CONTEXT: Recipients of this letter are experiencing trials, harsh treatment, and suffering (1:6-7; 2:18-20; 3:13-17; 4:1-4, 12-19; 5:10). Peter encourages them with a vision of "an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn't fade away, reserved in Heaven for you" (1:4), and calls them to live holy lives (1:15; 2:9). He holds up the prospect of the rewards that they will experience in the future (1:8)-and encourages them to stand fast in their faith in the midst of adversity.
In 2:18-25, he spoke at length about the example of Christ's suffering, "leaving you an example" (2:21).
In 3:8-22, he addressed the issue of suffering for doing what is right.
In chapter 4, he said, "Forasmuch then as Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin" (4:1). He talked at length about people who "walked in lewdness, lusts," etc. (4:3). Such people would see Christian behavior as peculiar (4:4). "But the end of all things is near. Therefore be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer. And above all things be earnest in your love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins" (4:7-8).
Verse 11 ends with a benediction, which is probably the reason that our lectionary reading begins with verse 12. However, as you will see from this "Context" segment, there is much continuity between what went before (1:1 - 4:11) with what follows (4:12 - 5:11) in the emphasis on handling persecution (4:12-14) and holy living (5:6-11).
1 PETER 4:12-14. DO NOT BE SURPISED AT FIERY TRIALS AMONG YOU
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.
"Beloved, don't be astonished at the fiery trial (Greek: pyrosis) which has come upon you, to test (Greek: peirasmos) you, as though a strange thing happened to you" (v. 12). The Greek word pyrosis means fire or to burn. The word "trial" is not in the Greek, but is implied by the context. These people have walked through the fire of persecution for their faith.
Peter advises them not to regard those fiery trials as something peculiar. Christians can expect such things.
"to test (peirasmos) you" (v. 12b). God often tests people to give them a chance to prove their faith:
"But because you are partakers (Greek: koinoneo) of Christ's sufferings, rejoice" (v. 13a). Christ's suffering
wasn't random or masochistic. It had a purpose. Christ suffered "for us"-on our behalf-in our place. The sin was ours, so the suffering should have been ours. But, in keeping with the sacrificial code prescribed by Torah law, Jesus became "the Lamb who has been killed" (Revelation 5:12)-"the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)-"Christ, our Passover, ...sacrificed in our place" (1 Corinthians 5:7)-the "faultless and pure lamb" whose precious blood redeemed us (1 Peter 1:18-19).
"that at the revelation of his glory (Greek: doxa) you also may rejoice (Greek: agalliao) with exceeding joy" (v. 13b). Glory is characteristic of God, and refers to God's awe-inspiring majesty.
"If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed" (v. 14a). Jesus stated this principle in the Sermon on the Mount, saying, "Blessed are you when people reproach you, 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 that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).
"because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (v. 14b). "The Spirit of glory and of God" is unusual wording, but refers to the Holy Spirit. The word "rests" is present tense. These Christians already possess the Spirit of God. It rests on them now, providing strength and guidance as needed.
1 PETER 4:15-16. IF YOU SUFFER FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN
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.
"For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil doer, or a meddler in other men's matters" (v. 15). Peter offers this verse as clarification, lest anyone misunderstand. The blessings he has promised to suffering Christians don't apply to those who are suffering because they are murderers, thieves, evil doers, or meddlers in the affairs of other people. People guilty of those sins are suffering justly, and can expect no blessing as a reward for their hardships. Furthermore, we shouldn't consider these four sins to be an exhaustive list. They are simply examples of sins that will not bring rewards. No sinner should expect to be rewarded for suffering that results from his/her sin.
"but if anyone suffers as a Christian" (Greek: Christianos) (v. 16a). This is one of only three places where the word Christian (Christianos) appears in the New Testament. The other two are Acts 11:26; 26:28. This word combines the word Christ with the suffix ianos-a common practice to designate the follower of a particular person. The word Christianos, then, simply means a follower of Christ.
