1 Peter 4:15
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.
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(15) But let none of you.—The Greek takes exactly the opposite turn: “for let none of you suffer.” The connection is a little difficult, but it seems to be this: “I say advisedly that you are happy, and that the Spirit of glory reposes on you who die for the faith; for I am sure that you will not try to deceive yourselves and others by pretending to die as martyrs, when in reality you are dying as criminals.” In order to understand this caution, we must recollect how largely the first converts were drawn from actually criminal classes, and how easily they were admitted. In the persecution of Diocletian, Mensurius of Carthage found it necessary to expose those who drew persecution upon themselves to cloke their crimes under pretence of Christian faith. “Some,” he says, “are criminals, some debtors, who take the opportunity of persecution to be rid of so burdensome a life, thinking to atone for and wash off their misdeeds thereby.” It is conceivable that St. Peter may have had some such danger in view.

As a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer.—The insertion of “as” in the two latter cases obliterates the distinction between the class composed of those three words, and that which follows. It should be, as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer. When Pliny came to govern these men, a little later, he found that on a fixed day they met together before daylight, “and bound themselves by a sacramental oath, not to any crime, but that they would not do or see done any thefts, any robberies, any adulteries; that they would break no promises, and would repudiate no liabilities when called upon.” These words will partly explain the general term “evildoer.” (See also 1Peter 2:12; 1Peter 2:14; 1Peter 3:16.)

Or as a busybody in other men’s matters.—M. Renan writes (Antéchrist, p. 42):—“Others, through excess of zeal, declaimed aloud against the pagans, and cast their vices in their teeth. Their more sensible brethren humorously called them ‘bishops,’ or ‘overseers of those who are without.’“ Such is, indeed, the meaning of the droll word which St. Peter here gives: except that, instead of “bishops of those without,” it means “bishops of other men’s matters.” It denotes those prying and self-important people who fancy they can set everything to rights, and that everybody they come across is under their personal jurisdiction. Such persons would tend to make Christianity unpopular among the unbelievers, and, in case of persecution, would be the first to “suffer” (i.e., to be picked out for martyrdom; see Note on 1Peter 3:14); and while flattering themselves for the boldness with which they had spoken out, they would incur St. Peter’s censure, and their martyrdom would be reckoned no martyrdom by the Church. “Cruel mishaps,” continues M. Renan, “befell them; and the wise directors of the community, so far from extolling them, told them pretty plainly that it did but serve them right.”

4:12-19 By patience and fortitude in suffering, by dependence on the promises of God, and keeping to the word the Holy Spirit hath revealed, the Holy Spirit is glorified; but by the contempt and reproaches cast upon believers, he is evil spoken of, and is blasphemed. One would think such cautions as these were needless to Christians. But their enemies falsely charged them with foul crimes. And even the best of men need to be warned against the worst of sins. There is no comfort in sufferings, when we bring them upon ourselves by our own sin and folly. A time of universal calamity was at hand, as foretold by our Saviour, Mt 24:9,10. And if such things befall in this life, how awful will the day of judgment be! It is true that the righteous are scarcely saved; even those who endeavour to walk uprightly in the ways of God. This does not mean that the purpose and performance of God are uncertain, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way; that they go through so many temptations and tribulations, so many fightings without and fears within. Yet all outward difficulties would be as nothing, were it not for lusts and corruptions within. These are the worst clogs and troubles. And if the way of the righteous be so hard, then how hard shall be the end of the ungodly sinner, who walks in sin with delight, and thinks the righteous is a fool for all his pains! The only way to keep the soul well, is, to commit it to God by prayer, and patient perseverance in well-doing. He will overrule all to the final advantage of the believer.But let none of you suffer as a murderer - If you must be called to suffer, see that it be not for crime. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 3:17. They were to be careful that their sufferings were brought upon them only in consequence of their religion, and not because any crime could be laid to their charge. If even such charges were brought against them, there should be no pretext furnished for them by their lives.

As an evil doer - As a wicked man; or as guilty of injustice and wrong toward others.

