“But resist him, (our adversary who inflicts suffering) in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” [1 Peter 5:9]
The verse above in Peter has a message when read alone, though the fullness of it can be readily understood only in the passage from which it is taken. Just some of what can be gleaned from the previous eight verses of which 5:9 is a summation:
As to suffering:
- One elder (Peter), a literal witness to Christ’s sufferings exhorting other elders who are among one another (their is a basis here of unity and equality despite him not literally being among them) It is this basis from which he exhorts those scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. [1 Peter 1:1, 5:1]
- In these verses he talks specifically to the elders who are called to shepherd others in these areas as those who are among them and how to be examples for these saints. (This is so no undue suffering will occur outside of what God has decreed for each person) We all know how much suffering ensues when a shepherd or “leader” serves for sordid gain or because they want to lord it over other saints. [1 Peter 5:2, 3]
- Peter then speaks of the need for the younger men to be subject to the local elders but quickly adds, ALL OF YOU clothe yourselves with humility. Young men can be self-confident in difficult situations and they must learn to follow the example of those more experienced in battle with the adversaries. Ever wonder why so many young people are busy starting their own self-made “ministries.” They mean well, but think they can do it better or more efficiently than those who have gone before them. [1 Peter 5:5]
- Then Peter offers a warning: BE SOBER IN SPIRIT, BE ON THE ALERT! Why? Because their adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Have you ever really taken the time to think deeply about these words? Satan is out to kill people, not just to tempt them to do evil. [1 Peter 5:8]
- Then…..RESIST HIM, firm in your faith, knowing the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
The picture in this chapter above is of a universal ekklesia, headed up by a Chief Shepherd who has flocks of younger and older members in various locales, the older being tasked with looking after the younger in these places. The picture is one of family, where despite all being equal in Christ, members have differing responsibilities (such as each casting their personal anxieties upon God, verse 7) and yet each is subject one to another. The picture is one of continual warfare in this life- warfare against their adversary the devil, not against one another regardless of where their brothers and sisters reside.
The picture in this chapter shows the working relationship and attitude of the saints one to another in the midst of God’s call for them to suffer in this book of 1 Peter. The word suffering is referred to often and speaks to among other things:
- [1 Peter 1:6] Distressed by various trials…..as a means to test their faith
- [1:14] Do not be conformed to the former lusts…..suffering in ignorance
- [1:18] But with precious blood…..solemn reminder of the cost of suffering to redeem them
- [2:4] And coming to Him…..sharing His suffering by being rejected of men
- [2:18] Be submissive to masters…..even willing to suffer unjustly and unreasonably
= “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in his steps……” How? By taking matters into His own hands? No, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…..[1 Peter 2:21-23] What will result from following His example in practice?…..so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. For by His stripes we were healed? Healed from what?
As God has promised, all Christians suffer, though few suffer as God intends them to. Their are a variety of reasons for this, some of which I will explain below.
1. Many people today equate the healing spoken of in the verse above to physical healing. Although their is nothing wrong with finding physical healing in the atonement, the time for this particular healing has not yet occurred. We may have immediately received spiritual healing and restoration upon immediately being born again, but we have yet to receive the new bodies that are promised us at the day of Christ’s return, the day of redemption. The very fact that we will still die physically is proof that physical healing is not guaranteed this side of heaven. The only way that could ring true was if we could avoid death itself, something we have not been promised in Christ. The good news is better yet, as we won’t be replacing these sin tainted shells with new ones but with entirely heavenly ones. Awesome.
Our suffering along these lines occurs when some other professing Christian promises us something God hasn’t promised and doesn’t seem to deliver. When we question others why this is, often we are blamed for not having enough faith or failing to prove our faith through some specific action. WE HAVE SUFFERED NEEDLESSLY BECAUSE WE HAVE BELIEVED A LIE.
2. Christians are supposed to suffer in the context of their family relationships- not merely marriage relationships but among their brothers and sisters in Christ. We are individually and corporately called to share one another’s joys and sufferings, not just the pain therein, but the remedy of those pains to the degree that we are able. Due to what can only be noted as neglect of daily fellowship among the saints we rarely know the specifics of a family members suffering and as a result we don’t aid others as we are commanded by God. WE SUFFER BECAUSE WE FAIL TO FELLOWSHIP FROM DAY TO DAY AS GOD COMMANDS WHEREIN WE ARE TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE.
3. Furthermore, many of us are hesitant to open up and burden others with our sufferings or struggles with sin. WE SUFFER BECAUSE WE FAIL TO OPEN UP ABOUT OUR SUFFERINGS TO THOSE WHO ARE COMMANDED TO CARE AND HELP REMEDY OUR SUFFERINGS.
4. Many of the people that attempt to help us offer remedies outside of what God allows such as worldly solutions which complicate and even multiply the problems. WE SUFFER BECAUSE WE DON’T STAY WITHIN THE BOUNDS GOD HAS PROVIDED FOR US AND WHICH STEM FROM HIM.
5. First and foremost, we suffer from a failure to regularly seek God for revelation ourselves by abiding in and with Him, therefore having an undue reliance upon other men and even other Christians for what we are supposed to believe and live out. WE SUFFER DUE TO A FAILURE TO SEEK GOD FOR OURSELVES.
Remember where we started in this study? …..knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world….
The point Paul makes goes much deeper than just a recognition that others suffer too. If that’s all you have gleaned herein than you have missed the main point. Paul is saying that their are others who share the same faith that you do, who serve the same Lord the way you do and care about you the same way Jesus Himself does. These people are family and want you to know that they too understand your plight and they too are perservering through it as you are.
Have you ever noticed how many times Paul the apostle shares his longing to come fellowship with various saints, and how he’s constantly telling of his responsibilities, burdens and even those who he regularly associates with during his service to the body? Even the sickness of a saint is not overlooked as if the whole body needed to know. It’s like he’s a glue that’s constantly speaking of the needs of those he meets, the opportunities and responsibilities this presents to others as if they are one big family? That’s because they are!
Paul understood something very few of us ever grasp very deeply. It’s not the songs we sing, it’s not the meals we share or the excitement of meeting a new brother or sister for the first time that really molds the body of Christ. Rather, it is our identification through suffering, the very path Jesus traversed for us that we might reciprocate it that bonds and unites the body as one. That is what Jesus wants us to see and the reason Paul was willing to exemplify this by “dying daily.” When you recognize this, you will be able to see and understand why the apostle Peter was confident in saying:
…..he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” [1 Peter 4:1,19]