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1 Peter 4: 12 to 19

1 Peter 4:12-19

Introduction

Peter concerns himself with the suffering of Christ and the suffering of the saints - being pilgrims of the dispersion (1:1) and sojourners and pilgrims (2:11). He speaks of this in terms of the suffering of Christ, our future heavenly state and what our current state should be.

In Chapter 1 Peter highlights the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1:3) so that we might have an inheritance, which is incorruptible, undefiled and will (or does not) fade way. That is, our destiny is one of firm hope, something of glorious proportions and that surpasses our present condition. Our walk during this sojourn needs to be obedient (1:14) and we are to be holy (1:16).

In the KJV the word 'suffer' occurs in sixteen separate verses in 1 Peter (the NIV renders λυπέω ie lupeo as suffering in 1:6 - while NKJ uses grieved as does NT- JND and KJV uses heaviness)[1] - see appendix.

Peter clearly highlights the suffering of Christ in order to deal with our sin and then highlights the natural extension of the suffering of Christ to ourselves. Indeed the letter is to encourage those dispersed from their homes and loved ones, and to point out that if Christ suffered, so will we. There is nothing new in this, acknowledge by Peter at verse 1 of chapter 4:

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 1 Peter 4:1.

Of which Peter himself was a witness, and perhaps by this stage a participator of, and also because Jesus himself pointed this out:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (26) For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24- 26 (KJV) also Luke 12:4-5.

In chapter 2 verse 24, Peter writes:

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

And at verse 3:19

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

All suffering stems from sin. Christ suffered because of our sin. We suffer because we are fallen beings, the son's of Adam: because we sin. The first man sinned and suffered, the Second man was perfect, and did away with sin by suffering.

These passages in Peter go together with the great chapter of Romans - chapter 8. It is in this chapter we learn that there is no condemnation as a result of our sin by those that justified by Christ Jesus, but nevertheless, we will suffer while in this fleshly body. Furthermore, Paul makes the amazing comparison - that the suffering which we might suffer is incomparable and not worthy to be compared to the glory we will receive.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 (KJV).

Note that we do not suffer to receive glory. Our glorification has nothing to do with our actions or circumstances, our prowess or abilities. The glory stems directly from the action of Christ at the cross. Furthermore, we do not suffer in order to pay a dept - Christ our redeemer has paid our dept in full:

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. 1 Corinthians 6:19 - 20

Expository

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;

This verse demonstrates that suffering is natural - is the consequence of the fall of Adam. Christians cannot expect anything less than persecution. Satan knows he was defeated at the cross, and will do everything to ensure those that have been redeemed have a tough life. The naturalness of their actions was spoken of by Jesus:

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. John 16:2.

There was nothing new in this - the Jews had been killing their prophets since God had been sending them. It is also a natural tendency for the man to abhor good, and go after evil, and hence want to do way with any that promote good. Hence, the world is full of vast religious systems that abhor the ways of Yahweh (Jehovah), the Lord God Most High, whether by outright denying an existence of God, or by substituting Him with something else.

Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, Matthew 23:34.

You might be one of these God has sent to be a testimony to the world to bring many to Christ Jesus. Note that this verse was for future reference, not the past. Furthermore, Jesus said this would happen.

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. Philippians 1:29 - 30

13 but 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.

Any suffering we are subject to should bring exceeding joy, in that we are partakers of that which Christ also suffered. Indeed, Paul to the Romans points out that suffering cannot be compared with the glory we will receive. Noting that suffering does not bring about the glory, excepting the suffering of Christ, for without suffering we could have no thought of entering the glory of God.

This is clearly easier said than done, especially during the suffering. Suffering for Christ should be a matter of joy.

There appears to be four types of suffering:

1. The suffering of the world due to the sin of Adam. The ground was cursed, along with all of creation. Romans chapter 8 speaks of creation itself waiting for the coming of Christ, for all of it groans for the delivery from the bondage that sin caused: this is unseen by the world.

2. The suffering due to our circumstances. The suffering when a loved one dies, or we suffer ill health or an injury. Both believer and non-believer alike suffer in this regard. Again this is the result of fallen man, and hence the non-believer will not attribute it to sin but circumstances. The believer will understand that sin is the cause, but also that there is a far greater hope and will rest in the truth that no-one can separate him from the love of Christ - neither tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, (or drought), or nakedness, or peril or sword. Furthermore, he or she understands the all things including the circumstances we find ourselves in work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28).

