May 20 – Rejoicing Through the Spirit

“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

1 Peter 4:14


The indwelling Holy Spirit allows us to rejoice, no matter how greatly we suffer or are persecuted.

One of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the past half century has been the discovery of the DNA molecule, which carries unique and essential genetic information about all living beings. The most well–known practical application of DNA has been the “fingerprinting” technique in which genetic information from one DNA sample is compared with that of another. If the information matches, it’s highly probable, but not absolutely certain, that the samples identify the same individual.

While discoveries about DNA’s ability to more precisely determine physical identity have been newsworthy, God long ago established His infallible truth regarding spiritual identity. The apostle Paul gives us the basic criterion by which we can know if we are believers: “However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). This reinforces Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus about being born again (John 3:3–6). Therefore, all genuine believers will know the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

The Spirit’s presence in our lives is one final reason we have to rejoice in trials and sufferings. Peter calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of glory” because as deity the Spirit has glory as an essential attribute. Although that glory doesn’t manifest itself today as it did in the Old Testament (e.g., the cloud in the tabernacle), the Spirit’s indwelling a Christian is nonetheless real for any who are undergoing a trial.

First Peter 4:14 is referring to a special grace that goes beyond the normal indwelling of the Spirit. It is much like the extraordinary power that Stephen realized before and during his stoning (see Acts 6:15; 7:55–60). God’s Spirit gave him amazing composure and strength and lifted him above normal pain and fear. The Holy Spirit also blesses us with abundant grace, specially suited to our times of need. Therefore, it should be hard for us to react with any attitude but rejoicing, no matter how difficult our trials.


Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who ministers daily in your life.

For Further Study: Read Exodus 3:1–6. What was unique about the bush? ✧ How did Moses react to God’s glory?[1]

Exult in Suffering

but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (4:13–14)

To the degree is a generous way to translate katho (“as,” “according to which”) and thus to show that Christians’ eternal reward is proportionate to their earthly suffering (cf. Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16–18; Heb. 11:26; 2 John 8; Rev. 2:10). That is a reasonable relationship since suffering reveals faithfulness to their Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself noted this relationship between suffering and reward, saying,

Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Luke 6:22–23)

Peter further enriches the endurance of those who are persecuted by stating that they share the sufferings of Christ. That is not in any redemptive sense; neither does it refer only to spiritual union with Him, as Paul describes in Romans 6. But it refers to believers experiencing the same kind of sufferings He endured—suffering for what is right. R. C. H. Lenski rightly elaborates the meaning of Peter’s expression:

The readers [of 1 Peter] are only in fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. This is a thought that is prominent and fully carried out by Paul in Rom. 8:17; II Cor. 1:7; 4:10; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Col. 1:24. It goes back to Christ’s word (John 15:20, 21).

We fellowship Christ’s sufferings when we suffer for his name’s sake, when the hatred that struck him strikes us because of him. Never is there a thought of fellowshiping in the expiation of Christ’s suffering, our suffering also being expiatory. In Matt. 5:12 persecution places us in the company of the persecuted prophets (high exaltation indeed); here it places us in the company of Christ himself, into an even greater communion or [koinōnia]. Is that “a strange thing” or to be deemed strange? It is what we should deem proper, natural, to be expected, yea, as Peter says (following Matt. 5:12), a cause for joy. (The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude [reprint; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966], 203)

Christ who suffered at the hands of wicked men even though He was without sin (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 26:67; 27:12, 26, 29–31, 39–44; John 10:31, 33; 11:8; Acts 2:23) promised believers it would be their privilege to suffer in the same way when He said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

To the degree that believers suffer unjustly, they should, as their Lord did, keep on rejoicing, a sentiment completely unacceptable to those who have no hope of heavenly reward, but affirmed by the Lord when He declared,

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:10–12)

The revelation of His glory will come in “the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:30), which refers to Christ’s return. The Lord resumed the full exercise of His glory after He ascended to heaven, but He has not yet revealed it on earth for everyone to see (cf. Matt. 24:30; Phil. 2:9–11; Rev. 19:11–16). (Peter, James, and John did get a preview of that glory when they witnessed Christ’s transfiguration [Mark 9:2–3; cf. 2 Peter 1:16–18].)

