"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 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. 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. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Lesson title: “Choosing Joy Even in Life’s Difficulties”
In the eleven verses that we covered in the beginning of the 4th chapter in our last Bible study, the Apostle Peter reminded the Jewish converts that they needed to arm themselves with the same mind of readiness that Jesus had when He suffered for us in the flesh back in the day, knowing that at the end of His suffering was death on the cross.
They were to have the same readiness of mind Jesus had because they were surely going to need it when they began to experience any persecution for their religious beliefs, even if the end results of their suffering was martyrdom because of their faith in Jesus. They were to change the way they were living and denounce living the rest of their lifetime here on earth catering to lustful desires. They were to totally submit to the Lord and commit their whole lives to live according to His principles for life and carry out His will.
Peter referred back to Christ’s suffering to remind them that their suffering was truly because of their faith change from Judaism to Jesus. Jesus while on earth in teaching His disciples told them all that as long as they lived, they would face trials, tribulation and would be persecuted for His name sake. But He also told them to be of “good” cheer because He has already overcome the world.
So in 1 Peter 4:12, Peter encourages them to choose to be joyful even in all the difficulties of life. He reminded them that suffering was a part of the Christian journey.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (vs. 12-13)
When your trials come and you are suffering persecution for your faith, don’t be taken by surprise and consider them as something unusual and something you had no reason to expect would happen to you now; which happened already to others like you before.
The reason the Bible calls these trials “fiery” is because the people who were to attack them for their faith in Jesus were determine to eradicate this new “religious” movement (the Christian church in Jesus Christ) from the face of the earth and would use every vicious maneuver at their disposal to intimidate anyone who would remotely consider leaving Judaism and embracing Jesus.
At the time Peter addressed the Hebrew and Gentile converts in his letter, they were already being persecuted and sometimes it was extremely vicious. Approximately some 20 to 25 years later in 70 A.D., Bible history reveals they faced trials that included confiscation their personal property, being severely beaten, burned at the stake covered with tar. The Romans under the leadership of its military general Titus literally ran Israel out of Rome and killed many of the Hebrews who were not able to escape. Both Apostles Peter and Paul died in Rome during the tirade of Nero, the emperor, who is said to been playing the violin while Rome was on fire and blamed the Christians and Jews in general for starting the fire. Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down.
In verse 13, Peter employed them to rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ" s sufferings That is, they were suffering the same kinds of afflictions Jesus suffered and for the same reasons. They were to see their suffering as a “badge of honor.” In a similar matter of speaking, the Apostle Paul mapped out what it meant to suffer for the cause of Christ in sharing his testimony to the Church of Colossae. Paul in his testimony to the church revealed:
(1) He suffered for the same cause as Christ suffered; the truth that salvation alone was in Jesus, not the Law because Jesus is the Messiah and the "end" of the Law for righteousness sake to everyone that believed this.
(2) He endured the same kind of sufferings, to some extent, in reproaches, persecutions, and opposition from the world from the religious leaders; because they refused to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah
(3) He had not yet suffered as much as Christ did in this cause, and, though he had suffered greatly, yet there was much that was lacking to make him equal in this respect to how much the Savior suffered
(4) He felt that persecution and suffering was an experience to be earnestly desired to be made in all respects just like Christ, and that in his present circumstances he was fast filling up that which was lacking, so that he would have a more complete resemblance to him
What Paul said here is based on the leading desire within his soul to follow that the great principle of life which is to be just like Jesus Christ in character as well as in times of suffering and destiny. James 1:2 says we are to count it all joy when you fall into different forms of temptations. (trials and persecutions)
Having this strong wish, Paul had been led to pursue a course of life which caused him to go through trials that strongly resembling those Christ endured; and, as fast as possible, He does not mean or imply there was anything lacking or deficient in all the sufferings which Christ endured in making an atonement for our sins which was to be supplied by his followers, so that their merits might be added to his in order to secure the salvation of men, but that there was still much lacking on his part before he should be entirely conformed to the Savior in his sufferings, and that his present condition was such as rapidly to fill that up in my flesh, that is, in bodily suffering for his body's (the Body of Christ) sake, which is the church. They were to go through all of their suffering, trials and persecution. Peter told them when the Lord’s glory shall be revealed (at the day of judgment) they would experience gladness with exceeding joy.
