Just like every other study we have done in 1 Peter, we MUST understand the reason Peter wrote to his target audience. The church was now beginning to rapidly experience a specific and extremely hostile and violent persecution of believers simply for following the name of Christ. Think of it this way if you can. The school bully has threatened you with a thumping after school, and the dismissal bell has just sounded. That’s about the emotion that would have been running through believers about that time, or worse, because these were not simple school bullies. These were the enforcers of the emperor of the world sent by him personally to harass, harm, arrest, and execute you, not necessarily in that order, or quietly or peacefully.
I don’t know if you have ever dealt with real persecution. Most people that claim the moniker have never experienced torture or worse. The most we have really experience to this point in Canada is a few frowns or maybe a heckler while open-air preaching or witnessing. I know our brother Tony Miano had an incident where a heckler who turned out to be high on meth attacked him in Calgary, but that isn’t organized and state-sponsored persecution. We here in Canada started to see that in our go-around with the COVID-19 virus, where provinces (and the Feds) overreached their God-given authority and tried to shut down churches that simply wished to meet for in-person worship as our Lord and Master commands. And if you think He doesn’t, you haven’t read Hebrews 10:23-25, which reads:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
What does this have to do with anything? Well, everything. Peter wrote his epistle here in response to that organized, government-sponsored persecution. Peter was telling people how to live with it. Please notice he wasn’t calling for revolution, he wasn’t even calling for protests or such. He was telling his brothers and sisters in Christ that they had a God-given responsibility to live for Christ, their ACTUAL Master, right in the middle of this persecution. You know, the one organized by the de facto leader of the world, and on deliberate false charges, I might add. It seemed to be common knowledge by all the Roman senate and some of the high-ranking officials that it was Nero who ordered the burning of Rome, not some rebellion by this new apolitical group who did not worship the made-up gods of Rome. And yet, that is the fake news that carried the day. I guess that as Mel Brooks suggests in a bunch of his movies, “It’s good to be the king.”
Peter’s words are grounding and authoritative, and leave no room for misinterpretation for lifestyle application. We are to be those now who are living for Christ, and not as revolutionaries, as some modern pastors suggest. Yo, dudes: The bible has more than just the red letters in it, and ALL of the letters are important, because He is the Word of God, and He inspired ALL of them, not just the red ones. So-called “Red Letter Christianity” is an incomplete Christianity, because it does not account for even the teaching of all the Apostles, let alone the Old Testament Scriptures, but I’m here to talk about 1 Peter 4:1-11, so we’ll drop that for the moment.
I broke the chapter down like this:
KV8: Remain fervent in your love for each other!
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
1-6: Arm yourselves with the same thinking – to suffer in the flesh
7-11: The End is near – Serve the Lord so as to glorify HIM
I’m just going to jump right in, because that’s the best way for me to do this right now.
KV8: Remain fervent in your love for each other!
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Right at the beginning, there are some things to say, so I will try to be concise. I must address this thought that is reflected by the world, and in particular this modern “hymn” (and please not the use of air quotes here), They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love. That is an incomplete thought, and you can fact check me with the words of Jesus Christ Himself in John 13, in and around verse 34 through 36ish. What Jesus said in that passage was that people will know true disciples of His when they saw their love for EACH OTHER. Peter knows that tune here in v.8, which I took as my key verse. I’ll say more later.
The other thing is that we need to be what Peter calls “fervent,” and what others would call “zealous,” but the Greek means literally “stretched out,” and it has come to mean zealous or earnest over time. In one form it is translated in the RV (Acts 26:7) as “instantly,” whereas the less accurate KJV translates it more accurately as “earnestly.” We won’t look at that for the sake of time, but that’s one all you Bereans can chase down on your own.
There is also a need to REMAIN in that state of earnestness. That word “keep” is the Greek echo, and it literally means to have as or to hold onto as a possession. This is an action that the real believer must perform as a part of their sanctification, Beloved. We need nothing for our justification, that was all done by the Lord Jesus on the cross. Sanctification is different in that we must cooperate with the Lord as He allows suffering in our lives and allow them to purify us through the opportunities that provides to die to our own desires and live to His. We may or may not be entirely willing, but as we take sides against ourselves and our own desires in favour of His will, we will be rewarded with that cleansing. I don’t know about you, but I find myself longing for it more and more as I walk with Christ.
