Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 19, 2017
As many of you know, here at Cornerstone Pastor Phil usually teaches by taking a book of the bible and starting at the beginning then teaching the text straight through as it comes. As he has been doing in the Gospel of John. That is how each author wrote it and how it was intended to be read. On Occasion Pastor Phil has taught topically, which is what I will be doing today. We will still be rooted in God’s Word and today it will be in 1 Peter 4:12-19, but I will be pulling from other texts to help us see what Peter wants us to understand about suffering.
I have felt God laying on my heart to speak about suffering within the church. Especially since today as we gather here to worship, we think of our brothers and sisters in Christ in India who experience persecution. When I say brothers and sisters in India, I am including those in India who have, and will, believe in Christ. We sent a team there to encourage those believers to push back the darkness in that nation and help them proclaim the Good News to the lost!
We have been praying for weeks now for the nation of India and Russia among others that are suffering under persecution – types of persecution that most of us are probably unfamiliar with. Yet as we read the bible, we see persecution as common. It is assumed that those who believe will be persecuted.
For many Christians in America we may see persecution in the form of being mocked for our beliefs. Maybe even called bigoted because of our beliefs and possibly loose friends or even our jobs over our beliefs. But I think we are entering a time where things are changing and we may be faced with fiery trials that test us in ways that we are unfamiliar with. As we will see in our text today, this should not surprise us.
According to Open Doors, a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in over 60 countries where Christianity is socially or legally discouraged or oppressed in 2015 over 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith. Figures for 2016 are not yet posted. This is up drastically from 4,344 in 2014 and 2,123 in 2013. In addition, 2,400 churches were damaged or attacked worldwide, more than twice the number in 2014.
If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie the Insanity of God I encourage you to do so. While there were times reading the book I felt my heart ache for my brothers and sisters suffering, it also gave me great hope to see the power of the Spirit of Christ in their lives giving them strength. I remember in the book, from I think Christians in China when they asked Nik Ripken if people outside China had heard about Jesus and how excited they were to know.
When I selected today’s text, I did not know we would be studying the Doctrines of Grace and finishing today in Sunday School, but God knew, I believe this text will today will give us a much deeper understanding of the last doctrine and what it means to Persevere in Christ.
Before we get into our text today it will be helpful to have a little background on the Book 1 Peter. chapter 1 verse 1 Peter addresses his readers as Elect Exiles of the Dispersion. Here we see Doctrines of Grace the Elect or Chosen. He goes on to describe them as Exiles of the Dispersion. Most theologians believe he is referring to them here as the New Israel, which we would call the church. Peter uses a lot of words that would describe Old Testament Israel in this book, to describe the church that now includes gentiles.
He goes on to name five Roman provinces that he is writing to (that today make up most of northern Turkey). There is no biblical evidence that Peter spent much time there and since it is such a wide geographic area, it is one of the widest addressed audience of a New Testament letter, so it is unlikely that Peter visited or even knew many of these people personally.
Peter probably wrote this letter from Rome about 30 years after Jesus death and resurrection. So we see evidence that the Good News, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ is on the move. We will also see Peter encouraging them as they suffer for Christ.
So let’s turn to 1 Peter Chapter 4:12-19, if you need a bible there should be black pew bibles in the chairs next to you - in those bibles you can turn to page 1206. If you don’t have a bible, please take one of these bibles home as our gift to you. We want everyone to know Jesus and to know him, you need to be in God’s Word. We will read our text, pray and begin to unpack our text:
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of gloryb and of God rests upon you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Now in today’s message I will be in a number of texts, but I think it would be easier if you keep your page turned to 1 Peter chapter 4:12-19. I think it will help you better see the connections I am making. I will make the texts referenced here available later, if I talk to fast for those of you that take notes.
I will be using Peter and his ministry to help us see today’s text at work in his life from the book of Acts. I remember a couple of years ago doing a Wednesday night study on the book Radical, by David Platt. We were asked which of the Apostles do you identify with most, for me and I think most people at that study it was Peter who they identified with most. We get to see more of Peter before the Holy Spirit in the Gospels and after in the Book of Acts.
So let’s being with our text today 1 Peter 4:12, the first thing we see in verse 12 is Peter’s love for his brothers and sisters in Christ, again this is a big area he is writing to. But he loves them enough to share with them that they will experience fiery trials to test them. You will notice he doesn’t say if it comes, he says “when it comes”. But how can Peter state this for sure?
