Notes on 1 Peter 4:10-19
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
1 Peter 4:10, KJV As every man hath received the gift, (even so) minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, (let him speak) as the oracles of God; if any man minister, (let him do it) as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Peter gives a summary of the two broad categories of spiritual gifts. More complete lists of these gifts are in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12 and 14, and in Ephesians 4. Note that he is careful to state that any gift be used to glorify the Lord and not the one with the gift itself.
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Peter had spoken about this in chapter 3 but now brings it up again. It is possible that some persecution was already happening but he gives an indication that even worse was to come. The Lord had already predicted that believers would be hated (see John 15:18-21, e.g.) by the world simply because the believer didn’t belong to the world system any longer.
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.
Several of the apostles, if not all of them (see Acts 5:18-33) suffered in the early days of the Church. Peter and John were imprisoned before this (Acts 4). Sometime after this, Saul of Tarsus went basically looking for believers wherever he could find them in order to imprison them or even put them to death (compare Acts 9:21, 22:3-5, 22:19-20, 26:10-12).
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.
This could be a paraphrase of Matthew 5:11. The remainder of this verse is difficult to understand completely but the idea seems to be that the Holy Spirit rests upon the believer, besides indwelling the believer (John 14:27).
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.
Paul had written to the Corinthians before this time, reminding them of their lives before they met Jesus (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11) and the change the Lord had made in their lives since then. No person is beyond redemption if they genuinely seek the Lord.
It is possible for a Christian to be considered murderers, thieves, etc., as a slander from the unsaved world. Not only would they be reviled and reproached, as mentioned earlier in this letter, but they could be slandered. One can only imagine the “crimes” that believers were accused of in those days, especially if they refused to take part in the numerous evils that were so common back then.
Perhaps the worst of these might be a “busybody”. Most believers have a desire to help others (we should, at any rate) but it is possible to become too involved or too connected with someone else. Paul had spoken of “busybodies” in Thessalonica (2 Thess. 3:11) and later warned Timothy about the “busybodies” in Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:13). Minister to people always, but never meddle, is good advice.
16 Yet if (any man suffer) as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
The word “Christian” is only used a few times in the New Testament. In Acts 11:26, believers in Jesus,also called “followers of the way”, were first called “Christians” at Antioch—no doubt because of their changed lives and lifestyles. Opinions differ as to whether the word “Christian”, meaning “little Christ” or “follower of Christ”, was a compliment or an insult.
Interestingly, Herod Agrippa, a Jewish ruler under Roman authority, listened to Paul’s testimony or address as recorded in Acts 26:27. Paul appealed to Agrippa’s knowledge of the Prophets (and perhaps the rest of the Old Testament) and events in Agrippa’s memory about Jesus and the rise of the Church. Agrippa’s reply, in Acts 26:28, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”, is one of the saddest responses to the Gospel ever uttered. There is no record that Agrippa ever believed.
So Peter encourages the believers to not be ashamed if anyone suffers as a Christian. Paul had written to Timothy not to be ashamed of the Lord or of Paul himself—had Timothy begun to have doubts?—and reminded him using these words: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with (him): if we deny (him), he also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12).”
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.
These last verses are difficult to understand. We are not told with any certainty just what the judgment means or signifies, nor why it begins at the house of God (did Peter mean the Temple or somewhere else?). Definitely the end of those who do not obey the Gospel is eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20) but is he speaking only of those who did not obey the Gospel at that particular moment? He wraps up this passage by reminding the readers that those who suffer according to God’s Will should commit their souls to Him. Thus ends the fourth chapter.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)