Bible study

Bible study: How should Christians understand suffering? (1 Peter 1)

I thought I would post my notes for my 1 Peter Bible study here. I’m studying 1 Peter with a female friend in the mornings. We’re using Joel Green’s “1 Peter” commentary which we got for free from Logos Bible Software.

We had a very good discussion today about how we started out our lives (even as Christians) with certain sad / missing things and how reading the Bible and having changed priorities and behaviors changed what we were hoping for, our priorities, our desires, and our contentment.

I just pasted in my full notes with the clips from Green’s book, then below that, I have the pasted in her (better) notes. I wish you all could be in our Bible study, we are very practical.

My notes:

Author: Apostle Peter
Date: this letter was probably written before or during the Neronian persecution (AD 62-64)
Audience: probably a mixed group of Jews and Gentile believers who were scattered throughout the northern regions of Asia Minor
Genre: Didactic
Purpose: provide direction for believers under persecution; at times it also includes theological considerations which support the ethical exhortations.
Map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_Peter_1#/media/File:Map_Anatolia_ancient_regions-en.svg
Commentary: “1 Peter” by Joel B. Green

Verses 6-7:

  • Genuine faith doesn’t mean that you will be free from “various trials” now.
  • Talk about my experiences dealing with white male senior engineers and architects who are very successful in my IT workplace, married, with kids, who grew up in married Christian homes and lost their faith in college OR who profess Christianity but vote Democrat and know more about Star Wars / fantasy novels, etc. than Christian worldview and apologetics.
  • The feeling of not being good enough at worldly success and not being able to convince non-Christians that spiritual things are more important, specifically, apologetics.
  • Seeing how attractive, charismatic white Christians families are seen as the gold standard in church, even though they can’t defend their worldview, and their priorities, favored policies, and discussion topics are all from the secular left culture.
  • My experience of “rejoicing” in the faith will not be about being happy or joyful. It’s more likely to center around honor, as in Henry V’s speech to his men (and reply to the Herald) in Act 4, Scene 3. (in modern English here)

Green: What Peter does not say is almost as important as what he affirms. First, he provides nowhere any hint that the affliction and misery of his audience is the consequence of their sin or God’s judgment. Such categories simply have no place in his letter.

Green: First Peter is addressed to folks who do not belong, who eke out their lives on the periphery of acceptable society, whose deepest loyalties and inclinations do not line up very well with what matters most in the world in which they live.

Green: Divine choice and alien status are deeply rooted in God’s purpose as this comes to expression in the Scriptures, so the dissonance of present life, chosen by God but held in contempt in society, is neither a surprise to God nor a contradiction of his plan. Peter will demonstrate that the way of Jesus Christ was the path of suffering and glory… that the model of Jesus Christ interprets and is interpreted by the Scriptures of Israel… and that this pattern is characteristic of those who follow in his footsteps…

Green: The issue is this: life-events do not come with self-contained and immediately obvious interpretations; rather, we conceptualize them in terms of imaginative structures that we take to be true, normal, and good. As a rule, the world-at-large casts a thick, dark cloud of despair over experiences of suffering, distress, trials, and alien status. Peter insists that such experiences on the part of his audience must be read according to a radically different pattern of thought—one that grows out of new birth.

Green: Inexorably linked in the consequent passion theology are the sufferings of Christ and his followers, who are thereby assured that their suffering will have a redemptive effect and will lead to glory and honor from God just as Jesus’ suffering did. This is the interpretation of things inspired by the Spirit.

Verses 13-14:

  • Hope in the future should cause us not to be conformed to our past passions.
  • Being sober-minded means setting your hope on eternal life, instead of trying to fill worldly desires with experiences or possessions here and now. Sober like not trying to feel good now (artificially) using mind-altering substances.
  • Emphasis is on new priorities and freely-chosen behaviors.
  • Talk about how I saw marriage and children as the solution to my problems of bad parents and a contentious home when I was young.
  • Talk about how prioritizing God’s priorities and learning more about how the culture doesn’t make marriage-ready women and doesn’t value marriage means that I probably would have destroyed myself if I had got the marriage I desired.
  • Talk about how take the priorities of God and acting according to the Bible (chastity, sobriety, stewardship, focus on loving others self-sacrificially) ends up putting you in a safe, peaceful place – a paid off home, and retirement money.
  • By focusing on God, your behaviors (chastity, sobriety, stewardship, loving others) have the effect of making you not destroy yourself with addictions, narcissism, etc. You end up in a pretty decent, peaceful place anyway, because you haven’t self-destructed, e.g. – by marrying a non-Christian woman for looks and beauty who the culture turns into a secular leftist, and then watching helplessly when she goes into a career and puts your kids into public schools to be indoctrinated in secular leftism. I didn’t get what I wanted, but I dodged a bullet, since that’s how most young, unmarried women are today.

Green: The section as a whole, vv. 13–21, begins and ends with reference to “hope” (vv. 13, 21) and is centrally focused on “behavior, conduct, or way of life” (vv. 15, 17, 18). The accent on hope is carried over from the previous section (v. 3), but the emphasis on “way of life” is introduced for the first time, signaling early in the letter a pronounced interest in the nature of faithful life and ethical comportment in the world. Clearly, Peter anticipates that hope will be displayed in changed life.

