Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints of God which were scattered through Asia and the surrounding region. More specifically today’s passage is found in the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:1-6).
“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise you dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:7-11).
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye: for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that ye may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:1-11).
“By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son. Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Peter 5:12-14).
When you come to the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter you will continue to encounter a tremendous amount of language surrounding the suffering of these dear saints to whom the apostle was writing. In all reality the more you read this particular epistle the more you will be brought face to face with the motif of suffering that lies at the very heart of this particular epistle. In fact you cannot read this first epistle written by the apostle Peter and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality of the apostle addressing and speaking unto these saints concerning the suffering that would indeed be faced within this life. What’s more is that it was the apostle Paul who emphatically declared that all who are godly and wish to be godly in this life can and will experience suffering. What’s more is the apostle Paul would also declare that we must through many trials and troubles enter into the kingdom of heaven. Even Jesus Himself declared unto His disciples how in this world we would have many troubles but to not fear because He has overcome the world. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that suffering is indeed an inevitable part of living our lives as the saints of God—and more importantly as disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the Lord Jesus who not only declared unto His disciples how they would be put out of the synagogues but it was also Jesus who declared that they would be hated of all men and all nations for His name’s sake.
The more you read the words which are found in the New Testament the more you will be brought face to face with the truly wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the suffering of the saints of God. It is absolutely impossible to separate walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciples and suffering in the flesh. What makes the reality the disciples of Jesus—those who walked with and followed Him for three years—so incredibly unique is that although they might have witnessed and beheld the opposition, the resistance, the accusation and the persecution of the Jews and the religious system of that day toward Jesus they were somewhat shielded from experiencing it themselves. In fact I would dare the closest they came to experiencing any resistance, opposition, affliction, persecution and suffering was when the religious elite asked Jesus how and why His disciples would eat with unwashed hands. For the most part during those three and a half years the Lord Jesus Christ was the primary target of the opposition, the persecution and the affliction of the Jews and the religious elite during those days. For three and a half years the Jews vehemently opposed the Lord Jesus—not only for His words but also for His works. The Jews not only had a difficult time with Jesus healing on the sabbath day but they also had an incredibly difficult time with the Lord Jesus professing and proclaiming God was His Father.
As I sit here today thinking about the day of Pentecost and the arrival of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that the arrival of the Holy Spirit was almost synonymous with persecution. There are those who would read the New Testament book of Acts and would seek to draw some type of distinction between the indwelling and baptism of the Holy Spirit and suffering and yet if there is one thing this book reveals it’s that suffering and the presence of the Holy Spirit are intrinsically and uniquely linked and connected together. Many within our churches today equate the person and presence of the Holy Spirit with speaking with other tongues and with signs, wonders and miracles and while there is indeed that element surrounding the manifestation of the Holy Spirit there is something else which many fail to recognize and understand. The more you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more you will be brought face to face with the fact that with the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and the arrival of the Holy Spirit the same affliction, the same opposition, the same resistance and the same persecution which was directed toward the Lord Jesus during those three and a half years would now be directed toward His apostles and the spiritual body that would be prepared for Him upon the earth. The book of Acts paints a very clear and powerful picture concerning the early church together with the apostles and how it would initially be the apostles who would experience the resistance and persecution of the religious elite during those days. Eventually, however, that persecution would transition beyond just the apostles as there would break out in Jerusalem a great persecution against the church itself.
