I Peter 4:12-19 “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
In our text, Peter is addressing the believer’s response to the trials and tribulations associated with being a Christian in a world that hates God and all that choose to follow Him. Of the numerous responses that one could have to this unjust treatment; one that Peter lists is, “let him not be ashamed.”
Here Peter takes up a respectful response to suffering that is associated with “well doing.” Peter emphasizes this with his use of the word “ashamed.” It means to disgrace or to feel shame for oneself. One may expect to experience the shame and disgrace associated with suffering that is the result of doing evil, and rightly so! It is not a disgraceful thing to suffer for the cause of Christ. There are two thoughts to consider if we are not to be ashamed in associations with the sufferings of Christ. The first thing that I notice is a respectable title, “if any man suffer as a Christian.” Peter is very clear as to his identification of the individual that is undergoing this specific trial of abuse; “a Christian.” This is a title first given to the saints at Antioch, “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). It was respectable because of its association; it is a term for one who is a follower of “the Christ.” While it has fallen into the careless usage of our modern day language, it was originally an all-inclusive term of distinguished honor for one who had chosen to reject the ways of the world that they might follow the Saviour. It was respectful because of its assessment. While it is a term for a follower of Christ; from its usage in the New Testament, it was not a name commonly used by Christians themselves. Many have said that the title was a derogatory term that was derived from the world’s assessment of what they witnessed as they observed the “Christ-likeness” of the saints at Antioch. Spiros Zodhiates points out that the verb used for “were called” in Acts 11:26, is a word which means to direct by God as if by a divine oracle. The same word was used by the Magi, who were divinely informed not to return to tell Herod where the baby Jesus was (Matthew 2:12). Zodhiates said, “Thus the believers first became known as Christians not as an appellation of ridicule, but by divine direction.”
The second thing that I notice is a respectable temperament, “let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” Peter is telling his audience that they are not to possess a spirit of remorse at the ridicule of society, but rather set forth the standard of respect because of the Sovereign’s association and assessment! Peter is unlocking a profound principle that gives the true spiritual assessment of the heart. The trial that is the result of “well doing” will generate one of two responses; “be ashamed” or “glorify God.” One is the result of self having the preeminence; the other is the result of the Sovereign having the preeminence! One was the result of thinking you deserved better; the other was the result of thinking He deserved better! In one way, Peter’s admonishment, “let him glorify God on this behalf”, is a present principle of a past practice; “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41). In defiance to the command not to speak or preach in the name of Jesus, Peter chose “to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Peter’s faithfulness to God resulted in being threatened, jailed and openly beaten; how was he to respond? While he had been buffeted by society, he saw himself as being blessed by the Sovereign; God had deemed him fit and worthy of being dishonored and shamefully treated for His name sake. Peter would magnify and render God glorious for his allotment or share of persecution.
When you find yourself experiencing trials associated with standing for the Lord in a lost and dying world; of all the emotional responses that one could experience, being ashamed is not one of them!