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6. Week Six—Living in Light of the End

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Words To Live By

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good.

1 Peter 4:19

I hate to hear the end of a story before I read the book or see the movie! I want to experience the surprise or try to figure out how the plot ends before it happens. I don’t like the climax ruined before I get there.

Yet, the Bible is different. We need to know the end of the story because it changes the way we see the present and gives us the right perspective of what’s wrong in our world today. Through the meta-narrative we understand who God is in a deeper way. It’s a story in four parts: Creation, Ruin, Reconciliation and Restoration.1

Today we live in the time after Reconciliation when Jesus died on the cross to bring us into relationship with God by defeating the powers of sin and death. We live in the era after the cross when God is using his church to announce the good news that Jesus reconciles us to God when we believe and follow him. Next up is Restoration, the end when all the perfection that God intended for humans and our world will be restored from its marred state. All that is wrong now will be made right.

That’s a story that I need to hear as I look around and lament the evil, wars, pain, tragedy, alienation, oppression, injustice, hatred and fragmentation so prevalent in our world. But in the midst of it all, we can look to the coming of Jesus and the end of all these terrible consequences that arise from sin in the world. We can know that in the meantime God is in the business of working in the midst of the pain and sorrow. That should encourage us to participate in his kingdom work even at great personal cost, as was true of Peter’s audience.

Part One Study

Read 1 Peter 4:7-11.

You may be wondering what Peter was thinking by saying that “the end of all things is near” (4:7, NIV). It’s a legitimate question in light of the fact that it’s been 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth. I’m grateful that Peter helps us answer this question in his second letter.

Read 2 Peter 3:8-9, And Journal About Peter’s Answer, Or Write The Main Ideas In Your Own Words.

Jobes provides this insight into the end:

“The last of times” [See 1 Peter 1:20] indicates the final stage in God’s redemptive plan, inaugurated by the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Therefore, Peter’s statement that ‘the end is near’ is not precisely equivalent to saying that the end of the world will happen soon. While “the end” is certainly a future-oriented concept, Peter is not referring to one termination point in time. He rather has in mind the period of time after which Christ, who all along has been sovereign over all things, has finally been revealed as such in the resurrection . . . We, too, are living in the last stage of God’s redemptive process: it is no more or less true that “the end is near” today than it was when Peter first said it.2

Journal Your Thoughts About The Bulleted Questions:

  • Describe the relationship of knowing the end of all things is near (4:7) to obeying the exhortations of 4:8-11, which are connected to it by “therefore” or “so.”

According to Jobes, the first exhortation, “So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer,” refers to being “fully in control of one’s thoughts,”3 while McKnight calls it “mental alertness.”4

  • What in the immediate context are things these believers would have needed to be alert about? Read Philippians 4:8-9 as you consider how a lack of controlling one’s thoughts may affect prayer. What examples do you have?

The second exhortation, “Above all keep your love for one another fervent because love covers a multitude of sins,” begins with “above all,” meaning most important.

Other translations use the words “deep” or “earnest” instead of fervent to describe what kind of love we are to keep, making it sound like it’s about emotion, but apparently that’s not so in the Greek. Jobes says that the word “speaks not so much of emotional intensity but is, in this context, a love the persists despite difficulties because it is a love that ‘covers a multitude of sins.’”5

McKnight suggests that the idea of a love that covers a multitude of sins means that “the community that loves one another is able to forgive one another more rapidly when minor issues arise.”6

  • How do you see this second exhortation about love summarize the rest of this section (4:9-11)?

*** Write down your thoughts about the importance of these exhortations for a church that makes up a small minority in a hostile pagan culture. Why do you think our American churches have so much trouble loving one another persistently, resulting in forgiving easily?

The third exhortation, “Show hospitality to one another without complaining,” was particularly important in that day because the Roman Empire didn’t offer easily available hotels and B&Bs, making it necessary for believers to host traveling Christians. Also, the church itself depended on the hospitality of their people in order to gather together since they had no buildings.

  • Have you ever opened your home for someone to live with you who wasn’t part of your family? If so, share about it with your group. What would hospitality in the church look like today if we took this command seriously?
  • What is God saying to you today about living in light of the coming end?

We’ll look at one more area of exhortation for those living in light of the end in Part Two.

Part Two Study

Review This Entire Section By Rereading 1 Peter 4:7-11.

To summarize Peter’s first three exhortations about how the church is to live with one another in light of the coming end, we could say that the church is to pray alertly, be persistent in our love for each other and show hospitality with a good attitude.

Now we’ll look at the final two verses that exhort believers to show their love by using their spiritual gifts in the church in light of the approaching end.

The Greek word translated gift is actually the word for grace, suggesting that each Christian has received “a gracious gift from God, which is to be shared and passed on to others.”7 We normally refer to them as spiritual gifts because they are given by and empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1, 7).

