August 10 Bible Studies for Life: Joyful Faith
Aug 5, 2014
By W. WILEY RICHARDS
1 Peter 4:12-19
As we progress in our study of Peter’s writings, placing the writing in historical contest can be helpful. Peter wrote under the shadow of a sobering prophecy. Following his restoration and commission by Jesus after His resurrection, a portion of Jesus’ words were foreboding.
Speaking to Peter, He said that “When thou shalt be old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” (John 21:18b). Jesus was indicating by what kind of death he would glorify God. Most interpreters believe the death would come by crucifixion. Peter could surely realize by 62 or 64 A.D., when he wrote his epistles, the time was quickly coming. He was probably martyred about 67 A.D. under Emperor Nero’s rampage against Christians.
The end time (v. 7) will be a time of paschal suffering (vv. 12-13). I use the word paschal carefully. The Bible speaks of Christ’s sufferings (v. 13). The word “Christ’s” is literally paschal, the lamb set aside at the Jewish Passover and applied to Jesus in the New Testament. Hence, “Christ’s sufferings” were those beatings and other harmful acts inflicted on Jesus prior to His crucifixion. Peter, perhaps in anticipation of his own martyrdom, could have been arming his hearers with strength to face the difficulties to come.
His language is loaded with allusions set forth by other writers. Paul used the same words in 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, in which the Bible says Christ will come with His “mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:10: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
We turn aside at this point and focus our attention on Christ’s sufferings. The expression is not unique as used by Peter. Second Corinthians 4:10 says, “[We are] always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” A similar thought is given in Philippians 3:10: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” All of these citations point to the opportunity of believers to bear evidence of our Lord’s death for sin.
Next, joyful faith is founded on the fact we suffer as a Christian (vv. 14-16). What to call the followers of Christ evolved only gradually. They were called by such names as followers of the Way (Acts 19:9; 22:4), disciples, brethren, saints and Nazarenes (Acts 24:5). The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (Acts 11:26). King Agrippa used the word (Acts 26:28). Peter alone used the word, in verse 16, “if any man suffer as a Christian.” For those suffering for the name of Christ, “the spirit of glory and of God” rests on them. Note the reference here to the work of the Trinity in verse 14.
Finally, a joyful faith, in spite of believers undergoing great tribulation, looks forward to the Lord’s end-time unveiling (vv. 17-19). You may be perplexed at saying the believer must go through intense tribulation at the end, in which judgment begins with the “house of God.” In the Bible, wrath is what God pours out on the unbelievers. Tribulation is what the unbelievers inflict on believers. Many verses state specifically that believers will go through tribulations. Matthew 24:9a says, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted.” A part of Acts 14:22 reads, “and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Peter foresaw a fiery trial as a future experience for believers (1 Pet. 4:12). Since believers are going through, and shall go through, persecutions as well as other tests of faith, the end-time tribulation can be the grandest test of all. As far as the fate of the unsaved is concerned, God has prepared a fiery eternity for them.
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