in our conduct toward others, and this he enforces by saying that it will make us kind to their imperfections, and lead us to overlook their faults. It is nowhere taught in the Scriptures that our “charity” to others will be an atonement or expiation for our own offences. If it could be so, the atonement made by Christ would have been unnecessary. Love, however, is of inestimable value in the treatment of others; and imperfect as we are, and liable to go astray, we all have occasion to cast ourselves on the charity of our brethren, and to avail ourselves much and often of that “love which covers over a multitude of sins.”

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-peter-4.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

8 And above all things He commends charity or love as the first thing, for it is the bond of perfection. And he bids it to be fervent, or intense, or vehement, which is the same thing; for whosoever is immoderately fervent in self-love, loves others coldly. And he commends it on account of its fruit, because it buries innumerable sins, than which nothing is more desirable. But the sentence is taken from Solomon, whose words are found in Proverbs 10:12,

Hatred discovers reproaches, but love covers a multitude of sins.”

What Solomon meant is sufficiently clear, for the two clauses contain things which are set in contrast the one with the other. As then he says in the first clause that hatred is the cause why men traduce and defame one another, and spread whatever is reproachful and dishonorable; so it follows that a contrary effect is ascribed to love, that is, that men who love one another, kindly and courteously forgive one another; hence it comes that, willingly burying each other’s vices, one seeks to preserve the honor of another. (47) Thus Peter confirms his exhortation, that nothing is more necessary than to cherish mutual love. For who is there that has not many faults? Therefore all stand in need of forgiveness, and there is no one who does not wish to be forgiven.

This singular benefit love brings to us when it exists among us, so that innumerable evils are covered in oblivion. On the other hand, where loose reins are given to hatred, men by mutual biting and tearing must necessarily consume one another, as Paul says (Galatians 5:15.)

And it ought to be noticed that Solomon does not say that only a few sins are covered, but a multitude of sins, according to what Christ declares, when he bids us to forgive our brethren seventy times seven, (Matthew 18:22.) But the more sins love covers, the more evident appears its usefulness for the wellbeing of mankind.

This is the plain meaning of the words. It hence appears how absurd are the Papists, who seek to elicit from this passage their own satisfactions, as though almsgiving and other duties of charity were a sort of a compensation to God for blotting out their sins. (48) It is enough to point out by the way their gross ignorance, for in a matter so clear it would be superfluous to add many words.

(47) The quotation is from the Hebrew, and the sentence in the Sept. is evidently different. The same words are found also in James 5:20.

(48) ”Though charity, or benevolence, hides the faults of others from the severity of our censure, yet charity or almsgiving is totally unable to conceal our own from the observance of our all-righteous Judge. Indeed, the only cover for these, or to speak more properly, the discharge of all their stains, is faith, — is the blood of Christ, working with repentance towards God.” — Bishop Warburton, quoted by Bloomfield. — Ed.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-peter-4.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 4

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us ( 1 Peter 4:1 )

That is, has gone to the cross.

in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered ( 1 Peter 4:1 )

Or come to the cross as far as His flesh is concerned.

hath ceased from sin ( 1 Peter 4:1 );

Now this is the same rationale that Paul had in Romans chapter six. As far as baptism is concerned, as far as my old man being crucified with Christ, dead, buried in the water of baptism; as I come up it's the resurrection, it's the new life in the Spirit. And they who are really living the new life in the Spirit have ceased from sin. Paul said, "How are we, who are dead to sin, going to live any longer therein" ( Romans 6:2 ). John tells us in his epistle, and we'll be getting that a couple of weeks, that "whosoever is born of God does not practice sin" ( 1 John 3:9 ), because we have God's seed now in us. We've been born again by the Spirit of God and we cannot practice sin.

Now if you are living a life of practicing sin, then you have better take inventory. The Bible says, "He that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" ( 1 Corinthians 10:12 ). "There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end thereof is the way of death" ( Proverbs 14:12 ). Whosoever is born of God does not practice sin. We've been born of a new nature, not a sinful nature anymore. You can't lay it on the past, the old nature, because that nature died. And whosoever then has come to the cross has suffered and that is, co-crucifixion with Jesus. "I am crucified with Christ" ( Galatians 2:20 ). Is then dead to the old life of sin. The flesh hath ceased from sin.

That he no longer should live the rest of his life in the flesh following the lusts of men, but he is to live now to fulfill the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the heathen, when we walked in lasciviousness, and lusts, in the excess of wine, in revellings, in banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange now that you do not run with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you ( 1 Peter 4:2-60.4.4 ):

So it used to be that we lived the unbridled life of the flesh; a life of lasciviousness and unbridled lust, revellings, the excess of wine, banquetings, abominable idolatries. A good description of the world scene. And those that are in the world think it's strange that you don't do it anymore. What do you do for fun now, man? You ever had them ask you that? You know, what do you do for fun? You know, you don't get bombed out of your head and make a fool of yourself. So what do you do for fun? And they say, "Ah man, he's got religion, you know, he's no fun anymore." They speak evil of you. But they are going to have to give an account to God themselves. Every man must appear before God, give an account.

They're going to have to account for their lies before the One who will judge both the living and the dead. It's an awesome thing to realize that one day each man will stand before God to be judged. And those that have lived a life of riotousness, lasciviousness, are one day going to have to answer to God for a totally wasted life. What did you do with your life? And they've taken God's precious gift, the gift of life, and they've wasted it. Wasted it upon themselves, upon their own lust, their own desires.

For this cause was the gospel preached also to those that are already dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer ( 1 Peter 4:6-60.4.7 ).

The church has always lived in the consciousness that we are in the last days. And in a sense, that is always true. Every generation is the last days. I'm living in my last days, you know, I'm going to go. If the Lord doesn't come to take the church, it's going to be the last days for me one of these days. You know, who knows? Twenty, thirty, five years from now? Last days.

You know, our days are all limited. When I was a young person it seemed like, you know, life was forever; but now you begin to number your days because you want to use what time you have to the best advantage for the kingdom of God. So that's basically what Peter is saying. He's getting older now and he is coming from a more matured view. The end of all things is at hand. And it was for Peter, not long after this, he was beheaded by Nero. "Be therefore sober, watching and praying."

And above all things have fervent love among yourselves ( 1 Peter 4:8 ):

Among the body of Christ there should be a fervent love.

for love covers a multitude of sins ( 1 Peter 4:8 ).

How true that is. How many things we can just overlook if we love hard enough. How many things we don't see because we love, and how many things we can see when we hate. I mean, we watch like eagles. And every little thing we're ready to pounce on. But love fervently in the body of Christ.

Be hospitable one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God ( 1 Peter 4:9-60.4.10 ).

Now God has given to each of us gifts, and interestingly enough, there was a gift of hospitality. And there are some people who have that gift of hospitality and they make marvelous hosts and hostesses. You know, they can just have anybody in and they just have that gift of hospitality. Others don't have the gift of hospitality and it's a strain whenever people come over; they get tense, they get nervous. And if you ever seen the person with the gift of hospitality; hey, they don't worry about what they're serving, nothing bother them. They don't have to be perfect, just lay it out on the table. Everybody grab what you want, you know, and you'll feel comfortable. But those that don't have the gift, you go there and you feel strain, you know. I want to make sure you'll eat proper and spill in my shirt, you know, and you only take one of the little hors d'oeuvres and you know. And you always feel under pressure.

But we each of us have various gifts. Use your gifts for the whole body's sake, that the body might be benefited by the gifts that God has given to you, being good stewards of that which God has entrusted to you. God has given to each of us, entrusted to us gifts, abilities, talents. Now I want to be a good steward of that which God has given to me. I want to use it, use it well. It's been entrusted to me and I'm responsible.

And if any man speaks, let him speak as the oracle of God ( 1 Peter 4:11 );

Or as a spokesman for God.

if any man ministers [that is, serves], let him do it with the ability which God gives to him ( 1 Peter 4:11 ):

That's so important, you know. You can't be more than what God has enabled you to be. So just do it with the ability that God gives you and then don't worry about it. You've got to learn to just do our best and then just commit the rest. Now this is hard for a person who is a perfectionist. They do their best and then they worry about the rest. Why didn't I say this? Why didn't I do that? Oh, did I do the right thing? Oh, you know. And they're constantly worried about what they have done. Hey, was it your best? Oh my, yes you know. So, let it go. God doesn't require more than your best. So "whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God" ( 1 Corinthians 10:31 ). So "if you speak, speak as a spokesman for God. If you minister, do it with the ability God gives."

that God in all things may be glorified ( 1 Peter 4:11 )

You see, it isn't to bring glory to you. As we minister, we need to minister to bring glory to God.

through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Now beloved, don't think it's strange concerning the fiery trials which are going to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you ( 1 Peter 4:11-60.4.12 ):

Boy, one of the weirdest things happened to me the other day. I went through one of the worst trials. Hey, no, no, no; it's not strange the fact that your faith is going to be tried.

Rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy ( 1 Peter 4:13 ).

Jesus is coming again to be revealed in glory before the world and those that are His will, He bring with Him at His coming. Great gladness and joy, exceeding joy in that day when we come with Jesus to establish God's kingdom upon the earth. And so rejoice that we were able to suffer with Him that we might reign with Him.

If you're reproached for the name of Christ, oh, how blessed you are; for the spirit of glory and of God is resting upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters ( 1 Peter 4:14-60.4.15 ).

In other words, there are things that you are blessed for suffering for, and there are things that you're not so blessed if you suffer for them. If you're a thief and you're caught and you, you know, get sent to jail, it's no big glory in that.

Yet if any man suffers as a Christian ( 1 Peter 4:16 ),

Jesus said, Persecuted for my sake and the gospel's.

let him not be ashamed; let him glorify God on this behalf ( 1 Peter 4:16 ).

And of course, in those days many of them were put in prison for being Christians. Now if you're put in prison because you're a murderer, no big glory. But if you're put into prison because you're a Christian, then you know, rejoice; that's great, that's good. Now if you were arrested for being a Christian, could they find enough evidence to convict you? Something to think about.

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it begins with us, what shall the end be to those that obey not the gospel ( 1 Peter 4:17 )?

I mean, if God is going to judge the believer, what about those who don't even believe?

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator ( 1 Peter 4:18-60.4.19 ).

Now this suffering, of course, is going back, the whole context is suffering persecution because you're a child of God. And if you suffer persecution because you're a child of God, then just commit your life to God, the keeping of your souls to God. He's a faithful Creator. And you've got to just learn to just commit yourself.

Chapter 5 "



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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/1-peter-4.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

D. The Importance of Mutual Love in End-Times Living 4:7-11

To prepare his readers to meet the Lord soon, Peter urged them to make the best use of their time now that they understood what he had written about suffering.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-peter-4.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

In relation to their fellow Christians, Peter considered it most important that his readers keep their brotherly love at full strength (1 Peter 1:22; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 John 4:7-11). The same expression occurs in non-biblical Greek to describe a horse at full gallop and a runner straining for the tape at the finish line of a race.

The person with this kind of love is willing to forgive and even covers a multitude of the sins of others committed against himself or herself rather than taking offense (Proverbs 10:12; James 5:20). We cannot compensate for our own sins by loving others. Peter was not saying that. The proper way to deal with our sins is to confess them (1 John 1:9).

"Love hides them from its own sight and not from God’s sight. Hate does the opposite; it pries about in order to discover some sin or some semblance of sin in a brother and then broadcasts it, even exaggerates it, gloats over it." [Note: Lenski, p. 195. Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-peter-4.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 4

THE OBLIGATION OF THE CHRISTIAN ( 1 Peter 4:1-5 )

4:1-5 Since then, Christ suffered in the flesh, you too must arm yourselves with the same conviction, that he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, and as a result of this the aim of such a man now is to spend the time that remains to him of life in obedience to the will of God. For the time that is past is sufficient to have done what the Gentiles will to do, to have lived a life of licentiousness, lust, drunkenness, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatry. They think it strange when you do not rush to join them in the same flood of profligacy, and they abuse you for not doing so. They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The Christian is committed to abandon the ways of heathenism and to live as God would have him to do.

Peter says, "He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." What exactly does he mean? There are three distinct possibilities.

(i) There is a strong line in Jewish thought that suffering is in itself a great purifier. In the Apocalypse of Baruch the writer, speaking of the experiences of the people of Israel, says, "Then, therefore, were they chastened that they might be sanctified" (13: 10). In regard to the purification of the spirits of men Enoch says, "And in proportion as the burning of their body becomes severe, a corresponding change will take place in their spirit for ever and ever; for before the Lord of spirits there will be none to utter a lying word" (67: 9). The terrible sufferings of the time are described in 2 Maccabees, and the writer says, "I beseech those that read this book that they be not discouraged, terrified or shaken for these calamities, but that they judge these punishments not to be for destruction but for chastening of our nation. For it is a token of his great goodness, when evil-doers are not suffered to go on in their ways any long time, but forthwith punished. For not as with other nations, whom the Lord patiently forbeareth to punish, till the day of judgment arrive, and they be come to the fullness of their sins, so dealeth he with us, lest that, being come to the height of sin, afterwards he should take vengeance on us. And though he punish sinners with adversity, yet doth he never forsake his people" ( 2Ma_6:12-16 ). The idea is that suffering sanctifies and that not to be punished is the greatest punishment which God can lay upon a man. "Blessed is the man whom thou dost chasten, O Lord," said the Psalmist ( Psalms 94:12). "Happy is the man whom God reproves," said Eliphaz ( Job 5:17). "For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" ( Hebrews 12:6).

If this is the idea, it means that he who has been disciplined by suffering has been cured of sin. That is a great thought. It enables us, as Browning said, "to welcome each rebuff that turns earth's smoothness rough." It enables us to thank God for the experiences which hurt but save the soul. But great as this thought is, it is not strictly relevant here.

(ii) Bigg thinks that Peter is speaking in terms of the experience which his people had of suffering for the Christian faith. He puts it this way: "He who has suffered in meekness and in fear, he who has endured all that persecution can do to him rather than join in wicked ways can be trusted to do right; temptation has manifestly no power over him." The idea is that if a man has come through persecution and not denied the name of Christ, he comes out on the other side with a character so tested and a faith so strengthened, that temptation cannot touch him any more.

Again there is a great thought here, the thought that every trial and every temptation are meant to make us stronger and better. Every temptation resisted makes the next easier to resist; and every temptation conquered makes us better able to overcome the next attack. But again it is doubtful if this thought comes in very relevantly here.

(iii) The third explanation is most probably the right one. Peter has just been talking about baptism. Now the great New Testament picture of baptism is in Romans 6:1-23. In that chapter Paul says that the experience of baptism is like being buried with Christ in death and raised with him to newness of life. We think that this is what Peter is thinking of here. He has spoken of baptism; and now he says, "He who in baptism has shared the sufferings and the death of Christ, is risen to such newness of life with him that sin has no more dominion over him" ( Romans 6:14). Again we must remember that this is the baptism of the man who is voluntarily coming over from paganism into Christianity. In that act of baptism he is identified with Christ; he shares his sufferings and even his death; and he shares his risen life and power, and is, therefore, victor over sin.

When that has happened, a man has said good-bye to his former way of life. The rule of pleasure, pride and passion is gone, and the rule of God has begun. This was by no means easy. A man's former associates would laugh at the new puritanism which had entered his life. But the Christian knows very well that the judgment of God will come, when the judgments of earth will be reversed and the pleasures that are eternal will compensate a thousandfold for the transitory pleasures which had to be abandoned in this life.

THE ULTIMATE CHANCE ( 1 Peter 4:6 )

4:6 For this is the reason why the gospel was preached to the dead, so that, although they have been judged in the flesh like men, they may live in the Spirit like God.

This very difficult passage ends with a very difficult verse. Once again we have the idea of the gospel being preached to the dead. At least three different meanings have been attached to dead. (i) It has been taken to mean those who are dead in sin, not those who are physically dead. (ii) It has been taken to mean those who died be re the Second Coming of Christ; but who heard the gospel before they died and so will not miss the glory. (iii) It has been taken to mean quite simply all the dead There can be little doubt that this third meaning is correct; Peter has just been talking about the descent of Christ to the place of the dead, and here he comes back to the idea of Christ preaching to the dead.

No fully satisfactory meaning has ever been found for this verse; but we think that the best explanation is as follows. For mortal man, death is the penalty of sin. As Paul wrote: "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" ( Romans 5:12). Had there been no sin, there would have been no death; and, therefore, death in itself is a judgment. So Peter says, all men have already been judged when they die; in spite of that Christ descended to the world of the dead and preached the gospel there, giving them another chance to live in the Spirit of God.

In some ways this is one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible, for, if our explanation is anywhere near the truth, it gives a breath-taking glimpse of a gospel of a second chance.

(1) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6)

4:6 He was put to death in the flesh, but he was raised to life in the Spirit, in which also he went and preached to the spirits who are in prison, the spirits who were once upon a time disobedient in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built.... For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, so that, although they have already been judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.

We have already said that we are here face to face with one of the most difficult passages, not only in Peter's letter, but in the whole New Testament; and, if we are to grasp what it means, we must follow Peter's own advice and gird up the loins of our mind to study it.

This passage has lodged in the creed in the phrase: "He descended into hell." We must first note that this phrase is very misleading. The idea of the New Testament is not that Jesus descended into hell but that he descended into Hades. Acts 2:27, as all the newer translations correctly show, should be translated not: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," but, "Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades." The difference is this. Hell is the place of the punishment of the wicked; Hades was the place where all the dead went.

The Jews had a very shadowy conception of life beyond the grave. They did not think in terms of heaven and of hell but of a shadowy world, where the spirits of men moved like grey ghosts in an everlasting twilight and where there was neither strength nor joy. Such was Hades, into which the spirits of all men went after death. Isaiah writes: "For Sheol cannot thank thee, death cannot praise thee; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for thy faithfulness" ( Isaiah 38:18). The Psalmist wrote: "In death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise?" ( Psalms 6:5). "What profit is there in my death if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise thee? Will it tell of thy faithfulness?" ( Psalms 30:9). "Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise thee? Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?" ( Psalms 88:10-12). "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence" ( Psalms 115:17). "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going" ( Ecclesiastes 9:10). The Jewish conception of the world after death was of this grey world of shadows and forgetfulness, in which men were separated from life and light and God.

