1 Peter 4:12-16 ~ 20090607 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
0607 1 Peter 4:12-16 Delight in Sufferings
4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Intro: Peter is dealing with fiery trials in the life of the believer. He warns us of the thinking and attitude we are not to have toward our suffering, and then he tells us the attitude we are to have in the midst of our suffering, and he gives us weighty reasons for this kind of attitude. He has just finished giving us instructions in light of the imminent end; pray, love, practice hospitality, and user your gifts, and he burst into worship...
4:11... -in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Now he begins a new section:
4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Peter starts by prohibiting the wrong response to suffering. But he starts this new section by reminding us who we are. As he said in 2:11, he now repeats here – we are beloved. This is a term of affection, a term of endearment. And I'm sure Peter felt warmly toward his readers, but he is reminding us of God's love toward us. We are beloved! Peter began this letter pointing us to God's work in our salvation. We are the privileged recipients of God's great mercy. He caused us to be born again to a living hope, the promise of resurrection and an imperishable inheritance, which he is keeping for us, and he is guarding us for it. Trials prove our faith genuine so that we indeed obtain the outcome of salvation. Our salvation was the focal point of the Old Testament prophets, it is the goal of the New Testament proclaimers of the good news, and the Holy Spirit who empowers their message, and the Father who sent the Spirit. Even angels are fixated on the great mercy and grace that has been extended to us sinners.
Sinners, beloved by God, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
We are not to let suffering take us by surprise. Back in 4:4, Peter used the same word to tell us that our old friends will be surprised when we no longer sin with them the way we used to. They are freaked out that we won't do what we used to do. Now we are not to be freaked out by trials as if something freaky were happening. Why?
1. Jesus warned us suffering would come:
Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Mark 13:9-13 “But be on
your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will
be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and
kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel
must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you
to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you
are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is
not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver
brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will
rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be
hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to
the end will be saved.
John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Suffering should not take us by surprise because Jesus warned us that it would come. In fact, he promised us that it would come.
2. We should not be shocked and bewildered when suffering comes because we know what trials are for. Peter tells us right in this verse: the fiery trial is coming upon you to test you. Back in chapter 1 he told us:
1:6-8 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Trials are necessary to prove our faith genuine like the refining fire is necessary to purify precious metals. We should not be surprised by trials because we need the refining process so that our faith will shine. Peter has adopted this picture from the Old Testament:
Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.
Psalms 66:10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
Zechariah 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.”’
Malachi 3:2-3 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.
The goal of the refining process is to create purity by burning off all the impurities. It is when the heat is turned up that we realize the limits of our own strength and we are forced to cling to God's grace. And it is in the midst of the fire that we realize the strength of his grace to comfort and keep us. We have God's promise:
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
That's the negative – what we are not to do – we are not to think suffering is unnatural – because Jesus predicted our suffering, and we know that suffering produces a positive purifying effect.
Now let's see what he does tell us to do:
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Suffering is not unnatural; expect it. Now he tells us: suffering is fellowship with Christ; delight in it. This is a strange command. I can understand suffering is inevitable, so brace yourself, grit your teeth and get through it. I can even understand the motivation that future good will come out of the present suffering, so hang in there and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. But what Peter tells us is shocking. He tells us not just to tough it out now so that we can enjoy future blessing, but he tells us to delight in the suffering right now as you go through it. That is completely unnatural. Only someone who has been through the deep waters of suffering with Jesus can really understand this. Do you believe that Jesus can meet your needs? Yes. Do you have any needs? No, not really. But those who are profoundly suffering will say 'yes, Jesus is meeting my needs. I am clinging to him. He is all that I have.' And in the middle of suffering, there is communion with Christ. The word translated 'share' is the rich Greek word 'koinonia' – fellowship, intimacy, communion. When we suffer like Jesus suffered, we experience an intimacy with him that is sweet beyond degree. Listen how a woman who spent 10 months in Nazi concentration camps for hiding Jews puts it:
"Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.