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

3. Suffering due to God's action upon us as children of God, in his governance. His discipline for a time may cause grief, but it is necessary to produce fruit. Again this is due to sin, in this case our own sin.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:4 -6.

Our stupidity needs to be brought low so we in the end might cry out;

For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. Psalm 73:14

4. The third kind is solely due to the opposition of Satan to the children of God. We are aliens in this world, and hence hated. The warning Christ gave:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28n (KJV).

Our souls are safe with the Lord Jesus Christ noting that we need to put the whole armour of God on. There are some who appear to have the notion that becoming a believer protects them from suffering. A soldier endures and suffers, but he wears the whole armour. This is to resist the devil and his relentless attacks on the mind and soul. He who controls of the heart will determine the effectiveness of a person for God's sake. Who controls your mind - you, Satan or God.

A believer understands his flesh will return to the dust of the earth and his soul returns heaven. The outward man is clearly "perishing". Those of us getting a little older can certainly feel this - our eyes grow dim, our muscles cannot lift the weights it once did and we have less stamina. But it's our inward man - our mind and soul - our heart that is being renewed day by day.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

Hence concern for the flesh, which is merely a temporary shelter, should not be our principle concern - noting that we aught to be good stewards of our bodies because the work God has for us will involve a body fit for the purpose.

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.

Reproach brings its on blessedness. The action of the world is not against you as such, it is really against Christ, who has defeated Satan. Satan, in his folly, still thinks he can attack Christ, and the only means at his disposal at this stage is by attaching the children of God.

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. John 16:2

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters.

Suffering of the type Peter speaks of needs to be of a good conscious. One should not be caught suffering due to our sinfulness. Furthermore, we must not ascribe our suffering to that of Christ if it is because of our own stupidity - our own sinfulness. We must have a clear conscious. Practically this means living in Christ. Going and growing with him. Each day should have a new and expanded experience in our walk with Christ.

1. Pray - the best way to stay on track is to remain in communion with Him who gives the ability to perform. It is well recognised that a degenerate mind leaves off communion first. A partnership in trouble always lacks good communication.

2. Read and meditate on the word of God. It is the word that is the weapon we have: 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the word'. We need to meditate on the word, to expunge our minds of the fifth of the world, that relentlessly bombards it.

3. Be accountable - the assembly, congregation or church must ensure its responsibilities are met in this regard. They need to be accountable to you and you to it. Be accountable to God, your spouse, your parents. Give an account to God at the end of every day of your action. In this way you should learn what is un-acceptable and what is pleasing to God.

16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

Our suffering may look shameful to the world - we may suffer ostracisation, humiliation, and persecution that degrades us[2] yet in the eyes of God it glorifies Him. This is the essence of suffering we see here in this passage - it glorifies God (not the self seeking suffering or self made suffering due to sin). It does this because it magnifies the work that Jesus wrought on the Cross.

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God[3]; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18 Now
"If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?"

The government of God extends to the entire world, and why would it not begin in the house of God. Indeed, it appears quite natural that God would deal with evil in His own house. Here "judgement" is concerned with government, and applies to the present time - note "the time has come". We see examples of this occurring, with the dealings with the early church - Ananias & Sapphire and the Corinthian assembly "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep". 1 Corinthians 11:30.

Here the judgement is krima (κρίμα), which denotes the outcome or result of the action - to judge - that is, is the effect of what one does against a crime - a decision passed.

The Old Testament testifies that God refuses to dwell in his house that has been polluted by evil, or defiled by abominations. The cleansing of the House of Israel described vividly by Ezekiel (chapter 9) states that they were required to start at the Sanctuary of the temple - God referring to it as "my sanctuary" (verse 6). The current state of the church is one of ruin: the warning of the ruin of the kingdom is adequately described by Jesus in Matthew 13 - with tares planted in the wheat etc.

