1 Peter 4

1 Here, Peter continues the thought from 3:18.

As a soldier carefully puts on his armor in preparation for battle, so a Christian must put on the same attitude that Christ had so that we are prepared to suffer because of moral purity as He did. By enduring such suffering, we prove that we are no longer slaves to sin, nor can we be persuaded by duress to engage in it again (Rom 6:6-7).

2 When one turns towards God, he becomes concerned with the will of God and leaves his selfish desires behind. When one humbles himself before God, he lays his pride aside. This is a lifelong process.
3 Most of the people who had become Christian converts during the early years of Christianity were adults. Many had been pagan idolaters, and even those who were not probably indulged in one or more of the sinful activities listed in this verse. Peter reminds them that the ungodly season in their life was now over, and implies that it would be to their detriment to continue sinning this way.
4 The friends of those who become Christians are likely to be the first to notice the behavioral changes. They may think the Christian has "gone crazy" because he thinks so differently now. They may be offended at the Gospel, especially because pagan beliefs are discounted as false and spiritually detrimental. They may feel "judged" when a Christian exhibits and explains moral virtues. They may consider the new Christian as no longer "fun" because he refrains from those forms of entertainment that are sinful or even associated with evil. They may misunderstand the true message of the Gospel, or have no idea why faith in God could motivate a person towards good behavior. In a kind of spiritual "self defense," those who wish to remain pagans will malign (literally, "blaspheme") Christians in an attempt to make their own beliefs seem equal, if not superior, to the Christian faith. They may especially focus on the areas of sin that the Christian still has in order to ridicule him as a "hypocrite," and thus invalidate Christianity in their own minds.
5 However, all people will give an account to God whether they believe in Him or not. The Christian's desire is that all will come to know Christ and escape this judgment, but we can otherwise be assured that the mental and physical pain caused by those who refuse to believe in Him will be remembered on Judgment Day. This is not to satiate any desire of vengeance, but rather the need for justice to be served.

The sense of the word "ready" is no so much "soon" as it indicates that all the preparations have been made and nothing can hinder it. God will judge both those who are living ("the quick" KJV) when He comes as well as those who have already died - no one will escape His notice.

6 This verse has had a variety of interpretations because it is not obvious at first glance who or what the "dead" are.

Some believe that the dead are unsaved people who have died. In this scenario, the idea is that Jesus did or will preach to them in Sheol in order to give them a second chance to believe. 1 Pet 3:19 is often cross-referenced to support this. However, this has two things going against it. First, there is not other scriptural support for the dead getting a second chance. In fact, most other verses would lead us to believe otherwise (e.g., Heb 9:27...). The second problem relates to the cross-reference. As was discussed in 1 Pet 3:19, the people referred to were specifically the then living antediluvians, not people in Sheol.

Another interpretation is that the "dead" metaphorically refers to the unsaved person. Obviously, it is the purpose of preaching the Gospel to have people escape judgment and become alive in the Spirit, but it is somewhat awkward to use the term metaphorically here when it was used literally in the previous verse. There is also a problem since the "judgment" here is "in accordance to" or "by" men, not by God.

Thus, the more natural interpretation is likely that Peter is talking about Christians who have died in contrast to the previous verse, which speaks of non-believers. Even more specifically, this verse appears to refer to those who were martyred by men because of their faith. However, while men had judged them worthy of death, God makes them alive by the Spirit ( 9:28). Thus, Christians should be comforted by this thought in the face of persecution and death. People may kill the body, but God can raise the body, and one's spirit never dies.

7 Since such a judgment is to come upon all people, it is wise to be on good terms with God. Prayer is a vital component to a Christian's life. It is a time to reflect, confess sins, ask for guidance, and seek to know Him more. Since we are aware that our lives are relatively short and Judgment Day is coming, we should live in a sober manner, not given to extremes, overindulgence, and frivolities. We are also to be clear minded, not thoughtless, uneducated, or superstitious. This is not a prohibition to enjoying life, but an encouragement not to be careless with it.

