|<< 1 Peter 4 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This chapter relates principally to the manner in which those to whom the apostle wrote ought to bear their trials, and to the encouragements to a holy life, notwithstanding their persecutions. He had commenced the subject in the preceding chapter, and had referred them particularly to the example of the Saviour. His great solicitude was, that if they suffered, it should not be for crime, and that their enemies should not be able to bring any well-founded accusation against them He would have them pure and harmless, patient and submissive; faithful in the performance of their duties, and confidently looking forward to the time when they should be delivered. He exhorts them, therefore, to the following things:
(a) To arm themselves with the same mind that was in Christ; to consider that the past time of their lives was enough for them to have performed the will of the flesh, and that now it was their duty to be separate from the wicked world, in whatever light the world might regard their conduct - remembering that they who calumniated them must soon give account to God, 1 Peter 4:1-6.
(b) He reminds them that the end of all things was at hand, and that it became them to be sober, and watch unto prayer, 1 Peter 4:7.
(c) He exhorts them to the exercise of mutual love and hospitality - virtues eminently useful in a time of persecution and afflictions, 1 Peter 4:8-9.
(d) He exhorts them to a performance of every duty with seriousness of manner, and fidelity - whether it were in preaching, or in dispensing alms to the poor and needy, 1 Peter 4:10-11.
(e) He tells them not to think it strange that they were called to pass through fiery trials, nor to suppose that any unusual thing had happened to them; reminds them that they only partook of Christ's sufferings, and that it was to be regarded as a favor if anyone suffered as a Christian; and presses upon them the thought that they ought to be careful that none of them suffered for crime, 1 Peter 4:12-16.
(f) He reminds them that the righteous would be saved with difficulty, and that the wicked would certainly be destroyed; and exhorts them, therefore, to commit the keeping of their souls to a faithful Creator, 1 Peter 4:18-19.
1Forasmuch 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;
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh - Since he as a man has died for us. See the notes at 1 Peter 3:18. The design was to set the suffering Redeemer before them as an example in their trials.
Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind - That is, evidently, the same mind that he evinced - a readiness to suffer in the cause of religion, a readiness to die as he had done. This readiness to suffer and die, the apostle speaks of as armour, and having this is represented as being armed. Armour is put on for offensive or defensive purposes in war; and the idea of the apostle here is, that that state of mind when we are ready to meet with persecution and trial, and when we are ready to die, will answer the purpose of armour in engaging in the conflicts and strifes which pertain to us as Christians, and especially in meeting with persecutions and trials. We are to put on the same fortitude which the Lord Jesus had, and this will be the best defense against our foes, and the best security of victory.
For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin - Compare the notes at Romans 6:7. To "suffer in the flesh" is to die. The expression here has a proverbial aspect, and seems to have meant something like this: "when a man is dead, he will sin no more;" referring of course to the present life. So if a Christian becomes dead in a moral sense - dead to this world, dead by being crucified with Christ (see the notes at Galatians 2:20) - he may be expected to cease from sin. The reasoning is based on the idea that there is such a union between Christ and the believer that his death on the cross secured the death of the believer to the world. Compare 2 Timothy 2:11; Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:3.
2That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
That he no longer should live - That is, he has become, through the death of Christ, dead to the world and to the former things which influenced him, in order that he should hereafter live not to the lusts of the flesh. See the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:15.
The rest of his time in the flesh - The remainder of the time that he is to continue in the flesh; that is, that he is to live on the earth.
To the lusts of men - Such lusts as people commonly live for and indulge in. Some of these are enumerated in the following verse.
But to the will of God - In such a manner as God commands. The object of redemption is to rescue us from being swayed by wicked lusts, and to bring us to be conformed wholly to the will of God.
3For 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:
For the time past of our life may suffice us - "We have spent sufficient time in indulging ourselves, and following our wicked propensities, and we should hereafter live in a different manner." This does not mean that it was ever proper thus to live, but that, as we would say, "we have had enough of these things; we have tried them; there is no reason why we should indulge in them any more." An expression quite similar to this occurs in Horace - Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti. Tempus abire tibi est, etc. Epis. ii.213.
To have wrought the will of the Gentiles - This does not mean to be subservient to their will, but to have done what they willed to do; that is, to live as they did. That the Gentiles or pagan lived in the manner immediately specified, see demonstrated in the notes at Romans 1:21-32.
When we walked in lasciviousness - When we lived in the indulgence of corrupt passions - the word walk being often used in the Scriptures to denote the manner of life. On the word "lasciviousness," see the notes at Romans 13:13. The apostle says we, not as meaning that he himself had been addicted to these vices, but as speaking of those who were Christians in general. It is common to say that we lived so and so, when speaking of a collection of persons, without meaning that each one was guilty of all the practices enumerated. See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 4:17, for a similar use of the word we. The use of the word we in this place would show that the apostle did not mean to set himself up as better than they were, but was willing to be identified with them.
Lusts - The indulgence of unlawful desires. See the notes at Romans 1:24.
Excess of wine - The word used here (οἰνοφλυγία oinophlugia) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means "overflowing of wine," (οἶνος oinos, "wine," and φλύω phluō, "to overflow";) then wine-drinking; drunkenness. That this was a common vice need not be proved. Multitudes of those who became Christians had been drunkards, for intemperance abounded in all the pagan world. Compare 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. It should not be inferred here from the English translation, "excess of wine," that wine is improper only when used to excess, or that the moderate use of wine is proper. Whatever may be true on that point, nothing can be determined in regard to it from the use of this word. The apostle had his eye on one thing - on such a use of wine as led to intoxication; such as they had indulged in before their conversion. About the impropriety of that, there could be no doubt. Whether any use of wine, by Christians or other persons, was lawful, was another question. It should be added, moreover, that the phrase "excess of wine" does not precisely convey the meaning of the original. The word excess would naturally imply something more than was needful; or something beyond the proper limit or measure; but no such idea is in the original word. That refers merely to the abundance of wine, without any reference to the inquiry whether there was more than was proper or not. Tyndale renders it, somewhat better: "drunkenness." So Luther, "Trunkenheit."
