1 PETER SERIES NR 8
Theme: Arm yourself
Scripture: 1 Peter 4: 1 – 11
The Apostle Peter’s first readers were Christ-believers who suffered injustice and were persecuted as a result of their faithfulness to Christ and their breach with their previous pagan lifestyle. Life was tough and tears were shed. But nevertheless they persevered and were steadfast in their devotion to the Master.
Now the Apostle assures them that their suffering will also have a positive outcome. And that is: Refinement – which leads to their sanctification. Sin-control stands OPPOSITE to physical suffering and hardship. Sin and fallen sinful nature struggle hard to remain standing in the presence of innocent suffering and hardship. Physical suffering is not the place where sin thrives. It rather stops. And the will of God and the authority of the Holy Spirit triumph in such circumstances. And what does a Christian desire more than that. If you are truly reborn in Christ by the Spirit, you YEARN for sanctification and the absence of the reign of sin. The reborn person’s inner longing and desire and attitude towards life differ dramatically from that of the unsaved person. The person in whom the Holy Spirit dwells YEARNS for Christlikeness and a holy life and release from indwelling sins. But a comfortable and easy lifestyle OPPOSES this. Suffering however promotes a life of sanctification and Christlikeness.
Yes, IN His humanity, Christ Jesus has died for the sins of the believer. But IN His death WE too have died to sin, because God has included us in Jesus’s death.
This truth a Christian should daily take up as weapon against the manifestation of sin. It is for example also the teaching of Romans 6 (for self-study).
In the process of sanctification it is firstly important to purposefully claim for ourselves the truth of our own death together with Christ’s death. As He triumphed, so we too.
Secondly, we may sometimes be privileged to suffer, and this refining brings about a cleansing and sanctifying result to the fore. And even if we should physically die, we are still conquerors and finally and totally delivered from sin and completely in heaven where God’s perfect will reigns.
That which happened to Peter’s first readers was not pleasant, but was actually a wonderful testimony in their favour. Verses 3-5 reveal it to us, namely how these children of God’s friends, colleagues and family saw the change in their lives, and the impact was SUCH that they began to slander them. That is the kind of slander that glorifies the Lord, because it testifies of a true life change on the side of the Christians. Their lives had a “before” and a “now”. And the NOW so irritated those who were still in the BEFORE that they started to slander and abuse those in the NOW.
Where satan reigns there is always to some degree a life of debauchery, lust, drunkenness, carousing and detestable idolatry. BEFORE Peter’s readers knew the Lord, they were caught up in these sins as in a spider web. Then friends, family and colleagues were all kindness and goodness.
But then the Lord Jesus Christ entered into their lives and the Holy Spirit took control and suddenly matters changed. Their lives were made new. The power of God is much stronger than the power of any sin or addiction or fixation or worldly inclinations. And now family, friends and colleagues cannot deal with it. Their evil hearts come into rebellion against Christ the Lord and the reality of the others’ Spirit-controlled lives. It becomes a hot potato: unmanageable. They find it very strange that the lives of the new Christians could change so drastically. Are they losing their minds or what?
Exactly here we see the precise reason for the suffering and persecution of the Christians.
In verses 3-5 we therefore see a couple of very significant truths we should take cognizance of:
1 > Repentance is imperative
2 > Christ is truly alive and He changes lives
3 > The strongest sin is not equal to the Lord’s cross-salvation
4 > Someone whose life was changed by the Lord, cannot keep it private and can expect opposition from people whose lives have NOT been changed
5 > There is definitely a final day of judgment in the future. Yes, what the unsaved do not realise, is that they are partying on a sinking ship. The coming of the Lord is at hand and He shall judge the living and the dead. And every person who has given the children of God a hard time, SHALL have to give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. That is the truth! A truth which seemingly very few people realise: The reality of the final judgment and the truth that EVERY person is accountable. That becomes reality to you only once the Holy Spirit enlightens your heart.
Here is the reality of verse 6: It is because of the fact that the coming of the final Great White throne judgment is at hand, that the Good News of Christ’s salvation is preached and MUST be preached. It is urgent. It is imperative. It is a matter of life and death.
In Peter’s immediate context he is writing these things to people who could possibly die a martyr’s death, and from their midst some of them DID indeed die as martyrs. They certainly do need tons of encouragement.
But praise and glory to the Lord: BEFORE their Christ-believing friends and family died, the Gospel-message was proclaimed to them and they left everything and trusted upon THAT. And therefore, because they were saved and reborn by the grace of God, their bodies perished when they died, yes, but of the SPIRIT (human spirit) they are alive as God himself is alive!
The APOSTOLIC assurance is therefore: Unsaved people die physically AND spiritually and stand before God’s judgment. But people who die as people who BEFORE their death heard and believed the Gospel-message, do indeed die physically, but not spiritually. Their spirit lives! The sting of death is removed. What a glorious and triumphant Divine message!
The death of Christian-believers is therefore a triumph! More so to those who suffered for the sake of Christ or who died the martyr’s death.
But, Christ-believers’ unjust suffering and hardship shall also be a victory and triumph – not only at their own death – but also at Jesus’s second coming! When the END comes! Because His coming is the PURPOSE of everything! The END of all things is near, says verse 7!