Or as a busy-body in other men's matters - The Greek word used here ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος allotrioepiskopos occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, an inspector of strange things, or of the things of others. Prof. Robinson (Lexicon) supposes that the word may refer to one who is "a director of heathenism;" but the more obvious signification, and the one commonly adopted, is that which occurs in our translation - one who busies himself with what does not concern him; that is, one who pries into the affairs of another; who attempts to control or direct them as if they were his own. In respect to the vice here condemned, see the notes at Philippians 2:4. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:11, and 1 Timothy 5:13.

15. But—Greek, "For." "Reproached in the name of Christ" I say (1Pe 4:14), "FOR let none," &c.

as … as … as … as—the "as" twice in italics is not in the Greek. The second Greek, "as," distinguishes the class "busybody in other men's matters," from the previous class of delinquents. Christians, from mistaken zeal, under the plea of faithfulness, might readily step out of their own calling and make themselves judges of the acts of unbelievers. Literally, "a bishop in what is (not his own, but) another's" province; an allusion to the existing bishops or overseers of the Church; a self-constituted bishop in others' concerns.

But let noise of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief: keep clear of those crimes which may expose you to suffering by the hand of justice, and carry yourselves so innocently, that you may never suffer from men but unjustly.

Or as an evil-doer; either this is a general term, denoting them that offend against any public law; or, it may signify those that are guilty of any offence against the laws, though less than murder or theft.

Or as a busy-body in other men’s matters; either a covetous person, that looks with an evil eye upon what others have, and is ready to catch it as he can; or rather, one that goes beyond the bounds of his own calling, and invades the callings of others, pragmatically intruding into their business, and making himself a judge of those things which belong not to him. Some nations are said to have punished those that were busy through idleness, impertinently diligent in other men’s matters, and negligent of their own. However, if this pragmaticalness did not expose the Christians to the laws of the Gentiles, yet it might make them odious, and expose them to their reproaches.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer,.... The punishment for murder was death by the law of God, Genesis 9:6

or as a thief; whose fine or mulct, according to the Jewish law, was a fivefold or fourfold restitution, according to the nature of the thing that was stolen, Exodus 22:1

or as an evildoer; a breaker of any of the laws of God or men, which are of a moral nature, and for the good of civil society:

or as a busybody in other men's matters; "or as a bishop in another man's diocese"; that concerns himself in things he has nothing to do with, and neglects his own affairs, and lives in idleness, and upon the spoil of others; or takes upon him to manage, direct, order, and command other men's servants, or persons that do not belong to him, to do his business, or whatsoever he pleases. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "a desirer of other's goods"; and the Ethiopic version, "a covetous desirer of other's things"; and so is led on by an insatiable thirst for them, to obtain them in an evil way, either by secret fraud, or open violence and oppression. To suffer in any such cases is scandalous and dishonourable, and unbecoming the character of a Christian. This last clause is left out in the Syriac version.

{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) The third difference: the godly are not afflicted for their evil doings, but for righteousness' sake as Christians: by which it comes to pass that the cross, seeing it is a testimony to them of faith and righteousness, ministers to them not an occasion of sorrow, but of unspeakable joy: now the apostle propounds this third difference under the form of an exhortation.

