Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 5:8-9

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

Once again, Peter returns to one of the major themes of this brief letter, the idea that we will experience suffering because of our faith. This time, he identifies the root cause of it. See it for yourself in 1 Peter 5:8-9.

1 Peter 5:8-9

This is not the first time that Peter encourages self-control in this letter either. He has done so already in 1:13 and 4:7. But this time, he adds to it and tells his readers to stay alert as well. This is a common instruction through out the New Testament, but is the first time Peter has used it. His reason for including it is that the enemy, the devil, is looking for any opportunity to trip us up.

For the first time, Peter identifies this enemy. It is Satan, the devil, who is behind all the suffering and persecution that believers face. Peter describes him as a lion, a very powerful and menacing image to first century readers. The lion is a powerful predator, and is very intimidating, especially when faced in the wild. Peter uses this metaphor to describe the enemy, and his pursuit of Christians. He is looking for any and every opportunity to trap us, to tempt us, and to devour us.

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 5:3-4

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

In the first two verses of chapter five, Peter gave a couple of contrasts to leaders and elders of the church. In this week’s passage, he completes that though and gives a rationale. Take a look at this passage in 1 Peter 5:3-4.

1 Peter 5:3-4

The first two contrasts were found in last week’s passage, and they dealt with one’s willingness to serve and not feeling pressure, and being eager to serve instead of doing it for the money. In verse three, Peter gives the third contrast.

While there are several other passage sin the New Testament that speak to leadership, and especially those who are elders or overseers in the church, Peter’s instructions here are worth paying close attention to. He doesn’t give a lot of information that isn’t found elsewhere, but they do seem to be very encouraging insights to his readers. Remember that Peter is writing to a primarily Gentile audience, and many of his readers may have been new to church leadership. Peter’s words here seem especially encouraging.

It’s also worth noting again that Peter calls leaders to nothing that isn’t applicable, and in fact instructed, to all Christians, whether in positions of leadership or not. Leaders just display such traits perhaps more publicly.

The third contrast that Peter gives is in verse 3. He instructs leaders in the area of authority: “Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

Memorize Scripture: 1 Peter 5:1-2

Hiding God’s Word In Our Hearts

As chapter five begins, Peter shifts from suffering as a Christian to the role of elders, or overseers. Take a look at this passage for yourself in 1 Peter 5:1-2.

1 Peter 5:1-2

It may seem a bit odd for Peter to shift to leadership here, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. In a time and place where persecution for being a Christian was a very real possibility, and probably a reality, strong spiritual leadership and solid relationships with that leadership was a must. The concept of relationship as already been seen as a thread through this letter, in such places as 1:22, 3:8, and 4:8-11, among others. For Peter to revisit it here is really no surprise at all.

He begins chapter 5 by speaking to the elders. This could mean just those who are older, since he will address those who are younger in verse 5, but that is probably not the case. Verses 2-4 pointedly indicate that he is speaking to leadership here, and encouraging them to lead well. He probably was familiar with Paul’s writing on the topic of elders, from 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and 5:17-19, Titus 1:5-9, and maybe even Acts 14:23 and 20:17-18.

Peter appeals to them as a fellow elder, as a witness to Christ’s sufferings, and as one who will share in the glory to come. He clearly compares such men to himself, and gives encouragement from this position of authority, and as a fellow shepherd. As Gentiles, Peter’s readers would have been familiar with this imagery, even if not as vividly as a Jewish audience would have been. They may have had opportunity to read some of Paul’s letters which spoke of being God’s flock, and the need to be shepherded. But Peter clearly reminds them that the flock is not their own; it is God’s flock, and they are simply shepherds, overseers, and leaders.

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.