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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Comfort for times of persecution (1 Peter 3:13-17)

The first detail that concerns Peter is comfort, and he shows this by reminding his readers that state opposition will not prevent them enjoying the blessings of God (v. 14). What comfort could be given to them? Given that Peter does not spell out specific comforts, it is reasonable to assume that he had normal Christian comfort in mind. What would some of them be? 

First, persecution identifies them with Jesus Christ. He taught in John 15:18-21: ‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.’  It should be a source of comfort to a Christian that opponents identify him as belonging to Jesus. 

Second, persecution often becomes a door for evangelism. This connection has been noted for a long time. The church father Tertullian claimed that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. A more modern example is the experience of the church in China through the Cultural Revolution.

Third, persecution enables believers to have increased fellowship with Jesus Christ. Remember the words of Jesus to Paul in Philippians 3:10: ‘that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.’ In a remarkable manner, the sympathy and support of Jesus is communicated by the Spirit to those who suffer for the faith. And that is very comforting. 

Fourth, when believers are persecuted they are given aspects of the Spirit’s work that only seems to be given in times of opposition. This is connected to the previous point. Note these words of Peter: ‘If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you’ (1 Pet. 4:14). His words indicate that suffering believers are given special foretastes of the glory that is yet to be theirs. 

Fifth, it is a means of helping the process of sanctification. Here are some verses that state the connection between a joyful response to opposition and growth in grace (James 1:2-4; Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Romans 5:1-5).

Sixth, suffering for Jesus will receive a great reward. The reward is the kingdom of heaven, where sufferers will reign with Christ. It includes receiving commendation from Jesus as well being given places of glory and appropriate functions to perform in the eternal world.  

Seventh, persecution is the proof that it takes grace to live the Christian life. What else but this could cause believers to persevere through a lifetime of opposition, of ridicule, and of abuse? If one persists as a disciple of Jesus through a period of suffering for the faith, depending upon him, then he has an aspect of assurance that will bring him comfort. 

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