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1 Peter 4:12-17

12. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

12. Dilecti, ne miramini quum exploramini per ignem ad probationem vestri, perinde ac si novum aliquid vobis obtingat:

13. But 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.

13. Sed quatenus consortes estis passionum Christi gaudere; ut in revelatione quoque glorie ejus gaudeatis exultantes.

14. If 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.

14. Si probris afficimini in nomine Christi, beati estis, quoniam Spiritus glorite et Dei super vos requiescit; secundum ipsos quidem contumelia afficitur, secundun vos aut em glorificatur.

15. But 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.

15. Ne quis enim vestrum patiatur, ut homicida, aut fur, aut maleficus, aut cupidè rebus alienis inhians.

16. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

16. Si autem ut Christianus, ne pudefiat, imo glorificet Deum in hac parte.

17. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: —

17. Quandoquidem et tempus est, ut judicium incipiat a domo Dei:—

 

12 Beloved, think it not strange, or, wonder not. There is a frequent mention made in this Epistle of afflictions; the cause of which we have elsewhere explained. But this difference is to be observed, that when he exhorts the faithful to patience, he sometimes speaks generally of troubles common to man’s life; but here he speaks of wrongs done to the faithful for the name of Christ. And first, indeed, he reminded them that they ought not to have deemed it strange as for a thing sudden and unexpected; by which he intimates, that they ought by a long mediation to have been previously prepared to bear the cross. For whosoever has resolved to fight under Christ’s banner, will not be dismayed when persecution happens, but, as one accustomed to it, will patiently bear it. That we may then be in a prepared state of mind when the waves of persecutions roll over us, we ought in due time to habituate ourselves to such an event by meditating continually on the cross.

Moreover, he proves that the cross is useful to us by two arguments, — that God thus tries our faith, — and that we become thus partakers with Christ. Then, in the first place, let us remember that the trial of our faith is most necessary, and that we ought thus willingly to obey God who provides for our salvation. However, the chief consolation is to be derived from a fellowship with Christ. Hence Peter not only forbids us to think it strange, when he sets this before us, but also bids us to rejoice. It is, indeed, a cause of joy, when God tries our faith by persecution; but the other joy far surpasses it, that is, when the Son of God allots to us the same course of life with himself, that he might lead us with himself to a blessed participation of heavenly glory. For we must bear in mind this truth, that we have the dying of Christ in our flesh, that his life may be manifested in us. The wicked also do indeed bear many afflictions; but as they are separated from Christ, they apprehend nothing but God’s wrath and curse: thus it comes that sorrow and dread overwhelm them.

Hence, then, is the whole consolation of the godly, that they are associates with Christ, that hereafter they may be partakers of his glory; for we are always to bear in mind this transition from the cross to the resurrection. But as this world is like a labyrinth, in which no end of evils appears, Peter refers to the future revelation of Christ’s glory, as though he had said, that the day of its revelation is not to be overlooked, but ought to be expected. But he mentions a twofold joy, one which we now enjoy in hope, and the other the full fruition of which the coming of Christ shall bring to us; for the first is mingled with grief and sorrow, the second is connected with exultation. For it is not suitable in the midst of afflictions to think of joy, which can free us from all trouble; but the consolations of God moderate evils, so that we can rejoice at the same time.

14 If ye be reproached He mentions reproaches, because there is often more bitterness in them than in the loss of goods, or in the torments or agonies of the body; there is therefore nothing which is more grievous to ingenuous minds. For we see that many who are strong to bear want, courageous in torments, nay, bold to meet death, do yet succumb under reproach. To obviate this evil, Peter pronounces those blessed, according to what Christ says, (Mark 8:35,) who are reproached for the sake of the Gospel. This is very contrary to what men commonly think and feel; but he gives a reason, Because the Spirit of God, called also the Spirit of glory, rests on them. Some read the words separately, “that which belongs to glory,” as though the words were, “glory and the Spirit of God.” But the former reading is more suitable as to the sense, and, as to language, more simple. Then Peter shews, that it is no hindrance to the happiness of the godly, that they sustain reproach for the name of Christ, because they nevertheless retain a complete glory in the sight of God, while the Spirit, who has glory ever connected with him, dwells in them. So, what seems to the flesh a paradox, the Spirit of God makes consistent by a sure perception in their minds.

On their part This is a confirmation of the last sentence; for he intimates that it is enough for the godly, that the Spirit of God testifies that the reproaches endured for the sake of the Gospel, are blessed and full of glory. The wicked, however, attempted to effect a far different object; as though he had said, “Ye can boldly despise the insolence of the ungodly, because the testimony respecting your glory, which God’s Spirit gives you, remains fixed within.” And he says that the Spirit of God was reproached, because the unbelieving expose to ridicule whatever he suggests and dictates for our consolation. But this is by anticipation; for however the world in its blindness may see nothing but what is disgraceful in the reproaches of Christ, he would not have the eyes of the godly to be dazzled with this false opinion; but on the contrary they ought to look up to God. Thus he does not conceal what men commonly think; but he sets the hidden perception of faith, which God’s children possess in their own hearts, in opposition to their presumption and insolence. Thus Paul boasted that he had the marks of Christ, and he gloried in his bonds. (Galatians 6:17.) He had at the same time sufficiently found out what was the judgment formed of them by the world; and yet he intimates that it thought foolishly, and that those are blind together with the world, who esteem the slanders of the flesh glorious.

15. But (or, For) let one of you Here also he anticipates an objection. He had exhorted the faithful to patience, if it happened to them to be persecuted for the cause of Christ; he now adds the reason why he had only spoken of that kind of trouble, even because they ought to have abstained from all evil-doing. Here, then, is contained another exhortation, lest they should do anything for which they might seem to be justly punished. Therefore the causal particle is not, here superfluous, since the Apostle wished to give a reason why he so much exhorted the faithful to a fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, and at the same time to remind them by the way to live justly and harmlessly, lest they should bring on themselves a just punishment through their own faults; as though he had said, that it behoved Christians to deserve well of all, even when they were badly and cruelly treated by the world.

Were any one to object and say, that no one can be found to be so innocent but that he deserves for many faults to be chastised by God; to this I reply, that Peter here speaks of sins from which we ought to be entirely freed, such as thefts and murders; and I give further this reply, that the Apostle commands Christians to be such as they ought to be. It, is, then, no wonder, that he points out a difference between us and the children of this world, who being without God’s Spirit, abandon themselves to every kind of wickedness. He would not have God’s children to be in the same condition, so as to draw on themselves by a wicked life the punishment allotted by the laws. But we have already said elsewhere, that though there are always many sins in the elect, which God might justly punish, yet according to his paternal indulgence he spares his own children, so that he does not inflict the punishment they deserve, and that in the meantime, for honour’s sake, he adorns them with his own tokens and those of his Christ, when he suffers them to be afflicted for the testimony of the Gospel.

The word ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος seems to me to designate one who covets what belongs to another. For they who gape after plunder or fraud, inquire into affairs of others with tortuous or crooked eyes, as Horace says; 4949     Sic tamen ut limis rapias quid prima secundo
Cera velit versu. Sat. lib. 2:5, 53.
but the despiser of money, as the same says elsewhere, looks on vast heaps of gold with a straight eye. 5050     Quisquis ingentes oculo irretorto
Spectat acervos.
— Carm. lib. it. Od. 2:23.

   The sin here referred to must have some public act, punishable by law. The word means an observer of other people’s affairs, but he must have done so for some sinister purpose. He was probably a pryer into matters of state or government in order to create discontent and to raise commotions; and this was an evil which prevailed much at the time among the Jews. Hence “seditions,” or factions, would convey probably the right meaning. — Ed.

