“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
One of my most vivid memories as a young child has to do with church and after church. I don’t know if this is a recollection of a single incident or of several incidents that occurred in so much the same way that they blend together in my mind as one, and that is perhaps why I remember so well; not because of any certain aspect of the incident, but because it was sort of ‘practiced’ in my church experience and therefore found its own groove in my gray matter.
In any case, I do remember it, at least in snapshots. It goes like this.
I have been misbehaving. I seem to remember taking something out of the offering plate as it passed in front of me and I see my mother’s white-gloved hand grabbing my wrist and making me let go.
I remember scribbling Zorro ‘Z’s all over the bulletin, and I must have been doing it with a flair that would have gained the approval of The Fox himself, because I remember the white-gloved hand coming down on my pencil hand in an indication that I was being too distracting.
Then I remember looking up at her face, seeing her put her finger to her lips in the universal sign to be quiet, and with a levity and cockiness that would have made Spanky proud responding with a loud, “Okey dokey!”
Now I might not have retained the memory of any of these things to this day except for what came next. I remember standing because everyone was standing, hearing the music that always marked the end of the worship service, seeing my dad stepping down from the platform to give the benediction, and knowing that the end of all things was at hand.
It was then that it registered in my mind that within just a few minutes I was going to be alone with my mother, and the tight purse of her lips told me that she had corporal punishment in mind.
If you think about it, wouldn’t you agree that we pretty much live our lives from one ending to another? The fulfillment of one thing to the next?
We grow up going to school, and each year we are working toward some series of fulfillments. Of the semester, of the school year, passing from elementary to junior high to high school and looking forward to the end, graduation. And the pattern continues in every area of our lives.
The point I want to make about it though, is that whatever the event or the change that we’re working toward or looking forward to, it is when we know the time is short and that long-awaited occurrence is just around the corner that everything intensifies and our thinking and our behavior becomes most sharply focused on being prepared for it.
THE END OF ALL THINGS (Vs 7a)
We needn’t speculate as to what Peter was making reference when he declared to his readers that the end of all things was at hand.
The conviction in the hearts and minds of the writers of the New Testament books that the return of Christ was imminent runs through their letters like a golden thread.
We’re barely to the middle of chapter four of this epistle and we’ve already seen four references to His coming; this in verse 7 being the fifth. Let’s look at the first four for the sake of reference.
“…who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
“…so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
If we did a comprehensive study of all the New Testament passages that talk about the rapture of the church and the return of Christ we would without question come away with a clear understanding that the underlying, under girding reason for what they wrote; the history, the exhortation, the encouragement, the instruction, the prophetic utterances, all of it, was that they absolutely believed that Jesus is coming back, and that His coming could very literally be at any moment.
Now the fools, the scoffers in our century, are saying the very thing that Peter, in his second letter, predicted that they would.
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:3-4
We’ll look at this more closely, of course, when we get to it in our study. But here is the fact. They are wrong in their assessment. All things have not continued just as they were from the beginning of creation. There was a flood! And all things will not continue to be the same; there will be fire!
Jesus said, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:37-39
They will not understand, until the fire comes and burns them with an intense heat! They will not believe in His promise to return, and it will come upon them suddenly when it is too late.
The New Testament writers, and the believers of the infant church, took Jesus at His word and looked for His imminent return and it shaped their entire lives. How much more then should we, who are not further removed from that promise but standing on the very brink of its fulfillment, be living and behaving and thinking with the intensity that comes with the culmination of a plan; the achievement of a goal; the advent of expected change?
Let me clarify a point and then we’ll move on. My story from my childhood folly in church was an imperfect illustration at best. At the end of that worship service I had nothing to look forward to but paying the Piper for my hour of fun.
But as those who are called the Bride of Christ, who have been washed in His blood and clothed in His righteousness and have the gift of the Holy Spirit as a pledge, as we see the end of all things drawing near we do not dread; we rejoice and look to the Eastern sky with eager anticipation.
