In this section, Peter once again returns to the main theme of this letter, namely to encourage suffering believers to endure trials with patience, looking to Christ for their example and motivation; this patient endurance under trial would cause their persecutors to “.. see [their] good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). Their goal is not only to keep from sinning under trial, but also to see their persecutors saved. Hence the exhortation in 3:15 “.. always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
In verses 12-16, Peter lovingly exhorts them not to be surprised at the fiery trials that they are facing, but to rejoice instead; and he proceeds to give them 5 reasons why they/we should rejoice in suffering for Christ.
(v.12) Trials are part of God’s plan to strengthen our faith (v.12). Peter had already mentioned this in 1:6-7, where he said: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire...” As gold is refined from its impurities by fire, the same way our faith is tested and purified by trials. True faith will grow and become stronger, while shallow, temporary faith will fail. These trials are not designed for our destruction, but for our growth in grace, that we may be more like Christ. The Lord Himself will be with us in our trials, so that they will not overwhelm us (Isaiah 43:2).
(v.13a) We are to rejoice because we have the privilege of sharing in Christ’s suffering. Of course this is not speaking of His atoning suffering on our behalf, but suffering that we endure in our identification with Him. The world hated Christ and put Him to death, and it hates us because we are His followers (John 15:18-19). Sharing in Christ’s suffering is an opportunity for us to show our gratitude for what He has done for us in redeeming us by His precious blood. We are saying by our suffering that Christ is worthy of our name, honor, reputation, wealth, and even our lives. In the second place, it is an opportunity to sense His presence and nearness as He comforts us in our affliction. Stephen beheld the glory of the risen Christ as he was about to be stoned. The Lord gave Paul and Silas joy in their suffering, so that they were able to sing in prison; He further made His presence felt by shaking the prison walls and saving the prison keeper.
(v.13b) We are to rejoice in our suffering now, so that we will be able to rejoice at His coming. We read in 1 Peter 1:7 “..the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Christ will commend and honor us at His return before the entire universe. He will say: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth.”
(v.14) We are to rejoice in our suffering because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us. It is His Holy Spirit that enables us to endure suffering with patience. One author said: “ when they [the persecutors] put the first century Christians to death for refusing to worship idols, they were so struck with the constance, patience, meekness and benevolence, wherewith they suffered, that it led many of them to think well of the religion.”
(v.15-16) We are to rejoice in our suffering, because it gives us an opportunity to give glory to God. We do this by demonstrating the transforming power of the gospel in our lives. It is only by His grace that we are able to endure with patience. We also give Him praise for counting us worthy to suffer. After the disciples were beaten for preaching Christ, we read in Acts 5:41, “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”
May the Lord help us, by His grace, not to be surprised when persecution comes; but rather to rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for our blessed Lord.
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.