Green: In the Greco-Roman world, “desire”… appears in moral discourse—already in Plato but more recently especially among the Stoics, in Hellenistic Jewish literature, and in Christian writings—with such generally negative connotations as “insatiable cravings” or “lust.”15 As a generic vice almost universally condemned, “desire” marked “the former time of ignorance.” In the present text, desires rooted in ignorance belong to the past, so should no longer shape or form… Peter’s audience; in its place, imitation of God’s holiness is expected. For Peter, “desire” and “holiness” appear as opposing forces each capable of drawing persons into its orbit, conforming human character and actions to its ways and so sculpting human life. Paul similarly wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom 12:2).

Her notes:

1. Who is the author of this letter? What do you know about him?

-The apostle Peter

-A disciple of Jesus

-One of the three of Jesus’ inner circle

-Denied Christ at his crucifixion

-Spoke boldly at Pentecost in the face of mocking

-Was imprisoned for preaching the gospel

-Refused to stop preaching even if it meant death (Acts 5:29)

-Was martyred in Rome around 64 A.D.

2. Who is Peter writing to? What might their lives have been like as persecuted exiles?

-Christians of the Dispersion (Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia)

-Rejected by family and friends

-Difficulty finding work

-Scared for their lives

-Scared for their children’s futures

3. What is one reason God allows trials in our lives now?

so that 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.” (v. 7)

-To test the genuineness of our faith

-To result in praise and glory when Christ returns

This is part of the normal Christian life, not as a result of their bad choices, but as a result of their decision to follow Christ. The things we care about as Christians will not be celebrated by this world.

It’s not mentioned here, but the dispersion of Christians to new locations contributed to the spread of the gospel and resulted in many people being saved.

From other passages of Scripture:

-To make us more like Christ (Rom. 5:3-5)

-To equip us to show compassion to others (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

-To prepare for us glory (2 Cor. 4:17; 1 Peter 4:13)

-To draw others to Christ (Philippians 1:12; Col. 1:24-25; 2 Tim. 2:10)

I think there is a direct correlation between our suffering in this life and our happiness in the next life, such that we will actually be happier, more elated, more joyful, more grateful, in the next life because we experienced trials and suffering in this life.

  • “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
  • “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13)
  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…. (Matthew 5:3-12)

For example, have you ever lost something, freaked out that you couldn’t find it, and then appreciated it far more after you found it than you ever had before you lost it? Similarly, I believe (based on Scripture verses) that we will experience greater pleasure in heaven and on the New Earth as a result of having been without comfort, pleasure, fulfillment, etc. for a time. If this is accurate, then we can genuinely thank God for allowing us to experience these trials for a time because by enduring them with trust in Christ, we are investing in our future (eternal) happiness.

4. Our inheritance in Christ

a. How does Peter describe our inheritance in Christ?

-Imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you

b. What is a proper response to this inheritance that awaits us in the next life?

-Rejoicing, even in hard times (this should be evident to those around us)

-Hope in all circumstances (Explain hope in Bible of a confident and certain expectation for the future vs. hope in common usage as something we want which may or may not come to pass)

-Gratefulness for what is to come

-Self-sacrifice because this life is fleeting and the next is glorious

c. When you imagine life on the New Earth, what do you think about?

-Perfect health, energy, no sickness

-Perfect relationships with God and the saints

-Perfect beauty in nature

-No fear, anxiety, depression, disappointment

-Exploring the universe with perfect minds and bodies

-Exploring the oceans, the colorful fish and reefs, with no pollution or fear

5. In verse 13, Peter tells us to prepare our minds for action. Practically speaking, what can we do in our daily lives to make sure that our minds are prepared for action?

-Avoid corrupting influences like drugs, too much alcohol, pornography, entertainment that puts forth values that are in opposition to Christ and to our calling

-Spend time in the Word and in prayer daily, asking the Lord to conform us to his character and to prepare us for what is ahead

-Spend time meditating on the inheritance that awaits us

-Surround ourselves with like-minded Christians

-Read and watch films about Christians who have suffered for their faith in times past (Corrie Ten Boom, Sophie Scholl, Dietrick Bonhoeffer, etc.)

6. What trials have you faced for doing good in the past? What trials are you facing right now?

Past:

-Rejection and mocking for Christian faith at the UMC church

Present:

-Woke liberals who put pressure on me to conform to their values

Assignment: Spend some time thanking God for saving you from punishment and saving you for eternal glory. Ask him to use your trials to refine your faith and your character the way fire refines gold, and to do it all for His glory.

7. Any other points or observations?

-1:2 references the Trinity: “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”

-Suffering is the normal Christian life. It has been since the very beginning, and it will be until the very end. Ease and comfort for Christians is the strange anomaly. The prosperity gospel is heresy. We must expect suffering, prepare for suffering, and rejoice in suffering, but not seek out unnecessary suffering. We must suffer for doing good, not as criminals or fools. But our light and momentary afflictions are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed. Our hope is in the next life, and it will all be worth it.

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