Revellings - Rendered rioting in Romans 13:13. See the notes at that verse. The Greek word (κῶμος kōmos) occurs only here, and in Romans 13:13, and Galatians 5:21. It means feasting, revel; "a carousing or merrymaking after supper, the guests often sallying into the streets, and going through the city with torches, music, and songs in honor of Bacchus," etc. Robinson, Lexicon. The word would apply to all such noisy and boisterous processions now - scenes wholly inappropriate to the Christian.
Banquetings - The word used here (πότος potos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly drinking; an act of drinking; then a drinking bout; drinking together. The thing forbidden by it is an assembling together for the purpose of drinking. There is nothing in this word referring to eating, or to banqueting, as the term is now commonly employed. The idea in the passage is, that it is improper for Christians to meet together for the purpose of drinking - as wine, toasts, etc. The prohibition would apply to all those assemblages where this is understood to be the main object. It would forbid, therefore, an attendance on all those celebrations in which drinking toasts is understood to be an essential part of the festivities, and all those where hilarity and joyfulness are sought to be produced by the intoxicating bowl Such are not proper places for Christians.
And abominable idolatries - Literally, unlawful idolatries; that is, unlawful to the Jews, or forbidden by their laws. Then the expression is used in the sense of wicked, impious, since what is unlawful is impious and wrong. That the vices here referred to were practiced by the pagan world is well known. See the notes at Romans 1:26-31. That many who became Christians were guilty of them before their conversion is clear from this passage. The fact that they were thus converted shows the power of the gospel, and also that we should not despair in regard to those who are indulging in these vices now. They seem indeed almost to be hopeless, but we should remember that many who became Christians when the gospel was first preached, as well as since, were of this character. If they were reclaimed; if those who had been addicted to the gross and debasing vices referred to here, were brought into the kingdom of God, we should believe that those who are living in the same manner now may also be recovered. From the statement made in this verse, that "the time past of our lives may suffice to have worked the will of the Gentiles," we may remark that the same may be said by all Christians of themselves; the same thing is true of all who are living in sin:
(1) It is true of all who are Christians, and they feel it, that they lived long enough in sin:
(a) They made a fair trial - many of them with ample opportunities; with abundant wealth; with all that the fashionable world can furnish; with all that can be derived from low and gross indulgences. Many who are now Christians had opportunities of living in splendor and ease; many moved in joyful and brilliant circles; many occupied stations of influence, or had brilliant prospects of distinction; many gave indulgence to gross propensities; many were the companions of the vile and the abandoned. Those who are now Christians, take the church at large, have had ample opportunity of making the fullest trial of what sin and the world can furnish.
(b) They all feel that the past is enough for this manner of living. It is "sufficient" to satisfy them that the world cannot furnish what the soul demands. They need a better portion; and they can now see that there is no reason why they should desire to continue the experiment in regard to what the world can furnish. On that unwise and wicked experiment they have expended time enough; and satisfied with that, they desire to return to it no more.
(2) the same thing is true of the wicked - of all who are living for the world. The time past should be regarded as sufficient to make an experiment in sinful indulgences; for:
(a) the experiment has been made by millions before them, and has always failed; and they can hope to find in sin only what has always been found - disappointment, mortification, and despair.
(b) They have made a sufficient experiment. They have never found in those indulgences what they flattered themselves they would find, and they have seen enough to satisfy them that what the immortal soul needs can never be obtained there.
(c) They have spent sufficient time in this hopeless experiment. Life is short. Man has no time to waste. He may soon die - and at whatever period of life anyone may be who is living in sin, we may say to him that he has already wasted enough of life; he has thrown away enough of probation in a fruitless attempt to find happiness where it can never be found.
For any purpose whatever for which anyone could ever suppose it to be desirable to live in sin, the past should suffice. But why should it ever be deemed desirable at all? The fruits of sin are always disappointment, tears, death, despair.
4Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
Wherein they think it strange - In respect to which vices, they who were once your partners and accomplices now think it strange that you no longer unite with them. They do not understand the reasons why you have left them. They regard you as abandoning a course of life which has much to attract and to make life merry, for a severe and gloomy superstition. This is a true account of the feelings which the people of the world have when their companions and friends leave them and become Christians. It is to them a strange and unaccountable thing, that they give up the pleasures of the world for a course of life which to them seems to promise anything but happiness. Even the kindred of the Saviour regarded him as" beside himself," Mark 3:21, and Festus supposed that Paul was mad, Acts 26:24. There is almost nothing which the people of the world so little comprehend as the reasons which influence those with ample means of worldly enjoyment to leave the circles of gaiety and vanity, and to give themselves to the serious employments of religion. The epithets of fool, enthusiast, fanatic, are terms which frequently occur to the heart to denote this, if they are not always allowed to escape from the lips. The reasons why they esteem this so strange, are something like the following:
(1) They do not appreciate the motives which influence those who leave them. They feel that it is proper to enjoy the world, and to make life cheerful, and they do not understand what it is to act under a deep sense of responsibility to God, and with reference to eternity. They live for themselves. They seek happiness as the end and aim of life. They have never been accustomed to direct the mind onward to another world, and to the account which they must soon render at the bar of God. Unaccustomed to act from any higher motives than those which pertain to the present world, they cannot appreciate the conduct of those who begin to live and act for eternity.
(2) they do not yet see the guilt and folly of sinful pleasures. They are not convinced of the deep sinfulness of the human soul, and they think it strange that ethers should abandon a course of life which seems to them so innocent. They do not see why those who have been so long accustomed to these indulgences should have changed their opinions, and why they now regard those tilings as sinful which they once considered to be harmless.
