Summary: We look now at a passage, which is startling in both its sobering and exalted view of Christian suffering.
We look now at a passage, which is startling in both its sobering and exalted view of Christian suffering. Recall once more the context of the letter. The Christians of the scattered churches in northern Asia Minor are facing trials placed on them by their neighbors. Some form of persecution is taking place. Slander is one, and it probably leads to other consequences. Slaves are being beaten. Wives are probably being abused in some way. They are all being ostracized in society and being harassed in various ways.
And these troubles are taking place precisely because they have become Christians. While their new moral lifestyle offends their old partying neighbors, their new religion offends everyone’s conventional religious sensibilities. They don’t fit in anymore. They’re suspect. They irritate the partiers, shock the religious, and arouse the suspicions of the authorities, and all because they embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s see what Peter has to tell them and us.
First, he tells them not to be surprised: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
There is a bit of irony here. Peter had noted back in verse 4 how the nonChristian neighbors thought it was strange that the Christians did not join them in their sinful activities. Now the Christians are thinking it strange that they should suffer for not joining in. “Something’s wrong here. We leave behind the lifestyle that offends God, and we get suffering in return. What gives?”
They are offending their neighbors; that’s what gives. The partiers think they are judgmental and self-righteous since they won’t join with them anymore. The religious think they are sacrilegious since they reject the old ways, and that they are intolerant since they won’t try to assimilate their practices with the other religions. And the authorities are suspicious of them since they won’t turn their religion into a good civil religion that endorses the government.
Peter had already heard the explanation from Jesus. The night before he died, he told his disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19). Why expect to be treated differently than Jesus?
Indeed, being treated in the same manner as was Jesus, far being a cause for alarm, should be a cause for rejoicing: 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
This is an important insight that Peter is giving and essential to being able to find joy in the midst of suffering. In our sufferings for Christ, we participate in the sufferings of Christ. In our sufferings we are given the privilege of identifying with Christ in the suffering he underwent for our salvation. He gives us the honor of being fellow participants with him. As we identify with him in his sufferings, how much more will we rejoice at the time his glory is revealed and we share in his glory!
Isn’t this what we want – not just to be spectators watching the redemption drama being carried out for us, but to be brought on stage and included in the play? Our Lord allows us to be his brothers and sisters sharing in his suffering that we may all the more share in his glory. Paul caught the wonder of this participation, and it was the motivating force that caused him to embrace suffering for Christ. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11). That resurrection takes place the same day that Christ’s glory is revealed. Remember, the return of Christ in his glory is our one true hope.
Our sufferings, meanwhile, further attest to our faith being real. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Our sufferings attest to the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that rested upon our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 11:2 prophesied of the Messiah, The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him. That Spirit now rests on those who suffer for his name.
Think about the wonder of it all. When do we read of the Spirit coming on Jesus? It is when he is baptized. Mark reports it this way: As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (1:10-11). Jesus received baptism that he might identify with us in the sufferings we bear under sin. That very act attested to the anointing of the Holy Spirit and favor of God the Father. Now we receive our baptism of suffering for his name, that we might identify with him in his sufferings for our sin. As such, our identification in suffering attests to our anointing by the same Holy Spirit and to the favor of God. How mysterious and wondrous are the ways of God!