1 Peter 4:12
12Beloved, think it not strange, or, wonder not. There is a frequent mention made in this Epistle of afflictions; the cause of which we have elsewhere explained. But this difference is to be observed, that when he exhorts the faithful to patience, he sometimes speaks generally of troubles common to man’s life; but here he speaks of wrongs done to the faithful for the name of Christ. And first, indeed, he reminded them that they ought not to have deemed it strange as for a thing sudden and unexpected; by which he intimates, that they ought by a long mediation to have been previously prepared to bear the cross. For whosoever has resolved to fight under Christ’s banner, will not be dismayed when persecution happens, but, as one accustomed to it, will patiently bear it. That we may then be in a prepared state of mind when the waves of persecutions roll over us, we ought in due time to habituate ourselves to such an event by meditating continually on the cross.
Moreover, he proves that the cross is useful to us by two arguments, — that God thus tries our faith, — and that we become thus partakers with Christ. Then, in the first place, let us remember that the trial of our faith is most necessary, and that we ought thus willingly to obey God who provides for our salvation. However, the chief consolation is to be derived from a fellowship with Christ. Hence Peter not only forbids us to think it strange, when he sets this before us, but also bids us to rejoice. It is, indeed, a cause of joy, when God tries our faith by persecution; but the other joy far surpasses it, that is, when the Son of God allots to us the same course of life with himself, that he might lead us with himself to a blessed participation of heavenly glory. For we must bear in mind this truth, that we have the dying of Christ in our flesh, that his life may be manifested in us. The wicked also do indeed bear many afflictions; but as they are separated from Christ, they apprehend nothing but God’s wrath and curse: thus it comes that sorrow and dread overwhelm them.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1Pet 4:12. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you] More literally, be not amazed (see, for the word, notes on verse 4) at the burning fire among you that comes to you as a test. The “burning fire” (the word is used literally in Rev_18:9, Rev_18:18) is, of course, the symbol, as in chap. 1:7, of afflictions and persecutions. The mind of the Apostle once more goes back to these afflictions, as before in chap. 1:6, 7, 2:19-21, 3:15-17. He meets the terror which they were likely to cause by the thought that all this was to be expected. Men were to enter into the kingdom of God “through much tribulation” (Act_14:22). All “they that would live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution” (2Ti_3:12). The strange thing would be if it were otherwise. And so the Apostle repeats his “think it not strange,” be not amazed, as the secret of calm endurance. It was for him and those to whom he wrote what the Nil admirari was for the Epicurean poet (Hor. Epp. i. 6). As before, he dwells on the leading character of suffering. It tries faith, and the faith which endures is stronger and purer for the process.
Beloved, thank it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; literally, be not astonished at the burning among you, which is coming to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were happening to you. St. Peter returns to the sufferings of his readers. The address, “beloved,” as in 1Pe_2:11, shows the depth of his sympathy with them. He resumes the thought of 1Pe_1:7; the persecution is a burning, a fiery furnace, which is being kindled among them for a trial, to try the strength of their faith. The present participles imply that the persecution was already beginning; the word πύρωσις, a burning (see Rev_18:9, Rev_18:18), shows the severity. St. Peter tells them its meaning: it was to prove them; it would turn to their good. Persecution was not to be regarded as a strange thing. The Lord had foretold its coming. St. Paul, in his first visit to Asia Minor, had warned them that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (On the word ξένιζεσθαι, see note on 1Pe_1:4.) The thing was not strange; they were not to count it as strange; they must learn, so to speak, to acclimatize themselves to it; it would brace their energies and strengthen their faith.
1 Peter 4:13
Hence, then, is the whole consolation of the godly, that they are associates with Christ, that hereafter they may be partakers of his glory; for we are always to bear in mind this transition from the cross to the resurrection. But as this world is like a labyrinth, in which no end of evils appears, Peter refers to the future revelation of Christ’s glory, as though he had said, that the day of its revelation is not to be overlooked, but ought to be expected. But he mentions a twofold joy, one which we now enjoy in hope, and the other the full fruition of which the coming of Christ shall bring to us; for the first is mingled with grief and sorrow, the second is connected with exultation. For it is not suitable in the midst of afflictions to think of joy, which can free us from all trouble; but the consolations of God moderate evils, so that we can rejoice at the same time.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 4:13. but rejoice] The words of the beatitude of Mat_5:12 come back upon the Apostle’s mind, and are reproduced as from his own personal experience. When he had first heard them, he may well have counted them a strange thing. Now he has tried and proved their truth.
inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings] The Greek conjunction expresses more than the ground of the joy. Men are to rejoice in proportion as they are sharers in the sufferings of Christ. On the thought of this intercommunion in suffering between Christ and His people, see note on chap. 1:11. Here “the sufferings of Christ” are those which He endured while on earth, those also which He endures now as the Head of His body, the Church, in His infinite sympathy with each individual member. Each faithful sufferer, accordingly, in proportion to the measure of his sufferings, becomes ipso facto a sharer in those of Christ. He fills up, in St Paul’s bold language, “what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col_1:24).
that, when his glory shall be revealed] The thought is again closely parallel to that of chap. 1:11. Literally the words run, in the revelation of His glory. As thought of by the Apostles, the “revelation of Christ” is identical with His coming to judge the quick and dead (Luk_17:30). The precise phrase “the revelation of His glory” is not found elsewhere, but it has an analogue in “the throne of His glory” in Mat_25:31.
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings. St. Peter speaks in stronger language; he repeats the Lord’s words in Mat_5:12. Christians should learn to rejoice in persecution; they must rejoice in so far as, in proportion as (καθό), they are partakers of Christ’s sufferings (see 2Co_9:10; Php_3:10; Heb_13:13). Suffering meekly borne draws the Christian nearer to Christ, lifts him, as on a cross, nearer to the crucified Lord; but this it does only when he looks to Jesus in his suffering, when the eye of faith is fixed upon the cross of Christ. Then faith unites the sufferings of the disciple with the sufferings of his Lord; he is made a partaker of Christ’s sufferings; and so far as suffering has that blessed result, in such measure he must rejoice in his sufferings. That, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy; literally, that in the revelation of Ms glory also ye may rejoice exulting. The word for “exulting,” ἀγαλλιώμενοι, corresponds with that used in 1Pe_1:6 and in Mat_5:12 (χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε). Joy in suffering now is the earnest of the great joy of the redeemed at the revelation of that glory which they now see through a glass darkly.
1 Peter 4:13
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings – That is, sufferings of the same kind that he endured, and inflicted for the same reasons. Compare Col_1:24; Jam_1:2; See the notes at Mat_5:12. The meaning here is, that they were to regard it as a matter of rejoicing that they were identified with Christ, even in suffering. See this sentiment illustrated at length in the notes at Phi_3:10.
That, when his glory shall be revealed – At the day of judgment. See the notes at Mat_26:30.
Ye may be glad also with exceeding joy – Being admitted to the rewards which he will then confer on his people. Compare 1Th_2:19. Every good man will have joy when, immediately at death, he is received into the presence of his Saviour; but his joy will be complete only when, in the presence of assembled worlds, he shall hear the sentence which shall confirm him in happiness forever.
1 Peter 4:14
14If ye be reproached He mentions reproaches, because there is often more bitterness in them than in the loss of goods, or in the torments or agonies of the body; there is therefore nothing which is more grievous to ingenuous minds. For we see that many who are strong to bear want, courageous in torments, nay, bold to meet death, do yet succumb under reproach. To obviate this evil, Peter pronounces those blessed, according to what Christ says, (Mar_8:35,) who are reproached for the sake of the Gospel. This is very contrary to what men commonly think and feel; but he gives a reason, Because the Spirit of God, called also the Spirit of glory, rests on them. Some read the words separately, “that which belongs to glory,” as though the words were, “glory and the Spirit of God.” But the former reading is more suitable as to the sense, and, as to language, more simple. Then Peter shews, that it is no hindrance to the happiness of the godly, that they sustain reproach for the name of Christ, because they nevertheless retain a complete glory in the sight of God, while the Spirit, who has glory ever connected with him, dwells in them. So, what seems to the flesh a paradox, the Spirit of God makes consistent by a sure perception in their minds.
On their part This is a confirmation of the last sentence; for he intimates that it is enough for the godly, that the Spirit of God testifies that the reproaches endured for the sake of the Gospel, are blessed and full of glory. The wicked, however, attempted to effect a far different object; as though he had said, “Ye can boldly despise the insolence of the ungodly, because the testimony respecting your glory, which God’s Spirit gives you, remains fixed within.” And he says that the Spirit of God was reproached, because the unbelieving expose to ridicule whatever he suggests and dictates for our consolation. But this is by anticipation; for however the world in its blindness may see nothing but what is disgraceful in the reproaches of Christ, he would not have the eyes of the godly to be dazzled with this false opinion; but on the contrary they ought to look up to God. Thus he does not conceal what men commonly think; but he sets the hidden perception of faith, which God’s children possess in their own hearts, in opposition to their presumption and insolence. Thus Paul boasted that he had the marks of Christ, and he gloried in his bonds. (Gal_6:17.) He had at the same time sufficiently found out what was the judgment formed of them by the world; and yet he intimates that it thought foolishly, and that those are blind together with the world, who esteem the slanders of the flesh glorious.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 4:14. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ] Literally, in the name of Christ. As in chap. 3:14, “If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake,” we found an echo of one beatitude (Mat_5:10), so in this we have the counterpart of the more personal “for my sake” of Mat_5:11. It would be better, as indicating the reference to the beatitudes, to render the adjective by blessed rather than happy.
the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you] The English version is tenable, but the construction of the sentence is peculiar and admits of a different rendering, “the principle or element of glory, and the spirit of God, resteth on you.” In either case what is emphasized is the fact that the outward reviling to which the disciples were exposed brought glory and not dishonour. The Spirit of Glory was there—who has glory as His essential attribute—and that Spirit was none other than the very Spirit of God. Looking to the connexion between the “glory” of the Shechinah-cloud which was the witness of the Divine Presence, and that which dwelt in Christ as the only-begotten of the Father (Joh_1:14), it is possible that the words “the Spirit of Glory” may be equivalent to the “Spirit of Christ.” The use of the word for “rest” throws us back upon the occurrence of the same verb in the LXX. version of Num_11:25, 2Ki_2:15. The thought of the Apostle, in this respect true to his citation from Joe_2. in Act_2:16-18, is that the humblest sufferers for the name of Christ are as truly sharers in the gift of the Eternal Spirit as were the greatest prophets. It “rests” on them—not coming and going, in fitful movements, or extraordinary manifestations, but dwelling with them continually.
on their part he is evil spoken of] It is remarkable that the whole of this clause is omitted in many of the best MSS. and versions, including the Sinaitic. On the assumption to which this fact has led most recent Editors, that it was not part of the original text, we must think of it either as a marginal note that has found its way into the text, or, as an addition made in a second transcript of the Epistle by the writer himself. Here the word for “is evil spoken of” would rightly be rendered as blasphemed, and “Christ” or “the Spirit of God” must be taken as the subject of the sentence. In this case, that of suffering for the truth, the very blasphemies which men utter in their rage, are a witness to the effective work which has been done through the power of the Spirit, and in respect of those who suffer, are working for His glory. Appalling as is the contrast between the blasphemy of the persecutors and the doxologies of the sufferer, the one is almost the necessary complement of the other.
1 Peter 4:14
TEXT: “the Spirit of glory and of God rests”
EVIDENCE: p72 B K Psi some Byz
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “the Spirit of glory and of power and of God rests”
EVIDENCE: S A P 33 81 104 945 1241 1739 1881 some Byz Lect four lat cop(north)
OTHER: “the Spirit of glory and of the power of God rests”
EVIDENCE: 614 630 2495 one lat syr(h) cop(south)
OTHER: “the Spirit of the glory of God rests”
EVIDENCE: three lat earlier vg syr(p)
COMMENTS: Although it is possible that “and of power” was accidently omitted when copyists’ eyes jumped from “and” to “and,” the fact that it is absent from early manuscripts of several different types of ancient text indicates that it is probably an addition by copyists.
1 Peter 4:14
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye – That is, in his cause, or on his account. See the notes at Mat_5:11. The sense of the word “happy” here is the same as “blessed” in Mat_5:3-5, etc. It means that they were to regard their condition or lot as a blessed one; not that they would find personal and positive enjoyment on being reproached and vilified. It would be a blessed condition, because it would be like that of their Saviour; would show that they were his friends; would be accompanied with rich spiritual influences in the present world; and would be followed by the rewards of heaven.
For the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you – The glorious and Divine Spirit. There is no doubt that there is reference here to the Holy Spirit; and the meaning is, that they might expect that that Spirit would rest upon them, or abide with them, if they were persecuted for the cause of Christ. There may be some allusion here, in the language, to the fact that the Spirit of God descended and abode on the Saviour at his baptism Joh_1:33; and, in like manner, they might hope to have the same Spirit resting on them. The essential idea is, that, if they were called to suffer in the cause of the Redeemer, they would not be left or forsaken. They might hope that God would impart his Spirit to them in proportion to their sufferings in behalf of religion, and that they would have augmented joy and peace. This is doubtless the case with those who suffer persecution, and this is the secret reason why they are so sustained in their trials. Their persecutions are made the reason of a much more copious effusion of the Spirit on their souls. The same principle applies, doubtless, to all the forms of trial which the children of God pass through; and in sickness, bereavement, loss of property, disappointment in their worldly plans, and death itself, they may hope that larger measures of the Spirit’s influences will rest upon them. Hence, it is often gain to the believer to suffer.
On their part – So far as they are concerned; or by them.
He is evil spoken of – That is, the Holy Spirit. They only blaspheme him, (Greek;) they reproach his sacred influences by their treatment of you and your religion.
But on your part he is glorified – By your manner of speaking of him, and by the honor done to him in the patience evinced in your trials, and in your purity of life.
1 Peter 4:15
15.But (or, For)let one of you Here also he anticipates an objection. He had exhorted the faithful to patience, if it happened to them to be persecuted for the cause of Christ; he now adds the reason why he had only spoken of that kind of trouble, even because they ought to have abstained from all evil-doing. Here, then, is contained another exhortation, lest they should do anything for which they might seem to be justly punished. Therefore the causal particle is not, here superfluous, since the Apostle wished to give a reason why he so much exhorted the faithful to a fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, and at the same time to remind them by the way to live justly and harmlessly, lest they should bring on themselves a just punishment through their own faults; as though he had said, that it behoved Christians to deserve well of all, even when they were badly and cruelly treated by the world.
Were any one to object and say, that no one can be found to be so innocent but that he deserves for many faults to be chastised by God; to this I reply, that Peter here speaks of sins from which we ought to be entirely freed, such as thefts and murders; and I give further this reply, that the Apostle commands Christians to be such as they ought to be. It, is, then, no wonder, that he points out a difference between us and the children of this world, who being without God’s Spirit, abandon themselves to every kind of wickedness. He would not have God’s children to be in the same condition, so as to draw on themselves by a wicked life the punishment allotted by the laws. But we have already said elsewhere, that though there are always many sins in the elect, which God might justly punish, yet according to his paternal indulgence he spares his own children, so that he does not inflict the punishment they deserve, and that in the meantime, for honour’s sake, he adorns them with his own tokens and those of his Christ, when he suffers them to be afflicted for the testimony of the Gospel.
The word ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος seems to me to designate one who covets what belongs to another. For they who gape after plunder or fraud, inquire into affairs of others with tortuous or crooked eyes, as Horace says; but the despiser of money, as the same says elsewhere, looks on vast heaps of gold with a straight eye.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1Pet 4:15. But let none of you suffer as a murderer] Literally, For let none of you suffer. The implied sequence of thought would seem to be this: “I bid you suffer for the name of Christ and remind you of the blessing which attaches to such suffering, for the last thing I should wish is that you should think that it is the suffering, not the cause, that makes the martyr.” He represses the tendency, more or less prevalent in all times of persecution, whether of Christians by heathens, or of one body of Christians by another, which leads men to pose in the attitude of martyrs and confessors when they ought rather to be classed with ordinary criminals suffering the just punishment of their crimes.
Of the four forms of evils named, the first and second require no explanation. The third includes all other forms of evil which came under the cognizance of law, as in the “malefactor” of Joh_18:30. Comp. 1Pe_2:12-14. The fourth is a word which is not found elsewhere and may possibly have been coined by St Peter. Literally, the word (allotrio-episcopos) describes one who claims an authority like that of a bishop or superintendent in a region in which he has no right to exercise it. As such it might, of course, be applied to the schismatic self-appointed teacher, and “a bishop in another man’s diocese,” though too modern in its associations, would be a fair equivalent for it. Such an one, however, would hardly be singled out for punishment by a heathen persecutor, and we must therefore think of the word as describing a like character in another sphere of action. It was, perhaps, a natural consequence of the higher standard of morals which the Christian disciple possessed, or imagined himself to possess, that he should be tempted to interfere with the action of public or private men when he thought them wrong, intermeddling in season or out of season. Such a man might easily incur the penalties which attach to what, in modern language, we call “contempt of court,” or “obstruction of justice.” If a passing word of controversial application be allowable in a Commentary we may note the reproduction of the character of the allotrio-episcopos (1) in the permanent policy of those who claim to be the successors of St Peter, and (2) in the meddling fussiness which leads laymen, or clergy, to interfere in matters which properly belong to the office of a Bishop, or to the jurisdiction of an authorized tribunal.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer; literally, for let none of you, etc. They are blessed who suffer in the Name of Christ, because they belong to Christ: for it is not the suffering which brings the blessedness, but the cause, the faith and patience with which the suffering is borne. The word for “evil-doer,” κακοποιός, is used by St. Peter in two other places (1Pe_2:12 and 1Pe_2:14). Christians were spoken against as evil-doers; they must be very careful to preserve their purity, and to suffer, if need be, not for evil-doing, but for well-doing (1Pe_3:17). Or as a busybody in other men’s matters. This clause represents one Greek word, ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος; it means an ἐπίσκοπος, ill-specter, overseer (“bishop” is the modern form of the word), of other men’s matters—of things that do not concern him. St. Peter uses the word ἐπίσκοπος only once (1Pe_2:25), where he describes Christ as the Bishop of our souls. It cannot be taken here in its ecclesiastical sense, “let no man suffer as a bishop in matters which do not concern him; but if as a Christian (bishop), let him not be ashamed.” The Jews were often accused of constituting themselves judges and meddling in other men’s matters; it may be that the consciousness of spiritual knowledge and high spiritual dignity exposed Christians to the same temptation. Hilgenfeld sees here an allusion to Trajan’s laws against informers, and uses it as an argument for his theory of the late date of this Epistle.
1 Peter 4:15
Let no one of you suffer (mē tis humōn paschetō). Prohibition with mē and present active imperative (habit prohibited).
As (hōs). Charged as and being so. Two specific crimes (murderer, thief) and one general phrase (kakopoios, evildoer, 1Pe_2:12, 1Pe_2:14), and one unusual term allotriepiscopos (a meddler in other men’s matters). Note ē hōs (or as) = or “also only as” (Wohlenberg). The word was apparently coined by Peter (occurring elsewhere only in Dionys. Areop. and late eccles. writers) from allotrios (belonging to another, 2Co_10:15) and episkopos, overseer, inspector, 1Pe_2:25). The idea is apparently one who spies out the affairs of other men. Deissmann (Bible Studies, p. 224) gives a second-century papyrus with allotriōn epithumētēs a speculator alienorum. Epictetus has a like idea (iii. 22. 97). Biggs takes it to refer to “things forbidden.” Clement of Alexandria tells of a disciple of the Apostle John who became a bandit chief. Ramsay (Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 293, 348) thinks the word refers to breaking up family relationships. Hart refers us to the gadders-about in 1Th_4:11; 2Th_3:11 and women as gossipers in 1Th_5:13. It is interesting to note also that episkopos here is the word for “bishop” and so suggests also preachers meddling in the work of other preachers.
1 Peter 4:15
A busybody in other men’s matters (ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος)
Only here in New Testament. Lit., the overseer of another’s matters. One who usurps authority in matters not within his province. Rev., meddler. Compare Luk_12:13, Luk_12:14; 1Th_4:11; 2Th_3:11. It may refer to the officious interference of Christians in the affairs of their Gentile neighbors, through excess of zeal to conform them to the Christian standard.
1 Peter 4:16
16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian After having forbidden the Christians to do any hurt or harm, lest for their evil deeds, like the unbelieving, they should become hateful to the world, he now bids them to give thanks to God, if they suffered persecutions for the name of Christ. And truly it is no common kindness from God, that he calls us, freed and exempted from the common punishment of our sins, to so honorable a warfare as to undergo for the testimony of his Gospel either exiles, or prisons, or reproaches, or even death itself. Then he intimates that those are ungrateful to God, who clamor or murmur on account of persecutions, as though they were unworthily dealt with, since on the contrary they ought to regard it as gain and to acknowledge God’s favor.
But when he says, as a Christian, he regards not so much the name as the cause. It is certain that the adversaries of Christ omitted nothing in order to degrade the Gospel. Therefore, whatever reproachful words they made use of, it was enough for the faithful, that they suffered for nothing else but for the defense of the Gospel.
On this behalf, or, In this respect. For since all afflictions derive their origin from sin, this thought ought to occur to the godly, “I am indeed worthy to be visited by the Lord with this and even with greater punishment for my sins; but now he would have me to suffer for righteousness, as though I were innocent.” For how much soever the saints may acknowledge their own faults, yet as in persecutions they regard a different end, such as the Lord sets before them, they feel that their guilt is blotted out and abolished before God. On this behalf, then, they have reason to glorify God.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 4:16. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian] The occurrence of a name which has played so prominent a part in the history of mankind requires a few words of notice. It did not originate with the followers of Christ themselves. They spoke of themselves as the “brethren” (Act_14:2, Act_14:15:1, Act_14:3, Act_14:22, &c.), as “the saints,” i.e. the holy or consecrated people (Mat_27:52; Act_9:13, Act_9:32; Rom_1:7; 1Co_6:1; Eph_1:1, &c.), as “those of the way,” i.e. those who took their own way, the way which they believed would lead them to eternal life (Act_9:2, Act_19:9, Act_24:22). By their Jewish opponents they were commonly stigmatized as “the Nazarenes” (Act_24:5), the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the city out of which no good thing could come (Joh_1:46). The new name was given first at Antioch (Act_11:26), shortly after the admission there, on a wider scale than elsewhere, of Gentile converts. Its Latin form, analogous to that of Pompeiani, Mariani, for the followers of Pompeius or Marius, indicated that the new society was attracting the attention of official persons and others at Antioch. The word naturally found acceptance. It expressed a fact, it was not offensive, and it might be used by those who, like Agrippa, though they were not believers themselves, wished to speak respectfully of those who were (Act_26:28). Soon it came to be claimed by those believers. The question, Are you a Christian? became the crucial test of their faith. By disowning it, as in the case of the mildly repressive measures taken in these very regions by Pliny in the reign of Trajan, they might purchase safety (Pliny, Epp. x. 96). The words now before us probably did much to stamp it on the history of the Church. Men dared not disown it. They came to exult in it. Somewhat later on they came to find in it, with a pardonable play upon words, a new significance. The term Christiani (= followers of Christ) was commonly pronounced Chrestiani, and that, they urged, shewed that they were followers of Chrestus, i.e. of the good and gentle one. Their very name, they urged, through their Apologist, Tertullian (Apol. i. 3), was a witness to the falsehood of the charges brought against them.
on this behalf] Better, perhaps, in this point, or this particular. Many of the best MSS. give, however, in this name, i.e. either the name of Christ, for whom they suffered, or that of Christian, which was the occasion of their suffering.
1 Peter 4:16
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian – Because he is a Christian; if he is persecuted on account of his religion. This was often done, and they had reason to expect that it might occur in their own case. Compare the notes at 1Pe_3:17. On the import of the word Christian, and the reasons why the name was given to the disciples of the Lord Jesus, see the notes at Act_11:26.
Let him not be ashamed –
(1) Ashamed of religion so as to refuse to suffer on account of it.
(2) Ashamed that he is despised and maltreated.
He is to regard his religion as every way honorable, and all that fairly results from it in time and eternity as in every respect desirable. He is not to be ashamed to be called a Christian; he is not to be ashamed of the doctrines taught by his religion; he is not to be ashamed of the Saviour whom he professes to love; he is not to be ashamed of the society and fellowship of those who are true Christians, poor and despised though they may be; he is not to be ashamed to perform any of the duties demanded by his religion; he is not to be ashamed to have his name cast out, and himself subjected to reproach and scorn. A man should be ashamed only of that which is wrong. He should glory in that which is right, whatever may be the consequences to himself. Christians now, though not subjected to open persecution, are frequently reproached by the world on account of their religion; and though the rack may not be employed, and the fires of martyrdom are not enkindled, yet it is often true that one who is a believer is called to “suffer as a Christian.” He may be reviled and despised. His views may be regarded as bigoted, narrow, severe. Opprobrious epithets, on account of his opinions, may be applied to him. His former friends and companions may leave him because he has become a Christian. A wicked father, or a frivilous and worldly mother, may oppose a child, or a husband may revile a wife, on account of their religion. In all these cases, the same spirit essentially is required which was enjoined on the early Christian martyrs. We are never to be ashamed of our religion, whatever results may follow from our attachment to it. Compare the notes at Rom_1:16.
But let him glorify God on this behalf – Let him praise God that he is deemed not unworthy to suffer in such a cause. It is a matter of thankfulness:
(1) That they may have this evidence that they are true Christians;
(2) That they may desire the advantages which may result from suffering as Christ did, and in his cause. See the notes at Act_5:41, where the sentiment here expressed is fully illustrated. Compare the Phi_3:10 note; Col_1:24 note.
1 Peter 4:17
17For the time is come, or, Since also the time is come. He amplifies the consolation, which the goodness of the cause for which we suffer brings to us, while we are afflicted for the name of Christ. For this necessity, he says, awaits the whole Church of God, not only to be subject to the common miseries of men, but especially and mainly to be chastised by the hand of God. Then, with more submission, ought persecutions for Christ to be endured. For except we desire to be blotted out from the number of the faithful, we must submit our backs to the scourges of God. Now, it is a sweet consolation, that God does not execute his judgments on us as on others, but that he makes us the representatives of his own Son, when we do not suffer except for his cause and for his name.
Moreover, Peter took this sentence from the common and constant teaching of Scripture; and this seems more probable to me than that a certain passage, as some think, is referred to. It was formerly usual with the Lord, as all the prophets witness, to exhibit the first examples of his chastisements in his own people, as the head of a family corrects his own children rather than those of strangers. (Isa_10:12.) For though God is the judge of the whole world, yet he would have his providence to be especially acknowledged in the government of his own Church. Hence, when he declares that he would rise up to be the judge of the whole world, he adds that this would be after he had completed his work on Mount Sion. He indeed puts forth his hand indifferently against his own people and against strangers; for we see that both are in common subjected to adversities; and if a comparison be made, he seems in a manner to spare the reprobate, and to be severe towards the elect. Hence the complaints of the godly, that the wicked pass their life in continual pleasures, and delight themselves with wine and the harp, and at length descend without pains in an instant into the grave — that fatness covers their eyes — that they are exempt from troubles — that they securely and joyfully spend their life, looking down with contempt on others, so that they dare to set their mouth against heaven. (Job_21:13; Psa_73:3.) In short, God so regulates his judgments in this world, that he fattens the wicked for the day of slaughter. He therefore passes by their many sins, and, as it were, connives at them. In the meantime, he restores by corrections his own children, for whom he has a care, to the right way, whenever they depart from it.
In this sense it is that Peter says that judgment begins at the house of God; for judgment includes all those punishments which the Lord inflicts on men for their sins, and whatever refers to the reformation of the world.
But why does he say that it was now the time? He means, as I think, what the prophets declare concerning his own time, that it especially belonged to Christ’s kingdom, that the beginning of the reformation should be in the Church. Hence Paul says that Christians, without the hope of a resurrection, would of all men be the most miserable, (1Co_15:19;) and justly so, because, while others indulge themselves without fear, the faithful continually sigh and groan; while God connives at the sins of others, and suffers them to continue torpid, he deals rigidly with his own people, and subjects them to the discipline of the cross.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 4: 17. For the time is come that judgment must begin] Literally, It is the season of the beginning of the judgment. The words of the Apostle stand in close connexion with his belief that he was living in the last age of the world, that “the end of all things was at hand.” (See note on verse 7.) He saw in the persecutions and sufferings that fell on the Church, beginning “from the house of God,” the opening of that judgment. It was not necessarily a work of condemnation. Those on whom it fell might be judged in order that they might not be condemned (comp. 1Co_11:32). But it was a time which, like the final judgment, was one of separation. It was trying the reality of the faith of those who professed to believe in Christ, and dividing the true disciples from the hypocrites and half-hearted. The “house of God” is His family, His Ecclesia, as in 1Ti_3:15, and the “spiritual house” of chap. 2:5.
