1 Peter 4:7–19comment (0)
April 19, 2007
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7–19
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
STAY FOCUSED ON GOD’S PURPOSE
1 Peter 4:7–19
What Should Christians Practice? (7–11)
Peter held up the judgment, “the end of all things,” to take place when Christ returns as the motive for his readers to keep their heads on straight (clear-minded and self-controlled) so they could pray effectively, to keep their hearts open (love one another deeply as God loves them), to practice hospitality, to keep their hands busy in service (use their spiritual gifts), to speak “the very words of God” and to glorify God through Jesus Christ. Fittingly Peter ended the section with a doxology.
There is a question in verse 8 about whose sins are covered. Is it the one who is loved, i.e. love throws a veil over countless sins? Or is it the one who exercises love? If the verse refers to Proverbs 10:12, the idea is that love overlooks and “hides” the faults of others. First-century Jewish theology, however, had the idea that various virtues (Matt. 6:14–15) made up for one’s sins. The context here of judgment may support this second view.
Hospitality (9) was important to the early church (Matt. 23:35, Rom. 12:13, 1 Tim. 3:2, Heb. 13:2, 3 John 5:8). Inns were few and far between, offered poor accommodations, charged high prices and encouraged a low level of morality (frequented as they were by thieves and prostitutes). Traveling Christians counted on finding hospitality in the homes of fellow believers.
How Should Christians Suffer? (12–19)
Persecutions described here were not official Roman actions. No mention is made of accusations, trials, judges, confiscation of property, torture or execution. The persecutions were informal and unofficial — hatred, insults, mob action, destruction of property and so on. Peter spelled out four things Christians must do in meeting suffering.
Accept suffering as normal (12). Jews were used to hatred and abuse. Peter’s Gentile readers found it surprising. Even Jesus said His followers would be opposed (Matt. 24:9). “Fiery ordeal” or “painful trial” should not be taken literally. No one was thrown into a furnace. The language indicates only a fierce experience (cf 1 Pet. 1:7 where persecution was compared to testing gold by fire).
Rejoice because of suffering’s beneficial effects (13–14). To the degree that he or she suffers as representing Christ, a Christian shares the sufferings of Christ, i.e. follows Christ’s example in suffering. Such a sufferer will “visibly demonstrate joy” at Christ’s return. But there is immediate blessing for anyone despised or disgraced because he or she bears the name of Christ. “The Spirit of glory and of God” rest upon that Christian. Probably this expression means “the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God.” The Spirit belongs to every believer. He rests in a special way upon those who endure reproach for Christ (e.g. Stephen in Acts 6:15).
Make sure the suffering is caused by doing right, not wrong (15–16). As in 1 Peter 2:20, the writer insisted that a Christian must never suffer for doing wrong. There is a great difference between suffering as punishment for a wrong deed and suffering only because one is a Christian. No believer should provoke punishment by unchristian activity, either as a murderer, criminal or “doer of evil.” There is no value in suffering as such. Only suffering for doing what is right and for professing Christ carries reward. Incidentally the word “Christian” appears only here and in Acts (11:26, 16:28). Those who worshiped Caesar were called Caesareans; those who worshiped Christ, Christians.
Trust God (17–19). Persecution signals the beginning of the end, the final judgment. This “beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:8–13) falls on the church, the “house of God.” Peter’s point was, “The severity of judgment on those who are righteous (through faith in Christ) means the godless face sterner judgment.” Believers who suffer may place themselves in God’s hands with full assurance that He is able (He is the Maker of heaven and earth) and faithful to guard them. And sufferers must continue to do good.