Peter’s second use of rejoice (chairō) in verse 13 is qualified by exultation (agalliaō), a reference to rapturous joy. When Christ returns, believers will rejoice with exultation (cf. the discussion of joy in chapter 3 of this volume), and do so in proportion to their share in His sufferings in this life. Those who share His sufferings will also share His glory (5:1; cf. Matt. 20:20–23). The saints’ suffering for righteousness proves them, refines them, and earns for them “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17) so that the greater their suffering the stronger their hope, and the richer their joy (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16–18; James 1:2).

The name of Christ is the cause of evil hatred directed toward believers (Matt. 10:22; 24:9). In the early days of the church, His name first became synonymous with the Savior Himself and all that He represents (cf. Luke 24:47; John 1:12; Acts 2:38; 4:17, 30; 9:15; 19:17). In Peter’s sermon before the Sanhedrin, he asserted, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Later the apostles “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (5:41). In His vision concerning the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and his subsequent preaching as Paul the apostle, Christ told Ananias of Damascus, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (9:16). It is not the name “Christ” that offends the ungodly, but rather who He is and what He said and did that causes hostility from them.

That animosity is summed up in the word reviled (oneidizō), meaning “to denounce,” or “to heap insults upon.” In the Septuagint it described hostility heaped at God and His people by the godless (Pss. 42:10; 44:16; 74:10, 18; cf. Isa. 51:7; Zeph. 2:8). In the New Testament it refers to the indignities and mistreatments Christ endured from sinners (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32; Rom. 15:3). In the first century, unbelievers were often exasperated and infuriated that believers were so frequently speaking of Christ, whose indictment of sinners they despised (cf. Acts 4:17–18; 17:1–7).

However, all the hatred and violence of the world against Christians does not diminish their blessedness. Actually they are more blessed for such suffering, not only for the eternal reward they will receive but for the present blessing, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on them. It is not merely because of suffering that the Holy Spirit will rest on believers, as when He came on and departed from an Old Testament prophet, but rather that He, already being in believers permanently (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19–20; 12:13), gives them supernatural relief in the midst of their suffering. Because the Spirit is God, divine glory defines His nature (cf. Pss. 93:1; 104:1; 138:5). Glory recalls the Shekinah, which in the Old Testament symbolized God’s earthly presence (Ex. 24:16–17; 34:5–8; 40:34–38; Hab. 3:3–4). When the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant were brought to Solomon’s newly dedicated temple, “the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:11). As the brilliant cloud of the Shekinah rested in the tabernacle and the temple, so the Holy Spirit lives in and ministers to believers today. Rests (from the present tense of anapauō) means “to give relief, refreshment, intermission from toil” (cf. Matt. 11:28–29; Mark 6:31), and describes one of His ministries. “Refreshment” comes on those believers who suffer for the sake of the Savior and the gospel. The Spirit gives them grace by imparting endurance, understanding, and all the fruit that comes in the panoply of His goodness: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).

That kind of refreshment and divine power came upon Stephen, a leader in the Jerusalem church and its first recorded martyr. As he began to defend his faith before the Jewish leaders, they “saw his face like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). His demeanor signified serenity, tranquility, and joy—all the fruit of the Spirit—undiminished and even expanded by his suffering and the Holy Comforter’s grace to him. The Sanhedrin became enraged as Stephen rehearsed redemptive history to them from the Old Testament, an account that culminated in the atoning work of Jesus the Messiah. Stephen’s Spirit-controlled rest was evident as “he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ ” (Acts 7:55–56). As his enemies stoned him to death, Stephen “called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep” (vv. 59–60). Truly the Spirit of glory elevated him above his suffering to sweet relief. That powerful work of the Spirit was the cause of Paul’s later testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”[2]

  1. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Notice the following points:

  1. Celebrate

“But rejoice.” With the term but Peter introduces a contrast. He places the emphasis on the command rejoice. Instead of looking negatively at their suffering, Christians need to look positively to Jesus and rejoice in their lot. Peter says, “Rejoice and continue to rejoice.” He is fully aware of the apparent contradiction. (Paul remarks that while experiencing numerous hardships in their ministry, he and his fellow servants of God are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” [2 Cor. 6:10].) Peter tells the readers that when suffering for the sake of Christ is their lot, they should place their affliction in the context of joy. Rejoice! Here is the reason:

