Capitol Ministries Nevada, Dan Madison, October 2008
Looking at the political calendar, we certainly can agree that we are experiencing hectic times. A sense of urgency and uncertainty prevails throughout the nation as men and women vie for political favor. In fact, this urgency seems to be reaching a fevered pitch as candidates and the electorate alike consider the outcome of the upcoming election. This atmosphere of urgency fits right in with our text and study as we consider the issue of “How shall we then live in urgent and unsettling times.”
Scripture has much to say about time and urgency! In 1 John 2:18 we hear the apostle say “… It is the last hour…” The Apostle Paul writes: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). Again we see Paul writing to the Ephesians in 5:15-17: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.“
In today’s study we will see Peter add to this intensity as he writes: “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). In his epistles, Peter has much to say about time and the biblical perspective associated with it. In 1 Peter 1:5 he said that Christ provided “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” In 1:17 he tells us to “Conduct yourselves in the fear of God during the time of our stay upon the earth.” In 5:6 we read: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”
Living for Christ is not easy. When we live according to biblical principles, in a godly manner, unbelievers and those of the world reject us. Frankly, they want little to do with pure righteousness and pure godliness. Living this type of lifestyle has the effect of exposing sin. As men observe us they should be faced with an understandable choice: live like God or else face His judgment.
So the question becomes, “How can a believer be effective for Christ in times like these?” In the section of Scripture before us, Peter defines for us what a life led with a sense of urgency looks like in the light of eternity.
I. THOSE WHO LIVE WITH A SENSE OF URGENCY
A. ARE ARMED WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE (VS. 1-2)
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:1 Query: What does it mean to be armed with the “same mind”? The picture is that of a soldier who puts on his equipment and arms himself for battle. Our attitudes are weapons, and weak or wrong attitudes will lead us to defeat. Outlook determines outcome, and a believer must have the right attitudes if he is to live a right life.
Query: What do you see as the thrust in verse 1b of “..he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”? We must understand that just because a believer suffers for doing right, that does not have the effect of never stumbling or sinning again. There is no magic path to sinless perfection this side of glory. These verses indicate that believers take seriously their struggle against sin and their commitment to obedience. When we follow Peter’s counsel, we demonstrate to others that our obedience and relationship to Christ is the most important motivation in our life, more important than avoiding hardship and pain. The Amplified Bible helps clarify Peter’s counsel:
“So, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose (patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God). For whoever has suffered in the flesh has done with (intentional) sin—has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)
B. ABANDON DESTRUCTIVE LIFESTYLES (VS. 3-4)
1 Peter 4:3 1 Peter 4:3 1 Peter 4:3 1 Peter 4:3–4 44 4 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.
Query: What view do you get of the day that Peter lived? What formally characterized the lives of at least some of the Christian believers to whom Peter wrote? How do these sins differ from those against which he earlier warned them in 2:1? Peter is quite blunt here; our past experience of sin is sufficient. Our life should reflect a marked transformation from our previous lifestyle. Note that these verses give a vivid description of the tragic and devastating life pattern of the unconverted, which ends inexorably in judgment.
We see clear parallels in Romans 1:18-32.4 Query: When the new life of the redeemed is seen by their old sinful friends, they make judgments. What are the results of these judgments? It is safe to say that unbelievers will think that you are indeed strange. They will be astonished or surprised that you are no longer with them. Unfortunately, their response is far from neutral. Even more than showing surprise at the new life of the redeemed, we often see a malignant ridicule; a maligning of the believers new found faith. As the psalmist tells us, they would rather cast us away than welcome us. (Psalm 2:1-3)
C. ARE AWARE OF AN ACCOUNTING (VS. 5-7)
1 Peter 4:5 1 Peter 4:5 1 Peter 4:5 1 Peter 4:5–7 77 7 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
Here we see the believers’ ultimate perspective. Those who slander and persecute believers will give account to Him Who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
SUCH VICIOUS ATTACKERS ARE AMASSING A DEBT TO GOD THAT THEY WILL SPEND ETERNITY PAYING BACK. JOHN MACARTHUR
The living—those alive when Peter wrote—and the dead—those already dead—will all be judged “so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” (Romans 3:19; cf. Matthew 25:31-33, 41-46)5
Query: How does the awareness of Verse 5 help Christians to endure abuse and insults from their associates, both old and new? How are we to live in light of this Scripture?
