Gospel Living At the End of All Things
Topic: Gospel Living Passage: 1 Peter 4:7–4:11
Remember the first verse in this entire book, Peter tells us who he is writing to: elect exiles (1:1). As exiles, Peter is pushes us to live in a radical way here on earth now. He does this by constantly weaving two themes throughout the book of 1 Peter: suffering and Christ’s return. And these two themes serve to give us a certain homesickness, reminding us of our exile status in this world. We won’t be addressing suffering today, but it is in the context clearly. However, there is a clear connection to the return of Christ. Verse 7 says,
The end of all things is at hand [near]…
Now, either Peter is confused or there is something more to this phrase than meets the eye. I think Peter is referring to the entire period of time between the resurrection and the second coming of Christ is seen as the “last days”. So, for instance, when Peter quotes the prophet Joel in Acts 2:16-17 saying, “In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” he was saying that in the days in which we live – until the second coming of Christ – the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh.
But Peter’s purpose is more than just giving us a chronology of the period of time in which we live. I believe Peter, along with the rest of the NT authors, lived with a firm conviction that the consummation (completion) of all things was approaching. And this gave them a certain urgency in living.
Children, it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)
Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8)
The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5)
Peter’s purpose is not to help us predict the events leading to the end of the world or to whip us into an end time frenzy. His agenda is to promote and inspire present faithfulness in gospel living. Peter wants us to maintain and live out our identity as exiles – as strangers, foreigners, sojourners in the world.
So how should exiles live faithfully in light of the eminent return of Christ? What does this kind of urgent faithfulness in the present look like? Peter gives us four strategies for living out the gospel. And I want to contend that each strategy Peter gives us is meant to be worked out together.
Sober and Serious Prayer
The first strategy Peter gives us to live as exiles longing for King Jesus to come is to be “self-controlled and sober-minded” so that we can pray effectively. Here’s what Peter says,
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7)
To be self-controlled is to be in your right mind. It literally means to curb your passions – passions being emotional impulses. And be sober-minded. The opposite of being sober is to be drunk. Being drunk means to be intoxicated and under the influence of something else – either of alcohol or something else. In the case of our text, I think Peter is saying, “be sober, don’t be intoxicated by this present age – because the end of all things is at hand; Jesus is coming soon.” If you have ever interacted with someone who is drunk, one thing is clear. It is hard to connect them with reality. And so Peter is saying, don’t be inebriated with the world – be sober. Don’t be carried away by every emotional impulse. Be self-controlled. Remember, it is for the purpose of prayer. There are certain attitudes and mindsets which are out of step with prayer.
Think soberly about what prayer is – the drawing near to God almighty (us little people!!) and laying out before him our requests! Think soberly about this present world we live in – with all its evil, brokenness, heartache, and pain – and pray. Think soberly about the imminent return of Jesus Christ, impending judgment, and you being gathered to him very soon and pray! And I think it is easy to see why praying together is so important. If I am a drunk, as long as I am also a hermit, nobody knows and I may be content living outside of reality. Whenever I pray with others – whether one or twenty other people – I almost always find myself more grounded and thinking more clearly. So, the end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be sober and serious for the sake of prayer.
The second strategy for living as exiles is passionate love for one another. Verse 8 says,
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sin. (1 Peter 4:8)
Peter says, “Above all...” In other words this is most important! He says, “here is what is most important.” Love one another – not moderately, but with great passion. I love how the NASB puts it: “Keep fervent in your love for one another.” The word fervent gives the idea of being “stretched out.” Be stretched in your love for one another. Don’t love a little, love all the way. Now Peter doesn’t leave us wondering what this looks like or how this love works itself out. This kind of love doesn’t remain abstract or nebulous. He brings it down to the ground level so we all understand what this means. Here is what it looks like – “covering sins.” Love fervently because love covers a whole bunch of sins. I think this means a couple of things.
First, in 1 Corinthians 13 it says “love does not “keep a record of wrongs.” What does love do instead? It covers them. How many sins? How often do I cover them? A multitude. You never stop. Are you a record-keeper of those who have wronged you? It doesn’t mean you can’t address someone who has wronged you, but the old man is a master CPA in this area. Stop doing that! Love instead. Cancel the debt. There is another way in which love covers sins. James 5:19-20 uses a phrase almost just like Peter:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Love doesn’t let people go on in their sins without seeking to bring them back to the truth. And this love covers a multitude of sins. Is there someone in your life who has wandered into sin so far that you are done with them? Don’t be. Love them. What does it say when we are unloving, harsh, and hold a grudge? What does it say when we keep a record of sins? What does it say when we write someone off when they have wandered away. That we need to believe the gospel more deeply.
