1 PETER SERIES – NR 9
Theme : Deposit yourself!
Scripture : 1 Peter 4: 12 – 19
At the beginning of this series of studies we already saw what the motivation/reason was for the Apostle Peter in writing this letter, and also to WHOM it was that he was writing. And it is rather important that we should know this, since it would help us to understand the content.
And now – here in verses 12-13 – Peter says in so many words exactly why and to whom he is writing. He is not writing to a specific church: He is saying that he is writing to Christian-believers who are suffering and are enduring hardship as a result of their being followers of the Lord Jesus Christ – and that aided from the unsaved. Their discipleship of Jesus Christ cost them something – it causes pain – it asks for a price. He therefore wants to – as Apostle – comfort and encourage them with the Lord’s living and life-giving words in their difficult struggle. That is the essence of Peter’s first letter.
Peter calls his readers‘ suffering a painful trial. They did not go out looking for it. It came to them. He says they ARE BEING (passive) subjected to suffering – thus by the action of others.
Being a Christian has never been for sissies. It is a narrow path to walk. The stronger the fire burns in your heart, the more trouble comes to you. In the earliest church rulers like for example emperor Nero had the Christians tarred and lit to provide light in the garden where he entertained and partied.
But now look what the Apostle is saying to his readers… completely the opposite to what we would expect him to say. He is not saying that they should now collapse with self-pity and sit in the corner crying. No. He is saying instead: 1 > Do not be surprised at what is happening to you. 2 > REJOICE!
Look, the Lord’s mind simply works totally different to ours. Because WHAT does the human nature want to do when unfair suffering for the sake of Christ and the Gospel-message appears? Run away! Escape! Compromise! Or even worse: become discouraged and give up.
But the Holy Spirit is saying through Peter’s pen: No, it is nothing strange that is happening to you. You are actually participating with Christ in HIS suffering. That is precisely what you are experiencing now. You are included in Him! You are included in His suffering, cross, death, burial… but you are ALSO included in His triumph AND His second coming. Yes, when He returns, you shall be there and be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. And you shall be thankful that you have persevered and remained steadfast here and now. And it may be that your suffering will increase more and more. Martyrdom may be waiting for you. But oh, what an abundant festive glorious delightful joy you will experience at His second coming! Indescribable! Therefore: PERSEVERE! Be faithful! Rejoice! Be glad! Do not deviate left or right from the Gospel-message. Do not deviate left or right from absolute devotion to the Lord and His kingdom.
Clearer than what it is said in verses 14-16 it cannot be said! He is saying: It is a BLESSING from Above to be insulted and treated unjustly because of the Name of Christ and His Truth! It is a blessing because it shows that God’s approval rests upon you.
Unsaved people slander the Christian and speak untruths and by doing so, they think that they are putting God down. By insulting the Christian they think that they are insulting God. As far as they are concerned, they have given God a clever stiff upper-cut. But it is far from the truth. As far as the Christian is concerned, the Lord is glorified by it! It is like a chip on the shoulder!
Even more: The Holy Spirit of glory is with and upon a Christian who suffers injustice in this way. Yes, when a true child of God suffers like this, the Lord’s presence is there in a very particular way and it strengthens and empowers you so as to receive supernatural perseverance and endurance.
Think of Stephen – in Acts 7. That is a clear illustration of what is said in verses 14-16. There one sees how precious the ministry of the Holy Spirit is. It is far above our understanding and perception.
It is of course also possible that God’s people could suffer and be punished by slander and criticism because they have tendered for it! That is a completely different story. The Apostle is very clear about that. No Christian must suffer because he/she has murdered or stolen or done evil or even meddled in other peoples business!
Well, the chances are possibly nil that a true Christian would really murder or steal or do evil – though it CAN happen. But meddle in other people’s business, yes certainly. But Jesus clearly said in His Sermon on the Mount that these sins committed in a lesser way – for example to insult someone – equals murder in God’s eyes.
Incidentally: Is it not significant that the Apostle should mention meddle-in-other-people’s-business in the same breath as murder and steal? Once more: not the way WE would think. But the Lord is saying that whether you meddle or murder, it is the same thing.