He can state this with certainty because Jesus loved him and loves us enough to tell us. In John 15:18 which Pastor Phil will probably preach on soon, maybe next week. Jesus says
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
We can see that the Apostle John in 1 John 3:13 affirms this warning
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
And Paul, one of the greatest examples of sharing in Christ’s suffering, tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
The message couldn’t be any clearer, if we believe in Jesus, we will be persecuted. To be clear it also doesn’t say anywhere that we seek the persecution, but we are not to be surprised when it comes.
We may not know a whole lot about these 1st century Christians, many theologians believe this letter may have be written right after the Emperor Nero burned down most of Rome and blamed it on the Christians. There was already hatred towards Christians and they would have been an easy and convenient target to blame. This event led to a much heightened level a persecution in Rome that spread throughout the Roman provinces.
Peter may be using the term “fiery trial” to indicate he has that event on his mind. Whether the burning of Rome has happened before the writing of this letter, he doesn’t seem to clarify that for us today. Whatever persecution is coming, it is to be expected.
Peter wants his readers to think of the fiery trial like a test. If we think of stories in the Old Testament about testing and persecution we can find them everywhere, but the story of Job seems to stand out in regards to the depth of suffering; he loses his home, children, wealth, health, and servants and in 23:10 he says to a friend, offering advice.
10But he (God) knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
He sees his losses as a trial and that he will come out of this trial as gold. How can Job see his trial this way? How can he also say the Lord give and the Lord take away blessed be the name of the Lord.
In the beginning of story of Job, Satan is walking the earth and comes with the sons of man who are presenting themselves to the Lord, Job 1:8 says:
8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
It is God who offers up Job for the testing here. God is confident of the outcome. Why? Because he is God’s servant. And Job is confident of this - stating with certainty that “I shall come out as gold.” He can say this because his faith isn’t in things or family. It is in God.
Reading through 1 Peter, we can see that he is giving them some general principles to keep in mind when they are suffering:
Peter 1st Principle he wants his readers to know about the old testament prophecies of Christ and that it was always the plan of God that Christ would suffer and die in chapter 1 Peter 1:11 Peter speaking of the prophets says
11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
Here we see the foreknowledge of God that it was his always his plan for Christ to suffer.
We could also read from Isaiah 53 about the suffering servant that describes in detail how Christ would suffer.
In chapter 2 he speaks of another principle in regards to submission to authorities and one should be mindful of God when enduring suffering unjustly.
We get a sense that there was probably persecution that they were dealing with from Roman authorities or perhaps from their masters if they were servants.
What a practical application for us today. We don’t have to look far to see examples how authorities in our own local, state and national government may make laws that go against God’s law. How do we respond? It can be easy sometimes to get caught up in the politics. But politics and politician is not where the answers are, our hope isn’t in government, it is in Christ. When there is conflict between the laws of man and God, we follow our example -Christ. Peter reminds them in 2:21
21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
He goes on to tell them what that looks like in v.22
22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly
When Christ stood trial before Jewish authorities and Roman authorities and deceit was used to make false charges against him he did not try to deceive authorities. When they mocked and spit on him he did not respond in kind with hatred. When he suffered beatings and was nailed to the cross he did not threaten in return. He focused on God’s will, the one who judges justly.
We see this play out in Peter’s life. In Acts chapter 4 after having healed a crippled man he is being questioned by the same Jewish leaders that handed over Jesus to Pilate to be crucified. Starting in Acts 4:7 it says
7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead
This is Peter, who raised a sword against the Roman soldier but was later trying to hide himself outside Jesus’ trial before these same authorities and denied knowing Christ. What is the difference? They ask him “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Peter certainly is prepared to give an answer, to be sure his answer is good, but before he speaks the text tells us where that power comes from in verse 8. Its say - Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said.
The resurrection power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, has given Peter the power to stand here.
There is no other explanation for how Peter could stand boldly before the council and proclaim that Jesus is Christ and has been raised from the dead. Peter tells his readers in Chapter 3:18, a verse that will be familiar to some who went through the Two ways to Live study
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
The spirit of Christ is now in Peter, and there is a putting to death the of old Peter that could not claim Jesus during Jesus’ trial, and a new Peter made alive in the Spirit.
Peter speaks of what this looks like for his 1st century readers starting in verse 2 of chapter 4 if you want you can look back a few verses and see. The thing is the list doesn’t need to change for us, human desires haven’t changed in 2000 years, before we know Jesus we are living for our own passions. But once he gives us ears to hear and eyes to see the Good News that changes, and we submit to God’s will.