The more you read the words which are found within this first epistle written by the apostle Peter the more you can and will encounter the tremendous truth surrounding his understanding of suffering within the lives of the saints of God. What’s more is the apostle Peter would indeed be no stranger to suffering as he personally experienced the persecution and resistance of the religious leaders in Jerusalem after the day of Pentecost. From the moment the man who was lame and sat at the Gate called Beautiful at the Temple of the Lord experiencing healing within his physical body the religious leaders would try and silence the voice and message of the apostles. This would initially be done by imprisoning them, however, the living God would send His angel to deliver and bring them forth out of prison to once more stand in the court of the Temple and preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the religious leaders saw and beheld this they would resort to beating and threatening the apostles and commanding them to no longer preach in the name of this Jesus of Nazareth. Of course we know and understand that the apostles would speak unto them concerning their need to obey the living God rather than men. What makes this all the more compelling—particularly and especially when you consider the apostle Peter himself—is that in the twelfth chapter of the book of Acts you will find Herod putting to death James the brother of John with the sword. When Herod saw that this thing pleased the Jews he proceeded to add to his evil and wickedness and imprison the apostle Peter. Herod would have the apostle Peter imprisoned intending on bringing him forth the next day and perhaps even doing the same thing to him he had done to James the brother of Jesus.
As you continue reading the narrative of the apostle Peter within the book of Acts you will find that although Herod had indeed imprisoned him in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and had him secured in the prison between two guards and in the innermost prison the living God would send another angel to perform a prison break. It would be in the twelfth chapter where we encounter the second supernatural and divine prison break within the book of Acts. What’s more is the apostle Peter would indeed be a part of both of these supernatural prison breaks as he would witness that first prison break after the religious leaders imprisoned both he and the rest of the apostles. Now we have the living God initiating another prison break after sending His angel to deliver and bring forth the apostle Peter from the midst of the prison. Not only this but the living God didn’t merely deliver the apostle Peter from prison but He also delivered him out of the hand of Herod himself. You cannot read the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the book of Acts and not encounter the truly unique and captivating truth that this apostle would indeed find himself in prison—not once but twice. It would be on this second occasion the angel of the Lord would smite the apostle Peter while he was sleeping between two guards. Immediately his chains and shackles would fall from his physical person and he was commanded to get dressed and come with him. The angel would lead the apostle Peter past sleeping guards and would lead him out of the prison itself unto the gate of the city. The gate of the city would open of its own accord and the apostle Peter would continue to move forth with the angel sent by the living God. Eventually the angel of the LORD disappeared and the apostle Peter realized that the Lord had sent His angel to deliver him out of the hand of Herod the Great.
When we read the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints which were scattered throughout Asia and the surrounding region we find the apostle Peter writing to a people who were scattered, sojourning, suffering and struggling. This is something we have a great need to recognize and understand for if you want to truly understand the words which are present in this epistle you must needs understand it was written unto those who were scattered within and upon the earth who were sojourning in the midst of it as strangers and pilgrims. It would be because they were strangers and pilgrims in this world and because this world was not their own they would be admonished and instructed to endure hardship, suffering, affliction and persecution as good disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is absolutely impossible to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding these saints whom the apostle Peter was writing to and the incredible amount of suffering they experienced. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear whether or not some of these saints to whom the apostle Peter wrote were those who were originally part of the saints and brethren in the city of Jerusalem when the great persecution broke out against them in the wake of the death of Stephen. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear concerning those to whom the apostle Peter wrote and whether or not they were such who experienced the great persecution which was manifested in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and which forced the saints and brethren to be scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. What we do know, however, is that these dear saints were those who were not only scattered but who were also suffering in the flesh in this life.
THE SUFFERING CHRIST! THE SUFFERING APOSTLE! THE SUFFERING CHURCH! If you wish to understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize that while at the very heart of it is the suffering and affliction of the saints of God there was another suffering that was and still is intrinsically linked to the suffering of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Beginning to read with and from the first verse of the fourth chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Peter writing and speaking of another suffering—a suffering that was experienced in the flesh and yet was such which they had not experienced themselves. Beginning with the first verse of the fourth chapter the apostle Peter writes and speaks unto these dear saints concerning the suffering of the Lord Jesus and how while in the flesh He would experience tremendous suffering in the flesh—first through persecution and affliction of the Jews and religious system of that day and secondly at the hands of those who would smite, beat, scourge, torture, mock and ridicule Him before He would ultimately be crucified upon the cross atop Calvary outside the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Peter made it perfectly and abundantly clear the Lord Jesus Christ did indeed suffer in the flesh—and not only suffered but suffered to the point of death at the hands of evil and wicked men. It was in the first verse of the fourth chapter the apostle Peter wrote concerning Christ suffering in the flesh and how it was because He suffered in the flesh we are to arm ourselves with the same mind as those who have suffered in the flesh have ceased from sin.
