Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament1 Peter 4
Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
Christ suffered in the flesh ...
This merely means "For as Christ died."
Arm ye yourselves also with the same mind ...
This is equivalent to Paul's "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin ...
This does not mean that Christ, after suffering, rested from sin; on the other hand, the entire final clause of the verse regards the status of Christians. As Caffin said, "The apostle first spoke of the Master, then turned to the disciple. F1 The thing primarily in view here is exactly the Christian teaching expounded by Paul in Rom. 6:1-11; and Barclay said of that passage in this context, "We think that is what Peter is thinking here." F2 As baptized believers in Christ, Peter's readers, so soon to undergo persecutions are here admonished to live above sin. "In Christ" they are already dead to sin; they must live above it. As Kelcy said, "Not that the one who has ceased from sin is without sin, but that his life is not a life of sin (1 John 1:8,10). F3 The thought of this whole verse is that, just as Christ's suffering preceded his glorification, so also, for the Christian, his death to sin, and the patient endurance even of physical death itself, if necessary, shall likewise precede a similar glorification for him. F4
that ye no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
The meaning of these entire first three verses is closely paralleled in thought by Rom. 6:1-11. "Peter is saying much the same thing as Paul in Rom. 6, but in different language." F5 "He who has shared Christ's cross is no longer alive to the pull of sin through the ordinary human desires, but is alive only to the pull of the will of God." F6 The complete effectiveness of the new status of Christians, however, will always be more or less, depending upon the individual's own attention and zeal in spiritual matters.
For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries:
Like other lists of sins given in the New Testament, this one is by no means exhaustive, Peter having linked together here a number of related sins typical of the whole conduct of the wicked. Here, "violence and lust are classed with drunkenness which fosters them." F7 Also, the climax of the list is "abominable idolatries," identifying the scandalous idol temples as the general source and encouragement of Gentile licentiousness. This verse, along with many others, is proof that 1 Peter was not addressed to "Jewish Christians." After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews finally and totally rejected idolatry. "Will of the Gentiles" in this same verse is further indication of the Gentile character of the recipients.
For the time past ...
This, along with "the rest of your time" in 1 Pet. 4:2, comprises the whole earthly life of the people Peter was addressing.
The time past may suffice ...
"Literally, for sufficient is the past. There is an irony in the word similar to that in 1 Pet. 3:17." F8
The primary thought here is that through their own experience those Christians who had forsaken Gentile debaucheries to obey the gospel already knew the frustration and emptiness of such a life. Peter's words here imply, "Surely you have already had enough of such things." We found Paul making exactly the same appeal, "What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for at the end of those things is death" (Romans 6:21).
wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
Ye run not with them ...
Perhaps here is the source of a common expression, running with" this or that social set, or with certain friends or associates.
Excess of riot ...
The tendency of all riot, lust, violence, etc., is for the indulgence to increase, being multiplied geometrically beyond all consideration or reason. Those who indulge are like an engine with no governor and subject to unlimited acceleration until it is destroyed.
They think it strange ... speaking evil of you ...
No one is any more unpopular at a drinking party than a teetotaler; and the same is true of all abstainers from popular sins.
who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Bold and uninhibited sinners, arrogantly indulging to excess in every form of wickedness, and speaking evil of those who will not join in their orgies, shall give an account of their deeds. God will judge the living and the dead.
Living and the dead ...
From the inception of Christianity, this appears to have been somewhat of a stereotyped way of speaking of the final judgment. Peter himself used it at the home of Cornelius, and it appears in Paul's charge to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1), such early usage of the expression pointing back to Jesus himself as the author of it. It refers to the fact that the final judgment will gather earth's total population, the dead of all ages, as well as the living generation which shall be upon the earth when the time comes; and they shall all be judged at the same time (Matthew 25:31-46). Since most of the New Testament references to this event attribute the judgment to Jesus Christ, it is likely that the mention of "him who is ready" in this verse is to be understood as a reference to Christ.
For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
To this end ...
has the effect of "with the final judgment in view."
Was the gospel preached even to the dead ...
"The dead" here are exactly the same as the dead in the previous verse, i.e., all who had lived on earth and had died previously from the time of Peter's words, there being, it seems, a particular reference to Christians who had recently died and who were the object of certain anxieties on the part of their Christian relatives. Paul, it will be remembered, addressed the Thessalonians on the same subject. Barnes spoke of this thus:
It was natural in such a connection to
speak of those who had died in the
faith, and to show for their
encouragement that, though they had
been put to death, yet they still
lived to God. F9
Significantly, the dead mentioned here "were dead at the time of Peter's writing, but were not dead when the gospel was preached to them." F10 Fancy theories built upon ignorance of what this verse says and envisioning all kinds of campaigns to preach the gospel to the hosts of the dead, with the postulation of a glorious second chance for all who were disobedient in life - such notions are not merely preposterous; they are contradictory to many plain teachings of the New Testament.
Judged ... according to men ... but live according to God ...
Bruce's explanation of this is excellent:
Deceased Christians are not deprived
of the benefits of the gospel.
"According to men" they are judged in
the flesh (suffered bodily death); yet
"according to God" (from God's point
of view), the spiritual life which
they received ... endures for
The plain meaning is that the gospel was preached to people when living, who are now dead; just as it would be perfectly correct to say that it was preached to saints in glory, or to souls that are in perdition, meaning that it was preached to them when on earth. F12
This verse with such a mention of preaching "to the dead" has been grossly misunderstood; but the real motivation for the misunderstanding does not lie in any unusual difficulty in the text itself, but in the desire of people who are enraptured with the thought of a second chance. As Barclay put it, "It gives a breath-taking glimpse of a gospel of a second chance!" F13
Peter's thought here is squarely directed against objections which the Christian community encountered from their pagan contemporaries, the thought of the objection being, "You people die just like the rest of us; what then could be the advantage of being a Christian?" Peter's reply is:
"No," the apostle said, "Those who
have died (the dead) may be judged in
the flesh like men, by suffering
physical death; but because the gospel
was preached to them (while alive,
when they responded), they are now
living in the spirit like God." F14
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer:
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
Such a verse as this, along with many others similar to it, is a problem to some people. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand" (Romans 13:12), "The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:5), "The coming of the Lord is at hand" (James 5:8), "It is the last hour" (1 John 2:18), "The time is near" (Revelation 1:3). What is actually meant by all such expressions in the New Testament? Throughout this series, it has been repeatedly pointed out that neither Christ nor any of the holy apostles believed that the time of the Second Advent of Christ was a thing of their lifetime. See article, "Speedy Return of Christ," in my Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, pp. 18ff. The entire New Testament was written as a spiritual guide for the redeemed, and it is most likely that every one of such expressions noted above was for the purpose of inspiring watchfulness and preparedness on their part. Christ plainly said that not even he himself knew the "day or the hour" of the events of final judgment (Matthew 24:36); and it is irresponsible for anyone to affirm that the apostles decided, in spite of this, that they knew when the Second Advent would be. It is fundamentalist modernist scholars who insist on taking these words of the apostles literally. The church of all ages has had no difficulty at all in construing them spiritually. There is a simple, glorious truth in such expressions for everyone on earth. As Barclay said:
For every one of us the time is near.
The one thing that can be said of
every man is that he will die. For
every one of us the Lord is at hand;
and we cannot tell the day nor the
hour when we shall go to meet him ...
all life is lived in the shadow of
Is it not exceedingly likely, therefore, that this is what the apostles intended as the meaning of these passages? That this is true is further implied by a fact, that being the ability of the first generations to have dropped these expressions from the New Testament; but they were not dropped; they were still believed late in the second century at the time of the formation of the New Testament canon; and thus it is obvious that they believed them in exactly the sense of Barclay's quotation above. It is not therefore the true meaning of the apostles that troubles people; it is the false meaning imported into such texts by the grossly literal fundamentalist modernists who, like the Pharisees of old, pervert every spiritual statement in the New Testament to support their evil insinuations. Their purpose in perverting the meaning of these is to support their false claim that Christ and the apostles were ignorant in thinking that the end of time (with Christ's coming) was an event to be expected speedily. When Jesus said of Jairus' daughter, "The child is not dead but sleepeth" (Mark 5:39), the blind Pharisees in their fundamentalism took it literally. When Jesus said, "Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53), the fundamentalist multitude forsook him. When Jesus said, "I go away and whither I go ye cannot come" (John 8:21), the fundamentalist Pharisees took it literally, saying, "Will he kill himself?." It is merely an example of the pot calling the kettle black when the modernist fundamentalists of our own times decry what they call "fundamentalism" in others, while they themselves are guilty of literalizing half of the New Testament in order to suit their own intentions. There is no excuse for taking the expressions at the head of this paragraph in the grossly literal, restricted meaning. The saints of all ages have understood them, as they were intended, to be warning inducements to readiness for the appearing of the Lord whenever he may come, his coming for every one of us, in the personal sense, being indeed imminent and speedy for us, and therefore fully justifying the texts as they stand.
But the end of all things is at hand ...
Although, as pointed out above, it is the sobriety and prayerful watchfulness of the Christians which Peter sought to inspire by these words, it is most likely that this has no reference whatever to the Second Coming of Christ. The time of Peter's writing was about 65 A.D.; and what took place within the next five or six years explains this verse perfectly as a true prophecy of what happened:
The Neronian persecution broke against
the Christians, sending countless
thousands of them to their flaming
death as torches to light the orgies
in Nero's gardens, or feed the wild
beasts in the Coliseum, or to be
crucified, tortured, burned alive,
beheaded, or suffer any other horrible
death that the pagan mind could
invent. All earthly possessions of
Christians perished in that holocaust.
The Jews made an insurrection against
Rome; and, following the death of
Nero, the pagan empire organized a war
of extermination against them.
Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, some
1,100,000 of its populations including
Jews throughout the area being
butchered by the Romans. Thirty
thousand young Jewish males were
crucified upon the walls of the ruined
city, the lumber stores being
exhausted to supply crosses.
The nation of Israel perished from the
earth, never to rise again until
nearly two millenniums had passed.
The sacred temple, so dear to the
heart of Jews everywhere, was burned
with fire, demolished stone by stone,
and completely ruined never to be
The whole religious system of Israel
with its marvelous typical
prefigurations of Christianity
perished. The daily sacrifice ended
forever; the high priesthood came to
an end; and the judgment of God was
vindicated against that nation which
had officially rejected the Christ.
The Sanhedrin never met again; and
there began another Dispersion that
salted the earth with the once "chosen
Those events, and many others, justify fully Peter's blunt prophecy. Peter himself was a Jew; and, in view of the above events, which he accurately understood as having been prophesied by Jesus, and which he accurately foresaw as being so soon to be fulfilled and executed upon that generation, it was quite proper and accurate for him to refer to them prophetically as "the end of all things." The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, only five years after our epistle, was the greatest single event of a thousand years, and religiously significant beyond anything else that ever occurred in human history. "End of all things?" It was indeed that to anyone who contemplated the significance of it, and especially to a Jew like Peter.
But the end of all things ...
But, it is alleged by the critics that Peter believed the Second Coming of Christ would happen simultaneously with the fall of Jerusalem; and it may be freely admitted that Peter might indeed have thought so. It would have been very understandable if he had; for Jesus himself in giving answers to questions (Matt. 24) discussed both events at the same time, perhaps intending his answers to be enigmatical. But what is really significant is that whereas Peter might indeed have supposed that the Second Coming would occur at the time of the fall of the Holy City, he never said so. This verse we are studying does not say so, and none of the apostles ever said so. Soon after the fall of Jerusalem, however, the whole church soon understood that the first event was a precursor and prophecy of the Second Advent, and that Jesus had so given his teaching as to make his meaning understandable in the light of future events.
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." F16 The teaching of this is quite similar to Prov. 10:12 and James 5:20.
using hospitality one to another without murmuring:
Hospitality is frequently commanded in the New Testament; but with the looming persecution and the disorders that would inevitably flow out of it, the grace would not only be especially commendable, but absolutely necessary to the survival of some.
Without murmuring ...
Hospitality that is extended in a grudging or complaining manner would not fulfill the apostolic desire written here. The comfort, safety, joy and well-being of the guest is a first duty of hospitality.
according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God;
Any gift that one may have received from God, any talent, wealth or ability - everything that one has is viewed by the Christian as an endowment from God himself, which is to be used for ministering (serving) the body of Christ. People's possessions are not theirs in a selfish sense, for they are considered to be stewards of God's gift.
if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; if any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
"This is a word used to refer to the laws given to Moses (Acts 7:38), to the Hebrew Scriptures (Romans 3:2), and to the word of God (Hebrews 5:12,; 5:12, )." F17
Ministereth, ministering ... God supplies ...
The whole duty of Christians is classified under the general heading of "speaking" and "doing"; but it is actually God who does both! He supplies the words which the speaker is to speak, and the means or strength by which the minister does. "Thus the wealthy Christian who supports the church and relieves the poor is not really the church's patron, but a good manager. The paymaster is God." F18 The same is true of the one who teaches God's word. The end of all speaking and doing is that "God might be glorified through Jesus Christ."
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you:
In this verse the third and final major division of the epistle begins, and in it Peter gives the climax of his urgent warning and strengthening of the church against the terrible persecution, already under way, but soon to issue in the death of countless numbers of the faithful.
First of all, this verse says, in effect, it is natural for the world to hate you; do not think there is anything strange or unusual happening to you. All of the apostles had already discovered the truth of the Saviour's warning:
If the world hated you, ye know that
it hath hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world
would love its own: but because ye are
not of the world, but I chose you out
of the world, therefore the world
hateth you ... A servant is not
greater than his lord. If they
persecuted me, they will also
persecute you (John 15:18-20).
Just before giving this warning, Jesus said, "I command that ye love one another"; and significantly Peter prefaced these warnings of impending persecution with the same admonition that the Saviour gave in his warning (1 Peter 4:8).
The fiery trial ...
The literal word here is "burning," F19 as in Rev. 18:9,18, suggesting perhaps that those shameless burnings of Christians to illuminate the gardens of Nero might already have begun. As Mason said, "The fiery trial was not future but present; already the Asiatic Christians are enduring a fierce persecution." F20 Thus the words "cometh upon you" would be better rendered as "coming upon you."
To prove you ...
Earlier in this letter, Peter had already established the principle that such trials were for the purpose of testing the faith of Christians, and that such a testing was very precious in the eyes of God (1 Pet. l:7ff).
but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy.
Partakers of Christ's sufferings ...
How is the Christian's suffering a sharing in the sufferings of Christ? First, their sufferings are caused by the same thing. Christ died for testifying under oath that he is the divine Son of God, and the Christians of Peter's day who were confessing the same eternal truth were due shortly to suffer even as Christ suffered. Over and beyond this is the identity of the church as Christ's spiritual body, making the church's sufferings to be those of Christ himself.
At the revelation of his glory ...
Peter used this same expression in 1 Pet. 1:7; and, in both places, it is better to understand it as a reference to the Second Advent, the general resurrection and judgment of the last day, and the visible revelation of Christ before all people as the Redeemer and Judge. Such a revelation is that mentioned by Paul in 2 Thess. 1:7-10.
If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you.
It should be observed that the only wrong alleged against those persecuted ones was that of having accepted the faith of Christ. The conceit that the mere profession of Christianity did not become a capital offense until the reign of Domitian is categorically denied by a passage like this. Furthermore the universal tradition that Peter and Paul both died under Nero's persecution is incapable of refutation. As Caffin said, the meaning of this place is, "When ye are reviled because ye belong to Christ, because ye bear his name, because ye are Christians." F21
Spirit of glory ... Spirit of God ...
These are apparently synonymous; and, if so, they mean the Holy Spirit. It was one of the glorious fruits of the indwelling Spirit in Christian hearts that produced the vast spiritual strength enabling the Christian to go on wearing the name, go on being a Christian, go on loving and believing Christ, in spite of being reviled and persecuted for it.
For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters:
The crime of murder stands at the head of the list here; and we should not be surprised at Christians being warned against it. In the reprobacy that prevailed in those days, reaching even to the vaunted throne of the Caesars, it would have been quite easy for Christians to have rationalized the extention of their right of self-defense (manslaughter) and to have made it include preventive murder. Despite every temptation to the contrary, the people of God, the New Israel were to continue as honorable, law-abiding citizens, not attempting to take justice into their own hands.
Meddler in other men's matters ...
The word from which this comes is one of the most curious in the New Testament, Barclay surmising that "Peter may well have invented it." F22 "The word is [Greek: allotriepiskopos]." F23 The last part of this word, of course, is the one from which we get the word "bishop"; and as the first part of it means "pertaining to others," it is clear enough that the word bears the translation, "bishop of other people's business"! Peter not only forbade this on principle, but in the turbulence of those evil times, Christians would have found it exceedingly wise and prudent to avoid any kind of conduct with outsiders, or even contact with them, that could have resulted in their arraignment and death.
but if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name.
By any calculation, this is one of the great verses of the New Testament: (1) In context, "if any man suffer as a Christian" has the meaning of "if any man is put to death for being a Christian," exploding in one short text the false theory that the mere profession of Christianity did not become a capital offense until the times of Domitian. (2) It identifies the divinely authorized name which was bestowed upon Christ's followers by the mouth of God himself, that is, the name Christian. (3) The chosen people, the new Israel of God, the church of Christ is commanded to glorify God in this name. For a discussion of the prophetic utterances regarding this name with the divine events which prevented for a time the giving of it, and also the providential circumstances surrounding the first appearance of the name in Syrian Antioch, see my Commentary on Acts, pp. 232-236.
REGARDING THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME "CHRISTIAN"
It is distressing that in the 20th century, the old lie that Satan is the author of the name "Christian" is still widely circulated, and alas, accepted as gospel truth even by Christian commentators who certainly should know better. The Bible reveals that in the new dispensation, the children of God are to be called by a new name which the "mouth of the Lord" would name (Isaiah 62:2). If the enemies of Christ were privileged to name his followers, whatever became of that new name which was to originate in the mouth of God? As Hervey declared, "There is no evidence of its having been given in derision." F24 Admittedly, the name Christian glorifies Christ as the head of the church; and could there be anything reasonable in the supposition that evil men, under the influence of Satan, would have concocted a name that would glorify the Lord Jesus Christ?
This very verse is the place in the New Testament where the apostle Peter, in a sense, used "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," being the first of the apostles, and even the only one, to bind the name "Christian" upon the Lord's followers as their official, holy name. See introduction for further discussion of the "keys of the kingdom."
One of the most significant facts in the New Testament is that the name "disciple" which was everywhere applied to Jesus' followers throughout the Gospels and Acts, absolutely disappears from the New Testament from Acts to Revelation! The apostle John used the expression "disciples" some 77 times in his gospel, but never once in the three short epistles that bear his name, nor in the book of Revelation.
True, Matthew's commission reveals Jesus commanding the apostles to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20); but that same commission reveals that all such disciples were to be "baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The name "Christian" is the name of the Father in the sense of his having sent his only Son who is honored by the name; it is the name "of the Son," because of the word "Christ" which is the principal part of the name; and it is the name of "the Holy Spirit," because the Holy Spirit conveyed the name through Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Syria. One of the ways therefore in which Christians "put on Christ" in baptism (Galatians 3:27) is by putting on the sacred name of "Christian" by the very act itself.
A great deal of the support for the notion that the word "Christian" was a variation of "chrestian," meaning "goody-goody," and that it was originally a term of derision applied by Christ's enemies, comes from the fact of the Sinaitic manuscript having "Chrestian" instead of "Christian." F25 And why do scholars put so much trust in this variation from even older manuscripts? It is due to the scholarly ipsi dixit that "the more difficult reading is always to be preferred!" F26 They have even elevated this rule of interpretation to the status of a law, giving it a Latin name, and calling it Lectio Difficilior, and this "law" is said to be the reason why the Sinaitic manuscript is chosen above older and more numerous manuscripts. Ridiculous! "Those most difficult variations could possibly be the result of scribal error and therefore have little meaning." F27 Think of it. The only thing that happened with that Sinaitic manuscript was that a tired scribe accidentally substituted an "e" for an "i"; and there's not a scholar on earth, nor even a student, who has not done that same thing himself a hundred times! So much for that worthless variation in the Sinaitic manuscript!
One other thought regarding the origin of this holy name is in order. Although our view is that `the Lord himself' gave the new name, it is not out of harmony with this to suppose that the Spirit-filled church might itself have begun to apply the name as suggested by Wheaton below; however, it does not seem consistent with divine origin to suppose that an epithet hurled by the enemies of the truth would in fact become the name. Wheaton said:
The Latin suffix "-ianus" may have
been added to the Greek word Christ to
indicate "supporters of," in the same
way that Herod's followers were called
Herodians (Mark 3:6, etc.). A Roman
custom followed in adoption was that
of taking this same suffix and adding
it to the name of the one doing the
adopting. Thus one adopted by
Domitius would call himself Domitianus
... The Christians may well have
applied the name to themselves as
having been adopted into Christ's
Glorify God in this name ...
How shall the followers of the Lord honor such a commandment as this? First of all, it should be received as a commandment. The fact of the commandment having been given only once in the New Testament cannot reduce the binding nature of it. As regards the question of "how" to glorify God in this name, a number of things must be included: (1) It should be worn as the exclusive religious name of the child of God, not hyphenated with another name. (2) A godly, obedient, holy and devoted life should be exhibited by the wearer. (3) One should repeat the name under all circumstances where it would be appropriate, not being ashamed, ever to do so.
For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Hardly any verses in the New Testament have been misunderstood any more than have this one and the next. Does Peter, for one moment, mean to say that Christians shall hardly be saved at all? Certainly not! Did not he himself say, "An abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom shall be richly supplied to us" (2 Peter 2:11KJV)? Well, what is in view here?
The time is come for judgment to begin ...
This does not mean the eternal judgment is about to begin, but it refers to the judgment against Jerusalem impending in the total destruction of it, and prophetically foretold by both Christ and the apostles.
Begin at the house of God ...
From the beginning, it had been the Jews who enlisted the power of the Roman state against Christ and his church; and the hatred they had fostered against Christianity throughout the empire was about to become a roaring tornado of extermination and death venting its full fury against the church of Jesus Christ. Yes, indeed, the judgment would begin "at the house of God," i.e., the true temple of God, which is the church. Little could the Jews have seen in the approach of this destruction, which they had done so much to foster and encourage, little could they have seen that it would also encompass themselves even more completely and more terribly than that coming on the Christians. An apostle of Christ in this sentence prophetically foretold the fate as being even more terrible than that impending for Christians.
What shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel ... ?
The "them" of this place is the secular Israel. The introduction of "house of God," with its meaning of the true temple, makes it virtually certain that the old Israel with "their house," the Herodian temple, are those designated as the ones who "obey not the gospel."
And it worked out exactly as Peter prophesied. The Neronian persecution soon ended in the shameful, wretched death of Nero; but his successors went on to put down a Jewish insurrection, which ended in the cataclysmic destruction of Jerusalem and over a million of the Jews by Vespasian and Titus, A.D. 70, only five years after Peter wrote these lines. Thus the ancient chosen people, who had an opportunity to procure both for themselves and for the Christians a permanent status of legality in the pagan empire, stubbornly opposed it for Christians, little seeing that by so doing they were also eventually making outlaws of themselves. Peter foresaw that and accurately foretold here the onset and progress of the holocaust.
Obey . .. the gospel ...
is an excellent term for conversion, and it may only be deplored that current religious culture has found so little use for it. It is as if, by leaving out such a harsh word as "obey," they may be able to claim salvation upon some other basis. However, obedience of the truth is a sine qua non of salvation in Christ. Paul revealed fully the fate of persons who will not "obey the gospel" (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?
