1 Peter 3:13 – 4:19

Conduct in Connection with Suffering
1 Peter 3:13 – 4:19
1 Peter 3:13 – 4:19. The main thrust of this section of the epistle is really an exhortation to righteous living. We must be prepared to suffering in order to live as God would have us to live, but suffering isn’t an end in itself. Time and time again Peter will return to that main point: the believer is called to a path of righteousness.
Christian Suffering. Having introduced the subject of suffering in ch.2, Peter returns to the subject for a broader treatment throughout this section of the epistle. Suffering is one of the themes of the first epistle of Peter. First of all, Peter speaks of the sufferings of Christ in every chapter (1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1). But in addition to the sufferings of Christ, Peter looks on the “the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:11). This is a pattern for us, although there are some aspects of Christ’s sufferings that we cannot follow. In ch.1, Peter speaks about the trial of our faith, suffering that God allows in our lives for our blessing (1 Pet. 1:7), in ch.2 he speaks about suffering for wrongdoing and welldoing (1 Pet. 2:19-20), in ch.3 he speaks of of suffering for righteousness’ sake (1 Peter 3:14, 17), in ch.4 of suffering in obedience (1 Pet. 4:1) and as a Christian (1 Pet. 4:16), and in ch.5 of suffering in resisting the devil (1 Pet. 5:10). But if suffering is a normal part of the Christian experience, the hope of glory is constantly before the believer (1 Peter 1:7; 4:13; 5:1; 5:4).


Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake (3:13-22)

13 And who shall injure you if ye have become imitators of that which is good? v.13 A Transitional Question. To conclude the subject of good conduct, Peter asks a question that leads into his next subject. “Who is going to harm you for doing what is good?” From the aspect of God’s government, no one will harm you. And yet it begs the question, why then do good Christians suffer? One of the reasons is persecution, which Peter takes up in the next section.
14 But if also ye should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are ye; but be not afraid of their fear, neither be troubled; v.14 Happiness and Peace in Suffering. Earlier, Peter had taken up suffering for conscience sake, which is when we must do nor not do something because of conscience toward God, and it has ramifications (1 Pet. 2:19). Suffering “for righteousness’ sake” goes beyond that to positive persecution. The case of persecution was a real one for the Jewish believers, though more generally all believers should expect it; “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Persecution arises because of the enmity of the world against that which does not conform to it; “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Instead of being discouraged by persecution, and feeling worthless, we should remember what God says; “blessed are ye”. It is really an honor to be persecuted by the world, and we can have in inner happiness in suffering (1 Thess. 1:6). It says, “be not afraid of their fear”. Instead being afraid of the hatred of the world, we should be comforted in the fellowship of God (Hebrews 13:5-6).
15 but sanctify the Lord the Christ in your hearts, and be always prepared to give an answer to every one that asks you to give an account of the hope that is in you, but with meekness and fear; v.15 Preparation. The resource for the believer in persecution is twofold. First, we are to “sanctify the Lord the Christ” in our hearts (ref. Isaiah 8:12-13). This means we are to set apart Christ in our hearts, and give Him His proper place as Lord. We are to constantly have Christ and His honor before us, and that will have a preserving effect on us. The attractions of the world will have no effect on us if we are occupied with Christ, and the persecution of the world will seem to us as a privilege to bare for our Lord. Second, the fruit of occupation with Christ will be that we are ready to give an answer to any who ask us to “give an account of the hope that is in you”. This of course would involve presenting the truth of God in the power the Holy Spirit. The hope that is in us has to do with the Person who fills our hearts, the One we have sanctified in our hearts. It isn’t so much an intellectual defense of Christian theology, but rather an answer of why our life is different from others. This is especially likely under persecution, where the life of Christ in the believer shines most brightly. Our answers are to be given with meekness (not giving offense to others), and in fear (holy reverence of God).
