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The Fiery Trials and Christian Life - Conclusion

Good Morning Beloved,

It is such and honor and privilege to be sharing with you today
this incredible epistle, from dear Peter, on the subject of suffering
It is my heart's prayer, that you will be blessed by it

Heavenly Father,

We just thank You today, for the testimony of a faithful saints, who've gone before us,
that in the midst of their unbearable circumstances, who found his strength in You.
Lord, we thank You, that it is Your will to purge and purify, and cleanse us through difficulty, and  persecution as we boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. Father, we come to realize, that if we are not bold for Christ sake, we shall not know His suffering, and furthermore, nor shall we know the glory of communion with the suffering our Lord and Savior, nor shall we know the glory of the Spirit resting on us, nor shall we know that coveted eternal glory in Your Kingdom.

Lord, help us to understand, if we’re not willing to boldly proclaim the name of Christ, to live boldly for Christ's sake, we can escape suffering and persecution, but that by escaping it, we cannot be the tested, refined, purged, purified, useful vessel that You call us to be. So, Lord, test us, O Lord, as we are Your faithful slaves. Begin that judgment with us, that Your church might be found clean, and useful to You, and let us thank You for such a great privilege, sharing in His sufferings and glory; and that though we are judged here and now, we will be forever free from any judgment, suffering and persecution, only to share in Your eternal glory, forever.

And Father, I just pray for anyone under the sound of my voice today,
who have escaped suffering for righteousness in this life, but will suffer for sin forever.
May today be the glorious day, that they come to Your Son Jesus, our precious Savior, and they
would just repent of their sin and acknowledge Him as their Lord and God, their Redeemer.
That they would today, become one with those of us, who know Christ, in a personal way,
as our Lord, our God, that they would be permitted into Your Kingdom
to share in that glory, when Christ's glory is revealed upon the earth
In Jesus' precious name

"Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a "Christian," he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator."

Today's Message - The Fiery Trial and Christian Life - Conclusion

Beloved, as we continue our study of I Peter chapter 4 verses 12-19, we'll be examining more closely specifically verses 15-19. Open with me, if you would please, to I Peter chapter 4. As you will recall, I've entitled this message, The Fiery Trials and Christian Life, and we now find ourselves, in the conclusion of this particular message.

Now, if you will also recall, as I mentioned the last time, it is highly probable, that this marvelous epistle of I Peter was written late in the year 64 AD. That would place it within a few months after the burning of Rome. And, I'm sure you'll also remember, that Nero had burned Rome wanting, and no doubt, to build a greater edifice for the purpose of his own glory. And as Rome was burning, to divert the blame from himself, and someone was needed to be blamed, and so Nero decided to lay the blame on the Christians, who were already hated. At beginning of that year, 64 AD, there came an ever increasingly intense and outrageous and widening of Christian persecution. It is that context that Peter is writing his epistle. His readers would already be experiencing some of the vehemence from a people who were already anti-Christian to begin with, and who now hold Christians completely responsible for the tragedy of the burning of Rome and the death of all the people who were living in that city. His readers were scattered about throughout the Roman world, now begin to feel the immense pressure of persecution. So, Peter is writing to those believers who are beginning to have the heat turned up, from those who were unbelieving in the world, and in being unbelieving, I mean to say they were unknowing agents of Satan, who were against the church of Christ. Let's face it, those would be the agents of Satan, typically do not realize, they are carrying out his commands, but somehow, believe that they are acting in their own accord. In some sort of "free will." When the reality is, their are the complicit, in the wicked and evil plans of the adversary, Satan himself.

So, in order to remind you of that sentiment a bit, to illustrate what was really occurring at that time, let's turn back to chapter 1 so we can get a real sense of feeling within the epistle. Chapter 1:6, "You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Then, over in chapter 2 notice verses 11 and 12. Peter reminds his readers that they are aliens and strangers, and they are to abstain from fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul. "Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation." They’re to keep their behavior excellent among the Gentiles so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds as they observe them glorify God in the day of visitation. So, the idea again comes forth that they were slandered as evildoers as well as persecuted for righteousness’ sake. They were enduring tremendous distress and various trials.

And in chapter 2:19, Peter alludes to this again. When he says, "For it brings favor if, mindful of God’s will, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God." Then, in chapter 3:8, he says to sum it up, "Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing." And in verse 14 says, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." In verse 17 says, "For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil." And in chapter 4:1, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin— in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will."  So, expect it; it came to your Lord. Chapter 5:10, "Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen."

So I think you can see, that in every chapter, there is at least some sort of reference made to unjust suffering. The church was being persecuted. As Peter begins here in chapter 4:12, what is really the last section of his epistle goes all the way through chapter 5, where he revisits this same theme. He is very concerned about suffering for righteousness’ sake, suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ. I find it interesting, as I look at the world around us, as we’re looking at a church in Eastern Europe and a church in Russia, China, parts of Africa, that has suffered greatly for a number of years, and some even for a number of decades. That church is emerging, emerging out of its suffering season and will be granted freedoms. In some ways, the church in various other parts of the world, may turn out to have greater freedoms, than we will have as Christians in America. It seems to me that the trend here is quite the opposite.  Rather than a church emerging out of an atheistic humanistic society as we are seeing around the world, it is regressing, we have atheism and humanism emerging out of a quote-unquote Christian culture. And atheism and humanism will eventually, and yes, even here in our own nation, has become more aggressively the persecutors of the church. More and more, are coming against Christian freedom here in America. And all as we seem to granting privilege and priority to every other false religion, non religion sect, atheism or those believing in some other god, or Messiah, other than Jesus Christ, the One and Only Son of God.

So, then, beloved, what Peter is saying here, may then soon speak to us, in our own lifetime and the lifetime of our children and grandchildren. As our nation becomes more and more intolerant of the Christian faith in its quest for fulfilling its amoral life style, we will be considered a greater and greater threat. So, it is imperative, that we would take Peter’s words to heart. As already, there is a growing persecution against those that boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. So, if you are to speak, publicly, for example, against the sins of our current culture, be it sexual sins, particularly the sin of sexual immorality, or abortion, you will likely find a hostility that can be, at times, at least, on the fringe of frightening and occasionally even life-threatening. We are living in a day when those who live strongly for Christ and who confront the culture, and whose testimony is on the cutting edge, and who say what must be said in truth, where it ought to be said, may indeed, find themselves  under great distress and persecution, and potentially, even legally, as we've seen an increase in recent years. Beloved, allow me to just say here: So be it, it is our duty to boldly proclaim truth, uphold righteousness and holiness, in a wicked and evil society, but we must do it, also with grace, mercy and love. However, nonetheless, we must do it, therefore, we should be ready for whatever comes with it. Persecution.

And so, in order to be ready, should that come, and even to endure what we are currently experiencing, we must take to heart these verses, verses 12 through 19. Here dear Peter gives us the proper way to deal with suffering for righteousness’ sake. And I have to tell you that I’ve gone over this repeatedly, both in my study and in my own mind, because I do get some of this, in preaching the Word of God, in truth, to parts of the world, where it is not well received. And yet, it always somehow amazes me, that sometimes the suffering for righteousness’ sake, comes from within the church, within the framework of Christianity. There can be great hostility, and unkindness, and yes, occasionally even threats, and whatever, you can imagine. Yet, I have found myself retreating even deeper,  into the truths of this wonderful passage on a quite a number of occasions, and, I must say here, more so recently than at any other time in my pastoral life. Now, allow me to read for you verses 12 through 19 just to set them, in your mind.

"Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a "Christian," he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So those who suffer according to God’s will should, while doing what is good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator." 

All of that is such rich, rich truth. But, we're going to unpack, or dissect it, and put it in smaller, more manageable increments, to help us all better understand what Peter is saying to us. What you have here several great truths that summarize our response to suffering unjustly. Now, allow me to just say this before I get too deeply into these verses. You only suffer for righteousness’ sake when you are publically and visibly righteous. To put it another way, it is only when you live an outwardly godly life, in an unrighteous, ungodly society, that you create the hostility that we're discussing here.

So, if you're managing to hide your Christian virtue, if you are managing to hide your testimony for Christ, and if you can manage to sublimate the fact that you are a Christian in such a way, that no one can perceive it, then it is highly unlikely that you will indeed suffer. But for those of us, who are willing to boldly live, outwardly righteous lives, those who publically demonstrate their commitment to Christ, those who speak the truth unashamedly and boldly, those who say what needs to be said, when and where it needs to be said, I can assure you, there will be a hostile reaction toward you. But remember, the world hated Christ, before it hated you. It's because you are boldly proclaiming His name, Jesus Christ, that the world hates you. Always keep that in mind.

Now, when that happens, and let's be honest here, if you're living a true, authentic Christian life, it likely will, there are a number of things that you absolutely must take to heart. Which brings us to Peter's first point in this wonderful letter is to expect suffering. Verse 12 says, "Don’t be surprised at it." We’ve already gone pretty deeply into this; this is just a quick review. Expect it, it is inevitable. And God has brought it upon you to test you. It comes upon you for your testing, to prove to you the genuineness of the state of your Christianity, to purge your life for greater holiness. It is God’s test to show that you’re really gold. And when the fire has come and gone, you’re still there, non-combustible, pure, refined, purged for greater use to God. So, since God wants you maximally useful, and since He wants you to have your calling in election sure, then He brings suffering inevitably into your life to prove and test the genuineness of your faith. If your faith is not genuine when the test comes, like the seed thrown against the hard soil, you may show some signs of faith, but you will have no fruit and under tribulation, you will wither and die. So, the fiery ordeal will show you the reality of your faith. Expect it, it is inevitable, it is in God’s purpose. It is inevitable because of a righteous life in an unrighteous culture is a confrontation that that culture does not well tolerate, it fights back.

The next thing is, not only expect suffering, but rejoice in suffering. Verse 13 says, "Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory." So, if you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  Here, he’s simply saying rejoice in it. Because you share Christ’s sufferings. And if you share in His suffering, you will share Christ’s glory at His unveiling. And because as you suffer now, the Spirit of God rests on you. He takes over to refresh, and strengthen, and build you up. So, in that also, you can rejoice. I must tell you, however, sometimes this can be quite challenging. When I have been battered around a little bit, not physically so much, as publically defamed, or in some sort of verbal attack, and say to myself, "Well, Brian, you should have expected it, after all if I desire to live a godly life, and preach the truth of God, and if I want to uphold the standard of holiness very high, and if I want to uphold the standard of doctrinal purity and biblical truth high above the current social standards, I can expect to get this ridicule, so I must be ready for it." And, I'll be honest, I can usually handle that, and quite well. Though, there are times, it becomes a bit of a challenge. But it’s moving to that second one where I am able to rejoice over it that challenges me. Where I want to look upward and say, "Thank You, Lord, this is just really wonderful, thank You, because I’m loving every single minute of this, being ridiculed and publically dehumanized for speaking biblical truth." That I sometimes find it a bit much. But I, somehow, by the grace of God, and endure with it, with honor and privilege. And, if I have the time to meditate on it and to lay it before the Lord, I find that the Spirit of God fills my heart with such incredible and overwhelming joy, a joy that's usually two-fold, the joy of participation in the sense that no matter what I might suffer, it is small compared to what Jesus Christ suffered and that I am a partaker of His suffering. And the second element that hits me, quite honestly, particularly hard, which is that whatever suffering I may incur in this life shall be more than gloriously rewarded to me, in the eternal joy which shall soon be mine, which is to be forever in the presence of the Lord.  Rejoice in it. Oh beloved, I cannot help but to become emotional at the thought of that glorious day!!

Now, as we approach the third and I might add, very necessary perspective with regard to suffering is to evaluate the suffering. Expect suffering, rejoice in suffering, and evaluate suffering. So, in other words, when you’re suffering take a look at what's happening and why. Verse 15, "None of you, however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler." There are really four evils mentioned there that really are typical of an unregenerate lifestyle and they are used to illustrate the character of unacceptable suffering. They’re very obvious, at least the first three. Don’t suffer as a murderer. I mean, if you murder somebody and you suffer, and they persecute you, and put you in prison or take your life, don’t moan and complain. Same thing with being a thief. Don’t suffer as a thief and an evildoer. And for the record, the word "evildoer" is to cover a multitude of crimes not mentioned within the first two words. Those first two are pretty broad: murder and thievery. And then, summing up all the rest, don’t suffer as an evildoer, is to represent all the various forms of wickedness and sin. Then, he adds one other very interesting word, he says, "Or a meddler." So how is meddler in there with a murderer, a thief and an evildoer?" Because, beloved, this is a very, very interesting word. And, by the way, it’s only used here in the whole New Testament. That always challenges the lexicographer, or the person who has to define the terms. It’s the only usage of the word then we want to be sure we understand what it means. Some say it means busybody, nosy. You know nosy people? Always checking into everybody’s business but their own? Some people think it means that. Some people think it means a sort of a mischief maker, trouble maker. Some people think it means a revolutionary, I mean, an outright revolutionary who just disrupts society. It is a very interesting word.

The word is allotrioepiskopos. Episkoposis is the word for overseer. And if you combine the two words together, it means someone who looks over, or someone who intrudes into things that belong to someone else. Someone that looks over or intrudes into things that belong to someone else. It is a sort of “mind your own business” word.

Now, what, why does he throw that in here? Wouldn’t it be covered by an evildoer? Well, there’s more to it than that. This word, I think, has a more specific significance than is at first apparent. Let me just give you some other scriptures that might help you to kind of get a feel for the meaning. Remember, back in I Thessalonians 4:11, now beloved, you don’t need to turn to it, Paul says to the Thessalonians, "to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone" You’re not to be a trouble maker. You’re not to be a rabble-rouser. You’re not to stir up your society. You’re to lead a quiet life. You are to attend to your own business and to work with your own hands. Do your own trade. Stay out of other matters. In II Thessalonians 3:11, he says to the Thessalonians, "Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you. And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you. May He make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen " A different word here. You’re acting like busybodies. Now, such persons we command and we exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in a quiet fashion, eat their own bread. In other words: back off, be quiet, do your own work. Stop getting involved in the business of others, which isn't a concern to you.

Then, in the very next letter, in which Paul is writing to Timothy, in the order of the New Testament, chapter 5:13, and he’s talking about young women here. He says they should learn, well, when they’re married they learn to be idle as they go around from house to house and not merely idle but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Now, here he’s talking about something completely different. Here, it’s the same thought of busybodies, probing into things that are not their own affairs. But it seems to me that while here it’s very specifically talking about a woman who is widowed, and who has nothing to do, and so she floats around and just sticks her nose in everybody else's affairs, whereas in the first and the second letter of Thessalonians, he is talking about how you conduct yourself not so much among the people you know, like the widow here, but how you conduct yourself in the society. And I believe that is precisely what Peter is talking about here. With that in mind, consider again what Peter says. You are not to be a meddler.

Now, I know, some people feel, and I do tend to agree with them, that what he means here has a special reference to a political agitation, that he’s talking here about getting involved in revolutionary or politically disruptive activity, interfering, meddling in the function and the flow of government.

Because, this would surely lead to the government taking action, which then the person would see as persecution. It could be in a business, working on the job, that you become a meddler thinking that because you’re a Christian you should be treated differently, and because you have Christian standards you should force your company to comply with your Christian standards, and so you become disruptive, and you become a meddler, of sorts and you become a revolutionary to one degree or another. This would lead to unnecessary suffering. Which would not be for righteousness sake, or for Christ's name sake.

However, what it is saying here is this, very, very important. You are a Christian, and you are living in a non-Christian culture, do your work, live a quiet life, exalt Jesus Christ, preach the gospel, but don’t try to overturn the culture. Don’t become a revolutionary.  Don’t meddle. Or, if you do and you are being persecuted by the government as a troublesome meddling agitator, that is disgraceful. That is not honorable for a Christian.

So, you have to evaluate, ask yourself: why am I suffering? If you are living your Christian life, living a virtuous godly life, presenting Jesus Christ every opportunity you are given, but working quietly with your hands, being faithful to your task, being a noble citizen in every way, being responsible to do the task within the culture, not a disruptive force, and you are persecuted, it is for righteousness’ sake. But, if you have taken it upon yourself to force your Christian thinking upon your culture, whether it’s the corporate culture in which you function, or the shop in which you function, or the state or the government in which you live, you’ve stepped beyond the boundaries. And I think Peter is simply reemphasizing here what he said back in chapter 2 that we are to be citizens who are models of submission to every human institution to everyone in authority. So, Peter is saying, "Look, if you suffer as a murderer and the government comes in and puts the penalty on you, if you suffer as a thief and the government comes in and sentences you, if you suffer as some kind of evildoer involving any other criminal offense and the government takes you prisoner, or if you have become an agitator of the status quo and a social revolutionary, then don’t count that as suffering for righteousness’ sake. You should be ashamed of that."

And so, you do have to take an inventory. You have to evaluate the suffering. In verse 16 says, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed." In other words you suffer just for being a Christian, do not feel ashamed of that. The implication is however: if you’re suffering because you’re a murderer, you’re a thief, you’re a criminal of some kind, or you’re a meddler disrupting the society, then, yes, you should be ashamed. But if you suffer while just you’re doing your job, living a quiet and tranquil and peaceable life, honoring Jesus Christ, being the best citizen you can possibly be, and proclaiming faithfully the gospel of Christ, and you suffer, then you have no reason to be ashamed, in fact, "In that name let him glorify God." What a glorious statement. If anyone suffers as a Christian in that name, the name Christian, you will glorify God.

It’s a beautiful term, by the way, my fellow Christians. Christian, the early Christians spoke of themselves as brethren. They spoke of themselves as the saints, or the holy, the consecrated people. They spoke of themselves, and I love this phrase, as those of the way; Jesus being the way, the truth and the life. But, their Jewish opponents stigmatized them as the Nazarenes. They also gave them a name which they intended to be a name of derision. They called them Christians. However, it was not, at least at first, a name that Christians assumed. I don’t think they would have been so bold as to assume that they could bear the name of their Christ. It was given to them by the world, intended to be a derogatory term. First at Antioch, according to Acts 11. Agrippa, again in Acts 26:28, makes reference to it. And eventually, it came to be claimed by believers. But it at first, however, it was a mocking term toward them.. It later became to be a beloved term, just as it is for us today. So, he says, if you suffer because you’re a Christian, don’t be ashamed. But in that name, the name Christian, in that name, as a follower of Jesus Christ, let him glorify God. What does that mean? Praise God for the privilege, because you’re sharing in the sufferings of Christ, because the Spirit of glory is strengthening you, because you are adding to your weight of eternal glory. All three of those excellent reasons.

And there’s one more reason in verse 17. "For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?" Now, this is an interesting verse. He is saying that if you suffer as a Christian, then for the sake of the name Christian, you ought to be happy to suffer and you ought to praise God for the privilege because you’re sharing Christ’s sufferings, because the Spirit of glory rests on you and strengthens you, and you must rejoice in the strength of the Spirit, and because you are adding to the weight of your eternal reward. Then, he adds here, "And if a righteous person is saved with difficulty, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So, you should really look at suffering as a sign that the end is near, and so it’s time to clean up the household of God." Beloved, that’s really an important statement. Look back at verse 7, do you see how verse 7 begins? "Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined." So, then he says there in verse 17, "For the time has come for judgment." And by the way, the word “time” here is not chronos. It’s not period of time, as in a clock time; it’s kairos. It means it is the "crucial moment," it is the point, it is the season for judgment to begin. Is this is a great statement or what? So incredibly powerful for a believer, get your act together, the time for judgement is near. Don't blow it, thinking you have some time to get your household in order. Now, is that time!

With the coming of Jesus Christ, I want you to follow my thought process here, with the coming of Jesus Christ came the Christian dispensation, which we know as the dispensation of the church.  Christ came and suffered and died. That is the beginning of the end. It is the last time already. Christ appeared in the end of the age. We are living in the end time, the last time. So, Peter says it is already the time for judgment to begin. Where did it begin? It began on the cross when our sins were judged in Christ. And we are now living in a season of judgment. The sufferings of Christians, then, are a part of God’s plan for an unfolding judgment which culminates in the Great White Throne.

Now, so just follow this thought. Peter’s not speaking of condemnation when he uses judgment. He’s speaking of chastening, of testing, of purifying, of purging. But he is saying, he’s giving us a hint about this dispensation. He’s saying in this dispensation, God will be judging. And to begin His judgment, He is judging or purging, or testing, or chastening, purifying His church. Now, it starts that way but it ends with the final judgement and condemnation of the ungodly. That’s what he says here.

If judgment begins in God’s purging the household of God, that is, it begins with us first, what then will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? In other words, if God has a judgment for those who believe, and it’s as important and serious as it is, then what will the judgment be for those who do not believe? The people of God are being judged, tested, to remove the chaff, they’re being sifted, purged to remove the dross. The church is always in the process of being purged and purified. The household of God here means the church, the assembly of redeemed people in a collective way. Back in chapter 2:5 we are called a spiritual house, a spiritual house. In I Timothy 3:15 the household of God is the church of the living God. I Timothy 3:15 says, "But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." So, that’s what Peter is saying here. Peter is talking about the church. And he is really speaking collectively about the church here. And he’s saying if God has already been purifying His church, if there is a purging going on in His church, that is necessary.

So then, what’s it going to be like when He brings His final judgment on those who do not obey the gospel of God? This purging, this evaluating, this testing is necessary in this age. There’s kind of a wonderful analogy of this in Ezekiel 9:6. When God looked over the sinful people on the earth, and He wanted to cleanse them, He said, "I want to cleanse the earth," that was His intent and He said this, and I quote, "Begin at My sanctuary. Start with Israel." God ultimately will judge the ungodly. Right now, beloved, He is purging, purifying His church. So, when you suffer for righteousness’ sake, it is God’s purging, God’s purifying, God’s testing. And listen closely to what I’m telling you, when you look at the church that has been purged, and you look at the church that has been tested, and you look at the church that has been persecuted, you find the pure church, do you not? So, look at your persecution. See it for what it is. Is it God beginning the judgment at the household which He so loves and beginning the purging of His judgment during this age? You see, before the full final judgment comes, the church has to evangelize the world. And in order to be effective in evangelizing the world, the church itself must be purged from sin, the true separated from the false, and the carnal cleansed or removed. And then, the pure church can move out.

So, beloved, I encourage you to look at the persecution as the judgment of God that must come, and it must come first on God's household before it comes to the unregenerate ungodly sinners. First, He will purify His church; then He will judge the ungodly. If it begins with us first, and it does, what’s going to be the outcome of those who do not believe? God’s judgment does begin at the household. It doesn’t end there. Peter looks beyond to the tragedy of eternal judgment. And what is he saying? Here’s the point. Get this. "It’s far better to endure suffering as the Lord purges the church, and endure it with joy, than to endure suffering in the future which is eternal." Do you get his point? Hey, look at your suffering and consider this. You say it’s tough to suffer, better you should suffer now as He tests and purges you and fits you for usefulness and glory, than that you should not suffer now but endure suffer then forever and ever. That’s far worse. And it comes on those, verse 17, who do not obey the gospel of God. That’s reminiscent of Romans 1:1-5 where Paul uses the same phrase, "the gospel of God, the good news about Christ." What will be the outcome, he asks? I’ll tell you what: A horrible and terrifying judgment, eternal damnation in hell. 

II Thessalonians 1:4, and following talks about the persecuted church, and how the church has persevered in faith in the midst of persecution and affliction. And then, in verse 5 he says, "It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" He’s saying you ought to know that this is a plain indication, all this tribulation, all this trouble, all this suffering is a very plain indication that God is judging you, He’s purging you, He’s cleaning you, He’s testing you, making you more useful. He’s letting you share in the sufferings of Christ. He’s building for you in a great eternal weight of glory. And that’s far better than what the rest of the world is going to experience.

