1 Peter 4:7-19 “The End Is Near—What Shall We Do?
7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Introduction: Before we consider this passage, we should look back a little, at chapter 3 verse 18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” This verse is the basis for all that the Apostle says in this book, that Christ Jesus has died and risen again, and so, has brought us to God.
So now, he tells us how to live in light of the fact that Christ Jesus has saved us. He warns us first of all in verse 7, “But the end of all things is at hand.” This sounds strange to us today, since it has been some two thousand years since Christ Jesus lived, died, and rose again. But this perspective is always the point of view of that the Lord reveals to us—his coming is at hand. The same apostle says the same thing in 2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” And the apostle Paul says the same thing in1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” Since that is true, how should you live?
The first thing he says is, “therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” [verse 7] When we talk with the Lord in prayer, it should be sincere, which is to say, not just mouthing words or repeating phrases, but thinking about what we are saying. He also says to be watchful in our prayers. Watchful for what? For the coming of the Lord, that is, when we pray, we should pray in the knowledge and anticipation of the coming of the Lord.
The next thing he says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another.” [verse 8] It’s real easy to say “I love you” or write it on a card, but, to truly people means giving of ourselves, to the point where it hurts. The particular way he speaks of this is “for love will cover a multitude of sins.” That is, if we truly love one another, when they offend us, or sin against us, we will forgive them. There are so many people who know the Lord’s prayer, and say time after time “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” [Matthew 6:12], but they fail to apply it in their own lives. But if Christ has forgiven you all of your sins, by what right do you hold someone else’s sins against them? If you love someone, then you will forgive them.
The third way he tells us to be ready for his come is to “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” [verse 9] Again, it is easy to talk about caring for people, but when your cousin suddenly shows up from Vietnam, and has nowhere to stay, and it’s really inconvenient, and you really don’t have more room, but you have to take them in, do you do so willingly? He tells us to be “hospitable without grumbling.” OK, a meal or two, or a night or two, but when is he going to get a job and move out?
But actually, I think he has dealt with the easier ways to show love, ways that should be almost natural to us as believers in Christ. In verse 10 ten, he speaks more broadly, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” That is, he declares that each of has a gift from God, and that when we serve others, and use our gifts, we are expressing the manifold grace of God. That is, God not only saves us by his grace, but it is also his grace that enables us to serve others, for he gives us gifts to serve. When we use these gifts to serve, we are not doing so in our own power, but by the power that God in his grace has given to us.
He gives two examples of this. In verse 11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.” That is, if someone is going to speak, they should speak the words of God. To me, this so obvious, and I can’t understand why anyone would do otherwise. But there really are people who prefer the words of men to the words of God. For example, some Bible translations into English and Spanish (I don’t know about Vietnamese) try to make the word of God simpler so we can understand it better. Do these translators think they are smarter than God, who wrote the Bible the way it is?
The second example is “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies.” That is, again, we are not acting on our own when we serve, but we do it consciously with the power that God has given us. Many people try to do things that God has not given them the ability to do, and when they fail, they blame God. But God doesn’t require us to do everything, but only to do that which God supplies us the grace to do.
And if we do that, the end result is “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” If we use the gifts that God has given us to preach his Word, and to serve others, then the necessary result will be that he, and not we, will receive the glory and will be acknowledged as Lord.
Having said that, there are some people who think that if we just spend our time serving the Lord, that everything will go well for us in this life, that we won’t have any problems or conflicts. The opposite is true. In verse 12 he tells us, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” If you faithfully follow after Jesus Christ, and serve him with all that is in you, and show his love to others, you will suffer. Sometimes you will suffer because people will take advantage of your honesty and generosity. Other times you will suffer because your love will be repaid with hatred. But, most often and most pointedly, if you speak the truth in love, you will suffer because there are those who will hate you just as they hate the Lord Jesus Christ, who will reject you just as they rejected him.
And there are those who pity themselves, or feel sad, when this happens, or as the apostle says, are even surprised by it. But he says that instead, we should “rejoice.” Why? Because, when we suffer for the name of Christ, we participate in Christ’s sufferings. That is, just as Christ, the one who is alone just, suffered unjustly, when we suffer for him, it is as if we were on the cross, suffering with him. We follow him, even to the cross, and we rejoice that we can share in his sufferings, because just as Christ suffered only to be resurrected from the dead. As he says at the end of verse 13 “that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” If we suffer for the sake of Christ Jesus, we will rejoice with him at his coming.
