The Book of  I PETER
James J. Barker

Lesson 14

Text: I PETER 4:12-19


  1. My message this evening is entitled, “Suffering According to the Will of God” (cf. I Peter 4:19; 3:17).
  2. The title, and even these Scriptures, sound strange to multitudes of nominal Christians who have been led to believe that the Christian life should be free from all suffering and pain.
  3. But the Bible does not teach that the Christian life should be free from all suffering and pain.  We have stressed that in our series in this epistle (cf. 1:6, 7; 2:19-21; 3:14-17; 4:1, 12-16).
  4. It has been noted that "suffering" is the key word in this epistle.
  5. The Scofield Bible says, “The distinctive note of First Peter is preparation for victory over suffering” (Introduction to I Peter).
  6. As we study our Bible we are constantly confronted with many references to suffering (e.g., the book of Job).
  7. This past Wednesday night we were studying Hebrews 11.  Verse 34 says that through faith, they "escaped the edge of the sword."  Yet verse 37 says through faith, others "were slain with the sword."
  8. And I mentioned the story recorded in Acts 12, where the Lord sent an angel to rescue Peter, but He allowed James to be executed by King Herod.
  9. Do you recall what the Lord said to Ananias regarding the apostle Paul?  “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake” (Acts 9:16).
  10. And Paul did suffer greatly – he was afflicted, whipped, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, betrayed, and finally beheaded.
  11. The Christian life is not a playground, but a battlefield.  I like Isaac Watts’ old hymn, “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?”

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?


Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?


Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?


Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.



  1. Twice in I Peter 4:12 we are told that suffering is not "strange."  In fact, it is a normal part of the Christian life.
  2. Years ago, my family and I were at a Christian camp and the speaker was Pastor John Vaughn from Greenville, South Carolina.
  3. In one of his messages, he said that he preached this text (I Peter 4:12), and not long after that a fire broke out in his house, badly injuring his wife and daughter.
  4. We are not to consider suffering as something "strange."
  5. You may recall that Peter himself once thought suffering was strange. When our Lord told Peter and the other disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem, "and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day," Peter "began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee" (Matt. 16:21, 22).
  6. Our Lord then turned, and said unto Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (Matt. 16:23).
  7. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).   The cross certainly signifies great suffering.
  8. "The emblem of suffering and shame" is how the songwriter put it.
  9. John the Baptist suffered.  He had his head chopped off by Herod because he rebuked Herod's adultery.
  10. Peter was eventually martyred.  Our Lord told him he would be (cf. John 21:18, 19).
  11. In fact, all of the original twelve apostles (excluding Judas Iscariot) were martyred, except for John who was exiled to the island of Patmos.
  12. Stephen was martyred.  His death is recorded in Acts 7.
  13. The apostle Paul suffered greatly, and he was eventually martyred.
  14. The early Christians were thrown to the lions. Tertullian, a preacher who lived in the second century, said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
  15. But many find all of this "strange" (I Peter 4:12).   Today, many churches do not preach these passages of Scripture. They are worldly and entertainment-oriented.  But we are to preach "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
  16. First Peter 4:13 says, "But rejoice..."   We are to be "happy" (4:14; cf. 3:14).
  17. This is precisely what our Lord said in Matthew 5:11, 12.  "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
  18. We are to rejoice now, and be happy now, but our joy and our happiness will be much, much greater when we see Christ (4:14).
  19. In Philippi, Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten. The Bible says they "laid many stripes upon them" and "they cast them into prison," and put their feet fast in the stocks.
  20. And then we read, "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them" (Acts 16:25).
  21. We could preach all evening on the sufferings of the apostle Paul.  Paul said in II Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
  22. First Peter 4:13 says, "But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings..." (cf. Phil. 1:29; 3:10).
  23. What is "the fellowship of His sufferings"?  And how could we ever be "partakers of Christ's sufferings"?  This cannot refer to the cross.  We could never partake of His sacrificial sufferings.
  24. But we can partake of His other sufferings.  Hebrews 12:3 says, "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."
  25. Christ was hated, slandered, misunderstood, and betrayed.   We can partake of those sufferings.



  1. This is taught all throughout the Bible.
  2. When our Lord predicted that Peter would be martyred, He said Peter's death would "glorify God" (John 21:19).
  3. In 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by savages in the jungle in Ecuador.  But soon more than twenty pilots from the United States applied to take the pilot, Nate Saint's place.
  4. And eventually more than 1,000 college students volunteered for foreign missions in direct response to the story of the death of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and the other missionaries.
  5. Acts 5:41 says the apostles rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name."
  6. Romans 8:17, 18 says we are  "joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
  7. First Peter 4:14 says, "the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you."  The Holy Spirit provides special grace during times of suffering.
  8. This explains how martyrs could rejoice and sing hymns while being burnt at the stake.
  9. "He is evil spoken of" by the wicked (4:14b), and then Peter adds, "but on your part he is glorified."
  10. Suffering brings glory to God.
  11. Suffering and glory are interwoven throughout this epistle.  God does not replace suffering with glory.  God transforms suffering into glory.



  1. God allows suffering for our good.  FB Meyer said, "The malignant deed of cruelty may proceed from the treachery of a Judas; but the cup must be taken as from the Father's hand. Though the missile may be hurled by malice and ill will, yet if it is permitted to pass through the environing presence of God, it has become his appointment for the refining and maturing of the sufferer's character. In this sense his permissions become his appointments."
  2. There are many examples of this in Scripture -- Job's sufferings, Paul's thorn in the flesh, etc.
  3. Paul prayed three times that the Lord would remove this painful thorn ("the messenger of Satan to buffet me"), but the Lord told him, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9).
  4. Paul said the Lord allowed this, lest Paul "should be exalted above measure" (II Cor. 12:7).   In I Peter 4:1, Peter says those that suffer in the flesh "cease from sin."
  5. Therefore, suffering is for our good; for our benefit (cf. I Peter 4:19). There is no glory when a Christian suffers for sinning (4:15; cf. 2:19, 20; 3:17).
  6. In this context, "judgment" (4:17) refers to persecution against Christians.  God allows it for purposes not often clear to us.
  7. One obvious reason is it purges and cleanses the church (4:17-19).
  8. If God judges His own people, what will He do to the ungodly? (4:18).



  1. Our chapter ends with a reminder that God is our "Creator" (4:19).
  2. As our Creator, God is a God of order and purpose.  He has a plan for our lives.
  3. There is a big controversy these days over Creationism and Intelligent Design and evolution, etc.  Many people think the argument is over the first two chapters in Genesis.
  4. I do not want to diminish the importance of the first two chapters of Genesis.  Those that undermine the book of Genesis are as foolish as a man that knocks out one of the foundation walls in his house.
  5. But my point here is that the doctrine of creation is not just taught in the early pagers of Genesis; it is taught throughout the entire Bible (cf. I Peter 4:19).
  6. Referring to the coming tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ said in Mark 13:19, “For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.”
  7. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our Creator, for John 1:3 says, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."
  8. Our sufferings here on earth will not last long. And up in heaven we will worship the Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity because He “hath created all things” (Rev. 4:11; cf. 10:5, 6).

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