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Living on the Edge of Eternity (1 Peter 4:7-11)

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as 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.

Introduction

A few years ago, our friends from the Northwest called to ask that I visit a woman in a Dallas hospital who was dying of cancer. The woman was a relative of people who attended their church, and they were not sure of her spiritual condition. I took a seminary student along with me, and because we were both wearing suits, the family greeted us eagerly. Eventually we realized they thought we were doctors. When they realized we had come to talk about spiritual things, the atmosphere chilled. We left, indicating we would return.

And so we did. But on the second visit we did not even get into the hospital room. The husband opened the door just far enough to tell us his wife was “not up to a visit” at the time. Through the opening in the door, I could see his wife sitting up in bed reading movie magazines. Here was a woman who knew she was dying but rather than deal with eternal issues, she chose to live in the make believe world of Hollywood.

Knowing that eternity is just around the corner should significantly affect the way we live. In our text, Peter first reminds us that we are living on the edge of eternity. And then, having done this, he outlines the way this truth should manifest itself in our day to day living.

Peter and Prophecy

Peter is a man whom we would have expected to write a book on prophecy. All during our Lord’s earthly ministry, he had heard the Savior speak about the events that lay ahead. Prophecy, both near and distant, was a prominent theme is His teaching. Prophecy was also a matter of great interest to the disciples, although often for the wrong reasons. They constantly asked Jesus for more specific details about the final events, especially about His kingdom:

1 And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He answered and said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” 3 And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what [will be] the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:1-3).

6 And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel? “ 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).

Jesus refused to focus on the date His kingdom would be established and was unwilling to reveal the specific events immediately preceding the inauguration of His kingdom. But He did emphasize the importance of watchfulness and alertness, a consistent readiness for the kingdom. He warned that His coming would catch most people unaware just as past judgments had done. He urged His disciples to be found faithfully carrying out the tasks He had given them to do in His absence:

26 “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).

35 “Be dressed in readiness, and [keep] your lamps alight. 36 And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open [the door] to him when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself [to serve,] and have them recline [at the table,] and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds [them] so, blessed are those [slaves]. 39 And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” 41 And Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone [else] as well?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:35-43).

Like our Lord, Peter has much to say about things to come. In his first and second epistles, Peter speaks of the blessings which await believers and the judgment stored up for unbelievers:

For believers:

For unbelievers:

1 Peter

 

1 Peter

 

1:3-5

a living hope

2:8

doom

1:9

the salvation of your souls

2:12

they will glorify God in the day of visitation

1:7, 13

grace to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ

3:19-20

the spirits in prison; judgment in days of Noah

3:9

inherit a blessing

4:5-6

they will give account to Him who will judge the living and the dead

4:13

we exult at the revelation of His glory

4:17-18

a dreaded, unspecified horror

5:1

the glory that is to be revealed

2 Peter

 

5:4

the Chief Shepherd appears and we receive crown of glory

2:9

will be kept under punishment for day of judgment

5:6

He will exalt us

2:17

black darkness reserved for them (contrast 1 Peter 1:3-5)

   

3:10-13

the day of the Lord

2 Peter

 

1:11

our entrance into the eternal kingdom

1:19

the day dawns, the morning star arises in our hearts

2:9

the godly are rescued

3:13

the new heavens, new earth, in which righteousness dwells

3:15

salvation

The Peter writing these epistles is not the same Peter we know from the Gospels. No longer is Peter hung up with dates and timing and signs. Now, Peter seeks only to remind us that the “end of all things is at hand” and that we should live accordingly.

A Problem With Peter’s Premise?

Peter sums up all prophecy with these few words:

The end of all things is at hand (1 Peter 4:7a).

The difficulty with this statement is that nearly 2,000 years have passed since it was penned by Peter. How can Peter say the end of all things is at hand, and yet 2,000 years later the kingdom of God still has not come to the earth? Consider these solutions to this apparent problem.

(1) Peter’s words must be interpreted in light of the teaching of the Lord and His apostles in the rest of the New Testament. We shall not try to expound all the relevant texts, but we must be aware of them, and our interpretation of Peter’s teaching must not contradict the rest of Scripture. A few of the relevant texts are Matthew 24:45–25:13; 26:45-46; Mark 13:33-37; Romans 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 7:29; 10:11; 15:20-58; Philippians 4:4-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 2 Timothy 3:1-17; 4:3-4; Hebrews 10:23-31; James 4:13–5:11; 1 John 2:18; Revelation 1:3; 22:12, 20.

