“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” – (1 Pet 4:13-14)
In last weeks sermon, I briefly touched on the idea that what we are seeking in evangelism is not simply obedience to a command but MORE of God in Christ. I claimed the apostles seem to indicate in multiple biblical texts that God promises to give more of Himself to those who choose to embrace the folly of the cross. That He manifests a peculiar degree of glory to those who choose to look foolish or even suffer for the sake of their witness to the crucified and risen Christ. But, it’s worth exploring whether or not this is truly a biblical idea.
In the passage above, Peter is addressing Christians who are scattered across the Roman empire. In the presence of an ever-growing emperor cult that demanded the affirmation that Caesar was Lord, churches were being faced with the temptation to remain silent under Roman interrogation. Their only alternatives to silence were to apostatize and confess the divine Lordship of Caesar, or to defy the state by claiming that Jesus alone was Lord. In some places, the penalty for denying the Lordship of Caesar was death. In others, it was social ostracism and mockery. But, God promised the same thing to his people in both situations: “If you suffer rejoice…if you are insulted you are blessed”, and the reason for this is overwhelming: “because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Pet 4:14)
It is important to see here that the Spirit is present with the insulted, foolish looking confessor of Christ BECAUSE of the insult. It is BECAUSE he or she chose to look foolish for Christ rather than to be silent or deny Him. The suffering itself is not what is to be sought, or even the spiritual maturity that suffering produces. Rather: “The blessing comes not because of an opportunity for self-improvement but because of the presence of God.” Another interesting point is that Peter is not stressing the empowering of the Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit but simply His presence. In other words, God promises to give more of Himself to those who are willing to embrace the folly of the cross and go about preaching his gospel even if they come off as fools and stumbling blocks for Christ’s sake (1 Cor 1:18).
The implications of this are immensely important to understand. This clarifies why the command to “Go therefore, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), is grace and not law. Law says obey or you will be cursed (Gal 3:10). Grace says Christ has taken your curse…so obey and enjoy MORE of your gracious God (Mt. 28:19-20). Here are a few more texts to consider as you reflect on this very important truth:
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:10)
- At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. (2 Tim 4:16-17)
- Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Heb 13:13-15)
- And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
- Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
May you find more of your gracious God on the other end of your evangelistic obedience for the joy of your soul and the salvation of the lost! GO!