Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 4:19

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

The final verse in 1 Peter 4 sums up the section, but it also summarizes the central theme of the entire letter. You can see it for yourself in 1 Peter 4:19.

1 Peter 4:19

Peter’s primary theme throughout this letter has been the concept of suffering, and how the Christian should respond to it, and continue to serve Christ in spite of it. That is nothing surprising, because all believers will suffer, or have suffered, because of their faith in God. What is surprising here is that Peter indicates that this is God’s will.

This is not the first time he has alluded to this idea. In chapter 3, Peter gave us another glimpse that the reality of suffering is something that God can and will use for his glory and for our own growth.

At first glance, we are tempted to think that unjust suffering is not what God would want for our lives, and that unjust suffering is caused by the enemy. To a certain extent this is very true. But as we see in the book of Job, along with other passages of Scripture, God is in control of each and every situation, and he ultimately controls all of humanity, and even the enemy and his demons. In that regard, everything he allows to happen is within the span of his will.

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 4:17-18

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

Suffering because of our faith is never pleasant, and no one enjoys it, although we can find joy through the experience. However, it is definitely better than the alternative. Take a look at this week’s passage in 1 Peter 4:17-18.

1 Peter 4:17-18

Peter has spent a large majority of this chapter discussing the suffering and persecution that believers experience because of their faith in Christ. In these last verses of chapter four, he gives a comparison to those who do not believe.

There is a judgment coming, and Peter tells us it will begin with the family of God, or more literally, the house of God, the church. He used the same imagery back in chapter 2, verse 5, when he stated that we are being built into a spiritual house.

Many believe that he is referring here to the end of the present suffering that his readers were facing. Others take this to mean the final judgment to come when Christ returns. I don’t think it is an either/or statement, and is much more likely to be a both/and reference, pointing out that the believers were being purified by their suffering, and hinting that there was a greater judgment to come eventually.

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 4:14-16

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

Peter is close to wrapping up his thoughts on suffering in this chapter, however, he still has a few things to make clear to his readers. You can see what he has to say in 1 Peter 4:14-16.

1 Peter 4:14-16

One of the major themes through the letter of 1 Peter is how Christians are to bear up under suffering and persecution, and in particular, verbal abuse. Peter has addressed this topic multiple times, and given some solid encouragement in each instance: the accusations of unbelievers in 2:12, ignorant talk in 2:15, insults in 2:23, malicious speech in 3:16. Peter has made it clear that believers will face such things, and in this passage, he gives perhaps his most encouraging statement concerning such suffering.

He states, quite clearly, that if we suffer because of the name of Christ, we are blessed.

That may seem to go against all logic and coherent thought. Suffering and blessing are tied together? That seems crazy. But Peter is very clear when he says this.

To be sure, he distinguishes suffering for wrongdoing in the next verse, and that kind of action brings about what it deserves. But if you suffer for the sake of Christ, you are blessed. That seems hard to believe, but it isn’t the first time this thought has been demonstrated in Scripture.

In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus is teaching the Sermon on the Mount, and is listing the Beatitudes, when he says:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Why is this the case? Peter gives us the answer when he says, “for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” God is with his people, even in the midst of suffering and persecution.

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-13

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

Once again, Peter returns to the theme of suffering as a Christian, which is a common occurrence throughout this letter. This time, he pairs it with a call to rejoice. You can see his encouragement in 1 Peter 4:12-13.

1 Peter 4:12-13

The doxology that we looked at last week ended the previous section of this letter, and this passage marks the beginning of a new one for Peter’s readers to think about. Peter has returned to the theme of suffering, which is a common theme throughout this letter, and this section mirrors much of the previous section. This time, however, he seems to take it just a bit deeper, and he reminds us to rejoice.

The first thing Peter does is to remind his readers that suffering as a believer is inevitable, and that we should not be surprised by it. Back in verse 4, Peter stated that unbelievers think it strange when Christians do not participate in worldly behavior. Here, Peter uses the same word, indicating that suffering and persecution are not strange things that catch us off guard, but are things that are to be expected.