"Sometimes I would slip the Bible from its little (sack) with hands that shook, so mysterious had it become to me. It was new; it had just been written. I marveled sometimes that the ink was dry...I had read a thousand times the story of Jesus' arrest--how soldiers had slapped Him, laughed at Him, flogged Him. Now such happenings had faces and voices.” ~Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
'Life (in the concentration camp) took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. (as the daily life grew every day more horrible), the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory' This is a woman who knew suffering – suffering for doing what was right. And in that suffering, she found an intimacy with God that grew daily better and richer and deeper and more glorious. Here's what she said later:
"Looking back across the years of my life, I can see the working of a divine pattern which is the way of God with His children. When I was in a prison camp in Holland during the war, I often prayed, 'Lord, never let the enemy put me in a German concentration camp.' God answered no to that prayer. Yet in the German camp, with all its horror, I found many prisoners who had never heard of Jesus Christ. "If God had not used my sister Betsie and me to bring them to Him, they would never have heard of Him. Many died, or were killed, but many died with the name of Jesus on their lips. They were well worth all our suffering.
'many died with the name of Jesus on their lips. They were well worth all our suffering.' The horror was real. The suffering was unimaginable. But 'they were well worth all our suffering'. That is an eternal perspective.
13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Rejoice now in sufferings so that later when his glory is revealed you may be overjoyed. Peter goes on to explain how it is possible to rejoice inside of and because of suffering.
14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
This is what Jesus taught about suffering:
Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.;
Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
The apostolic verdict on those who suffer for the name of Christ is 'you are blessed' – you are fortunate, so rejoice. And this is why he can say that: 'you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.' When you suffer, God's Spirit and God's glory rests upon you. Peter is borrowing language here from Isaiah:
Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
The Spirit of the LORD was prophesied to rest upon Christ. When we suffer for the name of Christ, his Spirit also rests upon us.
It says 'the Spirit of glory and of God'. The glory of God is an awesome thing in scripture. The word 'glory' (kabod) literally means weighty or heavy or dense – to have mass and substance – gravity. When Solomon completed the temple in Jerusalem, we are told that 'the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD' (1Ki.8:10-11) so that the priests could no longer enter the temple. But in Ezekiel 10-11, the glory of the LORD is seen withdrawing from the temple because of the sins of the people, and God sent them into captivity and allowed Jerusalem and the temple to be destroyed. But then, after the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their captivity, God said to Zerubbabel who rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem:
Haggai 2:5 ...My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. ... 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.”’
That was the promise, but the glory of the LORD never descended on that temple like he had on the first. At the end of the Old Testament, God promised:
Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
For 400 years the Jews waited for the Lord to come to his temple. Then a young couple, Mary and Joseph brought their child to be dedicated at the temple, and Simeon recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of that prophecy. The presence of Jesus is the greater glory of the temple.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature...
That is truly awesome! Jesus is the glory of God – the weightiness of God. And in your suffering, Peter says, the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you! If we understand who God is – his reputation, his fame, his weightiness, there is nothing that we could experience that compares to having his glory and his Spirit resting on us. Fellowship with Jesus is true joy in the middle of suffering.
But Peter must clarify:
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
Some might say 'I'm in prison suffering for Jesus' – no, you're in prison because you're an evildoer and you belong there. You put yourself there by your own stupidity. There's no merit in that. I've got lung cancer – I'm suffering for Jesus. No, two packs a day, you did that to yourself. Your nose got bloodied because it was poking around in somebody else's business. That's nobody's fault but your own. That is not the kind of suffering that Peter is talking about. That is not fellowship in his sufferings. Jesus didn't suffer for any of his own sins – he didn't have any!
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
This is the third time in the whole bible that the name 'Christian' is used (Acts 11:26; 26:28). Every time, it is on the lips of unbelievers as slander toward those who are followers of Christ. There is no shame associated with suffering simply because you are a Christ-follower. You can be ashamed of yourself if you were stupid and are suffering for it. But if you are suffering because of your identification with Jesus, if you are suffering because in some small way you resemble Jesus, if you in your sufferings are faithful and joyful and meek like Jesus was, that brings glory to God. Peter ended the last section of his letter by saying:
4:11...-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
If you suffer as a Christian, suffer in such a way that in your actions and in your attitudes and in your words God is honored. That in everything God may be glorified as you act in the name of Christ, as one who represents Jesus to others. That by your joy, even in the middle of suffering, those around you see your fellowship with God as all-satisfying and substantial, outweighing any pain.