As time went on, there emerged the idea of stages and divisions in this shadowland. For some it was to last for ever; but for others it was a kind of prison-house in which they were held until the final judgment of God's wrath should blast them ( Isaiah 24:21-22; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:1-7). So, then, it must first of all be remembered that this whole matter is to be thought of, not in terms of hell, as we understand the word, but in terms of Christ's going to the dead in their shadowy world.

(2) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 continued)

This doctrine of the descent into Hades, as we must now call it, is based on two phrases in our present passage. It says that Jesus went and preached to the spirits who are in prison ( 1 Peter 3:19); and it speaks of the gospel being preached to the dead ( 1 Peter 4:6). In regard to this doctrine there have always been differing attitudes amongst thinkers.

(i) There are those who wish to eliminate it altogether. There is the attitude of elimination. Some wish to eliminate it altogether and attempt to do so along two lines.

(a) Peter says that in the Spirit Christ preached to the spirits in prison, who were disobedient in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, when the ark was being built. It is argued that what this means is that it was in the time of Noah himself that Christ did this preaching; that in the Spirit long ages before this he made his appeal to the wicked men of Noah's day. This would completely do away with the idea of the descent into Hades. Many great scholars have accepted that view; but we do not think it is the view which comes naturally from Peter's words.

(b) If we look at Moffatt's translation, we find something quite different. He translates: "In the flesh he (Christ) was put to death, but he came to life in the Spirit. It was in the Spirit that Enoch also went and preached to the imprisoned spirits who had disobeyed at the time when God's patience held out during the construction of the ark in the days of Noah." How does Moffatt arrive at this translation?

The name of Enoch does not appear in any Greek manuscript. But in the consideration of the text of any Greek author, scholars sometimes use a process called emendation. They think that there is something wrong with the text as it stands, that some scribe has perhaps copied it wrongly; and they, therefore, suggest that some word should be changed or added. In this passage Rendel Harris suggested that the word Enoch was missed out in the copying of Peter's writing and should be put back in.

(Although it involves the use of Greek some readers may be

interested to see how Rendel Harris arrived at this famous

emendation. In the top line in italic print, we have set down

the Greek of the passage in English lettering and beneath each

Greek word its English translation:

thanatotheis ( G2289) men ( G3303) sarki ( G4561)

having been put to death in the flesh

zoopoietheis ( G2227) de ( G1161) pneumati ( G4151)

having been raised to life in the Spirit

en ( G1722) ho ( G3588) kai ( G2532) tois ( G3588)

in which also to the

en ( G1722) phulake ( G5438) pneumasi ( G4151)

in prison spirits

poreutheis ( G4198) ekeruxen ( G2784)

having gone he preached.

(Men ( G3303) and de ( G1161) are what are called particles;

they are not translated but merely mark the contrast between

sarki, G4561, and pneumati, G4151) . It was Rendel Harris'

suggestion that between kai ( G2532) and tois ( G3588) the

word Enoch ( G1802) had dropped out. His explanation was that,

since most manuscript copying was done to dictation, scribes were

very liable to miss words which followed each other, if they

sounded very similar. In this passage:

en ( G1722) ho ( G3588) kai ( G2532) and Enoch ( G1802)

sound very much alike, and Rendel Harris thought it very likely

that Enoch ( G1802) had been mistakenly omitted for that reason).

What reason is there for bringing Enoch ( G1802) into this passage at all? He has always been a fascinating and mysterious person. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him" ( Genesis 5:24). In between the Old and New Testaments many legends sprang up about Enoch and famous and important books were written under his name. One of the legends was that Enoch, though a man, acted as "God's envoy" to the angels who sinned by coming to earth and lustfully seducing mortal women ( Genesis 6:2). In the Book of Enoch it is said that he was sent down from heaven to announce to these angels their final doom (Enoch 12: 1) and that he proclaimed that for them, because of their sin, there was neither peace nor forgiveness ever (Enoch 12 and 13).

So then, according to Jewish legend, Enoch did go to Hades and preach doom to the fallen angels. And Rendel Harris thought that this passage referred, not to Jesus, but to Enoch, and Moffatt so far agreed with him as to put Enoch into his translation. That is an extremely interesting and ingenious suggestion but without doubt it must be rejected. There is no evidence for it at all; and it is not natural to bring in Enoch, for the whole picture is of the work of Christ.

(3) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 continued)

We have seen that the attempt at the elimination of this passage fails.

(ii) The second attitude is limitation. This attitude--and it is that of some very great New Testament interpreters--believes that Peter is indeed saying that Jesus went to Hades and preached, but that he by no means preached to all the inhabitants of Hades. Different interpreters limit that preaching in different ways.

(a) It is argued that Jesus preached in Hades only to the spirits of the men who were disobedient in the days of Noah. Those who hold this view often go on to argue that, since these sinners were desperately disobedient, so much so that God sent the flood and destroyed them ( Genesis 6:12-13), we may believe that no man is outside the mercy of God. They were the worst of all sinners and yet they were given another chance of repentance; therefore, the worst of men still have a chance in Christ.

(b) It is argued that Jesus preached to the fallen angels, and preached, not salvation, but final and awful doom. We have already mentioned these angels. Their story is told in Genesis 6:1-8. They were tempted by the beauty of mortal women; they came to earth, seduced them and begat children; and because of their action, it is inferred, the wickedness of man was great and his thoughts were always evil. 2 Peter 2:4 speaks of these sinning angels as being imprisoned in hell, awaiting judgment. It was to them that Enoch did, in fact, preach; and there are those who think that what this passage means is not that Christ preached mercy and another chance; but that, in token of his complete triumph, he preached terrible doom to those angels who had sinned.

(c) It is argued that Christ preached only to those who had been righteous and that he led them out of Hades into the paradise of God. We have seen how the Jews believed that all the dead went to Hades, the shadowy land of forgetfulness. The argument is that before Christ that was indeed so but he opened the gates of heaven to mankind; and, when he did so, he went to Hades and told the glad news to all the righteous men of all past generations and led them out to God. That is a magnificent picture. Those who hold this view often go on to say that, because of Christ, there is now no time spent in the shadows of Hades and the way to paradise is open as soon as this world closes on us.

(4) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 continued)

(iii) There is the attitude that what Peter is saying is that Jesus Christ, between his death and resurrection, went to the world of the dead and preached the gospel there. Peter says that Jesus Christ was put to death in the flesh but raised to life in the Spirit, and that it was in the Spirit that he so preached. The meaning is that Jesus lived in a human body and was under all the limitations of time and space in the days of his flesh; and died with that body broken and bleeding upon the Cross. But when he rose again, he rose with a spiritual body, in which he was rid of the necessary weaknesses of humanity and liberated from the necessary limitations of time and space. It was in this spiritual condition of perfect freedom that the preaching to the dead took place.

As it stands this doctrine is stated in categories which are outworn. It speaks of the descent into Hades and the very word descent suggests a three-storey universe in which heaven is localized above the sky and Hades beneath the earth. But, laying aside the physical categories of this doctrine, we can find in it truths which are eternally valid and precious, three in particular.

(a) If Christ descended into Hades, then his death was no sham. It is not to be explained in terms of a swoon on the Cross, or anything like that. He really experienced death, and rose again. At its simplest, the doctrine of the descent into Hades lays down the complete identity of Christ with our human condition, even to the experience of death.

(b) If Christ descended into Hades, it means that his triumph is universal. This, in fact, is a truth which is ingrained into the New Testament. It is Paul's dream that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth ( Php_2:10 ). In the Revelation the song of praise comes from every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth ( Revelation 5:13). He who ascended into Heaven is he who first descended into the lower parts of the earth ( Ephesians 4:9-10). The total submission of the universe to Christ is woven into the thought of the New Testament.

(c) If Christ descended into Hades and preached there, there is no corner of the universe into which the message of grace has not come. There is in this passage the solution of one of the most haunting questions raised by the Christian faith--what is to happen to those who lived before Jesus Christ and to those to whom the gospel never came? There can be no salvation without repentance but how can repentance come to those who have never been confronted with the love and holiness of God? If there is no other name by which men may be saved, what is to happen to those who never heard it? This is the point that Justin Martyr fastened on long ago: "The Lord, the Holy God of Israel, remembered his dead, those sleeping in the earth, and came down to them to tell them the good news of salvation." The doctrine of the descent into Hades conserves the precious truth that no man who ever lived is left without a sight of Christ and without the offer of the salvation of God.

Many in repeating the creed have found the phrase "He descended into hell" either meaningless or bewildering, and have tacitly agreed to set it on one side and forget it. It may well be that we ought to think of this as a picture painted in terms of poetry rather than a doctrine stated in terms of theology. But it contains these three great truths--that Jesus Christ not only tasted death but drained the cup of death, that the triumph of Christ is universal and that there is no corner of the universe into which the grace of God has not reached.

THE APPROACHING END ( 1 Peter 4:7 a)

4:7a The end of all things is near.

Here is a note which is struck consistently all through the New Testament. It is the summons of Paul that it is time to wake out of sleep, for the night is far spent and the day is at hand ( Romans 13:12). "The Lord is at hand," he writes to the Philippians ( Php_4:5 ). "The coming of the Lord is at hand," writes James ( James 5:8). John says that the days in which his people are living are the last hour ( 1 John 2:18). "The time is near," says the John of the Revelation, and he hears the Risen Christ testify: "Surely I am coming soon" ( Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:20).

There are many for whom all such passages are problems, for, if they are taken literally, the New Testament writers were mistaken; nineteen hundred years have passed and the end is not yet come. There are four ways of looking at them.

(i) We may hold that the New Testament writers were in fact mistaken. They looked for the return of Christ and the end of the world in their own day and generation; and these events did not take place. The curious thing is that the Christian Church allowed these words to stand although it would not have been difficult quietly to excise them from the New Testament documents. It was not until late in the second century that the New Testament began to be fixed in the form in which we have it today; and yet statements such as these became unquestioned parts of it. The clear conclusion is that the people of the early church still believed these words to be true.

(ii) There is a strong line of New Testament thought which, in effect, holds that the end has come. The consummation of history was the coming of Jesus Christ. In him time was invaded by eternity. In him God entered into the human situation. In him the prophecies were all fulfilled. In him the end has come. Paul speaks of himself and his people as those on whom the ends of the ages have come ( 1 Corinthians 10:11). Peter in his first sermon speaks of Joel's prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit and of all that should happen in the last days, and then says that at that very time men were actually living in those last days ( Acts 2:16-21).

If we accept that, it means that in Jesus Christ the end of history has come. The battle has been won; there remain only skirmishes with the last remnants of opposition. It means that at this very moment we are living in the "end time," in what someone has called "the epilogue to history." That is a very common point of view; but the trouble is that it flies in the face of facts. Evil is as rampant as ever; the world is still far from having accepted Christ as King. It may be the "end time," but the dawn seems as far distant as ever it was.

(iii) It may be that we have to interpret near in the light of history's being a process of almost unimaginable length. It has been put this way. Suppose all time to be represented by a column the height of Cleopatra's Needle with a single postage stamp on top, then the length of recorded history is represented by the thickness of the postage stamp and the unrecorded history which went before it by the height of the column. When we think of time in terms like that near becomes an entirely relative word. The Psalmist was literally right when he said that in God's sight a thousand years were just like a watch in the night ( Psalms 90:4). In that case near can cover centuries and still be correctly used. But it is quite certain that the Biblical writers did not take near in that sense, for they had no conception of history in terms like that.

(iv) The simple fact is that behind this there is one inescapable and most personal truth. For everyone of us the time is near. The one thing which can be said of every man is that he will die. For every one of us the Lord is at hand. We cannot tell the day and the hour when we shall go to meet him; and, therefore, all life is lived in the shadow of eternity.

"The end of all things is near," said Peter. The early thinkers may have been wrong if they thought that the end of the world was round the corner, but they have left us with the warning that for every one of us personally the end is near; and that warning is as valid today as ever it was.

THE LIFE LIVED IN THE SHADOW OF ETERNITY ( 1 Peter 4:7 b-8)

4:7b-8 Be, therefore, steady and sober in mind so that you will really be able to pray as you ought. Above all cherish for each other a love that is constant and intense, because love hides a multitude of sins.

When a man realizes the nearness of Jesus Christ, he is bound to commit himself to a certain kind of life. In view of that nearness Peter makes four demands.

(i) He says that we must be steady in mind. We might render it: "Preserve your sanity." The verb Peter uses is sophronein ( G4994) ; connected with that verb is the noun sophrosune ( G4997) , which the Greeks derived from the verb sozein ( G4982) , to keep safe, and the noun phronesis ( G5428) , the mind. Sophrosune ( G4997) is the wisdom which characterizes a man who is preeminently sane; and sophronein ( G4993) means to preserve one's sanity. The great characteristic of sanity is that it sees things in their proper proportions; it sees what things are important and what are not; it is not swept away by sudden and transitory enthusiasms; it is prone neither to unbalanced fanaticism nor to unrealizing indifference. It is only when we see the affairs of earth in the light of eternity that we see them in their proper proportions; it is when God is given his proper place that everything takes its proper place.

(ii) He says that we must be sober in mind. We might render it: "Preserve your sobriety." The verb Peter uses is nephein ( G3525) which originally meant to be sober in contradistinction to being drunk and then came to mean to act soberly and sensibly. This does not mean that the Christian is to be lost in a gloomy joylessness; but it does mean that his approach to life must not be frivolous and irresponsible. To take things seriously is to be aware of their real importance and to be ever mindful of their consequences in time and in eternity. It is to approach life, not as a jest, but as a serious matter for which we are answerable.

(iii) He says that we must do this in order to pray as we ought. We might render it: "Preserve your prayer life." When a man's mind is unbalanced and his approach to life is frivolous and irresponsible, he cannot pray as he ought. We learn to pray only when we take life so wisely and so seriously that we begin to say in all things: "Thy will be done." The first necessity of prayer is the earnest desire to discover the will of God for ourselves.

(iv) He says that we must cherish for each other a love that is constant and intense. We might render it: "Preserve your love." The word Peter uses to describe this love is ektenes ( G1618) which has two meanings, both of which we have included in the translation. It means outstretching in the sense of consistent; our love must be the love that never fails. It also means stretching out as a runner stretches out. As C. E. B. Cranfield reminds us it describes a horse at full gallop and denotes "the taut muscle of strenuous and sustained effort, as of an athlete." Our love must be energetic. Here is a fundamental Christian truth. Christian love is not an easy, sentimental reaction. It demands everything a man has of mental and spiritual energy. It means loving the unlovely and the unlovable; it means loving in spite of insult and injury; it means loving when love is not returned. Bengel translates ektenes ( G1618) by the Latin vehemens, vehement. Christian love is the love which never fails and into which every atom of man's strength is directed.

The Christian, in the light of eternity, must preserve his sanity, preserve his sobriety, preserve his prayers and preserve his love.

THE POWER OF LOVE ( 1 Peter 4:7 b-8 continued)

"Love," says Peter, "hides a multitude of sins." There are three things which this saying may mean; and it is not necessary that we should choose between them, for they are all there.

(i) It may mean that our love can overlook many sins. "Love covers all offences," says the writer of the Proverbs ( Proverbs 10:12). If we love a person, it is easy to forgive. It is not that love is blind, but that it loves a person just as he is. Love makes patience easy. It is much easier to be patient with our own children than with the children of strangers. If we really love our fellow-men, we can accept their faults, and bear with their foolishness, and even endure their unkindness. Love indeed can cover a multitude of sins.

(ii) It may mean that, if we love others, God will overlook a multitude of sins in us. In life we meet two kinds of people. We meet those who have no faults at which the finger may be pointed; they are moral, orthodox, and supremely respectable; but they are hard and austere and unable to understand why others make mistakes and fall into sin. We also meet those who have all kinds of faults; but they are kind and sympathetic and they seldom or never condemn. It is the second kind of person to whom the heart more readily warms; and in all reverence we may say that it is so with God. He will forgive much to the man who loves his fellow-men.

(iii) It may mean that God's love covers the multitude of our sins. That is blessedly and profoundly true. It is the wonder of grace that, sinners as we are, God loves us; that is why he sent his Son.

CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY ( 1 Peter 4:9-10 )

4:9-10 Be hospitable to one another and never grudge it. As each has received a gift from God, so let all use such gifts in the service of one another, like good stewards of the grace of God.

Peter's mind is dominated in this section by the conviction that the end of all things is near. It is of the greatest interest and significance to note that he does not use that conviction to urge men to withdraw from the world and to enter on a kind of private campaign to save their own souls; he uses it to urge them to go into the world and serve their fellow-men. As Peter sees it, a man will be happy if the end finds him, not living as a hermit, but out in the world serving his fellow-men.

(i) First, Peter urges upon his people the duty of hospitality. Without hospitality the early church could not have existed. The travelling missionaries who spread the good news of the gospel had to find somewhere to stay and there was no place for them to stay except in the homes of Christians. Such inns as there were were impossibly dear, impossibly filthy and notoriously immoral. Thus we find Peter lodging with one Simon a tanner ( Acts 10:6), and Paul and his company were to lodge with one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple ( Acts 21:16). Many a nameless one in the early church made Christian missionary work possible by opening the doors of his house and home.

Not only did the missionaries need hospitality; the local churches also needed it. For two hundred years there was no such thing as a church building. The church was compelled to meet in the houses of those who had bigger rooms and were prepared to lend them for the services of the congregation. Thus we read of the church which was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla ( Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19), and of the church which was in the house of Philemon ( Philemon 1:2). Without those who were prepared to open their homes, the early church could not have met for worship at all.

It is little wonder that again and again in the New Testament the duty of hospitality is pressed upon the Christians. The Christian is to be given to hospitality ( Romans 12:13). A bishop is to be given to hospitality ( 1 Timothy 3:2); the widows of the Church must have lodged strangers ( 1 Timothy 5:10). The Christian must not forget to entertain strangers and must remember that some who have done so have entertained angels unawares. ( Hebrews 13:2). The bishop must be a lover of hospitality ( Titus 1:8). And it is ever to be remembered that it was said to those on the right hand: "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me" while the condemnation of those on the left hand was: "I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me" ( Matthew 25:35; Matthew 25:43).

In the early days the Church depended on the hospitality of its members; and to this day no greater gift can be offered than the welcome of a Christian home to the stranger in a strange place.

