1 Peter 4:12-19 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Peter tell these Christian people who were facing “fiery trials?” See 1 Peter 4:12 (printed below)

Beloved, do not be surprised by the fiery trials among you (that have come for the purpose of testing you), as though a strange thing has happened to you. (1 Peter 4:12)

The apostle Peter gently (by addressing them as “beloved”) reminds these Christians that we are not to be surprised when we encounter “fiery trials.” We must not view such experiences as though an unprecedented, unheard of phenomenon has come upon us. The Christian life in this world is not one of perpetual and uninterrupted tranquility; on the contrary, it includes the encounter with distressing trials. Note that the trials we face are “fiery;” that is to say, they are of such a nature and of such intensity as to put us to grief and cause intense pain and suffering at times.

2. According to the apostle Peter, why are these Christians encountering “fiery trials?” See 1 Peter 4:12 (printed above under question #1)

Rather than being caught off guard by “fiery trials,” let us not only be prepared and expect them, but let us also understand their purpose. As Peter explains to these Christians, fiery trials come “for the purpose of testing you.” It is God’s divine prerogative to test the genuineness of our Christian faith and to purify that faith; and He does so by the use of various trials.

3. How does Peter encourage these Christians to respond to the trials they are presently facing? See 1 Peter 4:13 (printed below)

On the contrary, since you are participating in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice; so that at the revelation of his glory you may indeed rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:13)

Peter exhorts us to rejoice when we encounter trials, because it is the evidence that we are participating in the sufferings of Christ. We are not called to rejoice because we are suffering; on the contrary, we are called to rejoice in the fact that our suffering is the direct consequence of our relationship to Christ. The fact that we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ is the evidence that we are sharing in His life. Furthermore, it is that living, spiritual relationship with Christ that enables us to endure and that eventually carries us through the suffering to glory (note Philippians 3:8-11).

4. What particular trial were these Christians suffering? How does Peter encourage them? See 1 Peter 4:14 (printed below)

If you are denounced for the name of Christ, you are blessed; because the Spirit of glory, indeed, the Spirit of God, is resting upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)

In verse 14 Peter addresses a specific type of suffering: being denounced for the name of Christ. If we are denounced by the world (being scorned, censured, disgraced) because of our allegiance to Christ and our identification with Him, we are to be assured that all the more does the blessing (favor) of God rest upon us (note Luke 6:22-23). Peter explains that the reproach we encounter from the world is the indication that the Holy Spirit rests upon us. The Holy Spirit brings conviction to the world (note John 16:8) and He operates through the life and witness of Christian people (cp. Ephesians 5:8-11). If we encounter reproach because of our Christian life and witness, it is a dramatic testimony that the Holy Spirit is working in us and through us.

5. How does Peter identify the trial the church was presently facing (see verse 17 printed below?) What do you think he means?

The time has come to begin the judgment with the house of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

We must recognize that God employs trials as the means not only of purifying His people but also as the means of purging His church. Peter identifies the trial the church was presently undergoing as the beginning of God’s (final) judgment. One great characteristic of God’s judgment is distinguishing and separating the redeemed from the unconverted and the unrepentant (note Matthew 25:31-33), and then assigning each category of persons to their eternal destinations (note Matthew 25:34,41). By means of trials God purges His church; by means of trials God distinguishes between those who are genuine Christians and those who are Christian in name only (note Mark 4:1-8,14-20).