1 Peter

4:12-19

3. Encouragement to the suffering churches, 3:13-5:11

iv] Sharing Christ's sufferings

Argument

Peter continues to develop his teaching on Christian suffering. He gives practical advice and explains how suffering is but a sign of the coming judgement of God, pointing out that blessings accompany suffering, that there are "deep and varied sources of comfort which are open to the persecuted believer", Robert Johnstone. As for those who inflect this suffering, they are already marked out for destruction.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 3:13-17. Peter continues to encourage his readers in the face of unjust hostility. To aid in this struggle, Peter reminds his readers of the example of Christ. "His final victory and authority over all powers provide an example for conduct and the basis for encouragement. Given the example of Christ, who chose to suffer rather than disobey, Christians are to put behind them the way of life that is antithetical to God's purposes, even though it may mean suffering the pain of self-denial as well as ridicule and persecution from others", Jobes.

 

ii] Background: See 1:1-2. The intensification of the theme of suffering found in the passage before us has prompted the theory that Peter is addressing the issue of state sanctioned persecution, eg., the persecutions initiated by the Roman emperor Nero. This is certainly possible, but it should be noted that Peter does not mention state sanctioned persecution, nor is the persecution to the point of death. It was not until AD249 that Christianity was made legal in the Roman empire, and this by the Roman emperor Decius. In the early years Christianity was bundled in with Judaism which had a legal status in the empire, although, as today, it was not a greatly loved religion. The main complaint against believers was their exclusiveness, their tendency to abstain from social interaction, which naturally prompted neighborly resentment, suspicion, ostracism and inevitably abuse. So, the suffering Peter is speaking of is likely to be "verbal abuse and social ostracism ..... more from their neighbors than as a result of any legal action taken by the authorities", Achtemeier.

 

iii] Structure: This section, on sharing Christ's sufferings, presents as follows:

Some final thoughts on suffering:

The blessing of suffering, v12-16;

A reality of the last days, v17-18;

Trusting God in suffering, v19.

 

iv] Interpretation:

This letter from Peter to the churches in the provinces, serves as a warning to believers facing imminent trouble, although in 4:12 we get the sense that the trouble has already arrived. Peter therefore encourages his readers to stand firm in the face of this persecution. In particular, he makes the point that the suffering must be for following Christ, not for acting foolishly or with evil intent.

Peter explains that when a believer suffers for their Christian faith, there is a sense where they share, or identify, with Christ's suffering. Such is a privilege and it serves to purify us, prepare us for eternity, strengthening us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What we have to be careful about is that we not suffer as an evil-doer. When we are faced with suffering, we need to remember that it is but the first sign of God's coming judgement. In the face of suffering, the believer should renew their faith in the living God through Christ.

 

Authenticity: The change in this section from hypothetical persecution to actual persecution has prompted the suggestion that the doxology in 4:11 concludes the letter and that from 4:12 onward we have a second attached letter. The arguments in favor of this suggestion are unconvincing.

 

vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Sharing Christ's sufferings.

 
Text - 4:12

Continuing to give instruction on facing suffering (persecution which is more verbal than physical), Peter now turns to the business of fostering inward peace, v12-19: i] In the face of suffering, believers need to foster inward thankfulness, given the honor of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, v12-13. Peter begins by encouraging his readers to not be astonished by suffering, as though something out of the ordinary was happening to them. Suffering is part of a believer's apprenticeship

mh ...... alla ... "not ..... but ..." - A connecting particle such as gar, or kai would be expected here for a new paragraph, but is often not used in a hortatory passage, particularly with a negative positive comparative construction as here, covering v12-13.

agaphtoi adj. "dear friends" - beloved.

mh xenizesqe (xenizw) pres. pas. imp. "do not be surprised at" - do not be surprised / entertained. Here "surprised".

th/ ... purwsei (iV ewV) dat. "the painful trial / the fiery ordeal" - the fire. The dative is instrumental, possibly means, "by the fire", but better cause, "because of fire." A reference to persecution. "Do not be surprised because of the ordeal by fire."

ginomenh/ (ginomai) dat. pres. part. "[you] are suffering / that has come" - coming. The participle is adjectival, limiting "fire / the painful trial"; "do not be surprised by the fire (persecution) in you (among you) which is becoming / happening"; "Do not let it be a matter of surprise to you ....... that you should find yourselves beset by so fiery an ordeal", Cassirer.