(ii) Such gifts as a man has he must place ungrudgingly at the service of the community. This again is a favourite New Testament idea which is expanded by Paul in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. The Church needs every gift that a man has. It may be a gift of speaking, of music, of the ability to visit people. It may be a craft or skill which can be used in the practical service of the Church. It may be a house which a man possesses or money which he has inherited. There is no gift which cannot be placed at the service of Christ.

The Christian has to regard himself as a steward of God. In the ancient world the steward was very important. He might be a slave but his master's goods were in his hands. There were two main kinds of stewards, the dispensator, the dispenser, who was responsible for all the domestic arrangements of the household and laid in and divided out the household supplies; and the vilicus, the bailiff, who was in charge of his master's estates and acted as landlord to his master's tenants. The steward knew well that none of the things over which he had control belonged to him; they all belonged to his master. In everything he did he was answerable to his master and always it was his interests he must serve.

The Christian must always be under the conviction that nothing he possesses of material goods or personal qualities is his own; it all belongs to God and he must ever use what he has in the interests of God to whom he is always answerable.

THE SOURCE AND OBJECT OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOR ( 1 Peter 4:11 )

4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as one uttering sayings sent from God. If anyone renders any service, let him do so as one whose service comes from the strength which God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ to whom belong glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter is thinking of the two great activities of the Christian Church, preaching and practical service. The word he uses for sayings is logia ( G3048) . That is a word with a kind of divine background. The heathen used it for the oracles which came to them from their gods; the Christians used it for the words of scripture and the words of Christ. So Peter is saying, "If a man has the duty of preaching, let him preach not as one offering his own opinions or propagating his own prejudices, but as one with a message from God." It was said of one great preacher: "First he listened to God, and then he spoke to men." It was said of another that ever and again he paused, "as if listening for a voice." There lies the secret of preaching power.

Peter goes on to say that if a Christian is engaged in practical service, he must render that service in the strength which God supplies. It is as if he said, "When you are engaged in Christian service, you must not do it as if you were conferring a personal favour or distributing bounty from your own store, but in the consciousness that what you give you first received from God." Such an attitude preserves the giver from pride and the gift from humiliation.

The aim of everything is that God should be glorified. Preaching is not done to display the preacher but to bring men face to face with God. Service is rendered not to bring prestige to the giver but to turn men's thoughts to God. E. G. Selwyn reminds us that the motto of the great Benedictine Order of monks is four letters--I-O-G-D--which stand for the Latin words (ut) in omnibus glorificetur Deus (in order that in all things God may be glorified). A new grace and glory would enter the Church, if all church people ceased doing things for themselves and did them for God.

THE INEVITABILITY OF PERSECUTION ( 1 Peter 4:12-13 )

4:12-13 Beloved, do not regard the fiery ordeal through which you are passing and which has happened to you to test you, as something strange, as if some alien experience were happening to you, but rejoice in so far as you share the sufferings of Christ so that you may also rejoice with rapture when his glory shall be revealed.

In the nature of things persecution must have been a much more daunting experience for Gentiles than it was for Jews. The average Gentile had little experience of it; but the Jews have always been the most persecuted people upon earth. Peter was writing to Christians who were Gentiles and he had to try to help them by showing them persecution in its true terms. It is never easy to be a Christian. The Christian life brings its own loneliness, its own unpopularity, its own problems, its own sacrifices and its own persecutions. It is, therefore, well to have certain great principles in our minds.

(i) It is Peter's view that persecution is inevitable. It is human nature to dislike and to regard with suspicion anyone who is different; the Christian is necessarily different from the man of the world. The particular impact of the Christian difference makes the matter more acute. To the world the Christian brings the standards of Jesus Christ. That is another way of saying that he inevitably is a kind of conscience to any society in which he moves; and many a man would gladly eliminate the troublesome twinges of conscience. The very goodness of Christianity can be an offence to a world in which goodness is regarded as a handicap.

(ii) It is Peter's view that persecution is a test. It is a test in a double sense. A man's devotion to a principle can be measured by his willingness to suffer for it; therefore, any kind of persecution is a test of a man's faith. But it is equally true that it is only the real Christian who will be persecuted. The Christian who compromises with the world will not be persecuted. In a double sense persecution is the test of the reality of a man's faith.

(iii) Now we come to the uplifting things. Persecution is a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. When a man has to suffer for his Christianity he is walking the way his Master walked and sharing the Cross his Master carried. This is a favourite New Testament thought. If we suffer with him, we will be glorified with him ( Romans 8:17). It is Paul's desire to enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ ( Php_3:10 ). If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him ( 2 Timothy 2:12). If we remember that, anything we must suffer for the sake of Christ becomes a privilege and not a penalty.

(iv) Persecution is the way to glory. The Cross is the way to the crown. Jesus Christ is no man's debtor and his joy and crown await the man who, through thick and thin, remains true to him.

THE BLESSEDNESS OF SUFFERING FOR CHRIST ( 1 Peter 4:14-16 )

4:14-16 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the presence of the glory and the Spirit of God rest upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer or a busybody. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him by this name bring glory to God.

Here Peter says the greatest thing of all. If a man suffers for Christ, the presence of the glory rests upon him. This is a very strange phrase. We think it can mean only one thing. The Jews had the conception of the Shekinah, the luminous glow of the very presence of God. This conception constantly recurs in the Old Testament. "In the morning," said Moses, "you shall see the glory of the Lord" ( Exodus 16:7). "The glory of the Lord settled upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud coverer it six days," when the law was being delivered to Moses ( Exodus 24:16). In the tabernacle God was to meet with Israel and it was to be sanctified with his glory ( Exodus 29:43). When the tabernacle was completed, "then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" ( Exodus 40:34). When the ark of the covenant was brought into Solomon's temple, "a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord" ( 1 Kings 8:10-11). Repeatedly this idea of the Shekinah, the luminous glory of God, occurs in the Old Testament.

It is Peter's conviction that something of that glow of glory rests on the man who suffers for Christ. When Stephen was on trial for his life and it was certain that he would be condemned to death, to those who looked on him his face was as the face of an angel ( Acts 6:15).

Peter goes on to point out that it is as a Christian that a man must suffer and not as an evil-doer. The evils which he singles out are all clear enough until we come to the last. A Christian, Peter says, is not to suffer as an allotriepiskopos ( G244) . The trouble is that there is no other instance of this word in Greek and Peter may well have invented it. It can have three possible meanings, all of which would be relevant. It comes from two words, allotrios ( G245) , belonging to another and episkopos ( G1985) , looking upon or looking into. Therefore, it literally means looking upon, or into, that which belongs to another.

(i) To look on that which is someone else's might well be to cast covetous eyes upon it. That is how both the Latin Bible and Calvin take this word--to mean that the Christian must not be covetous.

(ii) To look upon that which belongs to another might well mean to be too interested in other people's affairs and to be a meddling busybody. That is by far the most probable meaning. There are Christians who do an infinite deal of harm with misguided interference and criticism. This would mean that the Christian must never be an interfering busybody. That gives good sense and, we believe, the best sense.

(iii) There is a third possibility. Allotrios ( G245) means that which belongs to someone else; that is to say, that which is foreign to oneself. Along that line allotriepiskopos ( G244) will mean looking upon that which is foreign to oneself. That would mean, of a Christian, entering upon undertakings which do not befit the Christian life. This would mean that a Christian must never interest himself in things which are alien to the life that a Christian should lead.

While all three meanings are possible, we think that the third is the right one.

It is Peter's injunction that, if a Christian has to suffer for Christ, he must do so in such a way that his suffering brings glory to God and to the name he bears. His life and conduct must be the best argument that he does not deserve the suffering which has come upon him and his attitude to it must commend the name he bears.

ENTRUSTING ALL LIFE TO GOD ( 1 Peter 4:17-19 )

4:17-19 For the time has come for judgment to begin from the household of God. And, if it begins from us, what will be the end of those who disobey the good news which comes from God? And, if the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious man and the sinner appear? So, then, let those who suffer in accordance with the will of God, entrust their souls to him who is a Creator on whom you can rely, and continue to do right.

As Peter saw it, it was all the more necessary for the Christian to do right because judgment was about to begin.

It was to begin with the household of God. Ezekiel hears the voice of God proclaiming judgment upon his people, "Begin at my sanctuary" ( Ezekiel 9:6). Where the privilege has been greatest, there the judgment will be sternest.

If judgment is to fall upon the Church of God, what will be the fate of those who have been utterly disobedient to the invitation and command of God? Peter confirms his appeal with a quotation from Proverbs 11:31: "If the righteous is requited on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!"

Finally, Peter exhorts his people to continue to do good and, whatever happens to them to entrust their lives to God, the Creator on whom they can rely. The word he uses for to entrust is paratithesthai ( G3908) , which is the technical word for depositing money with a trusted friend. In the ancient days there were no banks and few really safe places in which to deposit money. So, before a man went on a journey, he often left his money in the safe-keeping of a friend. Such a trust was regarded as one of the most sacred things in life. The friend was absolutely bound by all honour and all religion to return the money intact.

Herodotus (6: 86) has a story about such a trust. A certain Milesian came to Sparta, for he had heard of the strict honour of the Spartans, and entrusted his money to a certain Glaucus. He said that in due time his sons would reclaim the money and would bring tokens which would establish their identity beyond doubt. The time passed and the sons came. Glaucus treacherously said that he had no recollection of any money being entrusted to him and said that he wished four months to think about it. The Milesians departed sad and sorry. Glaucus consulted the gods as to what he ought to do, and they warned him that he must return the money. He did so, but before long he died and all his family followed him, and in the time of Herodotus there was not a single member of his family left alive because the gods were angry that he had even contemplated breaking the trust reposed in him. Even to think of evading such a trust was a mortal sin.

If a man entrusts himself to God, God will not fail him. If such a trust is sacred to men, how much more is it sacred to God? This is the very word used by Jesus, when he says "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit" ( Luke 23:46). Jesus unhesitatingly entrusted his life to God, certain that he would not fail him--and so may we. The old advice is still good advice--trust in God and do the right.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-peter-4.html. 1956-1959.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 4

THE OBLIGATION OF THE CHRISTIAN ( 1 Peter 4:1-5 )

4:1-5 Since then, Christ suffered in the flesh, you too must arm yourselves with the same conviction, that he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, and as a result of this the aim of such a man now is to spend the time that remains to him of life in obedience to the will of God. For the time that is past is sufficient to have done what the Gentiles will to do, to have lived a life of licentiousness, lust, drunkenness, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatry. They think it strange when you do not rush to join them in the same flood of profligacy, and they abuse you for not doing so. They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The Christian is committed to abandon the ways of heathenism and to live as God would have him to do.

Peter says, "He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." What exactly does he mean? There are three distinct possibilities.

(i) There is a strong line in Jewish thought that suffering is in itself a great purifier. In the Apocalypse of Baruch the writer, speaking of the experiences of the people of Israel, says, "Then, therefore, were they chastened that they might be sanctified" (13: 10). In regard to the purification of the spirits of men Enoch says, "And in proportion as the burning of their body becomes severe, a corresponding change will take place in their spirit for ever and ever; for before the Lord of spirits there will be none to utter a lying word" (67: 9). The terrible sufferings of the time are described in 2 Maccabees, and the writer says, "I beseech those that read this book that they be not discouraged, terrified or shaken for these calamities, but that they judge these punishments not to be for destruction but for chastening of our nation. For it is a token of his great goodness, when evil-doers are not suffered to go on in their ways any long time, but forthwith punished. For not as with other nations, whom the Lord patiently forbeareth to punish, till the day of judgment arrive, and they be come to the fullness of their sins, so dealeth he with us, lest that, being come to the height of sin, afterwards he should take vengeance on us. And though he punish sinners with adversity, yet doth he never forsake his people" ( 2Ma_6:12-16 ). The idea is that suffering sanctifies and that not to be punished is the greatest punishment which God can lay upon a man. "Blessed is the man whom thou dost chasten, O Lord," said the Psalmist ( Psalms 94:12). "Happy is the man whom God reproves," said Eliphaz ( Job 5:17). "For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" ( Hebrews 12:6).

If this is the idea, it means that he who has been disciplined by suffering has been cured of sin. That is a great thought. It enables us, as Browning said, "to welcome each rebuff that turns earth's smoothness rough." It enables us to thank God for the experiences which hurt but save the soul. But great as this thought is, it is not strictly relevant here.

(ii) Bigg thinks that Peter is speaking in terms of the experience which his people had of suffering for the Christian faith. He puts it this way: "He who has suffered in meekness and in fear, he who has endured all that persecution can do to him rather than join in wicked ways can be trusted to do right; temptation has manifestly no power over him." The idea is that if a man has come through persecution and not denied the name of Christ, he comes out on the other side with a character so tested and a faith so strengthened, that temptation cannot touch him any more.

Again there is a great thought here, the thought that every trial and every temptation are meant to make us stronger and better. Every temptation resisted makes the next easier to resist; and every temptation conquered makes us better able to overcome the next attack. But again it is doubtful if this thought comes in very relevantly here.

(iii) The third explanation is most probably the right one. Peter has just been talking about baptism. Now the great New Testament picture of baptism is in Romans 6:1-23. In that chapter Paul says that the experience of baptism is like being buried with Christ in death and raised with him to newness of life. We think that this is what Peter is thinking of here. He has spoken of baptism; and now he says, "He who in baptism has shared the sufferings and the death of Christ, is risen to such newness of life with him that sin has no more dominion over him" ( Romans 6:14). Again we must remember that this is the baptism of the man who is voluntarily coming over from paganism into Christianity. In that act of baptism he is identified with Christ; he shares his sufferings and even his death; and he shares his risen life and power, and is, therefore, victor over sin.

When that has happened, a man has said good-bye to his former way of life. The rule of pleasure, pride and passion is gone, and the rule of God has begun. This was by no means easy. A man's former associates would laugh at the new puritanism which had entered his life. But the Christian knows very well that the judgment of God will come, when the judgments of earth will be reversed and the pleasures that are eternal will compensate a thousandfold for the transitory pleasures which had to be abandoned in this life.

THE ULTIMATE CHANCE ( 1 Peter 4:6 )

4:6 For this is the reason why the gospel was preached to the dead, so that, although they have been judged in the flesh like men, they may live in the Spirit like God.

This very difficult passage ends with a very difficult verse. Once again we have the idea of the gospel being preached to the dead. At least three different meanings have been attached to dead. (i) It has been taken to mean those who are dead in sin, not those who are physically dead. (ii) It has been taken to mean those who died be re the Second Coming of Christ; but who heard the gospel before they died and so will not miss the glory. (iii) It has been taken to mean quite simply all the dead There can be little doubt that this third meaning is correct; Peter has just been talking about the descent of Christ to the place of the dead, and here he comes back to the idea of Christ preaching to the dead.

No fully satisfactory meaning has ever been found for this verse; but we think that the best explanation is as follows. For mortal man, death is the penalty of sin. As Paul wrote: "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" ( Romans 5:12). Had there been no sin, there would have been no death; and, therefore, death in itself is a judgment. So Peter says, all men have already been judged when they die; in spite of that Christ descended to the world of the dead and preached the gospel there, giving them another chance to live in the Spirit of God.

In some ways this is one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible, for, if our explanation is anywhere near the truth, it gives a breath-taking glimpse of a gospel of a second chance.

(1) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6)

4:6 He was put to death in the flesh, but he was raised to life in the Spirit, in which also he went and preached to the spirits who are in prison, the spirits who were once upon a time disobedient in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built.... For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, so that, although they have already been judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.

We have already said that we are here face to face with one of the most difficult passages, not only in Peter's letter, but in the whole New Testament; and, if we are to grasp what it means, we must follow Peter's own advice and gird up the loins of our mind to study it.

This passage has lodged in the creed in the phrase: "He descended into hell." We must first note that this phrase is very misleading. The idea of the New Testament is not that Jesus descended into hell but that he descended into Hades. Acts 2:27, as all the newer translations correctly show, should be translated not: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," but, "Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades." The difference is this. Hell is the place of the punishment of the wicked; Hades was the place where all the dead went.

The Jews had a very shadowy conception of life beyond the grave. They did not think in terms of heaven and of hell but of a shadowy world, where the spirits of men moved like grey ghosts in an everlasting twilight and where there was neither strength nor joy. Such was Hades, into which the spirits of all men went after death. Isaiah writes: "For Sheol cannot thank thee, death cannot praise thee; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for thy faithfulness" ( Isaiah 38:18). The Psalmist wrote: "In death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise?" ( Psalms 6:5). "What profit is there in my death if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise thee? Will it tell of thy faithfulness?" ( Psalms 30:9). "Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise up to praise thee? Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?" ( Psalms 88:10-12). "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence" ( Psalms 115:17). "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going" ( Ecclesiastes 9:10). The Jewish conception of the world after death was of this grey world of shadows and forgetfulness, in which men were separated from life and light and God.

As time went on, there emerged the idea of stages and divisions in this shadowland. For some it was to last for ever; but for others it was a kind of prison-house in which they were held until the final judgment of God's wrath should blast them ( Isaiah 24:21-22; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:1-7). So, then, it must first of all be remembered that this whole matter is to be thought of, not in terms of hell, as we understand the word, but in terms of Christ's going to the dead in their shadowy world.

(2) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 continued)

This doctrine of the descent into Hades, as we must now call it, is based on two phrases in our present passage. It says that Jesus went and preached to the spirits who are in prison ( 1 Peter 3:19); and it speaks of the gospel being preached to the dead ( 1 Peter 4:6). In regard to this doctrine there have always been differing attitudes amongst thinkers.

(i) There are those who wish to eliminate it altogether. There is the attitude of elimination. Some wish to eliminate it altogether and attempt to do so along two lines.

(a) Peter says that in the Spirit Christ preached to the spirits in prison, who were disobedient in the time when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, when the ark was being built. It is argued that what this means is that it was in the time of Noah himself that Christ did this preaching; that in the Spirit long ages before this he made his appeal to the wicked men of Noah's day. This would completely do away with the idea of the descent into Hades. Many great scholars have accepted that view; but we do not think it is the view which comes naturally from Peter's words.

(b) If we look at Moffatt's translation, we find something quite different. He translates: "In the flesh he (Christ) was put to death, but he came to life in the Spirit. It was in the Spirit that Enoch also went and preached to the imprisoned spirits who had disobeyed at the time when God's patience held out during the construction of the ark in the days of Noah." How does Moffatt arrive at this translation?

