12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:12–13, NKJV).
What are Christians to do when trials come? They will come in various ways, especially when we live godly (James 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:6; 2 Tim. 3:12). Peter teaches Christians how to overcome the distress of trials with the joy of Christ. (1) Do not think your trials are unique to you (1 Pet. 4:12). Trials can be fiery. Your adversary wants to isolate you, but others have faced and overcome trials, and so can you (Heb. 11:36-40). (2) Rejoice to partake of Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:13-14). Jesus suffered trials, and He comes to the aid of all who put their faith in Him (Heb. 2:18; 4:15-16). Rejoice in Christ and follow His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). (3) Do not be ashamed of being a Christian (1 Pet. 4:15-18). Remain faithful through the difficulties you face for wearing His name (Mark 8:38). Accept suffering for those things that glorify God, and you will be judged faithful for your obedience to Christ. (4) Commit your life to God (1 Pet. 4:19). Deposit your soul for safekeeping to God. Accept the momentary grief trials bring and keep doing good (1 Pet. 2:19-23). Your trial is a moment to purify your faith and look toward your heavenly reward (1 Pet. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Faith in Christ overcomes this world’s trials (1 Pet. 5:4). Trust that God will not leave you (Heb. 13:5-6). He will right every wrong and reward your faith with eternal life.
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19–20, NKJV).
James concluded his exhortation to have a mature faith by challenging the faithful to care for the spiritual well-being of their brethren. The tenor of his instruction is not a self-righteous approach toward the wandering saint but a sincere attempt to turn back the wandering Christian. James describes the wandering Christian as a sinner, in error, and dead in his sins. Yes, Christians can fall and be lost (Gal. 5:4, 7). If not, there would be no need to encourage brethren to turn this person back from the path he has taken. The standard we use to measure whether one is wandering away from the Lord is “the truth,” the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). The wayward Christian has succumbed to the enticements “his own desires” that produce sin (James 1:14-15). Let us be invigorated not to neglect the danger and death faced by faltering brethren. With the mercy and urgency of Christ, let us attempt to pull them out of the fire, looking to ourselves, lest we also be tempted (Jude 21-23; Gal. 6:1-3).
21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:21–24, NKJV).
This clear statement of sin was said to a Christian, Simon, who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12-13). This passage helps expose and defeat two false doctrines. The first error is denying the necessity of water baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16). Some say Simon was never really saved in an attempt to deny this. But, Acts 8:12-13 says he believed, was baptized, and continued following Philip’s teachings like others in Samaria. If Simon was not saved when he believed and was baptized, neither were the Samaritans. And if they were lost, then the apostles gave the Holy Spirit to those who had not “received the word of God,” which they had (Acts 8:14-17). Yes, Simon was a Christian. It is postulated by those who reject baptism’s necessity for salvation that Christians would have to be baptized when they sin repeatedly. This text denies that. Peter told Simon the Christian to repent, not to be baptized again. The second error exposed is the impossibility of apostasy (a Christian cannot fall away and be lost). But Simon was poisoned and enslaved by sin, needing forgiveness. Simon was lost unless he repented. His plea for Peter’s prayer indicates his repentance and confession of sins (v. 24; 1 John 1:9; James 5:16). Sinners must believe and be baptized to be saved. Christians are forgiven by repentance and prayer. Otherwise, the sinner and saint remain lost in sin.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46–47, NKJV).
