In this message we come to 4:12-19. This section of 1 Peter speaks of rejoicing in sharing the sufferings of Christ.
In verse 12 Peter says, “Beloved, do not think the fiery ordeal among you is strange, which is coming to you for a trial, as a strange thing happening to you.” The Greek, for fiery ordeal, purosei, means burning, signifying the burning of a smelting furnace for the purification of gold and silver (Prov. 27:21; Psa. 66:10), like the metaphor used in 1:7. Peter considered the persecution the believers suffered as such a burning furnace used by God to purify their life. This is God’s way to deal with the believers in the judgment of His governmental administration, which begins from His own household (4:17-19). The Greek word for strange in verse 12 is xenizo, the same as the word used in verse 4. Fiery persecution is common to the believers. They should not think it is strange or alien to them and be surprised and astonished by it. This persecution is a trial, a testing.
Peter’s use of the metaphor of a burning furnace in verse 12 indicates that today the Lord is using persecutions and trials as a furnace to serve a positive purpose. The positive purpose served by persecution and trial is the purification of our life. We can be compared to gold and silver. However, we still have some amount of dross. Therefore, we need purification. As gold and silver are purified through burning, we also need to be purified in this way. In verse 12 Peter tells the believers not to regard the fiery ordeal as strange. As Christians, we should realize that fiery ordeals are common. Persecutions and trials are the common experience of Christians. Such things are not strange, alien, foreign, to us. On the contrary, they are common, for we have been appointed to them. It is our destiny to suffer in this age. Of course, this is not our eternal destiny. God has not destined us to suffer in eternity, but He surely has destined us to suffer in this age.
In verse 13 Peter continues, “But according as you share the sufferings of Christ, rejoice, that at the unveiling of His glory you may also rejoice exultingly.” Although persecution is a trial that purifies us through burning, eventually Peter says that by experiencing such a fiery ordeal we share, participate in, the sufferings of Christ. Here Peter is saying that it is possible for the sufferings a Christian undergoes to be the sufferings of Christ. How can the persecutions suffered by us be the sufferings of Christ? If we were not Christians, we certainly would not suffer the kind of persecution described in verses 12 and 13. Such persecutions are due to the fact that we are Christians, men of Christ. Because we believe in Christ, love Christ, live Christ, bear testimony to Christ, witnessing of Him in this age, the world rises up against us. This age is under the hand of the evil one, and for this reason unbelieving ones persecute those who believe in Christ and witness of Him. In the sight of God this kind of suffering is regarded as the sufferings of Christ. For example, a certain brother may have had the opportunity to become rich. But because he believes in Christ, loves Christ, and follows Christ, his business may suffer, and he may lose the opportunity to become wealthy. Actually, he may even be in poverty. This kind of poverty is the suffering of Christ. Those sufferings that are for Christ are counted by God as the sufferings of Christ.
Christ lived a life of suffering, a suffering life. Now we are His partners living the same kind of life. According to the book of Hebrews, we are not only partakers of Christ but are also His partners (Heb. 3:14). We cooperate with Him in living a life of suffering. We follow Him along the way of suffering. This means that what Christ suffered, we also suffer. Therefore, when we suffer for Christ in this way, our sufferings are counted by God as the sufferings of Christ.
We should not be discouraged because we must suffer as Christians. These sufferings are positive and very precious. What a privilege it is to experience the sufferings of Christ! Paul could even say that he made up what was lacking of the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the church (Col. 1:24). He also speaks in Philippians 3:10 concerning the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. Today we should be Christians, followers of Christ, who undergo the sufferings of Christ. We need to participate not only in the riches of Christ, but also in the sufferings of Christ. If we take this point of view, we shall be encouraged whenever we suffer for Christ. We may even welcome this kind of suffering. Yes, we may face fiery ordeals, but these are the sufferings of Christ in which we have the privilege to participate.
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