Apologetics. The Greek word for "answer" in 1 Peter 3:15 is apologia which means "verbal defense", from which we get our English word "apologetics". Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that defends Christianity toward the world. As Peter shows us in his first epistle, every believer should be ready to give an explanation of his own personal faith. What apologetics has become in Christendom is fraught with issues, because it has become a substitution for evangelism. Intellectual arguments will never win a soul to Christ. It is only the Word of God applied by the Holy Spirit to convict man of sin. When we try to use human wisdom to further the interests of Christ, we end up building wood, hay, and stubble on the imperishable foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
In his writings on First Corinthians, J.N. Darby wrote the following line that has become quite well known, and it is consistent with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1-2:
“I do not believe that a single thought of God ever enters into man’s mind by intellect. It is always by conscience, not by intellect.”
When the revelation of God is presented to man, man has a choice; to receive it or reject it. If he receives it, his conscience is affected, and he is made more responsible by it. If he rejects it, his ignorance grows. We are not saying that the Word of God isn’t to be discussed; surely it is. We are not saying that our brains are not to function in the studying of it; surely they are. But the things of God cannot merely consist of ideas bantered around in the intellect without the conscience engaged! Once the mind becomes insubject to the Word of God, the truth escapes us.
We need to remember this in apologetics. In conjunction with being “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” we must first "sanctify the Lord God in our hearts". Are we entering the philosophical arena to do battle with the world using the world’s wisdom? We are not saying there is no place for "giving an answer" to unbelievers. But the cross must be there; its ignominy, its shame, and its reproach. Therein is the wisdom of God. Without it the flesh is unjudged, and God is not glorified. Answer we should, “with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).
16 having a good conscience, that as to that in which they speak against you as evildoers, they may be ashamed who calumniate your good conversation in Christ. v.16 A Good Conscience. Another thing necessary for the believer to face persecution, or even to answer the unbeliever asking the reason of the hope within us, is a good conscience. We maintain a good conscience through self-judgment, followed by confession. If we slip into sin and don’t confess it, we must live with a bad conscience, but it will eventually become hardened. If we maintain a good conscience we will be able to witness to our persecutors with boldness, and they will not be able to find a righteous reason to accuse us. In Peter’s day, and in ours, the enemies of Christ would falsely accuse or slander a believer’s “good conversation in Christ”. That is, the lifestyle and practices of the Christian according to faith in Christ are attacked by the world as evil. As we noted in 1 Pet. 2:13, the early Christians in the Roman Empire were spoken against as “evildoers”, even viewed as criminals, because they rejected paganism. They were even called “atheists” and were viewed as persons of low moral character, when the opposite was true. In the western world, Christians have largely been viewed as well-doers. However, as western society reverts to darkness, and evil becomes good and good becomes evil (Isa. 5:20), Christians are facing similar challenges as early Christians in the Roman Empire.
17 For it is better, if the will of God should will it, to suffer as well-doers than as evildoers; v.17 Well-Doers and Evil-Doers. It may be that it is God’s will for us to suffer. If we are going to suffer, it is far better that we suffer for righteousness’ sake (as well-doers) than for actual wrong behavior (as evildoers). For example, it may be that God’s will is for us to suffer imprisonment. It is far better to go to prison for speaking the truth of God than to go to prison for committing a felony. A believer should never be found suffering for wrong-doing. Peter presents a powerful motivation for this in the following verses.
