“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42). “They” refers to the apostles (Acts 5:39).
The events leading up to this point are significant. (1) Peter and John were arrested and were threatened (Acts 4:1-22). There were commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). The were released after being further threatened (Acts 4:20). (2) The apostles were again arrested (Acts 5:17-21). This time they were released by an angel (Acts 5:18). They were instructed, by the angel, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20). They did so (Acts 5:21). (3) They were arrested again, and beaten (Acts 5:22-42). The High Priest asked them, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?” (Acts 5:27-28). Peter and the other apostles replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Before being released, they were beaten and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:40). It is in this context that they rejoiced to be able to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41). “And daily in the temple and in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).
Peter writes the book of 1 Peter to encourage other Christians to have this same attitude. 1 Peter 4 speaks of The Great Name. Let us notice 1 Peter 4:12-16, 19.
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
The word “strange” (xenos) means foreign or unusual. The world may think that Christians are “strange” because they “do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation” (1 Peter 4:4). Christians should not think that persecution will be “strange” to the Christian life (1 Peter 4:12 cf. Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).
“but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).
When we suffer for Christ, we should remember: (1) Christ also suffered (1 Peter 2:19-21; 3:17-18; 4:12-13). He suffered for us (1 Peter 3:18). (2) A glorious existence awaits (1 Peter 4:13 cf. Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Hebrews 12:1-2). “This is a faithful saying: For if we die with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12).
“If you are reproached for the name of Christ blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and God rest upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:14).
Others may reproach us, revile (NASB), insult (ESV), or speak against us for being identified with Christ. When they do, they are actually blaspheming, or speaking against Christ and God (cf. John 5:23; 13:20; 15:23; 1 John 2:23; 13:20; 15:23; 1 John 2:23; 2 John 9; Mark 9:37).
However, when we are willing to be identified with Christ: (1) We can count ourselves as blessed (cf. Matthew 5:10-12). (2) Christ and God are glorified (cf. 1 Peter 4:11; 4:16; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Philippians 1:20-21; 2:9-11).
Moreover, Peter says, “blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and God rest upon you.” Some believe that this reference is miraculous. Jonathan Jenkins comments, “Having God’s Spirit ‘upon’ you places God’s word in your mouth” [(He references Isaiah 59:21; 61:1; Luke 1:35; 2:25; 4:18; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 4:14). Jonathan Jenkins, God’s Prophetic Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 32-33]. Again, he comments on 1 Peter 4:14, “His argument is that they should know they were blessed in spite of suffering because the ‘Spirit of glory’ rested on them… (4:11)… the miracles of the Spirit are used to reassure the saints and defend their faith in the midst of trials” (ibid, 216). Some understand this non-miraculously. It is understood to mean that while others blaspheme, when you identify with Christ, the Spirit (and the Spirit’s message) is with you. This point would still be true this side of the miraculous age.
“But let none of you suffer as a murder, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter [name ESV]” (1 Peter 4:15-16).
Not all suffering is due to following Christ. Some suffer due to their own wrong-doing and sinful behavior (1 Peter 2:20; 4:15). There is nothing commendable in this.
However, some suffer for doing the will of God, for righteousness sake, for being a Christian (Matthew 5:10-11; 1 Peter 2:19-20; 3:14; 4:14-16). This is commendable (1 Peter 2:19). One should not be ashamed to be identified as Christian (belonging to or following Christ). Instead, it is in this name one should glorify God.
The name “Christian” is “The Great Name.” If we are Christians, how do we wear this name? Do we properly represent Christ and His cause? John Winthrop once told his fellow Puritans, in 1630, on board the Arbella, traveling to America, “For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us” (John Winthrop, Dreams of a City on a Hill, 1630, americanyawp.com). General George Washington once said to his army, “The eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us” (General Orders, 2 July 1776, founder.archives.gov). It is claimed that President Robert E. Lee of Washington College told his students, “The eyes of the South are upon you” but such lacks a primary source (origins, Meanings and Debut eyesoftexas.utexas.edu). President William Prather of the University of Texas was fond of saying on campus, “the eyes of Texas are upon you” (ibid). Dwight D. Eisenhower said before the 1944 D-Day invasion, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you” (Transcript of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s order of the Day, ourdocuments.gov). Dear Christians, the eyes of the world are upon us! We represent Christianity. What a responsibility (Matthew 5:14-16).
Furthermore, may we not forget God’s eyes. His eyes are upon us (Job 34:21; Proverbs 15:2; Hebrews 4:13).
“Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).
This serves as a summary on the subject. (1) One may suffer for being a Christian. (2) The one suffering should commit his soul to God; that is, he should trust in God. Jesus did. He “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Paul did. He said, “I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).
Let us continue doing good. Let us glorify God in “The Great Name.”