I am absolutely convinced that in order to truly understand the words which are found within this epistle written by the apostle Peter it is necessary to turn and direct our attention to the words which are found in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. What’s more is I would dare say we have a great need to read and consider the words which are found in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. It is in this New Testament epistle we encounter and experience the author writing and speaking of the Lord Jesus coming and being manifested in the flesh for the purpose of suffering and suffering unto death. It is in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah we first encounter and come face to face with the suffering Servant and the suffering Messiah who would suffer according to the foreknowledge and divine pleasure and will of the living God. It would be the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews who would indeed write unto their audience how it was necessary for the Lord Jesus Christ to come in the flesh and to suffer in the flesh unto death for the sake and benefit of you and I as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Having said this I invite you to turn and direct your attention to the following words which are found in each of these books of the Bible beginning with those found in the prophetic book of Isaiah:
“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of man, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12).
“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that though death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).
“So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; thou he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:5-10).
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that ye should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of man; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:24-28).
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Hebrews 13:12-13).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for there would be those who think and feel that Jesus suffered in the flesh that we wouldn’t have to. What’s more is there are actually those who think and even believe that the Lord Jesus died on the cross and tasted death so that we ourselves wouldn’t have to. What makes this truly unique when you consider it is when you consider the fact that the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews declared that it is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgment. Death is an inevitable part of life and for most there will come that moment when they pass from this life unto the next and enter into the realm of eternity. Having said this I find it necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ and how although He suffered in the flesh once and died upon the cross once that would not mean that we are exempt and immune from carrying our own cross. It was indeed true the Lord Jesus carried His cross and endured the shame and suffering associated with it, however, what we must needs recognize and understand is that before the cross was ever understood to be an instrument of His own suffering and death—at least in terms of His revealing it unto His disciples and actually taking up and carrying His cross—it was a symbol of discipleship. It would be in the tenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the Lord Jesus speaking unto his disciples—and not only speaking unto them but speaking unto them concerning discipleship and how at the very heart of discipleship is the cross:
“But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the counsils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numberd. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:17-33).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).
Please pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they bring us face to face with the cross—not solely as the instrument of Christ’s sufferings and death but also as an instrument of discipleship. If you read the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus repeatedly teaching His disciples how He must needs suffer in the flesh, be scourged, be mocked and ridiculed and ultimately put to death before being raised to death on the third day. Eventually Jesus would even allude to the instrument that would be used for His death and how He would indeed suffer and be crucified upon a cruel wooden cross. Jesus knew that He would suffer in the flesh and He knew that it was for this purpose that He had indeed come in the flesh—not only to suffer but also to suffer and taste death in the form of flesh and blood as a man. With this being said there is a great need for us to recognize and understand that the cross is not solely the instrument that was used for the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus but it is an instrument and symbol of our discipleship as those who walk with and follow Him. Before the Lord Jesus ever indicated the cross would be the instrument of His own death He indicated that the cross was something directly linked and connected to self-denial, coming after Him, and following Him. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for when we think about the cross we dare not and must not think of it solely in terms of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus while simultaneously leaving ourselves out of the equation.