A child of God experiences joy at death, knowing their troubles on this earth are finally over and he or she will meet Jesus face to face. And hear Jesus say: Servant, well done! Enter into the joy of the Lord.
They were to regard any suffering for the Lord as a reason to rejoice, because their suffering would publicly identify them as followers of Jesus Christ; that they were identified with His persecution throughout His ministry and subsequently His death on the cross. Paul said it this way: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
There are 2 Types of Reproaches: For the “name” of Christ and for “evil works”.
“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified”.
If you are persecuted because you belong to Jesus, Jesus said you are blessed. To be reproached for the name of Christ is to be reproached for being a Christian, for you have chosen to be Christ like. This is the highest honor to which any Christian can achieve in this world, and therefore the apostle says to those believers that do, "Happy are ye."
In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said to the multitude at the mount:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The message was they were to regard their suffering condition or trials as being blessed. Rejoicing because of trials didn’t mean they would find personal and positive enjoyment on being reproached and vilified, no, it meant as far as God was concerned, their suffering for Jesus Christ would be seen as a blessed condition. Being persecuted in this case would be similar to the suffering Jesus went through, and it would show that they truly loved Jesus and were his real friends. The end results of their going through the periods of persecution would be accompanied with rich spiritual influences in the present world; and would be followed by the rewards they would receive in heaven. As the Holy Spirit rested upon Jesus , He also rested upon those followers of Christ who suffered persecution.
The essential idea is, if they were called to suffer in the cause of the Redeemer, they would not be left or forsaken. They might hope that God would impart his Spirit to them in proportion to their sufferings in behalf of the Christian religion, and that they would have augmented joy and peace. There is no doubt this is what takes place with those who suffer persecution. This is the primary reason why they are so sustained in their trials and able to rejoice through the pain. The same principle applies, doubtless, to all the forms of trial which the children of God pass through; and in sickness, bereavement, loss of property, and disappointment in their worldly plans, and death itself. They may hope that larger measures of the Spirit's influences will rest upon them. Hence, it is often gain to the believer to suffer.
On their part, He (Holy Spirit) is evil spoken of:
That is, the Holy Spirit. They blaspheme him, and openly criticize Him because you now being guided in life by Him. If you remember, Jesus worked the miracles of God by the Holy Spirit and was accused of using satanic means from Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Jesus made it clear that all sins can be forgiven but one, that is blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit means to attribute any work of God to Satan; to give demons or Satan credit for anything only God can bring about. They reproached his (Holy Spirit) sacred influences by the way they treat of you and your relationship with Jesus Christ.
But on your part he is glorified.
By your manner of speaking of him, and by the honor done to him in the patience evinced in your trials, and in your purity of life. We glorify the Lord when we show patience in the trying of our faith. God is glorified in our behavior during the time of persecution when we exemplify patience and a willingness to endure the pains of affliction.
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters”.
If you must suffer for you dedication to Christ, you are to make sure that it’s not for committing any crime, for other forms of wickedness, or being guilty of injustice and wrong toward another person. Peter said they were to be very careful that their sufferings were brought upon them only because of the consequence of their religious beliefs, and not because any crime committed that they could be arrested and punished for. If there was even such charges were brought against them, there should be no pretense furnished for them by their lives. They weren’t to suffer as a busybody, that is, as one who meddles in other people’s affairs or other matters that does not concern them. Sadly you can always find someone who notoriously pries into the affairs of another, or somebody who attempts to control or direct other people and their personal affairs as if they were responsible for them, yet had no legal power of attorney concerning that person’s life of affairs.
