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1 Peter 4:6-11

6. For 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.

6. In hoc enim et mortuis evangelizatus fuit (vel, praedicatum fuit evangelium,) ut judicentur quidem secundum homines carne, vivant autem secundum Deum spiritu.

7. But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

7. Porro omnium finis propinquus est: sobrii itaque estote, et vigilantes ad precandum.

8. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

8. Ante omnia vero charitatem inter vos intentam habentes; quia charitas operiet multitudinem peccatorum.

9. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

9. Invicem hospitales sine murmurationibus.

10. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

10. Ut quisque aecepit donum, ministrantes illud inter vos, tanquam boni dispensatores multiplicis gratiae Dei.

11. If any 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.

11. Siquis loquitur, loquatur tanquam eloquia Dei; siquis ministrat, tanquam ex virtute quam suppeditat Deus; ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus per Jesum Christum; cui est gloria et imperium in secula seculorum. Amen.

 

6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, or, He has been evangelized to the dead. We see in what sense he takes the former passage in the third chapter, even that death does not hinder Christ from being always our defender. It is then a remarkable consolation to the godly, that death itself brings no loss to their salvation. Though Christ, then, may not appear a deliverer in this life, yet his redemption is not void, or without effect; for his power extends to the dead. But as the Greek word is doubtful, it may be rendered in the masculine, or in the neuter gender; but the meaning is almost the same, that is, that Christ had been made known as a redeemer to the dead, or that salvation had been made known to them by the gospel. But if the grace of Christ once penetrated to the dead, there is no doubt but that we shall partake of it when dead. We then set for it limits much too narrow, if we confine it to the present life.

That they might be judged I omit the explanations of others, for they seem to me to be very remote from the Apostle’s meaning. This has been said, as I think, by way of anticipation, for it might have been objected, that the gospel is of no benefit to the dead, as it does not restore them to life. Peter concedes a part of this objection, and yet in such a way, that they are not deprived of the salvation obtained by Christ. Therefore, in the first clause, when he says, “that they might be judged in the flesh, according to men,” it is a concession; and “judged” means here, as often elsewhere, condemned; and flesh is the outward man. So that the meaning is, that though according to the estimation of the world the dead suffer destruction in their flesh, and are deemed condemned as to the outward man, yet they cease not to live with God, and that in their spirit, because Christ quickens them by his Spirit.

But we ought to add what Paul teaches us in Romans 8:10, that the Spirit is life; and hence it will be, that he will at length absorb the relics of death which still cleave to us. The sum of what he says is, that though the condition of the dead in the flesh is worse, according to man, yet it is enough that the Spirit of Christ revives them, and will eventually lead them to the perfection of life. 4545     Whitby, Doddridge, and Mackight, regard the dead here as the dead in sins, according to Ephesians 2:1. The first thus paraphrases what follows, “That they might condemn their former life, and live a better;” the second, “That they might be brought to such a state of life as their carnal neighbors will look upon it as a kind of condemnation and death;” and the third, “That although they might be condemned, indeed, by men in the flesh, yet they might live eternally by God in the Spirit.”
   Beza, Hammond, and Scott, consider that the dead were those already dead, that is, when the Apostle wrote, and even before the coming of Christ, taking the dead in the same sense as in the former verse: but they differ as to the clause which follows. The two first interpret it as signifying the same as dying to sin and living to God, a meaning which the former part of the clause can hardly bear: but the view of Scott is, that the gospel had been preached to those at that time dead, that they might be condemned by carnal men, or in the flesh, as evildoers, but live to God through the Holy Spirit. The only fault, perhaps, with this rendering is as to the word flesh, which seems to mean here the same as flesh in 1 Peter 3:18, that is, the body; and the word spirit is also in the same form, for Griesbach in that verse regards the article τῷ as spurious. Then the rendering would be, “That they might be condemned in the flesh by men, but live as to God through the Spirit.” There are two previous instances of the word spirit, when denoting the Holy Spirit, being without the article, that is, in 1 Peter 1:2 and 22

   It seems an objection, that the gospel had been preached to them for this end, that they might be condemned to die by wicked men; but this had been expressly stated before, in 1 Peter 2:21: “For even hereunto, (that is, suffering, mentioned in the former verse) were ye called;” or, “For to this end ye have been called.” Then Christ in his suffering is mentioned as one whom they ought to follow.

   There is no other view so consistent with the whole tenor of the Apostle’s argument. — Ed.

7 But, or, moreover, the end of all things is at hand Though the faithful hear that their felicity is elsewhere than in the world, yet, as they think that they should live long, this false thought renders them careless, and even slothful, so that they direct not their thoughts to the kingdom of God. Hence the Apostle, that he might rouse them from the drowsiness of the flesh, reminds them that the end of all things was nigh; by which he intimates that we ought not to sit still in the world, from which we must soon remove. He does not, at the same time, speak only of the end of individuals, but of the universal renovation of the world; as though he had said, “Christ will shortly come, who will put an end to all things.”

