1 Peter 4:17-19 ~ 20090614 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
06/14 1 Peter 4:17-19 The Reason for Suffering
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 writing to encourage the saints in suffering. The ultimate purpose of humanity is to bring glory to God, as Peter stated at the end of verse 11:
1 Peter 4:11... in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
And suffering is a stage on which we can most eloquently magnify our great God and Savior. In verse 16 he tells us 'if anyone suffers as a Christian... let him glorify God in that name'.
Peter has warned us against a wrong response to suffering: don't be surprised. We are not to be surprised because Jesus prepared us for suffering by his teaching, and because we know what suffering is for – just like precious metals need the impurities to be burned away in the furnace, so our faith must be tested in the furnace of affliction to prove its infinite worth. Martin Luther put it this way:
"When faith begins, God does not neglect it; he lays the holy cross upon our back in order to strengthen us and make our faith mighty." Luther, p.192
We are warned against a wrong response: suffering is not unusual - expect it. Then he gives us the desired response: suffering is fellowship with Christ – delight in it! The weightiness of intimacy with a God who is glorious beyond our comprehension far outbalances any temporary pain that we must endure.
In verses 17-19, Peter gives us reason for our sufferings, and he brings us comfort by drawing inferences from our situation, and finally he concludes with a summary directive for how we are to live in light of this truth. He says:
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.
+The Reason for our Suffering
He starts with the word 'For': Peter is giving us reason for suffering. We might ask 'what is going on in the world? Why are God's people suffering and evildoers are going unpunished?' Peter's answer is that we suffer as Christians because it is time. Take courage and be faithful to endure, because even the timing of the trials is God's own appointment and does not come from our enemies. We live in God's appointed season for judgment. Judgment -(krima) is not necessarily condemnation (katakrima); this can be a judgment that results in good or bad evaluations. The results could be approval, or discipline, or condemnation.
Our God is described as a consuming fire:
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
And no one will be untouched by his consuming fire.
Isaiah 33:13 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. 14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
When I read that, I assumed it was a rhetorical question, with the expected answer 'no one!'. But then I read the next verse and found Isaiah's inspired answer:
Isaiah 33:15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, 16 he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. 17 Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar. 18 Your heart will muse on the terror: “Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute? Where is he who counted the towers?”
'Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings? He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly'; in a word, only he who is clothed in the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ! Our eyes will behold the king in his beauty! What a thought! And our heart will muse on the terror – where is he? Where is he? But for the grace of God, that is where I would also be.
Believers are strengthened and purified by God's refining fire. Sins are being eliminated, holiness is being developed and trust in God increases.
It is time for judgment to begin from the household of God
Peter has told us that we as the church are:
1 Peter 2: 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ
And although this is a privileged position, it is also a vulnerable position. We see in scripture a pattern for God's judgment to begin within his own house There are three passages that Peter probably has in mind: Jeremiah 25, Ezekiel 9 and Malachi 3
In Jeremiah 25 – (God tells disobedient Judah that he is bringing Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon against them to judge them for 70 years. Then he will punish the king of Babylon for their iniquities.)
15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.” 17 So I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it: (notice where he starts) 18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day;
(then he goes on to list the other nations; Egypt, the Philistines; Arabia, and finally down the list to Babylon; he says:)
26... And after them the king of Babylon shall drink. 27 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’ 28 “And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: You must drink! 29 For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the LORD of hosts.’
30 “You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: “‘The LORD will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. 31 The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the LORD.’
God will judge the nations, and he begins with his own people. In Ezekiel 9, God is pouring out his wrath on the rebellious people of Israel and he commands
Ezekiel 9:5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.
God being infinitely holy cannot condone sin; even his own family stands under his judgment. He proves himself impartially just in correcting the sins of his own. In Malachi
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. 2 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. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. 6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed....
God begins by purifying his house, then he moves to judge the evildoers. But there is a distinction; he goes on:
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
Remember, the suffering of the Christian is not God's vindictive wrath, but his fatherly discipline.
1 Corinthians11:32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews makes this abundantly clear:
Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
He goes on to contrast the discipline of God with our physical parents:
Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
+Comfort and Caution from the Implications
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?"
This is an argument for fearful joy. It is fearful to think about the end of those that reject the good news of Jesus. It is fearful to think of the pain we experience in the refining fire and think of those for whom it is not redemptive but vindictive. And yet there is a sense of comfort and joy knowing that we will only endure the beginning of what will make an end of God's enemies
He describes the ungodly as 'those who do not obey the gospel of God'. Notice he does not say 'those who do not believe', but 'those who do not obey'. The gospel is not only a set of facts to be believed. It is a God to be obeyed. We obey the gospel of God by coming to him on his terms and submitting to his authority. The good news is that there is one God, and there is one way for us to find favor with him – through the great exchange at the cross of our sin for the righteousness of Jesus Christ:
1Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,
The good news is God himself; that we will be brought into the consuming fire of his absolute holiness and our eyes will behold the king in his beauty! That our senses will be ravished by the one who is ultimately satisfying and we will bask in the radiance of his glory and gladly worship at his feet.
Peter draws from the wording of Proverbs when he says:
18 And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
The righteous – no one is righteous on their own – he is speaking of those who are counted righteous in Jesus Christ, because their sins are washed away by his blood and they are given his perfect record of righteousness. These righteous, Peter says, are 'scarcely saved'. They are saved, but it is with extreme difficulty. This does not imply that there is a question as to the outcome – whether those who trust in Christ will be saved or not; all who trust Christ will be saved, but it will not be without persevering through great difficulty. The great reformer John Calvin described it this way:
“But when he says, that a righteous man is scarcely saved, he refers to the difficulties of the present life, for our course in the world is like a dangerous sailing between many rocks, and exposed to many storms and tempests; and thus no one arrives at the port, except he who has escaped from thousand deaths. It is in the meantime certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our pilot.” ~John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Peter
Saving sinners is probably the most difficult and personally costly thing God has ever done. To overcome justice with mercy at the cost of his own beloved Son was infinitely more than we will ever be able to appreciate. Forgiving sinful man left a question mark on God's righteousness that could only be removed by the blood of an infinite and holy sacrifice. If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The author of Hebrews goes on to encourage his readers based on their joyful endurance of suffering
Hebrews 10:32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
A main theme of the entire letter summarized here – Christians do not suffer accidentally or because of the irresistible forces of blind fate, but we suffer according to God's will. The world is not out of control; God is working out his plan in our lives. Peter explicitly states this because suffering is not normally perceived as God's will. Because this is true, because we know that suffering is purifying for us, it must affect the way we suffer. We are commanded to 'entrust our souls' to God. To entrust is to hand over something of value to the care of another. Paul said to Timothy
2 Timothy 1:12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
Our future salvation is secure if we have placed it completely in the hand of him who is able to save, who made us and everything out of nothing, and has engaged his faithfulness in his promises to us! We have no ability in ourselves to preserve our souls. We place ourselves securely in his strong hands and relinquish control. Notice God's name in this passage: 'a faithful Creator' God's authority as universal judge rests on his role as creator of all people; the one who created the world is also sovereign over it. Not a ruthless sovereign, but a faithful Creator – God is faithful to his people and to his promises. He who created the universe out of nothing by his word surely knows how to care for those that he created. We can have confidence in his ability; and confidence in his faithfulness.
Our part is: 'while doing good' We trust God to care for our souls and we keep on doing what we know is right; living in such a way that 'they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation' 1 Peter 2:12; living to 'proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light' 1 Peter 2:9; serving 'by the strength that God supplies - in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ'.