COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
" 4:14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter." (1 Peter 4:14-16NKJV)
Because of the inevitability of suffering, the Holy Spirit provides extensive teaching to enable us to properly assess hard experiences. There is a vast area of blessing to be realized in the very process of suffering. The closer an individual is to the world, the greater the distance between that person and the blessing of reference. There are also matters that are best revealed to us in the crucible of suffering. There we learn more about the Lord, the provisions that belong to us, and ourselves. Who but the Lord could enable such benefits to come from hard experiences? There is no attractiveness in suffering itself, and our teaching must never insinuate that is the case. It is the thing revealed by that suffering that brings the blessing. Our text will confirm this is the case, showing that certain sufferings do not yield blessing to the believer. The child of God is to give diligence to avoid these sufferings, for they do not bring a blessing, nor are they commendable.
IF YOU ARE REPROACHED FOR THE NAME OF CHRIST
" 4:14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified." NKJV Reproach is a bitter experience of life. One must be strong to bear it. One of the strong expressions of its impact upon the soul is found in the 22nd Psalm. "But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." David experienced this in measure, the Lord Jesus tasted of it in a full measure. Such reproach is like "a sword in my bones" (Psa 42:10). How vividly this is expressed in the 69th Psalm. "Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness" (69:20).
Reproach is verbal. It is a taunting of believers, when they are defamed, reviled, disparaged, insulted, and chided for their faith. For some, these are harder to bear than the confiscation of their goods, or even bloody persecution. Many who could stand a beating for their faith, cannot stand to be reproached or reviled. This is the very reason why some compromise their faith, close their mouths, and avoid any visible appearance that would cause people to think they are different. Jesus told His disciples there was a blessing to be had in reproach, and our text confirms it. "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake" (Lk 6:22).
What does it mean to be "reproached for the name of Christ?" It is being insulted because you obviously belong to Christ and live for Him. It is because you wear His name, are a Christian, believe in Him, and speak for Him. Jesus put it this way: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).
BLESSED (happy) ARE YOU. This is a profound blessedness, and a deep happiness. It is not laughing, smiling, or being merry. This takes place in the human spirit, where the Holy Spirit is bearing witness to the individual (Rom 8:16). Personal reproach because we belong to Jesus becomes the evidence our reward in heaven IS "great" (Matt 5:11-12). The REASON for the reproach brings a blessing, not the reproach itself. The knowledge of that present blessing makes the reproach tolerable. Without that knowledge it is too heavy.
THE SPIRIT OF GLORY AND OF GOD. The sense of the phrase is, "the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God"NRSV rests upon us. This experience was prophesied by Isaiah as belonging to the Savior Himself (Isa 11:1-3). When, therefore, the world reacts to us as they did to Jesus, it is not merely because we have tried to imitate Him by means of rules and regulations. It is because His nature is within us. He is abiding in us, and revealing Himself to us and through us. It is His life that is being revealed in our body (2 Cor 4:10). Our flesh is not capable of seeing this, and thus views reproach quite differently. One of the great curses of walking in the flesh is how it makes men react to reproach. When, however, we walk in the Spirit, we will be able to see circumstances during reproach that will bring great joy and solace to our hearts. God and Jesus have found a home in us, abiding in us (John 14:23). That is why the world levels reproach at us.
ON THEIR PART. This latter phrase is missing in contemporary versions of the Scripture. However, as John Gill notes, "The clause is wanting in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, but is in all Beza's Greek copies, excepting one, and is also in the Arabic version." There are two sides to reproach: the side of the one reproaching, and the side of the one being reproached. On the part of the reproacher, evil is being said of "Him"-that is, of the Lord. This is Jesus in general, Who had the Spirit without measure. It is Spirit Himself because His work is being blasphemed and ridiculed, for it is His work that causes our enemies to reproach us.
ON YOUR PART. On the part of the reproached, the Lord is glorified both by the reproach received and our response to it. Thus we are "unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish" (2 Cor 2:14-15). Christ's life within us has elicited the same response toward us as was experienced by Him. The world has not changed. Consequently, while we are being changed "from glory unto glory," it will lash out against us just as it did toward the Lord Jesus, to whose image we are being conformed.
SUFFERING FOR THE WRONG THING
" 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters." NKJV Because of the subtlety of our adversary, and the presence of our own flesh, the Spirit reminds us there is a suffering that is not blessed. It is associated with sin, or acting in contradiction of the nature of God. This is a view of holiness from the abstinence point of view. Holiness consists of two sides. First, there is living "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Second, there is "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Tit 2:12). The Spirit now deals with the second side.
The world and shallow religion will not allow the grouping of these transgressions. They do not appear worthy of being placed in the same class. A "murderer" is thus viewed by many as infinitely more reprehensible than a "busybody." And, indeed, there is a sense in which one sin is of a greater magnitude than the other. The Spirit is not insinuating that all of these sins are on the same level, but that all of them deserve punishment. Divine Law can instruct us on this point.
A "murderer" is condemned to death by God Himself. "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man" (Gen 9:6). The Mosaic Law likewise condemned the murderer. "He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death" (Ex 21:12). The Spirit confirms God still has such a requirement. Political rulers are said to be God's ministers, "for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Rom 13:4). To suffer "as a murderer" is not to suffer verbal reproach, but to be put to death. God's word is that "none of you" is to suffer in this way. This brings no glory to God.