"..since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength in that day when He comes to be glorified by His saints and to be admired by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed." So, don’t be complaining about suffering now and having glory later.  There are many who miss the suffering now, but will endure it forever and ever and ever.

Peter then supports his point with a quote in verse 18. This quote is taken from Proverbs 11:31. Peter says, "If the righteous will be repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and sinful." Peter freely interprets the words. When he says, "And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved" difficulty refers to the hard time that persecution brings to the believer. Our salvation brings persecution. Our salvation brings a hardship, a judgment, a disciplinary, corrective, purgative, instructive, remedial testing through suffering that, get this, keeps us from committing damning sins.

That judgment will continue in the church until the Rapture, and even after that. When God redeems a new generation of people, they too will suffer. And if it’s so difficult, and there’s so much suffering as a Christian being purged, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? He asks. What kind of suffering will they endure if we have to endure this? And the answer is a far greater suffering. They will be cast into the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone forever and ever where the worm dies not, the fire is not quenched.

So, all of this helps us to see the importance of a clear evaluation of our suffering. It is to be for righteousness’ sake, not become of sin.  We are not then to be ashamed when we suffer, but to honor God because He is purifying His church where judgment must begin if we’re going to be a pure people to reach the world. And so, when you see yourself suffering, look at it, see it for what it is, evaluate it. It should be a good reminder of how much more severe judgment could be and will be for those without Christ. How do you handle suffering? Expect it, rejoice in it, evaluate it, see it for what it really is. It’s God graciously purging His church for usefulness, for communion with Christ, for greater weight of glory.  It’s not to be compared with that terrible suffering that the sinners and ungodly will endure forever.

In Closing....

One last final point: expect suffering, rejoice in suffering, evaluate suffering; fourthly, entrust yourself to God. A godless man can’t do that. The sinner can’t do that; it would be too late. You and I can in the midst of our suffering. Verse 19, “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful creator in doing what is right.” The word therefore is there because of the true perspective on suffering just summed up. Because you now understand suffering, you now understand that it is remedial, corrective, purgative, instructive. You understand that God uses it to test you, to purge you, to make you more useful, to give you a greater weight of glory. “Therefore, in the midst of it, let those also who suffer according to the will of God,” it is in His will as He cleanses His church, “entrust their souls.”

We are suffering according to the will of God. It is His purpose, it is His intended purpose for His children: to purge, purify, chasten, to make us tender, to make us effective. The word “entrust,” by the way, is a banking term. It means to deposit for safekeeping, just go through suffering taking your soul, and depositing it with God. The word “soul” means your life, your being, your person. “Give it to a faithful creator.” That’s the only place in the Bible where that phrase is used. Why does he use it? Listen to this, he uses the word "creator" to remind us that we’re simply giving back to God what He created, which means that He is most capable of caring for it, right? And when we say He is a faithful creator, we can trust Him with it. As creator, He best knows the needs of His beloved creatures. As a faithful creator, He will meet those needs because He is faithful to His promise. "My God shall supply all your needs." By the way, the word “entrust” here, entrust their souls to a faithful creator, paratithmi, is the same word exactly used of Jesus when on the cross He entrusted His Spirit to the Father. Same word. In the midst of His suffering, He gave Himself to God. Peter says give your life to God for Him to sustain in the "In doing what is right."

That’s where it ought to be. We do what’s right; we commit ourselves to God.  We suffer, we entrust our souls to a faithful creator, and do what is right. To say it another way: while doing what is right, take what comes; commit yourself to God. No defection, obedience, commitment, faithfulness. Just keep doing what is right. So, when suffering comes to the believer, we expect it, we rejoice in it, we look at it closely and evaluate it. Is it a result of sin, or is it a result of righteousness? And is God just purging, purifying, testing, that we might be more useful, more glorious?

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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Brian Monzon Ministries

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