Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 PETER - Chapter 4

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1 Peter 4

Supplemental Commentary:


4, 1-6:  In Christian Faithfulness.    1.  In view of the blessings consequent upon Christ's suffering the Apostle exhorts his readers to arm themselves with the same intent.  He who has suffered: the Christian who endures contempt or even violence rather than associate himself with former companions in sin; such have definitely severed relations with their former sinful ways.  From sins: not in the Greek text.    3.  This verse suggests that the Epistle was addressed, in part at least, to converts from paganism.  And unlawful worship of idols: the Greek reads, "unlawful idolatries."    4.  The sinful character of many pagan gatherings compelled the Christian converts to remain aloof from them; this silent rebuke stirred pagan resentment which vented itself by calumniating the Christians.    5.  The hope and encouragement of Christians: their calumniators will find a just judge in Christ who is ready to pass sentence upon them.    6.  The gospel preached even to the dead: a reference to Christ's activity in limbo (cf. 3, 19).  The fruits of redemption were applied to the souls in limbo; these were awarded a merciful judgment before the tribunal of Christ, an ordeal which all men in the flesh must undergo.


4, 7-11:  Mutual Charity.    7.  But the end of all things is at hand: "but" introduces a new trend of thought suggested by 6.  The truth of Christ's Second Coming and the judgment must ever be present to the Christian (cf. Luke 12, 35-38.42-48; Matt. 24, 43; 25, 1-13); hence, the increased need of prudence and watchfulness in prayer (cf. Jas. 5, 8; Phil. 4, 5; Apoc. 22, 12).    8.  Charity covers a multitude of sins: charity is a visible sign of that invisible bond of unity and brotherhood in Christ.  St. Peter's exhortation is based on Prov. 10, 12; it has no reference to charity as atonement for sin (cf. Matt. 6, 14; Luke 7, 47), nor as an instrument of conversion (cf. Jas. 5, 20).  The abuse that Christians must endure at the hands of the pagan should not be increased by strife and hatred among the Christians themselves (cf. 4, 4).    9.  Hospitality: the reception, entertainment, and relief of travelers.  St. Paul recommends this virtue to all Christians (Rom. 12, 13; Heb. 13, 2) and particularly to bishops and priests (1 Tim. 3, 2; Titus 1, 8).  The thought of the coming judgment may explain St. Peter's pressing injunction for hospitality, a virtue which Christ, the Judge, specially enjoins upon all Christians (cf. Matt. 25, 35.43).    10.  A reference to the spiritual gifts enjoyed by some of the early Christians (Rom. 12, 6-8; 1 Cor. 12, 4-10); let the recipients of such gifts humbly dispense them in view of the common good.    11.  If anyone speaks: the two following examples clarify the injunction of 10; (1) when an individual dispenses his gifts of prophecy and teaching to the brethren, let him clearly indicate that it is God's message, not his; (2) let the individual who ministers spiritual or material comforts disclose that these gifts come from God.

4, 12-19:  Blessings of Persecution.    12.  In 1, 6; 2, 18 ff; 3, 13 ff; St. Peter dealt with the problem of suffering and persecution in the life of the individual Christian; he now discusses the same problem but in relation to the Christian community.  That trials should come to the community with the acceptance of Christ is to be expected.    13.  Persecution makes the Christian community conformable to the suffering Christ---a condition for participation in the revelation of his glory.    16.  Christian: probably a term of contempt conferred on the brethren by gentile scorn.    17.  The merciful hand of God permits persecution and trial in order to purify Christians on earth prior to their glorious life in eternity.  But what, by inference, must be the end of those who do not believe the gospel of God?    18.  A free citation of Prov. 11, 31 (Septuagint) which suggests the terrible punishment in store for the impious and the sinner.

Confraternity Bible:

In Christian Faithfulness  1 Since Christ therefore has suffering in the flesh, do you also arm yourselves with the same intent; because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sins; 2 that during the rest of his time in the flesh he may live no longer according to the lusts of men, but according to the will of God.  3 For sufficient is the time past for those to have accomplished the desire of the pagans, walking, as they did, in dissipation, lusts, drunkenness, revellings, carousings and unlawful worship of idols.  4 They are amazed that you do not run with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they abuse you.  5* But they will render an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  6* For to this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they may be judged indeed as men in flesh but may live as God lives in spirit.

Mutual Charity  7 But the end of all things is at hand.  Be prudent therefore and watchful in prayers.  8 But above all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves; for charity covers a multitude of sins.  9 Be hospitable to one another without murmuring.  10 According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  11 If anyone speaks, let it be with words of God.  If anyone ministers, let it be as from the strength that God furnishes; that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ, to whom are the glory and the dominion forever.  Amen.

Blessings of Persecution  12 Beloved, do not be startled at the trial by fire that is taking place among you to prove you, as if something strange were happening to you; 13 but rejoice, in so far as you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice with exultation in the revelation of his glory.  14 If you are upbraided for the name of Christ, blessed will you be, because the honor, the glory and the power of God and his Spirit rest upon you.  15 Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a slanderer, or as one coveting what belongs to others.  16 But if he suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God under this name.  17 For the time has come for the judgment to begin with the household of God; but if it begins first with us, what will be the end of those who do not believe the gospel of God?  18 And if the just man scarcely will be saved, where will the impious and the sinner appear?  19 Therefore let them also who suffer according to the will of God commend their souls in well-doing to a faithful Creator.


5: They will render an account: the pagans who now speak evil of the Christians must render an account to Christ.

6: The gospel preached even to the dead: a reference to the good tidings Christ brought to the souls in limbo (3, 19).