When the gospel goes deeper into our heart, we will love. We will love all the way down to the bottom of our toes. We won’t hold anything back – we will be stretched beyond our capability, in the power of the Holy Spirit to love. We will love massively – covering a multitude of sins even at our own cost.
Psalm 130 says, “if you O Lord kept a record of sin, who O Lord could stand?” The answer is nobody. Psalm 103 says, however, that God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. Such that, as Hebrews tells us, “he remembers them no more.” What did he do with them? They were laid on Christ. 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…” What was God’s motivation? Love. 1 John 4:10, “IN this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be a propitiation for our sins.” The blood of Jesus was spilled to cover all our sins. They are nowhere to be found. God’s love could find no higher expression. His heart could be opened no wider than this. He could go to no greater lengths to show it. We will never plumb the depths of it.
Octavius Winslow expresses God's love this way:
The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God. It was the out gushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved and panted and longed for an outlet. it was God showing how he could love the poor, guilty sinner. What more could he have done than this?
The end of all things is at hand. So above all you do, love one another by covering their sins.
Happy and Sincere Hospitality
The third strategy for living in this age in view of the end of all things is to show happy and sincere hospitality. Verse 9 says,
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
To show hospitality means more than hosting a dinner every once in a while. It is a lifestyle of openness and generosity toward others. Hospitality is to be extended to all people, not just those like us. In fact, the word translated hospitality is made up of two words: “to be friendly” and “stranger”. In other words, it means being friendly to those who are different. Finally, hospitality implies meeting the needs of others at my own expense. The early church showed breathtaking hospitality when they sold properties to supply for those who had need (Acts 4:32-37).
Peter gives an important qualification. Do it without grumbling. The word implies a secret murmuring or secret displeasure. Show generosity without secretly complaining. There is a way of being generous outwardly which is more about being seen as generous and hospitable than actually being generous and hospitable. Care a million times more about actually being hospitable than merely looking like you are. And hospitality is especially important as we live “at the end of all things,” when hardship and difficulties increase, our togetherness and generosity with one another is increasingly important. Hebrews 10 says, “Encourage one another and even more as you see the day approaching.”
When Christians aren’t hospitable in this way, there is a big problem. We lie about God. We give the impression God is stingy with his resources and time. We give the impression God saves and loves us because he is compelled to from something external to himself. We need to have the gospel go deeper. The gospel says that God did not spare even his own Son from us – how generous! He gave his Son, in infinite grace, to bring strangers and foreigners into his family – what hospitality is that! And he didn’t do it because he had to. He did it because his heart is overflowing with happy generosity for the undeserving. The end of all things is at hand. Show happy hospitality to one another.
Use Your Gifts to Minister to One Another
The fourth strategy for living as an exile at the end of all things is to use your gift to minister to one another.
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace; whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
I love the assumption made here. As each one has received a gift. If you belong to Christ and the Spirit is in you. You have received a gift. What should you do? Use it. Look for opportunities. What are these gifts? They are manifestations of the Holy Spirit whereby God’s grace flows through you to others. Each person is a steward or a manager with a responsibility. What are we managers of? God’s grace. This is amazing! Each one has received a grace gift and is to give the gift away to others generously.
Now this is to be done in a certain way so that it points to God and doesn’t reach a dead end on us. “Whoever speaks…” If you have a speaking gift – teaching (if you teach Sunday school, bible study), the gift of prophecy, a word of encouragement, etc. speak the utterances of God. Seek to speak the words of God, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit and in step with the truth of Scripture. Whoever serves should serve in the lively faith that as we serve, God is supplying the strength right now. Act the miracle. When we do this, our gifts are not used to show how clever we are or how sacrificial we are, but how wise, powerful, and gracious Jesus is.
The end of all things is at hand. So minister the gift you have received for the good of one another.
What happens if we as a church lived out this reality to the fullest that the Spirit enabled us to? God will be magnified, the people of God will be blessed beyond measure, and it will be a witness to those who don’t yet know this King who is coming soon.
The end of all things is at hand. Be self-controlled and sober for the sake of prayer. Love to the point of covering a multitude of sins. Be happy and sincere in your hospitality. And use your gifts for the benefit of others for the glory of God.