Note the salient comment by Amos:

"You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Amos 3:2

William Kelly puts it:

"But where is this felt by saints generally and confessed with grief before God and with shame before men? If they go so far as to protest against this evil or that, they are satisfied with their part, even though they in fact join in with what they own as deplorable, or alas! seek to explain away.

Let them heed the way of the godly in Israel, though surely the Christian is bound to go farther still and judge more profoundly through far more light. From Moses to Samuel how much is there to learn in presence of the people fighting against God I From Jeremiah and Daniel, from Ezra and Nehemiah, what agony over the remnant's short-coming, what bearing the burden of all Israel's sins, of people, priests, and kings! Is the church to have no such sense of responsibility? Is the Christian, because he has eternal life and is justified, to have no sorrow because of the beautiful flock of Christ harried and scattered, and of the rashness, heats, and self-will which oft caused it?

Hence, the writer than shows the narrowness of the escape we have had, and highlights the zero chance of the ungodly escaping the eternal judgement. Since judgement must start with the House, then how much more will the world be judged that has rejected His son?"

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.

Knowing that it is only natural that a Christian should suffer, then it is also only natural that he turns for strength to God himself because we have a faithful Creator who is our strength in the time of trouble. We do not suffer alone. Every second of the suffering is also borne by Him who is able to sympathise with our condition (Hebrews). One cannot expect to suffer for Christ without the aid of the Holy Spirit and conversely, one cannot be expected to survive suffering on one owns strength. It is God that is the faithful preserver of those he leaves in the world to fulfil his good pleasure.

Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. Psalm 65:4

 


 

Appendix

The Suffering in Peter

1:11 Predicted by prophecy

2:19 Due to a harsh master - one need to bare it

2:20 Doing good and suffering is commendable before God

2:21 Christ suffered, as an example, that we should follow in it.

2:23 Christ did not seek revenge when he suffered

3:14 Suffering for righteousness sake is a blessing

3:17 If we are to suffer, it must be for doing good, not evil

3:18 Christ suffered once for sins - he being just, we being unjust,

4:1 Christ suffered in the flesh: to do like wise we need to case from sin

4:13 We need to rejoice if we suffer, for we do so to partake in Christ's suffering

4:15 If we suffer it cannot be for doing evil - expands on 3:17

4:16 If we suffer, we should not be ashamed, it is to glorify God

4:19 We need to commit our souls to Christ, our mind and heart attitude need to be that of pleasing and serving the Father, knowing he is faithful to us.

5:1 Peter observed the suffering of Christ, and is a witness to it - he therefore speaks the truth from first hand knowledge.

5:9 If we suffer - remember that others in this world are also suffering.

5:10 We need to pray during suffering - God will bring as through it - and He will receive the glory

 

The House of God

The people of God in this dispensation are represented by four figures:

1. The House - relationship to God
2. The Body - relationship to Christ
3. The Candlestick - the light which the Holy Spirit gives
4. The Bride - the heavenly aspect of the Assembly.

Principal passages concerning the House of God

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle [tent] were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1

but if I [Paul] am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 2 Timothy 2:20

but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Hebrews 3:6

And having an high priest over the house of God; Hebrews 10:21

you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17

At Pentecost the house of God became co-existent with the Body of Christ.

There is a divine presence dwelling in the house of God. We see the consequence of Ananias lying to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit directing the separation of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2) and the Holy Spirit forbidding Paul from preaching in Asia (Acts 16:6). God builds His house to live in it, this he has done. This house is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), hence is a living house, not one of stone: the consequence is that we don't "come into the house" because we are the house. No building is found to represent the assembly - the assembly is the House.

 

Endnotes

[1] Note that the older versions of the bible eg King James will use the word "suffer" to mean "put up", "to hold one self up", to endure, or bear as in Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. Matthew 17:17. The NIV uses "put up" and the NKJV uses "bear" in this situation.

[2] Although we in the western world can hardly express what this action means, having the blessedness of relatively stable governments without the insatiable desire by Islam in our countries to consume the Jew and Christian alike. We can but cry in anguish on our knees to God the Father concerning our brothers and sisters who do suffer for speaking the name of Jesus.

[3] See appendix for what the House of God is.

David L Simon (CCC 2007)
\Peter\Fiery trials of a Christian - 1 peter 4 v12 to v19
Put on 19 June 2007