And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? —1 Peter 4:18
Text: 1 Peter 4:1-19 (KJV)
Living for God’s Glory
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; 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. 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, retellings, banqueting, and abominable idolatries: 4Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 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.
7But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 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.
Suffering as Christians
12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 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. 14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God trusteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 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. 16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 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? 18And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 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.
Some 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians are facing greater persecution for their faith. How should they respond? How should we respond to suffering today? The apostle Peter writes this letter both to comfort believers and to encourage them to stay strong. He urges them to put all their hope in their perfect future with Christ and obey and trust Him in the present, even in their suffering. Christ suffered greatly; now, the Christ-followers can follow Him even in this, showing His grace and power in their hopefulness, obedience, and faith.
Peter’s letter to Christians is about living in the world while suffering for faith in Christ. Thus far, he has assured Christians that their future is secure with God. We are His holy people, set apart for His purposes. Christians are called to live in submission to every human authority. In chapter 4, Peter writes that we should take Jesus’ attitude toward suffering and expect it in this life, avoiding mind-numbing sin while loving each other earnestly. God may use suffering in this life to refine our faith, but the end of all things is near.
In chapter 4, Peter urges Christians to be fiercely committed to fulfilling the purpose of our lives in Christ. Prior chapters made the case that we are a “holy people.” We have been rescued from meaningless lives and set apart from the world to be used for God’s purpose. Since believers have these new, eternal lives in Christ, we must begin to think like Jesus, including Jesus’ way of thinking about suffering.
Jesus expected persecution along the way to fulfilling His mission on earth. Peter is clear that we should expect to suffer, as well. This is part of completing the mission God has given us. We should be ready and willing to suffer for Christ, as He did for us. In doing so, we will set the course of our lives away from sin, especially the mind-numbing sins of endless pleasure-seeking.
The path of submission to Christ and the path of self-serving pleasure go in opposite directions. Those who still indulge in drunkenness, partying, and idolatry will not understand or accept the Christian’s lifestyle. They will resent the fact that Christians refuse to participate. According to Peter, refusal to do what unbelievers do will result in criticism and condemnation from them. This is especially true when the believer is used to commit those very sins but has been changed by Christ.
But Peter offers a warning and encouragement: The end of all things is drawing near, and the Judge is coming. Instead of living for pleasure, we must be cautious to stay clear-minded and focused so that we can pray faithfully. We must strain hard to love each other well. We must share and serve and speak to each other with God’s gifts, with His words, with His strength.
Again, we should not be surprised when suffering becomes intense. Instead, we should look ahead to the moment when Christ’s glory will be revealed to all the universes. We should see our current suffering as something temporary, which we can still rejoice in. Our pain in the here-and-now will contribute to that eternal moment of glory. So, instead of feeling shame when we receive insults for being Christians, we should welcome them as badges of honor that bring glory to God.
Peter concludes the chapter with a complex idea: God may use suffering to “judge” or discipline His children. This is not a punishment for the believer’s sin, which has been fully paid for through the death of Christ on the cross. Instead, this is to draw us closer to Him and away from all the destructive things in the world that might draw us in.
Note: The Scripture used throughout is from the KJV Bible unless otherwise noted.
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; 2That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but the will of God.
(v.1) The same attitude (lit. ‘intention’) appears, from the context, to refer to Christ’s experience of suffering. His sufferings led to the death of His flesh and enabled His Spirit to enter a new mode of existence. This should also be seen in the life of a believer. He who has suffered need not refer to those who undergo physical suffering but includes all who, in the mystical union symbolized by baptism, share the sufferings of Christ. This union should be made effective by claiming deliverance from sin and a new life of service to God. The plural desires suggest the diversity of interests pulling persons in different directions (v 3 gives a catalog of some of these). By contrast, God’s will in the singular shows that only in obedience to God can the human personality be genuinely and integrated.