"let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (Greek: in touto to onomati-in having that name) (v. 16b). Christians who suffer because of their faith have no reason to be ashamed. They should "glorify God in having that name." They should wear Christ's name proudly, and should act and speak in ways that would give glory to God.
1 Peter 4:12-19 - T. CONSTABLE EXPOSITION
THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF CHRISTIANS COLLECTIVELY 4:12-19: Peter now broadened his perspective and reminded his suffering readers of their corporate responsibilities.
A. The Fiery Trial 4:12-19
v. 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; - Some Christians feel surprised when other people misunderstand, dislike, insult, and treat them harshly when they seek to carry out God's will.
▪ Peter reminded his readers that this reaction is not a strange thing but normal Christian experience. Their persecutions were fiery (burning) ordeals in the sense that they were part of God's refining process and were uncomfortable (cf. 1 Peter 2:11). It was for their testing (Gr. pairasmos, proving), to manifest their faith, that God allowed their sufferings (cf. James 1:2-4).
▪ Peter also reminded his readers of how sufferings fit into God's purposes to encourage them to persevere with the proper attitude (cf. James 1).
▪ The section which began at iii. 13 is here concluded in a passage which recapitulates much that has been said-on persecution, on Christ's sufferings, on Christian duty, on the imminence of the End and of divine Judgment-and which reflects the intensity of the author's eschatological faith.
v. 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. - We can also rejoice in these sufferings because when we experience them we share in Christ's sufferings. That is, we experience what Jesus did during His time on earth as He continued faithful to God's will. God will glorify us just as He will glorify Jesus. Therefore we can rejoice now at that prospect (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 1:10-11; 1 Peter 2:21; Acts 5:41). The revelation (uncovering, Gr. apokalypsis) of Jesus Christ's glory is most likely a reference to the Second Advent that includes the Rapture and the Second Coming (cf. 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:13). At both of these appearings His glory will become manifest, to the church at the Rapture and to the world at His second coming.
▪ Our present experience as we suffer for Christ's sake is similar to a pregnant woman who feels discomfort and even pain as she anticipates her due date. When she gives birth, however, joy at the delivery of her child replaces the pain that she felt during her pregnancy. Similarly we groan now, but the hope of future joy should encourage us to hang on (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
v. 14: If you are reviledfor the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. - When people revile, insult, and reject us for being followers of Jesus Christ, they may curse us, but their curses are really blessings from God (Matthew 5:11-12).
"To be insulted is not simply to receive a rebuke (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 4:5), but . . . it means to be rejected by the society (or even by humanity)." [Note: Davids, p. 167.]
Their curses become blessings because the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of glory, already indwells us. The "and" here (Gr. kai) may be ascensive, meaning "even." Peter's thought was that the indwelling Holy Spirit is already part of our glorification, the firstfruits of our inheritance. As the Israelites enjoyed the presence of God in the fiery pillar even during their wilderness testing, so we enjoy His presence during our wilderness experience.
▪ The world believes that the absence of suffering means glory, but a Christian's outlook is different. . . .
▪ 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 could sing praises to God while bound in the midst of blazing fires. It also explains how persecuted Christians (and there are many in today's world) can go to prison and to death without complaining or resisting their captors." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:425.]
B. Suffering as Christians 4:15-19
vv. 15-16: 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. - However, we should not take comfort in suffering that we bring on ourselves for sinning in contrast to suffering that we experience because we take a stand with Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Peter 2:20). Peter felt ashamed when he denied the Lord in the high priest's courtyard, but he learned his lesson, stopped feeling ashamed, and urged his readers not to feel ashamed. We glorify God as we stand up as disciples of Christ both visually, as others view our lives, and verbally, as we explain our commitment to them.
