1 Peter Bible Study Notes, Week 15
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11
The End is Near – 1 Peter 4:7
Verses 7-11 brings to an end the second section of Peter’s letter which began at 1 Peter 2:11-12 with a call to abstain from fleshly desires. Peter comforts the suffering Christians in Asia Minor with the statement that the end, the completion or consummation, of all things, everything, is near. This meant that an end to suffering, along with vindication, was not far away. They were on the home stretch.
“While modern readers may immediately think of the end of the world . . . [the end Peter is talking about] may refer to the last stage of God’s redemptive plan, and the goal of that plan being realized . . . The consummation of the Kingdom of God will involve the return of Christ and the end of history as we know it . . .” Karen Jobes (2009:275)
The word order in the Greek of 4:7 has “all things” (pantōn) as the first word emphasising “the comprehensive sweep of Peter’s first statement.” (Jobes 2009:275) “Nothing and no one is exempt from the redemptive process that will bring deliverance to some and condemnation to others. . . The gospel of a Christ is a reality of cosmic scope that touches everyone and everything on the planet” (Jobes 2009:276)
Sensible and Sober – 1 Peter 4:7
With this universal and cosmic end in mind, Peter urges his readers to be “alert” and sober in prayer, or more precisely, to be alert for the purpose of prayer.
Sōphroneō, which is translated as “alert” in the NIV, has several shades of meaning. It can mean “to be in one’s right mind” (cf. Mark 5:15). (The cognate noun sōphronismos is used in 2 Tim 1:7 where it means “sound mind” or “self-discipline.”) Sōphroneō can also mean “to think sensibly or seriously.” (In Romans 12:3 the word is used and translated as “sound judgement” in the NASB.)
God wants us to be serious and sober about prayer. And he wants us to be clear-minded and alert when we pray. We must not take the privilege of prayer casually or lightly. As well as providing a connection with God himself, prayer changes things. Even in the darkest of days, prayer brings hope and consolation because we know that God hears us and answers us, and that he uses our prayers to achieve his powerful purposes. When we compare Peter’s actions in Matthew 26:40-41 to his instructions in 1 Peter 4:7 we can see that Peter had learned the power of watching (being alert) and praying.
We should be living each day with the knowledge that there is an impending completion and consummation of all things. It is exciting to realise that the consummation is near but, rather than simply inciting an end-time fervour, this knowledge has ethical implications and should inspire us to have eternal, godly values rather than temporal, earthly values. The greatest Christian ethic and value is love.
The Priority and Protection of Love – 1 Peter 4:8
God is love. And love is the defining characteristic of the attitudes and actions of Christians and the Church, or at least it should be. Love is our priority: it is “above all” or, more literally, “before all” (pro pantōn) (1 Pet. 4:8).
The New Testament has numerous verses about the priority and importance of love. John emphasised love in his first letter:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)
One of my friends has captured the meaning of John’s words in this short statement: “You don’t really know God until he’s loving people through you.”
Peter had previously instructed the Christians to love each other, in 1 Peter 1:22, 2:17, 3:8, and now again in 4:8. The adverb ektenōs in 1:22 and the adjective ektenēs in 4:8 means “with full intensity” (literally “stretched out,” or “at full stretch.”) Various English translations of 1 Peter 1:22 and 1 Peter 4:8 have Peter urging the Christians to love fervently, deeply, earnestly or constantly. [Previous comments about verses that mention love in Peter’s letters here and here.]
Peter then quotes Proverbs 10:12. The meaning of this verse is that a person acting in love does not broadcast the sins of others, or of themselves, but is gracious, discreet, forgiving and protecting (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-7). Only God, however, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, can completely forgive and cover someone’s sin in the sense of atonement.
Hospitality – 1 Peter 4:9
One of the ways Christians can demonstrate love is by being hospitable. Incidentally, the Greek word for hospitality, philoxenos, is derived from the word philos “love” and xenos “stranger” or “foreigner.” The Christians in Asia Minor, who may have been mostly Jewish, felt like strangers and foreigners away from their homeland.
There may have been a great need to shelter Christians who had been ostracised by their family. And accommodating Christians who were travelling in Asia Minor in Christian homes was preferable to lodging at a seedy inn or in the home of a pagan family. Peter urges the Christians to show hospitality to each other without grumbling (cf. Phil 2:14-15).
Hospitality is still an invaluable way that Christians can show their love and support for each other. Relationships are formed and strengthened over shared meals. I believe that anyone who is sincere about making disciples should practise hospitality.
Ministry Gifts – 1 Peter 4:10-11
The New Testament is clear that the abilities needed to minister and participate in God’s work, are gifts (charismata). Some ministry gifts involve speech such as prophecy, exhortation and teaching. Peter says that people with a speaking ministry should speak the words, or messages, of God himself. Other ministry gifts are more practical. People serving in practical ways should rely on the strength God provides. We should use whatever gift or ability we have to build up the church. We may not necessarily have the opportunity to use our gifts in a church service; but there are many more ways, other than an in organised service, where we can bless our brothers and sisters with our gifts.
The King James Version of 1 Peter 4:10-11 uses the word “man” three times, and it has a couple of masculine pronouns: “As every man hath received the gift . . . If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.” (My underlines.) There is no word for “man” and there are no masculine pronouns in these two verses in the Greek; these verses are gender neutral. In fact, every verse in the New Testament that mentions spiritual gifts and manifestations, including speaking and leadership gifts, does not specify gender. It seems that the Holy Spirit gives his gifts as he determines without regards to gender. (New Testament verses which mention Spiritual giftings: Acts 2:17-18; Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:7-11, 27-28; 1 Cor 14:26-33; Eph 4:11-12; Heb 2:4; 1 Peter 4:9-11)
We need to be good stewards of God’s gifts and use them to serve God’s people and help others. We must not hide our gifts like the wicked, lazy servant in Matthew 25:14-30. And we must not suppress the gifts of others but encourage their use.
Doxology – 1 Peter 4:11
Peter ends this section with a doxology: an expression of praise to God. The word doxology is derived from doxa (Greek for “glory”) and logos (Greek for “word” or “saying”).
Doxologies have a long history in Christianity and Judaism. As well as Peter’s doxology, a doxology is used in several of Paul’s letters to close sections. (See Romans 11:36; Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:20; and 1 Timothy 1:17.) In Jewish tradition, a doxology (known as a kaddish) was sung at the end of each section of a synagogue prayer service. In church tradition, a doxology was sung as a hymn at the end of worship services. Furthermore, the last verse of some hymns was sometimes written as a doxology to express praise to the Triune God. Many Christian congregations still finish their services by singing a doxology.
Possibly the most widely known doxology among Protestant Christians is the hymn simply called “Doxology”. This was written in 1774 by Thomas Ken as the final verse of two other hymns:
Praise God from whom all blessing flow
Praise him all creatures here below
Praise him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Other Christians are more familiar with the Gloria Patri, translated from the Latin as:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, both now, and always, and to the ages of ages.
Doxologies were powerful but usually short expressions of praise. Peter’s doxology is likewise short: To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11d).
All posts in the 1 Peter Bible Studies series