Sermon on 1 Peter 4:12-19
Text: 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. 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. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
Do you like surprises? I suppose your answer would depend on the type of surprise. We might like to have a surprise birthday party. It’s wonderful to be surprised when the bill for the repair to our vehicle comes in lower than the estimate. Those are great surprises. There are surprises that few of us like such as someone jumping out at us around a corner. This morning, Peter is going to talk about something that shouldn’t be a surprise for a Christian. He tells us DON’T BE SURPRISED AT PERSECUTION. 1. It Will Happen. 2. Wear It As A Badge Of Honor.
Peter begins by writing, “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.” (Verse 12) It’s interesting to note that Peter uses the term “fiery ordeal” in talking about the persecutions. These are more than just little annoyances. These are painful experiences – something that hurts to the same degree as burning a part of your body. Peter says that Christians shouldn’t be surprised when they happen, as though something strange were happening to them.
The reason Peter says this is the fact that believers have always been persecuted for their faith. It goes all the way back to Cain and Abel. Cain was so upset with his believing brother that he killed him. As you go through the pages of the Old Testament, you see how the faithful prophets of God were persecuted for telling the unblinking truth to the people. Some were lied about. Others were mistreated by imprisonment. Still others were threatened with death. Some were killed. Forward to the New Testament and you see the same things occurring. We think of people like Stephen and James who were put to death. Look at the life of Paul as he went on those missionary journeys. He was beaten, driven out of towns, stoned, and imprisoned. John was exiled to the island of Patmos. The people of God were persecuted during the days of the Bible.
The persecution didn’t stop when the Bible was finished. Again, look through the pages of history. The Roman government persecuted the Christians. Dr. Martin Luther had to flee for his life after his declaration at the Diet of Worms. Persecution against Christians continued throughout the centuries. Someone noted that more Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than the previous nineteen centuries.
But that was then. This is now. That certainly doesn’t happen today – or does it? What do you think life would be like for a Christian in Afghanistan right now? You can be arrested, tortured, and executed for being a Christian in North Korea. These conditions are still existent in the world today.
How thankful we are that we do not have to face that type of persecution in our country. Does that mean that there is no persecution for a Christian in the United States? Let me respond by asking you do you feel like you’re part of this small, shrinking group that still believes in God’s 6-day creation, that all human like is precious (including the unborn,) that there are two genders, that sex is for marriage and marriage is for a lifetime, that there really is a heaven and a hell? While it’s not illegal to be a Bible-believing Christian, it certainly not popular either. According to a Gallup poll, taken in 2017, 24% of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God. What this means is that not everyone shares your beliefs about the true God, your standard of right and wrong, your set of values. In fact, most don’t. So, you may not get arrested or executed, but you will face some pressures, some painful trials, some opposition from your co-workers, friends, and family. Peter wants us to be aware that these persecutions will happen. Don’t be surprised.
What are we to do about these fiery trials? Peter continues by saying, “Rejoice.” Wait! Did I hear that correctly? I’m supposed to rejoice when I’m undergoing these persecutions? How can that be? In the rest of our text, Peter is going to share with us why we can rejoice in times of persecution and why we can wear it as a badge of honor. The first reason is found in verse 13, “Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Peter points us ahead to when Jesus comes back again in glory. If things were so pleasant here on this earth, would we ever be longing to leave it to go to Jesus’ side? Every time we deal with persecution, it is a reminder that we are going to heaven. Peter uses the word “overjoyed” in speaking of heaven. We will be exuberantly happy. Think of your favorite team winning a championship. Do the fans in the stands just sit there and politely clap? No. They are on their feet, both hands in the air. They’re jumping and shouting for joy. That’s the picture that Peter uses to describe the joys of heaven. Yes, we may be persecuted here, but look what is waiting for us. Paul says, essentially, the same thing in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” This is the first reason that we can rejoice in the face of persecution: a time is coming when we will have unrestrained joy.
The second reason for this rejoicing is found in verses 14&16, “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 as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” Both verses remind us of the blessed state that we find ourselves in. Peter reminds us that we bear the name of Christian, that is to say, we belong to Christ. Obviously, this is not a state into which we are born. We are born belonging to the devil. We would have been eternally lost and separated from God because of the sinful nature we were born with and the sins that we have committed. However, we now belong to Christ. Christ has made us his own. This happened as Jesus came to the world to be our Savior. He faced all the temptations that came his way and he successfully resisted them. This perfect life was sacrificed on the cross to pay for all those times when we gave in to temptation. Because of that blood shed on the cross and Jesus’ resurrection, we have been made whole. The day that we were brought to faith, we were adopted into God’s family. The fact that we have faith shows us that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on [us].” If I still belonged to the devil, would he try to persecute me? No, he would leave me alone and let me be comfortable in my life. The fact that I face persecution is a reminder that I am God’s own.
Just as a side note, this is not to say that we go out of our way to be persecuted. We don’t go around being as obnoxious as we can, so that we have troubles. The fact of the matter is that, as Christians, we don’t have to go looking for persecution. As we live our Christian lives, it will find us. However, we can rejoice and wear it as a badge of honor, because it reminds us that we belong to God.
The third reason that we can rejoice in persecution is found in verses 17&18, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; 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?’ Peter points ahead to the Judgment Day when all will have to stand before Christ. If we think back to Matthew 25:31-46, we see the scene of Judgment Day. Peter notes that judgment begins with God’s household. In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks, first, to the believers. He says to them, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) The fact that “it is hard for the righteous to be saved,” reminds us that this is something that they could not do on their own. The salvation had to come from outside of them. It was hard because it cost Jesus his life. Yet, the fact is that the righteous are saved. Then, Peter goes on to point to those “who do not obey the gospel of God,” “to the ungodly and the sinner.” There will come a time when those who rejected God and his love for them, and persecuted God’s children will receive a horrible judgment from God. They will be cast away from his love into the punishment of hell. In other words, God reminds us that he sees what’s happening to his people. Ultimately, they will have to face the consequences for their actions. For this, we rejoice. Not because we have a vengeful spirit, rubbing our hands together in eager anticipation for that day when they get theirs. Rather, we rejoice that God is just and will carry out his will. We don’t seek revenge. We let God take care of what will happen. This is also a reminder of the fact that we want to keep on reaching out with the gospel message, even to those who are persecuting us. That person is also a soul, whom Jesus came to save. We want to share the good news of Jesus Christ so that they may be brought to faith and spend their eternity with him.
Rather than waiting for God to take his vengeance on these people, Peter reminds us how we are to spend our time. “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (Verse 19) Peter is urging us to entrust our souls, our lives, and our whole beings into the care of God. We commit ourselves to our faithful Creator. He is “faithful.” He will keep every single promise that he has made to us. We can count on it. He is our “Creator.” He is the one who made the universe by speaking it into existence. He has the power to take care of us and to protect us. In the meanwhile, we keep living as a Christian in thanksgiving for all that God has done for you. Don’t worry about the persecutions you are facing. Peter tells us to rejoice. We can wear it as a badge of honor.
There is an old saying that goes, “Forewarned is forearmed.” This means that if we know what’s coming our way, we can be ready to face it. This morning, Peter does just that for us. He warns us what will happen to us as Christians. There will be persecution. There’s no getting around it. It will happen. However, we don’t have to let it crush us. Rather, as Peter encourages us, we can rejoice and wear it as a badge of honor. To that end, we pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to strengthen our faith, so that, with his help, we are able to stand firm. May he help us to that end. Amen.
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