Suffering for our faith is a common theme through much of the New Testament, and we can see that it was very common throughout church history as well. We should not be surprised when it happens to us. And Peter tells us why.

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 4:10-11

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

Peter has just informed his readers that the return of Christ is coming, and that they need to be prepared, even though they may be facing persecution and suffering. I find it interesting that the very next thing he says is that they should be using their gifts to edify one another. Take a look for yourself in 1 Peter 4:10-11.

1 Peter 4:10-11

Although brief, and much shorter than the other New Testament passages on spiritual gifts, 1 Peter does touch on this topic, and gives some enlightening information about how we should be using our gifts. In the original Greek, this is still a part of the previous verse, and is one sentence. In the first part, Peter states that hospitality is one way of using the gifts God has given us. And Peter’s words here show that these gifts are given so that we may serve others.

Peter is very clear, as is Paul (Romans 12:6-8), that these gifts are give to us out of God’s grace. We are to be using them for God’s glory, to serve one another. Peter’s words here give the idea of stewardship, that our gifts are to be used, or managed, on behalf of the gift giver, who is God. We are to be using these gifts for his glory.

Peter seems to generalize the gifts here, while Paul lists them more specifically. Peter groups them into two categories, speaking and serving. When he states, “If anyone speaks,” he is referring to those with the gifts of preaching, teaching, and prophesying. Those who do so should be careful in their usage, because they are speaking on behalf of God, and should speak wisely.

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7-9

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

The entire letter of 1 Peter is focused on the persecuted church and those believers who are experience such times. Peter’s immediate audience was in the first century, but his words apply across time as well. In this week’s passage, he turns to some practical application of how to live in such times. Take a look for yourself in 1 Peter 4:7-9.

1 Peter 4:7-9

This brief section of Peter’s letter can be divided into four parts, and we will look at each one of them in turn. Peter is giving some practical instructions on how the persecuted believers should live, and how they should stand together as they face such times. Already, he has touched on their need to love one another, in 1:22-2:5, in 2:17, and in 3:8. In this passage, he returns to the idea of loving relationships.

The end of all things

He begins with a statement that closely parallels that of James 5:8. Whether or not he had read James’ letter is unknown, but makes little difference. Peter and James are like minded, along with Paul, and other leaders of the early church, in their belief that the Lord’s return was at hand. Of course, the question that comes to mind is this: Peter wrote this over two thousand years ago, so what does he mean by “near?”

In a general sense, Peter could be referring to the fact that all the prerequisite conditions had been satisfied, and Christ could return at any time. But this doesn’t really answer the question, because it fails to take into account Christ’s own statement in Mark 13:10 and Matthew 24:14 that all people will have had a chance to hear the message of the gospel before his return.

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 4:5-6

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

From one of the clearest statements Peter makes, which we looked at last week, we move to one of the most difficult statements to understand in his letter. It’s confusing, but it’s in there for a reason. You can see it for yourself in 1 Peter 4:5-6.

1 Peter 4:5-6

Peter has just given his readers a clear and concise statement about why they should abstain from living as the pagans did. He now gives the reason why. Those people who mistreat and persecute believers, and those who choose to live against God’s way, will one day have to answer for their actions. A day of reckoning is coming, and they will have to give an account to God on that day of judgment. This is a scriptural concept that is not isolated in Peter’s letters; it’s found all throughout the New Testament. Peter simply applies it to this specific group of abusive pagans in this context.

What many do not notice is that Peter’s continual references to the end times, and that coming judgment, are a common theme through his letters. Peter knows that Christ’s return is eminent, and he calls his readers to be ready. But take note of the fact that Peter is not addressing the unbelieving pagans in this statement. He is addressing believers. That is to encourage them to stand strong in the face of such treatment, knowing that God is in control, and to not succumb to such behavior themselves.

He then goes on to make a statement that has several different interpretations, much like his comments about Christ preaching to the spirits in prison back in chapter 3, verse 19. Here, Peter states that the message of the gospel was preached to the dead. There are three main interpretations of this concept among theologians and scholars.