D. ARE AWARE OF THEIR COMMITMENTS TO GOD
The incentive for spiritual duty is clearly delineated in verse 7a “But the end of all things is at hand.” Here Peter is speaking of the Lord’s return (cf. Acts 3:21q; Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:1). The word “near” (ēggiken) means “approaching.” The perfect tense indicates a consummated process with a resulting nearness—the event (Christ’s return) is imminent; it could occur at any moment. (cf. Matthew 24:37-39; Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 16:15; 22:20)6 In light of this, in obedience, we are to be aware of our commitments to God.
Commitment #1: KEEP LOVE FERVENT (VS. 8-9)
1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8–9 99 9 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
Warren Wiersbe, in his study on 1 Peter titled “Be Hopeful,” makes the following observation about being fervent:
The word pictures an athlete straining to reach the goal. it speaks of eagerness and intensity. Christian love is something we have to work at, just the way an athlete works on his skills. it is not a matter of emotional feeling, though that is included, but of dedicated will. Christian love means that we treat others the way God treats us, obeying His commandments in the Word. It is even possible to love people that we do not like!
Commitment # 2. DO THEIR DUTY (VS 10-11)
1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10–11 1111 11 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 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. We see a final priority for those who live in the light of Christ’s second coming.
This can best be summarized as intense serving. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift that he/she must use to the glory of God in the building up of the church. As stewards, we have been entrusted with these gifts so that we might use them in such a way to benefit the church (fellow believers) and to bring glory to God. Query: It is God Who enables us and gives us these gift(s). How, then, is God glorified in our obedience?
How do we allow His dominion to have expression in our lives? Spiritual gifts have been defined as “a divine enablement for ministry to the body.7” Paul echoed Peter’s thought in 1 Corinthians 12:7-27. Here we see that as each part of the human body has a particular function, so does each member of the body of Christ. There are teaching gifts and serving gifts. Each of us has at least one; most have more than one. All spiritual gifts are important to the church and need to be exercised by members of the body.
There are those who have “behind-the-scenes” gifts, i.e. ministries that support and make it possible for the visible ministry to function. Whatever your gift is, you need to exercise it to the glory of God. As believers, we should want to glorify God in how we think, how we talk, and in all that we do. First Corinthians 10:31 speaks to this: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
The “so what” aspect of this Scripture seems to boil down to two areas: 1. Since the time is short, we should live in love toward others. When suffering does come, we need to commit ourselves to God and continue to do good. Proverbs 25:26 tells us “A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well.” How sad are the consequences of a believer who falters in his testimony; all creditability is lost before the unsaved.
2. Since the end is near, live in love toward others. Minister to them with your spiritual gifts. As you serve others, God will be praised.8 Peter tells us to look at the experience of our Lord Jesus. He reminds us that as Christians we are to follow Him in his sufferings as well as His glory. Although others may be surprised by our new way of life (vs. 2, 4), we are not to be surprised if our experience is patterned after the Lord’s (vs. 12).
Someone has said that believers are either in a trial, recovering from a trial, or ready to enter a trial. That is the life of growth and being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Harold Willmington, in his book Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists, has provided “13 Proper Reactions to suffering” which follows on Page 4. I think it will be helpful as we set our eyes on Christ and a biblical world view.
1 Nelson, Joey, Living with a sense of Urgency (www.sermoncentral.com/.asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=56116) Outline. 2 Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Hopeful (Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs, 2005) 101 3 Anders, Max, Holman New Testament Commentary, I&II Peter, I,II,III John, Jude, (Broadman & Holman, Nashville, 1999)