Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 4:12-19
The Christian’s Response to Suffering for Christ
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:12–19
How should the believer respond to suffering?
The word suffering and its derivatives are used twenty-one times in this epistle. Peter has a lot to say about suffering. Nero was having Christians covered with tar and burned at the stake to light up his garden. These Christians needed to hear that suffering was part of the will of God and that they should not be shocked by it. They also needed to understand how to respond it.
How should we respond to being mocked by friends for our belief system? How should we respond when sometimes even our families don’t understand us? Peter talks about this in this passage.
It is good to remember that it was Peter who at the possibility of suffering for Christ, denied him in his greatest hour. Yet now the chief Apostle is not only willing to suffer but is now preparing other believers to suffer as well. Christ told him after he had returned from his denial that he must strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32). He is now doing that in this epistle.
How should we respond to suffering?
Big Question: How should the believer respond to suffering for Christ (v. 12–19)?
Christians Should Not Be Surprised at Suffering for Christ
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
Interpretation Question: Why should the believer not be surprised at painful trials?
It seems that many of the Christians in this context were shocked by the suffering they were enduring. However, Peter says they should not be shocked or surprised at all by this painful trial. The word painful can also be translated “fiery.” He may specifically be referring to the common practice of burning Christians at the stake.
During Christ’s ministry, he spent a large amount of time not only telling his disciples that he would suffer but also preparing them to suffer as well.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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.
Christ said if you belonged to the world, it would love you, but since you do not belong to the world that is why it hates you. This takes us back to the very beginning of Peter’s epistle. He calls these believers “strangers in the world” (1 Peter 1:1). We are different; we are not of this world, and that is why we are hated.
Listen again to what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (emphasis mine). Everyone who is walking for Christ and seeking to live a godly life will be persecuted. We should expect it, and therefore, not be surprised when it comes. Your holy life pricks and exposes the sin of the world, and it excites anger and animosity in them. Let us be prepared for suffering as it reminds us that we are truly aliens and pilgrims in this world.
Application Question: What ways have you experienced suffering for righteousness? How did you respond to it?
Christians Should Rejoice in Our Sufferings for Christ
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (emphasis mine).