Living During Times of Persecution

Text: I Peter 4:7-19

Study Questions:

  1. What is “the end of all things?”
  2. Why do we need sound judgment and a sober spirit?
  3. What are we stewards of?
  4. How do we glorify God?
  5. Why should we not be surprised by “fiery ordeals?”
  6. What should we do when faced with these ordeals?
  7. When we suffer as a Christian, what should we not do?
  8. Why are the righteous only saved with difficulty?

Because Judgment Day Is Nearer Than You Might Think - I Peter 4:7-9

Peter is not predicting that the end of the world would come near to his lifetime, but rather that the end for each person is sooner than you might think. Therefore, we don’t have time to waste “experimenting” with sins. Instead, we need to live each day as if it may be our last, which means we must exercise prayers with sound judgment and soberness (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
sophronesate - Of sound mind, sensible, serious, moderate, showing self-control.
nepsate - sober, temperate, well-balanced, clearheaded, self-controlled. The word literally means “drink no wine.” The implication is that of a guard on duty who must be watchful of attacks.

Our love for each other is to be a high priority. We are to love earnestly and intensely. The reason is that “love covers a multitude of sin. "Cover" translates the Greek word kalupto, which means to conceal or hide. Your love for a brother leads you to help him out of sin, so that he may have forgiveness from God. "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). Love also means you understand his embarrassment at sinning, and so you cover up the past -- no longer bringing it up -- so he can bear up under the burden (Proverbs 10:12; 17:9). "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2).

Love does not overrule sin. It is because of God's love that a way out of sin has been offered. True love doesn't want sin in a loved one’s life. Love "does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (I Corinthians 13:6).

Christianity is not a loner’s religion. We are to be involved in each other’s life, having brethren over, and doing things for each other. It should be done without complaint – don’t look at it as drudgery but as opportunities to show each other how much we love them.

Be a Good Steward - I Peter 4:10-11

Use any gift given to you in serving each other (Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 7:7). Putting your gifts to good use is a way of being a good steward (John 15:8; I Corinthians 4:1-2).

Peter divides the gifts into two categories in I Peter 4:11. Some have a more noticeable gift of speaking. Others have gifts of service that tend to be in the background. We give God glory when we teach His doctrine and execute it accordingly. You know the truth by going to the source (the Bible) and studying it for yourself. That is why I try to cite references in my discussions. I don't want people to just take my word for it. I want them to see what God said for themselves. Those who serve are to use the strength God supplies. In both situations, God gets the glory.

Don’t Be Surprised by Fiery Ordeals - I Peter 4:12-14

God has long warned His people that life can be difficult (Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:20; II Timothy 3:12). Thus when those times come, we should not be surprised by them. As difficult as they are, they exist to refine us (Psalms 66:10-12). They shouldn’t destroy us, but they ought to improve us (Isaiah 43:2).

Instead, we should choose to rejoice (James 1:2), especially if we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. That is how the apostles dealt with their beating (Acts 5:40-41). They chose to think about the benefits.

Class Discussion:

  1. What is meant by “the Spirit ... rests on you” when you are persecuted?

Don’t Be Ashamed to Suffer as a Christian - I Peter 4:15-19

Peter has been talking about persecutions and trials that come upon people. A sinner suffers as a result of his sins. Such should not happen to a Christian because he should not be sinning. But this doesn't mean a Christian won't suffer. Wicked people will persecute the righteous. Thus, if we suffer, we should be suffering because we are doing right instead of wrong. It is a cause of glory and not shame.

It is easy to be trapped into being embarrassed because we are suffering. But when it is the wicked causing the righteous to suffer, it is not a mark of shame. “‘I will pronounce My judgments on them concerning all their wickedness, whereby they have forsaken Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them. Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests, and to the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 1:16-19). Jesus suffered upon the cross (I Peter 4:1) but he despised its shame (Hebrews 12:2). And we are invited to join our Lord (Hebrews 13:12-13) and not to be ashamed of what he had done on our behalf (Mark 8:38).

Peter warns that they have reached a time in history when Christians will be judged. By this, he is referring to severe persecutions which will test the faith of those being tried. "But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (I Corinthians 11:32). "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:4-6). God isn't the source of the trials, but He does make use of the persecutions by the wicked to test and strengthen His people.

Clearly, in such testing, not everyone is going to make it. Jesus warned that few would reach the goal. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). Paul used the illustration of the Israelites leaving Egypt to make the same point (I Corinthians 10:1-14). Millions of people left the sinful land of Egypt; yet, only two adults who left entered the promised land. In the destruction of Jerusalem, judgment was first made to determine who would be spared (Ezekiel 9:4-8)

Peter quotes Proverbs 11:31 and asks if it is this hard to reach the goal by people who are wanting to go to heaven, what happens to the wicked and those who don't care? The implied answer is that there is no way they will make it into heaven. You can't reach heaven accidentally or by coasting along. If judgment comes to God's people here in this world at the hands of the wicked, what will become of the wicked when they face final judgment before the Almighty God? There should be no expectation that God will overlook all their sins and let them in anyway.

The righteous are scarcely saved as it is. Our salvation does not come from ourselves. It was dearly bought. "And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:17-19). We only have the hope of salvation because we were bought. What have the ungodly?

Seeing this, we shouldn't get lax in our duties (I Peter 5:8-9). "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:58). We must entrust our souls to God. The term is a banking term meaning to make a deposit. We make such deposits with God by doing what is right.

Class Discussion:

  1. Why is “meddling” (spying on the affairs of others) included with murder, stealing, and evil-doing? (Consider Matthew 10:21-22.)
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