The name of Enoch does not appear in any Greek manuscript. But in the consideration of the text of any Greek author, scholars sometimes use a process called emendation. They think that there is something wrong with the text as it stands, that some scribe has perhaps copied it wrongly; and they, therefore, suggest that some word should be changed or added. In this passage Rendel Harris suggested that the word Enoch was missed out in the copying of Peter's writing and should be put back in.

(Although it involves the use of Greek some readers may be

interested to see how Rendel Harris arrived at this famous

emendation. In the top line in italic print, we have set down

the Greek of the passage in English lettering and beneath each

Greek word its English translation:

thanatotheis ( G2289) men ( G3303) sarki ( G4561)

having been put to death in the flesh

zoopoietheis ( G2227) de ( G1161) pneumati ( G4151)

having been raised to life in the Spirit

en ( G1722) ho ( G3588) kai ( G2532) tois ( G3588)

in which also to the

en ( G1722) phulake ( G5438) pneumasi ( G4151)

in prison spirits

poreutheis ( G4198) ekeruxen ( G2784)

having gone he preached.

(Men ( G3303) and de ( G1161) are what are called particles;

they are not translated but merely mark the contrast between

sarki, G4561, and pneumati, G4151) . It was Rendel Harris'

suggestion that between kai ( G2532) and tois ( G3588) the

word Enoch ( G1802) had dropped out. His explanation was that,

since most manuscript copying was done to dictation, scribes were

very liable to miss words which followed each other, if they

sounded very similar. In this passage:

en ( G1722) ho ( G3588) kai ( G2532) and Enoch ( G1802)

sound very much alike, and Rendel Harris thought it very likely

that Enoch ( G1802) had been mistakenly omitted for that reason).

What reason is there for bringing Enoch ( G1802) into this passage at all? He has always been a fascinating and mysterious person. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him" ( Genesis 5:24). In between the Old and New Testaments many legends sprang up about Enoch and famous and important books were written under his name. One of the legends was that Enoch, though a man, acted as "God's envoy" to the angels who sinned by coming to earth and lustfully seducing mortal women ( Genesis 6:2). In the Book of Enoch it is said that he was sent down from heaven to announce to these angels their final doom (Enoch 12: 1) and that he proclaimed that for them, because of their sin, there was neither peace nor forgiveness ever (Enoch 12 and 13).

So then, according to Jewish legend, Enoch did go to Hades and preach doom to the fallen angels. And Rendel Harris thought that this passage referred, not to Jesus, but to Enoch, and Moffatt so far agreed with him as to put Enoch into his translation. That is an extremely interesting and ingenious suggestion but without doubt it must be rejected. There is no evidence for it at all; and it is not natural to bring in Enoch, for the whole picture is of the work of Christ.

(3) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 continued)

We have seen that the attempt at the elimination of this passage fails.

(ii) The second attitude is limitation. This attitude--and it is that of some very great New Testament interpreters--believes that Peter is indeed saying that Jesus went to Hades and preached, but that he by no means preached to all the inhabitants of Hades. Different interpreters limit that preaching in different ways.

(a) It is argued that Jesus preached in Hades only to the spirits of the men who were disobedient in the days of Noah. Those who hold this view often go on to argue that, since these sinners were desperately disobedient, so much so that God sent the flood and destroyed them ( Genesis 6:12-13), we may believe that no man is outside the mercy of God. They were the worst of all sinners and yet they were given another chance of repentance; therefore, the worst of men still have a chance in Christ.

(b) It is argued that Jesus preached to the fallen angels, and preached, not salvation, but final and awful doom. We have already mentioned these angels. Their story is told in Genesis 6:1-8. They were tempted by the beauty of mortal women; they came to earth, seduced them and begat children; and because of their action, it is inferred, the wickedness of man was great and his thoughts were always evil. 2 Peter 2:4 speaks of these sinning angels as being imprisoned in hell, awaiting judgment. It was to them that Enoch did, in fact, preach; and there are those who think that what this passage means is not that Christ preached mercy and another chance; but that, in token of his complete triumph, he preached terrible doom to those angels who had sinned.

(c) It is argued that Christ preached only to those who had been righteous and that he led them out of Hades into the paradise of God. We have seen how the Jews believed that all the dead went to Hades, the shadowy land of forgetfulness. The argument is that before Christ that was indeed so but he opened the gates of heaven to mankind; and, when he did so, he went to Hades and told the glad news to all the righteous men of all past generations and led them out to God. That is a magnificent picture. Those who hold this view often go on to say that, because of Christ, there is now no time spent in the shadows of Hades and the way to paradise is open as soon as this world closes on us.

(4) THE DESCENT INTO HELL ( 1 Peter 3:18 b-20;4:6 continued)

(iii) There is the attitude that what Peter is saying is that Jesus Christ, between his death and resurrection, went to the world of the dead and preached the gospel there. Peter says that Jesus Christ was put to death in the flesh but raised to life in the Spirit, and that it was in the Spirit that he so preached. The meaning is that Jesus lived in a human body and was under all the limitations of time and space in the days of his flesh; and died with that body broken and bleeding upon the Cross. But when he rose again, he rose with a spiritual body, in which he was rid of the necessary weaknesses of humanity and liberated from the necessary limitations of time and space. It was in this spiritual condition of perfect freedom that the preaching to the dead took place.

As it stands this doctrine is stated in categories which are outworn. It speaks of the descent into Hades and the very word descent suggests a three-storey universe in which heaven is localized above the sky and Hades beneath the earth. But, laying aside the physical categories of this doctrine, we can find in it truths which are eternally valid and precious, three in particular.

(a) If Christ descended into Hades, then his death was no sham. It is not to be explained in terms of a swoon on the Cross, or anything like that. He really experienced death, and rose again. At its simplest, the doctrine of the descent into Hades lays down the complete identity of Christ with our human condition, even to the experience of death.

(b) If Christ descended into Hades, it means that his triumph is universal. This, in fact, is a truth which is ingrained into the New Testament. It is Paul's dream that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth ( Php_2:10 ). In the Revelation the song of praise comes from every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth ( Revelation 5:13). He who ascended into Heaven is he who first descended into the lower parts of the earth ( Ephesians 4:9-10). The total submission of the universe to Christ is woven into the thought of the New Testament.

(c) If Christ descended into Hades and preached there, there is no corner of the universe into which the message of grace has not come. There is in this passage the solution of one of the most haunting questions raised by the Christian faith--what is to happen to those who lived before Jesus Christ and to those to whom the gospel never came? There can be no salvation without repentance but how can repentance come to those who have never been confronted with the love and holiness of God? If there is no other name by which men may be saved, what is to happen to those who never heard it? This is the point that Justin Martyr fastened on long ago: "The Lord, the Holy God of Israel, remembered his dead, those sleeping in the earth, and came down to them to tell them the good news of salvation." The doctrine of the descent into Hades conserves the precious truth that no man who ever lived is left without a sight of Christ and without the offer of the salvation of God.

Many in repeating the creed have found the phrase "He descended into hell" either meaningless or bewildering, and have tacitly agreed to set it on one side and forget it. It may well be that we ought to think of this as a picture painted in terms of poetry rather than a doctrine stated in terms of theology. But it contains these three great truths--that Jesus Christ not only tasted death but drained the cup of death, that the triumph of Christ is universal and that there is no corner of the universe into which the grace of God has not reached.

THE APPROACHING END ( 1 Peter 4:7 a)

4:7a The end of all things is near.

Here is a note which is struck consistently all through the New Testament. It is the summons of Paul that it is time to wake out of sleep, for the night is far spent and the day is at hand ( Romans 13:12). "The Lord is at hand," he writes to the Philippians ( Php_4:5 ). "The coming of the Lord is at hand," writes James ( James 5:8). John says that the days in which his people are living are the last hour ( 1 John 2:18). "The time is near," says the John of the Revelation, and he hears the Risen Christ testify: "Surely I am coming soon" ( Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:20).

There are many for whom all such passages are problems, for, if they are taken literally, the New Testament writers were mistaken; nineteen hundred years have passed and the end is not yet come. There are four ways of looking at them.

(i) We may hold that the New Testament writers were in fact mistaken. They looked for the return of Christ and the end of the world in their own day and generation; and these events did not take place. The curious thing is that the Christian Church allowed these words to stand although it would not have been difficult quietly to excise them from the New Testament documents. It was not until late in the second century that the New Testament began to be fixed in the form in which we have it today; and yet statements such as these became unquestioned parts of it. The clear conclusion is that the people of the early church still believed these words to be true.

(ii) There is a strong line of New Testament thought which, in effect, holds that the end has come. The consummation of history was the coming of Jesus Christ. In him time was invaded by eternity. In him God entered into the human situation. In him the prophecies were all fulfilled. In him the end has come. Paul speaks of himself and his people as those on whom the ends of the ages have come ( 1 Corinthians 10:11). Peter in his first sermon speaks of Joel's prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit and of all that should happen in the last days, and then says that at that very time men were actually living in those last days ( Acts 2:16-21).

If we accept that, it means that in Jesus Christ the end of history has come. The battle has been won; there remain only skirmishes with the last remnants of opposition. It means that at this very moment we are living in the "end time," in what someone has called "the epilogue to history." That is a very common point of view; but the trouble is that it flies in the face of facts. Evil is as rampant as ever; the world is still far from having accepted Christ as King. It may be the "end time," but the dawn seems as far distant as ever it was.

(iii) It may be that we have to interpret near in the light of history's being a process of almost unimaginable length. It has been put this way. Suppose all time to be represented by a column the height of Cleopatra's Needle with a single postage stamp on top, then the length of recorded history is represented by the thickness of the postage stamp and the unrecorded history which went before it by the height of the column. When we think of time in terms like that near becomes an entirely relative word. The Psalmist was literally right when he said that in God's sight a thousand years were just like a watch in the night ( Psalms 90:4). In that case near can cover centuries and still be correctly used. But it is quite certain that the Biblical writers did not take near in that sense, for they had no conception of history in terms like that.

(iv) The simple fact is that behind this there is one inescapable and most personal truth. For everyone of us the time is near. The one thing which can be said of every man is that he will die. For every one of us the Lord is at hand. We cannot tell the day and the hour when we shall go to meet him; and, therefore, all life is lived in the shadow of eternity.

"The end of all things is near," said Peter. The early thinkers may have been wrong if they thought that the end of the world was round the corner, but they have left us with the warning that for every one of us personally the end is near; and that warning is as valid today as ever it was.

THE LIFE LIVED IN THE SHADOW OF ETERNITY ( 1 Peter 4:7 b-8)

4:7b-8 Be, therefore, steady and sober in mind so that you will really be able to pray as you ought. Above all cherish for each other a love that is constant and intense, because love hides a multitude of sins.

When a man realizes the nearness of Jesus Christ, he is bound to commit himself to a certain kind of life. In view of that nearness Peter makes four demands.

(i) He says that we must be steady in mind. We might render it: "Preserve your sanity." The verb Peter uses is sophronein ( G4994) ; connected with that verb is the noun sophrosune ( G4997) , which the Greeks derived from the verb sozein ( G4982) , to keep safe, and the noun phronesis ( G5428) , the mind. Sophrosune ( G4997) is the wisdom which characterizes a man who is preeminently sane; and sophronein ( G4993) means to preserve one's sanity. The great characteristic of sanity is that it sees things in their proper proportions; it sees what things are important and what are not; it is not swept away by sudden and transitory enthusiasms; it is prone neither to unbalanced fanaticism nor to unrealizing indifference. It is only when we see the affairs of earth in the light of eternity that we see them in their proper proportions; it is when God is given his proper place that everything takes its proper place.

(ii) He says that we must be sober in mind. We might render it: "Preserve your sobriety." The verb Peter uses is nephein ( G3525) which originally meant to be sober in contradistinction to being drunk and then came to mean to act soberly and sensibly. This does not mean that the Christian is to be lost in a gloomy joylessness; but it does mean that his approach to life must not be frivolous and irresponsible. To take things seriously is to be aware of their real importance and to be ever mindful of their consequences in time and in eternity. It is to approach life, not as a jest, but as a serious matter for which we are answerable.

(iii) He says that we must do this in order to pray as we ought. We might render it: "Preserve your prayer life." When a man's mind is unbalanced and his approach to life is frivolous and irresponsible, he cannot pray as he ought. We learn to pray only when we take life so wisely and so seriously that we begin to say in all things: "Thy will be done." The first necessity of prayer is the earnest desire to discover the will of God for ourselves.

(iv) He says that we must cherish for each other a love that is constant and intense. We might render it: "Preserve your love." The word Peter uses to describe this love is ektenes ( G1618) which has two meanings, both of which we have included in the translation. It means outstretching in the sense of consistent; our love must be the love that never fails. It also means stretching out as a runner stretches out. As C. E. B. Cranfield reminds us it describes a horse at full gallop and denotes "the taut muscle of strenuous and sustained effort, as of an athlete." Our love must be energetic. Here is a fundamental Christian truth. Christian love is not an easy, sentimental reaction. It demands everything a man has of mental and spiritual energy. It means loving the unlovely and the unlovable; it means loving in spite of insult and injury; it means loving when love is not returned. Bengel translates ektenes ( G1618) by the Latin vehemens, vehement. Christian love is the love which never fails and into which every atom of man's strength is directed.

The Christian, in the light of eternity, must preserve his sanity, preserve his sobriety, preserve his prayers and preserve his love.

THE POWER OF LOVE ( 1 Peter 4:7 b-8 continued)

"Love," says Peter, "hides a multitude of sins." There are three things which this saying may mean; and it is not necessary that we should choose between them, for they are all there.

(i) It may mean that our love can overlook many sins. "Love covers all offences," says the writer of the Proverbs ( Proverbs 10:12). If we love a person, it is easy to forgive. It is not that love is blind, but that it loves a person just as he is. Love makes patience easy. It is much easier to be patient with our own children than with the children of strangers. If we really love our fellow-men, we can accept their faults, and bear with their foolishness, and even endure their unkindness. Love indeed can cover a multitude of sins.

(ii) It may mean that, if we love others, God will overlook a multitude of sins in us. In life we meet two kinds of people. We meet those who have no faults at which the finger may be pointed; they are moral, orthodox, and supremely respectable; but they are hard and austere and unable to understand why others make mistakes and fall into sin. We also meet those who have all kinds of faults; but they are kind and sympathetic and they seldom or never condemn. It is the second kind of person to whom the heart more readily warms; and in all reverence we may say that it is so with God. He will forgive much to the man who loves his fellow-men.

(iii) It may mean that God's love covers the multitude of our sins. That is blessedly and profoundly true. It is the wonder of grace that, sinners as we are, God loves us; that is why he sent his Son.

CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY ( 1 Peter 4:9-10 )

4:9-10 Be hospitable to one another and never grudge it. As each has received a gift from God, so let all use such gifts in the service of one another, like good stewards of the grace of God.

Peter's mind is dominated in this section by the conviction that the end of all things is near. It is of the greatest interest and significance to note that he does not use that conviction to urge men to withdraw from the world and to enter on a kind of private campaign to save their own souls; he uses it to urge them to go into the world and serve their fellow-men. As Peter sees it, a man will be happy if the end finds him, not living as a hermit, but out in the world serving his fellow-men.

(i) First, Peter urges upon his people the duty of hospitality. Without hospitality the early church could not have existed. The travelling missionaries who spread the good news of the gospel had to find somewhere to stay and there was no place for them to stay except in the homes of Christians. Such inns as there were were impossibly dear, impossibly filthy and notoriously immoral. Thus we find Peter lodging with one Simon a tanner ( Acts 10:6), and Paul and his company were to lodge with one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple ( Acts 21:16). Many a nameless one in the early church made Christian missionary work possible by opening the doors of his house and home.

Not only did the missionaries need hospitality; the local churches also needed it. For two hundred years there was no such thing as a church building. The church was compelled to meet in the houses of those who had bigger rooms and were prepared to lend them for the services of the congregation. Thus we read of the church which was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla ( Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19), and of the church which was in the house of Philemon ( Philemon 1:2). Without those who were prepared to open their homes, the early church could not have met for worship at all.

It is little wonder that again and again in the New Testament the duty of hospitality is pressed upon the Christians. The Christian is to be given to hospitality ( Romans 12:13). A bishop is to be given to hospitality ( 1 Timothy 3:2); the widows of the Church must have lodged strangers ( 1 Timothy 5:10). The Christian must not forget to entertain strangers and must remember that some who have done so have entertained angels unawares. ( Hebrews 13:2). The bishop must be a lover of hospitality ( Titus 1:8). And it is ever to be remembered that it was said to those on the right hand: "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me" while the condemnation of those on the left hand was: "I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me" ( Matthew 25:35; Matthew 25:43).

In the early days the Church depended on the hospitality of its members; and to this day no greater gift can be offered than the welcome of a Christian home to the stranger in a strange place.

(ii) Such gifts as a man has he must place ungrudgingly at the service of the community. This again is a favourite New Testament idea which is expanded by Paul in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. The Church needs every gift that a man has. It may be a gift of speaking, of music, of the ability to visit people. It may be a craft or skill which can be used in the practical service of the Church. It may be a house which a man possesses or money which he has inherited. There is no gift which cannot be placed at the service of Christ.

The Christian has to regard himself as a steward of God. In the ancient world the steward was very important. He might be a slave but his master's goods were in his hands. There were two main kinds of stewards, the dispensator, the dispenser, who was responsible for all the domestic arrangements of the household and laid in and divided out the household supplies; and the vilicus, the bailiff, who was in charge of his master's estates and acted as landlord to his master's tenants. The steward knew well that none of the things over which he had control belonged to him; they all belonged to his master. In everything he did he was answerable to his master and always it was his interests he must serve.

The Christian must always be under the conviction that nothing he possesses of material goods or personal qualities is his own; it all belongs to God and he must ever use what he has in the interests of God to whom he is always answerable.

THE SOURCE AND OBJECT OF ALL CHRISTIAN ENDEAVOR ( 1 Peter 4:11 )

4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as one uttering sayings sent from God. If anyone renders any service, let him do so as one whose service comes from the strength which God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ to whom belong glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter is thinking of the two great activities of the Christian Church, preaching and practical service. The word he uses for sayings is logia ( G3048) . That is a word with a kind of divine background. The heathen used it for the oracles which came to them from their gods; the Christians used it for the words of scripture and the words of Christ. So Peter is saying, "If a man has the duty of preaching, let him preach not as one offering his own opinions or propagating his own prejudices, but as one with a message from God." It was said of one great preacher: "First he listened to God, and then he spoke to men." It was said of another that ever and again he paused, "as if listening for a voice." There lies the secret of preaching power.

Peter goes on to say that if a Christian is engaged in practical service, he must render that service in the strength which God supplies. It is as if he said, "When you are engaged in Christian service, you must not do it as if you were conferring a personal favour or distributing bounty from your own store, but in the consciousness that what you give you first received from God." Such an attitude preserves the giver from pride and the gift from humiliation.

The aim of everything is that God should be glorified. Preaching is not done to display the preacher but to bring men face to face with God. Service is rendered not to bring prestige to the giver but to turn men's thoughts to God. E. G. Selwyn reminds us that the motto of the great Benedictine Order of monks is four letters--I-O-G-D--which stand for the Latin words (ut) in omnibus glorificetur Deus (in order that in all things God may be glorified). A new grace and glory would enter the Church, if all church people ceased doing things for themselves and did them for God.

THE INEVITABILITY OF PERSECUTION ( 1 Peter 4:12-13 )

4:12-13 Beloved, do not regard the fiery ordeal through which you are passing and which has happened to you to test you, as something strange, as if some alien experience were happening to you, but rejoice in so far as you share the sufferings of Christ so that you may also rejoice with rapture when his glory shall be revealed.

In the nature of things persecution must have been a much more daunting experience for Gentiles than it was for Jews. The average Gentile had little experience of it; but the Jews have always been the most persecuted people upon earth. Peter was writing to Christians who were Gentiles and he had to try to help them by showing them persecution in its true terms. It is never easy to be a Christian. The Christian life brings its own loneliness, its own unpopularity, its own problems, its own sacrifices and its own persecutions. It is, therefore, well to have certain great principles in our minds.

(i) It is Peter's view that persecution is inevitable. It is human nature to dislike and to regard with suspicion anyone who is different; the Christian is necessarily different from the man of the world. The particular impact of the Christian difference makes the matter more acute. To the world the Christian brings the standards of Jesus Christ. That is another way of saying that he inevitably is a kind of conscience to any society in which he moves; and many a man would gladly eliminate the troublesome twinges of conscience. The very goodness of Christianity can be an offence to a world in which goodness is regarded as a handicap.

(ii) It is Peter's view that persecution is a test. It is a test in a double sense. A man's devotion to a principle can be measured by his willingness to suffer for it; therefore, any kind of persecution is a test of a man's faith. But it is equally true that it is only the real Christian who will be persecuted. The Christian who compromises with the world will not be persecuted. In a double sense persecution is the test of the reality of a man's faith.

(iii) Now we come to the uplifting things. Persecution is a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. When a man has to suffer for his Christianity he is walking the way his Master walked and sharing the Cross his Master carried. This is a favourite New Testament thought. If we suffer with him, we will be glorified with him ( Romans 8:17). It is Paul's desire to enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ ( Php_3:10 ). If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him ( 2 Timothy 2:12). If we remember that, anything we must suffer for the sake of Christ becomes a privilege and not a penalty.

(iv) Persecution is the way to glory. The Cross is the way to the crown. Jesus Christ is no man's debtor and his joy and crown await the man who, through thick and thin, remains true to him.

THE BLESSEDNESS OF SUFFERING FOR CHRIST ( 1 Peter 4:14-16 )

4:14-16 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the presence of the glory and the Spirit of God rest upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer or a busybody. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him by this name bring glory to God.

Here Peter says the greatest thing of all. If a man suffers for Christ, the presence of the glory rests upon him. This is a very strange phrase. We think it can mean only one thing. The Jews had the conception of the Shekinah, the luminous glow of the very presence of God. This conception constantly recurs in the Old Testament. "In the morning," said Moses, "you shall see the glory of the Lord" ( Exodus 16:7). "The glory of the Lord settled upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud coverer it six days," when the law was being delivered to Moses ( Exodus 24:16). In the tabernacle God was to meet with Israel and it was to be sanctified with his glory ( Exodus 29:43). When the tabernacle was completed, "then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" ( Exodus 40:34). When the ark of the covenant was brought into Solomon's temple, "a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord" ( 1 Kings 8:10-11). Repeatedly this idea of the Shekinah, the luminous glory of God, occurs in the Old Testament.

It is Peter's conviction that something of that glow of glory rests on the man who suffers for Christ. When Stephen was on trial for his life and it was certain that he would be condemned to death, to those who looked on him his face was as the face of an angel ( Acts 6:15).

Peter goes on to point out that it is as a Christian that a man must suffer and not as an evil-doer. The evils which he singles out are all clear enough until we come to the last. A Christian, Peter says, is not to suffer as an allotriepiskopos ( G244) . The trouble is that there is no other instance of this word in Greek and Peter may well have invented it. It can have three possible meanings, all of which would be relevant. It comes from two words, allotrios ( G245) , belonging to another and episkopos ( G1985) , looking upon or looking into. Therefore, it literally means looking upon, or into, that which belongs to another.

(i) To look on that which is someone else's might well be to cast covetous eyes upon it. That is how both the Latin Bible and Calvin take this word--to mean that the Christian must not be covetous.

(ii) To look upon that which belongs to another might well mean to be too interested in other people's affairs and to be a meddling busybody. That is by far the most probable meaning. There are Christians who do an infinite deal of harm with misguided interference and criticism. This would mean that the Christian must never be an interfering busybody. That gives good sense and, we believe, the best sense.

(iii) There is a third possibility. Allotrios ( G245) means that which belongs to someone else; that is to say, that which is foreign to oneself. Along that line allotriepiskopos ( G244) will mean looking upon that which is foreign to oneself. That would mean, of a Christian, entering upon undertakings which do not befit the Christian life. This would mean that a Christian must never interest himself in things which are alien to the life that a Christian should lead.

While all three meanings are possible, we think that the third is the right one.

It is Peter's injunction that, if a Christian has to suffer for Christ, he must do so in such a way that his suffering brings glory to God and to the name he bears. His life and conduct must be the best argument that he does not deserve the suffering which has come upon him and his attitude to it must commend the name he bears.

ENTRUSTING ALL LIFE TO GOD ( 1 Peter 4:17-19 )

4:17-19 For the time has come for judgment to begin from the household of God. And, if it begins from us, what will be the end of those who disobey the good news which comes from God? And, if the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious man and the sinner appear? So, then, let those who suffer in accordance with the will of God, entrust their souls to him who is a Creator on whom you can rely, and continue to do right.

As Peter saw it, it was all the more necessary for the Christian to do right because judgment was about to begin.

It was to begin with the household of God. Ezekiel hears the voice of God proclaiming judgment upon his people, "Begin at my sanctuary" ( Ezekiel 9:6). Where the privilege has been greatest, there the judgment will be sternest.

If judgment is to fall upon the Church of God, what will be the fate of those who have been utterly disobedient to the invitation and command of God? Peter confirms his appeal with a quotation from Proverbs 11:31: "If the righteous is requited on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!"

Finally, Peter exhorts his people to continue to do good and, whatever happens to them to entrust their lives to God, the Creator on whom they can rely. The word he uses for to entrust is paratithesthai ( G3908) , which is the technical word for depositing money with a trusted friend. In the ancient days there were no banks and few really safe places in which to deposit money. So, before a man went on a journey, he often left his money in the safe-keeping of a friend. Such a trust was regarded as one of the most sacred things in life. The friend was absolutely bound by all honour and all religion to return the money intact.

Herodotus (6: 86) has a story about such a trust. A certain Milesian came to Sparta, for he had heard of the strict honour of the Spartans, and entrusted his money to a certain Glaucus. He said that in due time his sons would reclaim the money and would bring tokens which would establish their identity beyond doubt. The time passed and the sons came. Glaucus treacherously said that he had no recollection of any money being entrusted to him and said that he wished four months to think about it. The Milesians departed sad and sorry. Glaucus consulted the gods as to what he ought to do, and they warned him that he must return the money. He did so, but before long he died and all his family followed him, and in the time of Herodotus there was not a single member of his family left alive because the gods were angry that he had even contemplated breaking the trust reposed in him. Even to think of evading such a trust was a mortal sin.

If a man entrusts himself to God, God will not fail him. If such a trust is sacred to men, how much more is it sacred to God? This is the very word used by Jesus, when he says "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit" ( Luke 23:46). Jesus unhesitatingly entrusted his life to God, certain that he would not fail him--and so may we. The old advice is still good advice--trust in God and do the right.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-peter-4.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 Peter 4:8

above all things -- This is a Greek idiom for priority (cf. James 5:12). Love is priority (cf. 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 3:8; John 13:34; John 15:12, John 15:17; 1 Corinthians 13:1; 1 John 2:7-8; 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:7-21). - Utley

fervent love ..“Fervent” means “to be stretched,” “to be strained.” It is used of a runner who is moving at maximum output with taut muscles straining and stretching to the limit (cf. 1 Peter 1:22). This kind of love requires the Christian to put another’s spiritual good ahead of his own desires in spite of being treated unkindly, ungraciously, or even with hostility (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Philippians 2:1-4). - MSB

because love covers a large number of sins -- Peter draws on Proverbs 10:12 to affirm the power of Christian love; it can result in forgiveness and reconciliation when people have been harmed or wronged (James 5:20). In this way, love overcomes sin. Early Christianity regarded love as the foundational ethic for the community of believers (John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:13-14; Colossians 3:14). - FSB

Peter might also mean that our attitude of love, because it displays our relationship with Christ, covers our own sins and causes them to be forgiven (see Luke 7:47). - NLTSB

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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/1-peter-4.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,.... Not but that charity, or love, is to be exercised towards all men, even towards enemies, but more especially towards the saints, and that under such a consideration in which it cannot be exercised towards others; namely, as their brethren in Christ, and as belonging to him, as the children of God, as redeemed by Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit; and these not only such as are of the same nation, and belong to the same particular church and community, or of the same denomination, but all the saints everywhere, whether Jews or Gentiles, or of whatsoever name, and in whatsoever state and condition: and this love ought to be mutual and reciprocal, and to be warm and fervent, and not lukewarm and indifferent, as it too often is; and should be constant, "continued", and "perpetual", as the Vulgate Latin and Arabic versions here read: and this the apostle exhorts to above all things else; since outward sobriety, and watchings, and prayer, and all other duties, are nothing without this; this is the sum and substance of the law, and the fulfilling of it; and without this a mere knowledge of the Gospel, and a profession of it, are in vain, and therefore in the first place to be attended to. And especially for the following reason,

for charity shall cover the multitude of sins; referring to

Proverbs 10:12 not a man's own sins, but the sins of others; and not from the sight of God, for from that only the blood and righteousness of Christ cover sins, even all the sins, the whole multitude of the sins of God's elect; but from the sight of men, both of those against whom they are committed, and others; since charity, or true love, thinks no ill, but puts the best constructions upon the words and actions of fellow Christians, and does not take them up, and improve and exaggerate them, but lets them lie buried in oblivion: it takes no notice of injuries, offences, and affronts, but overlooks them, bears with them, and forgives them, so that they are never raked up, and seen any more; which prevents much scandal, strife, and trouble. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, read, "covereth", as in

Proverbs 10:12.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-peter-4.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Sobriety, Watchfulness, and Charity; Improvement of Talents. A. D. 66.

      7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.   8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.   9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.   10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.   11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

      We have here an awful position or doctrine, and an inference drawn from it. The position is that the end of all things is at hand. The miserable destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our Saviour is now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution and your sufferings is but very short. Your own life and that of your enemies will soon come to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself will not continue very long. The conflagration will put an end to it; and all things must be swallowed up in an endless eternity. The inference from this comprises a series of exhortations.

      1. To sobriety and watchfulness: "Be you therefore sober,1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 4:7. Let the frame and temper of your minds be grave, stayed, and solid; and observe strict temperance and sobriety in the use of all worldly enjoyments. Do not suffer yourselves to be caught with your former sins and temptations, 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Peter 4:3. An watch unto prayer. Take care that you be continually in a calm sober disposition, fit for prayer; and that you be frequent in prayers, lest this end come upon you unawares," Luke 21:34; Matthew 26:40; Matthew 26:41. Learn, (1.) The consideration of our approaching end is a powerful argument to make us sober in all worldly matters, and earnest in religious affairs. (2.) Those who would pray to purpose must watch unto prayer. They must watch over their own spirits, watch all fit opportunities, and do their duty in the best manner they can. (3.) The right ordering of the body is of great use to promote the good of the soul. When the appetites and inclinations of the body are restrained and governed by God's word and true reason, and the interests of the body are submitted to the interests and necessities of the soul, then it is not the soul's enemy, but its friend and helper.

      2. To charity: And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,1 Peter 4:8; 1 Peter 4:8. Here is a noble rule in Christianity. Christians ought to love one another, which implies an affection to their persons, a desire of their welfare, and a hearty endeavour to promote it. This mutual affection must not be cold, but fervent, that is, sincere, strong, and lasting. This sort of earnest affection is recommended above all things, which shows the importance of it, Colossians 3:14. It is greater than faith or hope, 1 Corinthians 13:13. One excellent effect of it is that it will cover a multitude of sins. Learn, (1.) There ought to be in all Christians a more fervent charity towards one another than towards other men: Have charity among yourselves. He does not say for pagans, for idolaters, or for apostates, but among yourselves. Let brotherly love continue,Hebrews 13:1. There is a special relation between all sincere Christians, and a particular amiableness and good in them, which require special affection. (2.) It is not enough for Christians not to bear malice, nor to have common respect for one another, they must intensely and fervently love each other. (3.) It is the property of true charity to cover a multitude of sins. It inclines people to forgive and forget offences against themselves, to cover and conceal the sins of others, rather than aggravate them and spread them abroad. It teaches us to love those who are but weak, and who have been guilty of many evil things before their conversion; and it prepares for mercy at the hand of God, who hath promised to forgive those that forgive others, Matthew 6:14.

      3. To hospitality, 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Peter 4:9. The hospitality here required is a free and kind entertainment of strangers and travellers. The proper objects of Christian hospitality are one another. The nearness of their relation, and the necessity of their condition in those times of persecution and distress, obliged Christians to be hospitable one to another. Sometimes Christians were spoiled of all they had, and were driven away to distant countries for safety. In this case they must starve if their fellow-christians would not receive them. Therefore it was a wise and necessary rule which the apostle here laid down. It is elsewhere commanded, Hebrews 13:1; Hebrews 13:2; Romans 12:13. The manner of performing this duty is this: it must be done in an easy, kind, handsome manner, without grudging or grumbling at the expense or trouble. Learn, (1.) Christians ought not only to be charitable, but hospitable, one to another. (2.) Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or of hospitality, he ought to do it cheerfully, and without grudging. Freely you have received, freely give.

      4. To the improvement of talents, 1 Peter 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11.

      (1.) The rule is that whatever gift, ordinary or extraordinary, whatever power, ability, or capacity of doing good is given to us, we should minister, or do service, with the same one to another, accounting ourselves not masters, but only stewards of the manifold grace, or the various gifts, of God. Learn, [1.] Whatever ability we have of doing good we must own it to be the gift of God and ascribe it to his grace. [2.] Whatever gifts we have received, we ought to look upon them as received for the use one of another. We must not assume them to ourselves, nor hide them in a napkin, but do service with them one to another in the best manner we are able. [3.] In receiving and using the manifold gifts of God we must look upon ourselves as stewards only, and act accordingly. The talents we are entrusted with are our Lord's goods, and must be employed as he directs. And it is required in a steward that he be found faithful.

      (2.) The apostle exemplifies his direction about gifts in two particulars--speaking and ministering, concerning which he gives these rules:-- [1.] If any man, whether a minister in public or a Christian in private conference, speak or teach, he must do it as the oracles of God, which direct us as to the matter of our speech. What Christians in private, or ministers in public, teach and speak must be the pure word and oracles of God. As to the manner of speaking, it must be with the seriousness, reverence, and solemnity, that become those holy and divine oracles. [2.] If any man minister, either as a deacon, distributing the alms of the church and taking care of the poor, or as a private person, by charitable gifts and contributions, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth. He who has received plenty and ability from God ought to minister plentifully, and according to his ability. These rules ought to be followed and practised for this end, that God in all things, in all your gifts, ministrations, and services, may be glorified, that others may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16), through Jesus Christ, who has procured and given these gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8), and through whom alone we and our services are accepted of God (Hebrews 13:15), to whom, Jesus Christ, be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Learn, First, It is the duty of Christians in private, as well as ministers in public, to speak to one another of the things of God, Malachi 3:16; Ephesians 4:29; Psalms 145:10-19.145.12. Secondly, It highly concerns all preachers of the gospel to keep close to the word of God, and to treat that word as becomes the oracles of God. Thirdly, Christians must not only do the duty of their place, but they must do it with vigour, and according to the best of their abilities. The nature of a Christian's work, which is high work and hard work, the goodness and kindness of the Master, and the excellency of the reward, all require that our endeavours should be serious and vigorous, and that whatever we are called to do for the honour of God and the good of others we should do it with all our might. Fourthly, In all the duties and services of life we should aim at the glory of God as our chief end; all other views must be subservient to this, which would sanctify our common actions and affairs, 1 Corinthians 10:31. Fifthly, God is not glorified by any thing we do if we do not offer it to him through the mediation and merits of Jesus Christ. God in all things must be glorified through Jesus Christ, who is the only way to the Father. Sixthly, The apostle's adoration of Jesus Christ, and ascribing unlimited and everlasting praise and dominion to him, prove that Jesus Christ is the most high God, over all blessed for evermore. Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/1-peter-4.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The epistles of Peter are addressed to the elect Jews of his day, believing of course on the Lord Jesus, and scattered throughout a considerable portion of Asia Minor. The apostle takes particular care to instruct them in the bearing of many of the types that were contained in the Levitical ritual with which they were familiar. But while he contrasts the Christian position with their former Jewish one, in order to strengthen them as to their place and calling now in and by Christ, he takes care also to maintain fully whatever common truth there is between the Christian and the saints of the Old Testament. For it is hardly necessary to say to any intelligent believer, that whatever may be the new privileges, and consequently fresh duties which flow from them, there are certain unchangeable moral principles to which God holds throughout all time. These were insisted on in the Old Testament, particularly in the psalms and the prophets. And the apostle guards against the wrong conclusion, that, because in certain things we stand contrasted with the Old Testament saints, there are no grounds in common.

