Question: "What does it mean to be tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7)?"

Answer: In 1 Peter 1:3–12, the apostle Peter delivers an uplifting sermon about our salvation in Jesus Christ. Peter wants his audience to understand the importance of genuine faith. He says that faith is “tested by fire” (verse 7, NKJV) in order to prove its genuineness.

In the same context, Peter says that, through faith, God protects us by His power until we receive the fullness of salvation and our eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:5). This “priceless inheritance” is secure and “beyond the reach of change or decay” (verse 4, NLT). We can rejoice, knowing that joy awaits us, explained Peter. But in the meantime, we “must endure many trials” (verse 6, NLT).

The believer’s faith is “tested by fire” through trials for a specific purpose: “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7, NLT). Peter asserts that trials serve to authenticate our faith by deepening it and strengthening our commitment to Jesus.

Testing by fire is part of the metalworker’s process to determine the quality of metal and remove all impurities. A goldsmith or silversmith must repeatedly heat the raw metals to extremely high temperatures until they melt. The contaminants rise to the surface in this liquid state and are skimmed off. Only after this refining process of separating the precious elements from the dross can a pure, valuable, and useful object be formed.

The Bible contains many references to God as the refiner who tests His people’s hearts in the fire of adversity. When Peter penned his message, he may have had the suffering of Job in mind. Amid his horrendous ordeal, Job said of God by faith, “He knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold” (Job 23:10, NLT).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God spoke to the remnant of Israel, “I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering” (Isaiah 48:10, NLT). To an end-times group of Jewish survivors, the Lord declared His purpose again: “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9, NLT).

The Bible tells believers to live with the expectation of being tested by fire. If we are prepared to experience troubles in life, we won’t be so shaken when they come. Solomon observed with matter-of-factness, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart” (Proverbs 17:3, NLT). The psalmist affirmed, “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10).

If you find yourself asking, “Why God? Why are You allowing this suffering?” Remember this: being tested by fire will make you stronger and purer in faith as you remain steadfast through hardship. We can have hope and courage in the face of adversity if we understand that, through it all, God is working His purposes for our good (Romans 8:28). James held that a Christian who perseveres under trial is blessed “because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Faith that stays true through every fiery test is more valuable than the finest, purest gold.