I Peter 4:12-19

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Text:   

A RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARD PERSECUTION

INTRODUCTION:

 

In the United States of America believers have seldom been persecuted. It has happened from time to time, but it is not like what would be expected in the New Testament era. This will likely change someday. So, we need to understand what God has to say about how we should handle persecution.

 

In I Peter 4:12-19 we see that believers must have the right attitude toward persecution because persecution may very well become a way of life for them. Therefore, a believer should not think that suffering because he is a Christian is something foreign; instead, he should rejoice because he is a partaker of Christ’s sufferings. He should also realize that he is blessed. At the same time he should stop doing things which are wrong, which will legitimately bring suffering upon himself. When he does suffer for the sake of righteousness, he should not be ashamed; instead, he should live and speak in such a way as to bring glory to God. He should realize that judgment is coming, both for believers and for unbelievers; and if he suffers, he should entrust himself to God the Father’s care.

We see that –

    I.     A BELIEVER SHOULD NOT THINK THAT SUFFERING BECAUSE HE IS A CHRISTIAN IS FOREIGN – 4:12

 

I Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.

 

This introduces once again the subject of suffering for righteousness’ sake. Remember that Peter’s theme is suffering and glory.

 

Peter addresses his readers as beloved. It is a term of endearment which simply means loved ones. They are loved by God the Father Who sent Christ to die on the cross in payment for their sins. They are also loved by Christ who gave himself a ransom for all (I Timothy 2:6 ) when He paid for their sins on the cross, and they were also loved by Peter who was writing this epistle.

 

Think it not strange is a command which forbids continuing something which is already going on. It should be understood, therefore, as stop thinking (it) strange. This implies that they were already thinking it strange, and they needed to discontinue this sort of thinking.

 

Strange is understood in the sense of foreign. It implies stop being surprised at or stop wondering at. Believers needed to be reminded that, because they were Christians, they would face persecution. There did not need to be any other reason.

 

Concerning is added by our translators to aid the sense in English.

 

The fiery trial which is to try you is what these people were to stop thinking strange or foreign.

 

The word translated fiery trial originally meant a burning and came to mean a fiery test or fiery ordeal. The is used with fiery trial, indicating that Peter had a specific ordeal in mind which these believers were already in the process of enduring. It was likely the Neronian persecution of Christians which would eventually take the lives of both Peter and Paul.

 

Which is to try you might leave the English reader with the impression that this fiery trial had not yet begun: but it was already in process; and they were wondering at it. Which is to try you is literally (which is) happening to you for trial. This trial was already happening to them.

 

To try you tells why this trial was happening: it is for the purpose of testing them. Peter has already hinted that God allows believers to be tested in order to refine their Christian characters (I Peter 1:6-7 ).

 

I Peter 1:6-76 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

 

As though some strange thing happened to you indicates what some of them may have been thinking. Persecution should have been anticipated. Christ had suffered at the hands of unbelievers. Just as His life and ministry served as a rebuke to the unsaved crowd, so the lives of believers should serve as a rebuke to the unsaved crowd. This may result in persecution and should not be thought unusual.

 

As though is used in the sense of as it were.

 

Some strange thing is literally (a) foreign (thing).

 

Happened to you suggests were happening to you, i.e. as it were a foreign thing were happening to you.

We also see that –

  II.     WHEN SUFFERING, A BELIEVER SHOULD REJOICE BECAUSE HE IS A PARTAKER OF CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS – 4:13

 

I Peter 4:13 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.

 

This indicates what the believers should be doing instead of thinking that suffering for Christ is a strange thing.

 

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you.

 

Instead, they are to rejoice, which is a command whose tense indicates continuous, habitual action. It means be rejoicing or be glad.

 

Inasmuch as is in so far as or to the degree that. Rejoicing will only be to the degree that the suffering is undeserved and comes as a result of being a Christian or of living a godly life. There is no rejoicing in suffering when the suffering is deserved.

 

Ye are partakers of is you are sharing in, you are having a share in, or you are participating in. Its tense also indicates continuous, habitual action.

 

Christ’s sufferings is literally the sufferings of the Christ. The before sufferings leaves no doubt that these particular sufferings were the sufferings which the Lord Jesus Christ endured in conjunction with the cross.

 

The reason for the sufferings of these believers was their relationship to Christ. It was for the sake of righteousness. Of course, none of their sufferings served to atone for any sin.

 

That . . . ye may be glad also with exceeding joy provides the reason they should be rejoicing.

 

That indicates purpose or intended result and is used in the sense of in order that, for the purpose that, so that, or with the result that.

 

Ye may be glad means you may rejoice, and with exceeding joy means exulting. When these two words, which mean essentially the same thing, are combined, they serve to emphasize their rejoicing.