We need, however, to be careful here. There are many people, even some Christians, who suffer for their own sins, or who suffer for being obnoxious. If you are mean or insensitive to people, for example, if you attack them for not trusting in Christ, and they reject you for your meaness, do not confuse that with suffering for Christ Jesus. He says in verse 14, “ If you are reproached for the name of Christ.” That is, if we are rejected or attacked for the name of Jesus Christ, then we can expect God’s protection, as he says, “blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
I notice this especially when politicians talk. They talk about “god” in general, and they say “god bless America”, but very few say one word. They don’t say that one word because they know that that one word will offend people. So, they speak of “god” in a very general sense, and never refer in particular to him, or to his word, for fear of offending people who believe in a different god. And the one word they never say is “Jesus”, because when they say that word, they have defined which god it is they believe in, and they have offended many, and opened themselves up for attack, so, they avoid that word like the plague.
And it is true, that when we speak that word, and live for him, that people will attack us, and if we do our job right, they will attack Jesus, for we have properly represented him. And so, the apostle says, “On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.” That is, when we live for Christ, and tell others about him, and they learn more and more about Jesus Christ, in rejecting him, they will blaspheme him. This means more than that people will misuse his name, as bad as that is. They will attack him to us, they will use us as an excuse to bad-mouth our Lord and Saviour, and in doing so, they will insult and dishonor him. But even in doing so, they will, to some extent, honor him, and we will glorify him in the way that we respond to the attacks. When I read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and read the stories of the many followers of Jesus Christ who have suffered and died for his name, it fills me with great joy to think of all the times and places and people where Jesus Christ has been glorified by the faithful testimony of his people, who when attacked for following Christ, did not return evil for evil, but who instead proclaimed Christ Jesus through their lives and words. In doing so, they fulfilled this passage, because he was glorified in their suffering, and they were glad to suffer for the name of Christ.
So he says in verse 15, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.” Obviously, if we follow Christ and suffer, it should not be for such a sin as murder or theft or some other kind of evil. But, it interests me that he adds, “a busybody in other people’s matters.” It almost seems insignificant, compared to the other sins, but it is important. As Christians, God has not set us up as judges to tell other people what to do with their lives, as if we were the bosses and other people the servants. It is God alone who is judge of the conscience, and we are called to proclaim his word, and to apply it first of all to our lives, and then to the lives of others. But there are some Christians who seem to think that they have the right to tell everybody what to do about everything, and that is being a busybody. We will all stand or fall in the presence of our one God and King [cf. Romans 14:4], our Lord Jesus Christ, and we should be careful that when we suffer, it is for the proclamation of the word of Christ, and living for him, and not for meddling in other people’s lives.
Having said that, he knows that some will be faithful, so he says in verse 16, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.” Why would anyone be ashamed for suffering for Christ? Sometimes people make us seem feel odd or weird, as if following our Lord were something strange or foreign, and there are those who begin to feel ashamed, as if they are doing something wrong in being faithful to the Lord. But, if we are being faithful to him and not our own agenda or ideas, then we don’t look to others for our approval, but to the Lord himself, as he says, “but let him glorify God in this matter.” The world may not understand, it may even condemn us for our faithfulness, but, God will be glorified.
So he concludes with a warning. “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God.” (verse 17) This means that when we suffer, it is an effect of the judgment of God upon the world. If there were no sin in the world, the world would not reject us, but because there is sin and the consecuent judgment in the world, we are suffering, as it were, the side-effects of judgment. But if we who are do not deserve punishment any more because we are in Christ Jesus are suffering the effects, imagine what the effects will be for those who deserve the full judgment of God? As he says at the end of verse 17, “and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
So he quotes from Proverbs 11:31, “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” That is, if God even allows his children to suffer, why would the ungodly think that they will escape?
But, for us who trust in Christ, it is not so. Yes, we will suffer, but we suffer in hope, and with our Lord at our side. He says in verse 19, “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” When we do what is pleasing to God, we simply trust in Him. And so, we commit our souls to him, and we have the promise that he is a faithful Creator. Men, even Christians at times, are unfaithful. But God is our Creator. He has made us, and made us anew in his Son, and he will not disappoint or desert us. He is always faithful, always there. Not only will he give us great joy at the end, when the Lord Jesus comes to take us home, but he gives us great joy in this life, even as we suffer, for he cares for us. Yes, we live in eager expectation of the day of the coming of our Lord, and what joy that will be, but that same joy should infect our daily life, as we live for him, as we suffer for him, and as we proclaim him to those around us, that they might share in our joy. Amen.