Our Example. In vv.18-22 we have the example of Christ set before us. Christ Suffered for sins (not His own) but was raised in good conscience before God. Since Christ suffered as the just, and since it was our sins that caused Him grief, how careful we should be to suffer only for righteousness, and never for sin. Suffering for sin in done; the work finished by God’s Son. How can we live in sin after that? Our place is to suffer in fellowship with Him, for the sake of righteousness.1
18 for Christ indeed has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in flesh, but made alive in the Spirit, v.18 The Example: Christ Suffered for Sins. Christ Himself has taken up the issue of suffering for sins, and has fully finished the work. He suffered, the Just One, as a substitute for (or instead of) the unjust, in order to bring us who were far off near to God. There was no cause in Himself for the judgment of God, He was just. This brings out the truth of substitution. Substitution is the aspect of the work of Christ in which Christ suffered and died as a substitute for each individual believer; e.g. “the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The result of the work of Christ is that the believer is reconciled to God. Reconciliation (Col. 1:20-22; Eph. 2:16; Rom. 5:11; 2 Cor. 5:18-19) has to do with God’s work of bringing lost and guilty sinners back to Himself, where the soul can be in His presence with perfect peace and joy. How much greater than what the Jews had in the Old Testament, with the earthly system of many sacrifices, and the distance between the soul and God. In order to be our Substitute and Reconciler, Christ had to be “put to death in flesh” or a physical body. But then, He was “made alive” or raised by the Spirit of God. By comparing with other scriptures we find the whole Trinity involved in the resurrection of Christ: He was raised by His own power (John 2:19; John 10:17), He was quickened by the Spirit of God (1 Pet. 3:18), and He was raised by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6:4). 
19 in which also going he preached to the spirits which are in prison, 20 heretofore disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing, into which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: vv.19-20 Preaching to the Spirits. Peter gives another testimony to the desire of Christ that man would be turned saved his sin. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, also moved Noah in his days to preach to the spirits of men who are now in spiritual prison. It was Christ through the Spirit preaching, though Noah spoke the words; “And Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not always plead with Man; for he indeed is flesh; but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3).2 The reason the spirits of those men are now in prison (hades for the lost) is that they disobeyed the word preached by Noah, while God in His long-suffering waited to send judgment as the ark was being prepared. Very few were saved; only “eight souls”. How striking that the vast majority perished! Notice that is says they were “saved through water”. In Hebrews the ark saved them, here Peter says the water saved them. He picks up on the fact that scripture says “the waters increased, and bore up the ark” (Gen. 7:22-24). The same waters that destroyed all flesh on the earth are what lifted the ark above the tide. It is in this sense that Noah’s ark “condemned the world” (Heb. 11:7), because it was separated from the world. That is because the aspect of salvation here is outward salvation, by which we can stand before God as separated from the wicked world. It is connected in v.21 with baptism.
Did Christ Go to Hell and Preach? Some have come to the mistaken notion that Christ went in person to the prison of the lost during the three days and nights while His body was in the grave. They combine 1 Pet. 3:19; 4:6 with Psalm 16:10; “For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol, neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to see corruption.” The error comes in part from misunderstanding “hades” in Psalm 16. Hades is the state of the spirit and soul without the body. There are two different compartments in hades, so to speak. There is hades for the lost, called “prison” and “torments” (Luke 16:23)., and there is also hades for the redeemed, called “paradise” (Luke 23:43). The context determines which hades. Christ was in the intermediate state known as hades, but there is no reason to believe He visited the realms of the condemned in those three days and nights. It would make no sense for Christ to preach to those who were already in the place of torment, where Luke 16 tells us a great gulf is fixed than none can traverse. 3 The other thing that contributes to the error is misunderstanding 1 Peter 3:19 and how Christ could indeed preach, non in person but in Spirit, through Noah to the spirits of men now in prison, and that in 1 Peter 4:6 the dead were preached to while they lived. The connection of v.19 and v.20 shows that that time of Christ’s preaching to the spirits is in the days of Noah.
21 which figure also now saves you, even baptism, not a putting away of the filth of flesh, but the demand as before God of a good conscience, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers being subjected to him. vv.19-22 Baptism, and the Resurrection and Glorification of Christ. Peter refers to salvation by water in the example of Noah’s flood, explaining that baptism works the same way. Peter says that the water saved those on the ark. Baptism saves us in an outward sense, by separating us from the world which is coming under judgment. This is carefully distinguished from expiation of sins which is only through the blood of Christ; “not a putting away of the filth of flesh”. It outwardly washes away our sins, in that it breaks the link between us and our former sinful lifestyle, in the sight of God (Acts 22:16). By breaking that link with our old lifestyle, and by associating us with Christ on a new ground, the believer has the demand as before God of a good conscience”. In other words, baptism puts a person in a place before God that a good conscience demands; clear of association with sin and the world. Christ has dealt with the issue of sin through death, and has been raised from the dead (v.21) and seated at God’s right hand (v.22), the completeness of the work being thus  fully displayed by “angels and authorities and powers being subjected to him”.