“Forasmuch” refers us back, I believe, to 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Verses 1 Peter 4:1 and 1 Peter 3:18 go together, and this is a reminder that in His human body Christ not only endured pain, but He was put to death in the flesh.
Christ brought an end to His relation to the sins of man when he died on the cross because He bore the penalty for sins in His own body. We are told back in 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Three times (1 Pe. 2:24; 3:18; 4:1), Peter says that it was in His flesh and in His body that Christ paid the penalty for man’s sin. That leads me to say this: Christ did not die in sin, nor did He die under sin, but He died to sin. He took my place, He took your place, and He paid the penalty for our sins.
From that point on, Christ will not come back to die for sin. He will no longer have any relationship to sin Himself because He arose from the dead. When He came back from the dead, He went in a glorified body. The Lord Jesus Christ is entirely devoted to the service of God, for He is God, and He enjoys full and unrestricted access to God and all creation.
Now Christ can revamp this benefit to us. Peter tells us, “arm yourselves likewise with the same mind.” “The same mind” actually means “the same thought.” Some people have said that it means resolution, but that is not the idea. This refers to the thought that leads to resolution. This is what Paul spoke of when he said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
“Christ has suffered for us in the flesh,” Peter says, and those of us who have suffered in the flesh has, “ceased from sin.” The translation of the word ceased is a very unsatisfactory one— “to cease or stop.” Thayer’s lexicon of the New Testament translates this as “hath got release.” In other words, “if you have suffered in the flesh, you’ve got release from sin.”
Just what does Peter mean by this? First, I will say that God will use suffering to keep you from sin. I am confident that many of us have experienced that personally. Suffering will keep us from sin, but Peter is saying more than that here. Peter says we have release from sin. That means that God has made an adequate provision for you and me to live the Christian life. In this verse, Dr. Griffin has said that Peter puts Paul’s Romans 6 into a nutshell of just one verse. Roman’s 6 is that Chapter that speaks of God's provision for you and me to live the Christian life.
Dear Christian friend, do you think if you have been born again, if you are a child of God with a new nature, that you can go on living in sin? This is something on which I agree with the Pentecostals; they are preaching a doctrine that has been forgotten—the doctrine of holiness. They emphasize that believers should live a holy life for God today. Friend, you cannot be a child of God and go out and live in a pigpen. Let us face it—if you do—you are a pig. Pigs live in pigpens, and they love it, but sons do not love the pigpen.
Peter says that God has made every provision for you: you are born again, indwelt by the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit, identified with Christ, and you can now live life by the power of the Spirit of God. In Roman’s 7, Paul shows how the Christian is defeated when he lives in the flesh, but in Roman’s 8, he tells how God has provided the Holy Spirit so that we might live by the power of the Holy Spirit. God has made every arraignment for you and me not to live in sin today. It would be impossible for us to live in sin. Oh, put this down for sure; he will not stay in the pigpen. One day he has to say, “I will arise and go to my father . . . (Lk. 15:18).
(v. 2) Paul speaks very strongly of this connection to Romans 8: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). What does Paul mean when he says, “to be carnally minded is death”? Do you lose your salvation? No, it means you are dead to any fellowship with God. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” (1 Jn. 1:6). Friend, you cannot live in sin and have fellowship with God. Sin is what is keeping people away from the Word of God today. I have to confess that Christians are a minority, and in teaching through the entire Bible as I do, I appeal only to a minority of the minority. Many folks are trying to find a shortcut to living the Christian life, and there is no shortcut. God says that He will use suffering in your life to keep you from sin. “That He should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” We no longer take life for granted, for we have suffered, and God will use that suffering to keep us from sin.
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, raveling’s, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
(3) Christians were urged to live for the present in God’s will because old habits were outdated. In blunt language, Peter stressed that there must be a definite break from what pagans choose to do (lit. “the desire of the Gentiles”) the wasted years of lasciviousness, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing . . . and idolatry (see Gal. 5:19-21). This appeal had a substantial impact on Gentile Christians who used to live in gross sin.
