1 Peter 4
The work of a Christian is twofold--doing the will of God and suffering
his pleasure. This chapter directs us in both. The duties we are here
exhorted to employ ourselves in are the mortification of sin, living to
God, sobriety, prayer, charity, hospitality, and the best improvement
of our talents, which the apostle presses upon Christians from the
consideration of the time they have lost in their sins, and the
approaching end of all things,
1 Peter 4:1-11.
The directions for sufferings are that we should not be surprised at
them, but rejoice in them, only take care not to suffer as evil-doers.
He intimates that their trials were near at hand, that their souls were
in danger as well as their bodies, and that the best way to preserve
their souls is to commit them to God in well-doing.
|The Mortification of Sin.
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1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh,
arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath
suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the
flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have
wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in
lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings,
and abominable idolatries:
The apostle here draws a new inference from the consideration of
Christ's sufferings. As he had before made use of it to persuade to
patience in suffering, so here to mortification of sin. Observe,
I. How the exhortation is expressed. The antecedent or supposition is
that Christ had suffered for us in the flesh, or in his human
nature. The consequent or inference is, "Arm and fortify
yourselves likewise with the same mind, courage, and
resolution." The word flesh in the former part of the verse signifies
Christ's human nature, but in the latter part it signifies man's
corrupt nature. So the sense is, "As Christ suffered in his human
nature, do you, according to your baptismal vow and profession, make
your corrupt nature suffer, by putting to death the body of sin by
self-denial and mortification; for, if you do not thus suffer, you will
be conformable to Christ in his death and resurrection, and will cease
from sin." Learn,
1. Some of the strongest and best arguments against all sorts of sin
are taken from the sufferings of Christ. All sympathy and tenderness
for Christ as a sufferer are lost of you do not put away sin. He dies
to destroy it; and, though he could cheerfully submit to the worst
sufferings, yet he could never submit to the least sin.
2. The beginning of all true mortification lies in the mind, not in
penances and hardships upon the body. The mind of man is carnal, full
of enmity; the understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life
Man is not a sincere creature, but partial, blind, and wicked, till he
be renewed and sanctifies by the regenerating grace of God.
II. How it is further explained,
1 Peter 4:2.
The apostle explains what he means by being dead to sin, and ceasing
from sin, both negatively and positively. Negatively, a Christian ought
no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh, to the
sinful lusts and corrupt desires of carnal wicked men; but, positively,
he ought to conform himself to the revealed will of the holy God.
1. The lusts of men are the springs of all their wickedness,
Let occasional temptations be what they will, they could not prevail,
were it not for men's own corruptions.
2. All good Christians make the will of God, not their own lusts or
desires, the rule of their lives and actions.
3. True conversion makes a marvellous change in the heart and life of
every one who partakes of it. It brings a man off from all his old,
fashionable, and delightful lusts, and from the common ways and vices
of the world, to the will of God. It alters the mind, judgment,
affections, way, and conversation of every one who has experienced
III. How it is enforced
(1 Peter 4:3):
For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the
will of the Gentiles, &c. Here the apostle argues from equity. "It
is but just, equal, and reasonable, that as you have hitherto all the
former part of your life served sin and Satan, so you should now serve
the living God." Though those were Jews to whom the apostle wrote, yet
the living among the Gentiles they had learned their way. Observe,
1. When a man is truly converted, it is very grievous to him to think
how the time past of his life has been spent; the hazard he has run so
many years, the mischief he has done to others, the dishonour done to
God, and the loss he has sustained, are very afflicting to him.
2. While the will of man is unsanctified and corrupt, he walks
continually in wicked ways; he makes them his choice and delight, his
work and business, and he makes a bad condition daily worse and worse.
3. One sin, allowed, draws on another. Here are six named, and they
have a connection and dependence one upon another.
(1.) Lasciviousness or wantonness, expressed in looks, gesture,
(2.) Lusts, acts of lewdness, such as whoredom and adultery.
