Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though some strange thing happened to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, so that you may rejoice and be glad also in the revelation of His glory.1 Peter 4:12–13 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
There are some who would divide Scriptures up to say that Peter writes to Jewish tribulation saints. This could very well be. Given the assumption that people reading the text are already in a fiery ordeal would make it seem so. Yet, as written to first-century Christians, persecution would be a real and intense thing to those saints then. It seems to follow, we ought really to expect no different.
By and large, many of us live in western societies where Christianity still has some form of acceptance. For those paying attention, we do note the tolerance of Christianity is becoming less widespread. We do have brothers and sisters throughout the world who do suffer real and intense (read that fiery) persecution. Some suffer even unto death.
As it does, we know not to take it personally as though it were against us. It’s against Him. Yet in Him, you are counted worthy to participate in His sufferings. What Peter is saying is to think of persecution as a privilege. One that will bring happiness in the presence of Jesus Christ.
We might be tempted to gloss over and read these things lightly, but that is a mistake. These are written for our preparation. Just as we’ve seen before in this epistle, set the mindset beforehand. Persecution isn’t something that should be thought of as strange or foreign. That is, like it won’t happen to us. It will.
If you are reproached because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.1 Peter 4:14 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Your suffering for Jesus’ name is a privilege. Though they blaspheme Him and His name because you suffer because of His name… He is glorified.
But not all suffering we might endure is because of Jesus.
Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer, or even as a busybody1 Peter 4:15 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Sometimes the ordeals we suffer are brought on by our own actions.
Some think that Christians are supposed to be unable to sin. It’s like they believe in some sort of magic that keeps a believer from doing heinous things. Peter is clearly hinting that believers are capable of doing these things. But such is rather unseemly and incompatible with Christianity.
Nevertheless… Though a believer can and may do these things, it doesn’t mean that salvation is lost (as if that could really happen.)
My little children, I am writing these things to you, so that you do not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One.1 John 2:1 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
We do have an advocate, and the sin may be forgiven… But that doesn’t mean the real-time consequences of that sin won’t be removed. Peter emphatically commands each of us to not reap suffering as a result of sowing our own sins. This means we ought to think soberly all the time; knowing that there is no sin such as is common to man. We can fall into a ditch of our own making. We must be diligent to not haphazardly put ourselves in such positions.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God, and if it begins first with us, what shall the end be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?1 Peter 4:17 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This gets really hard. Peter says we ought to really judge ourselves. Not just ourselves personally, but ourselves as it pertains to a local body of believers! This kind of judgment means that it is not limited to just judging our own actions.
This is not about whether a person is forgiven or not. When sin is confessed to God it is He Who is ready, willing, and able to forgive. Yet, there may be real-time consequences. Real-time consequences that may bring suffering to the entire body. These are going to affect the entire body of fellowship. Our standards of behavior must be tightly knit with that body of believers. We share the blessings. When sin enters, we endure the reproach, too. This means, if one is in sin and continues in it, such may be put out as we’ve been taught.
Remember the previous idea which Peter wrote?
He said love covers a multitude of sins. That is not meant as a way to hide them or cover them up. As this context is expanded to a body of believers, we need to deal with the shared consequences of the sin, even after it is confessed and forgiven. The individual will suffer. And the body will suffer, too.
Each of us ought to comport ourselves in this understanding, knowing that any of our sin can adversely affect not just ourselves, but the brothers and sisters we dearly love.
And “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”1 Peter 4:18–19 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
So then, let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.
Yes, we may be saved. But we can still sin. If we continue unabashedly in sin, what incentive will we have to witness to others?
It’s not a question of who is better, as we are all in the same situation without God. That is, we are doomed to eternal perdition. Though a believer is saved from eternal perdition, temporal suffering for sin is really real. Take it as Peter once again encouraging us to not sin as part of a testimony to those who are not saved.
In any way… When we do suffer whether it be by trial or the reaping of our own sowing to sin, we still trust God. He is the faithful Promise Keeper. In the midst of that trust, let’s continue to do good.