(2) We must interpret Peter’s teaching here in light of the rest of his teaching. From the rest of Peter’s teaching on the end times, we see he knows he is soon to die (2 Peter 1:13-15). From Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:3-4, he seems to have expected a delay before all the prophecies were fulfilled. Some things are seen by Peter as yet future (see 2 Peter 3:3). Indeed, in 2 Peter, he feels the necessity of explaining the apparent “delay” in the fulfillment of prophetic promises. He sees this delay as consistent with past delays (see 2 Peter 3:5-6). Any apparent delays in prophetic events must be viewed from an eternal time frame rather than a merely temporal one (2 Peter 3:8). The delay is gracious (2 Peter 3:9). Peter also recognizes that prophetic revelation is difficult to understand and easy to distort (2 Peter 3:14-18).

(3) We must understand the difference between saying “the end of all things is near,”134 and “the end of all things is here.” Peter’s meaning of the term “near” is illustrated in Paul’s teaching in Romans 13:

11 And this [do,] knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy (Romans 13:11-13).

It is possible that the rendering of the NASB “at hand” is misleading, suggesting that the end has arrived rather than emphasizing its nearness.

(4) Peter’s words must be understood by giving heed to the term “end” and the expression “all things.” The word “end” refers to the goal or the outcome of a sequence of events or elements. Peter uses it for the outcome of our faith (1 Peter 1:9) and also for the outcome of unbelief (1 Peter 4:17). It is rendered “to sum up” in 1 Peter 3:8. This “outcome” is the consummation of “all things.” In other words, Peter is speaking of the consummation of all of God’s plans, purposes, and prophecies. The end is not just one event but the converging of all things to draw to a close the eternal purposes of God.

(5) The “end” seems to begin with the first coming of our Lord.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26).

In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke of future events pertaining to the first and second coming of our Lord as though they were one event. For example, Joel’s quote in Acts 2. We have heard Bible teachers speak of these events, separated by at least 2,000 years, as mountain peaks which the prophets saw in close proximity. We now see there was a gap in time, a significant gap. But the Old Testament prophets were right in seeing the events of the first coming of Christ and those of His second coming as one main event rather than two. It is all a part of one big plan, a plan God is bringing to a close.

When Jesus came to the earth the first time, He was identified more in terms that describe His second coming than those which depict the first (see Matthew 2:1-6; Luke 1:30-33, 46-55, 67-79). Jesus’ message was that of John the Baptist: Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.In chapters 1 and 2 of Hebrews, the Lord Jesus is identified as God’s final Word, His last revelation to mankind (see 1:1-2; 2:1-4). Since the coming of Christ, there has been no new revelation recorded in the Bible as Scripture. That is because we are living in the same age our Lord commenced in His first coming, which He will bring to consummation in His second. The writer to the Hebrews therefore urges his readers to obey the gospel rather than continue to rebel against it. He insists that “today is the day of salvation(Hebrews 3:7-15; see 2 Corinthians 6:2).

(6) The “final judgment” has begun with the judgment of the saints (1 Peter 4:6, 17). Peter’s words in his first epistle seem to indicate that God has already begun to bring the ages to their divinely appointed end.

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 (1 Peter 4:6).

17 For [it is] time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what [will be] the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).

Peter contrasts the fate of the believer with that of the unbeliever. While the Christian may suffer in the flesh now, he will triumph in spirit and in Christ for all eternity. The wicked may prosper and live a life of fleshly indulgence now, but they will give account for their sins and suffer eternally for them.

Peter goes even further as I understand his words. There is a sense in which the believer is judged now while the unbeliever is judged later. In 1 Peter 4:6, Peter speaks of the saints who are “judged in the flesh as men,” but who “live in the spirit according to the will of God.” Whether this judgment is by unbelieving opponents (as Stephen was condemned to death) or whether it is the “judgment” of physical death all men suffer due to Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-21), or both, it is judgment believers suffer in time. Our judgment comes now, Peter suggests, but our vindication and glory comes afterwards for all eternity. We suffer but for a moment, but we experience God’s uninterrupted blessings eternally (see also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). The wicked may indulge in fleshly pleasures for a moment, but their torment for unbelief is eternal.

In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter indicates it is “time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what [will be] the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” Is Peter not saying our judgment begins (and ends) in time,135 while the unbeliever’s judgment may not begin until the return of our Lord and last for eternity?136 If judgment begins “now” for the believer, then the last phase of God’s program has begun. Indeed, the “end of all things is at hand.”

(7) The “end” is “at hand” for each and every generation, and their response to the gospel in this life determines their eternal fate. Always there is an urgency to the gospel, for one’s response to the gospel determines one’s eternal destiny.