 

When his glory shall be revealed is in the revelation of His glory. It indicates that the second coming of Christ is the time that those sharing in Christ’s sufferings will rejoice with exceeding joy.

 

His refers to Christ.

 

Glory refers to the glory which is Christ’s in heaven which will finally be seen by all.

 

Shall be revealed is literally in the revelation. The language is reminiscent of Paul’s words in ???

 

II Thessalonians 1:6-10 – (6) Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; (7) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (9) Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (10) When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

In addition, we see that –

 III.     WHEN SUFFERING, A BELIEVER SHOULD REALIZE THAT HE IS BLESSED – 4:14

 

I Peter 4:14 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.

 

If ye be reproached [or reviled] for the name of Christ is a simple condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true.

 

If is, therefore, to be understood in the sense of since, inasmuch as, or assuming that. They were already being reproached [or reviled] for the name of Christ.

 

Ye be is you are.

 

Reproached means reviled or have insults heaped upon you, and its tense indicates normal or customary action. They were regularly being reproached [or reviled].

 

For suggests because of or on account of.

 

The name of Christ indicates the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and all the things for which He stands. They were being reproached [or reviled] because they were Christians.

 

Happy are ye describes those believers who are being reproached [or reviled] because of the name of Christ.

 

Happy means blessed and is the same word translated blessed in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11 . Also, the word translated reproached in I Peter 4:14 is translated shall revile in Matthew 5:11 where we read, Blessed are ye when men shall revile [i.e. shall reproach] you. . . . There is no question that Peter had Jesus’ saying in mind as he wrote these words.

 

Are ye has been supplied by the translators in order to aid the understanding of the English reader.

 

For the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you is the reason believers should consider themselves blessed when they are reproached [or reviled] for the name of Christ.

 

For is the term ordinarily translated because and is to be understood in this sense in this verse.

 

The spirit is to be taken with both glory and God, and it is the spirit which rests upon them.

 

Of glory is literally of the glory, and the use of the before glory in the Greek text indicates that it is some particular glory.

 

Glory seems to refer to Christ and spirit to the Holy Spirit. This means that of glory, i.e. of the glory, must refer to Christ Himself in accordance with the glory mentioned in verse 13. The entire phrase must then refer to the Trinity.

 

Of God is of God the Father.

 

Resteth is takes His rest.

 

Upon you means that the Holy Spirit of God indwells these people who are being reproached [or reviled] for the name of Christ. Thus, their being insulted because of the name of Christ is an evidence that they have been saved and that they possess the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, they are blessed.

 

On their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified indicates the result of these believers being reproached for the name of Christ.

 

On their part is literally according to them, with respect to them, or with reference to them. Those to whom this phrase refers are the ones who are reproaching [or reviling] believers or the name of Christ.

 

He again refers to Christ.

 

Is evil spoken of, when used of men, means to injure the reputation of, slander, or speak evil of. When used of God, however, it is ordinarily translated blaspheme. Its present tense indicates continuing action, i.e. is being evil spoken of or is being blasphemed. Since Christ is God, Peter is saying that the action of reproaching believers for the name of Christ constitutes blasphemy toward Christ.

 

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to on their part he is evil spoken of.

 

On your part is according to you, with reference to you, or with respect to you.

 

He is also a reference to Christ.

 

He [i.e. Christ] is glorified is used in the sense of He is praised, He is honored, or He is magnified. Its present tense also indicates continuing action, i.e. He is being glorified. Another possibility is that glorified might instead mean clothed in splendor as it did in I Peter 4:11 . Although unbelievers who reproach Christians for the name of Christ are actually blaspheming Christ by their insulting words, believers who endure reproaches for the name of Christ are glorifying Him by their enduring these persecutions.

We furthermore see that –

 IV.     A BELIEVER SHOULD STOP DOING THINGS WHICH WILL LEGITIMATELY BRING SUFFERING UPON HIMSELF – 4:15

 

I Peter 4:15 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.

 

But is emphatic and suggests really, certainly, yea, in fact, or indeed.

 

Let none of you suffer is a commandment which forbids the continuation of an action already in progress. Some of them were suffering because they were not living properly. Those who were murderers, thieves, evildoers, or busybodies deserved to suffer. They were to stop suffering for these things, and the only way they could stop suffering for them was to stop doing them. If they did not commit these sins, they would not likely be punished for them. However, if they did commit sins such as these, they deserved to suffer for them; but they would not then be suffering for the name of Christ.

 

As a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters tells how they were not to continue suffering. Perhaps Peter selected these particular sins because believers were being accused of committing them. Some of those suffering for these sins may actually have committed them before they were saved. Although most of the time believers would not be guilty of these sins, just one instance of a Christian’s committing one of these sins might cause problems for many innocent believers. Instead, they were to be innocent. They were not to deserve any of the suffering they were enduring. It must be remembered, however, that, because of their old sin natures, believers are capable of committing the same sins as unbelievers.

