Ready for Suffering

Continuing my series of sermons on I Peter.

Tried With Fire — I Peter


I Peter was written to those who are facing fiery trials. We have looked in the previous chapter at the fact that we have been chosen to be strangers, or foreigners, scattered in this world.  The trials that we face are simply part of a larger picture — this world is not our home.  We should not be surprised by trials, for we are foreigners, nor should we be dismayed, because they are part of a glorious inheritance we have received as God’s children.

As we look now at chapter two of I Peter, we see that God has specially prepared us for the sufferings of this life.

I. Growing (1-3)

1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

As part of our preparation for trials, God provides for our growth and increasing spiritual strength.

A. Putting Away the Old (1). Those things that will hinder our growth need to be put away. They are incompatible with our new life. Note particularly that the things mentioned here are in direct contrast to the emphasis of the preceding verses (in chapter two) on loving one another. We have been born into a family that loves one another; we are not to be tearing down one another.

B. Humility (2). Recognize what we are — we are simply like newborn babes. Just like a baby can’t do much for itself, so we need to humbly acknowledge our total dependence on the Lord if we are to grow.  You aren’t “too mature” to need the Word, too advanced to need growth.

C. Desiring the Word (2). Compare to chapter 1:23. It is through the Word that we are born into this family. It is through the Word that we (as babes) grow.  We need to have as much desire for the Word as a newborn babe has for milk.

Peter’s illustration of a baby’s desire for milk is not just a matter of satisfying the infant’s hunger.  Back in the day, there was no “Strangers Scattered Baby Formula Company” to provide baby formula for newborn infants.  When Peter spoke of a baby’s desire for milk, his readers would have immediately understood that he was talking about milk from a nursing mother.  The mother, in a physical sense the giver of life, was also the source of the life-sustaining milk, holding the child in tender, caring love.  Peter is telling his readers to go back to the Giver of their spiritual life, trusting Him to sustain by His Word, tenderly caring for us.

D. Remembering the Lord’s Graciousness (3). If you want to grow in the Lord, continue to taste His graciousness. Turn your eyes and your heart continually to look on His grace and mercy towards you.  You have tasted of His grace in salvation, continue to rely on it.  You have been saved by grace through faith, continue to walk in faith in His grace by His Word.

II. Stones in the Fire, but Not Stone Dead (4-8)

4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

A. The Living Stone (4). Jesus is the Living Stone. The “contradiction” is stark — stones don’t live! But Jesus is a stone, solid, dependable, established, a firm foundation, always the same, yesterday, today, and forever, eternally unshaken no matter what. Yet, He is ALIVE! No one who lives is unchanging. Life IS change — but not for the Living Stone. Disallowed of men, He is chosen of God, and precious — the One who lives, and changes not.

B. We Too are Living Stones (5-6)! Peter said in chapter one that his readers were facing fiery trial, and he is about to address that again in the last half of chapter two. Now one key fact about stones is that fire doesn’t burn them.

Whenever I go camping, it rains. Thus it has been all my life.  I remembering camping at the Oregon Coast once and getting sunburned on the day we arrived — but by morning, we were soaking.  I don’t even want to talk about camping in South Carolina!  I never had to worry about bears or anything, because they always had the sense to move to higher ground when they saw me and a tent in the vicinity.  I am considering renting myself out as a drought-prevention service.

But when I do go camping, and we go through the ludicrous process of trying to light a campfire (in the rain), we use a circle of stones around the fire. Why? Because they do not burn, and they keep the fire from spreading (I know, the fire wouldn’t spread in the rain, but we must keep up appearances).

If I am going to have to go through fire, through fiery trial, I want to be something that won’t burn — something that will stand up to the flames and will not be damaged by them. I want to be a stone, a living stone, unshakeable and unmovable though the fires rage. This I have in Christ, for He has made us a priesthood of stones, and we face the fire united in Him.

C. Yet Also a Stone of Stumbling (7-8). Our Lord, Who is the living stone, is also a stone of stumbling (note Psalm 118:22-24 & Matthew 21:42-44) — for those who do not believe in Him stumble on Him. He is a rock of offense — and we are, too. By the very fact of being His, we are offensive to those who hate Him. Thus, persecution comes with the territory — it is part of our condition when we are His. We should not be surprised at the troubles we have with those who hate Him. Thus, our nature as living stones following the Living Stone prepares us for fiery trials. We follow the unshakeable One, over whom many stumble, and we need not be shaken, though they also stumble over our identification with Him, and our obedience to Him.

III. Now A People (9-10) — Showing His Praise!

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Remember that in 1:7 Peter said that the trying of our faith happens for a reason — that we should show forth his praise, honour, and glory. Here he tells us that God has made us a people for that same reason. Note the similarity between these verses and Exodus 19:4-6 and the song of the redeemed in Revelation 5:9-10.

Exodus 19:4-6:

4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Revelation 5:9-10:

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

A. A Chosen Generation. We are of a different breed, a different birth. We are set apart to praise Him.  Sometimes, Christians will say to unbelievers, “I’m no different from you.  I’m just forgiven.”  There is an element of truth in the statement, but it neglects the important fact that we are indeed different.  We weren’t different, but now we have been born into a new family, a new “generation”.  We have the new birth, and a new nature.  If we aren’t of a different nature now, than the new birth is nothing.

B. A Royal Priesthood. We have an exalted position, with access to the throne for grace to help in time of need, and with the priestly privilege (and responsibility) of taking God’s message to mankind as well.

C. A Holy Nation. God calls us to be holy, to be separate, to be DIFFERENT. C.H. Lenski wrote, “We may say that we should completely give up the desire ‘to be like other people,’ for this would cause us to lose our standing before God.”

D. A Peculiar People. God’s people whom He has loved, purchased, and claimed.  We think “peculiar” means “weird”, but that was not the intimation of the word when the KJV was translated.  The focus is more on the fact that we have been purchased by God to be His, and His alone.  Some people may think that is “weird”, but God doesn’t.  He sees in us His beloved purchased people, who have received His mercy, and live the life of praise to Him and for Him.

This is our standing before God. And will fiery trials come? They cannot touch what we have in Christ. But even more — they better enable us to take our part in His people. For His people are to show forth His praise, and the trying of our faith does exactly that. Yes, in Christ, we are ready for the trials.

First in series: #1 Strangers Scattered
Next in series: #4 The Pilgrim Life

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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