15. The Christian’s Response To Suffering For Christ (1 Peter 4:12–19)Related Media
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.1 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.
1 Peter 4:12
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).
1 Peter 4:13-14
Believers must also respond to suffering by rejoicing in it. This seems to be a paradox. How can we rejoice when we are going through a difficulty or being persecuted for Christ? We get a picture of this with Paul and Silas in jail. Look at what Acts says:
Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
While in prison and in stocks, they are praying and singing hymns. The fact that we often see prisons on TV with meals, nice beds, and playtime in the yard, it actually might hinder our understanding of the gravity of their predicament. Imagine the smell of urine and excrement all over the place; imagine being so degraded that when you have to go to the bathroom you have to do it on yourself; imagine sweating from the heat because there is no air condition; imagine the ants, maggots and rats running around. I think it would be hard to not be mad at God in that situation, especially if we had done nothing wrong. However, Paul and Silas respond with worship to God. How do you rejoice in that situation?
Observation Question: What reasons does Peter give for rejoicing in sufferings for Christ and what do these reasons mean practically?
1. The believer can rejoice because it is a privilege to suffer for Christ.
“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet 4:13).
The first reason we can rejoice is because Scripture teaches it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. Look at what Paul taught in Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (emphasis mine).
He says in the same way we have been granted grace to believe in Christ and be saved, we have been granted grace to suffer for his name. Look at the Apostles in Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” The Apostles, after being abused and told to no longer speak in the name of Christ, leave rejoicing because they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Name. Scripture teaches it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. Look at what else Paul says:
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, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (emphasis mine).
The word he uses for fellowship is the word koinonia; it means “to have in common with.” Paul said, “I want to know Christ, but I also want to have in common with him his sufferings.” For the disciples to participate in the sufferings of Christ, it essentially meant to be like him and to look like him, which should be the hope of every true disciple.
Many Christians have no suffering because they don’t look like Christ. For a disciple, the ultimate desire is to be like the master. Our master suffered for righteousness, and Scripture teaches it is a privilege to suffer for Christ and be treated as he was.
2. The believer can rejoice because he will be rewarded at Christ’s second coming.
1 Peter 4:13: “So that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (emphasis mine).
What’s the second reason to rejoice? Peter says we will be overjoyed when his glory is revealed, which essentially means at his second coming. Why will we be overjoyed at his second coming?
Scripture constantly proclaims that at Christ’s second coming, it will not only be a time of judgment for the lost but it will be a time of reward for the faithful. Look at what Christ said in Revelation 22:12: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (emphasis mine).
One of the reasons the believer will be overjoyed at the coming of Christ is because Christ will reward them. In fact, it seems that one of the major reasons Christians will be rewarded is based on their sufferings for Christ. Look at what Christ said to James and John when they asked to sit at his right and left hand in the kingdom:
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with” (emphasis mine)?
When Christ asked if they can “drink the cup” and have his “baptism,” he was talking about the cup of suffering. Jesus said to God, “Take this cup from me, but nevertheless, thy will be done.” He also talked about his baptism of death. It seems that by referring to the cup of suffering after the disciples ask for exultation, that exultation is the proper reward for suffering. We see this in other passages as well.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (emphasis mine).
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 4:16–18
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (emphasis mine).
Christians should rejoice in suffering because it will be rewarded by Christ as his coming.
3. The believer can rejoice because Spirit of God rests on us during trials.
1 Peter 4:14: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
Interpretation Question: What does “the spirit of glory and of God resting on us” mean?
a) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” means intimacy in the presence of God.
The next reason we rejoice is because the Spirit of glory rests on us when we suffer for Christ. Peter seems to be giving a Hebrew picture of the glory cloud that resided over the tabernacle and met the Jews on Mt. Sinai in the Old Testament. Look at some of the pictures of it in the Old Testament:
And the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Moses would enter the glory cloud and speak to God face-to-face. God’s glory cloud would also cover the tabernacle while Moses was in there, to speak with him in other Old Testament texts.
To suffer for Christ means to have intimacy with him in a special way. We see this with Stephen as he dies a martyr. Look at what Acts 7:55-59 says:
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (emphasis mine).