As I continue in this writing I find it absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the words found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter. The words which we find here within this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the suffering, the struggling and the affliction and trials which these dear saints were facing and experiencing in the flesh in this life. You cannot read the words which are found within this epistle and not encounter and come face to face with the truly wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the suffering of the saints of God which were scattered abroad throughout the earth—specifically within Asia and the surrounding region. At the very heart of this epistle are those who were scattered upon the earth, those who were sojourning as pilgrims within the earth and as those who were suffering in the flesh. It is absolutely impossible to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not come face to face with a tremendous and powerful picture of the suffering and struggles of these saints in the flesh. The apostle Peter who had himself experienced a tremendous amount of suffering in the flesh himself sought to admonish these dear saints and encourage them in the midst of their own suffering. The apostle Peter undoubtedly recognized and understood these saints were suffering and struggling in the flesh and sought to encourage them in the midst of that suffering. What we must needs understand is that it was never the desire, will or intention of the living God to deliver His saints from suffering in that they not experience but rather deliver them through their suffering. Oh there would be those who would like to think it is the will of God to deliver us from suffering in the flesh and yet the truth of the matter is that the living God has always delivered His people through their suffering rather than deliver them from their suffering.
If you begin reading with and from the first chapter of this epistle you can and will be brought face to face with the undeniable truth surrounding the suffering, the affliction and the trials these dear saints would themselves face and experience within this life in the flesh. You cannot read the words found in this epistle and not come face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding these saints who were scattered abroad throughout the face of the earth and how they were indeed experiencing and walking through suffering and struggling in this life. This very epistle has at the very core of it powerful encouragement and instruction given unto these dear saints concerning their suffering and struggling which we as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize and understand. There is absolutely no denying the truth about what is found within this epistle as what is before us is a truly wonderful picture of the reality of suffering. There were those to whom the apostle Peter wrote in this epistle who were perhaps feeling the pressure, the burden, and the weight of the suffering which they would face in the flesh. I would dare say there were those who were present in the midst of Asia to whom the apostle Peter wrote who were indeed and were in fact walking through an incredibly difficult period of suffering and affliction. The apostle Peter desired to encourage and instruct these dear saints in the midst of their suffering, affliction, trials, troubles and tribulations. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the different references in this epistle concerning the suffering and affliction of these dear saints of the living God:
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love: in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray: but are not returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:19-25).
“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (1 Peter 3:13-17).
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Please do not miss the words and language that is found within each of these passages of Scripture for within them you will find that at the very center of the suffering and affliction the saints were facing in this life was something much deeper—something much greater and of more value than anything they could even think or imagine. It is within the first and fourth chapters of this particular epistle the apostle Peter writes and speaks of something concerning their faith—and not only concerning their faith but concerning something that was directly linked and connected to their faith. If you read the first chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Peter writing and speaking of “the trial of your faith” while in the fourth chapter you will find the apostle Peter writing concerning “the fiery trial which is to try you.” Not only this but the apostle Peter would also write in the first chapter concerning this trial of faith as being a trial made by and with fire as he would write the words “though it be tried with fire.” There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for within this epistle we find the apostle Peter writing of the end of their faith which was the salvation of their souls in the last day. With this being said, however, the apostle Peter seems to directly link the end of their faith with the trial of their faith. This is something we have great need to recognize and pay close attention to for within this epistle the apostle seems to suggest that we cannot truly expect to experience the end of our faith without being willing to walk through and experience the trial of our faith.
I have written before and it warrants writing again how faith which cannot be tested cannot be trusted. There is not a doubt in my mind that there can and there will be times within our lives when our faith can and will be tested—and not only tested but put on trial and that trial by fire. The apostle Peter emphatically writes unto these dear saints concerning the testing and trial of their faith and how that trial was such that was by and through fire. This reminds me of the three Hebrews who were in the land of the Chaldeans and in the city of Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar set up the golden image in the plain of Dura. Nebuchadnezzar issued a decree that whenever anyone heard the sound of music playing in the midst of the land they were to fall down and worship the image made of gold which he had made and set up in the midst of the land. There were, however, three Hebrews who were entirely and altogether unwilling to bow down and worship this golden image—and not only refused to bow down and worship the image but also declared such in the company and presence of the king and all his officials. These three men knew the judgment and punishment for refusing to bow down and worship the golden image and knew that anyone who refused to bow down and worship this image would be cast into the fiery furnace. When standing before the king these three Hebrews boldly and emphatically declared unto Nebuchadnezzar that their God was able to deliver them out of his hand and from the fiery furnace, however, if He did not and they died in the midst of the furnace they would not bow down and worship the golden image. Enraged and outraged by their insolence the king ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than before and had these men cast bound and in their clothes into the fiery furnace.