▪ Clement of Alexandria tells of a favourite disciple of St. John who became captain of a band of robbers . . . There were men in the Apostolic Church who had been kleptai [thieves], and were still in danger of falling back into evil ways, see I Cor. vi. 10; Eph. iv. 28." [Note: Bigg, p. 177.]
v. 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? - In this verse and the next Peter gave two encouragements in suffering by comparing our suffering as believers with the suffering that unbelievers will experience. This verse focuses on the time of these two experiences of suffering: (2) Our suffering is now, but (2) theirs will be when they stand before God in judgment. The point: Our judgment by unbelievers now is lighter than their judgment by God will be later. Our sufferings are part of the opening scene in the last act of God's redemptive drama. More severe judgment will follow on the ungodly.
▪ It helps to see our sufferings in the context of God's end-times plan. They are not an accident but an assurance of His sovereign control.
▪ One writer argued that Peter was alluding to Malachi 3:2-3. [Note: D. E. Johnson, "Fire in God's House: ▪ Imagery from Malachi 3 in Peter's Theology of Suffering (1 Peter 4:12-19)," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29 (1989):285-94.] This seems unlikely since Malachi referred to a purifying judgment that would come on Israel whereas Peter wrote of one that Christians experience now. Peter previously called the church a spiritual household (1 Peter 2:5).
v. 18: AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND SINNER? [Prov. 11:31]. - In this verse Peter contrasted the intensity of the two experiences of suffering, by disciples now and by unbelievers in the future. It is with difficulty that righteous people pass through this phase of our existence into the next phase because this phase involves suffering for us. "Saved" (Gr. sozetai) here means delivered in the sense of being delivered from this life into the next. Yet it will be even more difficult for godless people to pass from this phase of their lives to the next because they will have to undergo God's wrath. Their future sufferings will be more intense than our present sufferings.
▪ The purpose of Peter's quoting Proverbs 11:31 loosely was to show that the Old Testament also taught that both the righteous and the wicked will receive from the Lord. The point in the proverb is that since God rewards the righteous on earth how much more can we count on His rewarding wicked sinners.
▪ If God disciplines His own children, how much more severely will He deal with those who are not His children. Our sufferings are light compared with those the ungodly will experience in the future.
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. - "Therefore" draws these encouragements to a conclusion and introduces a command in view of them. In view of these reasons that we should respond to suffering by entrusting ourselves to the God who created us (cf. Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46).
▪ He will bring us through our sufferings safely (cf. Philippians 1:6). God is faithful to do this. Furthermore we should keep on doing what is right (e.g., submitting to government rulers, obeying masters, submitting to husbands, loving wives, etc.) rather than doing evil (1 Peter 4:15).
▪ "Souls" (Gr. psychas and psychon) again refers to our total person, our whole being as individuals (cf. 1 Peter 1:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 3:20).
▪ Peter described God as the "faithful Creator," which is an unusual designation because only here in the NT is God called ktistes [Creator]
▪ The combination of 'faithful' and 'Creator' reminds the believer of God's love and power in the midst of trials so that they will not doubt his interest or ability." [Note: Blum, p. 249.]
▪ Peter brought together four reasons for suffering in this section:
(1) God allows us to suffer to demonstrate our character (1 Peter 4:12).
(2) Those who identify themselves with Jesus Christ will share the sufferings of our Savior (1 Pet 4:13).
(3) Our sufferings will be an occasion of God blessing us (1 Peter 4:14); and
(4) Our suffering will glorify God (1 Peter 4:16).
▪ Peter then redirected our perspective on suffering by reminding us of the time and intensity of our sufferings, compared with those of unbelievers (1 Peter 4:17-18). Finally, he concluded with an exhortation to trust God and do right (1 Peter 4:19). Peter thus encouraged his readers by revealing God's perspective on their sufferings.
▪ The most striking feature of this section is its bold emphasis on the sovereignty and initiative of God, even in the suffering of his own people." [Note: Michaels, p. 274.]
1 Peter 4:12-19 - W. BARCLAY COMMENTARY
THE INEVITABILITY OF PERSECUTION ( 1 Peter 4:12-13 )
4:12-13: 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.
