The First Letter of Peter: Chapter 4:7-11

Study No.15: (1 Peter 4:7-11)

The first century believers constantly lived in the expectation the Lord Jesus would return in their lifetime. They were constantly harassed, oppressed and persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders and by the unsaved in the world because of their unswerving loyalty to the Lord Jesus. Even though the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved by and large they were seen as a religious sect. At first they were able to worship within the precincts of the temple and attended temple worship as Torah observant Jews.

Mosaic Judaism was recognised as a religion by Pagan Rome and tolerated even though there were many Jewish zealots who did not like Roman dominion. As a legally recognised religion by the Romans the New Covenant believers in the Messiah our Lord Jesus were also able to worship under the umbrella of Judaism. However the time came when, because of the power of God at work among these Messianic believers and the effect they were having on the people of Jerusalem and spreading the news about salvation in the Messiah and proclaiming His resurrection, caused jealousy among the unsaved religious hierarchy in the Temple.

The decision was made to force these New Covenant believers out of the temple precincts as a group and in doing this making the Jerusalem Body of messiah an illegal religion by Rome. These faithful Messianic believers could not confess Jesus as Lord and Caesar as Lord at the same time. Many of the unsaved Jewish religious leaders actually paid others to burn incense to the Roman Emperor on their behalf.

The hope of these faithful Messianic New Covenant believers wasn’t in this world or in the things this world offers. They also knew that at some time in the future the temple would be destroyed and Jerusalem ransacked by the Romans as the Lord Jesus had prophesised when He walked among them. Of course around 40 years later what the Lord Jesus had predicted occurred. The eyes of the Messianic assembly members in Jerusalem were fixed on the things of eternity not on the things of this world.

As Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Exposition: (1 Peter 4:7-11)

(Vs.7) “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.

The hope of the Body of Messiah down through the ages was the return of the Lord Jesus in great power and glory. The ‘birth pains’ the Lord Jesus had mentioned in Matthew chapter 24 were already occurring in their day and they have continued down through history even to the present day. However, since the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948 the ‘birth pains’ have increased in frequency and intensity in the world. Now 75 years later we are seeing the last of the last days as the ‘birth pains’ of wars, rumours of wars, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, with famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution widespread apostasy, spiritual deception and the disintegration of society as a whole are coming almost one upon another, as we see nations starting to compete with each other for military supremacy globally. When we see the rapid succession of these ‘birth pains’ coming one upon another, we know that the birth of God’s kingdom on earth is about to occur.

With the nuclear arsenal today within many nations that are major players on the world scene and the escalating war in the Middle-East, and Israel centre stage in world affairs and under constant attack from their immediate hostile Islamic neighbours, we are rapidly approaching that time the Lord Jesus spoke about when He said; “For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again. “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22) See also (Daniel 12:1). When you consider time, a thousand years of our time is as one day to the Lord because in eternity time as we know it down here does not exist up there. In eternity there is no past, present or future. As Peter writes in his second letter; “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

In light of the coming judgement Peter was reminding the assemblies that they should not live carelessly in relation to spiritual matters as they waited for the Lord Jesus’ return. He tells us that we are to do two things to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus.

“To be clear minded and self- controlled” or “to be of a sound mind, or in one’s right mind and to not think unrealistically about one’s spiritual state but, to exercise a moderate estimate in ones thinking in relation to themselves and to curb one’s passions as they live their daily lives within a pagan society and all that it entails. It is to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit, to be temperate, dispassionate and circumspect, and to have an awareness of what is happening in the world from the biblical, spiritual and prophetic perspective.

As New Covenant believers our mind is a battle field. Satan attacks our thought life and our emotions and even can make us physically tired which can make things hard to resist temptation. As the accuser of the brethren Satan will impose upon us times of depression, anxiety, impose on us a sense that God does not really love us, and that our past sins are still unforgiven. However, we can be in the worst struggle of our lives yet know the peace of God deep down on the inside of us if we know what God has promised us in His Word.