27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this [comes] judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

1 And working together [with Him,] we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—2 for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU”; behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Each and every generation lives on the edge of eternity, for their eternal fate is sealed in life and commences at the point of death. The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is but one example. When Paul speaks of his impending death, he speaks of eternal bliss accompanying it:

6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6).

23 But I am hard-pressed from both [directions,] having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for [that] is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake (Philippians 1:23-24).

No wonder the gospel is proclaimed with such urgency. Men’s eternal destiny hangs in the balance, so to speak.137 And so it was that Joshua could say,

“And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

When John the Baptist preached, these were his words:

1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2).

When Jesus sent out the disciples to preach, this is what He told them to proclaim:

7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 10:7).

The kingdom of heaven is at hand in a number of ways, but especially is it at hand at the time the gospel is proclaimed. Unbelievers are sinners, whose sins have set them on the road that leads to eternal torment. The only way they can be saved is to hear the gospel and to repent and be saved. One’s response to the gospel seals one’s eternal destiny. And so we can surely say that the “kingdom of God is at handevery time the gospel is proclaimed. While the kingdom of God may yet be distant in the time of its establishment, it is very near in terms of the gospel we preach. And the beginning of the torments of hell or the bliss of heaven are as close as the day of our death.

Conduct That Characterizes the Christian

In the Gospel of Luke, our Lord cautioned His disciples not to be caught by surprise when He returned:

35 “Be dressed in readiness, and [keep] your lamps alight. 36 And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open [the door] to him when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself [to serve,] and have them recline [at the table,] and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds [them] so, blessed are those [slaves]. 39 And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” 41 And Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone [else] as well?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:35-43).

Knowing His return was imminent, Jesus’ disciples were to be ready and watchful and found doing those things He had given them to do. Peter reiterates these same principles in our text and actually spells out those things we should be found doing when our Lord returns:

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as 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.

Because the “end of all things is at hand,the Christian should be found doing these things:

(1) Being of sound judgment and sober unto prayer (verse 7b).

(2) Keeping fervent in our love for one another (verse 8).

(3) Being hospitable to one another, without complaint (verse 9).

(4) Faithfully exercising our stewardship of the spiritual gifts which have been given to us (verses 10-11).

Keeping Sound Judgment and Soberness Unto Prayer (4:7)

Sound judgment and soberness are closely related to each other and to prayer. Sound judgment is the opposite of insanity. To have sound judgment is to think sanely, realistically, to make judgments based upon truth and reality rather than on falsehood, deception, or distorted perception. Notice the way the term “sound judgmentis used elsewhere in the New Testament:

15 And they came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened (Mark 5:15, emphasis mine).

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you (2 Corinthians 5:13, emphasis mine).

3 For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith (Romans 12:3).

Soberness is the opposite of drunkenness. It also deals with a sober state of mind capable of perceiving and reasoning accurately and in accordance with reality. Paul uses the term “soberin the context of living on the edge of eternity, as does Peter:

4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of [the] day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11, emphasis mine).

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: 2 preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5, emphasis mine).

13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober [in spirit,] fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

8 Be of sober [spirit,] be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8, emphasis mine).

As I understand the Bible’s teaching on the last times, two major dangers exist for the Christian. The first is becoming aloof to the return of our Lord so that we are caught up with the world and with the things of the present and thus fail to make heavenly things our treasure and our priority (see 1 Corinthians 7:29-35 for Paul’s exhortation). The second danger is unrestrained excitement of mind which leads one to faulty thinking and actions in light of the nearness of the “end of all things.For example, some, in the excitement of the last days, will be too quick to believe the claims of false “messiah’s.”

Our Lord’s words recorded in Luke’s Gospel cover these two extremes and also exhort us to pray:

7 And they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things be? And what [will be] the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And He said, “See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am [He,’] and, ‘The time is at hand’; do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end [does] not [follow] immediately … 34 Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:7-9, 34-36).

Watchfulness for the Lord’s return should be characterized by prayer. In these words found in Luke’s Gospel, the believer’s prayer is for strength to escape all of the evils abounding in the last days and to be able to stand before the Son of Man as having been found faithful in the trials and tribulations he has endured.

Other texts, in addition to the Luke text, provide further insight into the kinds of prayer138 Peter calls for in our text.

12 You husbands likewise, live with [your wives] in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

“FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL” (1 Peter 3:12).

15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, And His ears are [open] to their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17 [The righteous] cry and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalms 34:15-18).

1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God, and did not respect man. 3 And there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 “And for a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out. ‘“ 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with [an attitude of] thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. 5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, [as it were,] with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person (Colossians 4:2-6).

My understanding is that Peter, along with our Lord and the rest of the apostles, taught that the last days would be characterized by increasing persecution and suffering for the saints (see, for example, 1 Peter 4:12-19; 2 Timothy 3:1-12; 4:1-8). In such times, our prayers will be for the grace to stand under fire, for boldness in our witness and other saints’ witness, and for the soon return of our Lord accompanied by the establishment of His kingdom on earth. The coming of our Lord includes the vindication of the righteous and the condemnation of the wicked—the outworking of justice on earth.

In these trying times, we must constantly turn to God for strength and perseverance. We must persist in prayer, but our prayers can be easily perverted. Often, this is because we have ceased to be sober and sane, especially in relationship to the end of all things:

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; [so] you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend [it] on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge [of it.] 12 There is [only] one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are[just] a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, [you ought] to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows [the] right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:1-17).

How similar is Peter’s writing to our Lord’s teaching and to Paul’s and the other apostles’, like James. In these latter times, we need to be aware of the nearness of the consummation of God’s plans and purposes revealed to us in the prophecies of the Bible. And as the end draws near, we must be sane and sober, thinking right so that we will pray right.139 We should not be asking for escape from pain or from persecution but rather for faithfulness in trials to the advancement of the gospel and the glory of God.

Maintaining Love for One Another: (4:8)

8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

While still with His disciples, Jesus warned that times would get tough as the end drew nearer. Peter’s instructions to his readers in verse 8 surely reflect the words of the Savior:

3 And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what [will be] the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for [those things] must take place, but [that] is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are [merely] the beginning of birth pangs. 9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. 10 And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. 12 And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:3-14).

Jesus told His disciples things would go from bad to worse as the end of all things approaches. There will be social and political upheaval and natural disasters. There will be an intensification of opposition toward Christians so that fellow Christians begin to turn on each other and family members betray one another (see also Mark 13:12-13). In such times of danger, love will wane and people will forsake the self-sacrifice of love for the sake of self-preservation. Peter therefore exhorts his readers to persevere in their love one for another:

8 “Above all140 cherish for each other a love that is constant and intense.… ”141

Peter has already challenged his readers to this kind of love in chapter 1:

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

In chapter 1, Peter can call for a persevering love because we are born of an eternal seed, and thus our love should likewise be long-lived and not just fair-weather sentimentality.

Peter now gives us the reason love must be a matter of the highest priority: “love covers a multitude of sins.This is not a new principle. We find it used elsewhere in both the Old Testament and the New:

12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions (Proverbs 10:12).

20 Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20).

The meaning of this statement which Peter cites is not necessarily obvious; many even differ on what Peter meant by it. Some believe it means that when we love, many of our sins are covered. Others believe our love covers the sins of others. Consider these observations which may help us to arrive at a satisfactory interpretation of Peter’s words.

(1) The “multitude of sins” which are “covered” are the sins of the saints. The “one another” characteristic of this passage makes it apparent Peter is speaking to Christians about their love for fellow-believers. It would seem obvious that when Peter speaks of a “multitude of sins” he must be speaking of the sins of saints, which are many. Saints are those whose sins are forgiven but whose sins are not yet eradicated (see Romans 7). Love “covers” the sins of saints. But how?

(2) To “cover sins” is not to “cover up” sin. We are given a clue to the meaning of Peter’s citation in Proverbs 17:9:

9 He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends (Proverbs 17:9)

The one who “covers a transgressionis contrasted with one who “repeats a matter,thus separating close friends. Among other things, love does not gossip about the sins of others. Instead, it seeks to keep sin as private as possible. We are given a graphic illustration of the truth of this Proverb in Genesis 9:

20 Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness (Genesis 9:20-23).

Ham did not act in love toward his father, because he made his father’s sin public. Noah’s other sons did the opposite. They refused to look upon him in his condition, even as they were covering him. They sought to keep the sin of their father as private as possible.

This gives us a very important clue to the meaning of the expression, “love covers a multitude of sins.” Love does not seek to “cover up” sin but to cover it. Just as a doctor cannot cure cancer by putting a band-aid over it, neither can the church remedy sin by concealing its existence. Sin is “covered” by privately confronting sin, hopefully in a way that results in repentance, but if not, in removal from fellowship.

15 “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen [to you,] take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:15-20).

19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).