(3) they do not see the force of the argument for religion. Not having the views of the unspeakable importance of religious truth and duty which Christians now have, they wonder that they should break off from the course of life which they formerly pursued, and separate from the mass of their fellow-men. Hence, they sometimes regard the conduct of Christians as amiable weakness; sometimes as superstition; sometimes as sheer folly; sometimes as madness; and sometimes as sourness and misanthropy. In all respects they esteem it strange:
"Lions and beasts of savage name.
Put on the nature of the lamb,
While the wide world esteems it strange,
Gaze, and admire, and hate the change."
That ye run not with them - There may be an allusion here to the well-known orgies of Bacchus, in which his votaries ran as if excited by the furies, and were urged on as if transported with madness. See Ovid, Metam. iii. 529, thus translated by Addison:
"For now, through prostrate Greece, young Bacchus rode,
Whilst howling matrons celebrate the god;
All ranks and sexes to his orgies ran,
To mingle in the pomp and fill the train,"
The language, however, will well describe revels of any sort, and at any period of the world.
To the same excess of riot - The word rendered "excess" (ἀνάχυσις anachusis) means, properly, a pouring out, an affusion; and the idea here is, that all the sources and forms of riot and disorder were poured out together. There was no withholding, no restraint. The most unlimited indulgence was given to the passions. This was the case in the disorder referred to among the ancients, as it is the case now in scenes of midnight revelry. On the meaning of the word riot, see the Ephesians 5:18 note; Titus 1:6 note.
Speaking evil of you - Greek, blaspheming. See the notes at Matthew 9:3. The meaning here is, that they used harsh and reproachful epithets of those who would not unite with them in their revelry. They called them fools, fanatics, hypocrites, etc. The idea is not that they blasphemed God, or that they charged Christians with crime, but that they used language suited to injure the feelings, the character, the reputation of those who would no longer unite with them in the ways of vice and folly.
5Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
Who shall give account - That is, they shall not do this with impunity. They are guilty in this of a groat wrong and they must answer for it to God.
That is ready to judge - That is, "who is prepared to judge" - τῷ ἑτοίμως ἔχοντι tō hetoimōs echonti. See the phrase used in Acts 21:13; "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem." 2 Corinthians 12:14; "the third time I am ready to come to you." Compare the word "ready" - ἑτοιμος hetoimos - in Matthew 22:4, Matthew 22:8; Matthew 24:44; Matthew 25:10; Luke 12:40; Luke 22:33; 1 Peter 1:5. The meaning is, not that he was about to do it, or that the day of judgment was near at hand - whatever the apostle may have supposed to be true on that point - but that he was prepared for it; all the arrangements were made with reference to it; there was nothing to hinder it.
To judge the quick and the dead - The living and the dead; that is, those who shall be alive when he comes, and those in their graves. This is a common phrase to denote all who shall be brought before the bar of God for judgment. See the Acts 10:42 note; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 notes; 2 Timothy 4:1 note. The meaning in this connection seems to be, that they should bear their trials and the opposition which they would meet with patiently, not feeling that they were forgotten, nor attempting to avenge themselves; for the Lord would vindicate them when he should come to judgment, and call those who had injured them to an account for all the wrongs which they had done to the children of God.
6For 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.
For, for this cause - The expression, "For, for this cause," refers to an end to be reached, or an object to be gained, or a reason why anything referred to is done. The end or reason why the thing referred to here, to wit, that "the gospel was preached to the dead," was done, is stated in the subsequent part of the verse to have been "that they might be judged," etc. It was with reference to this, or in order that this might be, that the gospel was preached to them.
Was the gospel preached also to them that are dead - Many, as Doddridge, Whitby, and others, understand this of those who are spiritually dead, that is, the Gentiles, and suppose that the object for which this was done was that "they might be brought to such a state of life as their carnal neighbors would look upon as a kind of condemnation and death" - Doddridge. Others have supposed that it refers to those who had suffered martyrdom in the cause of Christianity; others, that it refers to the sinners of the old world (Saurin), expressing a hope that some of them might be saved; and others, that it means that the Saviour went down and preached to those who are dead, in accordance with one of the interpretations given of 1 Peter 3:19. It seems to me that the most natural and obvious interpretation is to refer it to those who were then dead, to whom the gospel had been preached when living, and who had become true Christians. This is the interpretation proposed by Wetstein, Rosenmuller, Bloomfield, and others. In support of this it may be said:
(1) that this is the natural and obvious meaning of the word dead, which should be understood literally, unless there is some good reason in the connection for departing from the common meaning of the word.
(2) the apostle had just used the word in that sense in the previous verse.
(3) this will suit the connection, and accord with the design of the apostle. He was addressing those who were suffering persecution. It was natural, in such a connection, to refer to those who had died in the faith, and to show, for their encouragement, that though they had been put to death, yet they still lived to God. He therefore says, that the design in publishing the gospel to them was, that though they might be judged by people in the usual manner, and put to death, yet that in respect to their higher and nobler nature, the spirit, they might live unto God. It was not uncommon nor unnatural for the apostles, in writing to those who were suffering persecution, to refer to those who had been removed by death, and to make their condition and example an argument for fidelity and perseverance. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Revelation 14:13.
That they might be judged according to men in the flesh - That is, so far as people are concerned, (κατὰ ἀνθρώπους kata anthrōpous,) or in respect to the treatment which they received from people in the flesh, they were judged and condemned; in respect to God, and the treatment which they received from him, (κατὰ Θεὸν kata Theon,) they would live in spirit. People judged them severely, and put them to death for their religion; God gave them life, and saved them. By the one they were condemned in the flesh - so far as pain, and sorrow, and death could be inflicted on the body; by the other they were made to live in spirit - to be his, to live with him. The word "judged" here, I suppose, therefore, to refer to a sentence passed on them for their religion, consigning them to death for it. There is a particle in the original - μὲν men, "indeed" - which has not been retained in the common translation, but which is quite important to the sense: "that they might indeed be judged in the flesh, but live," etc. The direct object or design of preaching the gospel to them was not that they might be condemned and put to death by man, but this was indeed or in fact one of the results in the way to a higher object.
