Tested by Fire: Living as a Christian in a Post-Christian Era

Hope Lutheran Church, Fargo, ND - Pastor Mark Vitalis Hoffman

Fifth Week of Lent - March 20-26, 1996

The Fiery Ordeal

A Study of 1 Peter 4.7-19

For Openers:

For Your Information:

Read 1 Peter 4.7-11.

The end of all things is near (7): There is considerable reflection about "the end" in the New Testament. For a brief survey, read: Matthew 24.13-14; Mark 1.15; Luke 21.9; Romans 13.11-12. Within 1 Peter, note 1.20 and also 4.17.

Compare 4.8 with Psalm 32.1 which indicates that to "cover" sins is to "forgive" sins. Also read Proverbs 10.12; Luke 7.47; Romans 5.8; 1 John 4.10; James 5.19-20

Hospitality (9) was a very important virtue in ancient times. See Romans 12.13; 1 Timothy 3.2; Hebrews 13.2; 3 John 5-7.

Verse 10: Also read Romans 12.3-8; 1 Corinthians 12.4-11. Note that where Paul talks about individual gifts with the metaphor of the body of Christ, in 1 Peter the metaphor used is of a household. The Greek word for "gift" is charisma; the word for "grace" is charis. For more on the role of "steward," see Luke 12.42-48 and 1 Corinthians 4.1-2.

Note that verse 11 is highlighting the distinction between word and deed. Also see Acts 6.1-6; Colossians 3.17.

Verse 11 concludes the body of this letter which runs from 2.11-4.11. The focus on the glory of God is paralleled in 2.12 and 4.11. Also compare 4.11 to 5.11.

Read 1 Peter 4.12-19.

Beloved (12): Note that this word was also used to start out the main body of the letter in 2.11.

Note that the structure of this section matches the structure of other parts of the letter. (Cf. Elliot, 1 Peter)

Compare verses 12-13 with 1.6-9. Especially note how the "fiery ordeal" mentioned here repeats the sense of being "tested by fire" mentioned in 1.7.

For more on "sharing Christ's sufferings" (13), see Romans 8.15-18; 2 Corinthians 1.3-11; Philippians 3.10-11; 2 Timothy 2.11-13.

For some insight into how Christians in the communities of 1 Peter came to experience actual persecution at the hands of the Roman government, see the correspondence between Pliny and the emperor Trajan in about 112 A.D.

Compare 4.14 with Matthew 5.11-12; Luke 6.22. With reference to the "Spirit of God," see Isaiah 11.2.

Mischief maker (15): Literally, someone who looks into others' business; hence, a "busybody" or "meddler."

On bearing the name of Christian (16), see Acts 11.26.

Verse 18 is a quotation from the Greek Septuagint version of Proverbs 11.31.

Entrust themselves (19): Literally, commit their souls. The phrasing is similar to Luke 23.46.

"Doing good" in verse 19 is to be contrasted with the "doing evil" mentioned in 4.15.

For Your Consideration:

  1. If you knew that the world was going to end tomorrow, what would you do today? Read 4.7 again. How can you apply this verse to your own life?
  2. Read 4.8 again. When it says that "love covers a multitude of sins," to whose love is it referring? To whose sins?
  3. What are some things that might cause you to "grumble" when you are showing hospitality? (4.9) Why is it important not to grumble? (Check out Hebrews 13.2.)
  4. Think about the ways you have been "gifted." What is the relation between your gifts (charisma) and God's grace (charis)? Part of the promise of 4.10 is that there is at least one thing you can do better than anyone else in the whole world. How can you use your gifts to serve others?
  5. Using the metaphor of household responsibilities in 4.10, what metaphorical roles best describes your position in the household of God.
  6. If you had to convince others to take part in a dangerous but necessary and worthwhile undertaking, how would you try to persuade and encourage them? (4.12-19)
  7. What does it mean for us to be "sharing Christ's sufferings" (13)? Why is this something about which we should rejoice? Note that the Greek of verse 13 indicates that we should "rejoice" now even in our suffering, but that when Christ's glory is revealed, we will "rejoice while being glad." What is the difference between these two times of rejoicing?
  8. In what ways is fire harmful? In what ways can it be helpful? What "fiery ordeals" have you experienced? How have they been harmful or helpful?
  9. What "fiery ordeals" have you experienced precisely because you are a Christian?
  10. Verse 14 says that the Spirit of God is "resting" upon you. This word does not simply mean "stopping" or "sitting upon," but it connotes the sense of "taking its rest." How is the Spirit of God taking its rest upon you?
  11. How do you bear or wear the name of "Christian"? How can others tell?
  12. Describe the difference between how the word "the end" is used in 4.7 and 4.17.
  13. Is it easy or hard to entrust yourself (or commit your soul) to God (19)? Is it something you experience as a sacrifice or a relief?

For Later:

Go to Daily Bible ReadingsDaily Bible Readings for March 20-26

These daily Bible readings are given with the hope that they will help you on your spiritual journey through Lent. Before beginning a Bible reading, start your meditation time with prayer, perhaps the Lord's Prayer. Then read the passage from 1 Peter which is given for that day. (Readings for Sunday are not given. Go to church!) Through the course of Lent, you will read the entire letter of 1 Peter. A second passage is also suggested and part of your meditation should be to determine what connections there are between this passage and the 1 Peter reading for that day. The Lord be with you

Wednesday: 1 Peter 4.7-9; 1 Corinthians 13.1-13

Thursday: 1 Peter 4.10-11; Romans 12.3-8

Friday: 1 Peter 4.12-13; Philippians 3.10-11

Saturday: 1 Peter 4.14-15; Matthew 5.11-12

Monday: 1 Peter 4.16-17; Philippians 1.20-21

Tuesday: 1 Peter 4.18-19; 2 Timothy 2.10-13

The text of 1 Peter 4.7-19 studied in this Bible Study (NRSV)

1 Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. Return to Study

1 Peter 4.12-19 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. 16 Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?" 19 Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good. Return to Study

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