THEREFORE BE HOLY (Vs 7b)
Being assured of these things then, being confident that all things prophesied will surely come to pass and that the Lord is coming soon, Peter says that our behavior should reflect our belief.
The primary evidence in us that we are convinced that the fulfillment is near should be a personal holiness.
He says, “…be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”
He has referenced in that sentence our mind and our spirit because both are necessary for effective praying, and praying is intimate communion with God.
When he says ‘sound judgment’, he is using a term that means to be in our right mind. Don’t let your thinking be distracted by the useless foolishness that the spirit of this world wants to inundate your life with. Don’t get carried away by the idiocy that drives the godless from one empty cause to another.
Let your minds be controlled by Christ and His Word so that your thinking will be guided to things of an eternal value.
Be of sober spirit. In other words, be aware of spiritual things. By that I do not mean to get into speculations about demons and angels. I mean be aware of the moving of the Holy Spirit in your life and in your scope of experience in this life. Be alert to what He is doing in other’s lives and His influence in world affairs.
A sound mind and spiritual alertness are necessary, as I said, for effectual praying; so that our praying is not just silly rambling, asking for deliverance from this and blessing over that, but praying that is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Who knows the mind and will of God.
Jude calls this ‘praying in the Holy Spirit’. (vs 20)
God’s Word calls us holy because He has made us holy in Christ. To the Ephesians Paul said that “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Eph 1:4)
By that Paul did not mean that God chose us so that we could strive to act holy, he meant that God chose us and in Christ raised us to a standing of holiness and blamelessness before Him.
So here in Peter’s epistle we see the formula for walking daily in a way that is in keeping with our spiritual standing before God; let our minds be renewed and transformed by focusing on scriptural truth and in spirit stay alert to His Spirit, and thereby be prepared for effective prayer and intimate communion with God.
This is so very important. It always has been, but even more in these days when the thinking of the people of this world is getting crazier and crazier; I don’t have to cite any news stories, you all see it too.
Just remember that Peter admonished us to be sound, sober and prayerful for the reason that the fulfillment of all things is at hand.
THEREFORE BE FERVENT:
IN LOVE (Vs 8-9)
Well, he called for soundness and sobriety of spirit and a prayerful walk of personal holiness, then he called for fervency.
You know I had to look that word up.
The Greek word means ‘stretched out’. The concordance gave the terms, ‘intent’, ‘assiduously’. So then I had to look up ‘assiduously’. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says, “marked by careful, unremitting attention or persistent application”.
So putting this all together we get a picture of someone stretching out intently, focused intensely, unwavering and undeterred from the task or goal at hand.
Peter says that since the culmination of all things is at hand, we as believers should be that focused and that intent in our love for one another.
Now that is not a passive kind of love. That kind of love is a verb. It is to be active, assiduously applied, deliberate and thoughtful.
Why? This is interesting. He says, ‘…because love covers a multitude of sins’.
James uses the same phrase in chapter 5 verse 20 of his letter.
What does that mean? That if I love fervently enough it’ll make up for a multitude of my sins? No, it does not.
Does it mean that if I demonstrate love strongly enough it will save me from my sins or save the object of my love from his sins? No, it does not.
Neither of those approaches could be supported by New Testament doctrine.
We’ll understand better if we are aware that the word Peter used for ‘love’ here is agape. A sacrificial, unselfish love that seeks nothing in return.
When Peter says that love covers a multitude of sins, he simply means that those who love in the way described overlook one another’s transgressions. Offenses fall by the wayside.
Think about it. Think about the Christians you know. We really have a lot more differences than we have in common. In many cases the only thing we have in common with some Christians is the fact that we’re Christians. But that is the most important thing, because the fervent application of agape love makes being fellow believers the only really important thing, and when we understand the wonderful grace of God with which He has graced us, that enables us to overlook differences and even offenses and apply that same grace to one another.
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples…” said Jesus, “…if you have love for one another”. John 13:35
And yes, He used the word agape.
IN SERVICE (Vs 10-11a)
Well we are to be fervent in love and also in service for God and for one another. Doesn’t it follow that if love is a verb it must manifest in service? How else could it be demonstrated?
