Weekly Insights about the Quarterly Lessons from the 1888 Message Study Committee.
Thursday, May 04, 2017
"Suffering for Christ"
Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson "Suffering for Christ" May 6, 2017
In 1 Peter 4:12-14, Peter uses the metaphor of fire for the trials that Christ's followers will experience. As long as Christians exist in this world, fiery trials and persecution will be the norm. This is why Peter warned us not to be surprised. Fire was a good metaphor to use for at least two important reasons. Depending on the object experiencing the fire, the result can be devastatingly destructive such as in the loss of life as well as property, which sometimes happens in forest fires. Contrarily the effect can be constructive, such as in the removal of impurities from silver and gold.
Although there are varying methods for refining gold, typically either chemical or high-temperature flame is utilized, which is determined by both the quantity of gold and, the level of purity desired.
Refining by flame is one of the oldest methods in existence. It is even mentioned in the scripture, and is the preferable method for purifying larger quantities of gold. The tradition remains virtually unchanged today, except for a few advancements in safety and precision. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a fire with temperatures reaching more than 1000 degrees Celsius (1832° F). The intense heat made this job a dangerous occupation for the refiner, as he sat next to the heat with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross which rose to the top of the molten metal. Once the dross was removed, what remained in the crucible was the pure gold.
God, who is the master refiner, says, "I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" (Isaiah 13:12). Clearly, there is a parallel between making gold pure and making man as pure as gold. Sin is the dross that makes us impure. God uses and allows trials and affliction as the fire to purify us.
The gold of faith and love shines brighter as a result of the purification. Thus will it be for the feeble human being who puts his trust in Christ. "He" will make the man's character precious as a consequence of abiding with Him, through the Holy Spirit (YRP 131). The furnace fire of temptation may burn, persecution and trial may come, but it will only consume the Sin. That fire produces death to selfishness, sensuality/carnality, love of the world, pride, and arrogance. It is death to lukewarmness as well. The fire consumes the impurities of the sinful character; only God's character, now indwelling in our souls, remains.
Our Lord Jesus suffered through the fire of affliction. As the Sin-bearer, Christ was subject to the lightning bolts of wrath for the universal law demands death to the sinner. Jesus experienced "the wages" of the second death for sin on the cross. He went all the way to hell for you and me. Ellen White elaborates further on this by saying,
"Greater is He that is in the heart of the faithful, than he that controls the hearts of unbelievers. Complain not bitterly of the trial which comes upon you, but let your eyes be directed to Christ, who has clothed His divinity with humanity, in order that we may understand how great His interest in us since He has identified Himself with suffering humanity. He tasted the cup of human sorrow, He was afflicted in all our afflictions, He was made perfect through suffering, tempted in all points like as humanity is tempted, in order that He might succor those who are in temptation" (YRP 131).
The words of Peter are then not only to warn, but to encourage us. Let us read 1 Peter 4:12–14,
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 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. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part, He is glorified."
Christ is not asking us to go through anything He has not experienced. Neither is He asking us to endure our trials alone, in our own strength. He has pledged Himself to us, and we can trust Him! He will never leave nor forsake us and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We have in Christ, "a High Priest who [can] sympathize with our weaknesses, [as He] was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 13:5; 4:15 - 16; 2 Cor 12:9