Living with suffering: I Peter

 

Domenico_Morelli_-_I_martiri_cristiani

Today’s reading: I Peter 1-5.

“How should a believer react to persecution?”

Though American believers have not experienced severe persecution, the story is different for many Christians around the world. Suffering was common for the believers scattered through Asia Minor to whom Peter wrote. He taught them how to live victoriously despite their trials.

Rejoicing despite suffering

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. I Peter 1:6

Peter encouraged the persecuted believers to rejoice because they had a living hope due to Christ’s resurrection, an unfading inheritance in heaven, and God’s power to shield that inheritance until Jesus’ return.

Revealed through suffering

These (trials) have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. I Peter 1:7

Their suffering was not pointless. Their grief was refining their faith, which was more valuable than gold and longer lasting. Their suffering would prove the reality of their faith and bring glory to God.

Reflecting God through suffering 

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 2:12

Rather than being shamed by their persecution, the believers would be able to shine a bright light in the dark world – if they lived godly lives.

Rewarded for suffering

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 2:19-20

Christians receive no reward if they are punished for wrongdoing. But they receive the highest honor, God’s approval, his “well done, faithful servant,” when they endure unjust suffering.

Resembling through suffering

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 2:21

We should follow Christ’s example in suffering. He did so in order to accomplish the will of his father. He suffered so that the kingdom would come on earth. He suffered humbly, but his suffering resulted in God exalting him.

Righteous in suffering

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 4:19

In the press of tribulation, Christians need to remain faithful to God and continue to live in obedience to his commands.

Resisting together through suffering

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 5:8-9

Ultimately Satan controls the persecution that buffets believers. We resist him by remaining faithful, and by uniting our hearts and minds with brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. Groups like “Voice of the Martyrs”  and “Voice of the Persecuted” can inform you so that you know how to pray.

Image by Dominico Morelli

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7 thoughts on “Living with suffering: I Peter

  1. “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

    I like this reminder that Satan is not some abstract idea, but an ever-present reality. To reduce him to abstractness is to fully mischaracterize the enemy, a foolish mistake.

    “And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” 1 Peter 1:17

    Certainly this is consistent with your last post, on how faith and works are intimately joined. Though works do not save us, they are nonetheless an integral part of how God’s grace is manifested in our salvation. St. Augustine has an interesting way of putting it:

    “What then is the merit of man before grace by which merit he should receive grace? Since only grace makes every good merit of ours, and when God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing else but His own gifts.” (Augustine, Ep. 154, 5. 16)

    And then there is this:

    “in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:19-21

    This supports the Catholic teaching of baptism as a sacrament and the concept of baptismal regeneration.

    Oddly, Luther seems to agree:

    “Little children . . . are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, . . . the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith. (The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520, from the translation of A.T.W. Steinhauser, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, rev. ed., 1970, 197)

    What is a sacrament? It is a visible sign of the invisible grace of Jesus.

    And what of this preaching “to the spirits in prison”? What exactly is that all about? Is this Purgatory, or what some have called the “limbo of the Fathers”? It isn’t exactly clear, but it certainly seems to be something different from heaven and hell, a third place were some of the dead waited until Christ had opened the way to heaven. Passages that speak more to the point about Purgatory are first and foremost:

    “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1 Cor 3:15

    And also:

    “But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:32

    “I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.” Luke 12:59

    Why would there even be such a thing as Purgatory? Aren’t we saved by Christ? Yes, saved, but to a greater or lesser degree are we sanctified, and that process has to be completed (2 Thessalonians 2:13) before entering heaven, because we read in Revelation:

    “But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Rev 21:27

    This isn’t a late invention of the RCC as some suggest. The early Fathers believed it as well. Here is St. Augustine in The City of God: “temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment” (21:13).

    Anglican C.S. Lewis believed in Purgatory and expressed it this way:

    Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ – ‘Even so, sir.’

  2. Pingback: Living with suffering: I Peter « VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

  3. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Living with suffering: I Peter | ChristianBlessings

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