Under the Law, "a thief" was not punished in the same way as a murderer-but he was punished. Depending on what was stolen, the thief had to make it up to the owner. If he killed or sold what was stolen, he had to restore five times what he took (oxen), or four times (sheep). If he was found with the stolen article, he had to restore double. The minimum restitution in all cases of thievery was "double" (Ex 22:1-10). Again, God's word is that "none of you" is to suffer for such things. This brings no glory to God.
An "evildoer" is any other type of "criminal"NIV or "wrongdoer."RSV It is someone who infringes on the rights of others, making life more difficult for them. It is the opposite of the expression found in Romans 13:10. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor." An "evildoer" breaks the laws of both God and man with respect to considering others. Such a person is inconsiderate of both God and man, seeking to gain personal advantage by causing disadvantages to others. Again, God's word is that "none of you" is to suffer for such things. This brings no glory to God.
A "busybody in other men's affairs" is a trouble-maker that interferes, or intrudes, in other men's concerns. This is a "meddler," who leaves his own affairs to become involved in things that do not concern him. Jesus described such as one trying to take a speck out of another's eye, whole having a log hanging out of his own (Matt 7:3-5). The Spirit admonishes us to mind our "own business," while giving diligence to be quiet and do our own work (1 Thess 4:11). We are told of some who neglected their own affairs to dabble in the business of others. "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies" (2 Thess 3:11). The Spirit also mentioned younger women who learned "to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Tim 5:13). Such reprehensible conduct cannot be justified. Again, God's word is that "none of you" is to suffer for such things. This brings no glory to God.
All of this is involved in keeping ourselves "pure" (1 Tim 5:22). It is part of pursuing "peace with all men" and "holiness" (Heb 12;14). We will not be able to avoid suffering altogether. There is reproach for the name of Christ that is the occasion for blessing, and can yield great joy to the believer. Reproaches for wrong doing, however patiently they are endured, are not commended by God. They have nothing to do with our reward in heaven.
SUFFERING AS A CHRISTIAN
" 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter." NKJV Here is one of the three places the word "Christian" is found in Scripture (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet 4:16). In all three cases, the word reflects the world's view of believers. In Acts 11:26, "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." In Acts 26:28, wicked Agrippa said to Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Our text speaks of suffering "as a Christian."
Some teach this was a Divinely given name, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 62:2: "and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name." This view also appeals to the original word from which "called" is translated, saying it means "called by God," or Divinely named. There are reasons that do not allow for this interpretation, regardless of etymological concerns. First, no believer ever referred to himself as a "Christian." Second, no congregation of believers is ever called "Christians." Third, no promises are addressed to "Christians." It is inconceivable that these conditions could exist if the name "Christian" was Divinely given. God gave the name "Jesus" to His Son, and repeatedly referred to Him as such. He gave the name "Abraham" to Abram, and from that point on so referred to him. But this is not the case with "Christian."
The word "Christian" means "of or pertaining to Christ; a follower of Christ." Believers were referred to in this way because of their obvious identity with Jesus Christ. They were not merely His followers by profession, but in manner of life and teaching as well. As you already know, many people wear the name "Christian" who are received by the world, and treated as friends and associates. But this will not be the experience of anyone who exudes the life of Jesus. It will at once become apparent to the world such an one is separate from them. As a result, they will cause them to suffer,
And what is the suffering one to do under such circumstances? First, the child of God is not to be "ashamed." He is not the one who is wrong! "Shame" involves embarrassment, feeling defeated, and being disgraced. Those reproached for the name of Christ must not be ashamed of Him or His Gospel. Here, the believer must follow the Lord, of Whom it is said, He "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb 12:2). The world looks down upon the believer, but the believer looks down upon the shame, despising, or thinking less of, such an experience. This is involved in not being ashamed. I wonder if Peter did not vividly recall when He thrice denied the Lord out of a sense of shame.
The believer must, however, have more of a response than simply not being ashamed. He is to "glorify God IN THIS MATTER," i.e., in the suffering itself. The perspective here is the same as that declared to the Philippians. "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake"NKJV (Phil 1:29). Believing AND suffering for Jesus' sake are both gifts from God. Both have been "granted" to us "in the behalf," or for the sake of, Christ. That is, God is honoring Jesus when He grants us grace to believe on Him. He also honors the Son when He grants us the privilege of suffering with Him that we might also reign with Him (2 Tim 2:12).
Life in Christ Jesus involves two kinds of experience. First, we are brought into accord with heaven, and made suitable for Divine fellowship. Through God's great salvation, we are readied for heaven, tasting of the heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come. Our association with God through Christ brings great blessing and benefit to us. Second, we are thrown into conflict with this present evil world, which recognizes we no longer belong to its condemned order. That association produces suffering and reproaches.
Both of these experiences (believing and suffering for His sake) are from God. Therefore, we can glorify Him for both. The blessings associated with believing confirm that we are accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6). The reproaches of this world confirm that we have been so changed by the grace of God that the world knows we are separate from it. But, we must walk in the Spirit and live by faith to see these things. If we live too low, the clouds of doubt and fear will hide these realities from us. The Holy Spirit is using Peter to lift us up into the realm where all things are clearly seen. Thank God for that!