1 Peter 4 Commentary

v.1 “To survive persecution in an obedient manner, Christians must have proper mental preparation (cf. 1:13): ‘Arm yourselves also with the same attitude’ that Christ had.  In the context of Peter’s letter, the proper attitude includes a steadfast hope for vindication (1:13; 3:18-22), a fear of God (3:15), and a commitment to live (including suffering) in such a way that outsiders see the grace of God (cf. 2:18-25; 3:1-2, 15-16).  But the fundamental attitude is that Christ surrendered himself to the God whom he knew would judge justly and save (2:23).”[1]

“When the readers of the epistle are told to ‘arm’ themselves, it is presumably to do battle against those same fleshly powers that provided the context for Christ’s suffering. The metaphor is military and looks ahead to the battle against Satan, the roaring lion of 5:8. It seems plausible to suggest that the realm of the flesh is the realm where Satan can tempt and hurt the faithful, though it is not necessarily the realm under his control. The ‘same’ understanding presumably means the ‘same’ understanding that Christ had and corresponds to the intention or understanding of v.2, ‘the will of God.’”[2]

“Suffering in the flesh does not mean having bodily pain; it means doing fierce battle against the forces of human desire – the realm of the flesh – and bearing the suffering that comes with that battle.  When one does battle against the realm of flesh, one has already enlisted on the other side: the side of righteousness against sin; the side of the Spirit against the flesh.  Choosing life rather than death, the faithful Christian has ‘ceased from sin,’ moved from the realm of the old into the new.”[3]

v.6 “The vast majority of commentators today argue that Peter is referring to Christians in Asia Minor who heard the gospel while alive but are now physically dead.  Because this life is only a prelude to life after death, the gospel was preached to those who are (now) dead.  And because those people will have to give an account to God for their life, everyone must hear the gospel.  Finally, Peter expresses the ultimate purpose of preaching, that people, regardless of what happens to them in this life, might be able to live eternally (i.e., in ‘spirit’) with God.  The gospel is preached to all, including the (now) dead, because ultimately this life is only a prelude to a greater and endless world beyond.  Those who hear the gospel and respond, even if they are killed for their faith, will be vindicated ultimately before God.” [4]

v.8 “‘Above all’ (pro panton) reminds us of the primacy of agape love among fellow Christians. This love is to be ‘eager,’ ‘earnest’ (ektene, lit., ‘strained,’ BAG, p. 245; NIV, ‘deeply’). Agape love is capable of being commanded because it is not primarily an emotion but a decision of the will leading to action. (On the necessity of Christians’ loving one another, see Mark 12:30-33; John 13:34 f.; 15:12-17.) The reason for us to show love is that ‘love covers over a multitude of sins.’ This quotation from Proverbs 10:12 does not mean that our love covers or atones for our sins. In the proverb the meaning is that love does not ‘stir up’ sins or broadcast them. So the major idea is that love suffers in silence and bears all things (1Cor 13:5-7). Christians forgive faults in others because they know the forgiving grace of God in their own lives.”[5]

vv.10-11 “Hospitality is not a one-way virtue; every Christian is in some way capable of ministering to others. Every Christian has a gift (Rom 12:6-8; 1Cor 12:12-31) that he has received from God—whether at birth, rebirth, or sometime after is not stated. Since every Christian has a gift, his being equipped with it apparently takes place with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at regeneration. That the Holy Spirit can take ‘natural’ talents and abilities and redirect them for Christ was most dramatically shown in Paul’s ministry. The believer is not only to view himself as gifted but also as a steward (oikonomos, ‘a responsible slave’; cf. TDNT, 5:149-51) and a minister (diakonountes). One of the longstanding misconceptions in church practice is the idea that only one person is to ‘minister’ in the local church. The biblical principle is that all can and should minister in one way or another.”[6]

vv.12-13 “(i) It is Peter’s view that persecution is inevitable. It is human nature to dislike and to regard with suspicion anyone who is different; the Christian is necessarily different from the man of the world. The particular impact of the Christian difference makes the matter more acute. To the world the Christian brings the standards of Jesus Christ. That is another way of saying that he inevitably is a kind of conscience to any society in which he moves; and many a man would gladly eliminate the trouble—some twinges of conscience. The very goodness of Christianity can be an offence to a world in which goodness is regarded as a handicap.

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

(iii) Now we come to the uplifting things. Persecution is a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. When a man has to suffer for his Christianity he is walking the way his Master walked and sharing the Cross his Master carried. This is a favourite New Testament thought. If we suffer with him, we will be glorified with him (Romans 8:17). It is Paul’s desire to enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10). If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12). If we remember that, anything we must suffer for the sake of Christ becomes a privilege and not a penalty.

(iv) Persecution is the way to glory. The Cross is the way to the crown. Jesus Christ is no man’s debtor and his joy and crown await the man who, through thick and thin, remains true to him.”[7]

vv.14-16 “Rather than taking these insults personally, Peter’s readers must take these insults as an occasion to see that they are blessed (4:14), for Jesus taught that way (Matt. 5:10, 11-12; cf. 10:24-25).  Peter therefore exhorts them to glorify God for their being identified with the name of Jesus (4:16); they are to wear his name proudly.  The reason they are to assume this stance against persecution is because ‘the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you’ (4:14).  That is, they are blessed by God and are to glorify him because of the presence of his Spirit on them [...]  This Spirit, especially when the saints are in stress, reveals the power, patience, and goodness of God to those who witness such events (cf. 1 Peter 2:12; 3:1, 16; cf. e.g., Acts 7:55).”[8]

v.19 “Finally, when facing suffering in the name of Christ, Christians must continue to do good works as an expression of their trust (4:19).  Obedience in the Bible is not an appendix to faith.  These two (obedience and faith) are so connected in the Bible that they are inseparable.  Believers are obedient, and the obedient ones believe.  Consequently, Peter exhorts his readers to hand over their lives to the faithful Creator by living a life of good deeds no matter what happens to them.”[9]


[1] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 224.

[2] David L. Bartlett, “The First Letter of Peter,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 300.

[3] David L. Bartlett, “The First Letter of Peter,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998) 300.

[4] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 227-228.

[5] Edwin A Blum, Gen. Editor- Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[6] Edwin A Blum, Gen. Editor- Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[7] William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter, Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976) 297-298.

[8] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 250.

[9] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Intervarsity Press, 1996) 256-257.

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