Following the Thought. The thought in vv.18-22 is that Christ has suffered to put away sin and bring us to God, therefore we should live righteously. He suffered infinitely far more to deal with the issue of sin than we will ever suffer for righteousness’ sake. Christ has completed the work through His death, and our baptism is a figure of this. Through baptism we are disassociated from the sphere of sin, therefore outwardly saved from an evil world tracking toward judgment. Christ’s resurrection and glorification is the proof of a completed work. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, has in the past and continues in the present a work of urging men to turn from their sin. All of this is is presented by the Spirit of God to motivate us as Christians to live righteously, in spite of the fact that we may suffer persecution for it.

Suffering in Obedience (4:1-6)

Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh, do “ye” also arm yourselves with the same mind; for he that has suffered in the flesh has done with sin, 2 no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh to men’s lusts, but to God’s will. vv.1-2 To Cease from Sin is to Suffer in the Flesh. Applying the suffering of Christ to the believer as a practical exhortation, we too must be prepared to suffer. Christ suffered for us “in flesh” or in the body.4 The aspect of Christ’s suffering here is all that He suffered in order to do “God’s will”. In the volume of the book it was written of Him; “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7,9). He never once acted in self-will to escape suffering. Christ would rather die than disobey, and His devotedness was proved at Calvary where His obedience rose to new heights; “not my will, but thine be done” (Matt. 26:39). We must be spiritually and mentally prepared to suffer in our bodies in order to “cease from sin”. It is very important to see that Christ had no sin within Him, no lusts that He had to deny. By contrast, we must suffer in order to deny the desires of sin within us; to “have done with sin” (v.1).5 But though there is that difference, Peter shows that the willingness to suffer is the same; “arm yourselves with the same mind”. Just as Christ was willing to suffer rather than disobey the will of God, so the believer is called to live “the rest of his time in flesh” (or in the body), not to do his own lusts, but instead to do the will of God! Practicing self-judgment and self-denial is not easy. It will require suffering on our part, and we must be prepared as a soldier going into battle. This does not mean we should seek to inflict physical pain on our own bodies to get deliverance from sin. That is a wrong interpretation of this passage.
3 For the time past is sufficient for us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, walking in lasciviousness, lusts, wine-drinking, revels, drinkings, and unhallowed idolatries. v.3 Life in Before Conversion. Reflecting on the believer’s life before conversion, Peter compares “the time past” (v.3) with “the rest of his time” (v.2). We all have these two periods in our life: the past and the future. What we were before conversion is described as working “the will of the Gentiles” rather than the will of God. These Jews had been scattered among the Gentiles, and even though ethnically Jews, before conversion they were living morally like the people around them. This meant walking in “lasciviousness” or sexually immoral behavior, living for “lusts” or sinful desires, “wine-drinking”, “revels” or wild and noisy partying, which is usually coupled with “drinking”, and often in association with “unhallowed idolatries”, as the Gentile feasts were often connected to pagan gods. This was what “the sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” were living like among the Gentiles. But Peter says “the time past is sufficient”. The Christian has had enough of that old sinful lifestyle!