Let it then be well borne in mind, that God holds fast that which He has laid down for all that are His as to the moral government of God. That government may differ in character and depth; there may be at a fitting moment a far closer dealing with souls (as undoubtedly this is the case since redemption). At the same time the general principles of God are in nowise enfeebled by Christianity, but rather strengthened and cleared immensely. Take, for instance, the duty of obedience; the value of a gracious, peaceful walk here below; the degree of confidence in God. It was ever right that love should go out towards others, whether in general kindness towards all mankind, or in special affections towards the family of God. These things were always true in principle, and never can be touched while man lives on earth.

It is equally true, however, that from the beginning of his first epistle, Peter draws out the contrast of the Christian place with their old Jewish one. It is not that the Jews were not elect as a nation, but therein precisely it is where they stand in contrast with the Christian. Whatever may be found in hymns, or sermons, or theology, scripture knows no such thing as an elect church. There is the appearance of it in the last chapter of this very epistle, but this is due solely to the meddling hand of man. In 1 Peter 5:1-60.5.14 we read, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you;" but all concede that the terms " the church that is " have been put in by the translators: they have no authority whatever. It was an individual and not a church that was referred to. It was probably a well known sister there; and therefore it was enough simply to allude to her. "She that was at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you." The very point of Christianity is this, that as to election it is personal strictly individual. This is precisely what those who contend against the truth of election always feel most: they will allow a sort of body in a general way to be elect, and then that the individuals who compose that body must be brought in, as it were, conditionally, according to their good conduct. No such idea is traceable in the word of God. God has chosen individuals. As it is said in Ephesians: He has chosen us, not the church, but ourselves individually. "The church," as such, does not come in till the end of the first chapter. We have first individuals chosen of God before the foundation of the world.

Here too the apostle does not merely speak, nor is it ever the habit of scripture to speak, in an abstract way of election. The saints were chosen "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;" for it was no question now of a Governor having a nation in whom He might display His wisdom, power, and righteous ways. They had been used to this and more in Judaism, but it had all passed away. The Jews had brought His government into contempt by their own rebellion against His name; and Jehovah Himself had found it morally needful to hand over His own nation into the power of their enemies. Consequently that nation as a display of His government was a thing of the past. A remnant, it is true, had been brought up from Babylon for the purpose of being tested by a new trial by the presentation of the Messiah to them; but alas! only to their responsibility, not to their faith; and if it be responsibility, whether to do the law or to believe the Messiah, it is all one as far as the result in man is concerned. The creature is utterly ruined in every way, and with so much the speedier manifestation the more spiritual the trial.

Thus, as is known, the rejection of the Messiah was incomparably more fruitful of disastrous consequences to the Jew than even had been of old their breach of the divine law. This accordingly gave occasion for God to exercise a new kind of choice. Undoubtedly there was always a secret election of saints after the fall and long before the call of Abraham and his seed; but now the choice of saints was to be made a manifest thing, a testimony before men, though of course not till glory come absolutely perfect. Accordingly God chooses now not merely out of men but out of the Jews. And this is a point that Peter presses on them, a startling thought for a Jew, yet they had only to reflect in order to know how true it is: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." He is forming a family, and no longer governing one chosen nation. Those addressed from among the Jews were among the chosen ones, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."

But there is more than this: it was no longer a question of ordinances visibly separating those subject to them from the rest of the world. It was a real inward and not merely external setting apart; it was through "sanctification of the Spirit." God set them apart unto Himself by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost,. We do not hear now of the gift of the Spirit. Sanctification of the Spirit is altogether distinct from that gift. His sanctification is the effectual work of divine grace, which first separates from the world a person, whether Jew or Gentile, unto God. When a man for instance turns to God, when he has faith in Jesus, when he repents towards God, even though it may be faith but little developed or exercised, and although the repentance may be comparatively superficial (yet I am supposing now real faith and repentance through the action of the Holy Ghost), these are the tokens of the Spirit's sanctification.

There are those who constantly think and speak of sanctification as practical holiness, and exclusively so. It is granted that there is a sanctification in scripture which bears on practice. This is not the. point here, but if possible a deeper thing; and for the simple reason, that practical holiness must be relative or a question of degree. The" sanctification of the Spirit" here spoken of is absolute. The question is not how far it is made good in the heart of the believer; for it really and equally embraces all believers. It is an effectual work of God's Spirit from the very starting-point of the career of faith. Elect of course they were in God's mind from all eternity, but they are sanctified from the first moment that the Holy Ghost opens their eyes to the light of the truth in Christ. There is an awakening of conscience by the Spirit through the word (for I am not speaking now of anything natural, of moral desires or emotions of the heart). Wherever there is a real work of God's Spirit not merely a testimony to the conscience but an arousing of it effectually before God the sanctification of the Spirit is made good.

If asked why this should be accepted as the meaning of the expression, I acknowledge that one is bound to give a reason for that which no doubt differs from the view of many, and I answer, that in my judgment the just and only meaning of the word is proved from the fact that the saints are said to be "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."

The order here is precise and instructive. Now practical holiness follows our being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, whereas the sanctification of the Spirit of which Peter here treats precedes it. The saints are chosen through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience. This is somewhat difficult for theology, because in general even intelligent and godly souls are much shut up in the prevalent commonplaces of men. Never should I for one blame their tenacity in adhering to the truth and duty of advancing in practical holiness, or what they call sanctification. This is both true and important in its place. The fault is in denying the other and yet more fundamental sense of sanctification here shown by Peter in its right relation to obedience. A truth is not the truth. True growth in practice confessedly is after justification; sanctification in 1 Peter 1:2 is before justification. It is very evident when a man is justified, he is under the efficacy of the blood of Christ. He is no longer waiting for the sprinkling of that precious blood, he is already sprinkled with it before God. But the sanctification of the Spirit laid down here is in order to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus; and therefore unless you would destroy the grace of God, and reverse a multitude of scriptures as to justification by faith, this sanctification cannot be one's practice of day by day.

Confound the one with the other and you upset the gospel: distinguish sanctification in principle from the beginning for all from sanctification in practice in the various measures of believers, and you learn the truth of what Peter here teaches, which is forgotten for the most part in Christendom. If you say that practical holiness precedes the being brought under the blood of Jesus, I ask, How is one to become holy? Whence is the power or the growth in holiness? Certainly such is not the teaching of God's word anywhere, still less is it what the apostle Peter insists on here. There is a wider and, if possible, a deeper thought than the measure of our walk, which, after all, differs in all the children of God, no two being exactly the same, and all of us depending on self-judgment as well as growth in the knowledge of the Lord and of His grace. The word of God, prayer, the use that we make of the opportunities that His goodness affords us, both public and private, all the means that teach and exercise us in the will of God no doubt contribute to this practical holiness.

But here the apostle speaks of none of these things, but only of the Spirit separating the saints to obey as Jesus obeyed, and to be sprinkled with His blood. And so we find it in fact and in Scripture. Thus, for instance, Saul of Tarsus had this sanctification of the Spirit the moment that, struck down to the earth, he received the testimony of the Lord speaking from heaven. He went through a profound work in his conscience after that. For three days and nights, as we all know, he neither ate nor drank. All this was thoroughly in season; and after it, as we are told, the blindness was taken away, and he was filled with the Holy Ghost. This is not the sanctification of the Spirit. It was clearly the consequence of the Holy Ghost being given to him, but the gift of the Spirit is not the sanctification of the Spirit. Sanctification of the Spirit is that primary action that was experienced before Saul entered into peace with God. When a man is roused to hate his sins through God's testimony reaching him, and convicting him before God, and not in his own eyes, when a man is ashamed of all that he has been in presence of God's grace, ever so little known and understood, still where a real work goes on in the soul, sanctification of the Spirit is true there. Now this ought to be a great comfort even to the feeblest of God's children, not an alarm. There is not one of them who has not really sanctification of the Spirit They may be troubled as to the question of practical holiness, but the fundamental and essential sanctification of the Spirit is that which is already true of all the children of God. I am not speaking of a particular doctrine. It is not a question of that; but of a soul quickened by the Spirit through the truth received in ever so simple and limited a manner. But it is a reality, and from that time this sanctification of the Spirit becomes a fact.

But then, to what are they sanctified of the Holy Ghost thus? Unto Christ's obedience and the sprinkling of His blood; for "Jesus Christ" belongs to both these clauses. This again is a difficulty to some minds. They would rather have placed the sprinkling of the blood first, and obedience next. I can understand them, but do not in the least agree with them. Indeed such difficulties serve to show where people are. The root of all is that people are occupied about themselves first, instead of leaning on the Lord. No doubt if a person were at once to be brought into the comfort of full peace with God through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, this would suit the heart's sense of its own need. But it is not what the word of God gives us by that converted soul, to whose case I have adverted. What is it that Saul of Tarsus says as the effect of the light of God shining on his soul? "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And was not this before he knew all the comfort and blessing of the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus?

The first impulse of a converted man is to do the will of God. There may be no sense of liberty yet, nor even joy in the Lord; there can be no solid peace whatever. All this will come in due time, and it may be very rapidly, even the self-same hour; but the very first thing that a soul born of God feels is the desire at all cost to do the will of God. It is exactly what filled Jesus perfectly. It was not a question of what He was to gain or what He was to avoid; but as it is written, "Lo, I come, to do thy will, O God." To my mind, nothing is more wonderful in our blessed Lord here below than this devotedness to His Father, not merely now and again, but as the one motive that animated Him from the beginning to the end of His course here below. He came to do the will of God, and this not as the law proposed, in order that it might be well with Him, and He might live long in the earth; He never had such a motive though He fulfilled the law perfectly. On the contrary, He knew quite well before coming that He was not here for a long life, but to die on the cross. He was about to be a sacrifice for sin, giving Himself up spite of suffering, not only from man, but from God. But at all cost God's will must be done; "by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The self-same principle is true in the believer, although of course it is pure grace toward him, whereas it was moral perfectness in Jesus. In our case it is all through Jesus. It is the Holy Ghost no doubt producing it. It is the instinct of that new nature, of life in the believer, who, being born of God, has this necessary feeling of the new nature, the desire to do the will of God. In point of fact Christ is the life of the believer; and we can well understand, therefore, that the life of Christ, whether viewed in all its perfection in Him, or whether it is seen modified in ourselves, is nevertheless just the same life, in our case hindered alas! by all sorts of circumstances, and above all by the evil of our old nature that surrounds it, in Him, as we know, absolutely perfect and without mixture.

In this case, then, it seems to me that the order is divinely perfect, and manifestly so. Being sanctified of the Spirit, we are called to obey as Christ obeyed. It is another character and measure of responsibility. The Jew, as such, was bound to obey the law. To him it was a question of not doing what his nature prompted him to do. But this was never the case with Jesus. He in no case desired to do a single thing that was not the will of God. Now the new nature in the believer never has any other thought or feeling; only in our case there is also the old nature which may, and which alas! does struggle to have its own way. Therefore God has His own wise, holy, and gracious mode of dealing with it. We shall see that this comes later on in our epistle, and therefore I need say no more upon it now.

Here we have the first great primary fact, that the Christian Jew does not belong any more to the elect nation; but is taken out of this his former position, and is elect after a wholly new sort. In this case, those actually addressed had belonged to that elect people, but now they were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It was no afterthought, but His settled plan. It was the foreknowledge of God the Father in virtue of ( ἐν ) sanctification of the Spirit, and this unto the obedience of Jesus Christ (that kind of obedience), and the sprinkling of His blood. These two points are carefully to be weighed Christian obedience, and the sprinkling of His blood. I consider them both to stand in manifest contrast with the same two elements under the law in Exodus 24:1-2.24.18, which appears to be in view. In that chapter we have Israel agreeing to do whatever the law demanded, and thereupon the blood of certain victims is taken and sprinkled on the people, as well as on the book that bound them.

It is a great mistake to suppose that the blood there is used as a sign of the putting away of sin. This is not by any means the only meaning of blood, even where it was sacrificially employed. The meaning in that sense I take to be this: that the people formally pledged themselves to legal obedience, and bound themselves in this solemn manner to obey. Just as the blood sprinkled was from the animals killed in view of the old covenant, so they shrank not from that dread and extreme exaction if they failed to obey the will of God. It was an imprecation of death on themselves from God if they violated His commandments. Therefore it is observable there was the sprinkling of the book along with it. This had nothing at all to do with atonement a supposition which only arises from people closing their eyes to other truths in the Bible, to their own great loss even in the truth they hold. We must leave room for all truth. Atonement has its own incomparable place. But certainly when the Israelites were binding themselves to obey the law, it was as far as possible from a confession of atonement. It is a total fallacy, injurious to God's glory and to our own souls, to interpret the Bible after this fashion. It only makes confusion in jumbling up law and gospel, to the detriment of both, and indeed to the destruction of all the beauty and force of truth.

In the case of the Christian all is changed. For Christ communicated a new nature which loves to obey God's will, which accordingly is given us from conversion, before (and it may be long before) a person enjoys peace. From the time that this new nature is given, the purpose of the heart is to obey. Such was, unhindered by imperfection, the obedience of Jesus.

But besides this, the gospel, instead of putting a man under blood as a threat or imprecation of death in case of failure, the awful sign of his doom before his eyes if he disobeyed, puts him under the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, which assures him of plenary forgiveness. With this he is intended to start as a Christian; he begins his career with that blessed shelter which tells him that, although he has entered on the path of Christian obedience, he is a forgiven and justified man in the sight of God. Such is the suited and striking preface with which our apostle commences, contrasting the portion of the believer in Christ with that of the Jew, as it stands in their own sacred books, which we as well as they acknowledge to have divine authority.

Next follows the salutation, "Grace unto you, and peace," the usual Christian or apostolic style of address. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to he revealed in the last time." Thus he loves to bring out again confirmatorily the new relationship in which they stood to God. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is not here blessing them in heavenly places in Christ. Such is not., the topic of Peter; it had been given to another instrument more fitted for revealing the heavenly position of the believer. But if it is not union with Christ, if not our full place in Him before God, there is a clear statement of our hope of heaven. And this is what Peter immediately enlarges on. Speaking of God he says, "Who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven." It is not the universal inheritance of which the apostle Paul treats, so that clearly we have the distinction between his testimony and Paul's very definitely.

Bear in mind that the one is just as truly Christian as the other. There is no difference in their authority, but each has its own importance. The man that would make all his scripture to be the epistle to the Ephesians would soon find himself in want of Peter. And I am persuaded that a hardness of character, quite intolerable to men of spiritual minds, would inevitably be generated by making all our food to consist in what could be extracted from Ephesians and Colossians, the effect of which would soon become painfully sensible to others. The consequence would be that much of the exercise of spiritual affection which humbles the soul, a vast deal which renders needful the gracious present care of the Lord Jesus as advocate and priest on high, would be of necessity left out. In other words, if we think of firmness, as well as the sense of belonging to heaven, a bright triumphant consciousness of glory, surely we must enter into and enjoy the precious truth of our union with Christ. But this is not all; we need Christ interceding for us, as well as the privilege of being in Christ; we need to have Him active in His love before our God, and not merely a condition in which we stand. Peter treats chiefly of the former, Paul of both, but chiefly of the latter. Such was the ordering of matters under God's hand for both. The epistle to the Hebrews of all the Pauline epistles is that which most approaches the testimony of Peter, and coalescing in it to a large extent. There we have not union with the Head, but "the heavenly calling;" and substantially the latter line of truth is that which we have in 1 Peter.

Nor is it only that we find here the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, but the life that grace has given us is characterized by resurrection power. "We are begotten again," says he, "to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." The blood of Jesus Christ, however precious and indispensable, does not of itself constitute a man a Christian either in intelligence or in fact of standing. It is the foundation for it; and every one who rests on the blood of Christ is surely a Christian; but I repeat that, both for position before God and intelligent perception and power of soul, we need and have much more. Supposing God only gave the believer according to his own thoughts (often meagre); supposing one believed in the power of the precious blood of Jesus ever so truly, and had nothing more than this our real portion by the Spirit, such an one, I maintain, would be a sorry Christian indeed. No doubt as far as it goes it is all-important, nor could any one be a Christian without it. Still the Christian does need the effect of the resurrection of Jesus following up the sprinkling of His blood I do not say the resurrection without His blood, still less the glory without either. A whole Christ is given and needed. I do not believe in these glory-men, or resurrection-men either, without the blood of Jesus; but, on the other hand, as little are we in scripture limited to that most wonderful of all foundations redemption through Christ Jesus our Lord. To restrict yourself to it would be a wrong, not so much to your own soul as to God's grace; and if there be any difference, especially to Him who suffered all things for God's glory and for our own infinite blessing.

In this case then we have the Christian by divine grace possessed of a new nature which loves to obey. He is sprinkled with Christ's blood, which gives him confidence and boldness in faith before God, because he knows the certainty of the love that has put away his sins by blood. But, besides this, what a spring is conveyed to the soul by the sense that his life is the life of Jesus in resurrection. So, he adds, there is a. similar inheritance for the saints with Christ Himself "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven," where He has already gone. More than this, there is full security, spite of our passing through a world filled with hatred and peril, for the Christian above all. "For you," says he, "who are kept;" for Christian doctrine is not, as men so often say, that of saints persevering. In this I, for one, do not believe. One sees alas! too often saints going astray, comparatively seldom persevering as the rule, if we speak of their consistent fidelity and devotedness. But there is that which never fails, "the power of God through faith," by which the believer is kept to the end. This alone restores the balance; and thus we are taken out of all conceit of our own stability. We are thrown on mercy, as we ought to be; we look up in dependence on One who is incontestably above us, and withal infinitely near to us. This ought to be the spring of all our confidence, even in God Himself, with His own power preserving us. There is given to the soul of him who thus rests on God's power keeping him a wholly different tone from that of the man who thinks of his own perseverance as a saint. Far better is it, then, to be "kept by the power of God through faith." In this way it is not independent of our looking to Him.

