Sermon Preparation Guide

  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
    • Life is not about us, it’s about His glory. – I Peter 4:13 & 16
    • Identification with Christ may bring suffering, but in that is rejoicing and blessing. – I Peter 4:12-14
    • God is always faithful to His children who live rightly. – I Peter 4:17-19
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
    • How should God’s glory being at the center of your life change the way you live your life?
    • Is your identification with Christ as His follower open for all to see? What suffering might you experience for your faith, and how can you come to view that as a blessing and a source of rejoicing?
    • How can you trust yourself to a faithful God? Why is God worthy of your trust?What is the function of oversight leadership in the church?

Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Why should we not be surprised at suffering for faith in Jesus?
    • How is suffering for Christ a testing of one’s faith?
    • Why should one rejoice in suffering for Jesus? How can one rejoice in that way?
    • What does it mean to be blessed for being reviled for the name of Christ?
    • What are those activities and actions we are to avoid that would lead to suffering and God’s displeasure? Why are we to avoid such behaviors?
    • God is a judge. What will He judge one day? How is the follower of Jesus judged? How is the unbeliever judged?
    • In what ways is God faithful? What does it mean to entrust one’s soul to God?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
    • Are you suffering for being a follower of Jesus? If so, how?
    • Why should you not be afraid of suffering for being a follower of Jesus?
    • How can you rejoice in the midst of suffering for Jesus? What does it mean to rejoice in that way?
    • What behaviors must you avoid if you are a follower of Jesus? Why?
    • Are you ashamed to be identified with Jesus? If you are, then look again to your faith and whether it is real, and you are truly a child of God who placed his or her trust in Jesus.
    • What is God’s judgment of you in regard to your faith?
    • How can you entrust yourself to God and His faithfulness? How has He proven Himself to you to be faithful?Who do you think are the elders at your church? How would you describe them in terms of their character and spiritual walk?

Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?

There are those scholars who take the view that the actual letter Peter wrote just ended at our verse 11 of chapter 4, on the basis that verse 12 circles back to the theme of suffering, which Peter has already covered. There are no lack of speculations about this, including that 4:12-5:14 is actually a separate letter, or that these verses are an addendum to the letter already written and ending at 4:11 made necessary by new information, or that 4:12-5:14 was an addendum for a particular church in Asia minor, but was appended to what is 1:1-4:11 because the two were sent together to all the churches. Resolution of the foregoing is not the aim of these Notes; however it seems accurate to state that 4:12-5:14 continues Peter’s thoughts regarding the churches in Asia minor as to their needs in the face of suffering, and to come back to the theme really serves to round out his argument, look at suffering from yet another perspective, and summarize the whole point and then add directives regarding leadership and discipleship. These Notes will treat the final section of the text, 4:12-5:14 thusly.

Verse 12 gets more specific concerning the circumstances of suffering and what his readers were experiencing. Previously, the subject was referenced in a more tangential way (cf. I Peter 1:6; 2:12, 15; 3:9, 14, 16); now suffering gets full light shined on it: his readers are in the midst of a “fiery trial” which is, Peter states, for their “testing;” they share the suffering of rejection as did Jesus (I Peter 4:13); they are reviled (I Peter 4:14); and they suffer for the fact of being a Christian (I Peter 4:16). So, given the level of suffering and rejection Peter’s readers are experiencing for their faith, what more does Peter really have to say? Several things, to be sure, in fact he provides seven responses to the circumstances of his readers and how they should deal with them.

First, he indicates that they should not be surprised at suffering; it is like a refining fire that reveals the genuineness of their faith, or on the other hand, exposes its lack of genuineness (I Peter 4:12). The implication is that they should find that appropriate. Second, he indicates that suffering means they share in Jesus’ suffering (I Peter 4:13); as He was rejected, they are rejected, and they should consider that an honor and therefore rejoice both now and look forward to rejoicing in the end when Jesus’ glory is revealed (See Matthew 10:22). Third, he indicates that in suffering they are blessed because it means that God the Spirit indeed rests on them, the implication being that He will strengthen and protect them (I Peter 4:14). Fourth, believers should not engage in evil acts as a result of and in response to their suffering which to do so would invite further suffering (I Peter 4:15). They should not be murderers, thieves, evildoers, or even meddlers (poking into the business of others when not one’s concern). In short, believers should not bring suffering upon themselves as a result of evil behavior, nor should they lash out with evil behavior in response to suffering for Christ. Fifth, they should consider it an honor to be identified with Jesus Christ, and not feel ashamed (I Peter 4:16). Moreover, in that identification which has brought suffering, they should actually praise God. Sixth, because God judges sin and evil, they should keep in mind that He holds them responsible for their faith and the revelation of the gospel they have received (I Peter 4:17). They should know that they are judged now as followers of Jesus and thus not condemned, either in the present or on that future day of judgment, as opposed to those who do not follow Jesus who will be condemned. Their suffering is thus not a punishment; it serves rather to test them (see above) and purify them. Peter then quotes Proverbs 11:31 as a “proof text” from Scripture for what he has just stated, and to underscore the long view” perspective he has espoused from the start of his letter (I Peter 1:3-9). And seventh, they should quite simply entrust themselves to God in the midst of suffering, knowing that he will do and make all things right in the end because He is faithful (I Peter 4:19). By saying this, Peter echoes what he had already written about Jesus (I Peter 2:21-24) who had entrusted Himself to God even while dying on the cross. God will not abandon His children, even though they may suffer for their faith and are thus tested in that faith as part of God’s will and purpose. As one commentator (I Howard Marshall) has put it, “… it is right to say that God’s will for us is suffering because there is no other way that evil can be overcome.”

Suffering is certainly a difficult topic; and it was so for Peter’s readers in that they were in fact suffering already for their faith. Peter’s letter is thus not dealing with the theoretical but with the actual: His readers were daily having to deal with how to live out their faith in Jesus Christ in a hostile world that was persecuting them in various ways. In Peter’s writing, which is truly God’s words to His children both in Peter’s day and all since that day, we find the admonition that suffering and rejection for one’s identification with Jesus is not only to be expected, it is to be viewed as a test of faith, a purification of faith, and a proof of faith, as well as a context for blessing in the sense of being blessed and blessing God for the privilege of being His child. God is faithful and will save His children, just as He brought about Jesus’ resurrection and the defeat of sin and evil. So we can and should rejoice in suffering even if in tears, for such a circumstance reveals God’s glory, and the Spirit of glory rests on us. Such is the life of living hope, and a life that rests in His power for the now and for the future.