Here, as Stephen is being stoned, he sees the glory of God in the heavens and Christ sitting at the right hand of God immediately before he is stoned. Stephen experiences intimacy with Christ and God in the midst of his suffering. Similarly, we see this happen with the three Hebrews in Daniel 3. While they were put into the fire, a person who looked like the Son of God shows up and protects them (v. 25). In suffering, the Spirit of glory rests on us in such a way that we experience intimacy with God.
b) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” means to be changed into his image.
Not only does the Spirit of glory resting on us mean intimacy, but it meant to be changed in such a way that the people reflected the glory of God. After leaving the glory cloud, Moses’ face shined so much that the people had to cover his face because it was so bright. Also, Stephen looked like an angel in the face of his accusers. “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).
It was for this reason that James taught believers to consider it joy when going through trials. In the midst of trials, God develops us into his image and make us mature. The glory of God starts to shine more on our lives as we persevere through trials.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (emphasis mine).
The glory of God rests on us in the midst of suffering as Christ changes us into his image. We become more mature and look more like him. We rejoice in this.
c) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” means we become empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Certainly, we see this truth in Paul being tormented by a demon in 2 Corinthians 12:9. God promised that his grace was made perfect in his weakness. It made him strong while he was weak. Listen to the text:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 12:9–10
In weakness, Paul says, “Christ’s power” rested on him (1 Cor 12:9). In fact, this imagery was used throughout the Old Testament as the Spirit came upon people to do great feats for God (1 Sam 16:13). In suffering, there is a special way where God empowers us to not only persevere but to serve him. We should rejoice because of this.
d) “The Spirit of glory rests on us” may also mean to give us relief or refreshment.
Look at what John Macarthur says about the word rests:
Rests (from the present tense of anapauō) means “to give relief, refreshment, intermission from toil” (cf. Matt. 11:28–29; Mark 6:31), and describes one of His ministries. “Refreshment” comes on those believers who suffer for the sake of the Savior and the gospel. The Spirit gives them grace by imparting endurance, understanding, and all the fruit that comes in the panoply of His goodness: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).
That kind of refreshment and divine power came upon Stephen, a leader in the Jerusalem church and its first recorded martyr. As he began to defend his faith before the Jewish leaders, they “saw his face like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). His demeanor signified serenity, tranquility, and joy—all the fruit of the Spirit—undiminished and even expanded by his suffering and the Holy Comforter’s grace to him. The Sanhedrin became enraged as Stephen rehearsed redemptive history to them from the Old Testament, an account that culminated in the atoning work of Jesus the Messiah. Stephen’s Spirit–controlled rest was evident as “he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ “(Acts 7:55–56).2
Application Question: What ways have you experienced the Spirit of glory in the midst of a trial? Please explain.
Christians Should Properly Evaluate Their Sufferings for Christ
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?”
1 Peter 4:15-18
Peter also says that when suffering come into a believer’s life, it must be properly evaluated. In order to evaluate trials the Christian should ask at least three questions:
Question 1: Are these sufferings because of my sin or is it because of righteousness?
“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler” (1 Pet 4:15).
The believer should not suffer because he is a complainer, causing division or for any other sin. Often Christians will claim to be suffering for Christ when they are actually suffering because they will not submit to God’s ordained authority under their bosses or because they are stirring up problems. Christians should not suffer for being a meddler in other people’s business. For this reason, the Christian must evaluate his suffering. Is this suffering because of my sin? Listen to what one author said about being a meddler.
The surprising inclusion of the term rendered troublesome meddler (allotriepiskopos), used only here in the New Testament, and at first seemingly minor in comparison to Peter’s previous terms, shows that all sins, not just crimes, forfeit the Holy Spirit’s comfort and rest. The word literally means, “one who meddles in things alien to his calling,” “an agitator,” or “troublemaker.” Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians illustrate the word’s meaning:
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you. (1 Thess. 4:11)
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2 Thess. 3:11–12)
Christians are never to be troublemakers or agitators in society or in their places of work (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1–3; Titus 3:1–5).3
It is important to properly evaluate our suffering. To suffer for sin forfeits God’s blessing and comfort. Is this suffering happening because of my sin or because of my righteousness?