But live according to God - In respect to God, or so far as he was concerned. By him they would not be condemned. By him they would be made to live - to have the true life. The gospel was preached to them in order that so far as God was concerned, so far as their relation to him was concerned, so far as he would deal with them, they might live. The word live here seems to refer to the whole life that was the consequence of their being brought under the power of the gospel:
(a) that they might have spiritual life imparted to them;
(b) that they might live a life of holiness in this world;
(c) that they might live hereafter in the world to come.
In one respect, and so far as people were concerned, their embracing the gospel was followed by death; in another respect, and so far as God was concerned, it was followed by life. The value and permanence of the latter, as contrasted with the former, seems to have been the thought in the mind of the apostle in encouraging those to whom he wrote to exercise patience in their trials, and to show fidelity in the service of their master.
In the spirit - In their souls, as contrasted with their body. In respect to that - to the flesh - they were put to death; in respect to their souls - their higher natures - they were made truly to live. The argument, then, in this verse is, that in the trials which we endure on account of religion, we should remember the example of those who have suffered for it, and should remember why the gospel was preached to them. It was in a subordinate sense, indeed, that they might glorify God by a martyr's death; but in a higher sense, that in this world and the next they might truly live. The flesh might suffer in consequence of their embracing the gospel that was preached to them, but the soul would live. Animated by their example, we should be willing to suffer in the flesh, if we may for ever live with God.
7But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
But the end of all things is at hand - This declaration is also evidently designed to support and encourage them in their trials, and to excite them to lead a holy life, by the assurance that the end of all things was drawing near. The phrase, "the end of all things," would naturally refer to the end of the world; the winding up of human affairs. It is not absolutely certain, however, that the apostle used it here in this sense. It might mean that so far as they were concerned, or in respect to them, the end of all things drew near. Death is to each one the end of all things here below; the end of his plans and of his interest in all that pertains to sublunary affairs. Even if the phrase did originally and properly refer to the end of the world, it is probable that it would soon come to denote the end of life in relation to the affairs of each individual; since, if it was believed that the end of the world was near, it must consequently be believed that the termination of the earthly career of each one also drew near to a close.
It is possible that the latter signification may have come ultimately to predominate, and that Peter may have used it in this sense without referring to the other. Compare the notes at 2 Peter 3:8-14, for his views on this subject. See also the notes at Romans 13:11-12. The word rendered "is at hand," (ἤγγικε ēngike,) may refer either to proximity of place or time, and it always denotes that the place or the time referred to was not far off. In the former sense, as referring to nearness of place, see Matthew 21:1; Mark 11:1; Luke 7:12; Luke 15:25; Luke 18:35, Luke 18:40; Luke 19:29, Luke 19:37, Luke 19:41; Luke 24:15; Acts 9:3; Acts 10:9; Acts 21:33; in the latter sense, as referring to time as being near, see Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:7; Matthew 21:34; Matthew 26:45; Mark 1:15; Luke 21:20, Luke 21:28; Acts 7:17; Romans 13:12; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Peter 4:7. The idea as applied to time, or to an approaching event, is undoubtedly that it is close by; it is not far off; it will soon occur. If this refers to the end of the world, it would mean that it was soon to occur; if to death, that this was an event which could not be far distant - perhaps an event that was to be hastened by their trials. The fact that it is such language as we now naturally address to people, saying that in respect to them "the end of all things is at hand," shows that it cannot be demonstrated that Peter did not use it in the same sense, and consequently that it cannot be proved that he meant to teach that the end of the world was then soon to occur.
Be ye therefore sober - Serious; thoughtful; considerate. Let a fact of so much importance make a solemn impression on your mind, and preserve you from frivolity, levity, and vanity. See the word explained in the notes at 1 Timothy 3:2.
And watch unto prayer - Be looking out for the end of all things in such a manner as to lead you to embrace all proper opportunities for prayer. Compare the notes at Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:41. The word rendered watch, means to be sober, temperate, abstinent, especially in respect to wine; then watchful, circumspect. The important truth, then, taught by this passage is, "that the near approach, of the end of all things should make us serious and prayerful."
I. The end may be regarded as approaching. This is true:
(1) of all things; of the winding up of the affairs of this world. It is constantly drawing nearer and nearer, and no one can tell how soon it will occur. The period is wisely hidden from the knowledge of all people, (see Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7,) among other reasons, in order that we may be always ready. No man can tell certainly at what time it will come; no man can demonstrate that it may not come at any moment. Everywhere in the Scriptures it is represented that it will come at an unexpected hour, as a thief in the night, and when the mass of people shall be slumbering in false security, Matthew 24:37-39, Matthew 24:42-43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Luke 21:34.
(2) it is near in relation to each one of us. The day of our death cannot be far distant; it may be very near. The very next thing that we may have to do, may be to lie down and die.
II. It is proper that such a nearness of the end of all things should lead us to be serious, and to pray.
(1) to be serious; for:
(a) the end of all things, in regard to us, is a most important event. It closes our probation. It fixes our character. It seals up our destiny. It makes all ever onward in character and doom unchangeable.
(b) We are so made as to be serious in view of such events. God has so constituted the mind, that when we lose property, health, or friends; when we look into a grave, or are beset with dangers; when we are in the room of the dying or the dead, we are serious and thoughtful. It is unnatural not to be so. Levity and frivolity on such occasions are as contrary to all the finer and better feelings of our nature as they are to the precepts of the Bible.
