Suffering according to the will of God - 1 Peter 4:19

What is the meaning of 1 Peter 4:19?

Introduction

The Verse

Wherefore [Therefore] also let them who suffer according to the will of God commit [entrust] their souls in well-doing [dong good] to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19)

COntext of the verse

To whom is the verse written?

The verse, and indeed the whole epistle, was written to Christians, and in particular Jewish, or Messianic Christians who were dispersed across a vast region of the world (1 Peter 1:1).

Of whom is this verse referring to?

The verse is clearly speaking of a single class of people and in particular; “those who suffer”. Furthermore, this class is also refined to the extent of only extending to those who suffer “according to God’s will”. Since the epistle is to Christians, the class of people this verse refers to therefore are Jewish Christians that are suffering according to God’s will.

Why was it written?

Peter was tasked by Christ Jesus to encourage the flock (John 21:15-19), and he therefore pens at least two letters, of which only two are preserved in the Canon of Scripture, encouraging Christians in their walk with God. He had in mind Jews were scattered amount the nations, and who were double persecuted; firstly by the religious Jews who Jesus accused of hypocrisy (Matthew 23:15 – 36; Luke 11:37-52) and who had rejected Jesus as Messiah, and secondly by the gentiles (e.g. Acts 22).

When was it written?

The exact data is unknown, but it is around 62 – 65 A.D.

Where was it written?

The penultimate verse mentions persons in Babylon sending greetings to the dispersed Jews; so it is very likely that Peter wrote from Babylon.[1]

The Verse and its Meaning

The verse concerns Christians; we know this from the context of the sentence and the book as a whole. The verse clearly as five parts

  • Therefore (or so then)
  • let those who suffer according to God's will
  • entrust their souls
  • in doing good (in well doing).
  • to a faithful Creator

1. “Therefore”

The verse is a summary of what goes before, because it commences with the word “therefore” or “so then”. In Greek it is the conjunction hoste which can be translated “in as much” or better “so then”, but in essence it says please back up and find what was said prior to this verse – you are about to hear a summary or exhortation as is the case here. If we do this we find the section starts at verse 12 which says:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; (1 Peter 4:12)

This makes sense since the verse appears to be about “those who suffer” and Peter is saying, starting at verse 12, don’t be surprised that you suffer – it’s the normal course of events for Christians on earth – the loving God will help you through these; and as a contrast ponder Christ who suffered much more than any person will ever suffer and he came out the other side to enter glory (verse 14).

2.”let those who suffer according to God's will”

The English does not translate this well – the word ‘suffer’ should be ‘who are suffering’ since it’s a verb expressed as its participle. This clause can be a bit tricky to interpret, and to comprehend; in particular understanding where the emphasis is to be placed. Is it about one suffering in a manner that is in line with the will of God, suggesting also there is a suffering that is discordant to God’s will? Or alternatively, is it about a Christian’s suffering that occurs as the natural course of events for Christians which is part of God’s will, in that the suffering is ordered or permitted by the Lord? The epistle is one of encouragement to Jews who were suffering and although the former is mentioned in passing, it is the later that is in focus (1 Peter 4:17) - God uses afflictions, sorrows and losses to bring about sanctification of his children.

A verse prior to this one does raise the issue of suffering through one’s own stupidity or evil desires. In verse 15 we find Peter saying ‘Let none of you suffer as a murderer… etc.’ In other words, don’t get caught up in evil doing which is likely to lead to suffering – imprisonment, even death in the case of murder. However, the verse here is a summation of what went before, which focuses on suffering of Christians compared with the suffering of Christ, and Christ surely did not suffer because of his own stupidity. But rather Christ suffered because he so love the world that he laid down his life for his (scattered) sheep (John 3:16) and this was God’s will (John 6:38). Furthermore, the suffering occurs not because of the individual, but because of the dreadful state and condition of humankind – ungodly, disobedient and wicked men who also put Christ on the cross and killed him. And as Peter points out, evil did not cease at the point in time – wickedness still abounds, but he says; “understand this – God is in control”.  Indeed the verse is saying that all is under the control of God – God permits (allows through His will), suffering to occur.

3. “entrust their souls”

So we see that this summary is about Christians who are suffering and this suffering is allowed by God – suffering is not some random uncontrolled act. But this is not the point of this verse. Up to this point Peter has summarised what went before, but now he places the verb; or action word which in Greek is paratithēmi, meaning “to entrust for safekeeping”[2]. What does such a Christian do?  Peter is plain they need to “commit the keeping of their souls.” Indeed this verb more than just an action word – the verb is an imperative or command; Peter is commanding Christians everywhere to put their faith and trust in God – they must entrust their souls for protection. This particular verb cannot stand alone; if one says ‘entrust’, then one must ask ‘entrust what? Peter provides the answer – they must commit or entrust the keeping of their souls. Thus a suffering Christian needs to entrust the very essence of their being, their soul, to God, for it was their soul that Christ died for (Hebrews 10:39).

4. “in doing good (in well doing)”

This clause may be come before or after ‘the faithful Creator’ depending upon the translation, but it does not matter. The action of committing one’s soul to God is in keeping with doing good (as opposed to evil, which 1 Peter 4:15 highlights), which the final part of the Epistle will explore further.

5. “to the faithful Creator”

Peter’s imperative or command to Christians is to entrust their soul; but whom to? And he provides the answer; “to a faithful Creator” being the Preserver of Life. The Greek does not capitalise the first letter of the word creator, although most English versions do, to imply the word refers to the Divine. To any Jew reading this verse the meaning is plain and so there is no need for explanation. To the Jew, God is known as the Great Creator! And indeed this is what it means – there is only one creator, as there in only one God (Deut 6:4), who is the creator of our soul. So what better place than the Creator of our soul to commit for safekeeping our soul? In essence Peter is saying it’s the Christian’s duty to commit to God our soul, which is also a privilege because it is by Christ’s suffering that saved our soul and which will bring that soul into glory (c.f. verse 13).

Summary

The verse summarises what went before as a command; that a Christian who is suffering must entrust their soul to God the Father, the Great Creator. In this we have an example from Paul:

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.  (2 Timothy 1:12)

Endnotes

[1] The Jews were very familiar with Babylon, and indeed Babylon had an expatriate population of those that did not return to the Land of Israel after the exile under favourable conditions brought about by Cyrus the Great.

It is also not Rome as some Christians will have it – they do so to fit a bizarre theory that the Babylon mentioned in The Revelation is Rome (Revelation 14:8; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21) and the same Babylon mentioned by Jeremiah (51:7 -9). Scripture never substitutes one city’s name for another and if done metaphorically such as Sodom, it is made clear in the text that this is the case (Rev 11:8), not does it contradict itself.

[2] DBAG 3rd edition (Danker, Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich (Greek-English lexicon); hence the translation of entrust, or commit.

David L Simon
14 February 2021
\Christian\David_Teaching\Peter\Suffering according to the will of God - 1 Peter 4_19

^ Return top