 

A murderer is one who takes the life of another.

 

A thief is one who steals what is not his.

 

An evildoer is one who does wrong, especially a criminal.

 

A busybody in other men’s matters is literally one who involves himself in the business of other people. People who do these things deserve to suffer for them, whether they are saved or unsaved. Believers should stop doing things which may bring about suffering the legitimate consequences of their actions.

Moreover, we see that –

   V.     WHEN SUFFERING FOR THE SAKE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, A BELIEVER SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED – 4:16A

 

I Peter 4:16 a – Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed. . . .

 

Yet introduces a contrast with what was stated in verse 15. When used to show a contrast, this word is ordinarily translated but.

 

If any man suffer as a Christian is a simple condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true. Therefore, if is understood in the sense of since, inasmuch as, or assuming that.

 

Some were suffering as Christians. They had done no wrong and did not deserve to suffer. The words any man suggest anyone. It is not the term for an adult male.

 

Suffer is the result of persecution, and as a Christian indicates the sole reason for his suffering. He is being reproached for the name of Christ. Christian is a word whose intent is to distinguish those who follow Christ from those who do not.

 

Let him not be ashamed is a command whose tense forbids the continuation of an action already in progress. Some who were suffering as Christians were apparently ashamed; and they needed to realize that there was no shame in suffering as Christians, as if they were guilty of wrong. Believers should not be embarrassed or feel sorry for themselves in any way when they suffer as Christians.

We also see that –

      VI.      WHEN SUFFERING FOR THE SAKE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, A BELIEVER SHOULD LIVE AND SPEAK IN A WAY THAT BRINGS GLORY TO GOD – 4:16B

 

I Peter 4:16 b – . . . But let him glorify God on this behalf.

 

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to let him not be ashamed. Peter has already indicated what a believer is not to do; now Peter will tell what a believer is to do.

 

Let him glorify God is a command which is understood in the sense of let him be glorifying God or he must be glorifying God. It is not a suggestion; it is a command. It is something he is obligated to do.

 

Glorify is used in the sense of praise, honor, or magnify. He should stop being ashamed; rather, he should be glorifying God the Father.

 

On this behalf is in this matter or, perhaps, because of this matter, and refers to this matter of suffering as a Christian.

Next, we see that –

VII.     A BELIEVER SHOULD REALIZE THAT JUDGMENT IS COMING, BOTH FOR BELIEVERS AND FOR UNBELIEVERS – 4:17-18

 

I Peter 4:17-1817 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?

 

Verse 17 provides the reason for the things Peter has been saying in verses 12-16 as is indicated by for, which is used in the sense of because. The believer should not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try him; instead, he should rejoice. He is blessed if reproached for the name of Christ because it is proof that he is saved. He should not do things which will legitimately bring suffering upon himself. If he suffers, let it only be because he is a Christian; and then he should glorify God.

 

He should do these things because the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.

 

The time is come is (it is) the time. (It is) the time that judgment must begin. It is not suggesting that this judgment could begin at any moment. The context is suggesting that it has already begun.

 

At the house of God indicates the starting place of the judgment from which it will then proceed to unbelievers.

 

At is a word ordinarily translated from.

 

The house of God is a reference to the household or family of God. It could even be viewed as the local churches. In I Timothy 3:15 Paul wrote of the house of God by which he meant the local church,

 

I Timothy 3:15 . . . That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

 

Judgment had already begun at the house of God in the form of the persecutions the believers were enduring. Its design is to purify the believers with the result that they will be more Christlike. Why does God allow trials in our lives? It is for the same reason – to make us more Christlike.

 

And if it first begin at us is a simple condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true.

 

And indicates a continuation of the thought from the first part of the verse.

 

If is understood in the sense of since, inasmuch as, or assuming that. The judgment of God had already begun with these believers.

 

At us is another way of saying at the church of God from the previous verse.

 

What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? This is a rhetorical question, i.e. a question which does not expect an answer. However, the answer is obvious. They shall be judged at the Great White Throne and cast into hell where they will spend all of eternity.

 

The end is used in the sense of the goal or outcome, especially the final goal toward which men and things are striving, of the outcome and destiny which awaits them. . . . Judgment begins with the saved people and continues with the unsaved. The final destiny of the unsaved will be the lake of fire or Gehenna.

 

Obey not means disobey or are disobedient to. Since believers viewed the supreme disobedience as a refusal to believe the gospel, obey came to mean believe. Obey not thus means believe not or disbelieve.

 

What is not obeyed by believing it or what is not believed is the gospel, i.e. the gospel message. It is the good news about our salvation.

 

Linguistically, of God may indicate possession so that it is God’s gospel. It may instead indicate the source of the gospel so that we may understand this phrase as the gospel from God. Of course, if it came from God, it also belonged to Him. Thus, God’s gospel came from God and is about Christ and His work of providing salvation for lost mankind. God is God the Father.