I could exposit more of the verse, but I’ll leave the rest for when we get there in the text, so that you can see it in context. Here is where we will begin our examination of the text.
1-6: Arm yourselves with the same thinking – to suffer in the flesh
The initial textual context for this section of 1 Peter 4 is set by our last study, vv.13-22 of chapter 3. In that text, we saw the need for suffering in our own sanctification, as we were considering mere sentences ago. Peter is now calling us to arm ourselves…but not how many people today would take that phrase. An example of how people mainly interpret a “call to arms” is how political opponents of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week called her LGBTQ+ “brothers and sisters” to arms against the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The political opponents of Lori Lightfoot pointed out that she was actually calling for insurrection and armed rebellion, and she very quickly said she was being metaphorical, but that’s how people understand that phrase today. Peter is saying something altogether different, and his metaphor is clear from the beginning. Let’s look at the text.
1: Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
- The very first word is a “therefore.” All you Bereans out there! What do we do when we see the word “therefore?” [wait for the reply] Right! We see what it’s there for, remembering a preposition is a poor word to end a sentence with! [hahahahahaha] The word is actually joining the first verse of our more modern and artificially created sometime in the 1300s chapter division with the last few sentences of Peter’s previous thought and calling a kind of conclusion for us from the restated fact that Christ has suffered in the flesh, the One who was never wrong, who suffered the greatest wrong of all on behalf of those who were in the wrong so that He could give them His righteousness.
- So since Christ has suffered in the flesh, calls Peter to us, “arm yourselves with the same thinking [literal].” There is no way Peter can be misconstrued here as calling for a rebellion in physical arms. It is an exercise in arming our attitudes to suffer wrongs just as our Lord did. Peter even explains why: the one that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin! There are two ways of looking at that. Christ suffered in the flesh and died. That’s one way, to be sure. But the second way of looking at this is that we need to follow his example in spirit, and die to our own desires, because as we suffer, we will be ceasing from sin. John Owen called this phenomenon the mortification of sin in his treatise by the same name. Those of you who have been Bereans for a while will remember reading that in our book club. That is the thinking we need to arm ourselves with in terms of our own desires in the flesh. We’ll say more on that in a few verses, because Peter is going to list them.
2: so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
- Here you will notice that verse two is a continuation of the sentence in verse one. This is a subordinate clause that is directly joined to that “same thinking” with which we are to arm ourselves. We can also see that what I was talking about in terms of understanding the verse is accurate, because Peter actually says that we are not any longer to follow the lusts of men for the rest of our time in the flesh, that is while we live on earth in this body of flesh. Instead, Peter directs us to walk according to the will of God. Now, I have a question for all you Bereans in the audience. How do we learn what is the will of God for our lives? [wait for answer] If you didn’t understand, it is from the Word of God. It is NOT from this mythical “voice of God” that charismaniacs the world over claim they “hear.” That isn’t the voice of God. If you want to hear the voice of God, read His Word, the Bible. If you want to hear God’s voice audibly, read your Bible OUT LOUD!
- This needs to be said, because this is one of the passages I have seen charismatics try to abuse, and it is not what the Lord says anywhere in His word. Most times what people are describing as that internal soft voice of “God” is themselves telling themselves it is okay to do what they secretly (or not so secretly) want to do anyway, like giving themselves permission to sin in some way, really. Beloved, I was saved in the Charismatic movement, and I have NEVER, repeat NEVER, heard a voice out loud that was disembodied, never mind attributing this to God, and I have been a Christian for 37 years this year. I will TELL you how God leads me according to His will.
- God leads me, and will lead any other real believer the same way, by His word, the Bible. He tells me what behaviours to perform to honour Him, and tells me what not to do to avoid bringing shame to His name. Now, I know that the Bible does not have specifics sometimes. I’ll give you a personal example. In 1987 (in May actually), God specifically promised me I would marry a woman I would love and be pleased with. But I still had to wait 13 years to find out who that was! And He showed me as I walked with Him in all the other areas that He was showing me to walk in with Him. And when He showed me, it was through another principle: His divine Providence. That’s what the rest of the world may call random chance, but all you Bereans know better.