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 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?”
If a person suffers persecution because they are a Christian; there is no reason to be ashamed for the public ridicule. Public ridicule is one of Satan’s pet tactics. He hopes that if he can cause a child of God to be publicly ridiculed, the embarrassment would cause them to abandon their faith. In reality, it’s a great opportunity to glorify God because of your persecution and public ridicule. Persecution was common place during the time of Peter and Paul in the early church age. There was no reason not to expect some form of persecution to occur. The Judaizers hatred of Christ and the Christian faith was well documented in the New Testament. Just as sure as their ancestors ridiculed Jesus while on earth they too were to suffer and experience vicious persecution.
Peter said to the persecuted Christians: “Let him not be ashamed!” In other words,
(1) Don’t be ashamed of your relationship with Christ so as to refuse to suffer on account of it.
(2) Don’t be ashamed that you are now despised and sadly maltreated. Expect to be treated poorly by those who are offended by the truth and choose to live counter to the way God intends all of us to live.
The believers of Jesus were to regard their” religion” (Christianity) as honorable in every way, and all that fairly results from it in time and eternity as in every respect desirable. They should not to be ashamed to be called a Christian. They aren’t to be ashamed of the doctrines taught by Christianity. We aren’t to be ashamed of the Savior (Jesus Christ) whom we professes to love. We’re not to be ashamed of the society and fellowship of those who are true Christians, as poor and despised though they may be. The Christian is not to be ashamed to perform any of the duties demanded by his religion and his convictions. We’re not to be ashamed to have our name cast out, and ourselves subjected to reproach and scorn.
A man should only be ashamed for that which is wrong. He should glory in all that which is right, regardless of whatever the consequences they encounter in opposition to their standing for what God said is right.
Christians now, even though many of us are not subjected to open persecution in many places, still are frequently reproached by the world on account of their religion; and though the rack may not be employed, and the fires of martyrdom are not enkindled, yet it is often true that one who is a believer is called to "suffer as a Christian." He may be reviled and despised. His views may be regarded as bigoted, narrow, or severe. His former friends and companions may leave him because he has become a Christian. A wicked father, or a frivolous and worldly mother, may oppose a child, or a husband may revile a wife, on account of their faith. In every one of these cases, the same spirit employed by Christ essentially is required which was enjoined on the early Christian martyrs. We are never to be ashamed of our religion, whatever results may follow from our attachment to it.
“But let him glorify God on this behalf.”
Let him praise God that he is deemed not unworthy to suffer in such a cause. It is a matter of thankfulness:
(1) that they may have this evidence that they are true Christians;
(2) that they may desire the advantages which may result from suffering as Christ did, and in his cause.
For the time is come That is, persecution and severe trials are now to be expected. There is reason to think that this fierce trial will now occur, and there is a propriety that it should be made. The trial that Peter spoke of was to test the true character of the church and its members. Secondly, that judgment must begin at the house of God.
In this case, it would be a God ordained trial which would determine the character of the people and the church. It refers to such calamities that would settle the question of whether there was any pure religion, or would test the value of the religious character which was professed. It was to "begin" at the house of God, or be applied to the church first, in order that the nature and worth of true religion might be seen. The church would go through many periods of persecution. Many scholars believe them to be 10 in number that would span for centuries. It would not be just aimed at the Jewish church but all Christians, both Jewish and Gentile.
“And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
Peter proposes here if God is willing to bring such severe trials upon us who have obeyed his gospel and walking in the “newness” of life in Christ, then why wouldn’t we believe that he will also bring the same kind of fierce trials upon those who are yet in their sins? After all, the Bible said He is no respecter of persons and will let the rain fall upon the just as well as the unjust.
So, if God chooses to unleash His judgment first on the household of faith to experience the “objectives” of these trials, could there be something unseen by us but clearly seen by God within us that required God uses such a method of dealing with His chosen and saved in this manner to produce the character and conduct we are suppose to exemplify as new creations in Christ Jesus,. In addition to that, if this is true concerning us, then what do you think God’s going to do “judgment-wise” to those who make absolutely no pretensions to embrace a pure religion in Jesus Christ, but live openly in transgression in the end?
The foregone conclusion we all should come to is, if God deals this strictly with his own people; then there is a “sin” issue unresolved in them which makes the visitations of his judgment proper to correct them first. That being the case, then it should be clearly certain that they who are not his people, but who live in iniquity, will be overwhelmed with the tokens of God’s severe wrath in the end.
The punishment God will unleash hereafter will be certain; and who can tell what will be the measure of its severity? Every wicked man, when he sees the trials which God brings upon his own people should tremble under the apprehension of the coming deeper calamity which will hereafter come upon himself.
We can conclude that the judgments which God brings upon his own people make it certain that the wicked won’t escape judgment and will be punished. If God does not spare his own people, why would he spare others who are not His?
We can also conclude the punishment of the wicked is merely delayed. It begins at the house of God. Christians are tried, and are recalled from their wanderings, and are prepared by discipline for the heavenly world. The punishment of the wicked is often delayed to a future world, and in this life sometimes, they have almost uninterrupted prosperity, but in the end their judgment and punishment will be certain. Punishment will come in the end. It cannot be avoided. Sooner or later justice requires that the wicked should be visited with the expressions of God’s divine displeasure of their sin, and in the future world there will be ample time for the infliction of all the punishment which they deserve.
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
The apostle in this passage seems to have had his eye on a verse in Proverbs 11:31 and he has merely expanded and illustrated it: "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." By the question which he employs, he admits that the righteous are saved with difficulty, or that there are perils which jeopardizes their salvation, and which are of such a kind as to make it very near not to happen. They would indeed be saved, but it would be in such a manner as to show that the circumstances were such as to render it, to human appearances, doubtful and problematical. The potential problem of saving the “righteous” could have derail such act had not the following “difficulties” been resolved.
(1) The difficulty of forming a plan of salvation.
The salvation of man required a degree of wisdom completely beyond the capabilities of a natural man, and required such a character that beforehand it would have been problematical and doubtful whether it could ever be done. There was only one way in which it could be done. There is no way human wisdom could have devised or thought of it? There was only one being who could save man and that was Jesus Christ. But who would have supposed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God would have been willing to become a man, and to die on a cross to do it? If he had been unwilling to come and die, the righteous could not have been saved. The great news was the “Trinity” was never in conflict as to the plan of salvation for man or the process it would take.
(2) The difficulty of bringing those who are saved to a willingness to accept of salvation.
As “free moral agents” all men were all disposed to reject it. There were many obstacles in the human heart, arising from pride, selfishness, unbelief, and the love of sin, which first must had to be overcome before anyone would accept God’s offer of mercy. There was only one agent who could overcome these things, and induce any of the race to embrace the gospel and that was-the Holy Spirit. But who could have anticipated that the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) would have undertaken to renew and sanctify the polluted human heart? Yet, if he had failed, there could have been no salvation for anyone.
(3) The difficulty of keeping the saved from falling away amidst the many temptations and allurements of the world.
Many times, it seems doubtful whether those who have been converted will be kept to eternal life. They have so little religion; they yield so readily to temptation; they conform so much to the world; they have so little strength to bear up under trials, that it seems as if there was no power to preserve them and bring them to heaven. They are saved when they seemed almost ready to yield everything.
(4) The difficulty of rescuing them from the power of the great enemy of souls. Satan,
Satan, our adversary has vast power, and means, to steal, kill and destroy those who are the children of God. Often we are in most imminent danger, and it seems to be a question of doubtful issue whether we will not be entirely overcome and perish. It is no small matter to rescue a soul from the dominion of Satan, and to bring it to heaven, so that it shall be eternally safe. Through the internal struggles and the outward conflicts of life, it seems often a matter of doubt whether with all their effort they will be saved; and when they are saved, they will feel that they have been rescued from thousands of dangers, and that there has been many a time when they have stood on the very verge of ruin, and when, to human appearances, it was scarcely possible that they could be saved.
