Notes on 1 Peter 4:1-9

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

1 Peter 4:1, KJV 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;

Peter links the last words of chapter 3 with this new line of thought. He repeats the fact that Christ suffered (see the Gospels for the details) in the flesh—His body—and did it for us, that we might be saved. He further states that each believer should arm him- or herself with the same “mind” or way of thinking. He may have had in mind Paul’s words to the Galatians (Gal 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”, or Romans 6:6.

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.

Galatians 5:19-21 lists several works of the flesh and other passages in Paul’s letters speak to this issue as well (Ephesians 5, and Colossians 3:5, to name two). The writer of Hebrews paraphrases Psalm 40:6-8 in Hebrews 10:7-9, showing how the Lord Jesus Christ did indeed come to fulfill 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:

Peter would have not been a stranger to the “will of the Gentiles”, knowing the Romans were the rulers of the known world (including Judea). He had also been to other places such as Samaria and Antioch and witnessed the Gentile (pagan) lifestyle in those places, perhaps others.

In today’s terms, “lasciviousness” refers to lewd behavior; “revellings”, to boisterous parties; and abominable idolatries, while self-explanatory, speaks of the activities (!) at pagan temples. Antioch had temples to numerous pagan deities so Peter may have heard about the events in those places.

4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with (them) to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of (you):

This could mean that the believers used to do all the things mentioned in verse 3 in the past, but stopped, and aren’t doing it at the then-present time. The unbelievers apparently couldn’t figure out why one of their friends had stopped living an evil lifestyle—“think(ing) it strange”, Peter stated. These unbelievers had a few choices or options: they could ask or inquire why Believer A had changed (but did they really want to hear the answer?), they could approve of the positive change, or, and this seems to be the most applied option, they could speak evil of the believers. Somewhere there is a saying, along the lines of “we condemn what we do not understand”.

5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Paul had written about this in Philippians 2:9-11, “9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of (things) in heaven, and (things) in earth, and (things) under the earth; 11 And (that) every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ (is) Lord, to the glory of God the Father (KJV)”.

John would later write, quoting Jesus, in Revelation 3:9, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” The last, ultimate, judgment is that of the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-15).

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.

The “dead” are most likely those who are “dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, etc.)". The last half of this verse is difficult to understand but the main idea seems to be that those who believe are judged (perhaps condemned?) by those who are alive in the flesh, but still dead spiritually. The believers are alive to God, “quickened (Ephesians 2:1, 2:5; Colossians 2:13)” by the working of the Holy Spirit.

7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

This is the second of three times Peter uses the word “sober” in this letter. The word means more than not being under the influence of alcoholic beverages or other things—please check conservative commentaries or Bible dictionaries to get the bigger picture. He seemed to believe the “end of all things” were “at hand”—he may have felt, when he wrote this letter, that these final events might happen during his own lifetime.

8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

“Charity” means, in this passage, “love”. Compare I Corinthians 13 and other passages where believers are encouraged, if not commanded, to love each other. Jesus Himself gave only a few commandments but one was this: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34 KJV).” Jesus gave a similar command in John 15:12.

Peter’s statement that “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” could possibly refer to God’s incredible, amazing love which not only covered the sins of the whole world but also removed them from us!

God forgave and forgot: dare we do anything less?

9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

This verse may be one of the most overlooked in the Bible. On the one hand, nobody, especially Christians, should be looking for a free handout at every meal. There were and are hard times, believers then and now receiving cruel treatment, and hospitality should be practiced—but wisely. Peter no doubt remembered the early days of the Church when, if a believer had a need, and clearly couldn’t meet it otherwise, others would provide the needed assistance. A profound difference exists, certainly, between a genuine need, catastrophe, emergency, and so forth and either lack of planning or wasteful living. Regardless, we should provide assistance and hospitality to those who genuinely need it, “without grudging”, as Peter stated.

Solomon wrote of what could be called false hospitality. In Proverbs he spoke of sitting down to eat with a ruler and not letting one’s appetite get the better of him (Prov. 23:1-3) and then warned about eating a meal with someone who had an “evil eye (Prov. 23:6-8)”. Some so-called “fellowship meals” have a partial amount of one, and definitely not very much of the other.

Another angle on “hospitality” which may not have been very obvious in Peter’s time was taking care of visiting preachers, missionaries, or other Christian workers. We will never know how many did so in times of suffering—as in Peter’s days—but they did exist. Sadly, several years later, in his three Epistles, John warned believers (like Gaius, see 2 and 3 John) to beware of false teachers, not to let them into their houses and never to bid them “Godspeed (2 John 10-11)”.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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