As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, however, you will find that although these three Hebrews would indeed be bound and cast alive in their royal garments into the fiery furnace the king would look in amazement and behold four men loose and walking in the midst of the fire. Absolutely stunned and amazed the king asked if they had not cast three men into the midst of the fiery furnace only to discover that there were four men loose and walking in the midst of the furnace with one of the men being likened unto the Son of God. Completely and utterly amazed at what had taken place before his eyes and in his presence this king ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to come forth from the midst of the fiery furnace. Much to their amazement and astonishment they came forth from the fiery furnace completely and utterly untouched by the flames of fire. There was not a hair on their body singed, the smell of smoke was not upon them, they suffered no damage as a result of the fire, and their clothes were still in the same condition they were prior to their being bound and cast into the furnace. This is something important for us to recognize for there would be those who read this narrative and feel as though the living God should have delivered these three Hebrews from the fiery furnace. Such individuals would dare think and believe that the living God should have intervened while these three Hebrews stood before the king in his presence and kept them from being cast into the fiery furnace. The question I can’t help but ask when considering this narrative is what is the greater work of God—delivering these three Hebrews from the fiery furnace and keeping them from entering into it or allowing them to be cast into the fiery furnace, protecting and guarding them in the midst of it, and allowing them to come forth as pure gold from the midst of it.
When we think about the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter we must needs consider this trial of faith—this trial by fire if you will—in light of these three Hebrews being cast into the fiery furnace they were delivered through the flames of fire rather than delivered from the flames of fire. If we wish to speak of this trial of faith which comes by fire we must needs understand that it is not a trial whereby the Lord keeps us from walking through and experiencing suffering and affliction but rather how the Lord keeps us through it. The more we think about and experience the tremendous truth surrounding this “trial of faith” and “the fiery trial which is to try you” the more we are brought face to face with the incredible and powerful truth surrounding one of the most misguided and misunderstood thought processes within the minds of those who profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all reality I would dare say that those who make the profession they are and they desire to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and yet are not willing to suffer with Him are those who quite possibly have absolutely no understanding—both of the sufferings of Christ as well as their own sufferings in the flesh. There would be those who think and feel as though they can somehow be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and walk with and follow Him and not experience suffering in the flesh and yet such a way of thinking is not only false but it is also misleading and entirely and altogether false. We as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize that if we wish and desire to be those who are indeed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ we must also be willing to suffer with and for Him in the flesh.
Even as I am writing these words I can’t help but think about the countless men and women in Middle Eastern, African and even some Asian countries who are more than willing to suffer in the flesh together with the Lord Jesus Christ. There are men and women within these nations who make the profession and confession they are indeed those who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ and as a direct result of this they are willing to suffer in the flesh together with Him. Such individuals are willing to endure torture, starvation, imprisonment, beatings, and even death for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. All you have to do is read Fox’s Book of Martyrs and even the book I Am N and you will read narrative after narrative of those who not only have suffered in the flesh but are also willing to continue to suffer in the flesh. I recently watched the teaching series on I Am In and listened to the audio book and I was entirely and altogether astonished and amazed at the pure love these men and women had for the Lord Jesus and how that love compelled and propelled them to a willingness to suffer with and for the Lord Jesus Christ. These men and women were willing to endure whatever came against them for the sake of walking with and pleasing the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh this is something we must needs pay close attention to when considering how we live our lives in this generation for we dare not and must not be those who are unwilling to walk through and experience suffering. What’s more is that there is a great and inherent danger surrounding those who dare to think they can somehow safeguard and protect themselves from suffering in the flesh. Not only this but there are those who are entirely and altogether shocked, stunned and surprised when they experience even the smallest degree of suffering in the flesh in this life. There are those among us who are not only shocked when they find themselves in the midst of suffering but also dare allow themselves to grow and become offended in the midst of it.
When you read the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this New Testament epistle you will find the apostle Peter emphatically declaring unto these dear saints that they ought not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try them as though some strange thing happened to them. This is something we must needs recognize and understand within our hearts and souls for that which the apostle Peter was indeed writing and speaking unto these saints about was the misguided idea and notion that we cannot and ought not face and experience suffering in the flesh. The apostle Peter admonished and instructed these dear saints not to be surprised by suffering nor to be shocked by affliction as though it was something that would and could not come upon them. What’s more is the apostle Peter seemed to encourage these saints to anticipate and expect suffering in the flesh. What’s more is that you almost get the sense the apostle Peter was encouraging these saints to be willing to lose and give up everything in this life for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—their rights, their homes, their families, their possessions, their freedoms and even their very own lives. There is a strong undercurrent and theme found within this passage of Scripture concerning that those who make the profession and declaration that they are indeed disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs come to terms with the fact that walking with and following Him might very well mean that they forfeit any and all freedoms and rights they think they have in this life for the sake of the name, the honor and the glory of Christ.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous truth surrounding our expectation and anticipation of suffering, of affliction, of trials, of troubles and of tribulation in this life. It is of great importance that we as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ live our lives with full anticipation that all who desire to live godly can and will suffer and experience troubles and tribulation in this life. There are a number of men and women within our churches today who are not only surprised by suffering but also grow angry at God and even offended when it touches their quiet, prim, proper, peaceful and comfortable lives. Perhaps one of the greatest questions I can’t help but ask as I sit here today is what would happen to countless churches and countless men and women in these last days if and/or when suffering completely upends their quiet and comfortable lives. What would happen if countless men and women in this nation all of a sudden experienced suffering and persecution on a massive scale—on a level that is found in Middle Eastern, African and Asian counties? How would men and women in many of our churches react and respond if suffering all of a sudden came upon them and completely overwhelmed and consumed their lives? What if all their freedoms, rights and liberties were stripped and they faced imprisonment as a result of their faith? The apostle Paul writes in the second epistle written unto the Thessalonian saints that there must needs come a falling away first and the one who restrains being removed and even the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the love of many growing cold and many growing offended. I would dare say that one of—if not the greatest reason why many men and women would grow and become offended in the last days is because suffering has been introduced in their lives and threatens absolutely everything they have known and experienced in this life.
We know that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the flesh and we know that He died upon the cross and there are countless men and women who are content with Him suffering in the flesh and Him dying on the cross. If and/or when it comes to suffering touching their own flesh and physical persons they lose their mind and all of a sudden don’t know how to cope with life any more. It is a great tragedy when men and women who profess to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ experienced and walk through suffering which they neither anticipated, desired or planned for. The more I read the words which are found in this first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints which were scattered the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely incredible truth that we are preparing to enter into dark and dangerous days when suffering, when affliction, when tribulations and even when opposition, resistance and suffering threaten every area and part of our lives. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are and will be prepared. We as the saints of God must needs arm ourselves with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus who not only embraced suffering in the flesh but endured it knowing the joy that was set before Him. Are we truly men and women who know and recognize that all who desire to be godly in this life can and will experience trials, troubles and tribulations and we must needs arm ourselves with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus who endured suffering and affliction for the joy that was set before Him. Oh that we would recognize and understand that there is indeed a joy that is set before us—the hope and joy of spending eternity in the presence of the living and eternal God.