Author’s Note: All subsequent Scripture quotations and paraphrases are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise stated.
The apostle Peter pinned a brilliant letter to the exiles of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia (1 Pet. 1:1). The word exile described Christians that families, friends, and co-workers disassociated from them for their beliefs, and not sent to another part of the world to live. The believers long for their real home for they do not conform to the views of the present evil age.
1 Peter 4:12-19 is a letter or an epistle categorized as Catholic meaning general or universal due to the limited address to a single locality (Gundry 2012, 516). Authors wrote Epistles to specific audiences facing unique issues (Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard 2017, 542). This passage discusses suffering, rejoicing, and committing their lives to Christ. It concludes in 1 Peter 5:1-11 with warnings to the leaders and congregation to encourage others to keep the faith while suffering and their reward, a celebration in heaven.
God uses suffering to purify the church and glory will come to those who persevere to the end. Peter reminds us that suffering precedes glory. This text intends to encourage Christians not to be deceived by Satan and fall back into sin. Making Christ Lord of our lives, we are to expect suffering, to rejoice in suffering, examine our lives, and to stand firm in the faith.
Christians have suffered for centuries. Nero crucified and burned followers of Christ throughout Rome during his reign. We suffer today being ostracized for our beliefs, ridiculed, and labeled as a hate group. Jesus warned His disciples to expect opposition and persecution from the world for becoming a follower of Christ (Jn. 15:17), but He also encouraged them to be of “good cheer because I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
The “fiery trial” in 1 Peter 4:12 suggests what Christians were experiencing was a test of faith (Jones 2014). Satan is relentless and will stop at nothing to bring a Christian back into his fold since God declared war on him after the fall (Gen 3:15). Fire, in the Old Testament, was a symbol of God’s holiness and presence, but Peter saw fire as a refining process rather than divine judgment (Job 23:10, Wiersbe 1996, 424). Persecutions and trials go together, so they do not happen accidentally. God called us for a purpose, and it will all work together for our good when we allow God to take over our lives (Rom. 8:28).
Rejoice in Suffering
In the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). Paul was in prison, suffering for Christ, but rejoicing as all Christians should because when rejected for obeying God and standing firm in our beliefs, we are partnering in the experience that Christ suffered for everyone (Jones 2014).
Suffering has four meanings, fellowship with Christ, glory in the future, ministry of the Holy Spirit, and to glorify His name (Wiersbe 1996, 424-425). We are fellow heirs of Christ provided we suffer with Him and be glorified with him (Rom. 8:17). We are never alone in our suffering. Christ is always with us just as he was with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:25).
We have future glory in Christ’s return revealed, and nothing can compare to the day when He arrives to take back His people (Rom. 8:18). Wiersbe (1996) translates the ministry of the Holy Spirit in 1 Peter 4:14 as, “the presence of the glory, even the Spirit, rests on you” (425).
We can experience His glory right now through the Holy Spirit, which explains why many Christians throughout centuries have gone to prison, faced physical beatings, and death without voicing any complaints. When we suffer, we do this in His name (Jn. 15:21).
Examine Your Life
When examining our lives as Christians, Wiersbe (1996) wants us to ponder these three questions.
First, why are we suffering? (426). In 1 Peter 4:15, he mentions an array of sins that people who disobey God commit and mostly every day. We as Christians will not suffer as criminals. We suffer because of our faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, are we ashamed or glorifying Christ? (426). Do not be ashamed while suffering, but to let God be glorified (1 Pet. 4:16). If you are ashamed of Christ in this evil world, Christ will also be ashamed of you (Mk. 8:38). If we seek to glorify God, we will not be ashamed to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.
Third, are we seeking to win the lost? (426). The lost are ones that do not obey the Gospel and continue to be ungodly and sin. We will plant the seeds, water, and cultivate, but only God can save and have a bountiful harvest. It comes with great difficulty as it did with Lot getting him out of Sodom before God destroyed the city (Gen. 19:15-26).
The best time to be a witness for Jesus is when you are under the fire of the world. During this time, we need to be loving witnesses for our faith in the face of those who persecute us (Matt. 5:10-12). It was love that converted the Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39) and Paul’s love that brought the Jailer to Christ (Acts 16:25-34).
Stand Firm in Faith
The last chapter of 1 Peter divides into two sections. First, he gave a stern warning or exhortation to the elders of the church that they have a mutual responsibility to God for the flock assigned as their shepherd (Derickson 2010, 1166). He also reminds them that they are “partakers of the glory that will be revealed” (1 Pet. 5:1). The glory is the second coming of Christ. Peter continues to warn them they are to supervise their flock under the godly influence, not to be dishonest, but to serve eagerly (1 Pet. 5:2-3). For their reward will come from the Chief Shepherd, Christ Jesus, a crown of glory in recognition for a job well done (1167).
Peter’s second warning is to resist the devil. His task is to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10). To be sober-minded (1 Pet. 5:8) is to be on alert at all times. Do not let the devil entertain in your thoughts or he will devour or deceive you to fall back into sin. “Christians may stand firm against Satan only if they depend wholly on Christ” (Raymer 1985, 856). If you resist the devil, he will flee from you (James 4:7). Peter ends with encouraging everyone to endure suffering so that the grace of God will be made manifest in their lives (856).
In conclusion, we are expected to suffer and be persecuted for our beliefs. We will go through the fiery trials, but it will all work for our good. In suffering, we should rejoice because we have a future glory in Jesus’ holy name. We need to examine our lives as Christians to understand our suffering, not to be ashamed, but to glorify God, and seek to win the lost. Lastly, we need to stand firm in our faith as leaders of churches and to resist the devil at all costs.
As Christians, we will face persecution from society and suffer in our families, occupations, and communities. We are listed as a hate group for our refusal to conform to society’s standards. Let us rejoice in suffering for our rewards are not on earth but in heaven. I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God.
Derickson, Gary, 2010, “The First Epistle of Peter,” In The Grace New Testament Commentary, edited by Robert N. Wilkin, Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.
Gundry, Robert H., 2012, A Survey of the New Testament, 5th ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Jones, Judith. 2014. “Commentary on 1 Peter 4:12-19.” Workingpreacher.org, December 28, 2014. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2300.
Klein, William, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard. 2017. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Raymer, Roger M., 1985, “1 Peter,” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, Vol. 2, Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
The Holy Bible, 2012, English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway.