Final Instructions

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Last time we looked at Peter, we learned that Satan is like a roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to chew up. Satan operates by stealth. Be aware of this, be alert, pay attention so you don’t get eaten. This morning, Peter concludes his letter with a final instruction.

Take a look at 1 Peter 5:9-14.

Peter gives one last command. He says, “But resist him firm in your faith.” Remember Ja. 4:7, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” This is a conditional clause. It is dependent upon our submission to God. Resist the devil by being firm in your faith. When times are tough, don’t give in. When trials come, don’t give up. When you are persecuted, don’t quit. We are to resist the devil, because serving God is tough. Resist is a verb – an action word. That means we are to actively engage in resistance. We must actively engage our enemy. Satan wants to destroy you and everything you stand for. You will never have victory over Satan if you remain passive. Submit to God. That’s the right way, but it’s also the hard way. It’s much easier, in the short run, to give up, but we are commanded to do things God’s way. It is submission to God that leads to resistance of the devil. It is putting your trust and confidence in the One who made the heavens and the earth, the One who hung the stars in the sky, the One who makes the sun rise each day, the One who cares so much about you that He can number the hairs on your head, the One willing to come to earth as a man and live a life that would be acceptable to atone for our sins, the One who gave His life for mankind. It is putting your confidence in God who has already defeated the devil. That is who we are to submit ourselves to.

We are to resist firm in the faith because we know, “That the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” You are not alone in your suffering. What you are experiencing is the same thing our Christian brothers and sisters are experiencing all over the world. We draw comfort knowing that others have passed through the fiery ordeals, knowing the Lord delivered them, and He will deliver us.

This entire letter can be summed up in vs. 10-11. “A little while” is a relative term. Compared with eternity, anything we go through is for a little while. “The God of all grace” is the important phrase here. God is the possessor and giver of grace. He calls believers by grace through faith and He will enable you to persevere to the end. The trials and suffering are excruciating, but God’s grace is sufficient. God has called us to, “eternal glory in Christ.” We are all called to salvation through the finished work of Christ. Christ will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” It is Christ’s quartet of completion. He will complete you, will establish you, will make you strong, and will lay the foundation with you. You will be made firm, made strong like setting concrete. Like a house sitting on a solid foundation, unmovable by wind or floods.

Peter gives his doxology in v. 11. He closes by saying, “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” God allows His children to suffer, even allows Satan to prowl around, yet He is supreme, He is totally sovereign, and wields His mighty hand. We are comforted knowing the He cares for each and every person. Peter’s sums up the letter in v. 12. This letter is an exhortation for believers and to testify about God’s immeasurable grace. This letter was likely carried by Silvanus whom Peter calls a faithful brother. Peter provides an endorsement of Silvanus by saying, “For so I regard him.” Letter carriers often served to answer questions about the letter’s meaning should they arise. In Peter’s final verses, he sends greetings from, “She who is in Babylon” as well as greetings from Mark. She most likely refers to the church at Babylon since she is, “chosen together with you” referring to the believers scattered that Peter is writing to. This Mark is the same Mark that went with Paul on his first missionary journey, then went with Barnabas after Paul rejected him. Finally Peter says, “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.” An expression of mutual love.

1 Peter is totally relevant for today. We are not alone in our trials. Not only do we suffer for Christ, we are delivered in Christ. God’s grace is all sufficient not just for salvation, but for a continual abiding in Christ’s love. We must stand firm for Christ and be an example of His love and devotion to humanity. Satan is our enemy and he will stop at nothing to destroy us. Regardless of the trials, the persecution, or the suffering, we must hold firm to Christ.


The Warning

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Last week we looked at Peter’s admonition to the young men to submit to the authority of the elders. We saw that humility is an essential factor in unleashing God’s grace on us. God really does care for us and we can throw all the cares of this world on Him and He will cover us with His mighty hand. This morning, Peter gives us a very stern warning.