4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same sink of corruption, speaking injuriously of you5 who shall render account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. vv.4-5 How They View Us, and How We View Them. When these Jews were converted, they had a complete change of lifestyle. Rather than running with the Gentiles to the “pit of corruption” that is the world-system, these ones had a sudden and total change of behavior. The Gentiles also had a change of disposition toward them. Now the Gentiles thought the conduct of the Jewish converts strange, and began to malign them. The world loves its own, and the world hates those that are not of it, and who do not conform its norms (John 15:19). That is how the world sees the believer: as unworldly and no good for society. But the believer views the world, and those in it, bearing in mind the approaching end. The very ones who think us strange and speak evil of us will soon be forced to “give an account” to the judge of “the living and the dead”. This expression “the judge of the living and the dead” refers to Christ, to whom all judgment has been committed by the Father (John 5:22). When Christ returns, not at the rapture but at the appearing, He will take up various works of judgment. He will first judge the living, beginning with the Harvest and Vintage judgments, and again when He sits upon the throne of His glory (Matt. 25) in what is called the Sessional judgment. But then, after the thousand years of Christ’s reign are over, He will have another throne, a “great white throne” (Rev. 20), and from this He will judge the dead who are arraigned before Him from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away”. These two aspects of judgment are divided by the thousand-year kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1). Read more… Whether they die or live until the appearing, unbelievers who wrongly judge the faithful will themselves be judged by the Judge of all. We need to be reminded that our ultimate judge is not the people around us, but Christ, who will hold everyone accountable for their actions.
6 For to this end were the glad tidings preached to the dead also, that they might be judged, as regards men, after the flesh, but live, as regards God, after the Spirit. v.6 Two Objects of the Gospel. Not only should we view the world around us as consigned to judgment, but we should also remember that, when we preach the gospel to the world and are met with refusal, the gospel is still accomplishing its object. The gospel has two outcomes when it is preached. It does something for the world, and it does something for the believer. As “regards men”, in their own strength (“after flesh”), they reject the good news, and as a result they are “judged”. But “as regards God”, in His strength according to the “Spirit”, the gospel finds entrance into the hearts of some who believe, and thereby “live”. In the past, as seen in Noah’s time, a gospel was preached to those who are now dead. Those who believed the preacher of righteousness entered into the ark and lived. Those who rejected his words perished in the flood, but they were “judged” by the word they heard, because it made them responsible to receive it.  

Conduct in Light of the End Drawing Near (4:7-11)

The End of All Things. Peter begins the next part of the passage with a statement about where we stand in history, in a general way. Even in Peter’s day, he could say “the end of all things is drawn nigh”. The Christian lives with the expectation of the imminent return of Christ, followed by the judgment of the world, the reign of Christ, and the dissolution of the elements. The world as we know it will be over. Those who currently despise and persecute us will have their fortunes reversed, and find themselves as objects of the wrath of the Lamb. The knowledge of the end drawing near affects our outlook, and our behavior. Peter gives five exhortations regarding our conduct in light of this. 
7 But the end of all things is drawn nigh: be sober therefore, and be watchful unto prayers; v.7 Watchfulness and Communion. The first exhortation in view of “the end of all things” coming soon is that we would be spiritually prepared and alert. Being “sober” means having a correct moral judgment regarding the world. This will keep us from being carried along with the course of this world. However, “sober” doesn’t imply that we should walk around with a serious expression all the time. Even as we stay alert, we can still experience joy. Those who exhibit sobriety are currently set apart from what will be judged in the future. The term “watch” refers to being attentive and prepared for potential action. For instance, a soldier on duty would need to remain vigilant for possible threats and be prepared to signal a warning. Sobriety and watching naturally would lead to prayer. In prayer we commune with God and express our dependence on the Lord for preservation from the wickedness around us.
8 but before all things having fervent love among yourselves, because love covers a multitude of sins; v.8 Love. The next exhortation is “fervent love” in the relationship of the saints amongst themselves. This is not a passive thing, such as longsuffering with grievances, but rather an active energy that reaches out (the word “fervent” or “earnest” is literally “out stretched”) toward others. When we have this fervent love, it “covers a multitude of sins” before the eye of God. This doesn’t refer to covering sins in the sense of judicial pardon, but rather covering sins in the sense of governmental pardon. Fleshly hatred would stir up strife, multiplying of offense into a multitude of sins, and bringing down the government of God in judgment on the assembly. Love in exercise covers a multitude of sins that would have otherwise spread out before God in their nauseous insults to His holy nature. When God looks down on the assembly, He sees His own nature in display, and even the wrongs inevitably committed as fresh grounds for love to act, and this brings down blessing instead of judgment!67 
9 hospitable one to another, without murmuring; v.9 Hospitality. The exhortation to love naturally flows into hospitality. Love expresses itself by serving the practical needs of the saints to willingly serve and refresh them and make them comfortable in whatever way we can. This often includes welcoming them into our home, but it ranges from little gifts to extended visits. Hospitality is one of the primary ways we can show love to the saints, but it also tends to foster or maintain love. In other words, love grows when the saints are together such that they develop a craving for more fellowship, and their hearts are increasingly bound together. Peter adds “without murmuring”. Hospitality is a sacrifice of our time, energy, and resources. There can be a tendency to grumble and complain in this form of service if our focus is in the wrong place. This is especially hard when we do not see our hospitality reciprocated.