Question 2: How can I glorify the name of Christ in the trial?
“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Pet 4:16).
The “name” is the name Christian, which was at first a derogatory term used by unbelievers in the book of Acts (11:26). It means to be a “little Christ.” Because we bear that name, we must ask ourselves how can I glorify the name of Christ in the trial? How can I respond in the way he would? The Apostles responded by givning praises to God after they were abused (Acts 5:41).
Question 3: How can I have an eternal perspective in looking at my trial?
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 (emphasis mine)?
1 Peter 4:17–18
Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by “it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God” (1 Pet 4:17–18)?
Here Peter sees the hardship Christians experience as part of God’s way of judging the earth and ridding it of sin. He connects the judgment on Christians with the judgment on those “who do not obey the gospel of God.” This is a little shocking, but Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 11 when God judged Christians for abusing the Lord’s Supper. Look at what he said:
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 11:30–32
Paul says when believers are judged by the Lord, they are being disciplined so that they will not be condemned with the world. Discipline and suffering in the life of the believer are instruments that God uses to get rid of sin in our life. However, in the final judgment, God will ultimately rid the world of sin through judging the world.
Therefore, Peter makes an argument from the lesser to the greater. If God allows intense hardship to happen to Christians to rid them of sin and to make them holy, how much more harsh shall God’s final judgment on the lost be?
Often, Christians are too shortsighted and do not see things from God’s perspective. God hates sin, and he even allows horrible trials to remove it from saints. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says about the suffering of the Hebrew Christians. He says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb 12:7)
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (emphasis mine).
If the discipline is hard on believers as God makes them holy and righteous, how much harder will it be on the world in the final judgment as he rids the earth from sin?
Peter says we should evaluate our trials in view of God’s eternal judgment on the world for sin. He allows the believer to go through hardship in order to make them holy and pure. But one day, judgment will happen to the lost. This final punishment will not be discipline though, it will be punitive.
Application Question: How do you practice evaluating your suffering in order to have a proper perspective of it? Have you found this a helpful discipline?
Christians Must Entrust Themselves to God while Suffering for Christ
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 4:19
The final thing a believer must do in response to a trial is commit himself to God. The word commit, or it can be translated “entrust,” is actually a banking term. It means “to deposit for safe keeping.”4
Paul uses this in 2 Timothy 1:12. Listen to what he says: “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Paul says in the midst of his suffering he was not ashamed because he knew God was faithful. He could trust God with his life.
Not only did Paul entrust himself to God in suffering, but so did Christ. Look at what Christ said in Luke 23:46: “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’” (emphasis mine). When he had said this, he breathed his last. Christ entrusted himself in God’s hand during his suffering, his death and throughout his life. He said, “Take this cup from me, but nevertheless, your will be done.” We must do the same.
Have you invested your life in Christ? I think a lot of people invest only a part of themselves in Christ. God is the safest bank in the world; in fact, it is the only bank that is not going under. Anywhere else that you invest your life will prove to be a failure. Listen to what John said: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). When the world system passes away, those who do God’s will remain. Putting one’s life in God’s hands is never a bad investment. We can always trust that not only will he keep us safe but that he will give us a life that makes the most “interest.”
It should be noted that Peter uses the title Creator to refer to God. Peter seems to use this title in order to encourage these saints. God created you and he only has the best for you, even if you are going through trials.
Have you invested your life in God? Are you entrusting him with your suffering? “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Your Creator only has the best for you. He will make you mature through suffering. He will make you more like Christ and bring glory to his name through it.
Application Question: Are there any areas that you are struggling with “entrusting” your life to God in? Please explain.
How should Christians respond to suffering for Christ?
- Christians should not be surprised at suffering for Christ.
- Christians should rejoice in suffering for Christ.
- Christians should properly evaluate suffering for Christ.
- Christian must entrust themselves to God while suffering for Christ.
Application Question: What would you say to someone who looks at the world or difficult trials and says, “How can you trust a God who allows such things?” How would you respond?
Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown
Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.
1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.) (1 Pe 4:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (253–254). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (254–255). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (258). Chicago: Moody Publishers.