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Get ready. Peter says, “Be of sober spirit.” This is a reminder of what he has said earlier in this letter. In 1:13, he said, “Keep sober in spirit.” In 4:7 he said, “Be of sound judgment and sober spirit.” In each of Peter’s warnings to be sober, he conveys the idea of being calm, being self-controlled, and temperate. He means for us to have a cool head. “Be on the alert.” Be on guard, be watchful, be careful, be vigilant. The second general order of a sentry in the Navy is to, “Walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing. The eleventh general order is, “To be especially watchful at night, and, during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.” That’s the idea Peter is conveying in this passage. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t let anything catch you by surprise. Keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t let your guard down, don’t be complacent. Remain alert and watchful.

What’s the reason for the warning? We are to be sober and be on the alert because, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The Bible is filled with word pictures and beautiful imagery to help us understand what it’s talking about and what it means. I believe this is an accurate, real world representation of what the devil is doing to Christians. What’s more disturbing than that though is that many Christians fail to realize it. The devil is your adversary. Adversary has a legal connotation. It means an opponent in a lawsuit. It also means enemy. It reflects the O.T. picture of Satan as the accuser of the brethren. In the book of Job, Satan is pictured as sort of a legal prosecutor of Heaven bringing accusations before the throne of judgment. Job 1:6-7 says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’” It looks like Satan was roaming the earth collecting evidence. Satan is not pursuing justice; he attempts to discredit God, His Word, and His works. In Zechariah’s vision, the Lord showed him, “. . . Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.”  (Zech. 3:1)

Now we come to a great example of Satan’s subtlety. I hope you’ll take the time to look up Matt. 4:1-11. In this passage we see just how crafty Satan is. He attacks Jesus’ deity, attacks everything that Jesus stands for. Satan’s subtly is evident in the way he quotes Scripture to Jesus. Satan is opposed to everything good and right and pure and holy that exists. He is against anything we do that is in obedience to God and His word.   Jesus handled Satan’s attacks over and over. In Jo. 12:31-32 as the cross of Calvary loomed ahead, Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.  And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” In Lu. 10:18, Jesus told His disciples, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” Why is Satan so angry? Rev. 12:12 says, “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” That’s why Satan is so formidable as an enemy. He knows his time is short and he doesn’t know when it will end. His anger against the Lord and those who love the Lord grows with each passing day. Sometimes Satan attacks the church from within by disguising himself as an angel of light. Jude told us, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  (Jude 4) According to Rom. 16:20 we know the, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

In Ja. 4:7 we are reminded to, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It’s not that we don’t have weapons to fight Satan, the danger is that we won’t resist the devil, that we won’t watch and pray, the danger is that we won’t heed the warnings of Scripture. The danger is that we won’t put on the whole armor of God and take up the sword of the Spirit. The danger is that too many Christians don’t think that Satan is real. A 2011 Barna study revealed that 56% of American Christians don’t believe Satan is real. If Satan is to be resisted, if we are going to stand against the devil, we have got to watch and pray; we have got to be vigilant.

“Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” There are some key things in this verse that you need to get a hold of. First, the devil prowls around. Prowl carries the idea of secrecy or moving about in darkness. It has the idea of moving about in a predatory manner usually in an unlawful manner. Second, the devil is like a roaring lion. The lion is a very cool animal. He is the king of the jungle, but there are some things you may not know about the lion that we can draw some very close comparisons to Satan. The lion is not a very fast animal – about 35 mph. His favorite meals are wildebeests and gazelles which can run about 50 mph. So how do lions catch dinner? Stealth. Lions are very good at hiding; they blend in well with their surroundings. They stalk their prey to get as close as possible and then run at them with a burst of speed. The lion surprises his food, catches them, and devours them. Satan roars like a lion to scare you, but he is tied to a chain held by Christ. Satan can tempt you, but “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  (1 Cor. 10:13) Satan may be the prince of the power of the air and the lion may be the king of the jungle, but Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus is the King of kings. Fourth, the devil is seeking whom he may devour. He is on a mission.  He wants to destroy you. Devour gives us the idea of completely eating up. Satan wants to totally consume you. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Peter has warned us and given the reason for the warning. Satan wants to defeat you, discredit you, and destroy you. Be aware of this and don’t be caught off guard.

Peter’s Shift in Age

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Last week Peter spoke of the elder as overseer and he talked about the nature of the elder. Elders are examples not just to God’s people, but to people everywhere. This week Peter closes out this section by speaking to younger men.

1 Peter 5:5-7 says, You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Peter shifts from speaking about elders to the younger men, but what does younger mean? Some people get really hung on this phrase. Remember that Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia. In 5:1 he speaks directly to the elders among the church. In light of this, it is likely that Peter is speaking to the younger men among the people as a specific age group. Why would Peter call out young men? The answer comes from what he says next. He says, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.” Likewise – just like everyone else in the congregation. It’s a reminder to the younger men. Why them? Think about the young men you know. As a rule, are they compliant? This isn’t the first time Peter mentions the idea of submitting to authority. In 2:13, he told us to submit to every human institution. In 2:18, he told servants to submit to their masters whether they were good and gentle or unreasonable. In 3:1 and 5 he told wives to be submissive to their own husbands. The idea of submitting to others is not new. But it’s the younger men in particular that Peter reminds to submit to those in authority. There seems to be a rebellious streak in young men that may not be as prevalent in young women and Peter wants to be firm in his reminder to submit to those in authority. But it’s not blind obedience for any follower. We saw earlier that Peter told leaders not to use their authority as dictators. If teaching or guidance is given that is contrary to God’s Word, it shouldn’t be followed. At the same time, people should be inclined to follow the leadership and submit to their authority and not complain about everything that goes on.

Now Peter shifts again. “And all of you.” If there’s any doubt, he includes the entire congregation scattered about. “Those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Pet. 1:1) Everyone who is reading this letter, who is having this letter read to them. “And all of you clothe yourself with humility.”  Smooth relations will exist in the church if we have a spirit of humility. If we simply have the attitude that everyone is important, things will be smooth. If we have the attitude that we’re all on a journey of discipleship, we’ll get along just fine. Problems can arise when someone wants to exercise some kind of power over another, or wants to dictate how something must be done, or gets upset if their idea isn’t adopted or supported. The foundation of Peter’s challenge is found in Prov. 3:34: Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” James quotes the same proverb in 4:6 of his letter. God is against the proud. It’s as simple as that.

Peter’s concludes by saying, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” Let’s look at the first phrase. The “therefore” is there to tell us that since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, we need to be humble. When we humble ourselves, we’ll experience God’s grace. We know contextually that believers are suffering through trials and persecutions and afflictions for their faith in Jesus who is the Christ. Believers are challenged to persevere regardless of their circumstances. We need to accept the suffering that God allows in our lives as part of His plan for our purification that Peter spoke of in 1 Pet. 4:7. He will lift you up at the proper time. When is that time? It may not be in this world, but we’re under God’s mighty hand.

The second phrase is one of the most often quoted verses in times of trouble. All you have to do, troubled Christian, is throw the cares or worries of this would to the Lord. It’s that simple! But too often, those words are hollow reminders of our inadequacy and we continue to worry over matters that are beyond our control because no one ever told us HOW to do that. Cast is a verb – an action word and it’s connected to the phrase humble yourselves. It tells us how to actually cast all your cares on Him. Here’s the relationship between the two. Believers humble themselves by casting their worries on God. If we continue to worry, then we are giving in to pride. How can anxiety and worry be characterized as pride? No one would argue that at the very least, worry could be a lack of faith, but pride? When we worry – also a verb – we’re convinced that we must do something to fix or control a situation. We’re trusting in ourselves. When we throw our worries to God, we acknowledge our trust in Him. We acknowledging that God is Lord and He is sovereign over everything. Peter knows the church is suffering; he knows they are under persecution and affliction. Casting your worries on God wouldn’t bring comfort if God wasn’t able to provide help in time of need. You wouldn’t tell someone your troubles or concerns that’s apathetic, cold hearted, or cruel. You wouldn’t do that because they don’t care. Giving your worry to God makes great sense, “Because He cares for you.” God is not indifferent and He’s not cruel. He has compassion on his children and will sustain them in every distress. Ps. 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Affliction and trials will either drive you into the loving arms of God or will separate you from God. You think Peter doesn’t know a thing or two about pride? Peter told Jesus in Matt. 26:3, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” I’m sure Peter’s pride haunted him.

Regardless of your affliction or trials, God really does care for you. When you trust Him, you acknowledge His mighty hand, His power, His strength, and His sovereignty. When we humble ourselves before Him, it opens the floodgates for His grace to pour down on us.

The Elder as Overseer

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Last week Peter introduced us to the concept of elders. We saw that elders act as shepherds in the church. We learned that he feeds the sheep and provides protection for the flock. This week we’ll see additional aspects of elders.

1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

The first thing we’ll look at is the elder as overseer. Overseer comes from the Greek word episkopeo. It means to exercise oversight or to be a guardian. Back in 2:25, Peter said, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd [poimen] and Guardian [episkopos] of your souls.” The word episkopos is also translated bishop in the N. T. Peter is thinking of the shepherd in terms of watchful care over his sheep. The idea of a bishop being an office set over presbyters (elders) and deacons does not appear in the N. T. Peter describes the work of elders as that of a guardian. In addressing the presbyters at Ephesus, Paul said, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  (Acts 20:28) Clement I was pope from 88-97.  In his writings, he used the terms presbyter and bishop interchangeably. Later these terms would take on a new meaning in a class of clergy that was above deacons. It is very interesting to see how some denominations establish a hierarchy of clergy offices. We don’t see this in Scripture.

The elder is a shepherd and he is an overseer.  The real issue is not necessarily the organization of the office, but the nature of the elder. In Heb. 13:17a we are reminded to, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” Authority is given to the elders of the church. The exercise of that authority is supposed to be in service to the Lord. It is ministerial, not imperial. The New Testament picture of an elder is that of the shepherd, watching over and guarding his flock which is modeled after the good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep. The elder does not rule under compulsion.  No one should force him. He rules, “Voluntarily according to the will of God.” 1 Tim. 3:1 says, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” This is a general statement that the office is an honorable one. In the past, a minister was a man to be respected, a man that had high standards of character, a man of integrity. Only recently has the office of pastor or minister taken on a new meaning in society. In the early church, they appointed elders only after they had prayed and fasted. The idea is that the Lord would show them whom to appoint because the elder serves according to the will of God. The elder does not serve for “sordid gain.”    He is not in the ministry for the sake of money. He should not seek bigger and bigger pastorates because of the lure of bigger and bigger salaries. The elder serves with “eagerness.” Remember that in the context of Peter’s letter, persecution was the norm, trials for Christians abounded, and more fiery ordeals were on the way. There is every reason to believe that some might be hesitant about taking on the responsibility of overseeing the well being of the flock. Even today, in many parts of the world, giving yourself in the service of the Lord can come with a high price. Remember Christians are severely persecuted in: Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Belarus, Nepal, Yemen, and Jordan.  There are many others. The idea of serving with eagerness and willingness takes on a whole new meaning.

The elder exercises pastoral oversight, not “Lording it over those allotted to your charge.” He is not a dictator.  Lording it means exercising dominion over. You younger folks probably don’t remember Jim Jones. He was head of the People’s Temple. He was most famous for leading 914 people to commit suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. You might be thinking, “That was a cult.” A dictatorship begins when anyone ascends a religious throne and draws obedience to himself rather than the Lord. That’s not the way the elder is to be. The elder is to, “Be [an] example(s) to the flock.”      He is not the lord and master; he leads by example. He doesn’t talk about obedience; he demonstrates obedience in his life. He is not a, “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy. Remember that the elder is a servant to the Lord. He serves Jesus by serving the people. Yes, he loves the people and cares for the people and is the guardian of the people just like the shepherd. But the elder is looking forward to the day, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, [to] receive the unfading crown of glory.”

The office of elder is more than meets the eye. He’s not just the preacher. He feeds and nurtures the body of Christ, he provides oversight, and he is an example for all.

The Elder as Shepherd

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Last week Peter encouraged us with the fact that more trials are coming and we ought not be surprised about it. But he also said that judgment is coming and it will begin with the house of God. As we move to Chapter 5, Peter begins addressing a group we haven’t seen to this point.

1 Peter 5:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Peter talks about the elder as a shepherd and mentions the term elder here for the first time. He addresses the elders who are among you in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. He counts himself among them as a fellow elder. Peter exhorts them. This is an interesting word. It means to encourage or address in a manner of comfort and instruction. It was not a word that describes sternness or a command to obey. Peter says, “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder.” Peter was an elder like those he was addressing. He did not approach them with the authority of his apostolic office. He did not use these words because he was the head of the church; or because, he had any pre-eminence over the other elders. Remember Alexander Haig? He was the Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. After the assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, Haig was quoted as saying, “I’m in control here.” Do you think Peter would he have used this language if he was the “head of the church” on earth?

Peter wanted the elders to understand that he was one of them, not over them, but a fellow elder. He speaks with humility and compassion. Remember, he just told them, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Peter is concerned about the order and government of the church as well as submission and devotion. It is with this background that Peter speaks with the elders, those who are leaders, administrators, and judges in the church.

Let’s look at the term so we can get a better understanding of what it means. Eldership in the N. T. church followed the example that the Lord established for Israel. Gen. 50:7 speaks of elders in the house of Joseph. Elders of Moab and Midian are mentioned in Num. 22:7. Abraham’s servant is mentioned as having charge over “all that he owned” in Gen. 24:2. During the exodus from Egypt, the elders of Israel formed a definite group whose authority was recognized in Ex. 3:16-18. The ordinance of Passover was given to Israel through the elders as recorded in Ex. 12:3. Moses structured the government of Israel to include judges to govern groups ranging in size from 10 to 1000. 70 elders of Israel were granted a vision of God in Ex. 24 and were later filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied in Num. 11. Elders continued in a governing fashion during the exodus, through the exile period, and after exile. Each Jewish community had a council of elders or presbytery as mentioned in Luke 7.  In Chapter 20, Luke also mentions, “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders” in the temple confronting Jesus. When Christ made atonement for sin on the cross, His sacrifice eliminated the need for a priestly office, but the government of elders continued. Paul distinguishes the gift of rule and the gift of teaching when speaking of the functions of the office and ordained elders in the churches he planted. Administrators as well as teachers served the church. Jesus spoke of scribes that seemed to indicate these men were specially gifted in teaching and preaching. The ministry of teaching elders is emphasized in the New Testament, but Peter seems to emphasize the governing aspect of elders and likens an elder to a shepherd, a term that means feeding as well as oversight.

Elder comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which means elderly. Some denominations are governed by a group called the presbytery or elders. There are several words for the office of pastor that are used interchangeably in the New Testament. Each describes a different function of the office. Here, Peter concentrates on the shepherding aspect of an elder. Peter exhorts the elders to, “shepherd the flock of God among you.” Shepherd comes from the word poimaino. Peter knows about this word first hand. It is the same word that Jesus used to describe Peter’s responsibility to His sheep in John 21 when He called Peter. Shepherd covers two aspects of an elder’s responsibility. The first is feed which represents the real aspect of feeding.  It is providing nutrients. For the shepherd, it means leading the flock to green pastures. It means making sure the flock has everything necessary to ensure their physical well-being. The second aspect of shepherding addresses the care, guidance, and protection of the flock. A shepherd was to offer proper food for his flock and to govern it.  We call this exercising the office of pastor. It means, as a good shepherd provides for the wants and needs of his flock, the pastor of the church is to furnish food for the soul so the faith of believers may be strengthened. Notice the elder is shown as a shepherd leading his flock rather than a cowboy driving them. Sheep do not respond well to force and neither do the people in God’s flock.

It takes a special man to shepherd the flock. It can be discouraging and disheartening when the sheep don’t follow the lead. But you don’t quit. The sheep need proper nourishment.

Start with the Man in the Mirror

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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.

The Shocking Truth

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Last week we saw that Peter encouraged us to manifest God’s love by using the gifts He gave to us. The emphasis was on serving in love because the end is drawing near. Throughout this letter, Peter has spoken of suffering and persecution and trials. This morning, Peter gives us some more good news.

Take a look at 1 Peter 4:12-16.

Peter gives us this great warning: don’t be surprised, more trials are coming. Just what I needed to hear. Peter has gone to great lengths to establish the foundation of their hope in Christ. He has called his readers the holy people of God, living stones in God’s temple, and heirs of heaven. Since we share in the victory of the resurrection of Christ, it seems awful unfair that the people of God should suffer. Peter’s reminder that more trials are coming may be shocking, but you have to understand why suffering comes.