The word translated here with END does not mean something that stops in chronology. It means that a purpose/result is gained/reached. A completion has been reached. THEN the Christ-believer’s suffering and hardship shall be an enormous victory.
Yes, the Apostles LIVED with expectation of the END – Christ’s personal return. The so-called ENDTIME is a period which already began at Jesus’s resurrection from the grave. It is not a period in the 21 century. Nor is it Covid19-time. According to Acts 2:17 the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was already the “last days”. It is the entire period in which God is busy gathering and saving a bride for His Son. And to Him one day is like a 1000 years and a 1000 years like one day (2 Pet 3:8).
THAT is the reason why verse 7 is saying THE END OF ALL THINGS IS NEAR. For the individual it is of course as close as your own physical death. Which can be ANY day.
In the light of these facts, the Apostle is calling us to a life of holiness and a life of expectation and a life of looking forward. It is only a foolish person who would not take note of these things. It is wise rather to maintain an eternity-perspective on life. And it takes of course discipline and commitment and a choice which require 3 things:
Self-control > soberness > prayer.
The Christian must not allow himself to be carried away by the world and fear and suffering. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Sober thoughts that are focused on the Truth of God are indispensable. Prayer keeps our focus where it belongs. THAT is how people live who have a future-expectation and are looking forward to the great things which the Lord is still GOING to do!
Can you perceive and see how the Holy Spirit just again and again wring the neck of the notions of the fallen sinful heart. O, these words are SO MUCH the words of the Lord himself. It is so much AGAINST the heart of man, but so much meant FOR the heart of man. And remember Peter, the writer, had exactly such a fallen sinful heart. He is writing therefore AGAINST his own grain. But, the Holy Spirit is compelling him.
The fallen sinful heart of man is always so self-centered and full of self-love and negative and complaining. But not so JESUS’S heartbeat. Jesus’s heartbeat is full of self-denial and burning love. And His heartbeat is transplanted onto the reborn person. The saved person has it. That is why the saved person also can be self-controlled and love deeply as verses 8-9 teach. It is so necessary in so far as the child of God realises that the end is at hand.
The word DEEPLY in the Greek means something like stretching of muscles – as a long distance athlete would do. Love DEEPLY… and place somebody else’s spiritual needs AHEAD of one’s own desires and comfort – in spite of being treated with injustice or hostility. That is the kind of love that can cover and forgive and forget the sins of others (1 Cor 13:4-7; Prov 10:12). In fact, sins/wrongs that others commit against you cannot be covered without this kind of love. It is simply not possible for the fallen human heart to be able to do that. It is only the Lord Jesus’s heartbeat IN us that is able to achieve that.
The same applies to verse 9: Hospitality without grumbling and complaining about the effort and sacrifice that it brings. Hospitality in the Greek means love for strangers. The agape love is not a matter of feelings and emotions, but practical born out of the will.
At the time of the early church, Christians made their homes available for worship services and for itinerant preachers and destitute fellow-believers. It was vital in times of persecution and torture. The direction is always AWAY from self-interest. But the essence of everything is of course to know that YOU yourself are forgiven and that the Lord has given the same kind of love to YOU. You must know HIS hospitality, to put it like that. And that love is imputed to you by the ministry of the Holy Spirit so that you may also live up to that glory.
Can you see what I meant when I said earlier that the Holy Spirit – who is the actual author – wrings the neck of the fallen human nature?
And continues to do so in verses 10-11.
Because what exactly does hospitality and love do in practice? Well, it serves others with God-given gifts of course. It puts focus on other people and serves them.
But what does MAN think is the reason Christians receive gifts? Well, for SELF upliftment and aggrandizement of course. I receive gifts for MY OWN sake. But the Lord is saying: No, it is with the intention to serve OTHERS that you have received Holy Spirit gifts. You are meant to serve others with it.
And take note: EVERY person who has come to salvation by grace, IS a preacher of the grace of the salvation-message. Not only the pastor, but everyone! Every person in whom the Holy Spirit has come to dwell, has gifts.
It is not ordinary human talents which all people have in some measure, no, it is gifts that the Spirit gives to God’s children as free gifts with the purpose to edify the body of Christ – that is the church.
The focus is therefore on fellow-believers and not on building up SELF. No one has ownership of these gifts. Everyone is accountable to the Giver. Believers are like managers who are managing God’s household.
Of course everyone receives different gifts, according to the measure which the Lord chooses to give them. The Apostle means that there are mainly TWO categories of gifts: SPEAKgifts and SERVEgifts. He is not making a list of gifts. He is only mentioning two categories. His aim is not detail. He only wants to make a specific point. And the point is this: It must always be about the LORD and His glory, and not MAN, not about the unholy trinity, I, ME & MYSELF.
To God the Father be all glory and power through Jesus Christ – for ever and ever. And He will not share His glory with anyone (Is 42:8).
If you are a true Christian, you have EITHER a SPEAKgift or a SERVEgift, or both.
If you speak, you must make sure that you speak the Lord’s written Word, the Bible. Only the Bible and nothing else. Speak therefore what has been said before!
And if you serve, do it in His power that He renders. Remain therefore reliant on Him.
And consequently you will always be spiritually armed!
Translated by Marthie Wilson