1 Peter 4:1-11
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), 2so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. 3You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.
4They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. 5But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.
7The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Being baptized into Christ’s suffering and death, the Christians to whom this author writes are no longer ruled by sin, but are ruled by Christ and the Spirit. These people, who are suffering for Christ, take comfort in him and are strengthened by his example.They have spent enough time in the activities of the surrounding culture, and their former friends are surprised that they no longer do those things. Often we find this to be true in our own lives – we grow closer to Christ and those who are not ready for that step sort of drop away as friends; or someone goes to AA and works the program and is sober, and their old drinking buddies don’t want them around. This is true even of those who are losing weight; friends who ate with them don’t want to share a meal, because they then feel guilt. The list the author gives is not an all-inclusive list of sins, but a stereotypical listing of the things commonly attributed to “Gentiles” by the Jews. Here, however, he refers not to non-Jewish people but to those outside the church, those who persecute the Christians.
Those former friends will face God at their own time of judgment – the author gives no room for the Christians to be judging them. Again, there is an obscure statement about the Gospel being preached to the dead – commentators do not believe this is referring to the same event we talked about yesterday, but likely refers simply to those Christians who have already died, yet live in the Spirit.
Peter, Paul, and all the writers of the New Testament believed that the return of Christ was near, would happen in their own life-time. This is NOT a “rapture”; that is an idea that came about in the 1800’s; it is not Biblical – authors have hand-picked a couple of verses which out-of-context appear to support it. The “Left Behind” books and movies are based on very bad theology! But back to our discussion – the author warns his readers to stay disciplined, to practice spiritual disciplines that help them stay in touch with God, aid their life of prayer.
But more important than even their spiritual disciplines is their love for one another, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
This is one of those passages worth remembering! Love, indeed, covers a multitude of sins! And love encourages and strengthens both those loving and those loved. They should offer hospitality to one another – often Christians who traveled were given hospitality by other Christians, even when their ethnicity and culture were different. The author encourages this activity, caring for and providing for one another, and reminds the reader that this should be done without grumbling!
We have received God’s grace, and we have received spiritual gifts – as “good stewards” of that grace, we share gracefully; we use our gifts as God intended; we serve one another. If one’s gift is speaking, he/she should do so with all that gift provides, as if God himself were speaking through him/her. If one’s gift is serving, that as well should be done with the strength God supplies. All of this is done with the purpose of glorifying not ourselves, but God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. For his is the glory and the power forever. Amen. (The last sentence was likely a doxology, drawn from a prayer or hymn used in the early church.)