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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.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Peter’s Comfort for a Suffering People (1 Peter 5:10)

As we have observed in previous studies, Peter has provided divinely-inspired guidance for his readers as they face the likelihood of continued suffering for their faith. He has urged the elders to take seriously the responsibilities connected to shepherding believers under their care (5:1-4), he has urged the believers to submit to the directions of their elders (5:5), he has detailed the importance of humility in their relationships with one another (5:5-6), he had stressed the necessity of prayerful dependence on God regarding the many concerns they will have (5:6), and he warned them about the importance of ensuring that they were ready for the devil’s inevitable attack.  

Those requirements may have seemed daunting for all concerned. Nevertheless it is a necessary feature of a pastor’s work for him to be precise about what is required for living the Christian life in specific situations. It is not a sign of insensitivity to the needs of Christians in such difficult situations; rather it is evidence that he possesses awareness of the reality of a situation.  

Yet a true pastor will wish to encourage the believers with whom he is interacting, and Peter provides the comfort in verse 10. In doing this, he is a tool in the hand of the Comforter himself, the Holy Spirit, who has come into the world at Christ’s bequest to give spiritual consolation. In this verse, Peter provides five sources of comfort for his readers: (1) their troubles will be short duration; (2) a beautiful title for God; (3) a summary of his eternal purpose; (4) a fourfold description of his shepherd care; and (5) the reality of his sovereignty. These comforts, while clearly suitable for Peter’s initial readers, are also very relevant for us and therefore we will consider each of them briefly. We will think about them in the next few days and begin now by thinking briefly about the first.

Peter reminds his readers that they will suffer for ‘a little while’. In what ways can their sufferings be classified as little because we know that some of them were very intense? One obvious way is that they are short in duration in comparison to the eternity of glory that is ahead. Another way of assessing their littleness is to contrast them with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross or with the sufferings of the lost in hell. But the main distinction is clearly the length of them. Peter reminds his readers that even if their sufferings were to last a life-time it is short in comparison to their existence in heaven afterwards. 

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