1 Peter 4:12-19
Stephen Caswell © 2001
Diocletian’s Hasty Medal
Many Roman Emperors tried to destroy Christianity. One of them, Diocletian, was particularly violent in his hatred of the Bible and Christianity. He killed so many Christians, with such outrageous cruelties, and destroyed so many Bibles, that many Christians went underground and hid themselves from his wrath. When it seemed to Diocletian that he had made an end of them, he had a medal coined with this motto on it: The Christian religion is destroyed, and the worship of the Roman gods is restored.
Last Sunday we saw how Peter challenged believers to use their time wisely. Peter required two things; To Stop Sinning, and To Start Serving. In this passage, Peter tells us The Truth About Trials. Suffering in the Christian life is a theme that runs through out Peter's letter. Satan uses trials to paralyze Christians through fear. But the truth frees us. Satan doesn't control the fiery trials we go through, God does. He uses them for our good and His glory. Peter shares 4 things about trials that can help us to stand firm. 1. Consider Their Certainty, 2. Consider God's Glory, 3. Consider God's Judgment, 4. Consider God's Faithfulness
Firstly Consider Trials Certain - Be Ready
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
Firstly, Peter commands believers not to think that it strange when they go through trials. In fact Peter tells them to expect trials. Why? Because Satan doesn't like it when people live in obedience to God's will. So, he brings suffering and hardship their way to try and make them quit. Often new Christians become discouraged when they are persecuted for their faith. Paul had to encourage the Thessalonians about this same issue. When God's people live holy lives for Him they should expect opposition. Paul said this to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12: Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Jesus explained to His disciples that they should expect opposition and persecution from the world. But He also gave them an encouraging promise in John 16:33: In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. It was through His death on the cross of Calvary, plus His resurrection, that He overcame sin and the world. Christians should expect persecution, but we needn't fear it because Jesus has gained the victory for us. He will deliver us from the trial when we have grown through it. Paul said this in 2 Timothy 4:18: And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.
Christians Pressed In Grow Deeper
An elderly Christian man in Communist controlled Budapest commented on the affects of persecution and discrimination on the lives of Christians. It is like the deep, fast flowing Danube River. The banks were artificially narrowed throughout the city of Budapest. As a result the river's fast flowing waters dug deeper and deeper into the river bottom. Believers under restrictions and persecution have limited freedom and few political options, but their narrow lives have found great depth by going deeper in Christ.
How should we respond to trials? We must expect them. They are an important part of the Christian life. But we must not fear them because God uses trials for our good. Jesus overcame the world and will give us victory in due time. Are you ready for trials?
Secondly Consider God's Glory - Rejoice
Secondly, Peter commands believers to rejoice in their sufferings. James gives the same command in James 1:2-4: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Trials strengthen our faith not weaken it. Peter then gives three good reasons why we should rejoice in trials and afflictions.
a. Look Back At Christ's Suffering.
1 Peter 4:13a but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings,
Firstly, we can rejoice in suffering because we share fellowship with Jesus Christ. The word partake koinwnew is the word from which we get fellowship. Jesus willingly suffered and died for us. Therefore shouldn't we gladly suffer for Him. The Lord was joyful when He suffered because He looked ahead to what His sufferings would accomplish for us. Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Christ gives us the privilege of sharing His sufferings. Jesus doesn't leave us alone in the fiery furnace. We can enjoy sweet fellowship with Him in the midst of suffering. He is present with us just like He was with the three Hebrew young men in Babylon. Paul told the Philippians that suffering for Christ was a privilege. Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
b. Look Ahead To Christ's Glory.
1 Peter 4:13b that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
The second reason we can rejoice is glory. Suffering and glory are twin truths that are woven into the fabric of Peter's letter. If we share Christ's sufferings we will also share His glory. Although trials are difficult now they are really working for us. 2 Corinthians 4:17 says: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Therefore as believers go through trials they can look ahead to the reward that God will give them. But it is necessary to understand that God is not going to replace suffering with glory; rather He will transform suffering into glory. Jesus used the illustration of a woman giving birth. The same baby that gave her pain also gave her joy. The pain was transformed into joy by the birth of the baby. Mature people know that life includes some postponed pleasures. We pay a price today in order to have enjoyments in the future.