Concerning the “fate” of the Ungodly: Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
What hope is there of their salvation? The answer is, they will certainly perish; and the doctrine in the passage is, that the fact that the righteous are saved with so much difficulty is proof that the wicked will not be saved at all. This follows, the reasoning that
(a) There is the same difficulty in their obtaining salvation which there was in the salvation of those who ultimately became righteous. The same difficulty arising from the love of sin, the hardness of the heart, and the arts and power of the adversary arose in both classes of people, yet the difference is the righteous accepted Jesus Christ and the wicked didn’t. No one can be saved without effort, and in fact the righteous are saved by constant and strenuous effort on their part to accept Jesus and afterwards, yield to Him completely in order to be saved.
(b) But the wicked make no effort for their salvation. They make use of no means for it; they put forth no exertions to obtain it; they do not make it a part of their plan of life. How, then, can they be saved? But where will they appear? I answer: They can’t be saved without accepting Jesus Christ.
In Conclusion, they will appear somewhere. They will not cease to exist when they pass away from this world. Not one of them will be annihilated; because the soul of man never dies. And though they vanish from the earth, and will be seen here no more, they will make their appearance in some other part of the universe. Their ending location is in hell and ultimately in the Lake of Fire.
They will appear at the Great White Throne Judgment-seat, to receive their sentence according to the deeds done in the body. The wicked will certainly be destroyed. There will be a state of future punishment, for this refers to what is to occur in the future world. The punishment of the wicked will be eternal, for it is the opposite of what is meant by saved. The time will never come when it will be said that they are saved!
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Since there is so much danger; since there is no one else that can keep them in dangerous times but God ; and since he is our God and so faithful, let the Christian commit all their interests to him. Let them leave everything in God’s unchanging hand, while faithfully performing their Christian every duty each day, not being anxious for the end results. The Christians are supposed to be constantly doing good works for the Lord, and seeking to carry out every entrusted duty in a proper manner. Their business was always to do right with the results to be left with God. Any man, woman, boy or girl who’s engaged always in well-doing can safely commit all his interest to God.
You can be assured that God can be completely trusted and you can confide in Him. In all His attributes, and all the relationships in which He sustains us as Creator, Redeemer, Moral Governor, and Judge, God can be trusted. In all of these, and in all other respects, we can come boldly before Him with confidence, with the blessed assurance we can put unwavering complete trust in Him.
Let’s look at HIM as Our Creator:
As our Creator, as one who has brought us, and all creatures and things into being, we may be sure that he will be "faithful" to the design which he had in view for man and creation. From that design he will never depart until it is fully accomplished. God never abandons His purpose which he has formed, and we may be assured that he will faithfully complete everything He started (Philippians 1:6)
As our Creator we may come to Him, and look to Him for His protection and care.
He made us. He had a design in our creation. He so endowed us that we might live forever, and so that we might honor and enjoy Him. He did not create us that we might be miserable; nor does He wish that we should be. He formed us in such a way that, if we choose, we may be eternally happy. In the path in which He has appointed us to go, if we pursue it and travel the path, we can be sure of His help and protection. If we really set our aim to accomplish every purpose we were made, we can be certain that He will show Himself to be the "faithful Creator;" one in whom we may always confide. And even though we have wandered from Him, and have long forgotten why we were made, and have loved and served the creature more than the Creator, we may be sure, if we will return to Him, that He will not forget the design for which He originally made us.
Finally, as our Creator we may still confide in Him.
Redeemed by the blood of His Son, and renewed by His Spirit after the image of Him who erected us, we may still go to Him as our Creator, and may pray that even yet the high and noble ends for which we were made may be accomplished in us. Doing this, we shall find Him as true to that purpose as though we had never sinned.
Dr. William Edward Boddie