(4) Christians are to live in the present for the will of God because old acquaintances are now persecutors. Godless men are genuinely surprised by the changed lives of those who were once like they are. They think it strange. A changed life provokes hostility from those who reject the gospel. Consequently, they heap abuse on (lit. “blasphemy”) believers.
5Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
This verse emphasizes the universality of judgment. Humankind must either face it after death or anticipate it here on earth by responding to Jesus Christ. 3:18-21 has already shown that their sins are dealt with through their union with Christ. Death, then, is the gateway to the fuller and more accessible life of the spirit, and there will be no further judgment to bear. (See Jesus’ words in Jn. 5:24). Some commentators interpret the dead as those who are spiritually dead. Others use this verse to infer that a second chance of responding to the gospel will be given after death. They link this preaching with the proclamation of 3:19, but this does not suit the context and is not supported elsewhere in Scripture.
6For for this cause was the gospel also preached 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 this cause”—that is, because of coming judgment, the gospel was preached to all men. And if they do not hear the gospel or respond to the gospel, He makes it clear that they are already dead in trespasses and sins, and they will be judged as men in the flesh. But if they accept Christ, they can live according to God in the Spirit. The Lord Jesus said in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”—He was in a state of death. He further amplified this thought at the time of the death of Lazarus: “Jesus said unto her, [Martha] “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). In other words, you and I were dead in trespasses and sins. Paul meant the same things when he wrote to the Ephesians, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). We were spiritually dead. Paul went on to say, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3). Peter is saying the same thing in this verse. The gospel is being preached, and when the gospel is being preached, two things happen. Some accept it; they are going to live for God and live throughout eternity. Others reject it, and those who reject the gospel are the men who are dead in sins and are dead to God throughout eternity; that is, they have no relation to Him whatsoever.
7But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
(v.7) The final judgment is no remote contingency. Christians must always be ready for Christ’s return to wind up this present order of things in every age. So, we must watch and pray (see Luke 21:36), displaying self-control, mutual love, and diligent stewardship of the gifts God has given us. This is the life that will bring glory to God.
The end (Gr. telos; also means ‘goal’) of the present system is its climax and the purpose toward which God has been and is still working. “Be ye, therefore, sober” means clear-minded and of safe mind. Amid fear and uncertainty, the Christian must stay connected with God. Another translation is helpful here: “be calm, self-controlled men of prayer.”
(8) “For charity shall cover the multitude of sins” could be a reference to Proverbs 10:12. This verse has been used to argue that love can earn forgiveness of sins, not only for the one that displays it but also for the one that receives it as well. This is not consistent with other biblical teachings. The meaning is that true love will overlook its neighbor’s faults (see Mat. 6:14-15; 1 Cor. 13:4-7; Jas. 5:20). It could also be taken to refer to God’s love covering our sins, which motivates us to love one another.
9Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
“Hospitality” was essential and necessary in the days of itinerant ministers and no church buildings (see Mt. 25:35; Ro. 12:13; 16:3-5a; I Tim. 3:2; Heb. 3:2).
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,”
“Every man” implies that every Christian has some gift to share with other Christians. Peter’s remarks on stewardship are significant because Jesus spoke on this subject, especially to Peter in Lk. 12:42-48. On its various forms, see on 1:6 where the same word is used.
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.
Speak and minister cover the two broad divisions of ministry within the Christian church, ministering the Word of God and serving tables in various ways (see Acts 6:1-6). Both ministries are equally God-given and can rely on God to provide what is necessary for their fulfillment.
“Let him speak as the oracles of God” was used in classical times for divine utterances and (Ro. 3:2 and Heb. 5:12) is applied to Scripture.
12Beloved, think it not strange  concerning the fiery trial  which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 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.
