Suffering as a Christian

Suffering as a Christian

Are we covenant members of a faithful church? Are we pressing on in the midst of suffering, enduring slander or worse for the cause of Christ? This strong medicine for our weak and wandering faith will prepare us faithfully for the days ahead.

When we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ read the Word of God with faith, we are pulling down the very power of heaven to bear on our earthly trials. Because the Word of God is pure and true, we can trust it with our lives: “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God speaking therein” (Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2). The Word of God calls us to “act differently . . . yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come” (WCF 14.2).

First Peter 4:12–19 is written in the rhetorical style of paraenesis—it offers strong encouragement to press on even when it hurts and to not change course because of intense suffering that we will experience. This strong exhortation pushes believers to grow into mature saints. In this passage, Peter commands us to do things that we cannot do without the Lord’s grace: to face the fiery trial with expectation that we will suffer (v. 12); to rejoice in the midst of suffering (v. 13); to interpret the slander that comes our way because of our strong stance for the Christian faith as a blessing from God Himself and a proof of the Spirit of glory resting upon us (v. 14); to mortify all sin and all potential sin, especially murder, robbery, and meddling (v. 15); to glorify the name of God in our words and our deeds as we suffer for the faith (v. 16); to expect God’s hard and rebuking judgment upon the nation to start with the church (v. 17); to realize that, as John Calvin puts it, we can arrive in heaven only after escaping a thousand deaths on earth (what Peter calls being “scarcely saved”). And if all this isn’t enough, God expects us to continue in doing good works in the midst of this agony (v. 19). Written to suffering Christians who are covenant members of a faithful and visible church, belonging to the church and to one another (vv. 1–11), 1 Peter 4:12–19 raises an important question: Why does a God who loves us as a gracious Father want us to suffer for the name of Christ?

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