These notes were prepared for the 10 am Wednesday Bible Study at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Orlando FL
1 Peter 4:12-14
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Because verse 11 ends with the word “amen,” and verse 12 begins with the word “beloved,” many suspect that what we are looking at here is a different letter, perhaps by a different hand. Still, the word “amen” often appears in a middle of a letter or book and these two words may simply indicate a change of pace within a single letter by a single writer.
Peter is talking about persecution.
While the Jews may well be the most persecuted people on earth, the average Gentile has had little experience with it through history – especially religious persecution. Peter is writing to the Gentiles in this letter. He is trying to help them by guiding them toward an understanding of persecution.
Being a Christian is not easy. It brings with it loneliness, unpopularity, isolation, and persecutions.
Peter makes several points about persecution.
1. Persecution is inevitable. It is our nature to dislike and be suspicious of those who are different, and to be a Christian is to be different.
We are also the conscience of the world, and for that reason, many will reject the preaching of the church .
2. Persecution is a test. This is not a test to measure our ability, but to sharpen our ability. It is not to evaluate learning, but to enhance learning.
3) Persecution is a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. When we have to suffer for our Christianity, we are walking on the same journey as Christ.
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.
15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
Verse 14 suggests that if someone suffers for Christ, the presence of the glory rests upon that person.
The Jews believed in what was called the Shekinah. This was the luminous glow of the very presence of God.
It is a recurring idea in the Old Testament.
- Moses said, “In the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.” (Exodus 16:7).
- ‘The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days’ when the law was being delivered to Moses (Exodus 24:16).
- When the tabernacle was completed, ‘then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’ (Exodus 40:34).
- When the ark of the covenant was brought into Solomon’s temple, ‘a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord’ (1 Kings 8:10–11).
Over and over we see in the Old Testament this idea of the Shekinah, the luminous glory of God.
Peter believed that this glory rested on those who suffer for Christ.
In the Book of Acts, Stephen was on trial for his life. When it became certain that he would be condemned to death, to those who looked on him his face was like the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).
Peter says we are not to sufer as an allotriepiskopos, which we have translated as busybody, murderer, all sorts of things.
We are unclear as to the meaning of this word. There is no other instance of this word in Greek, and Peter may well have invented it.
It can have three possible meanings. The word comes from two words, allotrios, belonging to another, and episkopos, looking upon or looking into.
Therefore, it literally means looking upon, or into, that which belongs to another.
(1) To look on that which is someone else’s might well be to covet what is someone else’s. This is the way John Calvin understood this word – to mean that Christians must not covet.
(2) To look upon that which belongs to another might well mean to be too interested in other people’s affairs and to be a snoop or a busybody. There are Christians who do harm by criticizing others. These are the people we want to look at and say, “Mind your own business.”
(3) Allotrios means that which belongs to someone else and allotriepiskopos means looking upon that which is foreign to oneself. This would mean that a Christian is never to take an interest in things which are alien to the life that Christians should lead.
1 Peter 5:6-11
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Peter gives some advice, guidance and instruction for the Christian:
(1) Be humble. Christians must humble themselves before God and one another. There is not enough humility in the world today. We are arrogant and self centered. We have an exaggerated sense of our own importance.
2) Be serene in God. Christians must cast all their anxiety upon God.
‘Cast your burden on the Lord’, said the psalmist (Psalm 55:22).
‘Do not worry about tomorrow’, said Jesus (Matthew 6:34).
The reason we can do this with confidence is that we can be certain that God cares for us. As Paul had it, we can be certain that he who gave us his only Son will with him give us all things (Romans 8:32).
We can be certain that, since God cares for us, life is out not to break us but to make us; and, with that assurance, we can accept any experience which comes to us, knowing that in everything God works for good with those who love him (Romans 8:28).
(3) Be vigilant. We must be watchful.
When we cast our cares upon God, that does not mean we are carefree, but rather trustful.
We trust God, but remember that the Lord calls us to be vigilant.
Oliver Cromwell once told his troops, “Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.” Or to put it in modern terms, President Reagan said, “trust, but verify.”
Peter knew how difficult it was to be vigilant. He was in Gethsemane and he and the other disciples had slept when they should have been vigilant, watching with Christ (Matthew 26:38–46).
(4) Be resistant. Temptation is always around the corner. Peter had insisted he would never deny his Lord, but within hours he had denied him three times.