(3.) Excess of wine, though short of drunkenness, an immoderate
use of it, to the prejudice of health or business, is here condemned.
(4.) Revellings, or luxurious feastings, too frequent, too full,
or too expensive.
(5.) Banquetings, by which is meant gluttony or excess in
(6.) Abominable idolatry; the idol-worship of the Gentiles was
attended with lewdness, drunkenness, gluttony, and all sorts of
brutality and cruelty; and these Jews living long among them were, some
of them at least, debauched and corrupted by such practices.
4. It is a Christian's duty not only to abstain from what is grossly
wicked, but also from those things that are generally the occasions of
sin, or carry the appearance of evil. Excess of wine and
immoderate feasting are forbidden as well as lust and idolatry.
|Comfort of the Servants of God.
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4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to
the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the
quick and the dead.
6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that
are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the
flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
I. Here you have the visible change wrought in those who in the
1 Peter 4:3
were represented as having been in the former part of their life very
wicked. They no longer run on in the same courses, or with the same
companions, as they used to do. Hereupon observe the conduct of their
wicked acquaintance towards them.
1. They think it strange, they are surprised and wonder at it,
as at something new and unusual, that their old friends should be so
much altered, and not run with as much violence as they used to do
to the same excess of riot, to the same sottish excesses and
luxury which before they had greedily and madly followed.
2. They speak evil of them. Their surprise carries them to
blasphemy. They speak evil of their persons, of their way, their
religion, and their God. Learn,
(1.) Those that are once really converted will not return to their
former course of life, though ever so much tempted by the frowns or
flatteries of others to do so. Neither persuasion nor reproach will
prevail with them to be or to do as they were wont to do.
(2.) The temper and behaviour of true Christians seem very strange to
ungodly men. That they should despise that which every one else is fond
of, that they should believe many things which to others seem
incredible, that they should delight in what is irksome and tedious, be
zealous where they have no visible interest to serve, and depend so
much upon hope, is what the ungodly cannot comprehend.
(3.) The best actions of religious people cannot escape the censures
and slanders of those who are irreligious. Those actions which cost a
good man the most pains, hazard, and self-denial, shall be most
censured by the uncharitable and ill-natured world; they will speak
evil of good people, though they themselves reap the fruits of their
charity, piety, and goodness.
II. For the comfort of the servants of God, it is here added,
1. That all wicked people, especially those who speak evil of such as
are not as bad as themselves, shall give an account, and be put
to give a reason of their behaviour, to him who is ready to judge, who
is both able and duly authorized, and who will ere long judge and pass
sentence upon all who shall then be found alive, and all such as being
dead shall then be raised again,
Observe, The malignant world shall in a little time give an account to
the great God of all their evil speeches against his people,
They will soon be called to a sad account for all their curses, their
foolish jests, their slanders and falsehoods, uttered against the
faithful people of God.
2. That for this cause was the gospel preached also to those that
are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but
live according to God in the Spirit,
1 Peter 4:6.
Some understand this difficult place thus: For this cause was the
gospel preached to all the faithful of old, who are now dead in
Christ, that thereby they might be taught and encouraged to bear the
unrighteous judgments and persecutions which the rage of men put upon
them in the flesh, but might live in the Spirit unto God. Others
take the expression, that they might be judged according to men in
the flesh, in a spiritual sense, thus: The gospel was preached to
them, to judge them, condemn them, and reprove them, for the corruption
of their natures, and the viciousness of their lives, while they lived
after the manner of the heathen or the mere natural man; and that,
having thus mortified their sins, they might live according to God, a
new and spiritual life. Take it thus; and thence learn,
1. The mortifying of our sins and living to God are the expected
effects of the gospel preached to us.
2. God will certainly reckon with all those who have had the gospel
preached to them, but without these good effects produced by it. God is
ready to judge all those who have received the gospel in vain.
