Living in Light of the End (1 Peter 4:7-11)
Last time we saw that verses 5 and 6 conclude with a reference of the final judgment, and Peter repeated that theme in verse 7 with a reminder that the end is near. Remember the main theme of this book of the Bible is that since the end is near that believers should live according to God’s will. Therefore, as verse 7 shows us we should be alert and sober minded for prayer, that we should live in sacrificial love that includes hospitality, and that we should use our gifts whether speaking or serving, to help others. Their aim and motivation in all they do is to see God glorified through Jesus Christ. (Schreiner, 2003)
In this passage we see that as the end times grow closer that we will be needing to use prayer to prepare us to suffer like Jesus Christ. John Piper encourages to use prayer like a wartime walkie-talkie to call in backup to help us remained self-controlled and sober-minded. However, so many of us use prayer as a domestic intercom to call down the butler for a more comfortable pillow. When we use God to make us comfortable instead of as a tool for spiritual warfare, our prayer malfunctions.
What does Peter mean when he says, the end of all things is near? Does he mean that Jesus is coming back soon? No, because this book was written in 65 A.D. so since the Bible is God’s Word without error, then we know that Peter does not expect the end time to be very soon, because no one would consider almost 2000 years soon.
Did Peter mean, that all things are fulfilled so Jesus could come back at any minute? No, because Peter was there when Jesus predicted that the temple would be destroyed. That does not happen for another 5 years in 70 A.D. In addition, we know that as far as we know that the man of lawlessness has not arrived nor has the Great Commission been fulfilled. So we can assume that it cannot happen any second.
Therefore, What does Peter mean when he says, the end of all things is near? I believe that Peter means that the end is near, that things that are promised to happen are happening and just as we were told in the previous passage that we should prepare like Jesus for suffering, we should prepare for the struggles during the end times. And we do that by being self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of our prayers so that we will not fall victim to the lies of the man of lawlessness or to the fear of persecution.
Should we try to predict when Jesus is coming back or listen to those who think they know the date? No, because no one knows the date except for our father in heaven. Since we know the world is ending should we consume ourselves with signs and look into the sky, hoping that Jesus will return soon? No, we are to be doing our father’s business. We have work to do and knowing that then end is near should drive us to make our lives count, not wasting time looking at the sky. Jesus promised the fulfilling of the Great Commission; therefore, He is not coming back until it is fulfilled so we need to be working towards fulfilling the Great Commission, not staring at the sky and looking for signs of His coming. Because He is going to come like a thief in the night.
Now in verse 8, we see that the imminence of the end should also provoke believers to love. Enduring love for others testifies that a person is living in light of the future. True love covers a multitude of other people’s sins (Prov. 10:12). Where love abounds, offenses are frequently overlooked and quickly forgotten. Love is important because in the end times love will be scarce.
In addition, we all know that love covers a multitude of sins. If you know that someone loves you and they do something that hurts you, you are able to forgive quicker than you would a stranger because you know that they did not do it on purpose. Therefore, people in our lives should know how much we care about them so that when we mess up, they know that it was not on purpose.
Love is important for a Christian because love central in the Christian life. Jesus himself warned that love is apt to grow cold at the end of the age in Matthew 24:12. Love is paramount, and it will be needed all the more as the end draws near. Why? Because the pressures and stresses and tribulations of the last days will put relationships under tremendous stress. If you need an example you only have to look at what happened after hurricane Katrina.
Were people taking care of each other, no, you heard of people raiding the local stores, carrying out big screen tv’s, you heard of rape and theft from the superdome where it was housing so many people placed without homes. Why, because when things go bad there is a temptation to only think of yourself. However, that is the opposite of what Christians should be doing. During these days the world will be watching to see if we are real. Will we cover and bear and endure each others’ faults, or will anger rule our hearts. So if we wonder how we should live our lives in light of the ending of the world, Peter here encourages us to live a life with a priority of love.
There is often confusion on what the word love especially Biblical love means. And it stems from the fact that many of us do not have a good understanding of what love is supposed to be. Many of us grow up thinking that love is making much of me. You fall in love with people that make much of you. You fall in love with activities that make much of you. However, that is not what a Biblical love is.
A Biblical love is a love that makes much of others by helping them make much of God. It has nothing to do with how they respond to you, because they may kill you for your love as the disciples and many missionaries have discovered. Jesus Christ loved us so much that He died on the cross for our sins in order to eliminate the barrier that keeps us from making much of our loving God.
Now a practical example is in marriage. Will my marriage be loving if I am always saying to Kaley make much of me. Or will our marriage display the Gospel more clearly if I set the standard of helping Kaley make much of God? So if I am sacrificially loving my wife in a way that will lead her to being able to know and worship God more clearly, guess what, that in turns frees her up to love me as well. Because if I am constantly putting demands on her to love me she will resent me, but if I help her worship the one that is worthy of her love then she is better able to love all those around her.
Therefore, God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes 7 billion people, but because the world is so bad. A Holy and just God sent His one and only perfect son into the world to be crushed for a sinful world. God so loves the world that it looks like He hates his Son in comparison of His love to the world.
Now in verse 9, the theme of love continues. This time we see how hospitality can be used to display the love of Christ. Hospitality was one of the marks of the Christian community. Our homes need to be open, because our hearts are open. And our hearts are open because God’s heart is open to us. The words without grumbling acknowledge that those who open their homes may grow tired of the service. Therefore, they are encouraged to be hospitable gladly, not caving into the temptation to begrudge their charity to others.
In verse 10, we now see that the theme of ministering to others continues. However, in this verse the emphasis shifts to gifts believers have received by God’s Grace. What are the purpose of gifts? Gifts are given to serve others. Are some gifts better than others? No, no one should be prideful about their gifts because each gift was a gracious gift from God so that you may serve others. Therefore, no Christian is unimportant because each gift helps complete the body of Christ.
Here in verse 11, we see that these gifts can be divided into two categories, speaking and serving. Therefore, we can conclude that all our gifts are for the purpose of serving and edifying others. Gifts like apostleship, prophecy, teaching, tongues, and exhortation fall under speaking gifts, whereas gifts like giving, leading, mercy, helps, healing, and miracles fall under serving.
Peter encourages us not to use these gifts in our own strength because when we speak well out of our own strength then we get the glory, but if we speak well about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then God gets the glory. Likewise, those called to serve should not serve out of their own strength, but by the strength, that God provides them. We should have great faith in God and because of our great faith, we should attempt Great things for God.
Now in conclusion, let us look at some closing applications. First, to everyone. If you belong to Christ, if you have by faith received his saving hospitality, which he paid for with his own blood, then extend this hospitality to others. Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” You live on free grace every day. Be a good steward of it in hospitality.
Second, to High Schoolers. Plan that your hospitality include middle schoolers. And don’t make a big deal out of it. Just be natural. Think like a Christian. This is your family, more deeply and more eternally than your kinfolk.
Third, to Middle Schoolers. Show hospitality to other Middle schoolers and to High schoolers. Perhaps it seems odd. But should it? Would it not be a mark of unusual maturity and stability? Would it not be a mark of God’s grace in your life?
I pray that the Lord would do this beautiful work among us—all of us. The end of all things is at hand. Let us be sober for our prayers. Let us love each other. Let us be good stewards of the varied grace of God, and let us show hospitality without grumbling. “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.” (Piper, 2007)