Sunday, 15 December 2019
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 1 Peter 4:16
Peter now turns from the negative traits that a person may suffer for, and to the highest and most glorious state for which a person might suffer. To contrast his thought from the previous verse, he says, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian.”
This is the third and last time that the title “Christian” is used in Scripture. The other two occurrences are in Acts 11:26 and Acts 26:28. The word simply signifies a follower of Christ. Countless commentaries state that the term “Christian” is one which was considered lowly and derogatory, even disgracefully used by others. This is an unfounded claim. The first use of the word states –
“Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
There is nothing to suggest that the term here is used exclusively by those outside of the body of believers, or the other only by those inside the body. It is simply a statement of fact. Just as today a Presbyterian is identified as such, and just as a Baptist is identified as such. It is true that those outside may have used the term in a negative way – “Look at those holy-roller ‘Christians’ over there.” However, to a believer in the Greek-speaking world, the name is the only logical and proper title.
The word Christos is transliterated into “Christ,” and it has the same meaning as “Messiah.” Both mean “Anointed One.” As the majority of believers moved from Jews to Gentiles, as would be the case in Antioch, the title “Christian,” or “Christ-follower,” would naturally and gladly be used. There would be no hint of derision, but only a welcome bearing of the word.
For those on the outside who were not at enmity with the believers, it would be a name to be used without either derision or exaltation. And for those who disliked believers, it would be a title of derision. This is how any name is given. For a family – “Those ‘Garretts’ are a bunch of yahoos.” For a nationality, “I really respect those Americans.” For a type of car – “A ‘Ford?’ No way Jose! That means ‘Found On Road, Dead.’ I would never own a ‘Ford!’”
Peter, acknowledging this now commonly used term (the term “Christ,” which leads naturally to the use of “Christian,” is used almost 600 times in the New Testament) to instruct his audience. Remember that Peter is writing to Jews, but they are Jews of the dispersion. Therefore, the commonly used language would have been Greek. Therefore, writing in Greek, and using the term “Christian,” are in perfect harmony with that thought. And so, he says, “let him not be ashamed.”
One can see very clearly that the title was, in fact, also being used as a term of derision by those outside in his words. These Jews certainly were proud of the title, but family, friends, and other opponents used it in a negative way – just as Jews are proud to be Jews, but those outside will call them “Jews” in a negative way. Peter lets them know that the title should not be borne with any sense of shame at all. Rather, he says, “but let him glorify God in this matter.”
His words tell the believes that they should take what may be another’s form of derision and to turn it around and make it a point of honor – as if wearing it as a cloak which all could see and decide upon. In their conduct, in their attitude, and in their allegiance to Christ, they would exalt and bring glory to God. Each person who saw them as “Christians” would have to decide which way they would speak the term – as derogatory or as a compliment – but all would see that the intent of these believers was to bring glory to God.
Life application: Here is the account of when the apostles were beaten by the ruling leaders of their time –
“And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 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 5:40-42
The apostles were called into the ruling council and strictly warned to not speak in Jesus’ name. They were beaten for their witness, and then were warned to not speak in the name of Jesus in the future.
One would think that facing the highest court in the land, and being threatened by those who sat there, would scare these men. Additionally, one would think that being beaten would make them timid about speaking out in the future. Instead, it says they departed “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
The next sentence then proclaims that they “did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” If you think it through clearly, what is there to worry about if your faith is sound? We proclaim Jesus as Lord and that we believe His promises. One of them is that we are given eternal life through His name. Whatever little trouble we face in this world, if this promise is true (and it is!), then every trial and every pain is simply a temporary matter.
Jesus Christ has prevailed, and we really do have a sure hope. If you suffer for His name, don’t be ashamed. Instead, glorify God because of it.
We know in our hearts that Your word is true, and that Jesus Christ is Lord. O God, please help us to understand this in a rational way and never to forget that with this confession comes the promise of eternal life. What can man do to us when You are at our side? We are safe and secure in the hands of our Creator! Amen.