10 each according as he has received a gift, ministering it to one another, as good stewards of the various grace of God. v.10 Using Gift. Peter next gives an exhortations on using our gift.

Every believer has been given a special gift to aid them in their service for the Lord, and to benefit the whole body of Christ. These spiritual gifts are special abilities, and they are supernatural, although they do not always appear to be "miraculous" in the conventional sense of the word. Spiritual gifts are "spiritual", in that they do not come from man, although they could be given by apostolic power as in the case of Timothy (2 Tim. 1:6). People are not born with spiritual gifts, nor can they be gained by study or theological training. They are conveyed to a believer by the Holy Spirit upon salvation; hence they are "gifts". You cannot purchase a gift of God with money (Acts 8:20). God can use “unlearned and ignorant men” like Peter and John the fishermen, or He can use a well-educated man like the Apostle Paul, who learned at Gamaliel's feet. The Spirit uses "whom He will" (1 Cor. 12:11). I do not believe the lists of gifts in scripture are exhaustive, but they do give us generally the spheres of Christian ministry.

Read more… We find that our gift is not to be squandered by selfishness, but rather ministered “to one another”. Finally, we are to acts as “good stewards of the various grace of God”, realizing that God is the giver of gifts, and we are responsible to Him as stewards. The parable of the talents takes up this very issue, of usefulness to the Master (25:14-30). Notice that gifts are referred to as “grace”, because they are a gift of His love to His people.
11 If any one speak — as oracles of God; if any one minister — as of strength which God supplies; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the might for the ages of ages. Amen. v.11 Glorify God in Use of Gift. Having exhorted believers to use their gifts as good stewards, Peter then goes on to speak of the way those gifts are to be used. Notice the often repeated word “God”. The gift is from God, the oracles are of God, the strength is from God, and the glory is to God. Self has no place in the exercise of gift. He first takes up the speaking gifts, such as teaching and prophecy. If someone speaks, they should “speak as the oracles of God”. To speak as the oracles of God is to speak with the conviction that we are speaking on from God, no from ourselves. Therefore, our message is to be based on the Word of God, which is explicit and final. To communicate mere ideas, opinions, hypotheses, etc. does not constitute speaking as the oracles of God. Pride, boastfulness, and self-centered ministry is totally at odds with this exhortation. That doesn’t mean we should pretend to be more than we are. It is okay to say, “I don’t know”. He then speaks of service in a general way; “if any one minister — as of strength which God supplies”. God gives each of us the strength to use our gift in the way He sees fit. One with the gift of an evangelist has strength to preach to crowds, while another has strength to speak to individuals. In both cases, God supplies the strength. We cannot serve in our own strength, nor should we try to do the work God has given to another (Rom. 12:6-8). The great goal in all the exercise of gift, whether in speaking or in service, is the glory of God, not the glorification of ourselves. The thought of God’s glory brings out a doxology of praise!