Therefore: When a Christian meddles and is persecuted and insulted for THAT REASON, he may not go around thinking he is suffering as a result of his connectedness to Christ! The truth is: He suffers because he has brought it upon himself.
But suffering merely because you are openly a Christian, is something you do not have to be ashamed of. It is a name – the Christian-name – that glorifies God. Because it is a name – Christian – which means to follow Christ. Without conditions and holding nothing back.
In the time of the first church the name CHRISTIAN was an abusive name which the unsaved used for Christians. It was not meant as a positive name. To have been called a Christian, was suffering in itself. But the Lord God is glorified – that is all that truly matters!
Verse 17 is a verse that is often misunderstood. It sounds as if it has nothing to do with what has previously been said, but listen to this:
It SOUNDS as if the Apostle is saying that the starting point where the Lord God begins to judge and send people to hell, is the church, the Christians! It is therefore a message intended to frighten – and it is directed at the children of the Lord.
But no, that is not what it is saying! We must not disconnect that verse from the preceding verses, but read it as a whole.
As we have said previously, Peter is busy talking about the persecution and suffering which his readers – who are true Christians – endure for the sake of their connectedness to Christ. Precisely THAT is the JUDGMENT of which he is speaking in verse 17 which starts with the family of God. It is not the judgment at the Great Day of the final judgment, but it is the loving hand of the Father who purifies and cleanses and disciplines His church by way of persecution and hardship. Because that suffering and hardship come from God. His sovereign hand guides everything.
This type of refining is not coming upon the unsaved lost world – who disregards the Gospel-message, but it comes upon the church of Christ, the true children of God who are obedient and on fire for Christ.
The word “judgment “ must therefore be understood different from JUDGE. And it empowers the Church in a great way.
But now look what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pen of the Apostle Peter. He is saying: It is MUCH better and important for the kingdom of God and the expansion of the Kingdom to suffer the hardships – as Christians saved and delivered – and consequently be refined by the hand of the LORD – it is much better that way – than to endure the eternal suffering of the unsaved in the infernal fire. The fire that never stops burning in all eternity.
If the LOVE of God sometimes work so painfully with His children, how shall His WRATH – that is poured out over all people who are without Christ – not be! If wheat is milled, what happens to the chaff? If gold goes into the refining fire, what happens to the dross/impurity? That is Peter’s urgent query. It just shows once more how serious and imperative it is to reach people with the Message of salvation!
But verses 18-19 could also be wrongly understood.
What does the Apostle mean by “It is hard for the righteous to be saved“? Incidentally that is a quote from Proverbs 11:31 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (The Septuagint).
Does that mean that a child of the Lord will barely manage to squeeze into heaven? Does the settled, completed work of salvation of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection falls short to offer completely and totally heaven to the believer? Why then HARD to get saved? That means difficult… Is there then a reason for the Christian-believer to constantly doubt and be uncertain of their salvation?
No! Once again we should read the verse in conjunction with the foregoing.
What Peter is saying, is this: There indeed are difficulties that followers of Jesus Christ experience in the world, which the unsaved person does not have and does not experience. Christians who openly stand out for the Lord and for the Truth of the Word, will ten to one receive difficulties. Satan is not satisfied with someone who has a heart aflame for the Saviour. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God, says Acts 14:22.
Peter is therefore not speaking in this verse about salvation, deliverance, forgiveness and justification by faith at all. He is talking about the narrow path that already-saved believers are walking. If you are a Christian, you are a disciple of Christ and therefore you are on the Narrow path. And the Broad path initiate attacks on the people on the Narrow path. There is a war going on.
The question is: What will become of unsaved worldly people in the end? If the believer has so many problems under the LOVE of God, what kind of problems will the unsaved experience under the WRATH of God?
Children of God ALWAYS suffer under the permissible will of God, because He is sovereign. Therefore they can submit (literally: deposit) themselves to HIM who is truly faithful, and simply continue to do what is right according to the Word and truth of the Lord.
And the Christian must know: It is better to innocently suffer for the Name of the Lord, than to live in sin and fall under the wrath of God.
Translated by Marthie Wilson