en + dat. "- / on [you]" - in, on, among [you]. Spacial.

proV + acc. "- / to [test]" - to, toward [a test, trial to you]. Here probably expressing purpose; "for the purpose of testing you." "A test to demonstrate what they could endure", Hiebert. "Do not be surprised at the ordeal that has come to test you", Moffatt.

umin dat. pro. "- / you" - Dative of possession, "for your testing", Michaels, possibly a dative of respect, "for a testing with respect to you", Dubis.

wJV "as though" - like / as. Peter seems to use this particle in two ways, comparative, "as if / as it were", or adverbial,"in the manner of / functioning as", so Achtemeier. Here comparative, although complicated by an ellipsis (missing words) and the genitive absolute participle. Dubis takes the participle as conditional and supplies the missing words "you would be surprised; "as (you would be surprised) if something strange were happening to you." "As if you were experiencing something odd", Berkeley.

xenou gen. adj. "something strange" - of an alien, strange thing. "As if an unexpected thing was happening to you", TNT; "an exceptional thing", Weymouth; "extraordinary", REB.

sumbainontoV (sumbainw) gen. pres. part. "were happening" - happening. The participle is adverbial, forming a genitive absolute participial clause. A genitive absolute is usually temporal, but here conditional serving to "set forth the false ground of their astonishment", Beare.

umin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of interest, disadvantage / reference.

 
v13

Yet, along with suffering there is glory. Christ rose from the dead and entered glory. Those who follow him will similarly move from suffering to joy, from shame to glory.

alla "but" - but. Adversative.

cairete (cairw) pres. imp. "rejoice" - rejoice. "You should be glad", Phillips.

kaqo adv. "that" - in so far as, to the degree that / in comparison to. Adverb of degree. A person's rejoicing is measured by the degree to which they share in the sufferings of Christ, ie., everyone suffers to a different degree and their rejoicing is measured accordingly. Although increased rejoicing would naturally go with decreased suffering, here the suffering is linked to Christ's suffering such that increased suffering implies increased rejoicing.

koinwneite (koinwnew) pres. "that you participate in" - you participate in, share, fellowship. The present tense is durative, expressing ongoing action. "Insomuch as you are sharers in Christ's sufferings", Cassirer.

toiV ... paqhmasin (a atoV) dat. "the sufferings [of Christ]" - in/with the sufferings [of Christ]. Dative of direct object. Best nicely summarizes the possible meanings of this phrase: i] Suffer as Christ suffered, ie., imitate his sufferings (so Hiebert, Selwyn, Michaels, Elliott, Davids); ii] Share mystically in the sufferings of Christ, ie., expressing a believer's identification with Christ in his death and resurrection and thus participation in his sufferings (so Kelly); iii] Share in the messianic woes, ie., the tribulations which proceed and accompany the realization of the kingdom of God (so Best). Option [i] seems best: it expresses "the solidarity of suffering believers with their suffering Lord..... stating yet another way in which innocent suffering is given positive value", Elliott.

iJna + subj. "so that [you may be overjoyed]" - that [you may rejoice]. Forming an adverbial clause expressing hypothetical result, "so that".

kai "-" - Adjunctive; "that you may also rejoice."

agalliwmenoi (agalliaw) pres. part. mid. "-" - being glad. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the rejoicing; "rejoicing with exceeding joy."

en + dat. "when [... is revealed]" - in [the revelation]. The preposition here is temporal, introducing a temporal clause, as NIV. Obviously an eschatological reference.

thV doxhV (a) gen. "[his] glory" - of the glory [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "revelation"; "his glorious revelation." Dubis suggests verbal, objective; "rejoice at the revelation of his glory."

 
v14

ii] In the face of suffering, believers must not give in to a sense of shame, for under God they are blessed, v14-16. A believer who suffers is blessed, is happy. That is, they are privileged in the sight of God, and this because the shekinah glory, the manifestation of God's glory, rests upon them.

ei + ind. "if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, .... then ..."

oneidizesqe (oneidizw) pres. pas. "insulted" - reviled. Used in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) of a reproach to God and his people. Used in the New Testament of the insults that were heaped on Christ.

