Suffering for the Name of Christ

1 Peter 4:12‑19  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Already the apostle has spoken of suffering for conscience' sake (2:19), and suffering for righteousness' sake (3:14). Now he speaks of suffering for the Name of Christ. The confession of Christ in life and testimony had brought upon the Jewish believers the fire of persecution.
PE 4:12-14{(Vv. 12-14).That the world, living according to its lusts without fear of God, should come under judgment is manifestly righteous; but that the believer, who refrains from lust, seeks the will of God, walks in sobriety and watchfulness, seeking in all things that God should be glorified, should be allowed to pass through a fiery trial, might appear as a strange thing. It would, however, only appear strange to those believers who viewed the trial in connection with themselves. Viewing the trial in connection with Christ, the One in whom they believed, who had become precious to them, and whom they loved, it would no longer appear some strange thing that could not be explained. For the Christ that the believer follows is a rejected Christ who suffered in this world, and whose Name is reproached by men. The fire of persecution these believers were passing through was because they confessed the Name of Christ, and above all showed forth in their lives the excellencies of Christ, as the apostle says, "On your part He is glorified". In these believers there was an answer to the Lord's prayer when He said to the Father, "I am glorified in them" (John 17:1010And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. (John 17:10)).
It is this that calls forth the opposition of the devil and the world. Any witness to the glory of Christ is intolerable to the world and the devil. The more faithful the witness to Christ and His excellencies, the more believers will suffer.
As the suffering is for Christ's sake, it should be a matter of joy rather than wonder. "Rejoice", says the apostle, "inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings"; and again, "If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye". Moreover, even as the sufferings and reproach of Christ have an answer in glory, so those who suffer for His Name's sake will share His glory in the day of His revelation. This coming glory, if realized in its blessedness, would lead the saint in the midst of trial to "be glad also with exceeding joy". Every bit of suffering that God may allow His people to pass through for Christ's sake is a pledge of coming glory. The Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God who had come from glory, rested upon these suffering saints, and was the earnest of the coming glory. The world may speak evil of Christ, but, in the power of the Spirit of God, He is glorified on the part of the saints.
Some might argue that such persecution could easily be explained in the days of the apostle, when believers were faced with the deadly opposition of Judaism and the awful corruptions of heathenism, but that all is changed today, when we are living in Christendom where Christ is owned. This argument could only be advanced by those who view Christendom in outward appearance. It is true that Christendom has erected many magnificent buildings, professedly in honor of Christ, and carries on vast benefactions under His Name, and we might be deceived into thinking that Christ is in honor, and no longer in reproach. We know, however, that Christendom has become wholly corrupt, and that the great profession is nauseous to Christ. As in the day of the apostle, so now, "He is evil spoken or by the mass of the religious world. Any true witness of Christ is obnoxious to the officialism of men's ecclesiastical systems, to the gross materialism of Protestantism, as well as to the superstition of Rome. The mere profession, whether papal or protestant, always has been, and always will be, a persecutor of the true witness for Christ. It is still true that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution".
PE 4:15-16{(Vv. 15, 16). We are then warned against the possibility of the believer suffering as an evildoer. Though Christians, if we do evil, we shall suffer under the government of God, indeed, all the more so because we are Christians. We may escape the grosser evils and yet suffer "as a busy-body in other men's matters". This will only bring shame upon ourselves. To "suffer as a Christian" is no shame, but rather an occasion of glory to God.
PE 4:17-18{(Vv. 17, 18). The solemn possibility of a believer suffering for wrong-doing is a proof that the government of God is not confined to the world. As we have seen, the world will have to give an account to God, who is ready to judge the living and the dead. Here, however, that judgment begins even now at the house of God. It would be contrary to the nature of God to allow evil to pass unnoticed in His own house. This judgment of God, in connection with His house, is wholly governmental and applies to the present time. It has reference to believers, for the apostle does not contemplate any but "living stones". We have a solemn instance of this governmental dealing in the case of the Corinthian assembly. On account of the unworthy ways of some, God acted in chastening, as we read, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:3030For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:30)).
Further, if God does not spare His own people, "what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?" If the righteous are with difficulty brought through the trials, the opposition, and the dangers of this world, into the full salvation of glory, what possibility of escape is there for the ungodly and the sinner?
PE 4:19{(V. 19). If such are the difficulties, the dangers, and the opposition in the path of the believer, it is evident that in his own strength he never can come safely through this wilderness world. Only the power of God can sustain him. Well it is for us to reach this conclusion, and, in the presence of every form of suffering, commit the keeping of our souls to Him. But let this be accompanied with "well doing", even if it involves suffering; only as we are doing well shall we have the confidence that can cast all upon God. It is here a question of being preserved in this world, and therefore we turn to God "as unto a faithful Creator", One who is "the preserver of all men, specially of those that believe" (1 Tim. 4:1010For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)).