It is, then, no wonder that the cares of this world overwhelm us, and make us drowsy, if the view of present things dazzles our eyes: for we promise, almost all of us, an eternity to ourselves in this world; at least, the end never comes to our mind. But were the trumpet of Christ to sound in our ears, it would powerfully rouse us and not suffer us to lie torpid.

But it may be objected and said, that a long series of ages has passed away since Peter wrote this, and yet that the end is not come. My reply to this is, that the time seems long to us, because we measure its length by the spaces of this fleeting life; but if we could understand the perpetuity of future life, many ages would appear to us like a moment, as Peter will also tell us in his second epistle. Besides, we must remember this principle, that from the time when Christ once appeared, there is nothing left for the faithful, but with suspended minds ever to look forward to his second coming. 4646     There is no ground to suppose, as Hammond, Macknight, and some others have supposed, that “the end of all things” was the end of the Jews as a nation, the destruction of the temple and its worship. And it is strange that such a notion should be entertained, especially when we consider that the Apostle refers to the same subject in his Second Epistle, where the end of the world is plainly spoken of. — Ed.

The watchfulness and the sobriety to which he exhorted them, belong, as I think, to the mind rather than to the body. The words are similar to those of Christ:

“Watch ye, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.” (Matthew 25:13.)

For as an indulgence in surfeiting and sleep renders the body unfit for its duties, so the vain cares and pleasures of the world inebriate the mind and render it drowsy.

By adding prayer, he points out an exercise especially necessary, in which the faithful ought to be particularly occupied, since their whole strength depends on the Lord; as though he had said, “Since ye are in yourselves extremely weak, seek of the Lord to strengthen you.” He yet reminds them that they were to pray earnestly, not formally.

8 And above all things He commends charity or love as the first thing, for it is the bond of perfection. And he bids it to be fervent, or intense, or vehement, which is the same thing; for whosoever is immoderately fervent in self-love, loves others coldly. And he commends it on account of its fruit, because it buries innumerable sins, than which nothing is more desirable. But the sentence is taken from Solomon, whose words are found in Proverbs 10:12,

“Hatred discovers reproaches, but love covers a multitude of sins.”

What Solomon meant is sufficiently clear, for the two clauses contain things which are set in contrast the one with the other. As then he says in the first clause that hatred is the cause why men traduce and defame one another, and spread whatever is reproachful and dishonorable; so it follows that a contrary effect is ascribed to love, that is, that men who love one another, kindly and courteously forgive one another; hence it comes that, willingly burying each other’s vices, one seeks to preserve the honor of another. 4747     The quotation is from the Hebrew, and the sentence in the Sept. is evidently different. The same words are found also in James 5:20. Thus Peter confirms his exhortation, that nothing is more necessary than to cherish mutual love. For who is there that has not many faults? Therefore all stand in need of forgiveness, and there is no one who does not wish to be forgiven.

This singular benefit love brings to us when it exists among us, so that innumerable evils are covered in oblivion. On the other hand, where loose reins are given to hatred, men by mutual biting and tearing must necessarily consume one another, as Paul says (Galatians 5:15.)

And it ought to be noticed that Solomon does not say that only a few sins are covered, but a multitude of sins, according to what Christ declares, when he bids us to forgive our brethren seventy times seven, (Matthew 18:22.) But the more sins love covers, the more evident appears its usefulness for the wellbeing of mankind.

This is the plain meaning of the words. It hence appears how absurd are the Papists, who seek to elicit from this passage their own satisfactions, as though almsgiving and other duties of charity were a sort of a compensation to God for blotting out their sins. 4848     ”Though charity, or benevolence, hides the faults of others from the severity of our censure, yet charity or almsgiving is totally unable to conceal our own from the observance of our all-righteous Judge. Indeed, the only cover for these, or to speak more properly, the discharge of all their stains, is faith, — is the blood of Christ, working with repentance towards God.” — Bishop Warburton, quoted by Bloomfield.Ed. It is enough to point out by the way their gross ignorance, for in a matter so clear it would be superfluous to add many words.

9 Use hospitality, or, Be hospitable. After having generally exhorted them to love one another, he specially mentions one of the duties of love. At that time hospitality was commonly used, and it was deemed in a manner a sacred kind of humanity, as we have stated elsewhere. He then bids them mutually to exercise it, so that no one might require more from others than what he himself was prepared to render. He adds, without murmurings, for it is a rare example that one spends himself and his own on his neighbor without any disparaging reflection. Then the Apostle would have us to show kindness willingly and with a cheerful mind.