It is most likely that Peter and the other apostles believed that the end of the world would happen within their lifetimes (Mat 16:28, John 21:21-23). However, Jesus told them that no one would know the exact time (Mat 24:36). Thus, while the end of the world seems delayed, we should also remember that our individual lives could end at any moment, so it is important to live right before God at all times.

8 In our relationships with one another, love is the most important action. The word for "fervent" or "deeply" here comes from a word describing how an athlete strains and stretches his muscles to win a race. This kind of deliberate and determined love allows us to overlook the imperfections and sins that everyone has. This kind of love points people to God, who will, out of love and through His grace, forgive all their sins when they put their faith in Him.
9 One practical way of showing love is to be hospitable. The word literally means "friendly to strangers," and refers to the idea of inviting people into your home and being concerned about their happiness and welfare while they are with you. This involves more than just social interaction; it is the building of personal relationships with both friends and strangers. This verse specifically addresses hospitality between believers, but does not exclude hospitality to non-Christians (Heb 13:2).

One thing we are to remember is not to be reluctant hosts. If we welcome people into our homes and lives out of love, we will not be regretful about the expense and inconvenience. It would undoubtedly make your guests uncomfortable if you make them feel like a burden or tell them that you invited them only because it is your religious duty. It should be out of sincere desire to love and refresh one another that we ask others into our homes.

10 Each Christian receives a gift from God. Peter does not specify whether these are spiritual gifts, talents, or possessions. We can assume, however, that God has given us these things to benefit others on His behalf. God entrusts us as stewards to use these gifts as He desires, and we are responsible to Him for how they are dispensed. There are a variety of gifts, and thus an infinite number of ways to show other God's grace. By doing good and sharing with each other, we can comfort and help one another through the various trials of life.
11 One set of gifts includes those activities that involve speaking: prophecy, preaching, teaching, and tongues. The first has the highest degree of responsibility because the person is speaking words directly from God. The next two are responsible for explaining and demonstrating how to love God and live properly. The final gift is used to exalt God in a special and personal way. In all these areas, the speaker must acknowledge that the words he speaks are from God or founded on the truths that He has already revealed.

The acts of service include giving of time, talents, works, and goods to those in need and for the benefit of the Church. These people should admit that their strength and ability to do these things comes from God.

God is honored when Christians publicly proclaim Him as the source of the salvation and gifts they have received. Jesus' death and resurrection have made this possible. Peter sums it up in a brief benediction. God deserves all glory, and will have the only eternal kingdom, so it is right to acknowledge what He has done.

12 Peter then returns to the problem of persecution among the Christians. He exhorts them not to be surprised concerning "the burning among you." The people must have been suffering greatly, but Peter also possibly foreshadowed Nero's persecution, which would take place shortly, when Christians were frequently burned alive. Christians are to expect suffering in this life and not be discouraged by it.
13 When Christians suffer persecution because of their faith, we develop a deeper familiarity with Christ as we begin to understand only a small part of His suffering for our sins and the sins of the world. This deeper "fellowship" with Him is reason to rejoice. As a soldier exults when he returns home and parades in the wake of his victorious commander, so too will Christians rejoice when our King reveals Himself again and conquers sin and death forever. The sufferings we endure in this lifetime will compare little to the joy we will experience in heaven. We are given the blessing of knowing a little of that joy here on earth.
14 Echoing Jesus' thought in Mat 5:11, Peter encourages Christians to consider themselves blessed when people insult them because of their faith. It is an evidence of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer when God's enemies take notice.
15 Peter reiterates the idea of 1 Pet 2:20 more strongly. Christians should not be guilty of murder, stealing, or other kinds of evil. To suffer in this way brings disgrace to Christ instead of honor.

