1 Peter - Lesson 12
By Curt Niccum
1 Peter 4:12-19
Background Information for the Teacher
- The class will understand that the suffering of God’s people is nothing new, and therefore should not be a surprise when it happens.
- The class will again see the importance of doing good as that which sets Christians apart as resident aliens, as a holy people.
- Bibles for every student
- Copies of worksheet for lesson #12
- If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.
Concerned about the impact of persecution on the church, Peter writes 1) to assure the Christians of their place in God’s kingdom and 2) to urge them to live as members of that kingdom rather than to capitulate to the surrounding culture. Peter begins his final section of the letter by recapitulating the theme of suffering for doing good. By alluding to the words of Jesus and Ezekiel, he reminds the readers that persecution by outsiders is to be expected and that it signals the arrival of God’s wrath against all the ungodly. (This also prepares the reader for the discussion of elders in chapter 5.) Christians are called to respond with trust in God and good deeds towards others.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Devotional Period (5-10 minutes)
- Read 1 Peter 4:12-19.
- Sing at least two songs (you may choose from the following)
- I Know Whom I Have Believed (include the third stanza)
- Farther Along
- Poured Out Like Wine
- Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
- For courage to live as Christians, truly Christ-like
- For wisdom to respond to the world in ways that will bring glory to God and not ridicule.
Introduction (2 minutes)
- Welcome visitors.
- Distribute study sheets.
Review (5 minutes)
- Remind the class that Peter wants Christians to fight against worldly desires (see 1:13; 2:11; and 4:1).
- Read the list of worldly desires listed in 4:3. Discuss how selfishness relates to these sins.
Learning Experiences (20 minutes)
- Begin the Learning Experience by allowing people to share stories about being surprised. Q: Have you ever been shocked or surprised by somebody? How did you react at that moment? (Look for and focus on the stories that depict the uncontrolled, and perhaps even violent, response to the unexpected stimulus.) Q: According to 1 Peter 4:4, what is the world’s response to Christian living? A: They are surprised.The descriptions of surprise and shock provided by the class help explain how the world reacts to Christianity. The surprise elicits a quick, uncontrolled and uninformed, reflex to what is strange and unexpected. Frequently this response is violent.
- At the same time, Peter’s concern about Christians reacting negatively to persecution may be due to their being surprised by the world’s hostility. If shocked at being ridiculed, aChristian’s immediate reflex may originate from his or her previous pagan lifestyle. Thus a Christian might resort to insult,slander, or violence. Peter, though, reminds his readers that there should be no surprise at the presence of persecution.
- Q: Why should this be expected?
- A: If it happened to Christ, it will happen toChristians.
- A: Christ predicted it. (Peter appears to be referring to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, see Matthew 5:10-12.)
- Therefore, because Christians know in advance the world may react negatively, they can react positively.
- Q: As opposed to the pagan reaction to good, theChristian response to suffering should be what? A: Joy(4:13) and praise (4:16). Because Christians know in advance that God will reward those who do good and punish those who do evil, they can rejoice and praiseGod.
- Q: Do we know whether or not Peter himself practiced what he preached? A: Yes. See Acts 5:40-41 for an historical account of this. In addition, early church tradition about the death of Peter suggests this. Peter,not considering himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord asked to be crucified upside down.
- Q: Why should this be expected?
- Although joy and praise are the proper responses, Peter is not advocating that Christians ignore tragedy that occurs. He has mentioned this elsewhere (1:6). Christians rejoice despite grief,not in place of it. Hope is the reason for this. Peter brings attention to this by alluding to scripture and using a traditional,ancient form of argumentation. If something is true in a minor case, then it must be even more true in a major one.
- Peter first alludes to Ezekiel 9:4-10. In that OldTestament passage, God states that He is going to judge the wickedness of Israel and that judgment will begin from the Temple and then extend outward. (One of the first groups to be judged is the elders of Israel. This will lead to Peter’s topic in chapter 5.) Even though the few who remain holy receive marks that spare them from death, they do not escape the consequences of God’s wrath on their evil neighbors. Peter has already identified the church as God’s holy temple. In this sense the suffering of Christians indicates that God has initiated final judgment. If the consequences of God’s wrath against the unrighteous means intense suffering for those who are holy, how much greater then will the suffering be for the unrighteous?
- Peter then quotes Proverbs 11:31.1 Here scripture again makes the same argument. If this is the case for the righteous, it must be much worse for the ungodly.
- Thus, Christian suffering now indicates three very important things:
- We are righteous.
- In the larger picture, Christian suffering is minor.
- The punishment of the wicked has already been set in place and it will be much worse.
- God rewards good and punishes evil. The conclusion forChristians then is to trust God with their lives (literally “souls”). So long as Christians do good, they need not fear what the world can do to them (4:19).2 (All evildoers should fear whatGod will do to them.)
Application (10 minutes)
- Last week the class listed and discussed sins prevalent in today’s society. The class probably focused on the “bigger,”more recognizable sins. Peter, though, notes that Christians must also be wary of the smaller, seemingly insignificant sins,for these, just as much as some of the more prominent ones,can bring Christianity into disrepute. Have the class list
- Discuss how Christians can avoid these and also what good actions would be the opposites of these. (For example, gossip remains a common sin. Instead of talking bad about people behind their back Christians could compliment the good to their face.)
Assignment (2-5 minutes)
- Each member should consciously pick out at least one “minor”sin with which s/he has been having trouble and choose how to avoid it this week and do good instead.
- Each member should spend time in devotion to God and should take advantage of the devotional guide provided.
- Each member should read 1 Peter 5:1-14.
Notes: 1 The quotation is from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The English Bibles will read differently as they are translated from Hebrew texts.2 The English translations frequently separate entrusting lives to God and doing good with the word “and.” This conjunction,though, does not occur in the Greek. Although perhaps making it easier to read, it somewhat dilutes the force of Peter’s conclusion. God is the one who truly rewards doing good, thus Christians have no fear for their eternal lives if they do good.sins that Christians have trouble with today that could be classified as “minor” or in the same category as “meddling.”
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