- Another way that God leads His people through their circumstances is by godly counsel. Speak with a church leader (a real one, not just some guy that hangs around after service). That Church leader has some qualifications as well. We’ve looked at them before, but they are listed in Paul’s pastoral letters, specifically 1 Timothy 2 and 3, and Titus 1. Pastoral Counseling is a part of the job, and we’re all trained in it. And if you need some, I’m happy to help. Be advised, though ladies, I won’t be alone if you need counseling, my wife will also be there. It’s not that I don’t trust you, I am wishing to avoid even the appearance of evil as the Scriptures tell us.
- The point here is that God is the one who leads us, through His word, through His divine providence, or through godly counsel. If you want to walk by the will of God for your life, start with reading the word. Daily. We can talk more after if you have questions. There are options, as it turns out!
3: For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.
- What I hear Peter saying here is, “hasn’t the sin in your life gone on long enough?” The time is already past sufficient for you be walking in the flesh of man. You should be done with this now. You should no longer be carrying out “the desires of the Gentiles,” which Peter uses as a catch phrase to represent unbelievers. But this is where as we like to say around here, the “rubber meets the road,” because Peter, that great Apostle, is about to list behaviours we are supposed to avoid. He actually describes is as a course which we have in the past pursued, at least that’s the tense in Greek. Let’s look at the list.
- Sensuality: Gk., aselgia, wantonness, licentiousness, lasciviousness. Filthiness, particularly of a sexual nature, but not restricted to that only. There is an extreme permissiveness that goes with licentiousness that basically okays anything and everything, and God has built healthy boundaries and standards for us to walk within. You’ve heard us speak of this before, but I always go back to our proverbial and somewhat euphemistic car thief example. Hey, it’s just a car! Stealing that car feels good, so do it! Or anything else that you can apply that to, really. So, sensuality, dealing with what appeals to the senses.
- Lusts: In modern English, this kind of means the same thing, but in the Greek, it does not. This is more akin to “covetousness.” Paul uses this same word in Romans 7:7-8 to describe how the Law convicted him of his own sinful desires for unlawful objects, and could include money or other kinds of gain, though in Paul’s case probably did not. Desire of any kind is covered here. Some may desire sex, but some may desire cars. Or Money. Or land. Or wealth of any kind. It is the coveting desire itself that is wrong here, not the objects themselves, for the record.
- Drunkenness: This is literally an “overflow of wine,” and therefore actual drunkenness. Alcohol is the thought here, but again, there is always a deeper meaning with this kind of list, and it could include anything in which you can overindulge. Today, that includes Marijuana, Crystal Meth, Cocaine, Sex, Money, political power, like that. Whatever it is that you are indulging in has an intoxicating and frankly dissipating effect. Heck, computer games or card games or the like could be included here.
- Carousing: reveling or rioting. What I find interesting here is that these are typically second-order effects of drinking. I know that when I used to drink, I was a reveler. My nickname was “Party Zeke.” If there was a party, I was at it, and usually welcome. I wasn’t a violent drunk, I never broke things, but I did behave badly because with the alcohol, I gave myself permission to misbehave into these second-order effects. I once had people I had never met before show up at my door wanting to party with me specifically. Okay, that’s kind of strange, but I have to tell you these folks were from Sault Ste. Marie, 700 miles away. That’s a bit of a reputation, because I’d never even stopped in Sault Ste. Marie before then. Rioting? Just google the city of Portland. You’ll have about 10 examples on one search page.
- Drinking parties: This is like the plural of Carousing. So Carousings! Banquetings is the KJV here, and a Greek synonym amounts to the English surfeiting. Carousing, or reveling is an individual thing, but drinking parties have some organization, and I would call that a team sport. Peter here is describing organized debauchery. We used to call that kind of thing “The Engineer’s Pub Crawl.” Most times, we just called it Thursday before I really started walking with Christ. Then Thursday became Bible Study, and the story changed for the better.
- Abominable idolatries: This literally means unlawful idolatries. What does Peter mean by this? Well, Peter would have known about these, so here is what I think. Look with me for a moment at Exodus 20. We will begin in v.2:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
I think the “unlawful” I get from vine is a better translation. Peter is saying that idolatry is abominable to be sure, but he is also telling us that it is a violation of God’s moral law, the ten commandments. In fact, that’s the first two of them. Beloved, here is a very serious question I must ask you. What is it you put in front of the Lord your God? Is it television? It can be. Is it card games or role-playing games? Again, it can be. Is it your own ease and comfort under the guise of self care? That’s a big one for me. I have to tell you that it literally hurts to type sometimes. Or the study gives me a headache because of nasal issues and allergies. But that shouldn’t keep me from walking with the Lord and following the course that he has clearly called me to and laid out for me to follow. Same for Peter. Same for you. If this is where you find yourself, then there is a relieving solution: repent and believe. Turn 180 degrees away from your sinful idol and turn to the living Christ of God! Ask for His forgiveness and aid! Then believe that He has already paid the price for you, and He WILL help with your issue, whatever it is. I know, I’ve said some immanently practical things here. Please take them to heart, because you do not answer to me, you answer to HIM, and I don’t want you to have a bad conversation with God on that day. I really do care about you all. Next verse.
4: In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you;
- I once had this experience. I sat there while a fellow berated me for about 5 minutes straight for not participating in the drunken revelry he wanted to participate in. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy it, I was humiliated, because he did it publicly. But after that, people who had seen it, like the Lord sees things like this, actually came to me with words of comfort and agreement. They told me that the other guy had more or less been a jerk (and that term was not among the terms they used). All because I was not drinking that evening, not even for a cause of righteousness (I had a lab exam or something the next day, I don’t really remember.)
- How much better is this when we suffer for doing what is right like Christ did? It happened to Him. Let’s look for a moment at Matthew 11:15-19:
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matt. 11:15-19)
This is one of the principles that relies on the wisdom that comes from the experience of it happening to you and you learning the opportunity to take up your cross daily. You’re being different than they are, and they don’t like it, so they get mean with their words. Imagine hearing the mocking of Roman soldiers drinking as they watched abstaining Christians worship the King in their prison cells. I can almost hear their catcalls.
5: but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
- Those jailed believers awaiting death in arena knew something the Romans did not. Each one of them would have to give an account for those mocking words spoken to those jailed believers. And so will you if you stand with the mockers of the present day. Don’t be like that.
- And who is it that they will have to give that account to? “To Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Who is that? Paul told Timothy in his last letter–ever–2 Tim 4:1–“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom…” Christ Jesus Himself, the very one these men mocked when they were mocking those jailed believers, and anyone that is mocking you. I’m not sure you are aware of this, but the Lord really does love all of His younger brothers and sisters. He died for you, Beloved, and He rose again to show it was all true. Don’t fret, Peter is saying, their time is coming.
6: For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.
- I admit I had to sleep on this verse, right off the bat. There are some that claim that the gospel was preached to the dead so that they could go to be with Jesus in heaven, but I find this intellectually unsatisfying. Let me try to explain that. There have been people who have died since Peter wrote this. I think that means that it isn’t the same as Christ going into the part of hell where the righteous who died in the days of Noah were kept, or possibly (I hear this interpretation recently, and it also makes some sense) into Tartarus to where the angels that disobeyed and then took a more physical form to seduce human females are chained in eternal darkness to tell them it was over and He won, and they were stuck there forever. I don’t think Peter is talking about that, and it isn’t clear.
