Is it God’s Will for You to Suffer (1 Peter 4:19)
“Paul, why are you writing a Bible commentary? There are so many.”
It’s true. There are many Bible commentaries out there. But as far as I know, there are no grace-based commentaries. Instead, there are commentaries that mix grace with works leaving you confused, anxious, and uncertain.
Let me give you an example:
Those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (1 Peter 4:19)
What does it mean to suffer according to the will of God? Your answer to that question reveals whether you are established in grace.
Read the verse in context and we’ll see that the suffering Peter is talking about is the fiery ordeal of persecution (1 Pet. 4:12). He’s writing to believers who were enduring a painful and unjust trial because they were Christians.
Some lost their property, while others lost their lives. And apparently this was God’s will. God was behind their suffering.
Or was he.
Any time we go through trials and hardships, we may be tempted to ask, “Lord, why are you doing this to me? Do you want me to suffer? Is this your will?”
These are weighty questions that deserve serious answers. So we turn to our favorite study Bible or commentary to unpack this verse and this is what we find:
- Some commentators, like Matthew Henry, say “All the sufferings that befall good people come upon them according to the will of God.” So yes, it is God’s will for you to suffer.
- Others write lengthy essays that say nothing of substance.
- A few change Peter’s words or they wriggle out of answering the question.
Depending on who you read, you will come away feeling either confused, really confused, or condemned. You certainly won’t find any comfort.
I know this because I have read many books and commentaries on the passage above and NOT ONE of them did anything to encourage or strengthen my faith. The consensus seems to be that God either wants you to suffer or he allows it because he’s mysterious and sovereign and his ways are higher than your ways.
It makes me shake my head.
Let me put your mind at ease right now: It is NOT God’s will for you to suffer, be persecuted, or mistreated for being a Christian. Peter says no such thing.
Let’s take a closer look at his words:
Those who suffer according to the will of God…
The key phrase here is the will of God, which is one of Peter’s favorite phrases. He uses it repeatedly. He says the will of God is for you to walk in newness of life by putting your faith in his Son Jesus (1 Pet. 4:2, 6).
To suffer for the will of God is to suffer for being a Christian. That’s it. Peter says so three verses earlier:
If anyone suffers as a Christian… (1 Peter 4:16)
To suffer according to the will of God is to be persecuted for your faith. It’s being bullied because you are in the will of God. So obviously God is not the one persecuting you. A just God cannot inflict unjust suffering.
This is obvious, right? Yet many who should know better don’t see it. They wring their hands and say a lot of nonsense that is baloney at best and blasphemy at worst.
Can you imagine Jesus throwing stones at Stephen or flogging Paul? It’s ridiculous. So why do we listen to those who suggest this sort of suffering is the Father’s will?
Let’s look at the next part of that verse:
…entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (1 Peter 4:19)
If you are going through hard times on account of your faith, you can trust the Creator because he is faithful. He will never leave you or let you down. That’s good news to encourage you.
Now we come to the final part:
…in doing what is right. (1 Peter 4:19)
In the old covenant, doing right meant keeping the rules, but in the new covenant doing right is what we do when we’re living in right relationship with the faithful Creator. It’s putting your faith in the Son of God and living in submission to the will of God.
Right believing leads to right living. When your heart is settled in the faithfulness of God, you will live righteously without any conscious effort. The Righteous One will fill your heart with his righteous desires and bear his righteous fruit in your life.
Put it altogether and Peter is saying something like this:
If you are following God and suffering for it, keep trusting him. He will never fail you. Keep walking in the light of his love and grace.
Peter’s first epistle, when read through the lens of the new covenant, is a huge source of encouragement for the afflicted. It is God’s gift to the persecuted believer, and one of the most incredible letters ever written.
If you liked this, you will love The Grace Bible: 1–2 Peter. Available now.
AWESOME! I think you meant, He will PRODUCE His righteous fruit (as we abide and bear it). GranDanÂ
Such a wonderful commentary! When I come across verses like this, I know that my understanding is incorrect but I don’t know why. So grateful for the light you shed on this.
I hope I captured this accurately in TPT:
With footnote: It is interesting that Peter points us to the Creator when we suffer. The faithful Creator, who keeps all things in order and feeds his creation, will never fail to be with us and supply grace and glory in all that we face.
That’s a lovely translation of 1 Peter 4:19. Thanks, Brian.
It’s amazing how the common interpretation is exactly wrong. When we interpret scripture through the lens of Jesus, we interpret according to the true nature of God. As the post states, we don’t see any examples in Jesus’ life of Him causing anyone to suffer.
That’s it. All truth – including commentaries – must be grounded in Christ.
I gotta get this commentary!!!
It is a natural human response to answer the question posed by Dr. Ellis as a definite YES or a definite NO. However, the Bible teaches that God’s will in suffering may be answered by BOTH a YES and a NO. Dr. Ellis has given an excellent discussion for the NO answer.
Examples that God does will suffering would include Joseph and Job in the O.T. and Paul and Jesus in the N.T. God’s will for Paul was to suffer for God’s name and glory (Acts 9:15-16). And it was God’s will and pre-determined plan for Jesus to suffer on the cross (Isa 53:10; Acts 2:23; 4:28). Our God who wills/permits/allows suffering could have also chosen not to will suffering. In allowing suffering, God shows that it falls within the boundaries of His will.
Thus, God’s sovereign plan does include in His will for us to suffer for His glory, His purpose, and to conform us to the image of Jesus. God’s will may include temporary suffering on earth, for the eventual glory and absence of suffering in our eternal home in heaven.
It is a natural response to seek balance when it comes to scriptures we don’t understand, but we can always be confident that our Father is constant and unchanging. The context is suffering for the faith. Paul was persecuted for the faith and so were those to whom Peter was writing. In none of those cases was the persecution from the Lord. As I say in the article, a just God cannot inflict unjust suffering. Jesus will never punish you for trusting in him.
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, Phil 1:29
Kind of sounds definitive doesn’t it?
Dale A. Mark
To suffer for the sake of Christ means the same thing as suffering for the will of God. Like Peter, Paul is speaking of being persecuted for the faith.