The thought of this is parallel with the previous verse, thus giving the passage the effect of Hebrew poetry, and also endowing it with magnificent spiritual overtones. The righteous (the Christians) were indeed "scarcely saved"; if Satan had had a better administrator than Nero, if circumstances had been only slightly different from what they were, Christianity might indeed have been exterminated from the earth; but, of course, the providence of God did not allow that to occur. But, if only the most signal providence of God could have spared the Christians from annihilation, what could be expected where, in the case of the disobedient, that providence would not be exercised? The fate of Jerusalem exhibited the tragic answer.
Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator.
Suffer according to the will of God ...
Throughout this letter, "suffer" is to be understood in the sense of capital punishment, and in a few instances the lesser sufferings that often preceded it.
According to the will of God ...
Christians were expected to accept the harsh penalty inflicted by the pagan empire, as being in truth "the will of God." This is the way Paul and Peter accepted it; and, if the ancient testimony regarding the martyrs is accurate, we may well believe that they too in uncounted numbers did so in faith, committing themselves, as Peter admonished here, "unto a faithful Creator" who has the power to make all things work together for good to them that love him and are the called according to his eternal purpose.
Although it is the prophetic destruction of Jerusalem which Peter had primarily in mind in these verses, it should never be overlooked that the event itself was a type of the ultimate judgment of the Second Coming, giving all of the apostle's teaching
here a spiritual application for all generations to come, and Peter's word is skillfully written to cover both meanings perfectly. This is in all likelihood the reason for his choice of such a word as "suffer," meaning capital punishment in the first instance, and being extended to include all kinds of sorrows and sufferings in the second.
Footnotes for 1 Peter 4
1: B. C. Caffin, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing House, 1950), p. 170.
2: William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 247.
3: Raymond C. Kelcy, The Letters of Peter and Jude (Austin, Texas: R.B. Sweet Co., 1972), p. 82.
4: David H. Wheaton, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1246.
5: F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), p. 129.
6: Stephen W. Paine, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 981.
7: J. H. A. Hart, Expositor's Greek Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 71.
8: A. J. Mason, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 424.
9: Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1953), p. 191.
10: Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 86.
11: F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 129.
12: Daniel D. Wheedon, Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. V (New York: Hunton and Eaton, 1890), p. 216.
13: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 249.
14: David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1245.
15: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 251.
16: David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1246.
17: Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 91.
18: A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 429.
19: A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 429.
21: B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 174.
22: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 259.
23: Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 94.
24: A. C. Hervey, The Pulpit Commentary, Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 359.
25: A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 430.
26: Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1974), p. 81.
28: David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1246.
29: Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1953), p. 176.
31: Ibid., p. 177.
33: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 480.
34: Roy S. Nicholson, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 291.
35: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 178.
36: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 483.
37: A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 422.
38: Archibald M. Hunter, op. cit., p. 134.
39: Roy S. Nicholson, op. cit., p. 292.
40: E. M. Zerr, op. cit., p. 261.
41: F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), p. 128.
42: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 147.
43: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 206.
44: B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 74.
45: A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 407.
46: C. J. Polkinghorne, op. cit., p. 591.
47: B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 74.
48: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1044.
49: Elmer C. Homrighausen, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. XIII (New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 117.
50: Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 59.
51: A. J. Mason, op. cit., p. 408.
52: David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1242.
53: W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, ii (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), p. 54.
54: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 215.
55: W. A. Snively, Biblical Illustrator, 1 Peter (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1938), p. 242.
56: Archibald M. Hunter, op. cit., p. 118.
57: G. J. Polkinghorne, op. cit., p. 588.
58: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 1042.
59: David H. Wheaton, op. cit., p. 1240.
60: Raymond C. Kelcy, op. cit., p. 40.
61: A. J. Mason, op. cit, p. 399.
62: E. M. Zerr, op. cit., p. 255.
63: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 132.
64: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 1035.
65: T. Guthrie, Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., p. 254.
66: Many commentators use this statement.
67: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 78.
68: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 69.
69: Ibid., p. 70.
70: T. Carson, op. cit., p. 576.
71: R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 63.
72: Albert Barnes, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1953), p. 48.