- I also know that you cannot preach to a corpse. Even if it is drawing breath like most of us are for the moment. That’s really what we all are, dead people walking until Christ regenerates us and makes our spirit alive in Himself. Here is where we need to consider the historical context a little. The believers that Peter wrote to would have known some of those believers that had been martyred for the faith. It is my persuasion (more than just an opinion, rather a firmly held one, ha, ha, ha–pistis) that Peter is talking about those martyrs for the faith, dead saints that had been called home. Understanding that allows clarity in the passage without resorting to the doctrinal backflips of the other stuff I briefly mentioned. Peter tells us that these were “judged in the flesh as men,” meaning they were executed by the government. And then Peter gives the eternal destiny of those individuals: “…that they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
- Now remember how Peter started this paragraph? He began with the word “therefore” to link it to how Christ has suffered in the flesh for us. Then He said in v.1 of this paragraph, “arm yourselves with the same thinking.” These brothers and sisters did, and they now live in the presence of the eternal and unchanging God of heaven.
It is a given that suffering in the flesh in any sense is not pleasant, and we very naturally seek to NOT suffer in the flesh. However, this is bad planning on our part given the words of our Lord on the matter:
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
(Matt. 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24)
The Lord thought this so important that it occurs in all three synoptic Gospels by divine inspiration. Peter knows this well, having denied the Lord three times, and having been restored from that position by the Lord Himself. If we will not arm ourselves with the same thinking as Christ in that we be willing to suffer to bring the news of salvation in Christ to a dying world that is clearly (pick up a newspaper and read the headlines) in need of it, then we are of those who are trying to save their own life, and that means we will miss our opportunity in the here and now and then forfeit heavenly reward for it later. That should scare the real believer more than the embarrassment you feel at sharing Christ while speaking to another person about Him, or even just inviting someone to a meeting where you know the gospel will be preached.
For the record, I’m not a fan of scare tactics, and I don’t like it when people try to scare me into doing things or not doing things. I am willing to predict you are not either, and so I’m not going to try to manipulate you with my words. But Jesus said that, and I am duty bound as a teacher of His Word to point that out. Moving on.
7-11: The End is near – Serve the Lord so as to glorify HIM
The fact is that salvation by grace through faith in Christ is a time-limited offer, according to Peter in this paragraph. The end of all things is upon us. The stage has been being set for the last 2000 years, give or take. John, the Apostle that wrote a Gospel, three letters, and the book of Revelation, called the last 2000 years “the last hour.” Apparently, he, like we, do not know how much time our corner of the universe has left. But our Lord does, and there is something we should know.
I’ll put this question to the folks in the congregation right now. It comes from the Westminster shorter catechism. It goes like this: “What is the chief end of man?” Anyone want to take a shot at the answer? I’m pretty sure we have at least two people that know the answer here. [wait for answer]
The answer goes like this: “The chief end of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever.”
That ties in to our consideration of this text like this. Knowing that is the chief end of man, and knowing that the “end of all things” is near according to Peter, should we not be serving Him so as to give Him glory as long and as hard as we can? That is what PETER says it means, and I wholeheartedly agree. It doesn’t mean we can’t do things like go grocery shopping, or attend picnics or graduations with our children, or celebrate a friend’s birthday. It means that we must do so to the glory of God alone. As the Reformers said, “Soli Deo Gloria.” With that understood, we’ll hop into the text.
7: The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober
spirit for the purpose of prayer.
- This is where we start. At the end of all things. Peter is telling us that it IS coming. There is NO stopping it. We will not be able to do so, even though we seem to want to try, but we will not succeed. We do not have the requisite wisdom as a species because we will not turn to the source of all knowledge and wisdom and simply say “I’m sorry, please forgive me for breaking your rules.” [Gospel here? Oh you better believe it.]
- As believers, Peter tells us how we are to face that end of all things. We are to use “sound judgement.” The Greek phrase means to be in one’s right mind, or sober-minded, according to Vine’s dictionary. It means we need to be rational, Beloved, and not chasing our tails because we believe the fantasy someone else is selling. That someone is our greatest enemy, and is not human, for the record. We call him the Devil.
- We are also to be “sober.” You will note the word “spirit” does not occur in Greek, and it adds nothing to the English in terms of clarity or enhanced understanding, so we will drop it from use. This is the Greek word nephro, and it literally means to be free from the influence of intoxicants. It is related to the previous phrase we looked at in the sense that it means we should be sober. The “free of intoxicants” phrase, like so many other things in the Bible, has deeper meaning. What do you use to escape reality for a while, or to distract yourself from your own private pain? Some people actually drink alcohol, and that is the actual intoxicant spoken of by Peter. Some people use narcotics, because they too have an intoxicating effect. Others pursue relationships because they love being in love with love, but not agape love. Whatever it is, you need to put it aside and realize that the end of all things is coming.
- We need to face that with what is defined as earnest communication with God–prayer. We don’t need to run after all the things or whatever else people make up to soothe their consciences against the living God so that they don’t have to repent and be saved from the coming wrath of God that will strike the whole earth before the end comes.
- Repent and believe the gospel. Especially if you are a believer. Next verse.
8: Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
- We started with this verse. Fellow believers, I am addressing you directly as fellow heirs of the kingdom of God under our Lord and King, Jesus son of Yahweh. His command to us through His Apostle Peter here is to love each other, and the reason we need to love each other (the Greek word is agape) is because God’s love covers a multitude of sins. And even though we are saints of the Most High, we are still sinners for as long as we inhabit this bag of flesh we call a body.
- We are to “keep fervent.” We are to keep up our earnestness in the endeavor, according to Peter. Why must we keep it up, stir it up, put it on like a coat if we must, provoke it in ourselves and others, right up until He returns for us? I believe it is because it is hard to do, and we must be in a constant state of exercise to manage it.
- We are to keep fervent in. our agape, that is our love of God for one another. Yes, it means we are to love the Lord, but it also means that you love others LIKE you love the Lord. A really great example of this is seen in Ephesians 5:25-27, which reads: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” We are to love each other the same way, as Christ loves us, in that He gave Himself up for our sins.
- That covering a multitude of sins that Peter states isn’t just glossing them over, although that is sometimes a part of it. The Greek kalupto used in this sense is something that literally covers or hides, or obfuscates or hinders the knowledge of what it is covering, in this case a multitude of sins. Beloved, they will know we are Christians by THIS love…by the love of God we have for each other, not by simply feeding the poor or gaining justice for those who need it, though we should do those things in His name as well. The world sees us as a useless bunch of people who talk about the fancy ideals of the love of God but are always backbiting and finding fault with others who are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Peter here is saying this is not to be. We are to hide the very knowledge of the sin of brothers or sisters from ourselves, and make a committed choice to put their interests and needs above your own. This does not mean I can fix your roof, by the way. But it does mean that I will do everything in my power to help you fix your own roof, because I have neither the money nor the knowledge to do so for you. Like that.
- Why our love for each other? You’ll have to come back for our study in 1 John for that answer. But in the meantime, I will quote the relevant verse as a children’s chorus we used to sing: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loveth knoweth God. He who loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love…Beloved, let us love one another. 1 John 4:7 and 8!” Moving on.
9: Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
- Now in MY thinking, this is the practical outworking of the previous verse. How do we show our love for others? One of those ways is called hospitality. The Greek word is philoxenos, and literally means the love of strangers. It is similar in root to phileos, that affection we are to have for our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this case, Peter is saying that we need to extend this love of strangers toward each other. Most people actually have no problem with this, right up until the last two words of the verse register on their brains.
- “Without complaint.” Oops. The Greek word for complaint is gongusmos, and it literally means a murmuring or muttering, but is mor figuratively used to mean displeasure or complaining, more privately than publicly. In this verse, it a basic general admonition against that kind of behaviour, especially toward your brothers and sisters in Christ. I would take that a little further as well, to include especially those who are in your midst that still have not believed, whether they be seeking answers or longstanding false converts. Now, before you become a Pharisee that is wanting to engage in self-justification, I will tell you why I think that. It all starts with a lawyer standing up to test Jesus. There was nothing wrong with that, the Lord commands us to test all the spirits to see if they are of God. This guy was doing his job. He asked the Lord what the greatest commandment was, because some of the accusations of the intelligentsia against the Lord were that He didn’t follow the commandments, and that would have meant he wasn’t representing God in the matters before the nation. Jesus gave the man the absolute orthodox commands that Moses had written down for the people in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The Lawyer was satisfied, and told the crowd that Jesus had in fact answered correctly. Then he took a left turn into self-justification, which is where we will pick up the story:
But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:29-37)
Jesus was speaking to a Jew. One can safely assume that the victim in the story was a Jew. He was set upon by robbers who left him for dead. A priest, representing the religious leaders, would not help him. A Levite, representing the religion itself, would not help him. Both of those guys actually crossed the road so they wouldn’t even be confronted by the problem. Then who happens by to help? A Samaritan. The Samaritans were HATED–actively–by the Jews. They represented a mixing of the pure Jewish bloodlines with Gentile nations, and were in the thinking of all Jews, polluted and profane. They would have nothing to do with Samaritans. To be fair, the animosity did run in both directions. But that’s who stopped and helped. Of those three categories, which one was the real neighbor? Clearly it was the hated Samaritan.
