Theme: No Escape from Suffering
This week’s lessons encourage us with the truth that because God always finishes what he begins, every true believer will receive God’s eternal glory in Christ.
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:10
Here is the third important point we need to know about the background of 1 Peter.
Peter wanted to encourage them by the certainty of a glory yet to be come. He does this throughout the letter. In chapter 1 he speaks of the believers’ “living hope” (v. 3), and of “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (v. 4). He says that their trials have come so that their “faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v. 7). In chapter 3 he reminds them that “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (v. 18). In chapter 4 he says, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (v. 13).
This is what the text we are studying also does. It encourages the Christians of Asia Minor by reminding them of the glory that is to be theirs when they complete their earthly course and are with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven; and it assures them that in the meantime God will strengthen them and keep them for the work they have to do here.
The text is a benediction, that is, a word of blessing. But it is important to note that the verbs in the verse are future, not optative. That is, they express a promise, not a wish. If it were the latter, the verse would say something like: “May the God of all grace…restore you and make you strong.” Benedictions are often like that, and this is the way the King James Version actually translates Peter’s words: “The God of all grace…make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” But the verse is actually a promise in the future tense, not a wish, and what it promises is that “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” It is this future tense that makes 1 Peter 5:10 an important verse about perseverance.
The first truth we see when we turn to this text is that perseverance does not mean that believers in Christ are automatically delivered from all suffering. In fact, the verse teaches the opposite. It teaches that we will experience suffering, though it will be of relatively short duration (for this life rather than for eternity), and that suffering will be replaced in time by an eternal glory.
Where did Peter get this understanding of suffering in the Christian life? It is no great mystery. He learned it from Jesus Christ. This was one of the themes of the last discourses of Jesus before his crucifixion, recorded in chapters 14-16 of John’s Gospel. In chapter 15 Jesus spoke of the world’s hatred, which would lead to persecutions: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you…. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (vv. 18-20). In the next chapter he tells of religious persecutions: “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me” (vv. 2, 3). His final words in the discourse were: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33).
Obviously, Peter had learned from this. His personal experiences as a Christian as well as his observations of the life and experiences of the early Christian community assured him that Jesus was not being hypothetical when he forecast suffering and persecution for his followers. Suffering is a very real thing.
You will also notice something else that is important if you glance back one or two verses and place verse 10 in that context. In verses 8 and 9 Peter is talking about Satan, the devil, and he is saying that the suffering he is concerned about here is the suffering Satan causes. He calls Satan the Christian’s enemy. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
There are many names for the devil in the Bible. “Devil” itself is one, and it means disrupter or destroyer of peace. “Satan” means accuser. We are told in Revelation that Satan, “the accuser of our brothers…accuses them before our God day and night” (12:10). Satan is called “Belial,” meaning something low or morally depraved. He is called “the tempter,” “the god and prince of this world,” the “chief of demons,” that is, Beelzebub (meaning “Lord of the flies”), Apollyon, a “murderer from the beginning,” and “the great dragon…that ancient serpent called the devil.”
In our text he is compared to a “lion looking for someone to devour.” A lion is a fierce and powerful animal and a subtle stalker of prey. So when Peter warns us about our enemy the lion, he is assuring us that however wonderful the doctrine of perseverance is, it does not mean that we shall be spared Satan’s onslaughts and that, in fact, we had better be prepared to resist him and so stand firm in the faith to which we have been called.
But how can we do that, if Satan is really as powerful as the Bible says he is? The answer, of course, is that in ourselves we cannot resist him even for a moment. We can only do it by the grace and power of God, which is where our text comes in. For it assures us that in spite of these Satanic threats to our security, “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
What makes 1 Peter 5:10 an important verse about perseverance?
What does this passage teach about the Christian and suffering?
Why does God allow us to suffer?
Reflection: Is God calling you to go through a period of suffering? What does this verse teach you about it and what you can expect God to do for you because of it?