Summary: We are called to suffering: but we are also called to glory.
V. SUFFERING AND GLORY
A. CALLED TO SUFFERING
The Apostle Peter uses his address to domestic servants (1 Peter 2:18) to illustrate the calling of all Christians to share in the sufferings of Christ. “For this is grace,” he quite literally says (1 Peter 2:19): this is acceptable; this is thank-worthy - if out of consciousness of God, and in conscience toward God - we bear up and endure grief, suffering unjustly. Not only are some people maliciously punished for doing good, as might be the case of the domestic servant under a tyrannical head of the household, but any one of us might fall under various afflictions while doing good.
Of course, some of our sufferings can be traced directly to our own sins. Actions have consequences, and the servant breaking the household rules will be punished accordingly. If we are continuing a life of sin, and God continually buffets us for it - like waves beating against the seashore - what did we expect?
But if we continue firm and persevere in the face of unjust sufferings, “this is grace” (1 Peter 2:20): this is acceptable to God; this is thank-worthy with God. This is, after all, our calling (1 Peter 2:21). The model was laid down in the sufferings of Messiah (Isaiah 53), and we are to follow in His footsteps.
B. CALLED TO HIS KINGDOM AND GLORY
The kingdom of God broke into this sphere of existence when Jesus was “born king” in Bethlehem. So, when John and Jesus both said, “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17), they were speaking of the immediate presence of the king. The mighty works of Jesus were intended to prove that the kingdom of God had come (Matthew 12:28).
When the Pharisees demanded to know when the kingdom of God should come, Jesus answered, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). The word “you” is plural, so a better reading might be “amid you all.” Jesus was NOT saying that the kingdom of God was in the Pharisees’ hearts (cf. Matthew 5:20 and Luke 11:39)!
We become citizens of the kingdom of God immediately upon our conversion. We have a new king over our lives, Jesus. The word “kingdom” speaks of the sovereignty of Jesus, His right to rule over our hearts. It also speaks of God’s people, under God’s rule.
When we pray “Thy kingdom come” we are praying for the advancement of the kingdom of grace, and the ushering in of the kingdom of glory. But the kingdom of God does come with persecutions (Mark 10:28-30).
C. CALLED TO GLORY AFTER SUFFERING
In the benediction towards the end of his first letter, Peter reminds us of God’s grace, of our calling, and of the eternal glory which is ours in Christ Jesus. The Apostle prays for a happy issue out of all our afflictions - that after we have suffered a “little while” we should be perfected, established, strengthened and set upon a firm foundation.
“Glory” here speaks of our eternal well-being, what we often call ‘heaven’. We are called to this glory by our association with Christ Jesus, through the merits of His passion and death.
D. PRESSING ON
All believers are partakers of the heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1). Having been called to belong to Jesus, we press on towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. We seek to match up to the standard of holiness which He has set.
We operate as free men and women in Christ Jesus, unhindered by personal fear and guilt. Sometimes the path seems lonely (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), but we are not alone (1 Timothy 6:12): there are others who are striving for the same mastery, and we can best help one another along the way when we nurture peace and harmony with those who are engaged in a similar quest. Alone or together, we press onward toward that goal, all but oblivious to the various suffering and trials which seek to hinder us: until at last we reach the mark, enter glory, and receive the prize (2 Timothy 4:7-8).