1 Peter 4:18–19

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).

We come today to the end of 1 Peter 4 and the extended discussion of suffering that began in verse 12. We have noted that this letter was originally written to an audience that was experiencing discrimination and, at least in some cases, physical suffering for bearing the name of Christ. This suffering, Peter tells us, should not be a surprise to the Christian. Instead it should be a cause for rejoicing, because in it we share in the sufferings of Jesus (vv. 12–13).

Peter’s discussion of suffering has been somewhat complex. For the most part, he refers to the “undeserved” sufferings that we might bear simply because we are Christians and because we do good things (v.14). However, because Peter also commands us not to suffer as evildoers (v. 15), we can also see he recognizes that some of the suffering we encounter in this life is a result of our evil deeds. When we do wrong we may experience difficulties and suffer — even though such suffering does not bring the same kind of blessing as the suffering that we experience for doing the right thing.

Next week we will look at the wider biblical teaching on suffering in more detail. Today’s passage tells us how we are to endure suffering as we wait for the kingdom to be consummated. We read in verse 19 that those who suffer according to God’s will must entrust themselves to Him while doing good.

Though the suffering Peter has in mind here is the suffering we experience from the ungodly for bearing the name of Christ, this exhortation applies even to the suffering we experience for doing wrong. For indeed, all things that happen are a result of God’s will. This does not mean that God approves of every individual act or hidden motive. However, all things are ordained by Him and will contribute to His glory ultimately. Our suffering, deserved or not, is ordained by God and in it we must trust Him by continuing to do the good that brought us unjust suffering or by turning away from the evil for which we may justly suffer. And though we may not always understand the reasons for our trouble, this verse reminds us that we must always trust God nonetheless.

Coram Deo

Today’s passage, which also says that the righteous are scarcely saved, does not warn us that salvation can be lost. Rather, as John Calvin says, it tells us that no one enters the kingdom without experiencing hardship. Even in our trouble, Calvin writes, it is “certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our pilot.” Whatever your troubles, remember that God is in control and strive to do what is right.

For Further Study