Lesson 8 - 1 Peter 4:12-19 - DO NOT BE SURPRISED AT THE FIERY ORDEAL
INTRODUCTION: last week, in 1 Peter 4:1-11, Peter continued to explain why Christians suffer for their faith. He told us that like Christ, we needed to "arm ourselves" by sacrificing all the sinful habits and attitudes embedded in our former lives. If refuse to give up these things, we will be defeated in our personal battles against the sin in our lives, but if we purify ourselves, we'll attain a strength of Christian character that allows us to resist the temptation to sin. And once we fundamentally change the way we live, Peter told us not to be surprised when friends and family members think we've lost our minds. We learned again that because there's no such thing as a second chance for salvation, we must "preach the gospel" to warn people that the end is coming. Peter also emphasized the importance of a committed prayer life that was compared to a soldier staying in contact with headquarters. Finally, Peter concluded by giving us three important injunctions: (1) To have a committed prayer life that's intentional and planned; (2) to fervently love our Christian brothers and sisters because it covers a multitude of sins; (3) to extend hospitality without grumbling; and (4) to identify and use our spiritual gifts to serve and glorify God.
This week, in 1 Peter 4:12-19, the apostle will talk to us about how to keep functioning when trials and persecution inevitably overrun our lives, and will give six principles to live by: (1) Be ready for it by expecting it; (2) Keep rejoicing when you suffer, because you know it's a shared experience with Christ; (3) When you suffer for doing wrong, you're getting what you deserve; (4) Don't be ashamed when you're insulted for being a Christian; (5) Understand that the suffering we endure isn't punishment but a planned part of God's purification process; and (6) Keep trusting God while you suffer, knowing that He loves you and is in control of the situation.
Read 1 Peter 4:12-14 - DO NOT BE SURPRISED AT THE FIERY ORDEAL
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
v.12a: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you," - Some Christians are surprised when other people dislike, insult, and treat them harshly while they're doing God's work. Peter is quick to remind them that this reaction isn't strange but a normal Christian experience. The "fiery ordeal" refers to the sense of God's refining process, which can be very difficult at times.
v.12b: "which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;" - God allows His children to suffer this way as a means of testing and proving their faith so that they will have the endurance to persevere with a positive attitude in whatever trials may come.
APPLICATION 1: Suffering abuse for doing God's work is a normal Christian experience. God doesn't allow this to punish us, but to purify us as a means of proving out faith so that we will learn to persevere-endure it-with a positive attitude. Peter's point is that we need to be prepared for it.
v. 13a: "but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ," - Unlike the Jews, these Gentiles had little experience with persecution and might not have anticipated that the active exercise of their faith would lead to abuse, and some may have been tempted to disclaim their faith. But Peter exhorts them to hang-on, that what they are now experiencing is just a part of what Christ suffered.
v. 13b: "keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation." - By remaining faithful, they could "keep on rejoicing" because of the reward they can expect at the "revelation of His glory," when both Christ and his followers will be fully vindicated. A person who passes those tests now can expect to be spared testing at the end of time (Rev. 3:10). One commentator analogized this suffering to that of a pregnant woman who endures the hardships of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, then happily rejoices at the delivery of her baby.
APPLICATION 2: Our suffering today, mainly criticism and rejection, is a shared experience with what Christ faced during His early ministry. We can "rejoice" because we know how it's going to end-that all of our efforts and hardships will be vindicated in the "revelation of His glory" when Christ returns to establish His eternal kingdom on earth.
v. 14a: "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed," - Even though suffering criticism and contempt for our faith can be painful, as Christians in a world opposed to God, we should count being reviled because of our identity with Christ as a good thing, a blessing.
v. 14b: "because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." - While we know that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, He rests is a special way upon those who are completely committed to the cause of Christ, and they experience the power and presence of the Spirit in a way that others do not.
APPLICATION 3: Being "reviled" (unloved) simply because we're Christians is a good thing. Even though suffering mistreatment for our faith can be unpleasant, we should count ourselves as blessed because the indwelling of Holy Spirit allows us to experience the power and presence of God in a way that unbelievers do not.
