1 Peter 4:12-16
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you:…
It is strange what a power there is in suffering to unite in deepest intimacy those who have nobly borne it together. It would seem as if the affections could never be welded so firmly as when they have been exposed to the fiery solvent of adversity. Perhaps it is that we never so truly understand each other as when great and common trials sound the depths of our nature, and show to each what is in brother's heart. Or it may be that love is strengthened most of all by the trials and hardships endured for the sake of its object. The survivors of the wreck who can recall the days and hours of danger and exposure, of alternating hope and despair, which they bore together; the remnant of the forlorn hope, who have stood side by side while shot and shell were raining death around them; or the few brave and true hearts who together have struggled through the protracted and terrible siege, and whose friendship is cemented by a thousand associations of sympathy and endurance, cannot choose but feel in each other a deeper than common interest. Now, some such thought as this may have been present to the apostle's mind when he congratulated his suffering fellow Christians on the fact that they were partakers of the sufferings of Christ. The secret depths of that sorrowing heart they could better understand in virtue of the approximation to His grief which their own hearts had felt, and a fuller appreciation of His ineffable love could be theirs, when by experience they had learnt something of that penalty of suffering and sacrifice which for them He so willingly had paid. Instead, therefore, of regarding it as a "strange thing" that theirs should be a lot of suffering and trial, it would rather have seemed unnatural had it been otherwise. But it is not all kinds of suffering in which we have community with Jesus. There are sorrows, obviously, of which the infinitely pure and holy Saviour could have no experience, and in the endurance of which no man can appropriate the consolation of fellowship with Christ. Let us endeavour, therefore, to find out what sort of suffering for sin is possible to a pure and holy nature. How far may suffering for sin be really noble and worthy? What elements must we eliminate from suffering caused by sin in forming our ideal of suffering purity?
1. One element of suffering for sin, and that a most bitter one, of which Christ could have no direct experience, is conscious guilt. With all godly sorrow Jesus sympathises, but He knows nothing, and never can, "of the sorrow of the world that worketh death."
2. Another element in suffering for sin, of which a perfectly holy nature could have no experience, is a personal sense of Divine wrath. Betwixt the experience of a guilty soul writhing under the frown of God, and His, even in His darkest hour of sorrow, there is an impassable gulf.
3. Nor, finally, though Christ "tasted of death for every man," could He ever experience personally that which constitutes to the sinner the very bitterness of death — the fear of what comes after death. On the contrary, death to Jesus was an escape from protracted banishment to endless and unutterable union with His Father. It was the passing from a world in which all had been to Him toil and weariness and woe, to one on which the sweet memories of an eternity of joy were resting.Death to Jesus, in one word, was but a going home.
1. I now go on to inquire what kind of suffering for sin may be conceived of as noble and worthy, and so not impossible to a pure and holy nature.
(1) Amongst these kinds of suffering I notice, first, that which a pure and holy nature must feel from the mere contiguity of evil. The mere spectacle of sin, the life-long contact of the sinless with the vile — implied on His part bitter suffering. To man or woman of pure mind and tender conscience it would be intolerable to be forced to read through an obscene book; what agony of mind then — what pain and distress of spirit more unendurable than sharpest bodily tortures — would be involved in a similar lifelong contact with sin, not recorded merely, but hideously displayed in act!
(2) Another element of Christ's suffering for sin, in which, as we grow in kindred purity of nature, we shall learn to participate, is the reflected or borrowed shame and pain which noble natures feel for the sins of those with whom they are closely connected. Christ was not a mere spectator of the world's sin, He was deeply implicated in the fortunes of the guilty, related to them by the closest ties of kindred and affection. There is a borrowed humiliation which we feel from the sins of those who are dear to us; there is a keen and cruel pain which pierces a good and generous heart in the contemplation of a brother's wickedness, and which is second only, and in some respects not second, to the agony of personal guilt.
(3) Once more, Christ suffered for sin, not only as bearing relatively its guilt, but also as its victim. In the persons of those He loved, sin transmitted to Him a borrowed humiliation; but it hurt Him more deeply than thus, for it rose up against Him, to hate and assail and destroy Him. And this to such a nature as His was the saddest thing of all.
(J. Caird, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: