The Persecuted Church
1 Peter 4: 12-16, 19
Question: What kind of adversity have you faced lately?
In 1 Peter 4: 12-16, 19, Peter explains to the church "four attitudes necessary in order to be victorious in persecution: One must expect it, rejoice in it, evaluate its cause, and entrust it to God".
I. "Expect persecution" (vs. 12)
In this passage, Peter warns the believers that there is coming a time when the church will face a more intense period of persecution. Everything we face should not be compared with the type of persecution Peter mentions. Some things we tend to bring on ourselves and therefore we suffer the repercussions or judgment by God because we have removed our focus from an eternal perspective to an earthly perspective (Rom. 5: 8). Only believers who are spiritually minded/equipped will be mentally ready for spiritual persecution. Bearing the name of Jesus requires the filling of the Holy Spirit (continuous study in God's Word, and continuous prayer). Those who consider the cross daily and our Lord’s coming will be prepared and not surprised or amazed by the fiery darts seeking to devour them. When Nero reigned: Christians were persecuted to the greatest extent. "They were blamed for the burning of Rome; they received harsh punishment; they were used as living torches to light the imperial gardens at night." Peter encouraged the believers not to be surprised when they were found and taken captive, but to be strong in the Lord. Eph. 6:10-18 says: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. I'm sure that you have been blamed for things you have not done. Or, most likely, because of our human flaws, misunderstood. Some of you may know someone who risked his/her life for Christ. Thanks be to God for the many blessings and freedoms we have here in America!! In communist countries, some are persecuted for praying or even for having a Bible in their home. The bible says that we have an adversary who seeks whom he may devour. The idea is that we must expect persecution as believers and be encouraged that we can endure. A mind that’s mentally ready, one that has been transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:1, 2), and one who uses prayer as the source to connect with the living God will be able to fight with courage beyond strength. We must also continue to encourage others to persevere knowing that his labor is not in vain.
II. "Rejoice in persecution" (v.13)
Matt. 5:11: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Jesus reminds us that we are blessed when we're persecuted because persecution produces Christ-like character in us. There are several reasons why one should rejoice:
- "Persecution takes our eyes off of earthly rewards" (there are times when you may not get a compliment or pat on the back): Col. 3:2 says: Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
- "Persecution strips away superficial believers" (our dedication should be to the Lord and not men). Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10: We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus be made manifest in our body. We should reflect Jesus and not self.
- "It strengthens the faith of those who endure." Romans 5:4: ...we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed (increases our faith, motivates us to continue on in Christ, gives us confidence, peace, and assurance); because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
- "It serves as an example to others who follow:" Paul said: follow me as I follow Christ. People are watching what we say and what we do. They are watching our attitude, our lifestyle, and our influence, and when we disappoint them, they are turned off from God. We must remember that God's reputation is at stake and therefore we must be responsible in our walk so that the world may be drawn to Christ.
Romans 8:17: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. This verse puts our lives into perspective. It keeps us focused on our earthly purpose, as well as our eternal destiny. We are encouraged to endure hardship with courage because the sufferings we face on earth is nothing in comparison to God’s glory in heaven. Peter encouraged the people to rejoice and be of good cheer. " Life is like a vapor; we’re here today and gone tomorrow." So even in our suffering, we have much to rejoice about because we have a heavenly perspective. We must enjoy the beauty of each moment so that our list of regrets are few.
III. "Evaluate the reasons we are persecuted" (v.14-15)
We must have understanding for those who persecute us. Yes, we must understand where they are and pray for their salvation or their maturity. Jesus was persecuted and therefore, believers are not exempt from persecution. One indication that you are in God’s will or doing what is right is that you will face various types of persecution. Peter stressed that persecution was no excuse to commit crimes or retaliate against what was taken place at the time. These Christians experienced physical violence, and their property was stolen. Peter encouraged them to just be who they are called to be and to hold their peace. There are times when we have to hold our tongue and consider the cross (Heb. 12:1-2). Peter said if you retaliate you will bring judgment on yourselves. Peter warned that just as they shouldn't suffer as murderers or thieves, they also must not suffer as busybodies. Busybody is just a cute word for gossiper. Busybodies are people who look out for his own interest. A busybody or gossiper is one who takes information and uses it against another. They are subject to slander. They rob others of their character and for this, they will be judged. This type of behavior misrepresent the body, misrepresent the person's identity in Christ, and it is a misrepresentation of Christ Himself. 1 Thessalonians 4:10, 11 is pretty clear: "But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing." God desires for us to be mature so that we may experience the spiritual blessings of love, joy, contentment peace. We must always represent and take into consideration the reasons we are persecuted.
IV. "Entrust our persecution to God" (v. 16, 19)
"Commit is a banking term. It means to deposit for safekeeping." We must deposit our souls to God for safekeeping. Our lives are an investment for eternal rewards. God knows our heart and we can trust Him to protect our character. He is our faithful Creator. Peter used the term Creator to remind the readers of their commitment to giving back to God what He has entrusted to them. He's given us everything we have; our children, spouse, finances, jobs, homes; etc. We are His servants, created for His purpose; therefore, He knows what's best for His people. Suffering is apart of the will of God. Suffering as Christians remind us that we are not our own, we were bought with a price and Jesus paid the penalty for us all. Gal. 2: 20 says: I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Suffering reminds us that as Jesus suffered, we also will suffer; therefore, this kind of suffering is good. We must look at this suffering as a moment in time and consider ourselves blessed. Peter is simply saying that God allows persecution as a disciplinary judgment to purify the lives of those in God’s family. He’s maturing us. Peter encouraged suffering saints to endure through the exercise of Christ-like faith. As Christ committed and trusted the Father with His life, so should we commit our lives to our Creator, our Heavenly Father. No matter how difficult the situation, we must continue to do good, knowing that we can handle whatever comes our way because we have God the Father, God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:3 to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus
Lord, help us to consider the cross whenever we face persecution. Help us to have a Christ-like faith that you will always give us the strength to endure, in Jesus' name we ask, AMEN!
Encourage and Be Encouraged!
Resources used: Bible Knowledge Commentary, Pulpit Commentary