The Scriptures show a distinction and separation between the collective activity of a local church (assembling “in the temple”) and the individual action of its members (“from house to house”). Specifically, this passage teaches the local church is not a mess hall designed to feed stomachs. It is the house of God, intended to feed souls the word of God (1 Tim. 3:15; Acts 20:7, 28). People have turned local churches into little more than community centers offering all sorts of social, recreational, political, and other secular-based activities that Scripture does not assign to churches. Such things are left to individual disciples to do when and how they please (Gal. 6:10). The Scriptures reveal the local church does not automatically have the Lord’s approval to do whatever individual Christians may do. Notably, in 1 Timothy 5:16, the church is not charged with an action expected of certain Christians. Since the Lord adds saved ones to the church, the individual and the church are not the same thing (Acts 2:47). Do not assume “whatever the individual Christian may do the local church may do.” Such an assertion does not withstand the scrutiny of Scripture.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Matthew 5:13, NKJV)
Have you heard the expression, “he’s not worth his salt?” It comes from the days of the Roman Empire. “A soldier’s pay—consisting in part of salt—came to be known as solarium argentum, from which we derive the word salary. A soldier’s salary was cut if he “was not worth his salt,” a phrase that came into being because the Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt” (“A Brief History of Salt,” Time, March 15, 1982). Salt flavors and preserves food. It made a useful antiseptic before modern medicine. Israel offered salt in its offerings to God, perhaps as a token that their sacrifices were seasoned and preserved by the Sinai covenant (Lev. 2:13). Jesus said His followers are the salt of the earth, a timeless and easily understood metaphor. Christians (citizens of the kingdom of heaven), must be influences of righteousness in a world of sin and death. Our lives must flavor the world around us, influencing others to turn to God. We must guard ourselves against sin because it destroys godly influence. As contaminated salt lost its usefulness to flavor food and to disinfect was cast onto the foot trails (to avoid destroying fertile soil), the Christian who loses his godly influence is ineffective (even destructive) to the cause of Christ. A godly influence is needed and powerful. Protect your influence and season the world with righteousness (Eph. 4:20-24).
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17, NKJV)
The apostle Peter speaks of judgment commencing at God’s house. Since it has been almost two thousand years since he wrote this, we can safely conclude what started then continues to be true now. God’s house is the church (Heb. 3:4-6; 1 Tim. 3:15). So, we readily admit the church of Christ has and will undergo judgments. Judgment in this verse means “the process of judgment (separation) leading to a decision” (Vine, I:222). Peter has been discussing intense persecutions already happening to Christians. He said God’s people should not think it a strange (foreign, novel) thing when trials come upon us (1 Pet. 4:12). Instead, he exhorts us to “rejoice” since such trials are our fellowship with the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 4:13; Phil. 3:10). God blesses and comforts Christians who suffer for His name’s sake. Accepting reproach for our faith without shame, we are to glorify God in the name “Christian” (1 Pet. 4:14-16). To be ashamed of being a Christian judges us unworthy of Christ (Mk. 8:38). Suffering for one’s faith in Christ separates the faithful from those who abandon their faith to escape reproach. Thus, persecution has the effect of judging Christians. It separates the unfaithful from the righteous. Since Christians are saved through such difficulties, it becomes obvious that those who “do not obey the gospel of God” will not be saved (1 Pet. 4:17, 18).
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:41–42, NKJV)
The apostles had just been beaten and threatened for preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:40). One would think they would go underground to avoid further pain and threats of death. But, astonishingly, they continued daily to teach and preach, both publicly and privately. Their faith in Christ was greater than their fear of men. The apostle Paul vividly portrays the suffering of the apostles when he said, “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (1 Cor. 4:11–13). Later, Peter would exhort us to have courage to gladly accept suffering as a Christian: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:16). Like the apostles, we must “not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” – regardless of the reactions of those who refuse to believe in the power and authority of Jesus Christ to save.
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15, NKJV)
From time to time the question arises whether a fallen away Christian is, in fact, still a brother or sister in Christ. Today’s passage helps us understand that fallen Christians are still brethren, albeit, brethren in sin in need of discipline and warnings to try to bring about their repentance. Verse 13 refers to “brethren” who are faithful not to grow weary in doing the good things of God. The “anyone” of verse 14 is any Christian who becomes weary of doing good (being faithful) and “walks disorderly” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Normal social contact with that person is to cease in a disciplinary attempt to cause him to be ashamed of his sin and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Verse 15 directly says the wayward Christian is “a brother” whom we continue to warn rather than treat as an enemy. Therefore, we conclude that one who falls from the faith is an erring brother or sister – an erring child of God who needs repentance and prayer to be forgiven by God (James 5:19-20; Acts 8:22).
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1 Peter 4:16, ESV)
The Son of God suffered and died at the hands of lawless, immoral men. Christians ought not expect better treatment when they are faithful to the Lord. Commit yourself to live your faith courageously. There will be those who will try to silence you with intimidation, humiliation or worse. Do not be ashamed of Christ! He despised the shame of the cross for our redemption and his present glory at the right hand of God (Heb. 12:2). Give honor to God by being faithful to Christ – no matter what others say or do to you because you are a Christian.