The piano student may not enjoy practicing scales by the hour, but he looks forward to the pleasure of playing beautiful music one day. Christians have something even better: our very sufferings will one day be transformed into glory. If Jesus Himself suffered first and then entered into His glory, shouldn't we be willing to do the same?
c. Look Above For God' s Blessing
1 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.
The third reason we can rejoice in suffering is because they carry God's blessings to us. The saints who have known God's richest blessings are those who have suffered the most. The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for the Lord. But look at how he grew in his relationship to Christ through them. Paul came to know the Lord in a way that he never could have without the trials. This what he wrote in Philippians 3:10: that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. The Spirit of God and glory rests upon those who suffer for Christ. God's Spirit blesses suffering saints.
Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In other words, suffering Christians do not have to wait for heaven in order to experience His glory. Through the Holy Spirit, they can have the glory now. This explains how martyrs can sing praises to God while bound in the midst of blazing fires. It also explains how persecuted Christians can go to prison and to death without complaining or resisting their captors.
Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna about the middle of the second century. He was arrested for his faith and threatened with death if he did not recant. Eighty and six years have I served Him, the saintly Bishop replied, and He never did me any injury. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? I have respect for your age, said the Roman officer. Simply say, Away with the atheists! and be set free. By the atheists he meant the Christians who would not acknowledge that Caesar was lord. The old man pointed to the crowd of Roman pagans surrounding him, and cried, Away with the atheists! He was burned at the stake and in his martyrdom brought glory to the name of Jesus Christ.
Peter commands believers to rejoice in trials. How can we do this? By looking at them the same way Jesus did. He had joy in the cross because He looked beyond it to the results it would bring. Firstly, trials provide us an opportunity to have deeper fellowship with Christ. Jesus is present with us in the trials. Secondly, these trials are working for us an eternal weight of glory. If we share Christ's sufferings we will share His glory too. Thirdly, trials bring God's blessings. He is near to suffering saints. Will you rejoice in suffering for Him?
Thirdly Consider God's Judgment - Remove All Sin
a. Don't Suffer For Evil 1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
For the third time in this letter Peter commands believers not to suffer for doing evil. Since God will judge the world for sinful deeds Christians should not participate in them. We are called to be Christians, not criminals. It doesn't matter what our persecutors do to us, we mustn't retaliate. Sins of this kind bring reproach upon the name of Christ. Therefore we must avoid sin at all costs; lest God's discipline should fall on us.
b. Do Suffer For God's Glory 1 Peter 4:16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
The word Christian carries the idea of a Christ one, one belonging to Christ. The word Christian is found only three times in the entire New Testament. The name was originally given by the enemies of the church as a term of reproach; but in time, it became an honored name. Our authority is in the name of Jesus, and Satan hates that name. Every time we are reproached for the name of Christ, we have the opportunity to bring glory to that name. The world may speak against His name, but we will so speak and live that His name will be honored and God will be pleased. Certainly it is a privilege to bear the name and to suffer for His name’s sake.
Jesus Christ is not ashamed of us — though many times He surely could be! The Father is not ashamed to be called our God. On the cross Jesus Christ despised shame for us, so surely we can bear reproach for Him and not be ashamed. Mark 8:38 gives us a warning: For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. Not be ashamed is negative; glorify God is positive. It takes both for a balanced witness. If we seek to glorify God, then we will not be ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ. It was this determination not to be ashamed that encouraged Paul when he went to Rome, when he suffered in Rome, and when he faced martyrdom in Rome.
c. Do Know God's Judgment Is Near
1 Peter 4:17-18 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?
God's judgment has commenced with His people. When God brought judgment upon Israel, Ezekiel 9: says that he started with those in His house first. God judged Ananias and Saphira for their sin. Many in the Corinthian Church were also judged because of sin; and some even died. This is both a challenge and a comfort. The challenge is that God will judge His people first. Although God's people are secure in His salvation we dare not get involved in sin. If we do God will judge us. He disciplines us that we might repent. Therefore we must be careful not to participate in the sins of the wicked. Sin brings nothing but grief, heartache and discipline. Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God chastises His children out of love. He does this so that we won't be condemned with the world.
If believers suffer God's judgment for sin, what will happen to those who disobey the Gospel? They will suffer a fiery judgment in the Lake of Fire. And there is no escape from this place.
