Faith in the Fire

Robert Wurtz II

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6–9 NKJV)

If there is one thing that is certain about our Christian faith, sooner or later it is going to be tested. God has ordained for this to be and it is as sure as the Sun rising in the morning. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that God shakes everything that can be shaken so that the things that cannot be shaken will remain (Heb. 12:27). Haggai 2:6 promises that, when it is time for the final judgment and the end of this age, God will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. All that will remain is what cannot be shaken, namely the kingdom that Christ shares with those who continue to trust in Him (IVP/NBC).

Our passage in 1 Peter 1:6-9 contains a phrase that reveals two types of faith. Peter speaks of the “genuineness of your faith” and by implication, there must likewise be a counterfeit faith. The genuine type of faith is more precious than gold, leading to the salvation of the soul. Counterfeit faith is less than worthless because it masquerades as the genuine article — soliciting the trust of all who encounter it. Like counterfeit currency that is discovered at the time of payment, counterfeit faith ends in misplaced confidence.  What a let-down!

“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. (1 Peter 4:12–13 NKJV)

Peter tells us to not be surprised or astounded when the fiery trial comes as though something strange is happening. As dreadful as it is, it is perfectly normal. Some of the oldest and most provoking stories in the Bible deal with sufferings and trials. God uses fiery trials for a multitude of reasons. Yet suffering is always used by our opportunistic enemy to bring doubt. Job’s wife caved in and told him to “curse God and die” when he had lost everything and was covered in boils. She failed the test — though he passed with flying colors.

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Trials are often extreme tests of faith. In fact, Peter uses a Greek word for fiery that could be translated as a furnace. We find it in Proverbs 27:21 related to the smelting of metals. What is happening? Our faith is being tested. Keep in mind that the original readers of Peter’s words were under extreme persecution. The KJV does not give the sense of the present tense as it is in the Greek (is trying you) but implies some future event (is to try you). However, Christians were already in the furnace (as it were) as Nero is said to have killed Christians for sport. This was on top of all of the ordinary trials of life that result from the fall of man (death, disease, etc.). Christians were tied to long poles, dipped in pitch, set ablaze and raised to be street lamps during the night. That was a very literal fiery trial. There were other unconscionable tortures employed as well. Most people will never experience anything so gruesome. Yet more or less we are all going to be tested in this world.

Finally, notice again what Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials…” The AV (KJV) has the rendering, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” The Holy Spirit, through Peter, wants us to know that in light of eternity the “various trials” are only a “little while” or “for a season.” When the trials finally end and we pass from this life we have all of eternity to rejoice that our faith withstood the test, purified in a furnace, resulting in the salvation of our soul.