But there is discipline also. God puts us to the proof; and, undoubtedly, if there be unbelief working, we must eat the bitter fruit of our own ways. It is good that we should feel that it is unbelief, and that unbelief can produce nothing but death. This may be in various measures, and therefore no more is meant than so far as want of faith is allowed to work. In the unbeliever, where it does work unhinderedly, the consequences are fatal and everlasting. In the believer the evil heart of unbelief is modified necessarily by the fact that, believing on Christ, he has everlasting life. But still, as far as unbelief does work, it is just so far death in effect. The saints, then, are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." And here it is well to observe, as an important fact to be recognised, that salvation in Peter's epistle looks onward to the future, where it is not otherwise qualified. Salvation is here viewed as not yet come. In the general sense of the word, salvation awaits the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It supposes that the believer is brought out of all that is natural even as to the body that he is already changed into the likeness of Christ. "Salvation," says Peter, "ready to be revealed in the last time." This is the reason why he connects it with the appearing of Jesus Christ. It is not merely the work effected, but salvation revealed; and hence it necessarily awaits the revelation of Jesus Christ.

There is another sense of salvation, and our apostle, as we shall shortly find, does not in anywise ignore it; but then he qualifies the term. When he refers it to the present, it is the salvation of souls, not of bodies. This also is a very important point of difference for the Christian, on which it will be desirable to speak presently. On the other hand, as here, when salvation simply and fully is meant, we are thrown on the revelation of the last time. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." Such is the path of trial through which the believer goes forward, putting to the proof the faith which God has given him:" That the trial of your faith" (not of flesh as under the law) "being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

It is not said to be at Christ's coming. The trial of our faith will not be revealed then, but "at the appearing of Jesus." This is the reason why the appearing of Jesus is brought in here. The coming of Jesus might be misunderstood, as being a much more comprehensive term than His appearing or revelation. His coming ( παρουσία ) is that which effects the rapture and reception of the saints to Himself; and His appearing is that which subsequently displays them with Himself before the world, and therefore expresses but a part of His presence, being the special (not the generic) term. The appearing of Jesus is exclusively when the Lord will make Himself visible, and be seen by every eye. It is evident that the Lord might come and make Himself visible only to those in whom He is distinctly interested, and who are themselves personally associated with Him; and such, I have no doubt, is the truth of scripture. But then He may do more and display Himself to the world. Such is the "appearing" of Jesus, and of this the apostle Peter speaks when the revelation of the sons of God in glory will take place. Then it is that the trial of the faith of the Christian will be made manifest in glory. Wherever the saints have shown faith or unbelief, whether hindered by the world, the flesh, or the devil, whatever the particular snare that has drawn them aside, all will be made plain then. There will be no possibility of self-love keeping up appearances longer: unbelief will cost as dear in that day as it is worthless now; but the trial of faith, where it has been genuine, will be "found unto praise and honour" then. Proved unbelief will be certainly to the praise of none, but where feeble faltering faith has been put in evidence by the trial, while surely forgiven in the grace of God, nevertheless the failure cannot but be judged as such. The flesh never counts on God for good. All unbelief therefore will be shown plainly to be of the flesh, not of the Spirit, and never excusable.

But this gives the apostle an occasion to speak of Jesus, especially as he had spoken of His appearing, and this in a way that remarkably brings out the character of Christianity. "Whom," says he, "having not seen, ye love." It is a strange sound and fact at first, but in the end precious. Who ever loved a person that he never saw? We know that in human relations it is not so. In divine things it is precisely what shows the power and special character of a Christian's faith.

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith," not yet the body saved, but soul-salvation "the salvation of souls." This at once gives us a true and vivid picture of what Christianity is, of signal importance for the Jews to weigh, because they always looked forward for a visible Messiah, the royal Son of David the object, no doubt, of all reverence, homage, and loyalty for all Israel. But here it is altogether another order of ideas. It is a rejected Messiah who is the proper object of the Christian's love, though he never beheld Him; and who while unseen becomes so much the more simply and unmixedly the object of his faith, and withal the spring of "joy unspeakable and full of glory."

While this is in full and evident contrast with Judaism, it needs little proof that it is precisely what gives scope for the proper display of Christianity, which could not be seen in its true light if at all till Jesus left the world. Whilst the Lord was here, it is ignorance and error to call such a state of things, however blessed and needed, Christianity. Of course it was Christ, which, after all, was far more important in one sense than the work He wrought for bringing us to God. All on which one could look with delight and praise was concentrated in His own person. What were the disciples then? Members of His body? Who told you this? None eau find it in Scripture. Up to that time membership of Christ, or to be in Christ, was not a fact, and consequently could not be testified to any soul, nor known to the most advanced believer. What Christ was to them then was all: not in the least did any suspect (for indeed it was not yet true) that any were in Him. The Lord spoke of a day when they should know it; but as yet the foundation was not even laid for it. This was done in the mighty work of the Saviour on the cross; and not the fact only but its results were made good when Christ, after having breathed His own risen life into them, went up to heaven and sent down the Holy Ghost that they might taste the joy and have the power of it. This gives room for all the practical working of Christianity. It was necessary to its existence that Jesus should go. There could have been no Christianity if Jesus had not come; yet as long as He was visibly present on earth, Christianity proper could not even begin.

It was when He who died went to heaven that Christianity appeared in its full force; and accordingly then came out faith in its finest and truest character. While He was here, there was a kind of mingled experience. It was partly sight and partly faith; but when He went away, it was altogether faith, and nothing but faith. Such is Christianity. But then, again, as long as Christ was here, it could not be exactly hope. How could one hope for One who was here, however different His estate from what was longed for and expected? Thus neither faith had its adequate and suited sphere, nor had hope its proper character till Jesus went away. When He left the earth, especially as the Crucified, then indeed there was room for faith; and nothing but faith received, appreciated, and enjoyed all. And before He went away, He had left the promise of His return for them. Thus hope also could spring forth as it were to meet Him; as, indeed, it is the work of the Holy Ghost to exercise the faith and hope He has given.

This, then, may serve to show the true nature of Christianity, which, coming in after redemption, is founded on it, and forms in us heavenly associations and hopes while Jesus is away, and we are waiting for Him to return. Perhaps it is needless to say how the heart is tried. There is everything, as we have seen, to give not only faith and hope their full place, but also love. As we are told here, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing," no wonder he adds, "ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." But none of these wonders of grace could have been, unless by redemption we receive the end of our faith meanwhile, namely, soul-salvation.

A very important development follows in the next verses. "Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." How little, it seems, the Old Testament prophets understood their own prophecies! How much we are indebted to the Spirit who now reveals a Christ already come! The prophets were constantly saying that the righteousness of God was near at, hand, and His salvation to be revealed. Thence, we see, they did speak of these very things. They "prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching), what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories after these." Take Psalms 22:1-19.22.31 or Isaiah 53:1-23.53.12, where we have the sufferings which belonged to Christ, and the glories after these. But mark, "To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things which are now reported to you in virtue of the Holy Ghost sent from heaven. This is Christianity. It is very far from identifying the state and testimony of the prophets with ours now under grace and a present Spirit. He shows that first of all there was this testimony of that which was not for themselves but for us, beginning of course with the converted Jewish remnant, these Christian Jews who believed the gospel which in principle belongs to us of the Gentiles just as much as to them.

Christianity is come to us now; but when really known, it is not at all a mere question of prophetic testimony, even though this be of God, but there is the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. The gospel sets forth present accomplishment redemption now a finished work as far as the soul is concerned. At the same time, the day is not yet come for the fulfilment of the prophecies as a whole. This is the important difference here revealed. There are three distinct truths in these verses, as has been often remarked, and most clearly, as we have seen. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Then the prophecies will be fulfilled. Thus the Lord Jesus, being already come and about to come again, brings before us two of these stages, while the mission of the Holy Ghost for the gospel fills up the interval between them. Had there been only one coming of Christ, then the accomplishment that we have now, and the fulfilment of the prophecies that. is future, would have coalesced, so; far as this could have been; but two distinct comings of the Lord (one past, and the other future) have broken up the matter into these separate parts. That is, we have had accomplishment in the past; and we look for future fulfilment of all the bright anticipations of the coming kingdom. After the one, and before the other, the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven is the power of Christian blessedness, and as we know also of the church, no less than of preaching the gospel everywhere.

And when the Lord Jesus appears by and by, there will be not the gospel as it is now preached, nor the Holy Ghost as He is now sent down from heaven, but the word going forth and the Spirit poured out suitably to that day. There may be a still more diffusive action of the Holy Ghost when He is shed upon all flesh, not merely as a sample, but to an extent (I do not say depth) beyond what was accomplished on the day of Pentecost. In due time there will be the fulfilment of the prophecies to the letter. Christianity accordingly, it will be observed, comes in between these two extremes after the first, and before the second, coming of Christ; and this is exactly what Peter shows us in this epistle. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope perfectly," etc. Again in the 14th verse: "As children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, be ye also holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." There is an instance of what I referred to that the essential moral principles. of the Old Testament are in nowise disturbed by Christianity. And, indeed, you find this not merely in Peter but in Paul. Paul will tell you so, even after he shows that the Christian is dead to the law; and then a term is used to show that he does not at all mean that the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled in us, but that it is. In fact, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in no one but the Christian. A man under the law never fulfils the law: the man who is under grace is the one that does, and the only one; for the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." So Peter takes up a passage of Leviticus, and shows that it is strictly true yea, if one can employ such an expression, more true (of course meaning by this more manifestly true) under the Christian than under the Jewish system. As all know, many things were allowed then for the hardness of the heart, which are thoroughly condemned now. That is, the holiness of the Christian is fuller, and deeper than that of the Jew. Hence he can fairly take up the quotation from the law, not at all conveying that we were under law, but with an à fortiori force. As Christians, we are under a far more searching principle, namely, the grace of God (Romans 6:1-45.6.23), which assuredly ought to produce far better and more fruitful results.

It is clearly seen how he treats these Jews, and what they used to boast of. "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father" that is, if ye call on Him as Father "who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God." What can be more magnificent than this setting of the Christian on his own proper basis?

It will be observed here that there are two motives to holiness: the first is that He has called us; the next, that we call Him, and this by the sweet and near title of Father. It is no longer relationship with and recognition of a God that rules and governs. This was known in Israel, but it could in no wise draw out the affections in the same way as calling Him Father. We are told and meant to know, that as He called us by His grace, so we should call on Him as Father. It is after the pattern, not of a subject with a sovereign, but of a child's dependence on a parent. To this double motive there is added another consideration on which it all rests, and without which neither of these things could be. How is it that He has been pleased thus to call us? and how is it that we can call Him Father? The answer is this: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ." The Jews were all familiar with a ransom price that used to be paid in silver. But it did not matter whether one gave silver or gold, it was all corruptible; and to what did it come at last? The precious blood of Christ is another thing altogether; and there alone is efficacy found before God; so also His incorruptible seed revealing Himself is planted in the heart of the saint.

They were redeemed then with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. It was no new thought. Though but newly brought out, it was in point of fact the oldest of all purposes. Did they boast about their law, the apostle can say that Christianity the present blessed revelation of grace in Christ was in God's mind before the foundation of the world. Therefore there could be no comparison on that score, not even for a Jew. And this was an important point; for the Jews reasoned, that because God brings out one thing today, He could not bring out another tomorrow. They consider that, because God is unchangeable, He has not a will of His own. Why even your dog has a will; and I am sure you have a will yourselves. And here is the wonderful infatuation of unbelief. That very system of reason that makes so much of the will of man, and is not a little proud of it, would deprive God Himself of a will, and under penalty of man's accusation of injustice forbids its exercise according to His own pleasure. But thus it is He brings out one part of His character at one time, and another part at another time. Therefore be would have them know that, as to the novelty with which they reproach Christianity, it was altogether a mistake; for the Lamb without blemish and without spot, though only lately slain, was foreordained before the foundation of the world. When he refers to Him as a "lamb without blemish and without spot," he evidently points to their types, yea, to Christ before the types, because we had that from the very beginning in the first recorded sacrifice, long before there was a Jew and still more before the law. To what did it all point? To "the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." It is plain that, if God foreordained it, He at the same time took care to act on it, and this is long before either Judaism or the law.

Thus there was a most thorough conviction of the folly of the Jewish argument as to Christianity being a mere novelty; but it was "manifest in these last times for you who by him do believe in God." Here it is not merely believing in the Messiah, but believing in "God that raised him up from the dead."

Now I do not believe there ever can be settled peace in a man's soul till he has confidence in God Himself, according to the truth of His raising up Christ from the dead. Simply to believe in Christ may make a man quite happy, but it never of itself gives solid unbreakable peace. What brings a man into that peace which resists all efforts from without to take it, all weakness within in giving it up, is the certainty that all is clear with God. It is He that raises the question of conscience in His sight, and this is so much the more dreadful, because when renewed we know better our own subtlety and His unstained essential holiness. It belongs to the condition in which man is that, being fallen, and yet having a conscience of the good that alas! he does not do, and of the evil that he does, he has a dread of God, knowing that He must bring into judgment the good that he knew but did not, and the evil that he knew and did. So guilty man cannot but quake, still by scepticism he may reason himself out of his fears, or he can find a religion that soothes and destroys his conscience. But that man has this conscience in his natural state is most certain.

Christianity alone settles all questions. There we have not merely the blessed Saviour who in unspeakable love comes down and attracts the heart, and searches the conscience, but He settles all for us with God by redemption. Nor is it only that He comes down from God, but He goes up to God. That we receive the peace we need as Christians is mainly connected, not with His coming out from God, but with His going back to God; as it is said here, "Who by him do believe in God that" what? Gave Him to shed His blood? There can be nothing without this: impossible to have any holy and permanent blessing for the soul without it; nevertheless this is not what is said. We have the value of Christ's blood already spoken of, but now it is added of God that He "raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory." Where? In His own presence. Even the kingdom on earth does not suffice. According to Christian light nothing will do but ability to stand before the glory of God. And this by Christ's work is made good for us, because the very one that became responsible for our sins on the cross is in glory now. God has raised Him from the dead and given Him glory. The consequence is that all for ever is made clear and settled for those who believe in God, that our "faith and hope might be" not " in Christ," though it is so, assuredly, but more than this "in God." This is the more important, because of itself it completely dissipates a thought as common as it is grievous to the Lord, that Christ is the one in whom the love is, and that His task for the most part is to turn away the totally opposite feeling that is in God Himself. Not so; for as He came out in the love of God, who none the less must by this very Christ judge every soul that lives in sin and unbelief, He would not go back to heaven until He bad by His own sacrifice completely put sin away. But this was the will of God. (Psalms 40:1-19.40.17; Hebrews 10:1-58.10.39) Thus He goes in peaceful triumph into the presence of God, establishing our faith and hope in God, and not merely in Himself.

But there is another thing to be considered. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren," for this is the sure effect "see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." There was the best and weightiest reason for this, because the nature thus produced in them is this holy nature that comes by grace from God Himself. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth; because all flesh is as grass, and all its glory as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."

1 Peter 2:1-60.2.25. Next he shows some of the privileges as well as wants of the Christian. First he is surrounded by an evil world, but, besides, he has not lost in fact something nearer that is quite as bad as what is in the world. "Laying aside," he says, "all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby to salvation." "To salvation" you will not find in your common Bibles, but it is none the less true for all that. The apostle represents us as growing by the word to salvation ( i.e., the end in glory). It is not often that words are thus left out. The more usual fault of those who copied the scriptures was that they added words. They assimilated passages one to another; they thought that what was right in one case must be right in another; and thus the tendency was to blunt the fine edge of the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. But in this case they omitted. At first sight, perhaps, these words may be startling to some, that is, to such as think that the sense of "salvation" is weakened thereby. But you need never be afraid of trusting God or His word. Never fear for the honour of the scripture, never shrink from committing yourself to what God says. I have no hesitation in saying that this is in my judgment what God said, if we are to be guided by the most ancient and best authorities.*

If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious; to whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Two characters of priesthood are here shown us. We have first seen one of them, "a holy priesthood;" there is another lower down, in verse 9, where he says, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood." Both flow from Christ and are in communion with Him who is now carrying on a priesthood according to the pattern of Aaron, but in His own person is a priest after the order of Melchisedec. That is, He is a royal priest just as truly as His functions are now exercised on the ground of sacrifice, interceding after the Aaronic pattern within the veil but a veil that is rent. He is now fulfilling the Levitical types in the holiest of all. On this is founded the spiritual priesthood, and in consequence we who are His draw near and offer up spiritual sacrifices. Besides that, not only is there holiness in drawing near to God, but royal dignity stamped upon the believer. This too is of the greatest importance for us all to remember and seek to realize by faith. Where is each to be proved? Before God we bow down in praise and adoration; before the world we are conscious of the glory grace has given us. We do honour to the world and shame to this our place by seeking its favours. Alas! how often and readily the. Christian forgets his proper dignity. Let us then bear in mind that we are a royal priesthood "to show forth," as it is said here, "the virtues of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light." But when it is a question of drawing near, let us not forget that we are a holy priesthood. We can all understand this: holiness, when one has to do with God; royalty, before the world when the temptation is to forget our heavenly honour.

*In fact but one uncial (Cod. Angelicus Romanus) of the ninth century with many cursives warrants the omission; but , A, B, C, K, more than fifty cursives, and all the versions but the Arabic of the Parisian Polyglott support the words. The early quotations, Greek and Latin, save of Oecumenius, point to the same reading.

"Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." Here again we have a scripture of the Old Testament applied; and this has often been, and still is to this day, exceedingly misunderstood; as if the persons here spoken of must be Gentiles because they are called the strangers of the dispersion. It means Jews, and none but Jews, who believe in the Lord Jesus. What he refers to is the loss of their title to be the people of God, which Israel sustained at the time of the Babylonish captivity. They then ceased to be manifestly God's people. Accordingly their land became the possession of the Gentiles; and so it has gone on to this day. As we know, from that day to this there has never been a real recovery, but only the return of a remnant for special purposes for a season. The times of the Gentiles are still in course of accomplishment. They are not yet finished; and they must be punctually fulfilled. Hence it is evident that, as long as the times of the Gentiles proceed, the Jews cannot regain their ancient title, nor become the real owners of Emmanuel's land. Indeed, it is too plain a fact for any one to dispute. All this time they are not a people; they are dependent on the will of their Gentile masters. But even now grace gives the believer (here believing Jews) to enter that place; we are now God's people. We do not wait for times and seasons. Israel must wait; but we do not.