1 Peter 4:15. With reference to the assumption contained in what precedes—whether expressed in the clause εἰ ὀνειδίζεσθεἀναπαύεται, or in the doubtful adjunct κατὰ δὲ ὑμᾶς δοξάζεται—the apostle by way of explanation adds the following warning: μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς κ.τ.λ.] The particle γάρ does not here assign a reason, it gives an explanation: “that is to say,”[257] “that is, let none of you suffer as a murderer;” Ὡς ΦΟΝΕΎς, i.e. because he is a murderer. The two special conceptions, φονεύς and ΚΛΈΠΤΗς, are followed by the more general ΚΑΚΟΠΟΙΌς, in order that every other kind of crime may be therein included. These three conceptions belong very closely to each other, for which reason Ὡς is not repeated. On the other hand, the fourth conception, ἈΛΛΟΤΡΙΟΕΠΊΣΚΟΠΟς, is, by the prefixed Ὡς, distinguished from the others as entirely independent. Etymologically, this word denotes one who assumes to himself an oversight of other people’s affairs with which he has nothing to do. The consciousness of a higher dignity could easily betray the Christian into such a presumption, which must make him all the more odious to strangers. Oecumenius takes the word as equivalent to Ὁ ΤᾺ ἈΛΛΌΤΡΙΑ ΠΕΡΙΕΡΓΑΖΌΜΕΝΟς; Calvin, Beza, etc., to, alieni cupidus, appetens; Pott, to, “a disturber of the public peace.” But all these interpretations are not in harmony with the etymology of the word.

[257] Calvin: Particula causalis hic supervacua non est, quum velit Ap. causam reddere, cur tantum ad societatem passionum Christi hortatus sit fideles et simul per occasionem eos monere, ut juste et innoxie vivant, ne justas sibi poenas aruessant propria culpa.—Erasmus rightly remarks: non enim cruciatus martyrem facit, sed causa.

1 Peter 4:15. γάρ. I assume that you suffer in Christ’s name as representing Him and bearing only the reproach which attaches to it per se. The crimes of which slanderers had accused Christians are given in the order of probability and are selected as belonging to the pattern. Christ Himself was implicitly accused thereof by His persecutors and acquitted of each by independent witnesses, as the Gospels are at pains to show. He suffered the fate from which the murderer was preserved (Acts 3:14) by the petition of the Jews; shared it with thieves or brigands, being delivered up to the secular arm as a malefactor (John 18:30). Such slanders the Christian must rebut for the credit of his Lord; that he must not be guilty of such crimes goes without saying.—ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος is distinguished from the preceding accusations by the insertion of ὡς; it is also an addition to the pattern of Christ, unless stress be laid on the sneer, He saved others. The word was apparently coined to express the idea of the itinerant philosopher of whatever sect current among the unphilosophical. Epictetus defends the true Cynic against this very calumny; he is a messenger sent from Zeus to men to show them concerning good and evil (Arrian, iii. 22, 23) … a spy of what is helpful and harmful to me … he approaches all men, cares for all (ib. 81) … neither meddler—περίεργος—nor busybody is such an one; for he is not busy about alien things—τὰ ἀλλότρια πολυπραγμονεῖ—when he inspects the actions and relations of mankind—ὅταν τὰ ἀνθρώπινα ἐπισκοπῇ (ib. 97). This zeal for the welfare of others was certainly the most obvious charge to bring against Christians, who indeed were not always content to testify by good behaviour without word. St. Paul heard of some at Thessalonica, μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους ἀλλὰ περιεργαζομἔνους (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Women generally if unattached were prone to be not merely idle but meddlers speaking what they should not (1 Timothy 5:13). So St. Peter (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:27) has emphasised the duty of all Christians—even of the wives of heathen husbands—to preach Christianity only by example and now deprecates their acquiescence in what some might reckon a title of honour. The fate of Socrates is the classical example of the suffering of such; and later one philosopher was scourged and another beheaded for denunciation of the alliance of Titus with Berenice (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 15). Punishment of this offence would depend on the power of the other man concerned who, if not in authority, would naturally utilise mob-law like Demetrius (Acts 19.).

15. But let none of you suffer as a murderer] Literally, For let none of you suffer. The implied sequence of thought would seem to be this: “I bid you suffer for the name of Christ and remind you of the blessing which attaches to such suffering, for the last thing I should wish is that you should think that it is the suffering, not the cause, that makes the martyr.” He represses the tendency, more or less prevalent in all times of persecution, whether of Christians by heathens, or of one body of Christians by another, which leads men to pose in the attitude of martyrs and confessors when they ought rather to be classed with ordinary criminals suffering the just punishment of their crimes.

Of the four forms of evils named, the first and second require no explanation. The third includes all other forms of evil which came under the cognizance of law, as in the “malefactor” of John 18:30. Comp. 1 Peter 2:12-14. The fourth is a word which is not found elsewhere and may possibly have been coined by St Peter. Literally, the word (allotrio-episcopos) describes one who claims an authority like that of a bishop or superintendent in a region in which he has no right to exercise it. As such it might, of course, be applied to the schismatic self-appointed teacher, and “a bishop in another man’s diocese,” though too modern in its associations, would be a fair equivalent for it. Such an one, however, would hardly be singled out for punishment by a heathen persecutor, and we must therefore think of the word as describing a like character in another sphere of action. It was, perhaps, a natural consequence of the higher standard of morals which the Christian disciple possessed, or imagined himself to possess, that he should be tempted to interfere with the action of public or private men when he thought them wrong, intermeddling in season or out of season. Such a man might easily incur the penalties which attach to what, in modern language, we call “contempt of court,” or “obstruction of justice.” If a passing word of controversial application be allowable in a Commentary we may note the reproduction of the character of the allotrio-episcopos (1) in the permanent policy of those who claim to be the successors of St Peter, and (2) in the meddling fussiness which leads laymen, or clergy, to interfere in matters which properly belong to the office of a Bishop, or to the jurisdiction of an authorized tribunal.

1 Peter 4:15. Μὴ γὰρ, for not) The particle for gives the reason why the Lord is glorified in those who suffer. For it presupposes that they have it as a settled principle in themselves, to wish to suffer in no other way than as Christians; and not to commit anything contrary to this, which is deserving of punishment. There is a similar imperative, ch. 1 Peter 3:3.—ὡς φονεὺς, as a murderer) Disgraceful titles.—ἢ ὡς ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος, as one who pries into the business of others) The particle as, repeated here only, makes a wide separation between the man who pries into the business of others, and the classes of evil-doers (here mentioned); hut still it also distinguishes him from the Christian. Such are they who thrust themselves into business, whether public or private, sacred or civil, with which they have no concern, as though they were impelled by great prudence and faithfulness, and hatred of the wickedness of the world. Men of this kind often incur ill will from the world, and more so than they deserve (especially from those in power, and who less readily endure just advisers and inspectors, than such as are like themselves); and thus they easily meet with sufferings. And this might especially happen in the case of heathen magistrates.

Verse 15. - But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer; literally, for let none of you, etc. They are blessed who suffer in the Name of Christ, because they belong to Christ: for it is not the suffering which brings the blessedness, but the cause, the faith and patience with which the suffering is borne. The word for "evil-doer," κακοποιός, is used by St. Peter in two other places (1 Peter 2:12 and 14). Christians were spoken against as evil-doers; they must be very careful to preserve their purity, and to suffer, if need be, not for evil-doing, but for well-doing (1 Peter 3:17). Or as a busybody in other men's matters. This clause represents one Greek word, ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος; it means an ἐπίσκοπος, ill-specter, overseer ("bishop" is the modern form of the word), of other men's matters - of things that do not concern him. St. Peter uses the word ἐπίσκοπος only once (1 Peter 2:25), where he describes Christ as the Bishop of our souls. It cannot be taken here in its ecclesiastical sense, "let no man suffer as a bishop in matters which do not concern him; but if as a Christian (bishop), let him not be ashamed." The Jews were often accused of constituting themselves judges and meddling in other men's matters; it may be that the consciousness of spiritual knowledge and high spiritual dignity exposed Christians to the same temptation. Hilgenfeld sees here an allusion to Trajan's laws against informers, and uses it as an argument for his theory of the late date of this Epistle. 1 Peter 4:15A busybody in other men's matters (ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος)

Only here in New Testament. Lit., the overseer of another's matters. One who usurps authority in matters not within his province. Rev., meddler. Compare Luke 12:13, Luke 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11. It may refer to the officious interference of Christians in the affairs of their Gentile neighbors, through excess of zeal to conform them to the Christian standard.

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