what shall the end be of them that obey not] The à fortiori argument reminds us in some measure of that of St Paul, “If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee” (Rom_11:21). There, however, the contrast lay between Israel after the flesh that was rejected for its unfaithfulness and the new Israel after the spirit if it too should prove unfaithful. Here it lies between the true Israel of God and the outlying heathen world. With a question which is more awful than any assertion, he asks, as to those that obey not, What shall be their end? The thought was natural enough to have been quite spontaneous, but it may also have been the echo of like thoughts that had passed through the minds of the older prophets. “I begin to bring evil upon the city which is called by my Name, and shall ye”—the nations of the heathen—“be utterly unpunished?” Jer_25:29. Comp. also Jer_49:12; Eze_9:6.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. The house of God is the Church (see 1Ti_3:15; 1Co_3:16; and 1Pe_2:5). The judgment must begin at the sanctuary (Eze_9:6; see also Jer_25:15-29). The beginning of judgment is the persecution of the Christians, as our Lord had taught (Mat_24:8, Mat_24:9, and following verses); but that judgment is not unto condemnation: “When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1Co_11:32); it is the fiery trial, “which is much more precious than of gold that perisheth,” the refining fire of affliction. And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Compare the passage in Jeremiah already referred to: “Behold, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my Name, and should ye be utterly unpunished?” Compare also our Lord’s question, “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Gerhard (quoted by Huther) rightly remarks,” Exaggeratio est in interrogatione.” The question suggests answers too awful for words.
1 Peter 4:17
For the time is come – That is, this is now to be expected. There is reason to think that this trial will now occur, and there is a propriety that it should be made. Probably the apostle referred to some indications then apparent that this was about to take place.
That judgment must begin – The word “judgment” here (κρίμα krima) seems to mean “the severe trial which would determine character.” It refers to such calamities as would settle the question whether there was any religion, or would test the value of that which was professed. It was to “begin” at the house of God, or be applied to the church first, in order that the nature and worth of religion might be seen. The reference is, doubtless, to some fearful calamity which would primarily fall on the “house of God;” that is, to some form of persecution which was to be let loose upon the church.
At the house of God – Benson, Bloomfield, and many others, suppose that this refers to the Jews, and to the calamities that were to come around the temple and the holy city about to be destroyed. But the more obvious reference is to Christians, spoken of as the house or family of God. There is probably in the language here an allusion to Eze_9:6; “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; and begin at my sanctuary.” Compare Jer_25:29. But the language used here by the apostle does not denote literally the temple, or the Jews, but those who were in his time regarded as the people of God – Christians – the church. So the phrase (בּית יהוה bēyt Yahweh) “house of Yahweh” is used to denote the family or people of God, Num_12:7; Hos_8:1. Compare also 1Ti_3:15 and the note on that verse. The sense here is, therefore, that the series of calamities referred to were to commence with the church, or were to come first upon the people of God. Schoettgen here aptly quotes a passage from the writings of the Rabbis: “Punishments never come into the world unless the wicked are in it; but they do not begin unless they commence first with the righteous.”
And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? – If God brings such trials upon us who have obeyed his gospel, what have we not reason to suppose he will bring upon those who are yet in their sins? And if we are selected first as the objects of this visitation, if there is that in us which requires such a method of dealing, what are we to suppose will occur in the end with those who make no pretensions to religion, but are yet living in open transgression? The sentiment is, that if God deals thus strictly with his people; if there is that in them which makes the visitations of his judgment proper on them, there is a certainty that they who are not his people, but who live in iniquity, will in the end be overwhelmed with the tokens of severer wrath. Their punishment hereafter will be certain; and who can tell what will be the measure of its severity? Every wicked man, when he sees the trials which God brings upon his own people, should tremble under the apprehension of the deeper calamity which will hereafter come upon himself. We may remark:
(1) That the judgments which God brings upon his own people make it certain that the wicked will be punished. If he does not spare his own people, why should he spare others?
(2) The punishment of the wicked is merely delayed. It begins at the house of God. Christians are tried, and are recalled from their wanderings, and are prepared by discipline for the heavenly world. The punishment of the wicked is often delayed to a future world, and in this life they have almost uninterrupted prosperity, but in the end it will be certain. See Ps. 73:1-19. The punishment will come in the end. It cannot be evaded. Sooner or later justice requires that the wicked should be visited with the expressions of divine displeasure on account of sin, and in the future world there will be ample time for the infliction of all the punishment which they deserve.
1 Peter 4:18
When the faithful see that it is well with the wicked, they are necessarily tempted to be envious; and this is a very dangerous trial; for present happiness is what all desire. Hence the Spirit of God carefully dwells on this, in many places, as well as in the thirty-seventh Psalm, lest the faithful should envy the prosperity of the ungodly. The same is what Peter speaks of, for he shews that afflictions ought to be calmly borne by the children of God, when they compare the lot of others with their own. But he takes it as granted that God is the judge of the world, and that, therefore, no one can escape his hand with impunity. He hence infers, that a dreadful vengeance will soon overtake those whose condition seems now favorable. The design of what he says, as I have already stated, is to shew that the children of God should not faint under the bitterness of present evils, but that they ought, on the contrary, calmly to bear their afflictions for a short time, as the issue will be salvation, while the ungodly will have to exchange a fading and fleeting prosperity for eternal perdition.
But the argument is from the less to the greater; for if God spares not his own children whom he loves and who obey him, how dreadful will be his severity against enemies and such as are rebellious! There is, then, nothing better than to obey the Gospel, so that God may kindly correct us by his paternal hand for our salvation.
18And if the righteous It has been thought that this sentence is taken from Pro_11:31; for the Greek translators have thus rendered what Solomon says,
“Behold, the just shall on the earth be recompensed; how much more the ungodly and the sinner?”
