Today: [1 Peter 4:] Suffering for God or Our Faults? In this chapter, Peter teaches on the difference between suffering according to the will of God and suffering for other reasons. Not all suffering constitutes something that God would choose for us to go through and it is important that we know the difference.
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[1Pe 4:1-19 KJV] 1 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; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of [his] time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past of [our] life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with [them] to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of [you]: 5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. 8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10 As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, [let him speak] as the oracles of God; if any man minister, [let him do it] as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 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. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye]; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 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. 16 Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17 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? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 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.
Chapter 4 of the letter of 1 Peter continues on the subject of suffering and sanctify. We are commended to the example of Christ who suffered at the hands of his persecutors yet endured the same to attain the goal of fulfilling His purpose in redemption. One who suffers for his faith has ceased from sin as one who lives not for himself but for the fulfillment of the will of God. If we are persecuted, Peter continues (v. 3) be reminded that we once lived after the dictates of the flesh just as those who think we are strange because we no longer do so. This begs the question do those around us who do not embrace our faith take notice that we live differently than they do? We are not to flaunt our differences as a religious badge of honor, but there should be in evidence of our lives something about us that sets us apart because of our commitment to Christ.
Peter reminds us that those who despise us for our faith will one day give an account to God who is described as ready to judge both the living and the dead. This tells us that there are two kinds of judgment: eternal judgment after death and temporal judgment relating to circumstances in this life. We also see when Jesus died as the previous chapter describes he went into the afterlife and preached the gospel to the righteous dead to give them the opportunity whether to accept redemption in Christ.
Peter continues (v. 7) that in his view the end of all things is at hand; therefore, we should be sober-minded and watchful in prayer. This was written 2000 years ago. Was Peter writing of the temporal end of the world as they knew it with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD or was he referring to the end of God’s dealings with men in this dispensation? The apocalypse is a consistent theme in scripture, and it is always spoken of as an immediate thing. In today’s church, the end of all things is seen as an antiquated emphasis only held in consideration by those who are allegedly not very deep in the things of God. Peter warns elsewhere about the effete attitudes of those who will scoff and say “where is the promise of His coming.”
Paul also spoke on this subject in 1 Thessalonians:
[1Th 5:2-3 KJV] 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Does this mean we should live in paralyzed expectation? No, Jesus said, “occupy till I come…” To what end do we occupy ourselves? As v. 7 commends, in watchfulness, sobriety, and prayer. Above all things, we are to have fervent charity (or love) for one another. Is Christian culture today typified for its loving care among its followers? Are modern day Christians characterized by their willingness to cover the sins and shortcomings of its people? We cannot change what others think and do, but we can take responsibility for our own actions and thoughts toward those who falter and fail.
We are to show hospitality without grudging. Remember that in the ancient world the church was a people on the move because of persecution. Christians in cities where there was relative calm were always being asked to make room in their lives for refugees from cities where they had been driven out. It became known to Peter that the people were grudging the impositions laid upon them to help those that are fleeing persecution. What about you? Would you be willing to take in a person or a family in need? Peter reminds us that whatever we have of the blessings of life or the gifts of God we are to consider ourselves stewards that will answer for their actions.
There were prophets among the people and those who spoke utterance in Christ’s name. If a man speaks, Peter says in v. 11 let him speak as the oracle of God. If we serve or minister, we must do so with the ability that God gives in all things that we do that God may be glorified and that the sacrifice of Christ might be commended by our fervent and zealous willingness to so give of ourselves. To speak as the oracle of God means that we should not be tentative when we prophesy or in anything we do in Christ’s name. We should be bold, committed and resolute without hesitation or changing our minds afterward because of timidity.
Peter goes on to say (v. 12) that fiery trials are not to be considered a contradiction to faith. What trials is he talking about? The sufferings Peter speaks of in this letter specifically are limited to the persecutions and hardships imposed upon us from the unbelieving world. When we are persecuted, we are partakers of Christ sufferings that will ultimately yield the manifestation of His glory. If we are reproached (v. 14) we are to comfort ourselves knowing that the spirit of God and the glory of God rest upon us though we are evil spoken of. Nonetheless, the glory in suffering Peter speaks of doesn’t apply to all suffering (v. 15). If we suffer for crimes committed or for meddling in affairs not belonging to us, there is no gain in that.
It is essential to bear in mind that not all things we go through are because of our commitment to Christ. If we act with no wisdom or create problems for ourselves, we must be willing to humble ourselves and admit we are in error. When is the last time you admitted to yourself that you made a mistake or perhaps even committed and outright sin and suffered unnecessarily for it? Suffering for Christ is one thing. Suffering for our own shortcomings and errors is quite another. God stands with us in both cases, but we have to know the difference lest we arrogantly conclude we are always right and become self-righteous to our own hurt.
Why is Peter preoccupied with this subject? Because in Peter’s view (v. 17) the time has come that judgment begins first at the house of God. We cannot proclaim or discern judgment coming against the world without it first being visited upon God’s people. Just because we don’t believe in the judgments of God doesn’t mean we won’t experience them. When judgment comes, people fall away. If the righteous scarcely be saved Peter declares what shall be the end of the ungodly and the sinner?
In that light, if we do suffer according to the will of God, we are to do so resigning ourselves to the fact that God is with us and we will ultimately be delivered one way or the other. Is there suffering according to the will of God? Yes, there is – but only in the narrow sense relating to suffering persecution at the hands of an unbelieving world. As in the ancient world, persecution was a reality, even so, today but we should never conclude that suffering according to the will of God has anything to do with God suspending the merits of the Cross in our regard for some mysterious reason. God will never say no to what the cross says yes to, but that doesn’t mean persecution is not something that every one of us may face at one time or the other in our walk with God.
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