3. It is no matter how we are judged according to men in the flesh, if
we do but live according to God in the Spirit.
|Sobriety, Watchfulness, and Charity; Improvement of Talents.
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7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober,
and watch unto prayer.
8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves:
for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the
same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of
11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if
any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God
giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus
Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
We have here an awful position or doctrine, and an inference drawn from
it. The position is that the end of all things is at hand. The
miserable destruction of the Jewish church and nation foretold by our
Saviour is now very near; consequently, the time of their persecution
and your sufferings is but very short. Your own life and that of your
enemies will soon come to their utmost period. Nay, the world itself
will not continue very long. The conflagration will put an end to it;
and all things must be swallowed up in an endless eternity. The
inference from this comprises a series of exhortations.
1. To sobriety and watchfulness: "Be you therefore sober,
1 Peter 4:7.
Let the frame and temper of your minds be grave, stayed, and solid; and
observe strict temperance and sobriety in the use of all worldly
enjoyments. Do not suffer yourselves to be caught with your former sins
1 Peter 4:3.
An watch unto prayer. Take care that you be continually in a
calm sober disposition, fit for prayer; and that you be frequent in
prayers, lest this end come upon you unawares,"
(1.) The consideration of our approaching end is a powerful argument to
make us sober in all worldly matters, and earnest in religious affairs.
(2.) Those who would pray to purpose must watch unto prayer.
They must watch over their own spirits, watch all fit opportunities,
and do their duty in the best manner they can.
(3.) The right ordering of the body is of great use to promote the good
of the soul. When the appetites and inclinations of the body are
restrained and governed by God's word and true reason, and the
interests of the body are submitted to the interests and necessities of
the soul, then it is not the soul's enemy, but its friend and
2. To charity: And above all things have fervent charity among
1 Peter 4:8.
Here is a noble rule in Christianity. Christians ought to love one
another, which implies an affection to their persons, a desire of their
welfare, and a hearty endeavour to promote it. This mutual affection
must not be cold, but fervent, that is, sincere, strong, and lasting.
This sort of earnest affection is recommended above all things,
which shows the importance of it,
It is greater than faith or hope,
1 Corinthians 13:13.
One excellent effect of it is that it will cover a multitude of
(1.) There ought to be in all Christians a more fervent charity towards
one another than towards other men: Have charity among
yourselves. He does not say for pagans, for idolaters, or for
apostates, but among yourselves. Let brotherly love continue,
There is a special relation between all sincere Christians, and a
particular amiableness and good in them, which require special
(2.) It is not enough for Christians not to bear malice, nor to have
common respect for one another, they must intensely and fervently love
(3.) It is the property of true charity to cover a multitude of
sins. It inclines people to forgive and forget offences against
themselves, to cover and conceal the sins of others, rather than
aggravate them and spread them abroad. It teaches us to love those who
are but weak, and who have been guilty of many evil things before their
conversion; and it prepares for mercy at the hand of God, who hath
promised to forgive those that forgive others,
3. To hospitality,
1 Peter 4:9.
The hospitality here required is a free and kind entertainment of
strangers and travellers. The proper objects of Christian hospitality
are one another. The nearness of their relation, and the necessity of
their condition in those times of persecution and distress, obliged
Christians to be hospitable one to another. Sometimes Christians were
spoiled of all they had, and were driven away to distant countries for
safety. In this case they must starve if their fellow-christians would
not receive them. Therefore it was a wise and necessary rule which the
apostle here laid down. It is elsewhere commanded,
The manner of performing this duty is this: it must be done in an easy,
kind, handsome manner, without grudging or grumbling at the
expense or trouble. Learn,
(1.) Christians ought not only to be charitable, but hospitable, one to
(2.) Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or of hospitality, he
ought to do it cheerfully, and without grudging. Freely you have
received, freely give.
4. To the improvement of talents,
1 Peter 4:11.
(1.) The rule is that whatever gift, ordinary or extraordinary,
whatever power, ability, or capacity of doing good is given to us, we
should minister, or do service, with the same one to another,
accounting ourselves not masters, but only stewards of the manifold
grace, or the various gifts, of God. Learn,
[1.] Whatever ability we have of doing good we must own it to be the
gift of God and ascribe it to his grace.
[2.] Whatever gifts we have received, we ought to look upon them as
received for the use one of another. We must not assume them to
ourselves, nor hide them in a napkin, but do service with them one
to another in the best manner we are able.
[3.] In receiving and using the manifold gifts of God we must look upon
ourselves as stewards only, and act accordingly. The talents we are
entrusted with are our Lord's goods, and must be employed as he
directs. And it is required in a steward that he be found faithful.
(2.) The apostle exemplifies his direction about gifts in two
particulars--speaking and ministering, concerning which he gives these
[1.] If any man, whether a minister in public or a Christian in
private conference, speak or teach, he must do it as the
oracles of God, which direct us as to the matter of our speech.
What Christians in private, or ministers in public, teach and speak
must be the pure word and oracles of God. As to the manner of speaking,
it must be with the seriousness, reverence, and solemnity, that become
those holy and divine oracles.
[2.] If any man minister, either as a deacon, distributing the
alms of the church and taking care of the poor, or as a private person,
by charitable gifts and contributions, let him do it as of the
ability which God giveth. He who has received plenty and ability
from God ought to minister plentifully, and according to his ability.
These rules ought to be followed and practised for this end, that
God in all things, in all your gifts, ministrations, and services,
may be glorified, that others may see your good works, and glorify
your Father who is in heaven
through Jesus Christ, who has procured and given these gifts to
and through whom alone we and our services are accepted of God
to whom, Jesus Christ, be praise and dominion for ever and ever.
Amen. Learn, First, It is the duty of Christians in private,
as well as ministers in public, to speak to one another of the things
Eph. iv. 29; Ps. cxlv. 10-12.
Secondly, It highly concerns all preachers of the gospel to keep
close to the word of God, and to treat that word as becomes the oracles
of God. Thirdly, Christians must not only do the duty of their
place, but they must do it with vigour, and according to the best of
their abilities. The nature of a Christian's work, which is high work
and hard work, the goodness and kindness of the Master, and the
excellency of the reward, all require that our endeavours should be
serious and vigorous, and that whatever we are called to do for the
honour of God and the good of others we should do it with all our
might. Fourthly, In all the duties and services of life we
should aim at the glory of God as our chief end; all other views must
be subservient to this, which would sanctify our common actions and
1 Corinthians 10:31.
Fifthly, God is not glorified by any thing we do if we do not
offer it to him through the mediation and merits of Jesus Christ.
God in all things must be glorified through Jesus Christ, who is
the only way to the Father. Sixthly, The apostle's adoration of
Jesus Christ, and ascribing unlimited and everlasting praise and
dominion to him, prove that Jesus Christ is the most high God, over all
blessed for evermore. Amen.
|Fortitude and Circumspection; Advice to Suffering Christians.
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12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial
which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's
sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be
glad also with exceeding joy.
14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye;
for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their
part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief,
or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be
ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house
of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be
of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the
ungodly and the sinner appear?
19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God
commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto
a faithful Creator.
The frequent repetition of counsel and comfort to Christians,
considered as sufferers, in every chapter of this epistle, shows that
the greatest danger these new converts were in arose from the
persecutions to which their embracing Christianity exposed them. The
good behaviour of Christians under sufferings is the most difficult
part of their duty, but yet necessary both for the honour of Christ and
their own comfort; and therefore the apostle, having extorted them in
the former part of this chapter to the great duty of mortification,
comes here to direct them in the necessary duty of patience under
sufferings. An unmortified spirit is very unfit to bear trials.