In general, persecution must have been a much more disheartening experience for Gentiles than it was for Jews. The average Gentile had little experience of it; but the Jews have always been the most persecuted people upon earth. Peter was writing to Christians who were Gentiles and he had to try to help them by showing them persecution in its true terms. It is never easy to be a Christian. The Christian life brings its own loneliness, its own unpopularity, its own problems, its own sacrifices and its own persecutions. It is, therefore, well to have certain great principles in our minds.
(i) It is Peter's view that persecution is inevitable. It is human nature to dislike and to regard with suspicion anyone who is different; the Christian is necessarily different from the man of the world. The particular impact of the Christian difference makes the matter more acute. To the world the Christian brings the standards of Jesus Christ. That is another way of saying that he inevitably is a kind of conscience to any society in which he moves; and many a man would gladly eliminate the troublesome twinges of conscience. The very goodness of Christianity can be an offence to a world in which goodness is regarded as a handicap.
(ii) It is Peter's view that persecution is a test. It is a test in a double sense. A man's devotion to a principle can be measured by his willingness to suffer for it; therefore, any kind of persecution is a test of a man's faith. But it is equally true that it is only the real Christian who will be persecuted. The Christian who compromises with the world will not be persecuted. In a double sense persecution is the test of the reality of a man's faith.
(iii) Now we come to the uplifting things: Persecution is a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. When a man has to suffer for his Christianity he is walking the way his Master walked and sharing the Cross his Master carried. This is a favourite New Testament thought. If we suffer with him, we will be glorified with him ( Romans 8:17). It is Paul's desire to enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ ( Php_3:10 ). If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him ( 2 Timothy 2:12). If we remember that, anything we must suffer for the sake of Christ becomes a privilege and not a penalty.
(iv) Persecution is the way to glory. The Cross is the way to the crown. Jesus Christ is no man's debtor and his joy and crown await the man who, through thick and thin, remains true to him.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF SUFFERING FOR CHRIST ( 1 Peter 4:14-16 )
4:14-16: 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 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.
Here Peter says the greatest thing of all: If a man suffers for Christ, the presence of the glory rests upon him. This is a very strange phrase. We think it can mean only one thing. The Jews had the conception of the Shekinah, the luminous glow of the very presence of God. This conception constantly recurs in the Old Testament. "In the morning," said Moses, "you shall see the glory of the Lord" ( Exodus 16:7). "The glory of the Lord settled upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud coverer it six days," when the law was being delivered to Moses ( Exodus 24:16). In the tabernacle God was to meet with Israel and it was to be sanctified with his glory ( Exodus 29:43). When the tabernacle was completed, "then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" ( Exodus 40:34). When the ark of the covenant was brought into Solomon's temple, "a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord" ( 1 Kings 8:10-11). Repeatedly this idea of the Shekinah, the luminous glory of God, occurs in the Old Testament.
It's Peter's conviction that something of that glow of glory rests on the man who suffers for Christ. When Stephen was on trial for his life and it was certain that he would be condemned to death, to those who looked on him his face was as the face of an angel ( Acts 6:15). He goes on to point out that it is as a Christian that a man must suffer, not as an evil-doer. The evils which he singles out are all clear enough until we come to the last. A Christian, Peter says, is not to suffer as an allotriepiskopos (lit. a troublesome meddler) . The trouble is that there is no other instance of this word in Greek and Peter may well have invented it. It can have three possible meanings, all of which would be relevant. It comes from two words, allotrios ( G245) , belonging to another and episkopos ( G1985) , looking upon or looking into. Therefore, it literally means looking upon, or into, that which belongs to another.
(i) To look on that which is someone else's might well be to cast covetous eyes upon it. That is how both the Latin Bible and Calvin take this word--to mean that the Christian must not be covetous.
(ii) To look upon that which belongs to another might well mean to be too interested in other people's affairs and to be a meddling busybody. That is by far the most probable meaning. There are Christians who do an infinite deal of harm with misguided interference and criticism. This would mean that the Christian must never be an interfering busybody. That gives good sense and, we believe, the best sense.
