1 Peter 4:12-19 Personal Persecution
“Why me?” we ask when fiery trials come upon us. The real question is, “Why not?” If suffering loosens sin’s grip on us and causes others to see us differently, if it places us in good company, keeps us focused on eternity, and frees us to participate in ministry—why wouldn’t we embrace it as a necessary part of our growth?1
FIVE REALITIES OF PERSONAL PERSECUTION FOR THE CHRISTIAN
Expect personal persecution as a Christian. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Jesus went through trials and persecutions and you will too.
“You are the ones who stood by Me in My trials.” (Luke 22:28, HCSB)
James also echoes this idea:
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials,” (James 1:2, HCSB)
Paul shares this as well:
“so that no one will be shaken by these persecutions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3, HCSB)
It is not if you go through trials. It is when you go through trials.
Personal persecution is a blessing from God. (1 Peter 4:14)
BENEFITS FROM SUFFERING IN TRIALS2
1. It gives you fellowship with Christ (1 Peter 4:13)
You can connect with Christ. You can understand and relate to Him better
2. It means glory in the future (1 Peter 4:13)
Suffering and glory are twin truths. God will not replace suffering with glory. God will transform suffering into glory. You cannot expect just to escape suffering. You must let suffering change you. We pay a price today to get a pleasure later.
3. It brings the ministry of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 4:14)
The presence of the Spirit will rest upon you. Just like the Shekhinah glory of God rested on the temple, the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon you when you suffer. In essence they can receive a little bit of glory now.
4. It enables us to glorify His name, the name of Christ. (1 Peter 4:14,16)
Tell people you are a Baptist, and they will have an opinion. Tell people you are a Christian, and you will get their attention. The world may speak against His name, but when we suffer because of it, the name spreads, and it brings glory.
Notice the Trinity is involved in personal persecution. If someone ridicules you because you share the name of Christ, God is blessing you. God doesn’t hate you. It is a blessing to be ridiculed by others for Christ.
“A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12, HCSB)
It is a good thing to go through trials for Christ. This leads me to my next point:
It is ok to suffer for the right reasons. (1 Peter 4:15-16)
Christians should not be suffering because of sin. Sin naturally destroys people. We are called to stay away from sin.
The word “Christian” only appears three times in the Bible: twice in the Book of Acts (11:26; 26:28) and once here. Meaning “little Christ,” it was initially a put-down. The early church, however, said, “That’s okay. We’ll wear with pride what the world intends as derision.” Believers have claimed it ever since.3
Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna about the middle of the second century. He was arrested for his faith and threatened with death if he did not recant. “Eighty and six years have I served Him,” the saintly Bishop replied, “and He never did me any injury. How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”
“I have respect for your age,” said the Roman officer. “Simply say, ‘Away with the atheists!’ and be set free.” By “the atheists” he meant the Christians who would not acknowledge that Caesar was “lord.”
The old man pointed to the crowd of Roman pagans surrounding him, and cried, “Away with the atheists!” He was burned at the stake and in his martyrdom brought glory to the name of Jesus Christ.4
However, it is ok to suffer because we are called a Christian. We should wear the name “Christian” as a badge of honor. Every time we encounter people who are opposed to Christ and they talk ill of us, we should glorify God. Praise God that we are encountering persecution as a Christian.
Now notice the contrast: If you are sinning, that can destroy you and it doesn’t honor God. If someone is sinning by causing you trouble as a Christian, that glorifies God. Yes, the Bible says that God honors a nation which honors Him. However, He also honors Christians in a nation that does not honor Him. Remember what Peter called us in the first chapter:
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To the temporary residents dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen” (1 Peter 1:1, HCSB)
Be responsible with what God gives you. (1 Peter 4:17-18)
Because there will be a judgment, I need to continue to examine my life. There are several questions we should ask ourselves as we examine our own lives.