  1. Participate

“You participate in the sufferings of Christ.” What a privilege, what an honor for Christians to participate in Christ’s sufferings! Especially in the epistles of Paul, the thought of suffering for Christ’s sake is prominent. The apostles are not saying that the sufferings of Christ are incomplete until Christians, too, have suffered. Christ’s atoning sacrifice is complete and our participation in his suffering has nothing to do with that sacrifice. However, Christ identifies with his people and when they suffer for his cause, he suffers. When they teach and preach the gospel, when they witness for Jesus, and when they encounter affliction for his sake, they participate in the sufferings of Christ. Then, because of their relationship to Christ, they rejoice and are jubilant (compare Acts 5:41).

  1. Jubilate

“So that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” In the original, Peter writes a combination of two verbs, both of which express the concept joy. The resultant translation is “overjoyed.”

Why are Christians overjoyed? Once again Peter directs our attention to the imminent coming of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 1:7). At the return of Christ, the believer will see the glory and splendor of the coming age in its fullness (refer to Matt. 25:31). Christ is the victor and all his followers share in his victory. Together they participate in Christ’s glory (Rom. 8:17). Therefore, when we contemplate the glory we shall inherit with Christ, we are unable to refrain from “exulting, jubilating, skipping and bubbling over with shouts of delight.”

Charles Wesley has given us a well-known hymn that captures the joy, adoration, and victory we experience when we think of Jesus’ return. Thus, we sing:

Rejoice, the Lord is King:

Your Lord and King adore;

Rejoice, give thanks and sing,

And triumph evermore:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice,

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice.

  1. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
  2. Insults

In the next few verses, Peter writes a sequence of conditional sentences. He uses the particle if to indicate that he is describing reality. With the clause if you are insulted, he is pointing to actual insults to which the Christians have to submit. They meet verbal and not physical abuse from unbelievers.

  1. Name

Why are Christians insulted? Simply put, because of the name of Christ (compare James 2:7). A common theme in the New Testament is that followers of Christ must endure verbal insults because of Jesus Christ. The concept name of Christ includes the ministry of preaching, teaching, baptizing, praying, and healing. The apostles spoke in the name of Christ and demonstrated in word and deed that Jesus had delegated his power and authority to them (for example, see Acts 4:7–12). Because Christians confessed the name of Jesus Christ among Jews and Gentiles, they were mercilessly persecuted (see Acts 5:41; 9:16; 15:26). In the early Christian community the single word name was synonymous with the Christian religion.

  1. Beatitude

Twice in this epistle Peter writes, “You are blessed.” Both beatitudes are in the context of suffering (3:14; 4:14). Here the beatitude forms the second part of a conditional sentence. If the harsh reality of verbal abuse is the one side of the proverbial coin, the reward of heavenly bliss is the other side. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains the term blessed in these words: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12).

  1. Spirit

This last part of the verse is difficult to explain. First, the text itself shows variations in the New King James Version, which has the reading, “For the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (also see the KJV). All other translations delete the second sentence. The New International Version has this translation: “For the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” At least two translations have another addition: “the Spirit of glory and power” (Moffatt and RSV [margin]). Although this addition has the support of several textual witnesses, translators generally tend to avoid it.

We also face grammatical difficulties in interpreting this part of the text. The literal wording of the text (“the spirit of glory and the Spirit of God rests on you”) has a double subject with a verb in the singular. Evidently the context demands that we supply the word spirit for the first part, so that we read, “the spirit of glory.” But is this spirit of glory different from or identical to the Spirit of God? Explanations of this sentence vary.

  1. Interpretations

First, note that the last part of verse 14 is a quotation from Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” Because Isaiah prophesies about Christ in this text, some commentators have deduced that Peter is implicitly referring to the Trinity. In other words, the phrase spirit of glory points to Christ (compare John 1:14). Thus, both the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God rest upon the individual Christian.

Another explanation is that the term glory is a reminder of the glory of God filling the tabernacle in the desert (Exod. 40:34–35). Thus the phrase glory of God is descriptive of the Spirit of God. A Jewish Christian reader, then, would understand the term as a suitable description of the presence of God.