(iii) There is a third possibility. Allotrios (G245) means that which belongs to someone else; that is to say, that which is foreign to oneself. Along that line allotriepiskopos ( G244) will mean looking upon that which is foreign to oneself. That would mean, of a Christian, entering upon undertakings which do not befit the Christian life. This would mean that a Christian must never interest himself in things which are contrary to the kind of life that a Christian should live and lead.
Point: It's Peter's injunction that, if a Christian must suffer for Christ, he must do it in such a way that his sufferings bring glory to God and to His name. His life and conduct must be the best argument that he does not deserve the suffering which has come upon him and his attitude to it must commend the name he bears.
INTRUSTING ALL LIFE TO GOD ( 1 Peter 4:17-19 )
4:17-1: 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 man 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. As Peter saw it, it was all the more necessary for the Christian to do right because judgment was about to begin.
It-judgment-was to begin with the household of God. Ezekiel hears the voice of God proclaiming judgment upon His people, "Begin at my sanctuary" ( Ezekiel 9:6). Where the privilege has been greatest, there the judgment will be sternest.
If judgment is to fall upon the Church of God, what will be the fate of those who have been utterly disobedient to the invitation and command of God? Peter confirms his appeal with a quotation from Proverbs 11:31: "If the righteous is requited on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!"
Finally, Peter exhorts his people to continue to do good and, whatever happens to them to entrust their lives to God, the Creator on whom they can rely. The word he uses for to entrust is paratithesthai, literally a technical term for safekeeping money with a trusted friend. In the ancient days there were no banks and few really safe places in which to deposit money. So, before a man went on a journey, he often left his money in the safe-keeping of a friend. Such a trust was regarded as one of the most sacred things in life. The friend was absolutely bound by all honour and all religion to return the money intact.
End Point: If a man entrusts himself to God, God will not fail him. If such a trust is sacred to men, how much more is it sacred to God? This is the very word used by Jesus, when he says "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit" ( Luke 23:46). Jesus unhesitatingly entrusted his life to God, certain that he would not fail
him--and so may we. The old advice is still good advice--trust in God and do the right.
EW Commentary - 1 Peter 4:12-19
B. Understanding your time of trial.
1. (4:12-13) Enduring trials with the right attitude.
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.
a. Concerning the fiery trial which is to try you: Instead of thinking of trials (even fiery trials) as strange occurrences, we see them as ways to partake of Christ's sufferings. And if we partake of His sufferings, we will also partake of His glory and joy.
i. Peter once told Jesus to avoid the suffering of the cross (Mark 8:32-33). "Once it seemed strange to the Apostle Peter that his Master should think of suffering. Now he thinks it strange that He could have imagined anything else." (Meyer)
b. Partake of Christ's sufferings: We can only partake of Jesus' sufferings because He partook of our humanity and sufferings. He became a man and suffered so that our suffering wouldn't be meaningless. It is good to share anything with Jesus, even His suffering.
c. Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy: Our tendency is to embrace the glory and the joy and to avoid any sharing of Jesus' suffering. Or we morbidly fixate on the suffering and forget that it is but a necessary prelude to the glory and joy.
i. We should never deny the place of suffering in building godliness in the Christian life. Though there is much needless pain we bear through lack of knowledge or faith, there is also necessary suffering. If suffering was a suitable tool to teach Jesus (Hebrews 5:8), it is a suitable tool to teach His servants.
ii. To the extent implies a measure. Those who have suffered more in Jesus will rejoice more at His coming in glory.
2. (14:14-16) The difference between suffering as a Christian and suffering as an evildoer.
14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 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.
a. If you are reproached for the name of Christ: Suffering for the name of Christ is a blessing, because it shows that we really are following Jesus, and that we suffer because we are identified with Him.
b. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified: We expect the world to blaspheme Jesus. But He should always be glorified among Christians.
c. Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody: Suffering as an evildoer is deserved and brings shame to the name of Jesus. Peter recognized that not all suffering that Christians experience is suffering in the name of Jesus.
i. We understand when Peter writes about the suffering that might come to the murderer, the thief, or the evildoer. Yet we shouldn't be surprised that he also includes the busybody in other people's matters.