Lot In Sodom
The phrase scarcely be saved means saved with difficulty, but it does not suggest that God is too weak to save us. The reference is probably to Genesis 19:15–26, when God sought to rescue Lot from Sodom before the city was destroyed. God was able - but Lot was unwilling! He lingered, argued with the angels, and finally had to be taken by the hand and dragged out of the city! Lot was saved as by fire and everything he lived for went up in smoke. Let us be careful not to be ensnared by possessions and earthly pleasures.
Unbelievers will not be able to stand before God when He judges them. They will be sent from His presence to eternal destruction in hell. Therefore we must plead with them to repent and escape therefore escape the fiery judgment that is coming. Times of persecution are times of opportunity for a loving witness to those who persecute us. It was not the earthquake that brought that Philippian jailer to Christ, because that frightened him into almost committing suicide! No, it was Paul’s loving concern for him that brought the jailer to faith in Christ. As Christians, we do not seek for vengeance on those who have hurt us. Rather, we pray for them and seek to lead them to Jesus Christ. Jesus said to pray for our enemies and do good unto those that despitefully use us. Let us consider God's judgment and patiently endure trials. Let us lovingly warn the lost of their need to receive Christ.
In this section Peter warns Christians to consider God's judgment. Believers mustn't take the law into their own hands when they suffer wrongly. Do you retaliate when people speak evil of you or persecute you for your faith? Peter commands us to suffer as a Christian and bring glory to God. We mustn't be ashamed of our Lord but glorify Him before men. Do people at work know you are a Christian? Or are you ashamed of Him? Are you aware that God will judge His people first? If we willfully sin, God disciplines so that we might repent. He will also judge the wicked for disobeying the Gospel. Do you warn the lost of God's judgment?
Fourthly Consider God's Faithfulness - Rely On Him
1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Having proved that suffering for righteousness is God's will for His people, Peter encourages them to keep doing good. They weren't to grow weary of it. So Peter gives us one final command to encourage us in our trials. Commit your soul unto God, because He won't fail you. The Lord is faithful to His children. Everything else that we do as Christians depends on this. The word is a banking term; it means to deposit for safekeeping. Of course, when you deposit your life in God’s bank, you always receive eternal dividends on your investment. This picture reminds us that we are valuable to God. He made us, redeemed us, lives in us, guards, and protects us. Paul knew this. 2 Timothy 1:12 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.
Why did Peter refer to God as a faithful Creator rather than a faithful Judge or even a faithful Savior? Because God the Creator meets the needs of His creation. He watches over the sparrow. He cares for all of us. The Creator provides food and clothing for persecuted Christians, and He protects them in times of danger. Jesus said to pray to our Father for our daily bread and deliverance from temptation. When the early church was persecuted, they met together for prayer and addressed the Lord as the God, which has made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is. They prayed to the Creator! Our Heavenly Father is the Lord of heaven and earth. With that kind of a Father, we have no need to worry! He is the faithful Creator, and His faithfulness will not fail.
Peter's final encouragement to suffering saints is God's faithfulness. Because God is faithful he commands believers to commit their lives into His care. He watches over us and will deliver us safely to His heavenly kingdom. Do you trust the Lord to keep you in trials? You should because He is faithful.
Peter shares the truth about trials to encourage us to stand firm. Today we saw four things.
Firstly Consider Their Certainty - Be Ready For Them
Trials are not an option for God's people. Therefore we must be ready for them. But the good news is that Christ has overcome the world and can give us victory. Are you ready for trials?
Secondly Consider God's Glory - Rejoice In Them
Trials are painful but God uses them to strengthen us. We can enjoy richer fellowship with Christ during trials. We can also turn trials into glory if we remain faithful to God. The Lord blesses those who suffer for Him and He is glorified. Do you rejoice in suffering for Christ?
Thirdly Consider God's Judgment - Remove All Sin
Christians must not retaliate in trials. We must suffer as Christians, not criminals. God's judgment begins with His people. If we want to avoid His discipline let us avoid sin. God will judge our persecutors in the day of judgment. In the meantime let's try to save them.
Fourthly Consider God's Faithfulness - Rely On Him
Because God is faithful we can commit our lives into His care. He will never leave us or forsake us. Will you commit your life into His keeping?
1 Peter 5:10-11 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.