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Trouble's Coming: 1 Peter 4

In Summary:

Peter continues with his direct style in 1 Peter 4. I’ve found that it’s actually hard to preach some of these verses, because there is nothing else to say about them. Take 1 Peter 4:9 as an example. Go on, read it. Now, try to figure a way to expound on that for half an hour.

It’s not easy. In fact, it can be done in a few short sentences: be hospitable, welcoming, not dwelling on the faults or problems of others, to the family of faith. And do it without whining about it. End of story. Get to work.

The rest of the chapter may need a bit more explanation, like how “love covers a multitude of sins” but that our own love doesn’t cover enough. It takes the love of Christ, acted on at the Cross.

Further, Peter is straightforward that the Christian is not to live according to the moral foundations (or lack thereof) common to pagans. He is not one for nuance or sensitivity here. Perhaps his own experience showed that some weaknesses should be addressed by challenging them, not coddling them.

In Focus:

Let us put 1 Peter 4:12-17 in focus. Here, Peter warns that trouble will be coming for the people of God. This, even after telling them 3:13 that there should be no one to harm them for doing good. The trouble will not be light and fluffy either. Peter expresses that it will be a fiery ordeal.

And that it comes “for your testing.” This contrasts the ordeal of the believers with the trouble that falls on criminals. Further, apparently not everyone in the church was truly on the up and up. Peter warns them not to be counted a murderer, thief, evildoer, or troublesome meddler.

The question for the church was this, “Would you rather be blessed for being reviled for Christ, or be comfortable?” Peter warns them to take heed of the issue.

In Practice:

In practice, the Universal Church (all the redeemed of all the ages) has never seen a time without fiery ordeals. There have been seasons and locations of ease, like many years in the United States have been, but always there have been members of the family of faith who could not lightly hold their confession. As those seasons and locations of safety shift, it is worth asking ourselves the same question: Would you rather be blessed for being reviled for Christ, or be comfortable?

You see, a comfortable church does not always shake the world as we ought to. Once we start trying to make peace with the world that we are supposed to be “alien” from, we start sliding away from our home country. It is simply not possible to be at peace with a world that lives as enemies of Christ. Now, there is no reason for us to be the riff-raff of this world. Just like those movie villains who think their “diplomatic immunity” allows them to be criminals without consequence, so we must acknowledge that consequences come from breaking the laws that are against evil, and we have no place to complain of those.

And the troubles that come for being Christians? (Peter is the only New Testament writer to refer to the church as “Christians.” Luke records that others refer to the church as Christians in Acts.) That trouble is coming, and will purify the church. It is part of the judgment of God that clears out those who do not truly belong in the family of faith.

Is it comfortable? No. It should not be, because our hope is not for a smooth life here but for a life that glorifies God for eternity.

In Nerdiness: 

A few quick points: 4:17 echoes Ezekiel and Malachi’s warning that God will judge the priests first for misleading the people. Given Peter’s view of all the believers as a kingdom of priests, we should understand this as referring to the need for a church that walks as purely after Christ as possible.


4:18 echoes Proverbs 11:31. And note that throughout, Peter is still more focused on encouraging and challenging the church to be like Jesus and fulfill His call than he is on helping them avoid trouble.

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