I. The apostle's kind manner of address to these poor despised
Christians: they were his beloved,
1 Peter 4:9.
II. His advice to them, relating to their sufferings, which is,
1. That they should not think them strange, nor be surprised at them,
as if some unexpected event befel them; for,
(1.) Though they be sharp and fiery, yet they are designed only to try,
not to ruin them, to try their sincerity, strength, patience, and trust
in God. On the contrary, they ought rather to rejoice under their
sufferings, because theirs may properly be called Christ's sufferings.
They are of the same kind, and for the same cause, that Christ
suffered; they make us conformable to him; he suffers in them, and
feels in our infirmities; and, if we be partakers of his sufferings, we
shall also be make partakers of his glory, and shall meet him
with exceeding joy at his great appearing to judge his enemies, and
crown his faithful servants,
2 Thessalonians 1:7,
[1.] True Christians love and own the children of God in their lowest
and most distressing circumstances. The apostle owns these poor
afflicted Christians, and calls them his beloved. True Christians never
look more amiable one to another than in their adversities.
[2.] There is no reason for Christians to think strange, or to wonder,
at the unkindnesses and persecutions of the world, because they are
forewarned of them. Christ himself endured them; and forsaking all,
denying ourselves, are the terms upon which Christ accepts of us to be
[3.] Christians ought not only to be patient, but to rejoice, in their
sharpest sorest sufferings for Christ, because they are tokens of
divine favour; they promote the gospel and prepare for glory. Those who
rejoice in their sufferings for Christ shall eternally triumph and
rejoice with him in glory.
(2.) From the fiery trial the apostle descends to a lower degree of
persecution--that of the tongue by slander and reproach,
1 Peter 4:14.
He supposes that this sort of suffering would fall to their lot: they
would be reviled, evil-spoken of, and slandered for the name or sake of
Christ. In such case he asserts, Happy are you, the reason of
which is, "Because you have the spirit of God with you, to fortify and
comfort you; and the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of glory, that
will carry you through all, bring you off gloriously, and prepare and
seal you up for eternal glory. This glorious Spirit resteth upon
you, resideth with you, dwelleth in you, supporteth you, and is
pleased with you; and is not this an unspeakable privilege? By your
patience and fortitude in suffering, by your dependence upon the
promises of God, and adhering to the word which the Holy Spirit hath
revealed, he is on your part glorified; but by the contempt and
reproaches cast upon you the Spirit itself is evil-spoken of and
[1.] The best men and the best things usually meet with reproaches in
the world. Jesus Christ and his followers, the Spirit of God and the
gospel, are all evil-spoken of.
[2.] The happiness of good people not only consists with, but even
flows from their afflictions: Happy are you.
[3.] That man who hath the Spirit of God resting upon him cannot be
miserable, let his afflictions be ever so great: Happy are you; for
the Spirit of God, &c.
[4.] The blasphemies and reproaches which evil men cast upon good
people are taken by the Spirit of God as cast upon himself: On their
part he is evil-spoken of.
[5.] When good people are vilified for the name of Christ his
Holy Spirit is glorified in them.
2. That they should take care they did not suffer justly, as
1 Peter 4:15.
One would think such a caution as this needless to such an excellent
set of Christians as these were. But their enemies charged them with
these and other foul crimes: therefore the apostle, when he was
settling the rules of the Christian religion, thought these cautions
necessary, forbidding every one of them to hurt the life or the estate
and property of any one, or to do any sort of evil, or, without call
and necessity, to play the bishop in another man's charge, or
busy himself in other men's matters. To this caution he adds a
direction, that if any man suffer for the cause of Christianity,
and with a patient Christian spirit, he ought not to account it a
shame, but an honour to him; and ought to glorify God who hath thus
1 Peter 4:16.
(1.) The best of men need to be warned against the worst of sins.
(2.) There is very little comfort in sufferings when we bring them upon
ourselves by our own sin and folly. It is not the suffering, but the
cause, that makes the martyr.