I grew up in a church where I attended three times a week and learned what seemed like all the Bible stories. I had a father who was a great student of God’s Word, and he talked to me about theology quite often. Despite all of that, I never knew that all believers are given spiritual gifts and are expected to use them. Finally as a young adult, I was in a class where the teacher taught the subject. I had already been serving in the church several years without much success or joy, and finally I knew why—those places of service didn’t match my gifts!

Journal Your Thoughts About 1 Peter 4:10-11 In Light Of These Questions:

  • If you are God’s steward (one who manages another’s property), what does that mean in a practical way concerning your spiritual gifts?
  • Do you know what spiritual gift(s) God has given you? (They aren’t natural talents like singing or athleticism, although God can use those qualities as an avenue for a spiritual gift.) If so, how are you using it? If you aren’t sure, where have you served in the church or among God’s people, and how did it go? (If you have no idea, which is where we all begin, take the time to study the starred section at the end of this Part Two Study.)
  • In v.11, Peter seems to be summarizing the variety of gifts into speaking and serving gifts and explaining how they are to be used. Use your own words to explain what using them Peter’s way would look like, and write down any questions that you have.
  • What is the ultimate purpose of using your spiritual gifts that way according to v.11?
  • What is God saying to you about your gifting?

*** You have two choices for this optional study:

1. If you have already studied spiritual gifts, read this parable in which Jesus uses money to represent one area of stewardship of God’s gifts: Luke 19:11-27. Write down how it applies to our use of spiritual gifts. Which servant are you? Why?

2. Study more about spiritual gifts by reading the passages that mention them: Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:7-16; 1 Corinthians 12-13. As you can see in these passages, there is no one list of spiritual gifts. It may be that there are other gifts not even listed, but putting all the lists together results in an extensive list. In my experience the larger list covers how God’s people serve in any situation. Paul says that he was “appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11), suggesting that he had more than one spiritual gift. The Bible says we each have at least one, but I often notice people using multiple gifts that work in tandem, enabling them to serve where God has called them. With all of that in mind, what gift(s) would your fellow believers say that you have? Why? If you aren’t sure, ask them.8

Part Three Study

In 4:7-11 Peter has been discussing how to live in light of the approaching end of all things within the church. He now continues speaking to the church as he resumes the theme of suffering well for Christ.

Read 1 Peter 4:12-19, And Journal Your Thoughts On These Questions:

  • What attitudes are Christians to have and not have as they suffer for their faith? What else are they to do?
  • What would be the hardest exhortation to apply to your own life if you were being persecuted for Christ? Why?

In 4:17, Peter says that judgment begins with the household of God. That has been God’s practice with the Jews in the Old Testament and still is with Christians today.

But Peter gives no hint that these Christians have been unfaithful and deserve judgment in the sense of punishment, as we usually understand its meaning. What does this kind of judgment entail? Jobes says that it “can mean ‘the action of a judge’ with no assumed penalty or punishment in view.…”9 She explains that in this case “God will begin his process of judging humanity with his own people, to see which are truly Christ’s,”10 similarly to God’s work in Zechariah 13:9 and Malachi 3:1-5:

Then I will bring the remaining third into the fire;

I will refine them like silver is refined and will test them like gold is tested.

They will call on my name and I will answer; I will say, ‘These are my people,’

and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

Zechariah 13:9

Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can keep standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like a launderer’s soap. He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering.

Malachi 3:2-3

Of course, in both passages some people don’t pass the test, and for them the same refining uncovers who they really are—not God’s people.

Thus, this judgment in 1 Peter is about purifying these believers and unmasking those whose faith is not real. The context tells us which definition to use—not punishment but the action of a judge to refine.

Comment On The Bulleted Questions Below:

  • How does Peter describe the contrast of judgment for both groups of people in vv. 17-18?

McKnight applies this judgment of purification to us in the twenty-first century: “Our lives now prepare us for our final exam with God; even our suffering is one way God prepares us to be fit for his presence.”11

*** Since we aren’t being persecuted at this point in America, it’s good for us to recognize that God does sometimes punish the church because of its sin and idolatry. Consider God’s words of rebuke to five of the seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:10-11), and write down what you learn about why and how he says he will judge them: to Ephesus (Rev. 2:4-5); to Pergamum (Rev. 2:14-16; 19:15); to Thyatira (Rev. 2:20-23); Sardis (Rev. 3:1-3); Laodicea (Rev. 3:15-19). What might he be saying to the American church today?

  • How has God spoken to you through his Word this week?

Read Psalm 51 and confess any personal sin or corporate sin of the church that God brings to your mind. Write down your prayer and know that God forgives.

1 If you’ve never studied the meta-narrative of Scripture, BOW has a study so that you can study it for yourself. The ONE Story is found at

2 Jobes, 276.

3 Ibid., 277.

4 McKnight, 237.

5 Jobes, 278.

6 McKnight, 238.

7 Marshall, 146.

8 For more information on spiritual gifts, see Chapter 4 in my book, From Ordinary Woman to Spiritual Leader: Grow Your Influence.

9 Jobes, 293.

10 Ibid.

11 McKnight, 255.

Related Topics: Christian Life

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