Individual saints, as well as the church as a whole, are called to holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16; 2:5, 9). Holiness requires that we stand apart from sin and pursue righteousness. Love is the best antidote for sin. It was out of His love for us that Christ came to die in our place, bearing the punishment for our sins. It is in love that we should seek out wayward saints and seek to turn them from their sins. As the return of our Lord draws nearer, there will be times of persecution and affliction. In these times, some of the saints will be tempted to fall and even to fall away from the faith (see Matthew 24:10-12; Hebrews). The loving church will be characterized by its pursuit of holiness. Love is the key to a spiritually healthy church in times of trial and testing. Love draws a church together in unity even in the toughest of times:

14 And beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:14).

Happy Hospitality: (4:9)

9 Be hospitable142 to one another without complaint.

Our Lord’s words concerning the last days provide the backdrop for Peter’s teaching on hospitality.

43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think [He will.] 45 Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions” (Matthew 24:43-47, emphasis mine).

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me [something] to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. ‘ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, [even] the least [of them,] you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:31-40, emphasis mine).

Lest we think that our Lord’s words speak only of the future, let me remind you that some of the suffering our Lord spoke of was experienced by the apostles and the early church. The faithfulness of the saints was evidenced, in part, by their hospitality shown to believers who were rejected and persecuted for their faith and the proclamation of the gospel:

32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. 37 FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. 38 BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. 39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul (Hebrews 10:32-39, emphasis mine).

1 Let love of the brethren continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body (Hebrews 13:1-3, emphasis mine).

It is hard for us to grasp the difficulty and danger hospitality poses for those endeavoring to practice it in times of persecution. Some time ago a Romanian Christian visited our church, and I happened to be standing by as he spoke to another Romanian believer attending that day. They reminisced about the last time they had attended church together in Romania. The secret police stood outside the church taking down the names of all who entered. Church leaders and pastors were arrested and sometimes imprisoned. How easy we have it here compared to saints elsewhere. In those places hostile to the gospel, it can be very dangerous to be hospitable to Christians, for in so doing, one identifies himself with the believer and with Christ.

The good news is there are very positive benefits. By being hospitable, we give evidence to our own faith, and we do what is pleasing to our Lord. We may even learn one of those we have entertained was an angel! The bad news is we may be arrested and even put to death for “harboring a criminal.”

Peter does not mention the repercussions of hospitality here nor does he call attention to the blessings we will experience from showing hospitality toward the saints. Instead, Peter deals with the ordinary, every day hindrances to hospitality which blesses others. He exhorts us to be hospitable, without grumbling.

Peter obviously did not have his head in the clouds. He was a realist. He had not only experienced the hospitality of others toward him, he had undoubtedly shown hospitality toward others. He knew from experience the truth of this old proverb: “A guest is like a fish; after three days he stinks!”

Over the years our family has been privileged to open our home to a number of Christians. On one occasion, we took in a family who had come all the way to Dallas from the Northeast in a converted school bus to attend seminary. They spent the summer in our home with many good times shared together, and the memories we have of this family are warm ones. But not all our moments were utter bliss, for us or for them. This is where grumbling comes in. Grumbling resents our opportunity to serve and sacrifice for the sake of our Lord and the benefit of our fellow-believers. Peter, knowing how life is (even among the saints), gently admonishes us to be hospitable but to leave grumbling at the front door.

In the days of the early church, hospitality was vitally important. The early church often met in homes (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19). The early church kept traveling missionaries and apostles (see Luke 10:1-11; Acts 10:6; 21:16; 3 John 5-8). A Christian might not be welcome except in the home of another saint.

But let us be careful to see that hospitality is no less important in the church today. We still have traveling speakers and missionaries. We have newcomers and visitors to our church who would greatly profit from our hospitality. We have ministry groups, most of which meet in homes. We also have many these days who have not known the love and devotion of a Christian home.

Hospitality does not come naturally these days; it comes supernaturally. This is not because hospitality is dangerous for us, but because our culture holds privacy so dear. Our high fences isolate and protect us from our neighbors. We have burglar bars, security systems, and big ugly dogs, all sending the same clear signal—stay away! Hospitality will not happen naturally in this culture. But the kind of hospitality Jesus and the apostles spoke of is not natural—it is supernatural. Hospitality is but one more way in which submission and servanthood are expressed.

The Stewardship of Spiritual Gifts (4:10-11)

10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as 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.

While it is Paul who speaks more often and more fully of the spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:7-16), in these two verses Peter also provides very important knowledge about spiritual gifts.

(1) Spiritual gifts are divinely endowed abilities which empower saints to perform spiritual ministry. The New American Standard Bible translates verse 10 by designating spiritual gifts as “special.” The word “special” is supplied by the translators, but it accurately conveys the thought that these “gifts” are not merely natural abilities which every individual (believer or unbeliever) possesses. These are supernatural abilities given to Christians so they may minister spiritually. Spiritual gifts are supernatural capacities for ministry which God sovereignly bestows on His children.

(2) Every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift. Peter tells us “each one has received a special gift(verse 10; see also 1 Corinthians 12:4, 9, 29-31; Romans 12:6). No believer is excluded. Every Christian has been divinely gifted for service. Some may have more than one gift, but each believer has at least one gift.143

(3) Spiritual gifts are “gracious” in nature. The word “giftis derived from the root word for grace (charis). Grace is unmerited, and so we cannot boast in the gifts we have been given (1 Corinthians 4:7). We are, Peter tells us, “stewards of the manifold grace of God(verse 10).

(4) Spiritual gifts are given to Christians as a stewardship. Spiritual gifts are to be used, and we will give an account for the use we have made of the gifts we were given. This means each Christian must not only know his gift(s), but he or she must develop and use them to the greatest possible extent. Spiritual gifts can be neglected (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), and they can also be prostituted (2 Peter 2:15-16).

(5) Spiritual gifts are not given to us primarily for our own benefit and edification but as the means of edifying and blessing others. Peter writes that spiritual gifts are to be employed in serving one another (verse 10). No wonder Paul, in the twelfth chapter of Romans, speaks of spiritual gifts (verses 3-8) after he has exhorted us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (verses 1-2).

(6) Spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love. In 1 Corinthians, Paul strategically places an entire chapter on love between chapters 12 and 14 which deal with the exercise of spiritual gifts. This is because spiritual gifts have little value apart from love. In our text, Peter has spoken of love first in verse 8, and now he writes about the ministry of the saints one to another through the exercise of spiritual gifts.

(7) Spiritual gifts should be exercised to the glory of God (verse 11). If spiritual gifts are to be employed in serving one another, they are ultimately to be employed to the glory of God. In the final analysis, this is the goal of every aspect of our life:

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

(8) In this passage, spiritual gifts are not named but described in terms of two general categories: (a) speaking gifts and (b) serving gifts.

11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies … 

Peter’s two-fold division of spiritual gifts does not seem unique, for in Romans 12 Paul also views all gifts as falling into one of two broad categories: (a) prophecy, that is, speaking, or (b) serving.

6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, [let each exercise them accordingly]: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:6-8).

By following clues provided by the grammar of the original text, we would classify the different gifts named in this way:

      Prophecy

      Ministry

      the teacher

      the one who gives

      the exhorter

      the one who leads

      the one who shows mercy

In both gifts (speaking or serving), Peter’s exhortation is given in a positive way. But there also is a negative side to Peter’s words. The one whose gift manifests itself in words needs to speak “as the oracles of God.” The one who serves “as by the strength which God supplies.”

Some of the translations appear to go too far, suggesting or at least leaving room for, something the Scriptures elsewhere condemn.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. (NIV)

If any of you is a preacher then he should preach his message as from God. (Phillips)

If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God. (New Jerusalem Bible)

If speaking, let it be as God’s suggestions. (Berkeley)

The emphasis of all these translations falls on the way we speak, not on what we speak.

Peter assumes something in writing these words which we may not assume in interpreting them. Peter assumes that when we speak, we speak God’s Word. This means we do not, like the false prophets, speak independently of God and even contrary to His Word (see Jeremiah 23:25-32; Ezekiel 13:1-7; Colossians 2:18). Peter expects those who speak to speak for God by speaking His Word. Paul urged Timothy to do this: “Preach the Word … ” (2 Timothy 4:2). The Word of God is completely sufficient revelation for every spiritual need (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:2-4, 19-21).

When Moses spoke his final words, he warned the Israelites not to become preoccupied with the mysteries which were not revealed, but to become students of what God had revealed to them in His Law:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He told them He spoke nothing but what the Father gave Him to say (John 3:11; 7:16; 8:28; 12:49-50). He further told them that after He was gone, the Holy Spirit would enable them to remember the things He had said to them (John 14:26). The writer to the Hebrews indicates God spoke finally and fully in His Son, and those who heard Him repeated and recorded His words for us (Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:1-4). The apostles were accredited as such by signs and wonders, which proved them to be true apostles of our Lord (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:4). No new revelation has been given during this past 2,000 years because there is nothing to add to God’s complete revelation through our Lord and His apostles. Preachers do not need to “add” anything either; they should only faithfully proclaim what God has revealed and what He has given us through His Spirit to understand and apply (1 Corinthians 2).