Peter now returns to the theme of suffering and suggests seven further reasons to encourage the Christians not only to endure but rejoice in it. The experience of suffering is (i) a trial (12; see 1:6-7) to prove the reality of our faith, and we can expect God to work to strengthen this. (ii) nothing strange, rather a sharing in Christ’s experience; (iii) a pathway to glory for us, as it was for Christ (13; see also Ro. 8:17 and Col. 1:24); (iv) an opportunity for blessing, in a different experience of the Holy Spirit(14); (v) an opportunity to glorify God (14); (vi) a challenge to prove the relevance of the gospel as judgment begins with the household of God (17); (vii) an opportunity to commit ourselves to God and demonstrate His faithfulness (19). God’s people can commit the issues of life in total confidence to the One who gave them life. By contrast, the unrepentant sinner has nothing to look forward to here or hereafter once God begins to act in judgment.
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.
“for the name of Christ” need not mean that it was already a criminal offense to be a Christian, for Jesus Himself suggested the possibility of suffering for His name’s sake (see Mt. 10:22; Jn. 15:21). In every age since Jesus, Christians who have tried to live like Him have become the target of slander or hatred from those who have been challenged or convicted by their behavior. Some have taken the [spirit of] glory [‘spirit of’ is not in the original] to refer to the Shekinah, the visible brightness that symbolized God’s presence among His people (Ex. 40:34-35). That may be so, but the context and sentence structure make it more likely to be the best taken (as the NIV) to mean God’s Spirit. This is the Spirit of Glory as He reveals God’s glory to His people by making Christ real to them and transforming them into His image (Jn. 16:14; 2 Cor. 3:18). The phrase may have been coined from the LXX of Isaiah 11:2, though neither glory nor power (an alternative reading) is mentioned there.
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.
16Yet if any man suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
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?
18And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
Verses 15-18 ask us to “EXAMINE OUR LIVES.” In the furnace of persecution and suffering, we often have more light by which we can examine our lives and ministries. The fiery trial is a refining process by which God removes the dross and purifies us. One day a fiery judgment will overtake the entire world (2 Pe. 3:7-16). Meanwhile, God’s judgment begins “at the house of God,” the church (1 Pe. 2:5). This truth ought to motivate us to be as pure and obedient as possible (see Ezek. 9 for an Old Testament illustration of this truth).
Again, there are several questions we should ask ourselves as we examine our own lives. (these questions are found in verses 15-18.).
“Why am I suffering?” We noted before that not all suffering is a “fiery trial” from the Lord. If a professed Christian breaks the law and gets into trouble, or becomes a meddler into other peoples’ lives, then he ought to suffer! “Meddler” (‘busybody’) may seem out of place in this list of otherwise criminal activities, but this was often the effect the gospel seemed to have (as in Acts 16:18; 19:27). The fact that we are Christians is not a guarantee that we escape our misdeeds' expected consequences. We may not be guilty of murder (though anger can be the same as murder in the heart, Mt. 7:21-26.), but what about stealing or meddling? When Abraham, David, Peter, and other Bible “greats” disobeyed God, they suffered for it; so, who are we that we should escape? Let us be sure we are suffering because we are Christians and not because we are criminals.
Am I ashamed of glorifying Christ? (v. 16) This statement must have reminded Peter of his denial of Christ (Lk. 22:54-62). Jesus Christ is not ashamed of us (Heb. 2:11)—though many times He surely could be! The Father is not ashamed to be called our God (Heb. 11:16). On the cross, Jesus despised shame for us (Heb. 12:2), so indeed we can bear reproach for Him and not be ashamed. The warning in Mark 8:38 is worth pondering.
“Not be ashamed” is negative; “glorify God” is positive. It takes both for a balanced witness. If we seek to “glorify God,” then we will not be ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ. It was the determination not to be ashamed that encouraged Paul when he went to Rome (Ro. 1:16) when he suffered in Rome (Phil. 1:20-21), and when he faced martyrdom in Rome (2 Tim. 1:12).
