1 Peter 4:12-19

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Observation

  • The readers of Peter’s letter were to expect fiery ordeals
  • The fiery ordeals came to Peter’s readers to test them.
  • Peter’s readers were participating in the sufferings of Christ.
  • Peter’s readers were to rejoice that they were being allowed to participate in the sufferings of Christ.
  • The reason the readers participated in Christ’s sufferings so they may overjoy when Christ’s glory is revealed.
  • When insulted for Christ’s name Peter’s readers were blessed.
  • The readers of Peter’s letter were blessed because the Spirit of God and glory rested on them.
  • The suffering Peter’s reader endured should not be a result of justice being dealt. e.g. murder, theft, or any other crime.
  • The sufferings endured should not even be the result of minor social indiscretions, such as meddling
  • Suffering for the sake of Christ is nothing to be ashamed of
  • Praise God when suffering for Christ’s sake. Praise Him that you bear His name.
  • It is time for judgment to begin.
  • Judgment begins with God’s household i.e. Christians.
  • The outcome of judgment for non-Christians is not good.
  • Since it is hard for the righteous to be save the ungodly have no chance.
  • When we suffer for God’s will we should commit ourselves to God.
  • God is our faithful creator
  • God does good.

Interpretation

Peter mentions suffering frequently in this letter. But this time it is different. Usually Peter talks about problems that are common to man in general. But this time he talks about suffering directly as a result of being a part of the body of Christ.

First Peter reminds us that we should not be surprised when we suffer for the name of Christ. Peter is not claiming that the wicked do not suffer. He is careful to point out that he is talking about suffering for the name of Christ. In fact, in verse 15 Peter specifically says he not talking about suffering for wrong doing, not even small or minor wrongs.

We should expect suffering for the name of Christ. Peter opens this passage with “don’t be surprised.” But then he says something that shocks us in the west. The apostle tells us to rejoice in our suffering. This is completely contrary to the popular Christianity today. Popular Christianity tells us that if we are doing what is pleasing to God, God will bless us. Popular Christianity tells us that God want to bless us with the implication that we will be bless emotionally, physically, and/or financially.

Peter does say that God will bless us. He says we already are blessed, the spirit of God rest on us.

Application

This is passage is a direct assault on the prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all. Most evangelicals today will denounce the prosperity gospel as heretical and justly so. Peter makes that very clear in this passage. But even though we denounce the prosperity gospel verbally, our lives betray our true beliefs.

We believe that God will bless us if we live a right life. If we are suffering it is because God is teaching us something, That is, we need to learn something before the trialthe , suffering or whatever will be taken away.

I have a friend who embodies this idea. He went through a hard time in his business. He believes it was because God was trying to teach him something. He believed that as soon as he got his life straightened out God started blessing him again and his business did well again.

This is also the taught by popular preacher today. TD Jakes, “Endure the storm. And when you come out of it, God’s going to do something amazing. You gotta do your work now.”

Joel Osteen, “Call it like you see it and watch His faithfulness bring to pass every dream and desire in your heart!”

As Christians we are promised suffering and persecution not the fulfilling of every dream and desire of our heart unless our desire is the Kingdom of God. (Matt 6:33)

Lest I harp too hard on others let me confess that I too tend towards the same type of thinking. When things go badly and I am suffering sickness, or assaults from others. My first response is to cry out “Why Lord? Show me what I am doing or did so I can repent of it.” Yeah, that isn’t even close to what Peter is teaching. When we suffer for the name of Christ, it is not because we did something wrong. It is because we are in Him. Peter tells us that suffering for the sake of Christ is a privilege. And as a result we are to rejoice that we have been chosen by God to suffer with Christ.

Our purpose is to bring glory to Christ. Yet Peter says we will suffer for doing just that. If our theology tells that we only receive blessing from God we will stop glorifying Him. Here is the simple syllogism.

We receive blessings from God when we do His will

We suffer as a result of glorifying God.

Conclusion: It is not God’s will that we glorify Him.

Bad theology leads to bad behavior.

 

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