We are to have our thoughts fixed on the Lord Jesus and on the things of God and the things of eternity, and these things are all to be found in the Word of God and it is by reading and studying His Word that our faith grows and increases in strength (Romans 10:17).  To be clear minded is to be aware of Satan’s strategies and seductions to derail our trust and confidence in God as we will see later in this letter (5:8). Clear mindedness and self-control or sobriety of thinking is essential when we are working and living every day among unbelievers. We must be careful not to be drawn into their unrestrained ungodly way of life. We are to make no provision for the fleshly appetites and desires that are still present within us and at times are demanding to be satiated. It is to our advantage spiritually to avoid all excesses in food, luxuries of this life, having a plethora of material possessions and to overindulge our fleshly appetites.

It is only the blessed Holy Spirit who can restrain these passions that war against our souls and seek to confront the desires of the Holy Spirit who lives in us if we have been spiritually reborn from above (Galatians 5:16-18) (Romans 8:12-14) (John 3:3). To be clear-minded and self-controlled is to keep a tight rein on our words and actions and especially our thought life which can be the devil’s playground if we are not spiritually sober and aware of his machinations and strategies to derail our faith. Peter then adds…

“…so that you can pray” One of Satan’s favourite tactics is to secretly introduce wandering thoughts or even fleshly thoughts and bombard our imagination with inappropriate images in times when we are in prayer. At such times we must persevere in our prayers despite how we might be feeling or aware of those thoughts that go contrary to the desires of the Spirit and against our desire to spend time with God.

Satan knows that when we pray in the Holy Spirit that things will eventually shift in the unseen spiritual realm that will diminish his power and grip in our lives and in the lives of others for whom we pray. Spiritual warfare can be likened to “blood and guts” hand to hand fighting in the trenches over barbed wire, ankle deep in mud, against a very powerful, relentless and remorseless enemy.”

This is why God has given us His spiritual armour and weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18). The five powerful spiritual weapons we need to wield against Satan and his relentless attacks are the blood of Jesus, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus name, prayer in the Holy Spirit and faith. As we persevere in regular times of prayer on our knees before God we will find our thoughts becoming increasingly aligned with God’s Word, and we will begin to hear from Him. Of course we must test all of our thoughts with the Word of God.

While God does speak to us by the Spirit deep down on the inside with that small voice, the main way He communicates with us is through His Word the Bible. As we read in the Psalms; “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). And again it is written; “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). The “simple” here is not one who is simple minded or one who is in some way intellectually impaired, but one who has the simplicity of a child-like faith in God and in His Word and who leans upon God’s breast as a tiny baby being weaned on the lap of its mother. David put it this way; “My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty. I do not aspire to great things or matters too lofty for me. Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:1-3). Peter now adds to what he has instructed us to be like with what we need to do in relation to our brothers and sisters in Messiah within the local assembly where we worship.

(Vs.8) “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Once again the theme of God’s love shed abroad in the hearts of His born again blood-washed children by the Holy Spirit comes to the forefront of his letter. There is no greater power in the entire universe and in eternity than the power of God’s love. It runs all through the Word of God and had its fullest expression at the cross where the righteous one died for the unrighteous ones that He might bring us to God, and that God was in the Messiah reconciling the whole world to Himself, and that while we were still sinners Messiah died for us, and that by His unmerited unearned favour we were saved through faith, not of ourselves or by our personal merit, but it was the gift of God, not of works by which no flesh will be justified in the sight of God (Titus 3:5-6).

It is only when we are under the direct control of the blessed Holy Spirit that we are capable of loving with God’s love and it is released by faith and not primarily by feelings. Faith comes before feelings because there are times when it is very difficult to forgive a brother or sister a husband or a wife, or a son or daughter when they have wronged us in some way, or have treated us unfairly, or even stabbed us in the back as it were. Our faith is a faith that works through love (Galatians 5:6). This kind of love is a supernatural power that is released through our faith primarily by an action of the will.

We are then above all else to love each other deeply” or fervently. with earnest intent to be stretched out in loving a fellow brother or sister in Jesus. This kind of love will cover over a multitude of sins.  Rabbi the apostle Paul put it this way when he wrote; “Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Messiah (Galatians 6:1-2). We are to do everything in love, especially when it is hard to exercise love to a fellow brother or sister in the fellowship, or even within our own family relationships. Without the springboard of love being the catalyst for whatever we do for the LORD it will achieve nothing of spiritual value as far as God is concerned because the motive will not be right.