(3.) We have reason to thank God for the honour if he calls us out to
suffer for his truth and gospel, for our adherence to any of the
doctrines or duties of Christianity.
3. That their trials were now at hand, and they should stand prepared
1 Peter 4:17,18.
(1.) He tells them that the time had come when judgment must begin
at the house of God. The usual method of Providence has been this:
When God brings great calamities and sore judgments upon whole nations,
he generally begins with his own people,
Jer. xxv. 29; Ezek. ix. 6.
"Such a time of universal calamity is now at hand, which was foretold
by our Saviour,
This renders all the foregoing exhortations to patience necessary for
you. And you have two considerations to support you."
[1.] "That these judgments will but begin with you that are
God's house and family, and will soon be over: your trials and
corrections will not last long."
[2.] "Your troubles will be but light and short, in comparison of what
shall befal the wicked world, your own countrymen the Jews, and the
infidels and idolatrous people among whom you live: What shall the
end be of those who obey not the gospel of God?" Learn,
First, The best of God's servants, his own household, have so
much amiss in them as renders it fit and necessary that God should
sometimes correct and punish them with his judgments: Judgment
begins at the house of God. Secondly, Those who are the family of
God have their worst things in this life. Their worst condition is
tolerable, and will soon be over. Thirdly, Such persons or
societies of men as disobey the gospel of God are not of his
church and household, though possibly they may make the loudest
pretensions. The apostle distinguishes the disobedient from the house
of God. Fourthly, The sufferings of good people in this life are
demonstrations of the unspeakable torments that are coming upon the
disobedient and unbelieving: What shall the end be of those that
obey not the gospel? Who can express or say how dreadful their end
(2.) He intimates the irremediable doom of the wicked: If the
righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner
1 Peter 4:18.
This whole verse is taken from
Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; how much
more the wicked and the sinner? This the LXX. translates exactly as
the apostle here quotes it. Hence we may learn,
[1.] The grievous sufferings of good people in this world are sad
presages of much heavier judgments coming upon impenitent sinners. But,
if we take the salvation here in the highest sense, then we may learn,
[2.] It is as much as the best can do to secure the salvation of their
souls; there are so many sufferings, temptations, and difficulties to
be overcome, so many sins to be mortified, the gate is so strait and
the way so narrow, that it is as much as the righteous can do to be
saved. Let the absolute necessity of salvation balance the difficulty
of it. Consider, Your difficulties are greatest at first; God offers
his grace and help; the contest will not last long; be but faithful to
the death, and God will give you the crown of life,
[3.] The ungodly and the sinner are unquestionably in a state of
damnation. Where shall they appear? How will they stand before
their Judge? Where can they show their heads? If the righteous
scarcely be saved, the wicked must certainly perish.
4. That when called to suffer, according to the will of God,
they should look chiefly to the safety of their souls, which are put
into hazard by affliction, and cannot be kept secure otherwise than by
committing them to God, who will undertake the charge, if we
commit them to him in well-doing; for he is their Creator, and has out
of mere grace made many kind promises to them of eternal salvation, in
which he will show himself faithful and true,
1 Peter 4:19.
(1.) All the sufferings that befal good people come upon them
according to the will of God.
(2.) It is the duty of Christians, in all their distresses, to look
more to the keeping of their souls than to the preserving of their
bodies. The soul is of greatest value, and yet in most danger. If
suffering from without raise uneasiness, vexation, and other sinful and
tormenting passions within, the soul is then the greatest sufferer. If
the soul be not well kept, persecution will drive people to apostasy,
(3.) The only way to keep the soul well is to commit it to God, in
well-doing. Commit your souls to God by solemn dedication, prayer, and
patient perseverance in well-doing,
(4.) Good people, when they are in affliction, have great encouragement
to commit their souls to God, because he is their Creator, and faithful
in all his promises.