The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
April 3, 2011


1) 1 Peter 4:11-13 (Tom Edwards)


1 Peter 4:11-13
by Tom Edwards

After pointing out how one is to speak in 1 Peter 4:11, Peter then goes on to show how one is to serve in the same verse.  One is to do so "by the strength which God supplies."  So the Lord not only supplies the message that is to be taught, but also the strength in which to serve with.  One way in which the Lord strengthens His people is through His word.  In Acts 15:32, for example, Judas and Silas, who were prophets, "encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message."  And Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders, during his farewell address, by commending them to God "...and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

In 1 Peter 4:11, the KJV uses the phrase "...if any man minister"; but this, of course, is not referring to merely a preacher.  For as we have seen, every Christian is to be a "minister," for that term simply means "servant."  It, therefore, is not a word that is used exclusively for a preacher.  In this passage, the NASB renders the phrase "if any man minister" as "whoever serves."

Peter also gives a good reason why one is to speak as the oracles of God and serve with the strength which God supplies in 1 Peter 4:11: "so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." 

If man, therefore, is merely teaching worldly philosophies or human creeds, will God be glorified in that?  When religious bodies wear human names, such as the "Lutheran Church" or the "Wesleyan Church," or some other man-made title -- rather than using a name the New Testament shows for the church -- who is being honored and glorified then?  We must show our reverence to God by respecting His authority by doing things His way -- rather than merely our own. 

Glorifying the Lord should be one of our chief concerns.  For notice how much it is to be a part of our lives, according to 1 Corinthians 10:31: "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

This goes along with our primary purpose for being here on earth, which is shown in Ecclesiastes 12:13: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

We should also want to encourage others to do the same, by the life in which we live, as Jesus shows in Matthew 5:16: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Glorifying the Lord, in 1 Peter 4:11, is seen in connection with teaching His word and serving Him.  Compare this to what we see about the Holy Spirit in John 16:13,14: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you."  It appears from this passage that the Holy Spirit glorified God through what was taught -- and this is what we just saw with regard to the Christians in 1 Peter 4:11. 

We not only glorify God by what we say, but also by what we do -- or do not do, in the case of 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.  Here Paul states, "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

Peter refers to the Lord in 1 Peter 4:11 as one "to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."   In this verse, "dominion" is also rendered as "power" in some other translations.  It refers to the Lord's authority, His rule.  For example, in Matthew 28:18, the Lord states,  "...'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'"  While many Bible versions render that as "authority," many also use the term "power."

We have seen that the phrase "the firstborn of all creation" in Colossians 1:15 is figuratively used to show of the Lord's superior position over all creation.  For He truly has been exalted above all, as Paul also brings out in Philippians 2:9-11. 

After exhorting the brethren to serve one another with the gift they received as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, to speak the oracles of God and serve in the Lord's strength, so that God may be glorified, Peter then goes on to warn them of intense persecution in 1 Peter 4:12-14.  He begins this by saying, "Beloved, 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." 

"Beloved" is in the plural.  So this is a term that Peter is using to express his concern and sympathy toward these saints who would suffer for the cause of Christ.  It is from the Greek word "agapetos," and is related to the word "agapao," which Thayer shows one of the definitions to be "to love dearly."  

Peter speaks of the "fiery ordeal" among them.  They were not to think of it as being a "strange thing."  "Strange" is from the Greek word "xenos."  Commenting on this, Guy N. Woods writes that this word "suggests that which is foreign, alien; these suffering disciples were not to regard their trials as foreign to the cause they had espoused, but as common to it and characteristic of it."

As we think about that last part, consider 2 Timothy 3:12: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."   Note that Paul does not say that the Christian who desires to live godly might be persecuted.  Rather, he says the one who does so "will be persecuted."

This reminds us, too, of what the Lord had told His apostles in John 15:18-21, that "...If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you...."  The Christian needs to be willing to suffer with Christ.  Paul also shows this in Romans 8:16,17: "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,  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."  It was while on his first missionary journey, and in Asia Minor (where these brethren now are, whom Peter is addressing) that the apostle Paul told the brethren in Acts 14:22 that "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."

This "fiery ordeal" was to test them, which seems to be an allusion to the process of testing precious ores by fire.  As Woods continues on this verse, he states, "The fiery trial of persecution was not a thing alien to their profession; it was their home portion in this life, its design being to prove (test) them. The figure here used is that of gold ore cast into a crucible for the purpose of separating the worthless dross from the precious metal.  This illustration is a frequent one in the Bible."  For instance, take a look at Proverbs 17:3: "The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts."  "For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined" (Psa. 66:10).  Also, Isaiah 48:10:  "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction."  As you probably recall, this connection of trials and testing is what Peter had brought out in the very first chapter (1 Peter 1:6-9). 

These two words "fiery ordeal" (or "fiery trial," as some other versions render it) are actually both from the same Greek word, "purosis," which is used in just two other passages of the NT -- Revelation 18:9,18 -- and in those places, translated as "burning."  Thayer shows the literal, as well as figurative use of this word: "1) a burning 1a) the burning by which metals are roasted and reduced  1b) by a figure drawn from a refiner's fire  1b1) calamities or trials that test the character." 

Since this word can express a literal fire, as well as a figurative one, we cannot be dogmatic on one or the other; but need to realize that either one -- and even both -- are not only possible, but also both express the severe trials in which many early Christians did undergo.  For some martyrs for Christ were put to death by means of a literal fire, while other Christians experienced other intense forms of persecution.  And even in a figurative sense, for a trial to be expressed as being "fiery," what could be worse than that?

Some folks might assert that since these "fiery ordeals" were for their testing, then it could not have been a literal fire which would consume them; but, rather, difficult trials that would help them to purify their faith.  But notice that the phrase is "fiery ordeal among you."  Therefore, if you were a Christian during that time and saw fellow Christians being given over to the flames to be burned alive, do you think that would be an intense challenge to your faith?  Would you deny Jesus Christ to avoid a similar fate?  Or would you go on acknowledging Him as your Savior -- regardless of the persecution and even torturous death that could lead to?

The Christian who  suffers does not suffer alone.  In 1 Peter 5:9, Peter writes, "...knowing  that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world."  Compare, too, what Jesus states in Matthew 5:10-12: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.  Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  When undergoing difficulties for the cause of Christ, we can find comfort in knowing that others have also done so -- and many to even a much greater degree than we ever have. 

And to whatever level the Christian suffers, he should especially be mindful that Christ had also suffered intensely -- and did so willingly.  So Peter  states in 1 Peter 4:13, "...to the degree that your share the sufferings of Christ...."  The worst degree that the Christians could suffer, could not be any worse than what the Lord had already willingly suffered. 

Paul was one who was certainly willing to endure much for the cause of the Lord.  In Galatians 6:17, Paul states, "From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus."  What were these brandmarks of Jesus that Paul wore?  Consider in 2 Corinthians 11:23-25 some of the things that Paul had been through: "...beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes [that's 195 lashes all together].  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned...."  Paul's body was probably terribly -- and permanently -- scarred from severe lacerations. 

In spite of whatever degree of suffering these early Christians would undergo, Peter exhorted them to "keep on rejoicing."  One reason why the Christian can react this way is because of what Peter had already pointed out about persecution in 1 Peter 1:7,  that our faith can be made better by it.  James also teaches a similar thing in James 1:2-4.  Note, too, what James goes on to say in verse 12: "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."

So it is not a case of rejoicing in the suffering per se; but, rather, they are rejoicing because they are suffering for the cause of Christ; and that puts them in league with Him.  As we noted earlier in Romans 8:17, if we suffer with Christ, we will also be glorified with Him. This we also see in the apostles who after being imprisoned and flogged in Acts 5:40,41, "...they went on their way...rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." 

Suffering for Christ's name is also what it means to take up one's cross to follow after Jesus (Matt. 16:24).  The cross we bear is not merely the every day problems of life; but, rather, it is those difficulties, those persecutions, those troubles that come as a result of serving the Lord -- troubles that we would never have experienced if we were not serving the Lord. 

Peter also gives a reason in 1 Peter 4:13 for why the Christian should rejoice even in spite of trials: "so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation."

In the parable of The Seed and the Sower, Jesus shows that not all would endure during times of trials: "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).  So we need to strive to overcome trials with God's help -- rather than letting them discourage us, or even cause us to give up.  For the Bible shows that need for keeping the faith, for persevering, for never giving up.  This we truly see demonstrated in the life of Paul who, according to 2 Timothy 4:7, had "..fought the good fight...finished the course...[and had] kept the faith." 

The need for this kind of perseverance can also be seen in Hebrews 10:36-39, where the writer declares that it is after we "have done the will of God" that we "may receive what was promised."  And if one does persevere, as Peter shows, then there will be rejoicing for that one "at the revelation" of Christ's glory, which is referring to the Lord's second coming, when all will be taken up to meet the Lord.  It will be a time, according to 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, that will be a terrible day for the lost, but a great day of rejoicing for all the redeemed.  And not only will this be a time of rejoicing of the individual for his own salvation, but also for the salvation of others, as Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 2:19,20: "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy."

So, in summing up today's lesson, we must continue to look to God through submission to His word that He may then strengthen us in our service to Him, which brings glory to His name.  This kind of faithfulness is to be carried out even in spite of any persecution it might bring; and when it does result in that, the Christian should not be surprised -- nor discouraged.  For though an adversity, trials can still work toward the good of the Christian who remains faithful unto the Lord.  For trials can help to purify and strengthen.  In addition, when the Christian suffers for righteousness' sake, there is comfort to the child of God in knowing that others before us have also done likewise -- and even our Savior who suffered and bled and died that our sins might be blotted out and our souls saved.  Lastly, since forgiveness is the greatest need of all and, therefore, the greatest blessing, the faithful Christian, in spite of adversity, can truly rejoice in the Lord and look forward to that blessed time when Christ will return -- and which is more sure than tomorrow's sunrise!

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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