- What I take away from that is this: I do not care how much you dislike certain people, you need to treat them with respect, as fellow bearers of the Imago Dei (image of God). I don’t care if you think they are a false teacher, a false convert, a bad Christian, or whatever other kind of malfeasance you can come up with. They are STILL your NEIGHBOR. And as such, you must extend to them what hospitality you can. Think about this: How else will you ever be able to share Christ with them if all you do is display hostility toward them when you are with others or against them personally? If they know how to play the game, you are the one who will necessarily look bad. Why not rather simply extend hospitality to them to bless them? Paul tells us that will heap burning coals on their head in Romans 12:20-21:
BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:20-21)
And Paul is quoting Proverbs 25:21-22. That can be understood two ways, and maybe both are correct, because they are not mutually exclusive categories. The first way of understanding is that they are heaping the fiery coals of judgement upon their own head for future punishment. To be sure, if sinners will not turn from the coming wrath of God that is accurate. But the second way of understanding this is infinitely more interesting to me as a pastor. What if you are lighting their conscience on fire? They would begin to burn in their thoughts about the wrong or harm they are doing, and God willing and helping, such things have been known to drive people to real repentance and faith. In either case, that hospitality extended has done the job God intended it to do, had it not? Moving on.
10: As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
- And this to me is how one actually shows some of that hospitality, that love of others, towards other people. God has gifted all believers with a unique mix of talent and skill, and has done so for the body of Christ at their initial justification by faith. We are to take that gift and we are to use it for the benefit of the body of Christ to the best of our ability. Some have the gift of administrations, and they can chair councils or committees. Some have the gift of the gab, and they can be spokesmen, or properly applied, pastors and teachers of the congregation. Some have the gift of making music, and they do so for the purposes of aiding the congregation in worship of the King, in Psalms, and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. Some have the gift of giving, and they give to others as they can to bless them and build them up in their faith. You get the idea. Beloved, according to Peter, that’s how this is supposed to work!
- He literally says, “Employ [your gift] in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God!” Beloved, that word for “employ” is the Greek diakoneo: DEPLOY [diakonountes] your power from God! Use it to benefit the Body of Christ, the Church!
- “As good stewards:” Steward is the Greek oikonomos, one who rules over a house for another. Such a servant in the deploying of that gift is superior to the other servants of the house, and is in my opinion authorized to lead in such endeavours. I’m getting that from the definition of the word in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, incidentally. I’m not making this up, that’s what the words mean.
- “Manifold:” This is a Greek word that means “varied.” Peter is telling us that the grace of God comes to us in many different shapes, in as many as there are vessels for it if you ask me. We should not be surprised. My gifts are unique to me, just as my wife’s gifts are unique to her. Hers often compliment mine, and vice versa. I didn’t go looking for that, it is something God did. What is your gifting from God? You have it, like it or not. Do you know? If you do, then put it to use for the body. If you do not, maybe it’s time you found out. If you don’t have any, then maybe you need to turn to Christ in repentance and faith, not so He will gift you with these things, but so that you can escape the coming wrath of God and face the end of all things that Peter mentioned with joy and not fear. Moving on.
