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Last week we saw Peter’s great news that trials and suffering are coming and we shouldn’t be surprised by them. When we suffer for the cause of Christ, we are sharing in His suffering and for that, Peter tells us to keep on rejoicing. He provides us with a caution however; make sure we don’t suffer because of our own misdeeds. This morning, Peter piles on to our suffering.
1 Peter 4:17-19 says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
Peter gives us some great encouragement: judgment is coming. If life isn’t hard enough. The Christian who loves the Lord rejoices that he may suffer for the sake of the One who suffered for him. Verse 17 says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” The trials that Christians experience are all part of God’s refining process. Just as the jeweler refines gold to purify it, God refines us to purify us, to make us more like Him. Suffering is in itself a very terrible experience. Peter is not speaking about suffering because he read about it in a book or went to a seminar. Peter knew about suffering and persecution first hand. He knew about threats, he knew about trials, he knew about anguish. In 1:7 Peter said that we have been tested by fire. He reminded the people that they are God’s house, His holy temple in Chapter 2. Mal. 3:1-3 provides a good illustration of this. Malachi says, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.” God is the smelter that refines us. He is the purifier.
Malachi concludes in v. 4 that it’s only after that purification that, “The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.” We want to skip the refining and purification step. Malachi is speaking about the temple – the only difference is the location of the temple. Malachi speaks of the one in Jerusalem: Peter speaks of the temple of our hearts.
Peter asks the question, “If it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?” Trials are rarely easy to endure, but they are not meant to kill us, they are meant to make us stronger. God’s purging of His people is not something that happens after we die in purgatory and it doesn’t atone for our sins. God’s purging is for our purification, our refinement. Remember what Peter said at the beginning of the book? In 1:7 he said, “The proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” What good is your faith if it never involves trust? Even if it’s hard to endure the trials of life, think about what is waiting for, “those that do not obey the gospel.” The godless and the sinner. The fire of God’s purification is different from the fire of judgment yet to come. Malachi describes it like this: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” (Mal. 4:1)
Peter closes out this section in v. 19 saying, “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” The word entrust here has the idea of making a deposit. In Peter’s day, there were no banks and people going on a journey might give their neighbor their money to keep while they were gone. Obviously you’d want someone that is trustworthy. Peter is saying that we are entrusting our souls to One that is absolutely worthy of our trust. He uses the word “Creator.” This form of the word is only used here in the New Testament. It conveys the idea of sovereignty. We suffer according to His will. Not that He makes us suffer, but everything that happens in our lives passes through His loving hands. The Lord that we trust our soul with is the same Lord who is the designer and architect of the world. He is the same One that feeds the birds of the air and numbers the hairs on our head. Paul said it this way: “For I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12)
No matter what we may think or feel, God is faithful. He knows the exact details of what you’re going through, the trials and the triumphs. We can choose to trust Him today or we can fear what may or may not happen.