Suffering for the Name of Christ (4:12-19)

12 Beloved, take not as strange the fire of persecution which has taken place amongst you for your trial, as if a strange thing was happening to you; 13 but as ye have share in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, that in the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exultation. vv.12-13 Our Mindset in Persecution. Peter now returns to the issue of suffering, and his tone shifts accordingly to one of tender affection; “Beloved”. The faithful should not be caught off guard when they face persecution “for the name of Christ”. Earlier Peter addressed suffering for righteousness’ sake, and suffering as a Christian (as followers of Christ). Here he goes to the more special class of persecution in which the believer shares in the hatred, rejection, and opposition that the world has toward Christ. Every believer will face persecution at some time (2 Tim. 3:12), but for these beloved saints it was a “fire”. Intense suffering is often pictured as fire in scripture (1 Peter 1:7; Isaiah 48:10; Zechariah 13:9). In each case, the allusion is to the refiner’s fire, by which the heat of the refinery burns away all the impurities. After the fire, the metal left over is highly pure and therefore precious. The fire, while not pleasant, brings forth the qualities of the metal, just as the “trial” of persecution brings forth the qualities of Christ in the believer. Something that is a tremendous comfort to the believer who is suffering for the name of Christ is that there is a special fellowship with Christ in it, and in that sense we can actually rejoice! Jesus said: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matt. 5:11). Peter could speak from experience, as he learned both the sorrow of denying Christ to avoid suffering, and the joy of enduring suffering for His name (Acts 5:41). But that rejoicing will one day be surpassed with another kind of rejoicing; when Christ is revealed in glory, those who have suffered with Him now will “rejoice with exultation”. Paul would remind us of that same fact; “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12).
14 If ye are reproached in the name of Christ, blessed are ye; for the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God rests upon you: on their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified. v.14 A Reward in Persecution. Instead of being discouraged when we are reproached in the name of Christ, we should remember that “blessed are ye”. It is really an honor to be reproached by the world, because of the Name we are being reproached for. The “Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God” rest on the persecuted believer, not in the sense of indwelling which is true for every believer, but as the witness of God’s approval (Acts 6:15). The study of Biblical manuscripts suggests that the last part of the verse was added by copyists, and while it is true and the thought expressed elsewhere in scripture, there is insufficient authority for the words to be added here.8
15 Let none of you suffer indeed as murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or as overseer of other people’s matters; 16 but if as a christian, let him not be ashamed, but glorify God in this name. vv.15-18 Suffering as an Evildoer vs. as a Christian. A believer should never be found suffering for wrong-doing (1 Pet. 3:17). Peter expands on this. The things he mentions start with the extreme and work toward the common sins; “as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or as overseer of other people’s matters”. The flesh in a murderer is no worse than the flesh in a busybody. We do well to remember that. To suffer for these kind of behaviors is a shame to a believer, but if we suffer “as a Christian”, not only is there no reason to be ashamed in it, but we bring glory to God in suffering for the name of Christ.
17 For the time of having the judgment begin from the house of God is come; but if first from us, what shall be the end of those who obey not the glad tidings of God? 18 And if the righteous is difficultly saved, where shall the impious and the sinner appear? vv.17-18 Judgment to Begin at the House of God. Peter returns again to the subject of the government of God, bringing in the fact that God will judge evil according to His holy nature. Again, this is to show that the believer should live righteously. Further, we find that there is an order to the judgment of God: it begins with that which identifies itself with Him. It was true in Israel’s day (Amos 3:2), and it is true for those who professes the name of Christ today, called the “house of God”. There is an added responsibility in connection with His Name, and judgment will begin there. The greater our privileges are, the greater our responsibility is (Luke 12:47-48). The sphere of Christian profession is called “the house of God”. Peter is alluding to the vision of slaughter in Ezekiel 9. The judgment would begin with the old, and it would begin at the temple; “Slay utterly the old man, the young man, and the maiden, and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the elders who were before the house” (Ezek. 9:6). The “time” is now come for God to judge those who profess the name of Christ as having more responsibility than the world. He is presently judging in His government. There is a future aspect of this judgment that will take place when God publicly intervenes through judgment in this world. Revelation reveals that the false church will come under judgment before the rest of the world, and will be judged more severely. Since God does not exempt the house of God from judgment, what will be the portion of those who do not believe? God is not only impartial in His judgment on sin, but He judges according to the responsibility of each (Luke 12:47). This solemn reminder provokes us to live righteously.