A third interpretation is to identify the word spirit and make its repetition explanatory. This repetition appears either as an expansion, “the Spirit of glory, yes, the Spirit of God, is resting on you” (MLB); or as a relative clause, “that glorious Spirit which is the Spirit of God is resting upon you” (NEB).

In the context of suffering for the name of Christ and the mention of Christ’s glory (v. 13), the first explanation has merit indeed. The suffering Christian knows that the Spirit of (the glorious) Christ and of God is resting upon him.[3]

13 Rather than be shocked or surprised at suffering, the readers are told to rejoice. The writer is not hereby glibly suggesting that one rejoices in suffering qua suffering. It is rather “in the Lord” (Php 4:4) that one rejoices. Believers “participate in the sufferings of Christ” (cf. Php 3:10, which speaks of “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”), based on the believer’s union with Christ, and therefore can emit a response of “rejoicing.” The believer is united with Christ in his death as well as his resurrection (Ro 6:5–14), not in the sense of paying for our sins, as only the Son of God could do, but in the sense that “our old self was crucified with him … that we should no longer be slaves to sin … but alive to God” (Ro 6:6, 11). Rejoicing and shock stand at opposite ends, and a deep awareness of our union with Christ—and all that it entails—preserves the Christian from surprise that metastasizes into disenchantment and disillusionment. To expect suffering, it should be emphasized, is not to welcome it in some blindly fatalistic way; it is, however, to be realistic about our union with Christ.

The attitude of rejoicing in the context of suffering is further magnified by the cognizance of the coming revelation of Christ’s glory. Peter writes, “so that you may be overjoyed [lit., ‘that you may rejoice exultingly’] when his glory is revealed,” using the same strengthened form of “rejoice” (agalliaō, GK 22) as earlier (1:6, 8), and in the same context (Christ’s return). His theological rationale squares with that of Paul: “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Ro 8:17); “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Ti 2:12). Suffering for Christ is a privilege and not a penalty (so Barclay, 258). In Petrine thinking, eschatology informs Christian ethics.

14 Peter further reminds his readers that they are “blessed” if they are “insulted [oneidizō, GK 3943; used of Jesus’ experience on the cross, Mk 15:32] because of the name of Christ.” His assertion is expanded with the somewhat strange statement that “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” This language is frequently used in the book of Exodus to describe the glory of the Lord as it descended on Mount Sinai (24:16), in the desert (16:10), on the tabernacle (29:43; 40:34) and ark (Lev 16:2), or when it filled the temple (2 Ch 7:3). Indeed Paul resorts to similar language and imagery in describing the glory of the new covenant (2 Co 3:7–18). Significantly, Stephen’s countenance is depicted in this way in Luke’s account of his martyrdom (Ac 7:55; cf. 6:15). Peter would seem to be suggesting that the presence of God is particularly notable in those times when the saints are being persecuted. The Spirit glorifies Jesus (Jn 16:14); therefore, as believers experience persecution on account of Christ, they are filled with the Spirit’s presence, and in so doing they are glorifying God.[4]

4:13 The privilege of sharing Christ’s sufferings should cause us great rejoicing. We cannot of course share His atoning sufferings; He is the only Sin-Bearer. But we can share the same kind of sufferings He endured as a Man. We can share His rejection and reproach. We can receive the wounds and scars in our bodies which unbelievers would still like to inflict on Him.

If the child of God can rejoice today in the midst of suffering, how much more will he rejoice and be glad when Christ’s glory is revealed. When the Savior comes back to earth as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, He will be revealed as the Almighty Son of God. Those who suffer now for His sake will be honored then with Him.

4:14 The early Christians rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41). So should every Christian who has the privilege of being reviled for Christ’s sake. Such suffering is a true indication that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. This is the Holy Spirit who rests upon persecuted Christians as the glory cloud rested on the tabernacle in the OT, indicating the presence of God.

We know that the Spirit indwells every true child of God, but He rests in a special way upon those who are completely committed to the cause of Christ. They know the presence and power of the Spirit of God as others do not. The same Lord Jesus who is blasphemed by the persecutors is glorified by His suffering saints.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 251–254). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 174–176). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 349–350). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2278). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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