16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian After having forbidden the Christians to do any hurt or harm, lest for their evil deeds, like the unbelieving, they should become hateful to the world, he now bids them to give thanks to God, if they suffered persecutions for the name of Christ. And truly it is no common kindness from God, that he calls us, freed and exempted from the common punishment of our sins, to so honorable a warfare as to undergo for the testimony of his Gospel either exiles, or prisons, or reproaches, or even death itself. Then he intimates that those are ungrateful to God, who clamor or murmur on account of persecutions, as though they were unworthily dealt with, since on the contrary they ought to regard it as gain and to acknowledge God’s favor.

But when he says, as a Christian, he regards not so much the name as the cause. It is certain that the adversaries of Christ omitted nothing in order to degrade the Gospel. Therefore, whatever reproachful words they made use of, it was enough for the faithful, that they suffered for nothing else but for the defense of the Gospel.

On this behalf, or, In this respect. For since all afflictions derive their origin from sin, this thought ought to occur to the godly, “I am indeed worthy to be visited by the Lord with this and even with greater punishment for my sins; but now he would have me to suffer for righteousness, as though I were innocent.” For how much soever the saints may acknowledge their own faults, yet as in persecutions they regard a different end, such as the Lord sets before them, they feel that their guilt is blotted out and abolished before God. On this behalf, then, they have reason to glorify God.

17 For the time is come, or, Since also the time is come. He amplifies the consolation, which the goodness of the cause for which we suffer brings to us, while we are afflicted for the name of Christ. For this necessity, he says, awaits the whole Church of God, not only to be subject to the common miseries of men, but especially and mainly to be chastised by the hand of God. Then, with more submission, ought persecutions for Christ to be endured. For except we desire to be blotted out from the number of the faithful, we must submit our backs to the scourges of God. Now, it is a sweet consolation, that God does not execute his judgments on us as on others, but that he makes us the representatives of his own Son, when we do not suffer except for his cause and for his name.

Moreover, Peter took this sentence from the common and constant teaching of Scripture; and this seems more probable to me than that a certain passage, as some think, is referred to. It was formerly usual with the Lord, as all the prophets witness, to exhibit the first examples of his chastisements in his own people, as the head of a family corrects his own children rather than those of strangers. (Isaiah 10:12.) For though God is the judge of the whole world, yet he would have his providence to be especially acknowledged in the government of his own Church. Hence, when he declares that he would rise up to be the judge of the whole world, he adds that this would be after he had completed his work on Mount Sion. He indeed puts forth his hand indifferently against his own people and against strangers; for we see that both are in common subjected to adversities; and if a comparison be made, he seems in a manner to spare the reprobate, and to be severe towards the elect. Hence the complaints of the godly, that the wicked pass their life in continual pleasures, and delight themselves with wine and the harp, and at length descend without pains in an instant into the grave — that fatness covers their eyes — that they are exempt from troubles — that they securely and joyfully spend their life, looking down with contempt on others, so that they dare to set their mouth against heaven. (Job 21:13; Psalm 73:3-9.) In short, God so regulates his judgments in this world, that he fattens the wicked for the day of slaughter. He therefore passes by their many sins, and, as it were, connives at them. In the meantime, he restores by corrections his own children, for whom he has a care, to the right way, whenever they depart from it.

In this sense it is that Peter says that judgment begins at the house of God; for judgment includes all those punishments which the Lord inflicts on men for their sins, and whatever refers to the reformation of the world.

But why does he say that it was now the time? He means, as I think, what the prophets declare concerning his own time, that it especially belonged to Christ’s kingdom, that the beginning of the reformation should be in the Church. Hence Paul says that Christians, without the hope of a resurrection, would of all men be the most miserable, (1 Corinthians 15:19;) and justly so, because, while others indulge themselves without fear, the faithful continually sigh and groan; while God connives at the sins of others, and suffers them to continue torpid, he deals rigidly with his own people, and subjects them to the discipline of the cross.


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