Summary: These verses direct believers to 1) Expect suffering, 2) Exult in suffering, 3) Evaluate suffering, and 4) Entrust suffering to God
This week, Firefighters rescued the marble temples and stadiums of ancient Olympia from raging flames but forest fires ravaged nearby villages and the death toll from Greece’s three-day inferno rose to 58. "The church bells are ringing. It’s hell here," a resident from Oinoi village north of Olympia said by phone on television. "In the name of God, where are the firefighters? Where is the help? "Ancient Olympia boasts ruins of the stadium and pagan temples that hosted the Olympics for centuries from 776 BC and is the site of an Olympic flame ceremony every two years. Fire brigades, stretched to their limit by scores of blazes, threw reinforcements from Greece’s European Union partners into action to fight blazes stretching over 160 km across the Peloponnese, the island of Evia and near Athens.
All in all, this summer, Record summer temperatures and hot dry winds have made parts of the Mediterranean a tinder box with fire-fighters working around the clock to control blazes threatening people and vegetation on thousands of hectares of southern Italy, Greece, and other parts of the Mediterranean.
About 50 000 fires sweep through as many as one million hectares of Mediterranean forest and other woodlands each year. In the Mediterranean, up to 95 percent of fires are caused by people, mostly from arson and negligence.
For nine days during the summer of A.D. 64, a huge fire raged in the city of Rome. The flames spread rapidly through the city’s narrow streets and the many tightly bunched wooden tenements, ordinarily crowded with residents. Because of his well-known desire to refurbish Rome by whatever means, the populace believed Emperor Nero was responsible for starting the blaze. As the fire destroyed most of the city’s districts, he watched gleefully from the Tower of Maecenas. Roman troops prevented people from extinguishing the fire and even started new fires. The disaster thoroughly demoralized the Romans because many lost nearly all their earthly goods and found their civic pride scorched as well. With public resentment toward him at a high level, Nero diverted the focus away from himself and made the Christian community the scapegoat for the fire.
Nero’s ploy was a clever one because Christians in the Roman Empire were already the unjust targets of much hatred and slander. Unbelievers falsely reported that Christians consumed human flesh and blood during the Lord’s Supper (cf. Mark 14:22–25; 1 Cor. 11:23–26) and that the holy kiss (cf. 5:14; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26) was actually a sign of uncontrolled lust. In addition, the Romans viewed Christianity as a sect of Judaism. With the increasing anti-Semitism of those days, the populace easily adopted an anti-Christian attitude as well. Christianity had also caused stress within families when one spouse (particularly women) believed but the other did not. That generated further resentment toward the saints.
Following the burning of Rome, Nero capitalized on that anti-Christian sentiment and punished the Christians by using them as human torches to light his garden parties, by allowing them to be sewn inside animal skins to be devoured by predatory animals, by crucifying them, and by subjecting them to other heinous, unjust tortures.
The apostle Peter likely wrote this letter just before Nero’s persecution began. Peter’s major recurring theme is how his readers should respond to unjust suffering. Today hostility toward Christians who speak out against the culture’s sins and in defense of the exclusivity of the gospel is on the rise.
Our series on 1 Peter is coming to a close. My purpose for the series was one of preparation. First Peter has talked about hope, faith, the love of Christ, His word, submission and suffering. As your pastor I am leading this congregation in a new phase of ministry. The time has come to step out further than we have, and I am sending you out as Christ does: into a world of indifference, skepticism and hostility. This series has been designed to prepare you for action.
To endure the present hostility, as well as what might come in the future, believers need to heed this passage’s instructions on enduring severe trials. These verses direct believers to 1) Expect suffering, 2) Exult in suffering, 3) Evaluate suffering, and 4) Entrust suffering to God
1) EXPECT SUFFERING 1 Peter 4:12
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (ESV)
Not expecting to be so hatefully persecuted, the believers to whom Peter wrote were understandably surprised, troubled, and confused by their suffering. Perhaps they expected life to be full of blessing, benefits, and divine protection. However, believers’ expectation for suffering is bound up in the words of Jesus, who told the apostles,
John 15:18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (ESV)