Rabbi the apostle Paul wrote; “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8a).

This love is to be a deep centred love that is free from hypocrisy and from a profession of love which is mal motivated and not having the others interest at heart. This love with thoughtful consideration will overlook an offense and cover or effectively deal with a multitude of sins. While hidden sin that affects the local assembly especially by a leader is to be exposed publically to the local assembly, the one exposed and disciplined is to be treated with love even though it means being removed from fellowship for a time in order for them to repent. Once their repentance has been affirmed by the elders and the fellowship then they may come back into fellowship. The apostle James wrote; “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

Of course there are times when we fail to love others and this in itself will cause a division in the local assembly if not checked. A house that is divided amongst itself cannot stand especially if we bite and devour one another then we will be devoured by each other. As Rabbi the apostle Paul wrote; “The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” But if you keep on biting and devouring one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another. So I say, walk by the Spirit (or in step with the Spirit), and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:14-16).

Satan will use divisiveness to weaken a fellowship. If we cannot stand together is a time of comfort and without persecution, then we will never stand in times of persecution unless we have maintained the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, a unity which only the blessed Holy Spirit can produce in a local fellowship. Sometimes within the providence of God it takes persecution to achieve this. So then if we seek to love each other deeply then we will have the capacity to overlook the sins and weaknesses in others, and if possible, seek to see them gently restored. Peter gives us another practical way we can show our love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah.

(Vs.9) “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Hospitality is a very practical way of showing and sharing God’s love. This should be done without grumbling or complaining and ungrudgingly. It is so easy to be hospitable to those we relate to well or are easy to get on with. However, the Body of the Messiah is made up of all sorts of people with differing temperaments, personalities, cultural backgrounds and natures. The word “hospitality” can be also rendered as “hospitable” or “one who is given to generosity” or who is “generous to those whom are their guests.” The words “without grumbling” convey the idea of “harbouring a secret displeasure without disclosing it openly.”

The Bible says that we are to bear one and others burdens and so fulfil the law of the Messiah. That law is to seek to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as we would love and care for ourselves. Our Lord Jesus put it this way when He said to His disciples; ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Even strangers who visit the local assembly are to be shown hospitality because sometimes they may be angels in disguise (Hebrews 13:1-2). Hospitality should be an integral part of any assembly, and to be a regular practice (Romans 12:13). Sometimes we may have to extend hospitality  to those who may not be well liked because of their temperament or personality, however, by God’s grace we must not show partiality in favouring some before others (James 2:1-5). And then we read…

(Vs.10) “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Each of us as a member of the Body of the Messiah has at least one or more of the spiritual gifting given to us by the Holy Spirit. We have been given these, not to serve ourselves, but to serve others in the fellowship where we attend. These are not natural abilities but gifts given to us by God’s favour towards us that we have not deserved or merited (Romans 12:6-8) (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11) (1 Corinthians 14:3-4, 12). We do not choose the gifts we would like or the field of service as this is the sole prerogative of the Holy Spirit of God.

Now you may not know what your gifts are, but as you involve yourself in different activities or ministries in the fellowship you attend you will discover your gifts. Probably you will find yourself excel in a specific area of service or ministry and this could well be an indication of what God requires from you. One of the responsibilities of the overseers or elders within the local assembly is to discern this matter where individual members within the fellowship are regularly involved in the activities of the assembly. Of course an assembly must be open to the gifts of the Spirit practiced Biblically; otherwise the Holy Spirit will be restricted in what He can do within that fellowship. Having said this, whatever gift or gifts we have they must be used faithfully for the benefit and edification of others in the assembly, because in this way it will administer God’s grace to others and meet their spiritual needs. As Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the assembly of believers” (1 Corinthians 14:12).