Read 1 Peter 4:15-16 - HE IS NOT TO BE ASHAMED
15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
v. 15: "Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;" - A Christian who commits acts of wrongdoing-murder, theft, evil activities-deserves to suffer the punishment he receives. He also deserves the scorn and contempt he receives when he meddles in the affairs of others. Here, Peter might also be warning Christians who had a previous criminal background or bad reputations not to fall back on their evil ways. Christ saves criminals, too.
v. 16: "but if anyone suffers as a Christian*, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name." - We glorify God when we stand up as followers of Jesus Christ, visually, as others view the way we live our lives and verbally, as we use opportunities to express our faith. We should never be "ashamed" when the exercise of our faith causes us to lose friends, family, or even business or professional opportunities. *Note: This verse is only one of three NT places where the word "Christian" (Gk. Christianos) appears (see also, Acts 11:26; 26:28). It originated as a label imposed by non-Christians, and wasn't widely accepted by Christians until the Second Century. First Century Christians variously referred to themselves as disciples, brothers/sisters, saints, or believers.
APPLICATION 4: Christians who are guilty of wrongdoing should be ashamed of their actions. On the other hand, Christians who are rejected by family, friends, and business associates because of the exercise of their faith, should never be ashamed. We glorify God when we stand firm as followers of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Read 1 Peter 4:17-19 - THE OUTCOME FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT OBEY THE GOSPEL OF GOD
17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAND AND THE SINNER?19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
v. 17a: "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first," - In this verse and the next, Peter gives two encouragements on suffering by contrasting our suffering as Christian believers with the suffering that unbelievers will ultimately face. This verse focuses on the "time" of these two experiences: The "time" for the suffering of believers is now, in the church age, which began at the Pentecost and will continue until the rapture. The "household of God" refers to the church. During this age-which for us is the present age-the church is undergoing "judgment" by the unbelieving world.
v. 17b: "what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" - For unbelievers, their judgment in the future will be much, much worse, as he explains further in v. 18.
v. 18: "AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAND AND THE SINNER?" - With a quotation from Proverbs 11:31, Peter now rephrases the question about the fate of the unsaved. First, he makes the point that even the "RIGHTEOUS" (i.e., believers) "IS SAVED...WITH DIFFICULTY," meaning that even the believers were saved at a great cost-the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. With that being so, what then will be the fate of those who died in their sins, the unsaved, who rejected Jesus' sacrifice? While Peter implies that their future fate will be far worse, he doesn't elaborate here. Yet, we know that the Bible reports that the final place of eternal torment-suffering -for unbelievers is the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10), but they will not be sent there by God until his final act of judgment known as the Great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
APPLICATION 5: The "time" (v. 17) for Christian suffering is now. The time for the suffering of Christian believers is the church age-where we are right now-which began at the Pentecost and will continue until the rapture. In this age, the church is still in the process of undergoing judgment by an unbelieving world. The suffering of the unbelievers-both dead and alive-will occur in the future, when they will be sent to the lake of fire following the Great White Throne Judgment.
v. 19: "Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. - Peter now draws these encouragements to a conclusion and adds this command: For the reasons stated in vv. 17-18, we should respond to suffering by entrusting ourselves to the God who created us, knowing that He will be faithful to bring us through it. Some commentators say that it is unusual that Peter would mention the Lord here as Creator, rather than Savior, High Priest, or Shepherd. Even so, Christ is our "Creator" in a two-fold sense: (1) He is our shepherd and we are His sheep as part of the original creation (John 10:14); and (2) we will be with Him in the new creation. And either way, we are the objects of His love and care.
APPLICATION 6: Entrusting ourselves to God as Creator is a Christian's best response to suffering. Our Lord, Jesus Christ is our "Creator" in two ways: He is our shepherd and we are His sheep as part of the original creation-the age we're in at present-and we will be with Him as members of His eternal kingdom in the new creation.