en + dat. "because of [the name of Christ]" - in/for [the name of Christ]. The preposition here probably aligns in meaning with the other uses of this phrase introduced by dia or uJper, so "because of / on account of." "The name" identifies the person and their authority, so "for the sake of the person of Christ", or as Jesus might say, "for my sake" = "because of your personal allegiance to Christ". Although meaning much the same thing, it is possible that Peter is expressing the same idea as wJV CristianoV, "as a Christian", v16.

makarioi adj. "you are blessed" - blessed, happy. In the sense of being in a favored position in the sight of God, of "blessedness / happiness." Of course, suffering does not earn God's favor.

oJti "for" - that. Here introducing a causal clause providing the reason why suffering is blessedness - it is because God's grace, through the Spirit, is active in those who suffer for the sake of Christ. It is for this reason Paul is able to say "when I am weak, then am I strong", 2Cor.12:10.

to "the" - The placement of the neuter article before thV doxhV causes some problems. It is usually linked with the neuter pneuma, "spirit" (the Holy Spirit) appearing later in the clause, so "the Spirit of glory", as NIV, but it may serve as a nominalizer, introducing a summation of divine blessings, or even just stand for the divine shekinah, the radiant presence of God, ie., function as a substantive phrase, "the presence of the glory", Kelly. So, possibly "you have resting upon you all that pertains to glory", Cassirer.

thV doxhV (a hV) "of glory" - glory, glorious splendor / power, radiance. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, better attributive limiting "Spirit", "glorious Spirit", but even possibly ablative, source / origin. Variant "the Spirit of glory and power." If we follow Kelly then the "glory" is the shekinah glory of God's presence, initially confined to the temple, but now radiating God's scattered people, particularly when the darkness of this age attempts to subsume them.

kai "and" - and. Here probably ascensive, "yes even the Spirit of God."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - Numerous classifications of the genitive are possible, but if we take thV doxhV, "of glory", as attributive, "glorious Spirit", then tou qeou is likely to be the same, so "divine Spirit"; "you are blessed because the glorious Spirit, yes even the divine Spirit, rests upon you."

anapauetai (anapauw) pres. "rests" - gives rest, refreshes. In times of suffering, the indwelling Spirit of Christ counters the hurt with his refreshing presence.

ef (epi) + acc. "on [you]" - Spacial.

 
v15

Since suffering for Christ honors Christ, a believer must be careful that they don't dishonor Christ by suffering for doing evil. The suffering Peter refers to is possibly a legal charge brought before a court of law. Suffering as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or an embezzler ("a meddler"), is not suffering for Christ.

gar "-" - for. Here possibly establishing a logical connection, "to be sure, let none of you suffer ...", Elliott, or even causal, "because", providing "the basis of the preceding verse; the divine Spirit rests upon suffering Christians provided they do not suffer as something other than Christians", Achtemeier. It seems likely that it expresses reason, such that the verse serves as an explanatory qualification of the worthy suffering as a Christian, so Hiebert; "Don't let anyone among you be denounced as ......" There is no blessing for unworthy suffering as a Christian. The NIV expresses this antitheses with a conditional clause.

mh ..... ei de .... "if ...... however, if ....." - A negative positive comparative construction covering v15-16.

uJmwn gen. pro. "you" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive; "let none of you suffer as a murderer", ESV.

mh ... pascetw (pascw) pres. imp. "suffer, it should not be" - let not suffer [any of you]. The present tense, being durative, may express "let no one continue to suffer ..." The suffering, given v14, is probably verbal, so "reproached / denounced / charged."

wV "as" - as, like. Possibly here expressing cause/reason, "because of, on the grounds that."

allotriepiskopoV (oV) "a meddler" - Usually understood as a person who interferes with the affairs of another, a mischief maker, although their are no extant references to substantiate this translation. Achtemeier suggests it refers to defrauding or embezzling; "murderer, thief, criminal, or embezzler."

 
v16

de "however" - but, and. Here adversative. If we find we are reviled because we are a "Christian", we should not slink away in shame, but rather honor God by standing firm in the name we bear. Peter here uses the term "Christ's men", a term first used by Agrippa in a derogatory way, Act.26:28. Although this title was regarded with disdain by both Gentiles and Jews, it is not something to be ashamed of, rather, it is a badge of honor.

ei + "if you suffer" - if. Forming a 1st class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true, "if, as is the case, .... then ...." The indicative verb "you suffer", or probably better "you are reviled", is assumed.

wJV "as" - as / like. Possibly causal, as v15, "because you are a Christian", but ref. note on wJV in v12.