 

I Peter 4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

 

This is another rhetorical question. Although it does not expect an answer, the answer is obvious.

 

And if the righteous scarcely be saved is a simple condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true.

 

If is, therefore, to be understood in the sense of since, inasmuch as, or assuming that. The righteous scarcely are saved.

 

The righteous is the same group as those who are referred to as the house of God in verse 17. Both descriptions are used in contrast to them that obey not the gospel of God from verse 17 and the ungodly and the sinner from verse 18. These two groups are mutually exclusive. Not one member of the group referred to as the righteous or as the house of God is any longer a member of the group referred to as them that obey not the gospel of God and also referred to as the ungodly and the sinner. However, every one of them used to be. The difference is that those in the one group have been saved while those in the other group are still unsaved. The righteous means the just or the upright. They are the justified ones. They have been justified by faith. This means that God has judicially declared them to be righteous because they trusted Christ as their Savior from sin and its consequences. It also means that God forever afterward treats them as righteous. Although they have no righteousness of their own, they have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Furthermore, although they are sinners saved by grace, God views them as righteous because of their relationship to His Son.

 

Scarcely means with difficulty.

 

Saved is used in its normal sense of delivered, preserved, or rescued. Although Peter does not mention what we have been saved from, it is obvious from the Bible that it is from the power of sin in our lives and also from the consequences of sin, i.e. eternal damnation in hell.

 

We are saved with difficulty in the sense that we could not save ourselves; and apart from the grace of God, not one of us would be saved. Christ’s death for our sins is variously described in the Bible as a ransom for sin, as a substitutionary atonement, and as a propitiation for our sins. By dying for our sins and rising again from the dead, Jesus provided eternal redemption and peace with God for all who place their trust in Him.

 

Where indicates location or position.

 

The ungodly and the sinner are generic terms which treat all unsaved people as a group. Both terms refer to the same group described as them that obey not the gospel of God from verse 17. Both terms are also placed in positions of emphasis in the Greek text, which reads literally, The ungodly and sinner, where shall he appear? The unsaved one is first referred to as the ungodly which means the godless one or the irreverent one. Secondly, he is referred to as the sinner. Those who are saved are guilty of sin also, but they have been saved by grace.

 

Where shall (the ungodly and the sinner) appear means what shall become of the ungodly and the sinner? Peter does not answer his own question, but the answer is apparent from the rest of Scripture. He has rejected Christ as his Savior. He will someday stand before the Great White Throne and be judged. There it will be evident that he had no righteousness of his own and that he had rejected the righteousness of God which he could have received by trusting Christ as his Savior. He will then be cast into Gehenna, the lake of fire, which is commonly known as hell.

Finally, we see that –

VIII.   WHEN SUFFERING, A BELIEVER SHOULD ENTRUST HIMSELF TO GOD’S CARE – 4:19

 

I Peter 4:19 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.

 

Verse 19 indicates that, if a believer suffers within the will of God for his being a Christian, he should entrust himself to God’s care.

 

Wherefore introduces an inference. It is used in the sense of therefore, for this reason, or so.

 

Them that suffer is the ones who are suffering.

 

According to the will of God indicates that it is God the Father’s will that some were suffering. They were in the center of God’s will and were doing right, but they were suffering because of doing right.

 

Let (them) commit the keeping of is a command which means to let them give over, let them commend, or let them entrust. It is not a suggestion, and it is not optional for the believer. It is a commandment, and it is used in the sense of they must commit or they must entrust. Its present tense indicates that they are to do this customarily. It is not a one-time action. Whenever they suffer according to the will of God, their course of action is clear. Entrusting their souls to God is to be their normal habit, i.e. it is what is expected of them.

 

What they are to be entrusting is their souls.

 

To him refers to God the Father.

 

In well-doing tells how they are to entrust the care of their souls to God when suffering because they are Christians. It is by doing good. No matter what the circumstances, they are to do what is good. They are never to do evil.

 

As serves to introduce a characteristic quality of God the Father. Peter seems rather fond of this expression since he has used it a number of times.

 

To a faithful creator refers to God the Father. He is the One to Whom they are to entrust their souls by doing good.

 

Faithful is used in the sense of trustworthy, reliable, or dependable; and Creator indicates that He is the very One Who brought them into existence. Thus, the believer is to continue doing those things which are good and right in God’s sight no matter what the result. If he suffers persecution for it, as a matter of course he is to entrust his soul to (the) faithful Creator by continuing to do good works.

CONCLUSION:

 

Let’s always be living for the Lord and doing things that are right and doing them in a right manner with a right spirit. If we do this, we will never suffer for our own sins; and, if persecution comes our way, we will be suffering for righteousness’ sake.