A will that included suffering for Job, Peter, and all other believers. This new will for these believers has made them act differently, and people are starting to notice.
In our study of Irresistible Grace last week. One of the explanations about it that really made sense for me, I think it was from John Piper, the Holy Spirit doesn’t force us to submit to God’s will - it just removes all our resistance. That removal of resistance turns us from our desires to God’s will.
Now Peter and John, who was with him there, were let go and warned not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. They responded by saying in Act 1:19-20
19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21And when they had further threatened them, they let them go,
In verse 21 we see the threat of persecution, Peter wasn’t seeking the persecution, he could only testify to what he had seen and heard from Christ. There is no surprise here for Peter that the threat comes and there shouldn’t be for us when we speak of what we know of Jesus. But what caused the threat. It wasn’t the death of Christ, for that was what those leaders sought and thought they had accomplished. The threat was the statement that God raised Christ from the dead.
This is where the joy starts and will never stop for those who believe. The grave is empty Easter morning joy! I think too often when we testify to who Christ is we put too much emphasis on the cross and not enough on the resurrection. I have done it myself. That is not what we see in the New Testament - we see their focus more on the resurrection than the crucifixion. It is not in dispute by the world that Jesus lived there is evidence of that, it is not really in much dispute that he died. But if he is risen everything changes. This is the Good News!
In fact, Peter early in chapter one speaks of this Good News with another verse that is used in Two Ways to Live 1 Peter 1:3
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
Peter wants us to see this hope and the joy it produces in today’s text in verse 13 he says
13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Here Peter is connecting the Joy of sharing in Christ’s sufferings with the joy when his glory is revealed. Remember Peter was one of the disciples who witnessed the glory of Jesus’ transfiguration and of course he saw Jesus’ glorified body after the resurrection. But here he is talking about a future event. The joy when that day comes. He wants to fix their eyes on that day during these fiery trials.
He goes on to say in verse 14
14 Ifyou are insulted dfor the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory2 andof God rests upon you.
When Peter began his ministry after the resurrection, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He would find the Joy in suffering. At the end of Acts chapter 5 Peter and other Apostles again are before the Jewish leaders. After being threatened earlier, they are warned again not to speak in the name of Jesus, but this time they are beaten before they let them go. The disciples shouldn’t be surprised, but you might be surprised the first time you read their response. It says in verse 41
41Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
That had to be a crazy scene. I am trying to imagine the council’s reaction. They had to be thinking - What do we do with these people? We kill their leader, we warn them, we put them in prison and beat them and they still follow him.
I don’t think until I prepared for this sermon I ever really thought too much about, what if Peter’s willingness testify that Jesus is Christ and he is alive to the Council - willing to risk beating and possibly death like Jesus - What if God used that to remove the resistance in one of the Jewish councilmembers heart?
Peter and the other Apostles were rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name, but it doesn’t say they were patting each other on the back and congratulating themselves. Their Joy was in Christ, for his name, they were rejoicing - looking at that moment as a blessing, the evidence of the Spirit of glory and of God was upon them.
There are all kinds of suffering in this world, Peter even gives us a list in verse 15. Shame for this kind of suffering is nothing new in this world that has known shame since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Suffering is a result of this broken world. But when Christians suffer for Christ there is no shame, there is joy as we glorify God in our suffering.
2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Peter also creates an urgency for his readers. Speaking of judgement, notice he says it begins at the household of God. Then he asks a question. What will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel? Remember now, Peter is writing to the Elect the Chosen, Peter wants his readers to remember it was a gift and that they did nothing to deserve it, Proverbs 18:31 shows is that this refining that God is doing is our lives reveals the our faith in Christ is real:
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”c
One day a believer looks at Jesus and God gives them eyes to see the founder and perfecter of their faith, so they can hear the call to follow me, a call that Christ makes clear what it means.
24“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Those who have answered this call and are suffering for the name of Jesus, can find assurance in their suffering that God is refining them for His household.
Whether it is those of us in here today who have suffered by being mocked or worse, or our Christian brothers and sisters half way around the world we shouldn’t be surprised, if our faith is real. In fact, the fiery trials that test us will reveal that our faith is real. God will not give us more than we can take. The persecution is not going to stop until Christ returns or calls you home.
So as we suffer when we share the name of Jesus let us rejoice and trust our soul to a faithful creator. So that God is glorified in us.