Devotional: 1 Peter 4:1-19
From Holly: This chapter starts with a “therefore”. According to my Amplified version Bible, this is reflecting back to chapter 3, verse 18. Because Christ indeed died for sins once for all, the Just and Righteous for the unjust and unrighteous so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit. . . because of that, we trusters in His sacrifice for our sin(s) we are called to arm ourselves with the same purpose He had when He went to the cross. We should be willing to suffer persecution for living out our lives to please God, and not the citizens of the world system we are surrounded by. What does it mean when Peter says “whoever has suffered in the flesh is done with sin”, or “has ceased from sin”? I think this is saying that the person who is willing to suffer persecution for doing what is right in God’s eyes is no longer seeking to please him or herself; otherwise, he or she would have caved in as soon as they started to feel the heat from the world.
I think that in verses 2-3, Peter is expressing the idea that his audience wasted enough of their lives on living for self, joining in the world’s pleasures which the residents of this world partake in. He gives examples of these activities: wantonness (“lawless insolence”), lusts (“cravings, longings, or desires for what is usually forbidden”), drunkenesses (“an insatiate desire for wine, an extravagant indulgence of alcoholic beverages”), parties (“generally used of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry [and rioting]”), carousings (“a drinking bout”—think King Xerxes’ banquet in chapter 1 of Esther), and unlawful idolatries (idol worship, traced back to “lack of acknowledgment of God and of gratitude to Him”). He also points out that those who do these things cannot understand why we trusters in Christ do not do them anymore—and for this reason, they are resentful and critical, at best making fun of our godly values, and at worst openly persecuting us. However, Peter also reminds his readers that while we may suffer persecution now from them, they will eventually have to stand before King Jesus and give an account to Him for the way they have lived their lives and the way they treated His bride (the members of His body, trusters in His sacrificial death, and resurrection). Eventually, we will be exonerated of their abuse, and receive instead the words “well done” from our LORD.
I think that verse 5 and 6 is referring to the fact (pointed out in Hebrews 11) that those who put their trust in God for deliverance (salvation) in the past have died physically. However, because they trusted in the good news of salvation by their dependence on God and His promises, they are alive spiritually and will be raised at the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
What does Peter mean when he says (back then!) that the “end of all things has drawn near”? I think that he was living his life with the attitude and the expectancy that at any moment, Jesus could return and the purposes of God would be completed. Because of this, he goes on to say that we, too, (following his example) should be of “sound mind” (“sober”, “self-controlled”, “disciplined”), be “sensible” (“free of the influence of intoxicants” with the idea of watchfulness) for prayer, and above all else love each other fervently—because we also are living with the “immediacy” of Christ’s return on our minds and hearts.
What does he mean by “love covers a multitude of sins”? According to my Amplified Bible, love covers a multitude of sins because (as Proverbs 10:12 says), love forgives and overlooks another’s faults. “It overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others” (this is the explanation in the Amplified Bible here in 1 Peter 4:8).
Verse 9-11 speaks of the giftings that we have through the Holy Spirit. I notice that Peter starts this very short listing with the general statement that we are supposed to be “hospitable” to one another without complaining. This word is translated from a word that means to be “fond of guests” or “given to hospitality”. Peter ties this in with our using our giftings to minister to one another through God’s strength. Paul also, I think ties these two subjects together in Romans 12:13, when he says “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” When we are using our giftings, ministering to one another, it is vital that we are utilizing His strength to do so. If we depend upon ourselves for strength, we will become weary in well doing and start grumbling about the work we are called to do. The end result will be that God’s grace will cease to be extended and we will fail to bring glory to God through Christ Jesus. I wonder how many of us burn out for just this reason.
Finally, Peter addresses once again the persecution that all trusters in Christ can expect to face at one time or another. He reminds his readers that since Christ suffered at the hands of the ungodly, we can expect the same kind of treatment. The good news is that if we share in His suffering, we will also share in His joy when He is revealed to the world in His glory. He goes on to say that persecution is a confirmation that God’s Spirit and glory rests on us, therefore we have no need to be ashamed.
It is interesting to me that God judges His house (He starts the process of investigating the members of His family with an eye towards reaching a verdict concerning them) before He judges those who are refusing to trust the Good News He has offered everyone. If we, who are adopted sons and daughters of God through our trust in Christ’s sacrifice for our sin(s), are just barely delivered from God’s wrath (by His grace and mercy), just think what awaits those who refuse to accept that gift? This should also, according to Peter, cause us trusters to be even more diligent in living our lives in a way that brings glory to God.
Putting this chapter all together, what does this say to us? First, we should not be discouraged or surprised by the growing threat of persecution that we see building around us. Instead, we should keep our eyes on our LORD and continue to live our lives for His glory, not our comfort. Additionally, we should rejoice to think that our witness to the world is evident enough to bring us into the world’s crosshairs.
Meanwhile, maintaining love (unity in the Body), and utilizing our gifts to minister to each other is of utmost importance in light of the fact that Jesus’ return is closer now than it was in Peter’s day. The Christian life is not a matter of a truster focusing on his or her own self reaching the goal of deliverance from God’s wrath and hearing instead His “well done”. It is all of us working together, using our gifts to minister to one another with the goal of bringing the whole of Christ’s body (every individual truster) to that point. This matches with what Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-13, regarding our gifts being meant to equip the saints to build up His body. Remember, too, His body is not complete until that last “cell”, that last person whom He knows is going to “chose to be chosen” accepts the gift of salvation that He offers. Therefore, our gifts are not just designed for use within the church walls, but also to equip us to minister to those who are still lost outside the walls, so we can offer to them the gift of reconciliation that we ourselves have received (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, and Romans 5:10-12).
Devotional reading to be shared on August 12thth: 1 Peter 5:1-14