The word used for "meddler" or "busybody" is a Greek word which means "inspector of the things of others," and is commonly accepted as the idea of people who pries into the affairs of others, probably referring to those who condemn and try to control people. Nelson notes that the position of the words equates the severity such meddling with murder. It is likely that the nosey person will be treated with suspicion and mistrust asmuch as anyone else who is known to do evil. We must remember that Christianity is about Christ controlling us, not us controlling each other. To circumvent our reliance on God is as much a crime to Him as any of the more obvious sins.

16 If people persecute us because of our faith in Jesus, we are not to be ashamed as if we were doing something wrong. Instead, we are to honor God even more by holding fast to our belief in Him and continue doing what is right. This demonstrates to others that Christianity is not merely a lifestyle, but a vital part of our existence, purpose, and hope for the future. In our eyes, it is an honor to be recognized as a Christian, even if others reject or mistreat us because of it.
17 Jesus had warned His followers that they were to expect persecution in this life, and Peter indicates here that it is a form of judgment. A Christian's flesh is still under the condemnation of sin, and even the best Christian falters at times and needs correction and refining. So, if those who have repented are still subject to severe trials, what will happen to those who never turn to God? Christians understand that our suffering will end, and we will actually be better off having suffered in this lifetime. The unbeliever, however, is completely unaware and unconcerned about the eternal judgment headed their way. This is not to say that non-Christians never suffer, for indeed people everywhere suffer all kinds of hardships. However, the judgments that occur on the Last Day will be far worse than anyone could possibly endure in this lifetime. Thus, Peter gives comfort to Christians by putting suffering into perspective. In the end, Christians will be far better off than their tormenters.
18 The salvation of "righteous" people is difficult, and yes, would have been impossible if Christ had not intervened and taken the penalty for sin. Biblically, it is impossible for anyone to earn enough money or do enough good deeds to win approval from God as to escape judgment for their sins, but with Christ's sacrifice, it is possible to attain both God's favor and forgiveness from sin through faith in Him. Yet, even faith is not easy, as nearly every Christian will attest to. Particularly in times of persecution or difficulty, the believer may be discouraged when it seems that God is not hearing his prayers or helping his cause. Even so, the Christian will hold to his faith, knowing that somehow it will benefit God's glory and help him to grow as an individual.

So then, if we understand how difficult it is for a willing person to be saved, it is assured that the stubborn pride of those who refuse to believe the Gospel will prevent them from escaping judgment. It is with much difficulty that the unregenerated person is willing to admit he has sinned, accept God's forgiveness, and then work to live according to His will.

Some consider it unfathomable that God would or could use someone's faith in Jesus to forgive sins, while rejecting those who "live good lives" but reject following Him exclusively. Most will simply not exert themselves to understand the claims of Christianity either because of complacency, lack of interest in spiritual matters, bad past experiences with Christians, etc. While modern society scoffs at the idea that a "good" god would condemn anyone, the Bible conversely makes it clear that it is miraculous that anyone can be saved.

What will become of such unbelievers (literally, where will they appear)? Obviously, they will not be saved, and we can deduce from the rest of Scripture that they will be judged and condemned to hell for eternity. Certainly, the punishment of the sinner should not bring comfort to the Christian any more than it pleases God to do so. However, the persecuted believer can be comforted in knowing that God does see and will repay, and that the persecution will end forever after Judgment Day.

This verse is the Septuagint version of Prov 11:31, of which there are various translations, even in the ancient texts. This version appears to be most frequent, even though it differs from the original Hebrew meaning. No one is sure why this is.

19 God allows suffering into a Christian's life for reasons of discipline and testing, but often it is the case that we simply still live in a fallen and hurtful world, and God does not intend to shield us from every harm. Instead, as we suffer, it is God's will that we do so bearing the name of Christ, fully trusting that such trials benefit us spiritually and that God to make everything work out for good in the end. We show our faithfulness to Him by continuing to do what is right in our lives.