Who are we?

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.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Suffering for Jesus and the presence of the Spirit (1 Peter 4:14-15)

The next aspect of suffering that Peter highlights is that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon the persecuted believers. Here the apostle uses a particular title of the Spirit (the Spirit of glory) and mentions a specific activity by him (rests). Further Peter suggests that this is an experience of the divine presence that is given to those who are insulted for the name of Christ. The order seems to be persecution followed by a divine blessing, and the blessing is a special sense of the Spirit’s presence in their lives.

What does the title ‘Spirit of glory’ suggest? Glory describes something that is majestic and superior to everything else. The Spirit is divine and is therefore a supremely glorious person. All he does is marked with glory. When it comes to his work in the heart of a persecuted Christian, I would suggest that he provides a blessing that is a compensation for what the persecuted believer has lost. At the same time, the provision given by the Spirit will be foretaste of the glory that is ahead for all Christians. The Spirit can provide this compensating foretaste in a variety of ways: he can convey divine promises from the Bible in a powerful manner; he can give peace in abundance; and in keeping with the context he can provide and sustain a great amount of joy.

Note that Peter says that the Spirit ‘rests’ on persecuted Christians. This means that he remains with them through all their troubles. It also means that he finds it a pleasant experience to be with his faithful people: ‘rest’ has the idea of enjoyable and peaceful. Those who remain true to Jesus discover that the Spirit is with them in a greater manner than usual. We only have to read the testimonies of martyrs to realise that this was the case. 

Yet this experience can be withdrawn, warns Peter in verse 15, because of sins. We might find the list of sins a bit surprising: murder, theft, evildoing and meddling. From one point of view the apostle can be read as covering sins that are heinous and sins that are not so heinous. Yet I suspect he is being more specific and is highlighting particular sins that persecuted believers would be tempted to commit. But if they did, they would lose the presence of the Spirit of glory.

We can understand how a persecuted Christian might turn on his tormenter and kill him, perhaps intentionally or by accident. Similarly, we can easily imagine situations in which a persecuted Christian would steal because he had lost his possessions. Evildoer would cover a range of possible actions. Meddling is probably interfering in things which they should not have done and for which they were rightly punished. Those guilty of such actions should not imagine that their sufferings for such reasons had God’s approval.

Peter’s words in verse 15 remind us that sin will cause havoc whether we are in a situation of persecution or in a situation of outward prosperity. One of our priorities must always be not to grieve the Holy Spirit by our sins. The fact is, there are sins that are peculiar to certain situations and we have to be looking out for them constantly. This is a reminder that when we pray for the persecuted church we should pray that they would be kept from grieving the Spirit of glory who is resting on them.

No comments:

Post a Comment