This is just the difference between the Christian and the Jew. The Christian does not belong to the world, and consequently is not bound by accidents of time. He has everlasting life now, and is a heavenly person even while upon the earth. This is Christianity. Thus he says to the Jews addressed that they were not a people (that is, in the days of their unbelief), but are now. So far was their believing in Christ from taking them out of the people, it is then alone that they became, a people. They "were not a people, but now are the people of God;" they" had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." It is a quotation from Hosea 2:1-28.2.23.

And this is exceedingly interesting, because if the prophet be compared, it will be seen to illustrate what has been remarked before the difference between the present accomplishment made good in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, and the future fulfilment of the prophecies. If persons take the actual application as the fulfilment of the prophecies, it in fact not only nullifies the future of scripture, but destroys the beauty and point of the present; for what the apostle intimates is, that they had obtained mercy now, though none were yet sown in the earth. These Christian Jews were not sown in the earth. The earth will be sown with the seed of God when the Jewish nation, as such, obtains mercy. They will be the greatest people on the face of the earth, and all the Gentiles shall own it. They will have everything at their command, and worthily use all for God. Not only are they to be set publicly at the head of the nations, but God himself will link His own glory from above with them as His earthly people here below, and nothing but peace, righteousness, and plenty will be found all over the earth in that day of glory. Such will be "that day," and of that day Hosea prophesies. You can easily judge whether that day is come now. It is only a theologian who finds a difficulty. His traditions wrap him up in fog.

I do not think it requires much argument to show whether under the gospel the Jews or the world are in such a condition as the prophet describes, or whether there, is anything in progress that is intended or calculated to bring about such a result. But what will not men believe, provided it be not in the Bible? I admit that what is in the Bible requires faith; and this is as it should be. It is, however, too evident that there is nothing like incredulity for swallowing anything that panders to the first man, and leaving out the glory of the Second. In the word of God, then, we find that the accomplishment of the prophecy supposes an earthly place, with visible power and glory given to the Jewish people. But the wonderful place given to the Christian is that, though we do become the people of God now, whether Jew or Gentile, and although the believing Jew does obtain mercy now, he is not sown on the earth, but called out for heaven, and, in consequence, becomes a pilgrim and stranger here below till Jesus appears. This will not be the case when the Jews shall be brought back to the land. In a certain sense they are strangers now; but it is an awful sense, because it is the fruit of judgment. They are scattered over the earth, and can find no rest for their souls, any more than their feet. This is notorious to every one even to themselves. Least of all can the Jews be said to be sown in the land of Palestine. I do not mean that they may not acquire previously a delusive glory; nor that the antichrist by fraud will not palm himself off as the Messiah, and settle some of them in the land, according toDaniel 11:1-27.11.45; Daniel 11:1-27.11.45. Nor do I believe that this day is far off. The hour of temptation is near.

But while fully looking for this, it is sweet to see the place of the believing Jew now as divine wisdom here applies Hosea, mutatis mutandis. Although he is of the people of God, instead of getting an earthly character by Christianity, on the contrary he becomes a pilgrim and stranger. "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." It is as if God had purposely put verse 11 to negative the conclusions which men have drawn from a misunderstanding of verse 10.

Then he begins his exhortations, and first of all with the personal snares of every day, with what the Christian had to contend with in himself. Next he proceeds to bring in what had to do with others. There he says, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and praise to them that do well."

I suppose there was a danger of these Christian Jews being somewhat turbulent. Certainly the Jews of old were rarely good subjects. They were apt to rise against oppression and to fail in obedience to a superior, at least among the heathen. They were ever a rebellious people, as we know; and the Christian Jews were in danger of using their Christianity in order to justify insubjection. We can easily comprehend it. They could see how gross, dark, and dissolute these Pagan governors were; and in such circumstances one needs the distinct sense of God's will to abide in the duty of obedience. "How can we obey men that worship stocks and stones, whose very religion makes them immoral and degraded?" However this may have been, it is of all importance for the Christian that he should be established in the place of patient submission; as we see Paul elsewhere taking especial pains to insist that the Christians in Rome should obey, even where they had to do with one of the most abandoned men that had ever governed the empire, persecuting themselves to death a short time after. Nevertheless the apostle there claims the most unqualified subjection to the powers that be. So here we find that the Christian Jews, who might have exonerated themselves from the burden laid on them by their heathen masters, are earnestly exhorted by the apostle Peter to do their bidding for the Lord's sake. I do not say that there are no limits. Obedience is always right, but not to man when he would force the dishonour of God. Nevertheless obedience abides the principle of the Christian. But the lower obedience is absorbed by the higher one when they come into collision; and this is the only seeming exception.

After this Peter not only branches out into the outward life, but takes particular note of the family and its relationships. Some of those addressed were domestics, whether or not they were slaves. The apostle Paul pressed on the Christian slave the beauty and responsibility of obedience; but Peter insists on it whether a man be a slave or not. This is founded on the very principle of Christianity itself; that is, doing good, suffering for it, and taking it patiently. I admit it requires faith; but then the Lord cannot but look for faith in Christian people. Nay, we have Christ Himself brought in to enforce and illustrate it. It is not merely the Christian who is called to this, but this is what Christ was called to. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." To be reviled was a pain to which as domestics they would be particularly exposed, as well as to suffer in all sorts of ways. What had Christ not gone through in the same path?

"When he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously; who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." He suffered in other ways; in this He stands alone for us; "that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Since He came and showed the perfect pattern, it was less than ever the time to sanction disobedience; it was more than ever unbecoming to shirk the path of suffering.

The exhortation is not limited to slaves. Here we find the various relations of life practically met. At any rate the most important part is noticed; and in particular the great social bond, wives and husbands (1 Peter 3:1-60.3.22). Then comes the general exhortation: "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, pitiful, lowly-minded: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing." What a place for the Christian! called to blessing, and to be a blessing. And this is fortified, singular to say, (but confirming what has been already remarked) by the Psalms. He had quoted the law in 1 Peter 1:1-60.1.25, the prophets in1 Peter 2:1-60.2.25; 1 Peter 2:1-60.2.25, and now the psalms in 1 Peter 3:1-60.3.22. Thus all the living oracles of God are turned into use for the Christian, only you must take care that you do not abuse them or any part of them.

"For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." And then he asks, "And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts."

This leads to another important point; that if we do suffer, it ought never to be for sin, and for the affecting reason that Christ has once for all suffered for sins. Let this be enough. Christ has suffered for sins; He has had there, if we may so say, a monopoly; and there let it end: why should we? He alone was competent to suffer for sin. We ought never to suffer but for His name, unless it be for righteousness, as is said here, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison."

Carefully observe that Peter does not say that Christ went to prison and preached to the spirits there. No such words are used, nor is this what he means. The spirits are characterised as in prison. They are waiting there for the day of judgment. God may have judged them in this world, but this is not all. He is going to judge them in the next world. There may have been a judgment, but this is not the judgment. So he says these very spirits which are spoken of were "once disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved through water."

It is not a description of all that died in unbelief, but of a generation favoured with a special testimony and smitten by a particular stroke of judgment. The preaching was in the days of Noah. It was just before that judgment fell on them, and this because they despised the testimony of Christ through Noah. Just as the Spirit of Christ prophesied in the prophets, so the Spirit of Christ preached by Noah. There is no difficulty that I see about it. There is nothing at all in the verse that warrants a web of doctrine strange to the rest of the Bible. It is a mistake to construe it of one that knows not what took place in the lower parts of the earth. Nothing is said of preaching in prison, but to the imprisoned spirits not when they were there. He is speaking about the people that heard Noah, and despised the word of the Lord then. It was not Noah's own spirit that preached; it was the Spirit of Christ.

It may be well to point out that the Spirit is used particularly in connection with Noah, as we find in Genesis 6:1-1.6.22: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh." There was a term of patience assigned: "Yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years." That is, the Spirit went on striving in testimony to men all that time. Then the flood came and took them all away; but their spirits are now kept in prison waiting for that judgment which has no end. And why does Peter notice them particularly? For this reason, that very few were saved then, whilst. a great many perished. On reflection it will be evident that there is no instance so suitable as this for the argument in hand so few saved and so many perishing. The unbelieving might taunt the Christians with their scanty numbers, while the great mass still remained Jews, and with the absurdity of such a conclusion to the coming of Messiah. There is no force in that argument, the Christian can reply; for, when the flood came, only a few were saved after all, as is shown by the first book of Moses, their own indisputably inspired history. It is beyond cavil that the many perished then, and still fewer were saved than the Christian Jews at that time. Thus the passage is sufficiently plain. There is not the slightest excuse for misinterpreting the language, or for allowing anything unknown to the rest of scripture. It is a solemn warning to unbelief founded on plainly revealed facts before all eyes in this world, and not something to be understood as relating to another world.

"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request. of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." This, again, is somewhat peculiarly put in our version. It is not exactly "the answer of a good conscience." The real meaning may make the difficulty appear to be greater for a moment (as, I suppose, the truth often, if not always, does); but when received and understood, what has such strength of appeal to the conscience? The word is a somewhat difficult one; but I believe the force is that it is what conscience wants and asks for from God. Now, when a conscience is touched by the Holy Spirit, what is it that satisfies such a conscience? Clearly nothing less than acceptance in righteousness before God; and this is precisely the position that baptism does set forth. That is to say, it is not simply the blood of Christ, which indeed is never the meaning of baptism; still less is it the life of Christ: baptism means nothing of the sort. It really is founded on the death of Christ; and therein further our due place is shown us by His resurrection. Thus he says, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." Never do we see salvation in its real force so affirmed apart from resurrection. You may find that which meets guilt in death, but never is salvation short of or separable from the power of resurrection. Hence, when he says it saves us, he necessarily brings in resurrection. "Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh . . .") He did not mean the mere outward act of baptism. This could save nobody; but what baptism represents does save. It declares that the Christian man has a new place and standing not in the first Adam at all, but in the Second in the presence of God man without sin, and accepted according to the acceptance of Christ before God. This it is that baptism sets forth; and what of course as a sign it brings one into. "Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him."

"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind." In this chapter (1 Peter 4:1-60.4.19) we come to the divine government in dealing with nature opposing itself to the will of God. "For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." If you yield to nature, you gratify it; but if you suffer in refusing its wishes, then "he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." It is practical; and holiness costs suffering in this world. Suffering is the way in which power in practice is found against the flesh; so that "he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." The time past might well suffice for the wretched gratification of self. Do men wonder at one's abstaining? They are going to be judged. "For for this cause was the gospel preached to the dead also, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." Thus he shows that even if you look at those that are dead, there was no difference. They too, those who had been before them, had been put to the proof in this way. He is keeping up the link with saints of old by a general principle. Whatever the form, God never gives up His righteous government, though there is His grace also. Hence, if any received the gospel, they were delivered from judgment, and lived according to God in the Spirit. If they despised it, they none the less suffered the consequences.

"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." After this episode which has to do with men here, not in the unseen world, he returns to the relative duties of Christians, and exhorts them to watchfulness with sobriety, to fervent love, and also to "use hospitality one to another without grudging." And then he takes up what is distinctly spiritual power, which should be used not in charity only but with conscience before God, and for His glory through our Lord Jesus. We saw in a similarly characteristic way in the epistle of James the connection of his moral aim with teaching. But they both suppose an open door for ministry among Christians in the Christian assembly. Why was there the mighty action of the Spirit of God producing such various gifts for profit if they did not create the responsibility to exercise them?

No Christian should think or talk about a right of ministry; for although liberty of ministry may be legitimate enough in itself, still I think it is a phrase apt to be misunderstood. It might easily be interpreted as if it meant a right for any one to speak. This I deny altogether. God has a right to use whom He pleases, according to His own sovereign will and wisdom; but the truth is, that if you have received a gift, you are not only at liberty but rather bound to use it in Christ's name. It is not a question of merely having license. Such a principle may be very well for man; but responsibility is the word for men of God, "as each man hath received the gift." It is not merely certain men, one or two, but "as each man," whatever the number, whether few or many.

"As each man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, [let him speak] as [the] oracles of God." According to this none ought ever to speak unless he has a thorough conviction that he is giving out God's mind and message, as suited for that time and those souls. Were this felt adequately, would it not hinder a great many from speaking? Nor is there any reason to fear that silence in such a case would inflict a real loss on the church of God. It does not seem to be of such prime importance that much need be said. The great matter is, that what is spoken should be from God. Persons ought not to speak unless they have a certainty that what they wish to say is not only true (this is not what is said) but the actual will of God nor the occasion. The speaker should be God's mouthpiece for making His mind known there and then. This is to speak "as oracles of God." It is not merely speaking according to His oracles, which is the usual way in which men interpret the passage, and thence derive their license for speaking as they judge fitting without thinking of God's will. They think they have an understanding of scripture, and that they may therefore speak to profit; but it is a totally different thing if one desire only to speak as God's mouthpiece, though it is granted that one may here as elsewhere mistake and fail.

The principle, however, is sound; and may we heed it in conscience, looking to the Lord's grace in our weakness. "If any man speak, [let it be] as oracles of God; if any man minister, [let it be] as of the ability which God giveth." Let it be observed here that ministry is distinguished from speaking. What a vast change must have passed over Christendom, seeing that now a man is chiefly thought a minister because he speaks! whereas real service of the saints is as precious in its place as any speaking can be. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth." Ministry, then, is clearly in itself a distinct thing from speaking; it is another kind of service to which he is called of God. It is granted that, even in connection with spiritual gift in the way of speaking, there is such a thing as the natural ability of the person taken into account; but this is not the gift, though it be the suited vehicle for it. We must always distinguish the ability of the man from the spiritual gift which the Lord gives; and, besides both, there is also the right use of the gift. One must exercise and give oneself up to the cultivation of that gift which God has given. There is nothing contrary to sound truth or principle in that, but indeed a very great defect in those who do not believe it; in fact, it is flying in the face of scripture. And scripture is clear and peremptory as to all these things. "He," it is said of Christ, "gave them gifts, to each man according to his several ability." There we have the gift, and this given according to the man's ability before he was converted. That is the outward framework of the gift, which latter is suited no doubt to that ability; but the gift itself is the power of the Spirit according to the grace of Christ. No ability constitutes a gift; but the spiritual gift does not supersede natural ability, which becomes the channel of the gift, as the gift is given and works in accordance with that ability. But there is need also of present strength from God to those who look to Him. Thus He is in all things glorified through Jesus Christ, "to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever."

Next we have the trial that the saints were passing through alluded to, and the call to suffer not for righteousness merely but for Christ's sake. Finally a warning is given as to the importance of suffering according to God's will, committing meanwhile their souls in well-doing to Him as a faithful Creator. He is righteous; He is jealous of His house; but if this be serious for His own, where shall the sinner appear?

Again we have an exhortation to the elders (1 Peter 5:1-60.5.14). Here it is a pain to be obliged once more to make a depreciatory remark on our common English version. It is indeed a forcible and, in general, a faithful version, but it not seldom fails in accuracy. The elders are told to feed or shepherd the flock of God which was among them, exercising the oversight, not by necessity, but willingly; not for base gain, but readily, etc. They have to bear in mind first that the flock is God's. If a man does not carry the sense in his soul that it is God's flock, I do not think he is fit to be an elder or in any other office of spiritual trust: he is far from the right ground for being a blessing to what, after all, is God's flock. In short, we find here too a guard which shows the meaning more clearly. "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage." It will be observed that "God's" is inserted in italics. Now there need be no hesitation in declaring that the phrase does not mean God's heritage at all, but another idea wholly different. The true drift is this "Nor as lording it over your possessions." The elders are not to treat the flock as if it belonged to them. This is exactly what modern presbyters think they may and ought to do every day of their lives. It is into this very snare that unbelief has brought men in Christendom. It is the constant and notorious source of the difficulties that one has continually to contend with, because feelings are roused by this all sorts of jealousies and wounded feelings are created by a position so false. In short, one may find here and there a truly excellent man, and, we will suppose, a number of godly people. But then they are "his congregation;" they think so, and the godly man really believes it. He thinks they are his congregation, and they think so too. The consequence is that when minds get disturbed, it may be, about their position, then all sorts of difficulties come in. He feels exceedingly wounded because, as he will tell you very often, "Why, it is one of the best of my people. I have lost the cream of my congregation." Accordingly he is exceedingly annoyed because one of the most spiritual of his congregation goes away, though it may be to follow God's word more faithfully; and no doubt there is a great deal of pain and feeling on the part of the member of the congregation who is leaving his minister.

Now all this is here judged and set aside as quite wrong The elders are exhorted and warned. There are those who guide, and it is a most proper thing. At the time of this epistle, it was in due order. Now, I need not tell you, things are in a certain measure of confusion. You may have the real substance of the truth, but you cannot have it in all official propriety at the present time. However, apart from that, on which I do not mean to enter more tonight, one thing is remarkable, that even when all was in apostolic, order, and where pastors and teachers and prophets and so on were, and besides, where the elders had been fitly appointed by the apostles themselves or by apostolic men, even there and at that very time they were exhorted against the notion of considering, "This is my congregation, and that is your leader." Nothing of the sort is ever said in God's word but what excludes it.

What they were here directed to was to "feed the flock of God." I repeat, it is God's flock, not yours; and you are not to lord over it as if it were your own belongings. If it were your heritage, you would have certain rights; but the truth is that he who stands in the position of an elder has no small responsibility. Assuredly he is to shepherd the flock, and this as God's flock, not his own. Where this is duly weighed, it is wonderful what a change is produced in the mind, tone, and temper a change both in those who tend the flock, and in those who are cared for; because then God is looked to, and there is no petty feeling of infringing the rights of man in one form or another. It is not then a question of wounding; for why should it hurt you, if I see a particular truth and must act according to it? Why should this be a cause for vexation? The truth is that the assumption of "my flock," or "yours", is the root of endless mischief. It is God's flock; and if a person is charged of the Lord to shepherd His flock, how blessed the trust!

The rest of the chapter consists of exhortations to the younger ones, and finally to all, with a prayer that "the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, when ye have suffered a while, himself shall make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be the glory and the might for the ages of the ages. Amen. By Silvanus, the faithful brother, as I suppose, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. She that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of love. Peace be with you all in Christ Jesus."

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 4:8". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/1-peter-4.html. 1860-1890.