11: Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- Peter then proceeds to list some of the gifts in a non-exhaustive list. I personally like where he starts, because it is personal to me and speaks to my specific calling from God in the Scriptures. “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God.” Beloved, not everyone is gifted to speak the words that God gives them to say, although if He does give you words to say, He WILL help you say them at the right time and in the way that will make the most impact. I must admit that as nerve-wracking as it can be, it is my greatest joy to be speaking those utterances of God. When I am teaching or preaching (and they are different but related), I hate phrasing it like this because I don’t walk by my feelings, but I feel like I am doing what I was actually born (again/from above) to do! I am preaching the word! Whether it is convenient for me to do so or not! I am reproving, rebuking, and strongly encouraging, hopefully with real patience and in doctrinally sound fashion accurately handling the word of Truth.
- Whoever is serving the saints in one or more of many, many possible ways of doing so, they are doing it all through the strength that God gives them. I am down with that! Sometimes, that’s the only way I can stand up here and speak. You all know my health is bad, I have injuries and medical conditions that limit my range of activities and energy levels at times. I know you have issues like that yourselves, but it is such a joy to serve Christ that those things do not matter. He fills us with His joy as we do so. But why do we do so?
- So that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom [Jesus Christ] belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Remember that question I asked earlier as we started the second paragraph in our study? What is the chief end of man? It is right here in this verse, Beloved. It is why a real believer does everything they do. If they have some other reason for doing it, they didn’t get that from the Lord, or maybe they are not even a real Christian but a false convert. I’m not making those distinctions, the text is. And I’m saying these things so that we can love the saints and hate the pagans, that would be a veery serious misunderstanding of my motives here.
- When I talk about false teachers, I need to point out that I’m not blowing smoke, they have actually been heard offering up as biblical advice something that the Bible des not say. But from our text tonight, other than calling out their false teachings by name and detail, and as necessary engaging in Matthew 18 church discipline, should we not extend to them the gospel in love for their souls, for whom Christ died? Maybe they will not be saved by turning to Christ, but as I understand it, our job is to offer it to them regardless. If they insist on teaching their false teaching, then the disciplinary requirements are clear when they try to teach their nonsense in public. But shouldn’t we give them as much opportunity as we can to turn from evil and follow the truth? It has happened. There are stories from the early church fathers that these men who started off teaching the gospel out of mockery ended up hearing the word themselves and turning to Christ in faith. Some were martyred if I understood that rightly, although I cannot give sources for that at the moment. I’m engaging in something I heard talked about many years ago in a private conversation between brethren who were older in Christ than I, and I didn’t take the time to look it up, so sorry about that. But it doesn’t change my point. False converts doubly so! They just don’t know. And when they turn to Christ, and some will, does that not give glory to God through Christ? I know it does, and so do you.
The longer I walk with Christ, the more I see that every aspect of the Christian life is preceded by and predicated by agape love. That love is more than a fuzzy feeling we get for others for number of different reasons, although it does (and should) include our emotions. It is foundational to agape that a commitment to put the interests of the other first is essential in its exercise. If we are only basing our walk and our “love” for others on anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ by not being willing to care for their needs first, then we are not walking in love but are really walking in hypocrisy and putting on a show the bad actors we are. We need to be prepared to suffer in the flesh because of putting those needs before our own at times, and we need to keep in mind that the end of all things is upon us, and they may not even realize it. Look around at the preponderance of “end-of-the-world” type movies that have come out in the last few years. It shows that people know deep down that things are wrapping up. That will likely polarize people into those seeking to escape it by their own deeds, or those who haven’t got a clue how to do that and therefore seek Christ and His saving grace. It is that second group of people that we need to care about primarily, but without neglecting the first, because they too need to realize how ridiculously helpless we all are before an all-powerful, holy, and wrathful God. We can either acknowledge that and turn to Him for forgiveness of our sins through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross, His burial in a borrowed tomb, and His resurrection to show that not only was the price of our sins paid, but that its power in our lives was broken so that we no longer have to be its slaves. Everyone will fall into those two categories without exception. I appeal to both: Turn away from your sins and believe that the Lord Jesus death was an acceptable atonement for all the things YOU have done wrong personally, and God will deliver you from the mess you call a life and your bondage to your current master called sin. Then He will bring you to a good church where you can learn and grow in Him.
And that’s what I saw in the chapter!