Lessons 39—When Fiery Trials Become Personal
Commentary for lesson 39 and 40
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:14-16
Lesson Goal: To understand the power and glory of God that rest upon Christians suffering for Christ.
Today as we continue our study concerning the “fiery trials” of this life, we must be aware of what “fiery” meant to Peter’s audience, and we must understand their perspective concerning fiery trials. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells of some of the most devilish tortures faced by many Christians during Peter’s day. Some believers had boiling lead poured over their bodies; some had parts of their bodies seared with fiery branding irons; some were wrapped in the bloody skins of wild game and hunted down by dogs and men; others were soaked with flammable oil and set aflame, while others had their limbs torn from their bodies by horses. The list goes on, much occurring in torture chambers of isolation.
(Verse 14) “if you are reproached for the name of Christ”
“reproached”—the Greek word is oneidizō, meaning to heap insults upon, denounce, to revile.
In the New Testament, the word is often used for reproaches heaped by the wicked on God and His followers. It is also associated with the indignities and maltreatment Christ endured.
“name of Christ”
The very name or mention of the “name of Christ” has been and continues to be the cause of evil hatred directed toward believers. “His name first became synonymous with the Savior Himself and all that He represents” (MacArthur). Read Luke 24:47; John 1:12; Acts 4:17, 19:17.
➢ Read Acts 4:12.
What does this verse say concerning Jesus Christ as one of many ways of salvation? Please explain your answer.
“Blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
“blessed”—joyful, rejoice, keep on rejoicing. Please read Matthew 5:10-12.
“Every time we [true believers] are reproached for the name of Christ, we have the opportunity to bring glory to His name” (Wiersbe).
Please read Romans 8:17. Dr. J. Vernon McGee says, “I think we need to face up to the fact that there is no shortcut to living the Christian life. There is no easy way. Let me repeat, the Christian life is a banquet—because He has invited us to the table of salvation—but it is not a picnic. We are to suffer for Him and with Him.”
The early Christians rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. Peter wants us to understand the great truth that through suffering, the “Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (verse 14). Just as the early believers were reviled for Christ’s sake, the Holy Spirit rested upon them, just as the glory cloud rested on the tabernacle in the Old Testament, indicating the presence of God. In a special way, the Holy Spirit rests upon those who are suffering for the cause of Christ. The same Lord Jesus who is blasphemed by the persecutors is glorified by His suffering saints. Please read Acts 7:54-60. Fiery trials provide an opportunity to draw upon His power.
“When faced with excruciating trials, we easily come to the end of ourselves. We are never more dependent on the Holy Spirit’s strength than when we’ve come to the absolute end of ourselves. As long as we operate under the illusion that we can handle things ourselves, we will wallow in spiritual weakness. But when we finally admit that apart from Christ we can do nothing (see John 15:5), we can begin to draw upon divine power” (Swindoll).
(Verse 15) Notice how Peter begins with “murderer” and ends with “busybody.” He instructs that as true believers we are not to bring suffering upon ourselves by our misdeeds (wrongdoing). Peter lists some things that do not glorify God, but rather bring shame and harm to the testimony of Christ. We are to live and behave as followers of Jesus Christ. G. Campbell Morgan stated, “This is more than glorying in a name. It is so living worthily of all it means as to glorify God. If a man is known as a Christian, and does not live as one, he dishonors God. To bear the name is to take a responsibility, a great and glorious one, but none the less a very solemn one.”
➢ Has there been a time in your own life when you brought suffering upon yourself because of your un-Christ-like actions? Please explain.
➢ What did you learn from this type of suffering?
(Verse 16) “Let him not be ashamed [to suffer as a Christian]”
The word “Christian” is found only three times in the entire New Testament (Acts 11:26, 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16). The name Christian was originally given by the enemies of the church as a term of reproach. But in time, it became an honored name expressing the idea of “a Christ one, belonging to Christ.” The term and name “Christian” reminds us that we are committed, not to a creed, a religion, a set of rules and regulations, but to Christ. During Peter’s day, the name Christian was used by many as a term of scorn and hatred. John Phillips says:
The Caesar cult in Rome quickly recognized the threat that Christians posed it. So the battle lines were drawn. On one side the reigning caesar [sic], a Roman god, demanding that divine honors be paid to him. He ruled the world. He wanted no rival. He demanded exaltation, loyalty and worship. On the other side was the One whom the Christians worshipped. He was God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God. He had been crucified by Rome but He had risen triumphantly from the dead. He had ascended on high and He was coming back. Rome’s answer to Christianity was the one it understood best WAR.
Then like a terrifying and resistless tidal wave, violent persecution swept over the Christians. The blood of the martyrs flowed like a river. The waves battered; they came, they went, but Christianity would not bow. As Peter was writing, the persecution was only beginning; thus, Peter wrote with an urgency and assurance. He knew that believers would suffer for the sole reason that they belong to Christ.
Questions for Life Focus
How can we (today’s church) never lose sight of the faith and sufferings of the early church? What can we do so that we never forget?
How can we prepare our children and grandchildren, the generations that follow us, to prepare for the sufferings that will come because they identify with Jesus Christ?
What does it mean to you that you are called “Christian”? Please do not answer hurriedly, casually or lightly. Give your response prayerful consideration.
Please prayerfully finish the following statement. Because of my faith in Jesus, I would be willing to…
Please finish this lesson by reading 2 Timothy 3:12. When you read the word “all,” stop and write the names of each of your family members. After you have written these names, take a few minutes to pray that they will be found faithful as they suffer for the cause of Christ.