Peter shows the meaning of suffering from two sides. First, our suffering for Christ is linked to Christ’s suffering for us. We share in Christ’s suffering now, but one day we will share in His glory. One is present; one is future. Consider what Peter knew about the suffering of Christ. He saw first hand what happened in the garden. He saw Christ suffer and die at Calvary. Christ, who is righteous, suffered for us who are unrighteous. In 3:18, Peter said, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” Maybe you are thinking, “But it’s just not fair.  I’ve lived my Christian life serving the Lord and all I get is heartache.” Remember Job? His crime, if you will, was that, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”  (Job 1:8) We have a pattern in Christ.  Remember in 2:21 where Peter said, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” Our sufferings bear witness to His sufferings. I’m not saying that our sufferings can compare to Christ’s sufferings, but they do link us together so that we can get just a taste of what He did for us.

Second, our suffering does not destroy us; it purifies us. Peter mentions the fiery ordeal. Ordeal comes from the word purosis that means the burning by which metals are roasted and reduced.  It can also refer to calamities or trials that test the character of a person. A refiner puts impure metal in a fire to melt the metal. The impurities either burn off or float to the top where they can be skimmed off. The picture is easy to see. Christ allows these trials in our lives in order to remove the impurities in our character. A jeweler has no other way to purify precious metals than to put it in a fire. The same is true of us. All the awesome things of Scripture, all the wonderful things you learn are brought home through suffering. The greatest lessons we learn in this life are brought to the front through the lens of suffering. Christ seeks to purify us by allowing us to suffer; to make us stronger; to make us more like him.

Don’t be surprised and don’t bring suffering on yourself. Verse 14 says, “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Notice this is a conditional clause.  It begins with the word, “if.” Peter makes it clear that if we are to suffer or endure trials, it should be due to a real cause, the cause of Christ. Look at the words of Scripture. Matt. 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 1 Cor. 4:12, “. . . When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure.” Phil. 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” In speaking of Saul of Tarsus Jesus said, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”  (Acts 9:16) Rom. 8:17, “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” 1 Thes. 3:4, “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.” You get the idea.

Suffering, persecution, and enduring trials are all part of the Christian walk. Suffering for Christ leads to glory and tastes of glory; it also gives glory to God. Remember the rest of Job’s story.  Satan argued that the only reason Job loved God was because of his stuff. After all that Satan did in Job’s life, destroyed his riches, his possessions, his family, his health, everything about him, Satan destroyed. All the accusations Satan brought against God and Job were proved false. Throughout the ages, Christians have stood firmly against the accusations and persecutions that have come as a result of their living for Christ. Paul and Silas sang praises in the prison at Philippi. Peter boldly spoke of Christ to the very rulers who crucified the Savior. The same type of persecution happens today, only worse. More Christians have been martyred in the last century than in all previous centuries combined. But we’re not talking about martyrdom necessarily. We’re talking about suffering for Christ’s name.  For taking a stand about anything that is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. The idea is that if you are called to suffer for the cause of Christ, you will not be left or forsaken. God will impart His Spirit to you in proportion to your sufferings for His name. The real kicker is that through the Spirit, you’ll have joy and peace. You might be thinking, “I’d never be able to do that.” Matt. 10:19“But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” The Holy Spirit will give you what you need when you need it. If you are called to suffer, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” In other words, if you are going to suffer, don’t bring it on yourself by committing a crime. Perhaps Peter calls out murder and stealing because they were, and remain against the law.

Peter also mentions troublesome meddlers? This word is also translated mischief maker and busybody. Chances are few of us will be guilty of murder, but who can say they’ve interfered into matters that don’t concern them? Peter is saying that there is no glory to God in suffering for our own wrongdoing and it doesn’t have to be of the magnitude of murder.

Don’t be surprised that trials are coming. Don’t bring suffering on yourself by doing wrong things. When we suffer because of the name of Jesus we should rejoice. It’s contrary to our flesh, but consistent with Christ.