Why am I suffering? (1 Peter 4:15) We noted before that not all suffering is a “fiery trial” from the Lord. If a professed Christian breaks the law and gets into trouble, or becomes a meddler into other people’s lives, then he ought to suffer! When Abraham, David, Peter, and other Bible “greats” disobeyed God, they suffered for it; so, who are we that we should escape? Let’s be sure we are suffering because we are Christians and not because we are criminals.
Am I ashamed, or glorifying Christ? (1 Peter 4:16) This statement must have reminded Peter of his own denial of Christ (Luke 22:54–62). Jesus Christ is not ashamed of us (Heb. 2:11)—though many times He surely could be! The Father is not ashamed to be called our God (Heb. 11:16). On the cross Jesus Christ despised shame for us (Heb. 12:2), so surely we can bear reproach for Him and not be ashamed. The warning in Mark 8:38 is worth pondering.
“Not be ashamed” is negative; “glorify God” is positive. It takes both for a balanced witness. If we seek to glorify God, then we will not be ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ. It was this determination not to be ashamed that encouraged Paul when he went to Rome (Rom. 1:16), when he suffered in Rome (Phil. 1:20–21), and when he faced martyrdom in Rome (2 Tim. 1:12).
Am I seeking to win the lost? (1 Peter 4:17–18) Note the words that Peter used to describe the lost: “Them that obey not the Gospel … the ungodly and the sinner.” The argument of this verse is clear: If God sends a “fiery trial” to His own children, and they are saved “with difficulty,” what will happen to lost sinners when God’s fiery judgment falls?
When a believer suffers, he experiences glory and knows that there will be greater glory in the future. But a sinner who causes that suffering is only filling up the measure of God’s wrath more and more (Matt. 23:29–33). Instead of being concerned only about ourselves, we need to be concerned about the lost sinners around us. Our present “fiery trial” is nothing compared with the “flaming fire” that shall punish the lost when Jesus returns in judgment (2 Thes. 1:7–10).“If the righteous will be repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and sinful.” (Proverbs 11:31, HCSB)
The phrase scarcely be saved means “saved with difficulty,” but it does not suggest that God is too weak to save us. The reference is probably to Genesis 19:15–26, when God sought to rescue Lot from Sodom before the city was destroyed. God was able—but Lot was unwilling! He lingered, argued with the angels, and finally had to be taken by the hand and dragged out of the city! Lot was “saved as by fire” and everything he lived for went up in smoke (see 1 Cor. 3:9–15).
Times of persecution are times of opportunity for a loving witness to those who persecute us (see Matt. 5:10–12, 43–48). It was not the earthquake that brought that Philippian jailer to Christ, because that frightened him into almost committing suicide! No, it was Paul’s loving concern for him that brought the jailer to faith in Christ. As Christians, we do not seek for vengeance on those who have hurt us. Rather, we pray for them and seek to lead them to Jesus Christ.5
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom. But with God all things are possible” (see Matthew 19:24–26). Because the rich were considered to be especially blessed, the idea is not that the rich can’t be saved. The idea is that any man getting saved is impossible. It is only with God that all things are possible. Only God can squeeze sinners like us through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24).6
If you are doing what God tells you to do, leave it in God’s hands. (1 Peter 4:19)
Some of these persecutions will come from false teachers. People who do not care about your faith. Remember though, that you are in good company. 2 Peter 2 recalls three different people who encountered personal persecution. The same result which God showed them, He will show you.
“then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,” (2 Peter 2:9, HCSB)
Christians ESCAPE temptations. ( 1 Corinthians 10:13)
As Christians, we encounter temptations. Temptations lead to sin and for these temptations, God gives us a way to “escape.”
Christians ENDURE trials. (2 Thessalonians 1:4)
1 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1571.
2 Jim Erwin, “1 Peter 4:12-19 Commitment to Prayer During Trials,” Sermon, 7 September 2001. Accessed on 21 June 2014.
3Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1571.
4Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 425.
5Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 425–426.
6Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1572.