(c) There are advantages in seriousness of mind. It enables us to take better views of things, Ecclesiastes 7:2-3. A calm, sober, sedate mind is the best for a contemplation of truth, and for looking at things as they are.
(2) to be watchful unto prayer:
(a) People naturally pray when they suppose that the end of all things is coming. An earthquake induces them to pray. An eclipse, or any other supposed prodigy, leads people to pray if they suppose the end of the world is drawing near. A shipwreck, or any other sudden danger, leads them to pray, Psalm 107:28. So people often pray in sickness who have never prayed in days of health.
(b) It is proper to do it. Death is an important event, and in anticipation of such an event we should pray. Who can help us then but God? Who can conduct us through the dark valley but he? Who can save us amidst the wrecks and ruins of the universe but he? Who can dissipate our fears, and make us calm amidst the convulsions of dissolving nature, but God? As that event, therefore, may come upon us at any hour, it should lead us to constant prayer; and the more so because, when it comes, we may be in no state of mind to pray. The posture in which we should feel that it would be most appropriate that the messenger of death should find us, would be that of prayer.
8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
And above all things - More than all things else.
Have fervent charity among yourselves - Warm, ardent love toward each other. On the nature of charity, see the notes at 1 Corinthians 13:1. The word rendered "fervent," means properly extended; then intent, earnest, fervent.
For charity shall cover the multitude of sins - Love to another shall so cover or hide a great many imperfections in him, that you will not notice them. This passage is quoted from Proverbs 10:12; "Love covereth all sins." For the truth of it we have only to appeal to the experience of everyone:
(a) True love to another makes us kind to his imperfections, charitable toward his faults, and often blind even to the existence of faults. We would not see the imperfections of those whom we love; and our attachment for what we esteem their real excellencies, makes us insensible to their errors.
(b) If we love them we are ready to cover over their faults, even those which we may see in them. Of love the Christian poet says:
"Tis gentle, delicate, and kind,
To faults compassionate or blind.
The passage before us is not the same in signification as that in James 5:20, "He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." See the notes at that passage. That passage means, that by the conversion of another the sins of him who is converted shall be covered over, or not brought to judgment for condemnation; that is, they shall be covered over so far as God is concerned: this passage means that, under the influence of love, the sins of another shall be covered over so far as we are concerned; that is, they shall be unobserved or forgiven. The language used here does not mean, as the Romanists maintain, that "charity shall procure us pardon for a multitude of sins;" for, besides that such a doctrine is contrary to the uniform teachings of the Scriptures elsewhere, it is a departure from the obvious meaning of the passage. The subject on which the apostle is treating is the advantage of love in our conduct toward others, and this he enforces by saying that it will make us kind to their imperfections, and lead us to overlook their faults. It is nowhere taught in the Scriptures that our "charity" to others will be an atonement or expiation for our own offences. If it could be so, the atonement made by Christ would have been unnecessary. Love, however, is of inestimable value in the treatment of others; and imperfect as we are, and liable to go astray, we all have occasion to cast ourselves on the charity of our brethren, and to avail ourselves much and often of that "love which covers over a multitude of sins."
9Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
Use hospitality one to another - On the duty of hospitality, see the Romans 12:13 note; Hebrews 13:2 note.
Without grudging - Greek, "without murmurs;" that is, without complaining of the hardship of doing it; of the time, and expense, and trouble required in doing it. The idea of grudging, in the common sense of that word - that is, of doing it unwillingly, or regretting the expense, and considering it as ill-bestowed, or as not producing an equivalent of any kind - is not exactly the idea here. It is that we are to do it without murmuring or complaining. It greatly enhances the value of hospitality, that it be done on our part with entire cheerfulness. One of the duties involved in it is to make a guest happy; and this can be done in no other way than by showing him that he is welcome.
10As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
As every man hath received the gift - The word rendered "the gift" (χάρισμα charisma,) in the Greek, without the article, means "endowment" of any kind, but especially that conferred by the Holy Spirit. Here it seems to refer to every kind of endowment by which we can do good to others; especially every kind of qualification furnished by religion by which we can help others. It does not refer here particularly to the ministry of the word - though it is applicable to that, and includes that - but to all the gifts and graces by which we can contribute to the welfare of others. All this is regarded as a gift, or charisma, of God. It is not owing to ourselves, but is to be traced to him. See the word explained in the notes at 1 Timothy 4:14.
Even so minister the same one to another - In anything by which you can benefit another. Regard What you have and they have not as a gift bestowed upon you by God for the common good, and be ready to impart it as the needs of ethers require. The word "minister" here (διακονοῦντες diakonountes) would refer to any kind of ministering, whether by counsel, by advice, by the supply of the needs of the poor, or by preaching. It has here no reference to any one of these exclusively; but means, that in whatever God has favored us more than others, we should be ready to minister to their needs. See 2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 8:19-20.
As good stewards - Regarding yourselves as the mere stewards of God; that is, as appointed by him to do this work for him, and entrusted by him with what is needful to benefit others. He intends to do them good, but he means to do it through your instrumentality, and has entrusted to you as a steward what he designed to confer on them. This is the true idea, in respect to any special endowments of talent, property, or grace, which we may have received from God. Compare the 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 notes; Luke 16:1-2, Luke 16:8 notes.
Of the manifold grace of God - The grace or favor of God evinced in many ways, or by a variety of gifts. His favors are not confined to one single thing; as, for example, to talent for doing good by preaching; but are extended to a great many things by which we may do good to others - influence, property, reputation, wisdom, experience. All these are to be regarded as his gifts; all to be employed in doing good to others as we have opportunity.
11If 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.
If any man speak - As a preacher, referring here particularly to the office of the ministry.
