Some Thoughts on 1 Peter
Bryan Jenkins, Cwmbran
One of the recurring questions with which a travelling preacher is confronted is that posed by human suffering. There is, of course, no easy answer to this, especially to the one question most frequently asked, namely, "Why does God allow His people to suffer, often in such grievous ways?" There are, obviously, many reasons, but having said that, the problem is tremendous and its solution is not simple. Perhaps, though, what is of paramount importance is not so much our understanding of the reasons for any suffering we may be called upon to undergo, but our attitude to it, and in it. The people to whom Peter wrote were reminded of this, and of the fact that to suffer for Christ was their privilege. In the verses before us Peter says that the experience of suffering for Christ's sake ought to produce in them
Inward Sanctification. "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts", v. 1 5. There is a very blessed sense in which all, who have received the Lord Jesus as Saviour and who by faith rest in His finished work, are sanctified. But there is the very practical need of working out that truth in our lives day by day. Peter says that it will be done by acknowledging the Lordship of Christ: "Let your inward being be set apart by Him, and for Him". Now, it may be comparatively easy to do this when all is going well, but when things are more difficult, when testings and problems arise, it seems much harder. It is then that we find ourselves questioning, complaining to God and raising doubts concerning the pathway we have come along. "All the way my Saviour leads me. What have I to ask beside?" is all very well when it is in paths of peace and quietness, but, perhaps, not so easy to sing from the heart when the way is dark and unknown. But, says Peter, "Submit yourself to Him, especially at such times".
Another thing we must recognize is that we are not our own; we have been bought with a price. Purchased with His precious blood, we are His for Him to do with us as He will, and to send us as, where and when He pleases. How sad to hear believers say, "Nobody is going to tell me what to do; I do as I please". The great example of One who pleased not Himself is the Lord Jesus who, "when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously", even though a pathway of unparalleled degradation and suffering lay before Him, 1 Pet 2. 23. This inward submission to the will and rule of the Lord Jesus must inevitably have its
Outward Manifestation, as people see our reactions to the particular trials and difficulties through which we pass. Almost inevitably, a calm, perhaps even a joyful acceptance of suffering, prompts questions from onlookers ; and it is then that we must be ready to give an answer to those who ask us the reason for this calmness, this hope that we manifest. The word used for "ready", v. 15, really means prepared. How necessary it is for us to prepare ourselves in heart and mind for occasions like this. It means that we must have a personal adequate knowledge, both of God's Word, and of His character. For the hope that we have of safely coming through all suffering and trial, and of being with Him in eternal bliss, is founded not only upon the promises of God, but, perhaps more importantly, upon His unchanging character. How vital then, that we get to know Him! Not just knowing about Him, but becoming thoroughly acquainted with Him in a deeply intimate and personal way! Such knowledge would never engender spiritual pride, for that which does is merely superficial. Our witness, says Peter, must be characterized by two things, "meekness and fear", v. 15. Firstly we must recognize the fact that we are essentially no better than those to whom we witness, and that it is only by the grace of God that we are what we are. An arrogant way of "informing" folk of the reason for the hope that is within us will convince nobody, but will rather antagonize the very people whom we want to win. Secondly we must be marked by that fear which betokens our deep reverence for God, and for His things. We ought not to fear those who would intimidate or persecute us, for that would ensnare us and tend to shut our mouths altogether. The sum, then, of what Peter was saying should result in
Total Consecration, It is not merely that our lives should be lived in such a v/ay that others might marvel at them, but rather, that in all things our own consciences may be clear. It may be that some will falsely accuse us, for this has happened all down the centuries. But if our consciences are clear, and we are living our lives honestly and openly in recognition of the Lordship of Christ, that is, in complete obedience to Him, it is not we who will be ashamed, but those who oppose us, v. 16. We must not fail to recognize, however, that it is not always a verbal witness which is the most effective, for perhaps that which is most powerful and challenging is borne by the kind of life we live, and by the character that we display under all circumstances.