1. Comparing the New International Version (NIV) to the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or English Standard Version (ESV) translation of 1 Peter 4:12 leads to some confusion.  In the NIV, the verse is translated, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”  By comparison, the NASB (the ESV is similar) says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”  While I generally love the NIV, the original language is far better represented in the NASB translation of this passage.  Peter’s original intent in this verse seems to be to remind Christians of a purpose for their suffering.  As people suffer for their faith in Christ, Peter sees them being tested and refined.  As a fire is used to melt down metals to remove their impurities, so it seems that the fiery trials of our lives are intended by God to refine us of our impurities.  In what way does suffering help refine the Christian?  Have you ever experienced this in your life?
  2. In 4:13 Christians are instructed to rejoice as they suffer for their faith in Christ.  This is a very humbling command.  From a strictly human perspective, this command seems utterly impossible.  Based on this passage (and the rest of your understanding of Scripture) why would a Christian have reason to rejoice when suffering because of their faith in Christ?
  3. From 4:13-16 a rationale is provided for why Christians can rejoice in the midst of suffering.  When a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them, giving their lives a foretaste of the glory of God.  As Christians live out their lives in the secular world around them, not everyone will see this Spirit aroma of the “glory of God” as a positive thing.  In fact many non-Christians will react strongly against it and seek to persecute the Christian, just as the secular world persecuted Jesus Christ because of His radical fidelity to God’s mission and the glory of God that emanated from His Spirit.  Therefore, Christians who are persecuted because of their faith are being identified as “Christ-like” by the unbelieving world.  Therefore, it is an honor to suffer at the hands of unbelievers because it means that they see Christ in you.  Further, if the Christian is affiliated with Christ in His suffering during their temporal life, then the Christian can be confident that he will also get to share in Christ’s exaltation in their eternal life.  After His physical death, Jesus was raised and exalted.  In the same way, Christians share in this future hope of being exalted with Christ.  Therefore, Christians rejoice in the midst of being persecuted because it reminds them of whose they are and where they are headed.  Does this truth help to encourage you as you are persecuted for your faith in Christ?  Why or why not?
  4. 4:17-18 give us another reason for rejoicing in the midst of suffering.  God allows His children to suffer now, but has no condemnation for them in eternity.  By contrast, unbelievers may seem to have the upper hand now, but will experience great distress and judgment in eternity.  The believer can take heart that they will leave suffering behind in this life while the unbeliever (by measure of degree) has not even yet begun to know what true suffering is.  Knowing this truth, are you motivated to share Christ boldly with unbelievers around you, knowing that eternal judgment awaits in the after-life for those who do not trust in Christ now?  Who is one non-Christian person God might want you to share the truth about Christ with right now?  When will you talk with them?  What truth might you share with them?  How do you anticipate they will react?
  5. 1 Peter 4:19 provides a final summary command to this entire section of Peter’s letter, tracking all the way back to 2:13.  In this whole section Peter has been talking about how believers should live out distinctive lifestyles while they endure persecution for their faith.  4:19 indicates that believers should demonstrate their trust in God by continuing to do good in the midst of difficulty.  What about our God allows us to have confidence that we can trust Him in the midst of our difficulty?  What is the connection with “committing ourselves to the Creator” and “continuing to do good?”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.