May 26. Persecution Painful, but Rewarding

I Pet. 3:13-4:19

The writer pointed out the hope that Christians have even in the face of persecution. Whatever physical and mental anguish they would suffer would not permanently harm them in view of their eternal home with God.

Peter instructed his readers to be prepared to answer honest questions about their faith, whether from governmental authorities or individuals wanting to know how to be pleasing to God. Due to the serious nature of the final judgment, their reply was to be in humility and fear lest they might lead someone the wrong way and into destruction.

It is better to suffer because of doing good than for doing evil. Christians who suffer because of their good life can be consoled by the fact that Christ also suffered for the sins of man even though He was sinless. The purpose of His suffering was to reconcile man to God.

Peter pointed out that the Spirit of Christ preached long ago through Noah to warn the people of the great flood that was to come. They were to repent of their sins to avoid the wrath of God and the flood. Having refused to change their ways, these people’s spirits at the time of Peter’s writing were being held in the prison for evil spirits until pronouncement of the final judgment.

The faith of Noah and his family led them to obey God in preparation for the flood. This resulted in their salvation as the flood waters lifted the ark above the earth and its destruction. Peter pointed out that as THEY WERE SAVED THROUGH WATER, IT IS THROUGH THE WATER OF BAPTISM THAT THOSE WHO COME TO CHRIST IN FAITHFUL OBEDIENCE ARE SAVED.

The apostle continued his thoughts on the suffering that would be imposed upon his readers because of their faith in Christ. Christ had suffered in the flesh for man. They likewise should be willing to arm themselves with their faith and be ready to suffer for Him.

Peter pointed out that as Christians, their past life of immoral living had ended. They were to refrain from their former evil Gentile-like practices and live according to the will of God.

This new life naturally caused those who were outside of Christ to criticize Christians because of their refusal to participate in their sinful “pleasures.” Peter wrote that all men—those then living and those already dead will give account in the judgment for their lives.

“But the end of all things is at hand…” Jesus prophesied to His apostles that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. History states that the destruction did occur during A. D. 70, about five years after Peter’s writing.

Peter gave the people specific instructions for enduring that grievous period of their lives. Those instructions also apply to today’s Christians because life is short and must be lived in preparation for the inevitable judgment.

Christians were instructed to be prayerful and to love one another. The trials of life are much easier to bear when one leans upon God’s care and the love of fellow believers.

Cheerful hospitality is much needed when one is traveling or is driven from his home. Many people lost their homes during that period of time. Others, traveling needed a safe and spiritual lodging-place during their journeys.

At that time as well as during all periods of the church’s history, Christians had individual talents or abilities. Peter instructed his readers as God’s stewards to exercise them for the benefit of everyone. If they spoke, they were to speak God’s word—not their own commands. Everything that a Christian would say or do must bring glory and praise to God.

Peter turned his attention again to the upcoming increase in suffering of persecution by his readers. He admonished them to remain upright and to rejoice at being worthy to suffer unjustly with Christ as His followers instead of being punished justly for some crime committed against man.

The impending destruction of Jerusalem was to be a severe test to the survival of its citizens and the Christians in outlaying areas. Peter stated that it would be extremely difficult for the church and would be even a greater challenge for those outside of God’s kingdom.