1 Peter 4:7-11
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 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.
Our work is great; our time is short; the consequences of our labours are infinite. With a little re-ordering John Newton captures most of the teaching of this section as Peter draws his second part of his letter to a close. In his first part he dealt with how the true grace of God transformed the Christian and their understanding of the church (1:1-2:10). In this second part he has been dealing with how the true grace of God transforms the Christian and their understanding of the world (2:11-4:11).
So, in an attempt to stand on the shoulders of such giants as Newton and more importantly to summarise Peter’s conclusion here, let me ask you three short questions today. If only one of these were to strike a chord, that would probably be enough to be getting on with.
Firstly, could it be said of you that you really do believe the time in which we live is short? This is an important area for Peter. We are travelers passing through this world. The lives of all men are like grass. We’ve been born again not of perishable but of imperishable seed. Wives should not be focused on the external fads of fashion, but on the eternal beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Today Peter heightens it with the headline that the end of all things is at hand! And that jars with me, for I’m so busy with living I fail to take notice of this teaching! But it focuses the mind. Do you really live as though the time you have is short? And actually, if I were to keep this in focus, Peter says it should produce self-control and sober mindedness. God has a plan and knows how it will turn out. If I lived with this great reality more on my horizon I would pray, I would love and welcome and provide for the needs of others.
Secondly, could it be said about you that you really believe you are a privileged steward of God’s grace? It develops the theme we have just been looking at, but what a difference it might make, if I understood more and more that anything I have to offer is only because it is a gift that has been graciously given to me by God. It undermines pride, selfishness, partiality, and fear. If I’ve been given a gift, Peter says, make sure to use it, for our work indeed is great and the giver expects us to use what he has given in the service of others. Before a watching world, the life of the Christian is to be marked clearly by its other person centeredness.
Thirdly, could it be said of you that you really believe in the supremacy and sovereignty of our Saviour God? Everything else pails into insignificance if this is the actual foundation upon which you stand. To him alone belong all glory and dominion forever and ever. As you and I pass through this world, some will insult us, others will impress us, still others will seek to intimidate us. But if we are living our lives under the fatherly care of an Almighty and sovereign God, no one can ultimately touch us. He alone deserves our allegiance, our loyalty and our worship.
Our time indeed is short. So, let us make the most of it, while we can. Let us especially not neglect the reality of the end and live whole heartedly for God in the world, with this in view.
Our work indeed is great. We may often be maligned for it, as we refuse to go the way of the world, but it is the way of service and selflessness. We are walking in the footsteps of our Saviour.
The consequences of our labours are indeed infinite, so let us always seek to glorify God, regardless of what the world may say or do, for to him alone belong all glory and dominion forever and ever.
Almighty God, who called your Church to witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: Help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you, through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.