Let him speak as the oracles of God - As the oracles of God speak; to wit, in accordance with the truth which God has revealed, and with an impressive sense of the responsibility of delivering a message from him. The word rendered "oracles" (λόγια logia) means, properly, something "spoken" or "uttered"; then anything uttered by God - a divine communication - a revelation. See the Romans 3:2 note; Hebrews 5:12 note. See the general duty here inculcated illustrated at length in the notes at Romans 12:6-8. The passage here has a strong resemblance to the one in Romans.
If any man minister - διακονεῖ diakonei. This may refer either, so far as the word is concerned, to the office of a deacon, or to any service which one renders to another. See 1 Peter 4:10. The word commonly refers to service in general; to attendance on another, or to aid rendered to another; to the distribution of alms, etc. It seems probable that the word here does not refer to the office of a deacon as such, because the speciality of that office was to take charge of the poor of the church, and of the funds provided for them, (see Acts 6:2-3;) but the apostle here says that they to whom he referred should "minister as of the ability which God giveth," which seems to imply that it was rather to distribute what was their own, than what was committed to them by the church. The word may refer to any aid which we render to others in the church, as distributing alms, attending on the sick, etc. Compare the notes at Romans 12:7-8.
As of the ability which God giveth - In regard to property, talent, strength, influence, etc. This is the limit of all obligation. No one is bound to go beyond his ability; everyone is required to come up to it. Compare Mark 14:8; Luke 17:10.
That God in all things may be glorified - That he may be honored; to wit, by our doing all the good we can to others, and thus showing the power of his religion. See the notes at 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Through Jesus Christ - That is, as the medium through whom all those holy influences come by which God is honored.
To whom - That is, to God; for he is the main subject of the sentence. The apostle says that in all things he is to be glorified by us, and then adds in this doxology that he is worthy to be thus honored. Compare Revelation 1:6; See the notes at 2 Timothy 4:18. Many, however, suppose that the reference here is to the Son of God. That it would be true of him, and appropriate, see the notes at Romans 9:5.
12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Beloved, think it not strange - Do not consider it as anything which you had no reason to expect; as anything which may not happen to others also.
Concerning the fiery trial which is to try you - Referring, doubtless, to some severe persecution which was then impending. We have not the means of determining precisely what this was. The word rendered "fiery trial" (πυρώσει purōsei) occurs only here and in Revelation 18:9, Revelation 18:18; in both of which latter places it is rendered burning. It means, properly, a being on fire, burning, conflagration; and then any severe trial. It cannot be demonstrated from this word that they were literally to suffer by fire, but it is clear that some heavy calamity was before them.
As though some strange thing happened unto you - Something unusual; something which did not occur to others.
13But 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.
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings - That is, sufferings of the same kind that he endured, and inflicted for the same reasons. Compare Colossians 1:24; James 1:2; See the notes at Matthew 5:12. The meaning here is, that they were to regard it as a matter of rejoicing that they were identified with Christ, even in suffering. See this sentiment illustrated at length in the notes at Philippians 3:10.
That, when his glory shall be revealed - At the day of judgment. See the notes at Matthew 26:30.
Ye may be glad also with exceeding joy - Being admitted to the rewards which he will then confer on his people. Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:19. Every good man will have joy when, immediately at death, he is received into the presence of his Saviour; but his joy will be complete only when, in the presence of assembled worlds, he shall hear the sentence which shall confirm him in happiness forever.
14If 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.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye - That is, in his cause, or on his account. See the notes at Matthew 5:11. The sense of the word "happy" here is the same as "blessed" in Matthew 5:3-5, etc. It means that they were to regard their condition or lot as a blessed one; not that they would find personal and positive enjoyment on being reproached and vilified. It would be a blessed condition, because it would be like that of their Saviour; would show that they were his friends; would be accompanied with rich spiritual influences in the present world; and would be followed by the rewards of heaven.
For the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you - The glorious and Divine Spirit. There is no doubt that there is reference here to the Holy Spirit; and the meaning is, that they might expect that that Spirit would rest upon them, or abide with them, if they were persecuted for the cause of Christ. There may be some allusion here, in the language, to the fact that the Spirit of God descended and abode on the Saviour at his baptism John 1:33; and, in like manner, they might hope to have the same Spirit resting on them. The essential idea is, that, if they were called to suffer in the cause of the Redeemer, they would not be left or forsaken. They might hope that God would impart his Spirit to them in proportion to their sufferings in behalf of religion, and that they would have augmented joy and peace. This is doubtless the case with those who suffer persecution, and this is the secret reason why they are so sustained in their trials. Their persecutions are made the reason of a much more copious effusion of the Spirit on their souls. The same principle applies, doubtless, to all the forms of trial which the children of God pass through; and in sickness, bereavement, loss of property, disappointment in their worldly plans, and death itself, they may hope that larger measures of the Spirit's influences will rest upon them. Hence, it is often gain to the believer to suffer.
On their part - So far as they are concerned; or by them.
He is evil spoken of - That is, the Holy Spirit. They only blaspheme him, (Greek;) they reproach his sacred influences by their treatment of you and your religion.
But on your part he is glorified - By your manner of speaking of him, and by the honor done to him in the patience evinced in your trials, and in your purity of life.
15But 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.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer - If you must be called to suffer, see that it be not for crime. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 3:17. They were to be careful that their sufferings were brought upon them only in consequence of their religion, and not because any crime could be laid to their charge. If even such charges were brought against them, there should be no pretext furnished for them by their lives.
As an evil doer - As a wicked man; or as guilty of injustice and wrong toward others.
Or as a busy-body in other men's matters - The Greek word used here ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος allotrioepiskopos occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, an inspector of strange things, or of the things of others. Prof. Robinson (Lexicon) supposes that the word may refer to one who is "a director of heathenism;" but the more obvious signification, and the one commonly adopted, is that which occurs in our translation - one who busies himself with what does not concern him; that is, one who pries into the affairs of another; who attempts to control or direct them as if they were his own. In respect to the vice here condemned, see the notes at Philippians 2:4. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:11, and 1 Timothy 5:13.