CristianoV "a Christian" - It was common to title a group after the name of its leader, so here "Christ's men" = "Christians". An uncommon term for believers in the NT and originally used with derogative intent, cf. Acts 11:26, 26:28.

mh aiscunesqw (aiscunw) pres. imp. "do not be ashamed" - Probably not being used in the sense of feeling shame, but in the more active sense of retreat under the pressure of a verbal attack; "don't back off from your faith." This sense is demonstrated by the converse "you must make the name of Christian a name which brings honor to God", Barclay.

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, "but rather."

doxazetw (doxazw) pres. imp. "praise [God]" - "Give praise / glory / thanksgiving to God."

en "that you bear [that name]" - in, on [this name]. Introducing an adverbial phrase modifying the verb "praise / glorify." Possibly with a local sense "on", "on the ground of this name", Zerwick, or "in", "in the sphere of the Christian faith within which a person brings praise to God", or possibly better with an instrumental sense, "by this name", ie., God is glorified by bearing / witnessing the person of Jesus in word and deed. A causal sense is possible, but unlikely; "because of the Name", NAB.

 
v17

iii] In the face of suffering, believers need to remember that the day of judgment is at hand, with suffering the inevitable consequence, particularly for those who face damnation, v17-18. Peter now gives an interesting insight into the suffering of believers. The suffering of the people of God is the first sign of God's judgement upon the human race, a judgement which begins with "the family of God." If believers just scrape through the day of judgment, singed but safe, then what hope is there for those who do not know Christ? Jesus himself warns that the day of judgement will be a time of wailing and grinding of teeth. Peter backs up his point by quoting the LXX, the Greek version of the Old Testament, Proverbs 11:31.

oJti "for" - that. Here expressing cause/reason, as NIV, explaining the reason why it is necessary not to back off from faith, but rather confess the name.

oJ kairoV (oV) "it is time" - the time. The article is a variant giving the sense "the last time / the day of judgment." The verb is missing, but the intended verbal sense is carried by the infinitive "to begin", so "for now is the time for judgment."

tou arxasqai (arxw) aor. inf. "to begin" - to begin. The aorist, being punctiliar, expresses the idea of the starting of judgment, beginning; "the first act in the great drama of the Last Judgment", Beare. The genitive articular infinitive will often form a final adverbial clause expressing purpose, but here it stands with its subject "time" and so is probably appositional, or epexegetic, "for [now is] the time for judgment, [a time for judgment] beginning with the household of God", or simply as NIV. There are two ways to view this "judgement" upon "the household of God": First, the judgement may be God's chastisement on the people of God to purify them prior to the final judgement upon all mankind. Such purification is spoken of by the Old Testament prophets, cf. Ezk.9:6, Mal.3:1-6. The "family of God" (the people of God, Israel, the church) will face a purifying fire prior to the day of judgement, enabling them to stand firm on the final day. In this sense, today's troubles serves to train us for our rule with Christ in eternity. Second, the scriptures imply that the coming day of judgement on mankind will prompt an increased attack by the powers of darkness upon the people of God such that the final days of tribulation are marked by a general persecution of the church. So, this judgment may refer to the day of judgement which begins with the church, a day which is already "at hand." If it is difficult for believers to pass through this day, imagine how it will be for those who are without the protection of the cross.

apo + gen. "with [God's household]" - from [the house]. Expressing source / origin. Judgement starts at this point and moves out; "starts with God."

ei + ind. "if [it begins]" - if [first from us]. The indicative verb is assumed for this 1st class conditional clause where the condition is presumed true, "if, as is the case, [the judgment] first [begins] with us (starts from us), then .....

af (apo) + gen. "with" - from. Expressing source / origin. That is, the judgment starts ("begins") from the church and moves on to the rest of humanity.

