1 Peter 4:12–19 comment (0)
August 7, 2014
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh, Ph.D.
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University
1 Peter 4:12–19
Amy Carmichael was an Irish Christian whose faith story included serving the poor of Belfast and the abused of India. She served in India for 55 years without furlough, living a life of discipleship in love for others. She wrote a poem on the cost of discipleship that asked the poignant question: “No wound, no scar? Yet as the Master shall the servant be, And, pierced are the feet that follow Me; But thine are whole: can he have followed far Who has no wound nor scar?”
Rejoicing in the Midst of Suffering (12–13)
Peter assumes that suffering for being a Christian is part and parcel of discipleship. We shouldn’t be “surprised” when we encounter suffering, thinking that this is strange. Peter’s readers had been converted from a pagan culture and now they were living as a cultural minority. They are no longer “at home” in their own culture and it has brought them into experiences of hostility, not what they might have expected as being the purposes of God for their lives. Yet what is happening to them is right in line with the predictions of Jesus. These moments of suffering come in order to “test us.” When we realize there is a purpose in what is happening in our lives we can either react with resentment toward God for allowing unpleasant experiences to take place in our lives or we can “rejoice.” When we understand that we are actually sharing in Christ’s suffering, not in the sense of ever adding to the atoning work of Christ but of knowing fellowship with Him in His pathway, then we can “be glad and shout for joy.”
Identification With the Suffering of Christ (14)
Peter knows there is a work of grace that must be accomplished in our lives. The Spirit of God uses difficult occasions because times of pressure seem to be the perfect condition for God to do a work of grace, a transforming interaction with God that occurs in the life of a Christian, a defining moment, a sanctifying process when He changes me to be more like Jesus who had an infinite ability to trust His Father. Faith in suffering is a vital part of our Christian life, our walk with Christ, our Christian development. When we come through it all with our faith not only not destroyed but increased, strengthened — a faith that has been tested and is well founded — we know to the core of our being we have a faith for living, for suffering and ultimately to arrive at our final destination — Glory.
Glorifying God in Our Lives (15–19)
One thing we need to be careful about is that we are not suffering opposition from our culture because of wrongdoing. We should not be a murderer, a thief or a criminal. It seems so obvious and then Peter throws in the phrase “or even as a mischief-maker.” Perhaps this was the area of concern that Peter really had in his mind. He uses a word in Greek that is unusual and unique, only found in this passage of Scripture. It seems to refer to someone who “meddles in something that does not concern them.” Is he referring to some Christians who are not careful about their witness against a pagan society, critically denouncing the actions of the nonbeliever rather than using gentle persuasion and living a godly lifestyle?
One thing is clear and that is Peter’s call to suffer for the correct reasons, bearing the name of Christ, living a life where our attitudes and action are imitating those of Jesus and thereby being salt within society and a light in the midst of the darkness.