Summary: Sermon 15 in a study in 1 & 2 Peter
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
In an earlier sermon we talked about the debauchery and cruelty of Nero, who at the time of the writing of this letter had not yet begun his murderous rampage against the followers of Jesus Christ. So I won’t go again into the detail of his person and his actions.
But it is important for us to take note at the beginning of this section of chapter 4 that Peter is talking to people who are not in Rome but in the Rome-controlled regions north and east of that city, and they are at the time of the writing already going through what he calls ‘the fiery ordeal’.
So where the persecutions by Nero and his successors have gained a more prominent and well-documented place in history due mainly to the place where they happened and the infamy of the dictator himself, still, there were Christians well before his crimes were committed who, unnamed and all but forgotten, went through difficult and torturous persecutions of their own for the name of Christ.
. And I just wanted to point that out because, Christian, you may suffer things for the name of Christ that no one but you and He will know about in this world. Be aware that a martyr is a martyr even when no one else knows but the One for whom he is martyred.
These words of Peter that we’re going to look at today deal with a pretty dark topic on the surface, but they offer great encouragement in that the heavenly reward of the one who suffers for Christ far outweighs the time of testing and trial here.
Let’s look at the passage.
It is significant that Peter begins this series of admonitions telling his readers not to be surprised at the coming of persecutions, even severe persecutions, among them.
But that is needed, isn’t it? I’m sure those folks in the first century were fundamentally no different than we; and don’t we act surprised in a way whenever some trouble comes?
We just don’t really feel like we deserve any adversity, do we? If someone publicly declares to his friends and family that he deserves to suffer they’re usually quick to put an arm over his shoulder, pat him a little and say ‘there, there, don’t think such thoughts’. If he is persistent in this sort of thinking they’re likely to encourage him to get counseling.
Hey, we live in a society that teaches no guilt and no regrets. If I keep my ideas of morality and righteousness to myself and do not try to push God on you, then just about anything else goes, and you won’t judge me and I won’t judge you and the magic words for social success are tolerance and acceptance, and as long as we stay on that path we’re all pretty good people.
In our present day society those looked upon as evil are the religious people who try to tell folks that they do not have a right to just do anything they want, any time they want with anyone they want.
I have to take just a little side trip here. Just the night before coming back to this sermon I watched a television program that is supposed to be about solving crimes and the heroes are FBI agents and very intelligent scientists. In the course of a discussion about why the star of the show – the MAIN character – doesn’t celebrate Christmas, she criticized the whole concept of celebrating the event simply because there are differing opinions about the time of year Jesus was born, and she said, “If Jesus Christ ever existed…”