In writing to the Corinthians, Paul warned of going beyond the Scriptures as some teachers in that church seemed to be doing:

6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Paul was very careful in the things he spoke and wrote to distinguish between what he taught by the command of the Lord, those things he taught by permission, and those things which were his own opinion (1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12, 25, 40).

I believe Peter is first urging those who speak to speak Scripture and to speak scripturally, not diluting or adulterating the truth of God’s Word with either opinions or more palatable ideas to sinful men (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:1-2; see also Acts 20:28-32; 2 Timothy 4:1-4). Second, Peter seems to be urging those who speak God’s Word to speak in a way that communicates God’s authority and not the authority of the speaker. We are to speak as though God Himself had spoken.144

A number of years ago I was asked on a couple of occasions to preach at a church which tried to create a “laid back” atmosphere. Rather than preach from behind a pulpit, the speaker sat on a bar stool. I simply could not do that. I set the bar stool aside and stood, proclaiming God’s Word. It was not I who had authority, but the Word of God has authority. The Bible should not be on a bar stool. The pulpit, though merely a piece of furniture, is a symbol of the authority of God’s Word. The preacher should preach the Word, and when he does, he should do so in a way that communicates the authority of God’s Word. It is not the messenger who is authoritative; it is the message. Those who speak should speak the truth of the Word—in a way that communicates: “This truth is God’s truth—truth that should not only be heard but heeded.”

If those who speak should speak God’s Word as though it were God’s Word, those who serve should do so in God’s strength. Peter’s words indicate that Christian service is not natural but supernatural. We cannot serve apart from the gracious gifts of God which enable and empower that service. We must do everything in the strength God Himself supplies.

How easy to serve another in the flesh. Our “service” may actually be self-serving. How easy it is for a man to stop and help a beautiful young woman change the tire on her car. How easy for a woman to help a young mother care for her newborn baby. How easy to want to help ease the suffering of someone experiencing the consequences of their own sin. I once told a mother that while her child was indeed a prodigal, the difference between the father of the prodigal and this mother was that she built the pig pen in her own back yard.

Paul gives these instructions in his epistle to the Thessalonians:

14 And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

We need to be careful not to admonish the fainthearted nor to help the unruly (see also 2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must pray and ask for divine wisdom to know how best to serve others, and then we must do so in the strength God supplies.

There is a world of difference between serving our brothers and sisters by giving in the strength God supplies and the kind of giving we see when a panhandler receives a dollar on a city sidewalk. Spiritual service is serving in the name of Christ. Indeed, it is serving the other as though they were Christ (see Matthew 25:31-40). In the context of 1 Peter (not to mention Matthew 24 and 25, along with Hebrews 10 and 13), it may well be serving one of the saints who is suffering for the sake of Christ. It is serving fellow-believers so they are edified and built up in their faith. The desired goal is not just the meeting of a need but the praise and glory of God. This happened to Paul due to the generosity of the saints as recorded in 2 Corinthians:

12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for [your] obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, 14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:12-15).

Conclusion

Our text of Scripture has much to say to Christians today. It reminds us we are living in the latter days and that the return of our Lord and the consummation of His eternal plans and purposes are at hand. A sense of the nearness of the end is not natural nor is it based primarily on what we see. Rather it is based on what God has said in His Word. Jesus warned us the great day would catch many, even Christians, unaware. We must be ever mindful of the times, looking, watching, and working so that when He comes He will find us faithfully carrying out our stewardship. While suffering may not be a pleasant companion, it is one of God’s effective ways of keeping us from becoming too attached to this life and giving us a yearning for heaven. It also gives us a sense of urgency that the time for the preaching of the gospel and the salvation of the lost is short (see 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:21).

Because we live on the edge of eternity, we must not lose our heads. We must get our heads on straight and think in accordance with divine revelation. We must not be oblivious to the times in which we live; neither should we be frightened and act in panic. Our clear-headedness enables us to pray as we ought, seeking divine wisdom, guidance, and power to live faithfully in difficult times.

Perseverance in our love for fellow believers should be a matter of the highest priority for us. Rather than allowing hard times to produce contention, strife, and self-protection, we should continue to give ourselves sacrificially in the service of others. In so doing, we will deal with sin in a Christlike fashion and pursue holiness rather than persisting in the pursuit of sin and fleshly lusts as we formerly did.

