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I’m not quite sure I understand the difference between the ungodly and the sinner in 1st Peter 4:18. It would seem that they mean the same thing but I feel there must be a difference between the two as the sinner and ungodly are also mentioned in Psalm 1:1. — Thank you for shedding some light on this!

1 Peter 4:18 - And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Ps 1:1 - Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

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The word, "ungodly" and "sinner" frequently appear as synonyms. Here is a sample:

  • Jude 1:15 - to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
  • Ps 1:1 - Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; [Note the Hebrew parallelism between these two words.]
  • Ps 1:5 - Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. [Note the Hebrew parallelism between these two words.]
  • 1 Tim 1:9 - We realize that law is not enacted for the righteous, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for killers of father or mother, for murderers,
  • Prov 11;31 - If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, How much more the ungodly and the sinner.

Therefore, I would regard "sinner" and "ungodly" and "poetic" synonyms.

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One difference is simply this:

One can be a sinner who is godly.

One can be a sinner who is ungodly.

An atheist, for example, would be classified as 'ungodly' (without God), and an atheist is also a sinner (from God's point of view, which is that "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" - Romans 5:12.) Every person who dies has sinned, death being the 'wage' received for their sins (Romans 6:23). This includes atheists.

However, the context of 1st Peter chapter 4 indicates Peter to be thinking of (for example) murderers and thieves, some of whom could also appear to be people that believed in God and not be atheists. The term 'sinners' could apply to outwardly godly evil-doers.

But when Peter even includes those who are busy-bodies in other people's affairs, he could be thinking of Christians. He had just said that Christians should only suffer for bearing the name of Christ, and not for being murderers, thieves, evil-doers or busy-bodies. It all serves to show that even godly people sin. Godly people are less likely to be murderers or thieves than ungodly people, one would think, yet the warning about sin extends to even being busy-bodies! Has there ever been a person who has never meddled in other peoples' affairs? Unlikely!

Yet the term "ungodly and sinners" is brought into sharp relief in verse 17. This is where Peter's thinking is clear, and it is not merely about whether a person is openly ungodly, or apparently godly. Here is what he means:

"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us [Christians], what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?"

Disbelief in, and disobedience to the gospel, constitutes a person both as being ungodly, and a sinner, in Peter's writing.

So, given the wide range of sin warned against, it can be seen that nobody can wriggle off the hook of sin. Godly people sin. Ungodly people sin. Stating both categories of persons covers absolutely everyone, but predominantly, those who do not obey the gospel of God are both "ungodly and sinners".

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I think the commentator, John Gill, hits the nail on the head. Gill's note on 1 Tim 1:9

For the ungodly, and for sinners; by the "ungodly" are intended, such as are without God in the world, who neither fear God, nor regard man, who neglect and despise the worship of God, and say to him, depart from us, Job 21:14 and by "sinners" are designed notorious ones, who are exceeding great sinners, always sinning, making sin their constant business and employment; on and against these the law lies:

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I would say the ungodly can be the same as The sinner... Though in terms of literal meaning and understanding a sinner is a person who is accused or charged with a particular offense and that doesn't have to do with being ungodly which can be explained as the lack of Godly morals or previous knowledge about God and Christianity in general...

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    – agarza
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 1:19
  • Hi KeepIt100, welcome to the site. Could you expand on your answer? We're generally looking for a little more detail in an answer--this would be more of a comment. Thanks for contributing! Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 4:02
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I was of the mind that the "ungodly" & the "sinner" were two different set of people. The people in the Church saved but living as if they're not would be the "ungodly"; ever learning but never coming into the knowledge of the truth. The sinner, is just that. Someone who has never accepted and confessed Jesus the Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. Psalms 1, and 1Peter 4:17,18, also 1Timothy 1:9(I think). So could it be that there IS a distinction to be made? I'm just asking.

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    – agarza
    Commented Jun 26, 2023 at 3:26
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    – grammaplow
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 10:00

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