twn apeiqountwn (apeiqew) gen. "for those who do not obey" - of the ones disobedient. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being verbal, subjective, or possibly adjectival, epexegetic, making the subject to teloV more specific; "what will be the end of those who are disobedient?" The context indicates that the common meaning of this word in the New Testament is of rejecting the gospel, refusing to believe; "those who do not believe the gospel", Mounce. The middle voice reinforces this view, although it is not held by those commentators who are convinced that it is "trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey"!!!!.

tw/ .... euaggeliw/ (on) "the gospel" - to the important news. Dative of direct object after the verb peiqew, "to disobey / disbelieve", which takes a dative of persons.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive may be adjectival, possessive, expressing ownership, or ablative, expressing source / origin, or simply classified as verbal, either subjective, or objective.

 
v18

kai "and" - and. Possibly emphatic here, "Moreover", although more likely epexegetic in that it introduces scriptural support for the statement made in v17. So, best left untranslated.

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case [the righteous is scarcely saved], then [where shall appear the impious and sinner]. "If believers attain salvation only with difficulty, what will be the situation for the impious and sinful?"

moliV adv. "hard" - scarcely. The sense of this modal adverb is probably "with difficulty", possibly expressing the idea that it is no easy matter for God to achieve salvation for those who believe (swqzetai, "to be saved", is passive, possibly a theological/divine passive). Yet, given the context, the difficulty is probably the tribulation facing all believers. "If God's elect have to pass through such hazards and trials, the reflection that should stiffen their resolution and redouble their courage is that words cannot describe the irreparable fate awaiting the impious and sinful", Kelly. There is no implication here that believers will not be saved because of suffering itself.

oJ dikaioV (oV) "the righteous [to be saved]" - [if] the righteous men [with difficulty is saved] Here used of believing Christians. Note, the quote comes from Proverbs 11:31, LXX.

pou adv. "what" - where. Interrogative local adverb. "He that is impious and a sinner, where shall he appear?" Wuest.

faneitai (fainomai) fut. "will become of" - will he shine (mid. "appear"). Literally, "where will he appear?" A question concerning what will become of those who do not believe. If the believer only just squeezes in (is "scarcely / with difficulty saved"), then the unbeliever has no hope.

 
v19

iv] A concluding exhortation to the believer who suffers - trust in the Lord and serve him. Peter concludes his argument by encouraging his readers to trust in the Lord during times of trouble and to continue to act rightly in difficult circumstances. The kingdom comes through suffering, such is God's will. We must accept this truth and remain faithful.

w{ste kai "so then" - and thus, therefore. The conjunction w{ste is inferential, and with kai probably serves to introduce a concluding summary, prompting the reader to expect a new subject in the next sentence. It is possible that kai is linked with oiJ pasconteV, "also those who suffer", or paratiqesqwsan, "should also commit [themselves]." "So, resting on the certainty of divine judgment, let the believer reaffirm their faith in God (through faith in Christ)."

oi pasconteV (pascw) pres. part. "those who suffer" - the ones suffering. The participle serves as a substantive; "so then, believers who suffer ..."

kata + acc. "according to" - The preposition here probably expresses a standard, "in accordance with / corresponding to [the will of God]", rather than being instrumental, "by the will of God", or causal, "because it is the will of God." Best expressed as "whom God allows to suffer", NJB.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "God's [will]" - [the will] of God. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective.

paratiqesqwsan (paratiqhmi) pres. imp. "should commit" - let them entrust, deliver over, entrust for safekeeping. Given the day of judgment, the believer should entrust their person [literally, their souls = "themselves"] completely to their creator.

pistw/ "to [their] faithful [creator]" - to a trustworthy, faithful [creator]. Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "-" - in. The preposition here is adverbial, possibly temporal, "while doing good", ESV, instrumental, means, "by their good actions", TEV, or probably better, attendant circumstance, as NIV, "and ...."

agaqopoiia/ (a) "and continue to do good" - active well-doing. Well-doing, in the sense of performing good deeds toward others, or more widely, doing what God says, is a practical expression of our personal faith-commitment to the living God in/through Christ. Well-doing is not the substance of our commitment, but rather faith is the substance. It is of course possible that "the good" for Peter, in this context, is bearing up under suffering. "Let them commit themselves to their faithful creator and serve him, no matter what."

 

1 Peter Introduction

Exposition

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