Such people do suffer a lot of grief and pain, but not for the sake of Jesus.
d. If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed: Suffering as a Christian is nothing to be ashamed about, even though the world may despise the suffering Christian. Instead, we should glorify God in these matters.
i. We don't glorify God for suffering. But we do glorify Him in suffering, and we glorify Him for what He will accomplish in us and through us with the suffering.
ii. "The name 'Christian' (Christianos), built on the name Christ with the suffix -ianos, a Latin formation (-ianus), denotes a partisan follower... Christian categorized the followers of Christ as 'members of the Christ-party,' not 'little Christ' as some popular explanations would have it." (Hiebert)
iii. Christians were first known as "disciples," "believers," "the Lord's disciples," or "those who belonged to the Way" before they were known as Christians, first at Acts 11:26. This is the first of three places in the New Testament where the followers of Jesus are named Christians.
that between Acts 11:26 and 26:28 Christian had become a popularized name for the followers of Jesus.
This shows that the name had become very widely used, so much so that one could be persecuted for being numbered as a Christian.
3. (4:17-19) Committing your soul to God in the midst of suffering.
7 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 MAN 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.
a. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God: In the context of suffering, Peter tells us that judgment begins at the house of God. Right now, God uses suffering as a judgment (in a positive, purifying sense) for Christians (the house of God).
i. It is right for judgment to begin at the house of God. "There is equity in it; for Christians profess to be better than others, and so they ought to be. They say they are regenerate, so they ought to be regenerate. They say that they are a holy people, separated unto Christ; so they ought to be holy, and separate from sinners, as he was." (Spurgeon)
ii. Now is our time of fiery trial (1 Peter 4:12); the ungodly will have their fire later. The fire we endure now purifies us; the fire the ungodly will endure will punish them. Yet we always remember that there is never any punishment from God for us in our sufferings, only purification. For the Christian, the issue of punishment was settled once and for all at the cross, where Jesus endured all the punishment the Christian could ever face from God.
iii. The same fire that consumes straw will purify gold. The fire is the same, but its purpose in application is different, and its effect is different upon the straw and the gold. Even so, Christians do suffer some of the same things the ungodly do, yet the purpose of God is different and the effect is different.
b. If it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Peter's sobering application is clear. If this is what God's children experience, what will become of those who have made themselves His enemies? How can they ever hope to stand before the judgment and wrath of God?
i. Christians can rejoice that the sufferings they face in this life are the worst they will ever face throughout all eternity. We have seen the worst; those who reject Jesus Christ have seen the best of life their eternal existence will ever see.
c. If the righteous one is scarcely saved: Since this is true - that the salvation of the righteous does not come without difficulty - then it should make us pause if we ourselves or others seem to have an easy salvation.
i. It isn't that our salvation is difficult in the sense of earning it or finding a way to deserve it; it is all the free gift of Jesus Christ. Yet our salvation is hard in the sense that the claims of discipleship challenge us and demand that we cast away our idols and our sins. Real discipleship and genuine following after Jesus Christ is sometimes a hard thing, so we understand why Peter quoted the passage from Proverbs 11:31, "the righteous one is scarcely saved."
d. Those who suffer according to the will of God: Peter again made a distinction between those who suffer according to the will of God and those who suffer otherwise. Not all suffering is the will of God.
e. Commit their souls to Him: The ancient Greek word translated "commit" is a technical one, used for leaving money on deposit with a trusted friend. Such a trust was regarded as one of the most sacred things in life, and the friend was bound by honor to return the money intact. It is the very word Jesus used when He said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46).
i. So when Christians commit their souls to Him, they leave their souls in a safe place. God is a faithful Creator, and we can give ourselves to Him as pliable clay in His hands.
f. Faithful Creator: Much of the agony we put ourselves through in times of trial and suffering has to do with our disregard of God's faithfulness or of His place as Creator. He is our sovereign Creator, with the right to do with us as He pleases. Yet He is faithful, and will only do what is ultimately best for us.