The House of God. The term ‘House of God’ basically means the "dwelling-place" of God. In a greater sense, the universe is the house of God (Heb. 3:4; Acts 7:48-50; Isa. 66:1). But on earth, God had a physical house in the Old Testament, and He has a spiritual house in the New Testament where He does "in very deed dwell with men on the earth" (2 Chron. 6:18). In the Old Testament, the house of God was first the Tabernacle, then the Temple. When Israel rejected their Messiah, the presence of Jehovah departed from that Temple, and has not returned. That house is "desolate" to this day (Matt. 23:38). In the Millennium, a new Temple will be built, and the glory cloud will return; once again, the presence of God will be on earth in a physical temple (Ezek. 43:4-7). Today there is no physical house, but instead God dwells on earth in His heavenly people, the Church; "the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim. 3:15). The house is composed of individual believers ("living stones"; 1 Pet. 2:7) who are built up together into a "spiritual house". God actually indwells the House, "through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). The House of God is a figure of the Church that carries the thoughts of internal order, conduct suited to the character of God, and testimony before this world.

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19 Wherefore also let them who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing to a faithful Creator. v.19 God’s Care. When we must suffer in order to walk in a righteous path, we have the privilege of committing our souls to God who is faithful (2 Tim. 1:12). When we are live are living the way God would have us live, His care over us is a tremendous comfort. We can trust Him for our safety, and should He call on us to make the ultimate sacrifice, we can say with Stephen, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:70). Again, this is suffering “according to the will of God”, as opposed to suffering in doing our own will. Peter brings in the fact that God is our faithful Creator. He who preserves all men (1 Tim. 4:10) has a special care for those who suffer on order to do His will.
  1. It may be that God may see it good that we should suffer. If so, it is better that we should suffer for well doing than for evil doing. The apostle gives a touching motive for this: Christ has suffered for sins once for all; let that suffice; let us suffer only for righteousness. To suffer for sin was His task; He accomplished it, and that for ever; put to death, as to His life in the flesh, but quickened according to the power of the divine Spirit. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  2. The Greek preposition ἐν is here required in order to accurately express “in” or “by” what power Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison. It was not in person but by virtue of the Spirit. This is remarkably confirmed by the language of Gen. 6:3: “And Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not always strive (or, plead) with man, for he indeed is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
  3. There is no room in doctrine any more than in fact or in the phraseology of Peter, for the strange notion of ancients or moderns that Christ in person went to Hades after His death for the purpose of preaching to the spirits there. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
  4. The definite article “the” is absent, indicating the use of “flesh” to refer to the physical body.
  5. If by grace our mind is set on God’s will at all cost, sin does not enter. It is suffering in flesh, and therein is separation from sin. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
  6. Now this love covered a multitude of sins. He is not speaking here with a view to ultimate pardon, but of the present notice which God takes-His present relations of government with His people; for we have present relationships with God. If the assembly is at variance, if there is little love, if the fellowship among Christians is with straitened hearts and difficult, the existing evil, the mutual wrongs, subsist before God: but if there is love, which neither commits nor resents any wrongs, but pardons such things, and only finds in them occasion for its own exercise, it is then the love which the eye of God rests upon, and not the evil. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  7. Charity in the assembly suppresses, so to speak, the sins which otherwise would destroy union and overcome that charity in the assembly, and appear in all their deformity and all their malignancy before God. Whereas, being met by love in the assembly, they go no farther, are, as it were (as regards the state of things before God in this world), dissolved and put away by the charity which they could not vanquish. The sin is vanquished by the love which dealt with it, disappears, is swallowed up by it. Thus love covers a multitude of sins. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  8. The latter part of the verse in brackets is quite true, and said in substance elsewhere; but as the words are omitted by the best MSS. and most ancient versions and looking like a gloss, they are here bracketed as of doubtful authority. – W. Kelly Translation Notes