(Vs.11) “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Messiah. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Our speech is always to be “full of grace and seasoned with salt.” Salt is a preservative and when the Word of God is expressed through the Holy Spirit it has a preservative effect spiritually speaking on those who hear it. When we are sharing God’s Word with others we are speaking the very words of God Himself. Sometimes we may not be quoting the Bible but the Bible will be reflected in the way we are speaking to others. Our speech, if it is directed by the Holy Spirit will facilitate and even promote and preserve spiritual health in others and prevent spiritual decay. When we do speak, either in a testimony or as an exhortation to others, or when preaching or even when we are testifying to God’s grace in the work place, we need to speak as if we God Himself were speaking through us even though we may not be aware that He is doing this.

Our tongues are small members of our body but they can produce powerful results in situations or circumstances or even in people’s lives for better or for worse. In the local assembly the tongue within the Body of the Messiah can be that of the one preaching or testifying, or one in leadership with the responsibility of pastoral oversight and teaching. James tells us that the whole course of one’s life can be steered by the tongue and this is also true corporately when the assembly meets for worship and ministry. We are told in Proverbs; “The power of life and death is in the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

Much of the emotional, psychological and spiritual collateral damage within a fellowship has been caused by the tongue and although a small member like smouldering tinder it can set a whole forest on fire (James 3:3-6). Many a fellowship has been divided or even wrecked due to the misuse of the tongue. More so when it comes to individuals and there are many “wounded soldiers” out of fellowship because of what has been said to them by other believers. As the late Derek prince has said that “gossip is the church going sin.” Even some prayer meetings can become gossip chambers if not checked.

Primarily Peter has in mind those with the gift to preach or to teach and that they should always on all occasions of speaking or teaching to speak as if God was speaking through them. Sometimes a preacher will be aware that that the Holy Spirit is anointing his words and at other times he won’t really feel anything, however, his continuing responsibility before the Lord is to always declare God’s Word faithfully and consistently whether he feels spiritual or not. (2 Timothy 2:16-17; 4:2).

Another gift is “that of serving” which has a wide application within the local assembly. Whether it is taking care of the sick and the poor, or the spiritually weak, or operating in the gifts of the Spirit, or in ministry of every kind within the local assembly, it is to be done with a servant’s attitude of heart seeking the well-being of others before our own. This is only possible of course through the power of the Holy Spirit who has shed abroad in our hearts the love of God (Romans 5:5). We walk by faith and we love by faith because our faith is a faith that operates out of love and in line with the love of God as revealed in His Word the Bible. God then provides the strength we need to do this, because serving others and putting their interests before ours does not come easily especially concerning those who make it difficult for people to love them because of their inappropriate behaviour. All of us as New Covenant believers, if we are honest, have an innate tendency because of our sinful selfish nature towards pride and even arrogance or to be number one. This sin of pride coming from our fallen fleshly nature is sin we must continuously fight against with all of God’s strength.

True humility or meekness is the ability to operate in word or deed with the power of our human will under harness to the Spirit of God. Every believer regardless of their gifting and standing or status in the local assemblies is to practice humility (5:1-7). Whatever we say or do must always be done for the glory of God and to honour and to uplift Him before others. Only the power of the Lord Jesus can enable us to do this. Whether we pray, speak, serve or uses any spiritual gift we should always make sure that we are clear-minded and self-controlled. Our human spirit out of which flow the issues of life, is to be in subjection to the Spirit of God who is one with our spirit man. He must have control over every aspect of our lives, and it is only when we are filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit will the rivers of living water (the very life of God) flow out to others. Especially the blessed Holy Spirit must have control over our will and our tongue (1 Corinthians 14:32-33).

We need to always keep in mind that just as a rudder steers the direction of the boat, so likewise our tongue is the rudder that will control the direction our life will take. The secret is to have our will yielded to the will of the Holy Spirit and this is to be a continuous practice only possible by God’s enabling power, and as we walk in step with the Spirit by faith, He will lead us in all of the affairs of our daily live. As Rabbi the apostle Paul writes; “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

When we seek to live in the way Peter has instructed us in all things especially in what we say and do regarding public speaking and showing hospitality and in serving others God gets the praise and the glory because what we have done that is right before Him has been done by the power of the Messiah our Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus comes back may we be found faithfully administering God’s grace in all of its forms. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

 Go to Study No. 16