16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian - Because he is a Christian; if he is persecuted on account of his religion. This was often done, and they had reason to expect that it might occur in their own case. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 3:17. On the import of the word Christian, and the reasons why the name was given to the disciples of the Lord Jesus, see the notes at Acts 11:26.
Let him not be ashamed -
(1) Ashamed of religion so as to refuse to suffer on account of it.
(2) ashamed that he is despised and maltreated.
He is to regard his religion as every way honorable, and all that fairly results from it in time and eternity as in every respect desirable. He is not to be ashamed to be called a Christian; he is not to be ashamed of the doctrines taught by his religion; he is not to be ashamed of the Saviour whom he professes to love; he is not to be ashamed of the society and fellowship of those who are true Christians, poor and despised though they may be; he is not to be ashamed to perform any of the duties demanded by his religion; he is not to be ashamed to have his name cast out, and himself subjected to reproach and scorn. A man should be ashamed only of that which is wrong. He should glory in that which is right, whatever may be the consequences to himself. Christians now, though not subjected to open persecution, are frequently reproached by the world on account of their religion; and though the rack may not be employed, and the fires of martyrdom are not enkindled, yet it is often true that one who is a believer is called to "suffer as a Christian." He may be reviled and despised. His views may be regarded as bigoted, narrow, severe. Opprobrious epithets, on account of his opinions, may be applied to him. His former friends and companions may leave him because he has become a Christian. A wicked father, or a frivilous and worldly mother, may oppose a child, or a husband may revile a wife, on account of their religion. In all these cases, the same spirit essentially is required which was enjoined on the early Christian martyrs. We are never to be ashamed of our religion, whatever results may follow from our attachment to it. Compare the notes at Romans 1:16.
But let him glorify God on this behalf - Let him praise God that he is deemed not unworthy to suffer in such a cause. It is a matter of thankfulness:
(1) that they may have this evidence that they are true Christians;
(2) that they may desire the advantages which may result from suffering as Christ did, and in his cause. See the notes at Acts 5:41, where the sentiment here expressed is fully illustrated. Compare the Philippians 3:10 note; Colossians 1:24 note.
17For 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?
For the time is come - That is, this is now to be expected. There is reason to think that this trial will now occur, and there is a propriety that it should be made. Probably the apostle referred to some indications then apparent that this was about to take place.
That judgment must begin - The word "judgment" here (κρίμα krima) seems to mean "the severe trial which would determine character." It refers to such calamities as would settle the question whether there was any religion, or would test the value of that which was professed. It was to "begin" at the house of God, or be applied to the church first, in order that the nature and worth of religion might be seen. The reference is, doubtless, to some fearful calamity which would primarily fall on the "house of God;" that is, to some form of persecution which was to be let loose upon the church.
At the house of God - Benson, Bloomfield, and many others, suppose that this refers to the Jews, and to the calamities that were to come around the temple and the holy city about to be destroyed. But the more obvious reference is to Christians, spoken of as the house or family of God. There is probably in the language here an allusion to Ezekiel 9:6; "Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; and begin at my sanctuary." Compare Jeremiah 25:29. But the language used here by the apostle does not denote literally the temple, or the Jews, but those who were in his time regarded as the people of God - Christians - the church. So the phrase (בּית יהוה bēyt Yahweh) "house of Yahweh" is used to denote the family or people of God, Numbers 12:7; Hosea 8:1. Compare also 1 Timothy 3:15 and the note on that verse. The sense here is, therefore, that the series of calamities referred to were to commence with the church, or were to come first upon the people of God. Schoettgen here aptly quotes a passage from the writings of the Rabbis: "Punishments never come into the world unless the wicked are in it; but they do not begin unless they commence first with the righteous."
And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? - If God brings such trials upon us who have obeyed his gospel, what have we not reason to suppose he will bring upon those who are yet in their sins? And if we are selected first as the objects of this visitation, if there is that in us which requires such a method of dealing, what are we to suppose will occur in the end with those who make no pretensions to religion, but are yet living in open transgression? The sentiment is, that if God deals thus strictly with his people; if there is that in them which makes the visitations of his judgment proper on them, there is a certainty that they who are not his people, but who live in iniquity, will in the end be overwhelmed with the tokens of severer wrath. Their punishment hereafter will be certain; and who can tell what will be the measure of its severity? Every wicked man, when he sees the trials which God brings upon his own people, should tremble under the apprehension of the deeper calamity which will hereafter come upon himself. We may remark:
(1) that the judgments which God brings upon his own people make it certain that the wicked will be punished. If he does not spare his own people, why should he spare others?
(2) the punishment of the wicked is merely delayed. It begins at the house of God. Christians are tried, and are recalled from their wanderings, and are prepared by discipline for the heavenly world. The punishment of the wicked is often delayed to a future world, and in this life they have almost uninterrupted prosperity, but in the end it will be certain. See Psalm 73:1-19. The punishment will come in the end. It cannot be evaded. Sooner or later justice requires that the wicked should be visited with the expressions of divine displeasure on account of sin, and in the future world there will be ample time for the infliction of all the punishment which they deserve.
18And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
And if the righteous scarcely be saved - If they are saved with difficulty. The word used here (μόλις molis) occurs in the following places: Acts 14:18, "scarce restrained they the people;" Acts 27:7, "and scarce were come over against Cnidus;" 1 Peter 4:8, "and hardly passing it;" 1 Peter 4:16, "we had much work to come by the boat" - literally, we were able with difficulty to get the boat; Romans 5:7, "scarcely for a righteous man will one die;" and in the passage before us. The word implies that there is some difficulty, or obstruction, so that the thing came very near not to happen, or so that there was much risk about it. Compare Luke 13:31. The apostle in this passage seems to have had his eye on a verse in Proverbs, Proverbs 11:31, and he has merely expanded and illustrated it: "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." By the question which he employs, he admits that the righteous are saved with difficulty, or that there are perils which jeopard their salvation, and which are of such a kind as to make it very near not to happen. They would indeed be saved, but it would be in such a manner as to show that the circumstances were such as to render it, to human appearances, doubtful and problematical. This peril may have arisen from many circumstances:
(a) The difficulty of forming a plan of salvation, involving a degree of wisdom wholly beyond that of man, and of such a character that beforehand it would have been problematical and doubtful whether it could be. There was but one way in which it could be done. But what human wisdom could have devised that, or thought of it? There was but one being who could save. But who would have supposed that the Son of God would have been willing to become a man, and to die on a cross to do it? If he had been unwilling to come and die, the righteous could not have been saved.
(b) The difficulty of bringing those who are saved to a willingness to accept of salvation. All were disposed alike to reject it; and there were many obstacles in the human heart, arising from pride, and selfishness, and unbelief, and the love of sin, which must be overcome before any would accept of the offer of mercy. There was but one agent who could overcome these things, and induce any of the race to embrace the gospel - the Holy Spirit. But who could have anticipated that the Spirit of God would have undertaken to renew and sanctify the polluted human heart? Yet, if he had failed, there could have been no salvation for any.
(c) The difficulty of keeping them from falling away amidst the temptations and allurements of the world. Often it seems to be wholly doubtful whether those who have been converted will be kept to eternal life. They have so little religion; they yield so readily to temptation; they conform so much to the world; they have so little strength to bear up under trials, that it seems as if there was no power to preserve them and bring them to heaven. They are saved when they seemed almost ready to yield everything.
(d) The difficulty of rescuing them from the power of the great enemy of souls. The adversary has vast power, and he means, if be can, to destroy those who are the children of God. Often they are in most imminent danger, and it seems to be a question of doubtful issue whether they will not be entirely overcome and perish. It is no small matter to rescue a soul from the dominion of Satan, and to bring it to heaven, so that it shall be eternally safe. Through the internal struggles and the outward conflicts of life, it seems often a matter of doubt whether with all their effort they will be saved; and when they are saved, they will feel that they have been rescued from thousands of dangers, and that there has been many a time when they have stood on the very verge of ruin, and when, to human appearances, it was scarcely possible that they could be saved.
Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? - What hope is there of their salvation? The meaning is, that they would certainly perish; and the doctrine in the passage is, that the fact that the righteous are saved with so much difficulty is proof that the wicked will not be saved at all. This follows, because:
(a) there is the same difficulty in their salvation which there was in the salvation of those who became righteous; the same difficulty arising from the love of sin, the hardness of the heart, and the arts and power of the adversary.
(b) No one can be saved without effort, and in fact the righteous are saved only by constant and strenuous effort on their part.
But the wicked make no effort for their own salvation. They make use of no means for it; they put forth no exertions to obtain it; they do not make it a part of their plan of life. How, then, can they be saved? But where will they appear? I:answer:
(a) they will appear somewhere. They will not cease to exist when they pass away from this world. Not one of them will be annihilated; and though they vanish from the earth, and will be seen here no more, yet they will make their appearance in some other part of the universe.
(b) They will appear at the judgment-seat, as all others will, to receive their sentence according to the deeds done in the body. It follows from this:
(1) that the wicked will certainly be destroyed. If the righteous are scarcely saved, how can they be?
(2) that there will be a state of future punishment, for this refers to what is to occur in the future world.
(3) that the punishment of the wicked will be eternal, for it is the opposite of what is meant by saved. The time will never come when it will be said that they are saved! But if so, their punishment must be eternal!
19Wherefore 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.
Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God - That is, who endure the kind of sufferings that he, by his providence, shall appoint. Compare 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:15-16.
Commit the keeping of their souls - to him. Since there is so much danger; since there is no one else that can keep them; and since he is a Being so faithful, let them commit all their interests to him. Compare Psalm 37:5. The word "souls" here (ψυχὰς psuchas) is equivalent to themselves. They were to leave everything in his hand, faithfully performing every duty, and not being anxious for the result.
In well doing - Constantly doing good, or seeking to perform every duty in a proper manner. Their business was always to do right; the result was to be left with God. A man who is engaged always in well-doing, may safely commit all his interest to God.
As unto a faithful Creator - God may be trusted, or confided in, in all His attributes, and in all the relations which He sustains as Creator, Redeemer, Moral Governor, and Judge. In these, and in all other respects, we may come before Him with confidence, and put unwavering trust in Him. As Creator particularly; as one who has brought us, and all creatures and things into being, we may be sure that he will be "faithful" to the design which he had in view. From that design he will never depart until it is fully accomplished. He abandons no purpose which he has formed, and we may be assured that he will faithfully pursue it to the end. As our Creator we may come to Him, and look to Him for His protection and care. He made us. He had a design in our creation. He so endowed us that we might live forever, and so that we might honor and enjoy Him. He did not create us that we might be miserable; nor does He wish that we should be. He formed us in such a way that, if we choose, we may be eternally happy. In that path in which He has appointed us to go, if we pursue it, we may be sure of His help and protection. If we really aim to accomplish the purposes for which we were made, we may be certain that He will show Himself to be a "faithful Creator;" one in whom we may always confide. And even though we have wandered from Him, and have long forgotten why we were made, and have loved and served the creature more than the Creator, we may be sure, if we will return to Him, that He will not forget the design for which He originally made us. As our Creator we may still confide in Him. Redeemed by the blood of His Son, and renewed by His Spirit after the image of Him who erected us, we may still go to Him as our Creator, and may pray that even yet the high and noble ends for which we were made may be accomplished in us. Doing this, we shall find Him as true to that purpose as though we had never sinned.