Am I seeking to win the lost? (vv. 17-18). Note the words that Peter used to describe the lost: “Them that obey not the Gospel . . . the ungodly and the sinner.” The argument of this verse is clear: If God sends a “fiery trial” to His children, and they are saved “with difficulty,” what will happen to lost sinners when God’s fiery judgment falls?
When a believer suffers, he experiences glory and knows that there will be greater glory in the future. But a sinner who causes that suffering is only filling up the measure of God’s wrath more and more (Mt. 23:29-33). Instead of being concerned only about ourselves, we need to be concerned about the lost sinners around us. Our present “fiery trial” is nothing compared with the “flaming fire” that shall punish the lost when Jesus returns in judgment (2 Thes. 1:7-10). The idea is expressed in Proverbs 11:31—"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.”
The phrase “scarcely be saved” means “saved with difficulty [we might say “saved by the skin of his teeth”],” but it does not suggest that God is too weak to save us. The reference was to Genesis 19:15-26, when God tried to rescue Lot from Sodom before the city was destroyed. God was able—but Lot was unwilling! He lingered, argued with the angels, and finally had to be taken by the hand and dragged out of the city! Lot was “saved as by fire,” and everything he lived for went up in smoke (see 1 Cor. 3:9-15).
Times of persecution are times of opportunity for a loving witness to those who persecute us (see Mt. 5:10-12, 43-48). It was not the earthquake that brought that Philippian jailer to Christ because that frightened him into almost committing suicide! No, it was Paul’s loving concern for him that brought the jailer to faith in Christ. As Christians, we do not seek vengeance on those who have hurt us. Instead, we pray for them and seek to lead them to have faith in Jesus Christ.
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.
The message of v.19 is “commit yourself to God.” When we are suffering in the will of God, we can commit ourselves to the care of God. Everything else we do as Christians depend on this. The word is a banking term. It means “to deposit for safekeeping” (see 2 Tim. 1:12). Of course, when you deposit your life in God’s bank, you always receive eternal dividends on your investment. This picture reminds us that we are valuable to God. He made us, redeemed us, lives in us, guards, and protects us. This commitment is a two-way street; we must be committed to God, and He is committed to us. This commitment is not a single action but a constant attitude. “Be constantly committing” is the force of the admonition. How do we do this? “Through welldoing” As we return good for evil and do good even though we suffer for it, we are committing ourselves to God so that He can care for us. This commitment involves every area of our lives.
If we have hope and believe that he is coming again, we will obey His Word and start laying up treasures and glory in heaven. Unsaved people have a present controlled by their past, but Christians have a present governed by the future (Phil. 3:12-21). In our serving, we are committing ourselves to God and making investments for the future.
Why did Peter refer to God as “a faithful Creator” rather than a “faithful judge” or even a “faithful Savior”? Because God the Creator meets the needs of His people (Mt. 6:24-34). The Creator supplies food and clothing to persecuted Christians and protects them in times of danger. When the early church was persecuted, they met together for prayer and addressed the Lord as the “God which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is” (Acts 4:24). They prayed to the Creator!
Our heavenly Father is the “Lord of Heaven and earth” (Mt. 11:25). With that kind of a Father, we do not need to worry! He is the faithful Creator, and His faithfulness will not fail.
Before God pours out His wrath on this evil world, a “fiery trial” will come to God’s church to unite and purify it, that it might be a solid witness to the lost. There is nothing for us to fear if we are suffering in the will of God. Our faithful Father-Creator will victoriously see us through.
 fiery trial (painful trial)— (Gr. 'exposure to fire with a view to testing’) looks back to the argument of 1:6-7.
 Strange is the adjective from the root of the verb used earlier in the sentence for not being surprised. Therefore, it would be better to have ‘surprising’ here or else translate ‘strange’ in both places as the AV and RV do.