10 As every one hath received He reminds us what we ought to bear in mind when we do good to our neighbors; for nothing is more fitted to correct our murmurings than to remember that we do not give our own, but only dispense what God has committed to us. When therefore he says, “Minister the gift which every one has received,” he intimates that to each had been distributed what they had, on this condition, that in helping their brethren they might be the ministers of God. And thus the second clause is an explanation of the first, for instead of ministry he mentions stewardship; and for what he had said, “as every one hath received the gift,” he mentions the manifold graces which God variously distributes to us, so that each might confer in common his own portion. If then we excel others in any gift, let us remember that we are as to this the stewards of God, in order that we may kindly impart it to our neighbors as their necessity or benefit may require. Thus we ought to be disposed and ready to communicate.

But this consideration is also very important, that the Lord hath so divided his manifold graces, that no one is to be content with one thing and with his own gifts, but every one has need of the help and aid of his brother. This, I say, is a bond which God hath appointed for retaining friendship among men, for they cannot live without mutual assistance. Thus it happens, that he who in many things seeks the aid of his brethren, ought to communicate to them more freely what he has received. This bond of unity has been observed and noticed by heathens. But Peter teaches us here that God had designedly done this, that he might bind men one to another.

11 If any man speak As he had spoken of the right and faithful use of gifts, he specifies two things as examples, and he has chosen those which are the most excellent or the most renowned. The office of teaching in the Church is a remarkable instance of God’s favor. He then expressly commands those called to this office to act faithfully; though he does not speak here only of what we owe to men, but also of what we owe to God, so that we may not deprive him of his glory.

He who speaks, then, that is, who is rightly appointed by public authority, let him speak as the oracles of God; that is, let him reverently in God’s fear and in sincerity perform the charge committed to him, regarding himself as engaged in God’s work, and as ministering God’s word and not his own. For he still refers to the doctrine, that when we confer any thing on the brethren, we minister to them by God’s command what he has bestowed on us for that purpose. And truly, were all those who profess to be teachers in the Church duly to consider this one thing, there would be in them much more fidelity and devotedness. For how great a thing is this, that in teaching the oracles of God, they are representatives of Christ! Hence then comes so much carelessness and rashness, because the sacred majesty of God’s word is not borne in mind but by a few; and so they indulge themselves as in a worldly stewardship.

In the meantime, we learn from these words of Peter, that it is not lawful for those who are engaged in teaching to do anything else, but faithfully to deliver to others, as from hand to hand, the doctrine received from God; for he forbids any one to go forth, except he who is instructed in God’s word, and who proclaims infallible oracles as it were from his mouth. He, therefore, leaves no room for human inventions; for he briefly defines the doctrine which ought to be taught in the Church. Nor is the particle of similitude introduced here for the purpose of modifying the sentence, as though it were sufficient to profess that it is God’s word that is taught. This was, indeed, commonly the case formerly with false prophets; and we see at this day how arrogantly the Pope and his followers cover with this pretense all their impious traditions. But Peter did not intend to teach pastors such hypocrisy as this, to pretend that they had from God whatever doctrine it pleased them to announce, but, he took an argument from the subject itself, that he might exhort them to sobriety and meekness, to a reverence for God, and to an earnest attention to their work.

If any man minister This second clause extends wider, it includes the office of teaching. But as it would have been too long to enumerate each of the ministerial works, he preferred summarily to speak of them all together, as though he had said, “Whatever part of the burden thou bearest in the Church, know that thou canst do nothing but what has been given time by the Lord, and that thou art nothing else but an instrument of God: take heed, then, not to abuse the grace of God by exalting thyself; take heed not to suppress the power of God, which puts forth and manifests itself in the ministry for the salvation of the brethren.” Let him then minister as by God’s power, that is, let him regard nothing as his own, but let him humbly render service to God and his Church.

That God in all things may be glorified When he says, In all, the word may be in the masculine or in the neuter gender; and thus men or gifts may be meant, and both meanings are equally suitable. The sense is, that God does not adorn us with his gifts, that he may rob himself and make himself as it were an empty idol by transferring to us his own glory, but that, on the contrary, his own glory may everywhere shine forth; and that it is therefore a sacrilegious profanation of God’s gifts when men propose to themselves any other object than to glorify God. He says through Jesus Christ, because whatever power we have to minister, he alone bestows it on us; for he is the head, with which the whole body is connected by joints and bindings, and maketh increase in the Lord, according as he supplieth strength to every member.

To whom be praise, or glory. Some refer this to Christ; but the context requires that it should be rather applied to God; for he confirms the last exhortation, because God justly claims all the glory; and, therefore, men wickedly take away from him what is his own, when they obscure in anything, or in any part, his glory.


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