We must demonstrate our love for one another by practicing hospitality. We should realize that the only barrier to hospitality for us today is selfishness. We do not risk our property or possessions; we do not put our lives at risk as some do even today because they identify themselves with those who faithfully practice and proclaim the gospel. If we do not pursue the practice of hospitality now, how will we possibly do so in trying times? Let us happily open our homes and our lives to those whom we do not know, especially those who our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, we must in these final days make the most of the gifts of which God has made us stewards. If we are to be good stewards of these gifts, we must first know what God has endowed us to do—to serve others to His glory. It may not be as important for us to have the right label for our gift as to have a sense of what God has gifted us to do. If our gift is in the area of speaking (and this means much more than preaching), we must be sure to speak the truth of His Word in a way that communicates the authority of the Word. If our gift is in serving, we must serve those whom God has set before us (it may be “the least of these, my brethren—Matthew 25:40), and we must serve in the strength which produces both spiritual and eternal fruit.

May God help us to grasp what this text means to our lives and give us a sense of urgency concerning His coming. And may He give each of us a commitment to conduct our lives accordingly.

29 But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away. 32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and [his interests] are divided. And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 And this I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and [to secure] undistracted devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7 NAS)

1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of [the] day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).


134 “Perfect active indicative of eggizo, to draw near, common late verb (from eggus), same form used by the Baptist of the Messiah’s arrival (Matt. 3:2) and by James in 5:8 (of the second coming). How near Peter does not say, but he urges readiness (1:5f.; 4:6) as Jesus did (Mark 14:38) and Paul (I Thess. 5:6), though it is drawing nearer all the time (Rom. 12:11), but not at once (II Thess. 2:2).” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933), VI, p. 124.

135 There is a “judgment” for believers, but the outcome of this judgment is our rewards (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; see also 2 Corinthians 5:10 which encompasses the lost and the saved).

136 The Bible does speak of judgment which comes on unbelievers in time as well as in eternity. There are the “judgments” of Romans 1, for example, as well as those special judgments like the flood (Genesis 6-9), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18 and 19), and the judgments on Egypt (Exodus 1-15) which serve as types of the great judgment yet to come. In the New Testament, the destruction of Jerusalem is also a temporal judgment which anticipates the great coming judgment on Israel--the Great Tribulation.

137 This, of course, is looking at salvation solely from a human standpoint. From an eternal point of view, man’s destiny has been divinely ordained in eternity past (see Romans 9).

138 You will see from the marginal note in the NASB that “prayer” in 1 Peter 4:7 is literally “prayers” (plural). This may refer to the prayers of individual saints which are of various kinds and over a period of time. It may also include the prayers of the church collectively offered up in these latter days.

139 “The great characteristic of sanity is that it sees things in their proper proportions; it sees what things are important and what are not; it is not swept away by sudden and transitory enthusiasms; it is prone neither to unbalanced fanaticism nor to realizing indifference. It is only when we see the affairs of earth in the light of eternity that we see them in their proper proportions; it is when God is given his proper place that everything takes its proper place.” William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, [rev. ed], 1976. The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 251.

140 For this expression, see also James 5:12. Peter can instruct us to persevere in love “above all” because love is the foundational motive which underlies all our attitudes and actions as Christians (see also 1 Corinthians 13).

141 William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, [rev. ed], 1976). The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 251. Barclay goes on to show that Peter calls for a love that is both intense and persevering: “The word Peter uses to describe this love is ektenes which has two meanings, both of which we have included in the translation. It means outstretching in the sense of consistent; our love must be the love that never fails. It also means stretching out as a runner stretches out. . . . Our love must be energetic. Here is a fundamental Christian truth. Christian love is not an easy, sentimental reaction. It demands everything a man has of mental and spiritual energy . . . Christian love is the love which never fails and into which every atom of man’s strength is directed.” Barclay, p. 252.

142 This term is found only here in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8. Other references to hospitality are common. For example, see Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-8; 24:10-20; Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 5:10 (widows); Hebrews 13:2; 3 John 5.

143 Some maintain that no one can possess more than one gift. Surely our Lord manifested all the gifts in His ministry. But we must be careful not to restrict the gifts to “one per customer.” It seems almost impossible to say that Paul had but one gift. Barnabas seems to have the gift of encouragement (see Acts 4:36), but he must also have possessed the gift of teaching and/or prophecy (see Acts 13:1).

144 “The word he uses for sayings is logia. That is a word with a kind of divine background. The heathen used it for the oracles which come to them from their gods; the Christians used it for the words of scripture and the words of Christ. So Peter is saying, ‘If a man has the duty of preaching, let him preach not as one offering his own opinions or propagating his own prejudices, but as one with a message from God.’” Barclay, p. 256.

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Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come), Basics for Christians