Now, whether Peter intended to quote this passage, or repeated a common and a proverbial saying, (which seems to me more probable,) the meaning is, that God’s judgment would be dreadful against the ungodly, since the way to salvation was so thorny and difficult to the elect. And this is said, lest we should securely indulge ourselves, but carefully proceed in our course, and lest we should also seek the smooth and easy road, the end of which is a terrible precipice.
But when he says, that a righteous man is scarcely saved, he refers to the difficulties of the present life, for our course in the world is like a dangerous sailing between many rocks, and exposed to many storms and tempests; and thus no one arrives at the port, except he who has escaped from [a] thousand deaths. It is in the meantime certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our pilot.
Absurd, then, are those interpreters who think that we shall be hardly and with difficulty saved, when we shall come before God in judgment; for it is the present and not the future time that Peter refers to; nor does he speak of God’s strictness or rigour, but shews how many and what arduous difficulties must be surmounted by the Christian before he reaches the goal. Sinner here means a wicked man and the righteous are not those who are altogether perfect in righteousness, but who strive to live righteously.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Peter 4:18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved] Once more we have a passage from the Old Testament (Pro_11:31) without any formula of quotation. In this instance the Apostle quotes from the LXX. version, though it is hardly more than an inaccurate paraphrase of the Hebrew, which runs “the righteous shall be requited” (the word may mean “punished”) “upon earth, much more the ungodly and the sinner.” St Peter, following the LXX., omits the words “upon earth,” which limit the application of the proverb to temporal chastisements; but it is obvious, as he is speaking primarily of the fiery trial of persecution, that he includes these as well as the issue of the final judgment. A time of “great tribulation,” such as Christ had foretold, was coming on the earth, in which, but for the elect’s sake, “no flesh should be saved” (Mat_24:22). The “un-godly” and the “sinner” correspond to “those that obey not” in the previous verse, the former pointing to sins against God, the latter to sins against man.
And if the righteous scarcely be saved. St. Peter is quoting the Septuagint Version of Pro_11:31. That version departs considerably from the Hebrew, which is accurately represented by the Authorized Version, “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more the wicked and the sinner.” Probably the word rendered” recompensed,” which is neutral in its meaning, is best understood here, not of the good deeds of the righteous, but of the sin which still cleaves to all human righteousness. The righteous shall be requited in the earth, that is, chastised for his transgressions. So it would be now, St. Peter says; judgment must begin at the house of God. He adopts the inexact Septuagint translation for its substantial truth, as we now sometimes use versions which are sufficient for practical purposes, though we know them to be critically inaccurate.
We observe again the absence of marks of quotation, as often in St. Peter. Bengel well remarks that the awful “scarcely” (μόλις σώζεται) is softened by 2Pe_1:11. Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? The” ungodly “are the impious, scoffers, and blasphemers; the” sinners” are men of profligate and dissolute lives. But the words are (probably) included under one article in the Greek; the men were the same; one form of evil led to the other (comp. Psa_1:5; see also Mat_19:25).
1 Peter 4:18
And if the righteous scarcely be saved – If they are saved with difficulty. The word used here (μόλις molis) occurs in the following places: Act_14:18, “scarce restrained they the people;” Act_27:7, “and scarce were come over against Cnidus;” 1Pe_4:8, “and hardly passing it;” 1Pe_4:16, “we had much work to come by the boat” – literally, we were able with difficulty to get the boat; Rom_5:7, “scarcely for a righteous man will one die;” and in the passage before us. The word implies that there is some difficulty, or obstruction, so that the thing came very near not to happen, or so that there was much risk about it. Compare Luk_13:31. The apostle in this passage seems to have had his eye on a verse in Proverbs, Pro_11:31, and he has merely expanded and illustrated it: “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.” By the question which he employs, he admits that the righteous are saved with difficulty, or that there are perils which jeopard their salvation, and which are of such a kind as to make it very near not to happen. They would indeed be saved, but it would be in such a manner as to show that the circumstances were such as to render it, to human appearances, doubtful and problematical. This peril may have arisen from many circumstances:
(a) The difficulty of forming a plan of salvation, involving a degree of wisdom wholly beyond that of man, and of such a character that beforehand it would have been problematical and doubtful whether it could be. There was but one way in which it could be done. But what human wisdom could have devised that, or thought of it? There was but one being who could save. But who would have supposed that the Son of God would have been willing to become a man, and to die on a cross to do it? If he had been unwilling to come and die, the righteous could not have been saved.
(b) The difficulty of bringing those who are saved to a willingness to accept of salvation. All were disposed alike to reject it; and there were many obstacles in the human heart, arising from pride, and selfishness, and unbelief, and the love of sin, which must be overcome before any would accept of the offer of mercy. There was but one agent who could overcome these things, and induce any of the race to embrace the gospel – the Holy Spirit. But who could have anticipated that the Spirit of God would have undertaken to renew and sanctify the polluted human heart? Yet, if he had failed, there could have been no salvation for any.
(c) The difficulty of keeping them from falling away amidst the temptations and allurements of the world. Often it seems to be wholly doubtful whether those who have been converted will be kept to eternal life. They have so little religion; they yield so readily to temptation; they conform so much to the world; they have so little strength to bear up under trials, that it seems as if there was no power to preserve them and bring them to heaven. They are saved when they seemed almost ready to yield everything.
(d) The difficulty of rescuing them from the power of the great enemy of souls. The adversary has vast power, and he means, if be can, to destroy those who are the children of God. Often they are in most imminent danger, and it seems to be a question of doubtful issue whether they will not be entirely overcome and perish. It is no small matter to rescue a soul from the dominion of Satan, and to bring it to heaven, so that it shall be eternally safe. Through the internal struggles and the outward conflicts of life, it seems often a matter of doubt whether with all their effort they will be saved; and when they are saved, they will feel that they have been rescued from thousands of dangers, and that there has been many a time when they have stood on the very verge of ruin, and when, to human appearances, it was scarcely possible that they could be saved.
Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? – What hope is there of their salvation? The meaning is, that they would certainly perish; and the doctrine in the passage is, that the fact that the righteous are saved with so much difficulty is proof that the wicked will not be saved at all. This follows, because:
(a) There is the same difficulty in their salvation which there was in the salvation of those who became righteous; the same difficulty arising from the love of sin, the hardness of the heart, and the arts and power of the adversary.
(b) No one can be saved without effort, and in fact the righteous are saved only by constant and strenuous effort on their part.
But the wicked make no effort for their own salvation. They make use of no means for it; they put forth no exertions to obtain it; they do not make it a part of their plan of life. How, then, can they be saved? But where will they appear? I answer:
(a) They will appear somewhere. They will not cease to exist when they pass away from this world. Not one of them will be annihilated; and though they vanish from the earth, and will be seen here no more, yet they will make their appearance in some other part of the universe.
(b) They will appear at the judgment-seat, as all others will, to receive their sentence according to the deeds done in the body. It follows from this:
(1) That the wicked will certainly be destroyed. If the righteous are scarcely saved, how can they be?
(2) That there will be a state of future punishment, for this refers to what is to occur in the future world.
(3) That the punishment of the wicked will be eternal, for it is the opposite of what is meant by saved. The time will never come when it will be said that they are saved! But if so, their punishment must be eternal!
1 Peter 4:19
19Wherefore let them that suffer He draws this conclusion, that persecutions ought to be submissively endured, for the condition of the godly in them is much happier than that of the unbelieving, who enjoy prosperity to their utmost wishes. He, however, reminds us that we suffer nothing except according to the permission of God, which tends much to comfort us; when he says, Let them commit themselves to God, it is the same as though he had said, “Let them deliver themselves and their life to the safe keeping of God.” And he calls him a faithful possessor, because he faithfully keeps and defends whatever is under his protection or power. Some render the word “Creator;” and the term κτίστης means both; but the former meaning I prefer, for by bidding us to deposit our life with God, he makes him its safe keeper. He adds, in well-doing, lest the faithful should retaliate the wrongs done to them, but that they might on the contrary contend with the ungodly, who injured them, by well-doing.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 4:19. Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God] In the acceptance of sufferings as being according to the will of God, much more is meant than the mere submission to an inevitable destiny. If we really think of pain and persecution as working out God’s will, permitted and controlled by Him, we know that that Will is righteous and loving; planning nothing less than our completeness in holiness (1Th_4:3), the Will of which we daily pray that it may be done on earth as it is in heaven. The Greek word for “Creator” is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but is found in the LXX. of Jdt_9:12, 2Ma_1:24. Stress is laid on the attribute, or act, of creation as the ground of confidence. He who made the soul is also He who hateth nothing that He hath made. Here, also, we can scarcely doubt the example of the Great Sufferer was present to the Apostle’s mind, and his words were therefore echoes of those spoken on the Cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luk_23:46).
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God; rather, let them also that suffer. St. Peter sums up his exhortation; he returns to the thought of 1Pe_3:17, “It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing.” In the hour of suffering, as well as in times of prosperity, we are in the hands of a merciful and loving Father; we are to learn submission, not because the suffering is inevitable, but because it is according to his will, and his will is our sanctification and salvation. Commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator; rather, as in the Revised Version, commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator. The conjunction “as” must be omitted, not being found in any of the best manuscripts. The word rendered “Creator” (κτίστης) Occurs nowhere else in the Greek Testament. God is our Creator, the Father of spirits, He gave the spirit; to him it returneth. We must imitate our dying Lord, and, like him, commit our souls to the keeping of our heavenly Father as a deposit which may be left with perfect confidence in the hands of a faithful Creator (see 2Ti_1:12). There is an evident reference here to our Lord’s words upon the cross (Luk_23:46; Psa_31:5). St. Peter adds, “in well-doing.” The Christian’s faith must bring forth the fruits of holy living; even in the midst of suffering he must “be careful to maintain good works.”
1 Peter 4:19
Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God – That is, who endure the kind of sufferings that he, by his providence, shall appoint. Compare 1Pe_3:17; 1Pe_4:15-16.
Commit the keeping of their souls – to him. Since there is so much danger; since there is no one else that can keep them; and since he is a Being so faithful, let them commit all their interests to him. Compare Psa_37:5. The word “souls” here (ψυχὰς psuchas) is equivalent to themselves. They were to leave everything in his hand, faithfully performing every duty, and not being anxious for the result.
In well doing – Constantly doing good, or seeking to perform every duty in a proper manner. Their business was always to do right; the result was to be left with God. A man who is engaged always in well-doing, may safely commit all his interest to God.
As unto a faithful Creator – God may be trusted, or confided in, in all His attributes, and in all the relations which He sustains as Creator, Redeemer, Moral Governor, and Judge. In these, and in all other respects, we may come before Him with confidence, and put unwavering trust in Him. As Creator particularly; as one who has brought us, and all creatures and things into being, we may be sure that he will be “faithful” to the design which he had in view. From that design he will never depart until it is fully accomplished. He abandons no purpose which he has formed, and we may be assured that he will faithfully pursue it to the end. As our Creator we may come to Him, and look to Him for His protection and care. He made us. He had a design in our creation. He so endowed us that we might live forever, and so that we might honor and enjoy Him. He did not create us that we might be miserable; nor does He wish that we should be. He formed us in such a way that, if we choose, we may be eternally happy. In that path in which He has appointed us to go, if we pursue it, we may be sure of His help and protection. If we really aim to accomplish the purposes for which we were made, we may be certain that He will show Himself to be a “faithful Creator;” one in whom we may always confide. And even though we have wandered from Him, and have long forgotten why we were made, and have loved and served the creature more than the Creator, we may be sure, if we will return to Him, that He will not forget the design for which He originally made us. As our Creator we may still confide in Him. Redeemed by the blood of His Son, and renewed by His Spirit after the image of Him who erected us, we may still go to Him as our Creator, and may pray that even yet the high and noble ends for which we were made may be accomplished in us. Doing this, we shall find Him as true to that purpose as though we had never sinned.