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” James 2:14-16
Now in verse 9 Peter said to be hospitable, and that word means just what it says; generous, gracious to guests. But I want you to notice that in verse 10 he indicates that true hospitality among the brethren, true service, is in the exercise of the gifts that God has given to us.
This would be a reference to the personality gifts listed in Romans 12, and the spiritual gifts listed in 2 Corinthians 12.
So I guess if those who say the gifts were for the early church only and went out with the death of the Apostles are right, then that lets us off the hook for obeying 1 Peter 4:10. Right?
Oh, I know they would argue that some of the gifts remain and some do not, and some mean a different thing than they did then. But there is no Biblical strength for those arguments.
They say it because they have to defend their pet doctrines that they’ve always held to because they believed the people who taught it to them and the beat goes on.
Listen to William R. Newell from his Commentary on Romans 12.
“It will not do to say, if we find ourselves not in possession of certain gifts, ‘They are not for us; they belonged only to the ‘Early Church’. This is a three-fold presumption! (1) It is excusing our own low state; and worse: (2) It is blaming the result of the failure of the Church upon God, - an awful thing! (3) It is setting up the present man-dependant, man-sufficient state of things as superior to the days when the Holy Spirit of God was known in power.” ROMANS Verse by Verse, William R. Newell, Moody, 1938
Now I’ve gotten in some trouble in the past by making a certain assertion that was called a cop-out. But it is not a cop-out, I say it with conviction and following a great deal of contemplation.
I am perfectly willing to let God be God. I will not box Him in by declaring what He will do or will not do, except in the cases where the Bible itself says He will or will not do something. I believe God is God and He can use any method He chooses to reveal Himself and His purpose; he can use any people He chooses to work out His plan and purpose; it is not for man to say that the thing which is outside of his own experience does not exist solely because it is beyond his understanding. Outrageous arrogance!
Now it might be argued also that Peter, in our text, only mentions speaking gifts and serving gifts and he doesn’t give the complete list. But the gifts of Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 all fall ultimately under those two categories. They have to do with gifts given to us by God’s grace, for the purpose of service to Himself and to men.
Before we pass on from here notice that Peter, in the middle of verse 11, says that we are to exercise these gifts, serve God and one another with these gifts, ‘by the strength that God supplies’.
Doesn’t that pretty much take away all of our excuses for lack of service or for quitting when service becomes tedious or inconvenient?
“I can’t because…” Uh, uh…
God, by His grace (Romans 12:6), has given each one gifts for service, and by His mercy and grace He supplies the strength to use them.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”
Hebrews 12:3 “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Galatians 6:9-10 “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
ALL FOR THE GLORY OF GOD (Vs 11b)
And here is the ‘why’ of it all. “…so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Christians, the chief end of man, the first and primary purpose of man, is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
In all these things Peter has said in these verses; all these admonitions toward holiness and service to God and the brethren, the over arching theme is glory to God.
Why does He get the glory? Well, if you lift the rug and look under the surface of our text verses, you see that God is the controller and the supplier and enabler of it all.
It is He who reveals Himself by the Spirit and the Word for the sake of our right-mindedness and proper and effectual prayer. It is His own agape love which He pours out on us and in us to be manifest through us. It is by His grace that we have received gifts for service to Him and to men, especially those of the household of the faith, and it is by the strength that He supplies that we exercise them according to His will.
It is all about Him, it is all from Him, it is all by Him, and it is all for Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Can you feel it? Can you sense the intensity? Can you almost physically hear in the voice of Peter his conviction of the imminent return of Christ and the necessity therefore to let that conviction change and guide our thinking and our behavior and our priorities?
Christians, the end of all things is at hand. Break out of the drip, drip, drip, routine of this worldly life. Jesus will shout at any moment and we will, in the twinkling of an eye, leave all of this behind to meet Him in the air, where He went when His feet left the Mount of Olives one day in history.
When He calls, let the things that fall from our hands as we leave be the tools He has given us to employ as ‘good stewards of the manifold grace of God.’