Working at the End
1 Peter 4:7-11
In our reading of the New Testament we will find that the motivation to work for today and to keep up laboring in the vineyard is often found in the expectation of Christ's return at any moment. Peter expresses this motivation well in 2 Peter 3:11-18:
Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Peter here urges us to live in a holy and godly manner since so great a destruction is on the horizon. He tells us further that we ought to be steadfast in the faith and remain pure so that we may be found righteous and holy on that day.
These thoughts are very good; are there, however, other activities for Christians to keep in mind owing to the nearness of the end? Certainly! Peter tells us further about the actions that befit a Christian living in these times. Let us now read this text, 1 Peter 4:7-11, and then examine what Peter has said:
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer: above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins: using hospitality one to another without murmuring: according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; is any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Let us begin with verse 7:
"But the end of all things is at hand." Peter here is making a declarative statement which is made evident in his and Paul's writings: Christ will return, and will do so soon. This is an ever-present concern that ought to be held by all men. "...Be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer." Peter here begins to make some conclusions on the basis of the previous declarative statement: "therefore, do these things." We are told first to be of a sound mind, an idea seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8: But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night: and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Paul relates to us that Christians are to be of the day, and to set aside the works of the darkness. Christians must always be alert, at any moment ready for the Lord's return! There is no room for slackening off while we walk upon this earth.
Peter continues his thought with "be sober unto prayer." Why would we be sober unto prayer? Prayer is seen as our avenue of communication with God (Matthew 6:4), and if we are going to approach the Almighty God and petition Him with our concerns and cares, we had better be in a proper frame of mind to do so! Prayer must always become a greater and greater part of our lives, especially as we see time continuing on to its inevitable close.
And now, verses 8 and 9: "above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins." Peter here gives the ultimate priority for the Christian in the end times: fervent in love among yourselves. This same point is emphasized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, and John speaks in 1 John 4:7-8: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Love, therefore, must be an integral part of the life of the Christian, and what better power of witness is there than to demonstrate such great love for one another? Christians ought to be people known by and peculiar because of their great love, not only for themselves, but for all men!
Peter also mentions that love covers a multitude of sins, a thought reminiscent of James 5:20, where we learn that helping to restore a fallen brother to the faith covers a multitude of sins. Our love for one another will find great approval in the eyes of our Father, and He will reward us in kind.
"...Using hospitality one to another without murmuring." Why would Peter ever discuss hospitality in a discussion of the end times? We may look at the world around us and see why -- hospitality is lost on many. This should not be so for the Christian! Paul, in Romans 12:13, says that the Christian should be "given to hospitality." Being hospitable is required of elders (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8), and is one of the requirements a widow would have to meet to be placed on the "list" (1 Timothy 5:10). The Hebrew author tells us in Hebrews 13:2:
Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Christians are to be hospitable people-- this is one impression that can be left on an unbeliever or a member of a denomination that will not be easily dismissed. We must be given to hospitality even more now that the day is approaching, so that the love of Christ may be manifest even more as the wickedness of the world may increase.
Peter further commands us to be hospitable "without murmuring," or, in more understandable English, "without complaint." If you, as a Christian, cannot stand to be hospitable to people on Earth, what are you going to do when you spend eternity with these people? If you believe that it is simply "too much work" to be hospitable, what would you do if the Father considered it "too much work" to prepare a place in Heaven for you (Matthew 25:34)? What if the angels of the Lord desired to be in your presence? Then what would you say? Hospitality may not be easy, but it is commanded of us for our own good, to make sure that we are continually edified and encouraged so that we may resist the evil one.
Verse 10: "according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves." Have we all received some form of a gift? Absolutely! As Paul says in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11: And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.
Even though some of the gifts listed above are no longer dispensed to Christians, we certainly all may find in these lists some gifts that God has given us. What are we to do with these gifts? Use them! We have been commanded to use them for the benefit of the whole body, so that all may receive the edification and the encouragement they need to fight off evil and remain righteous. It is a terrible thing to allow the gifts of God to waste away! "...As good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Jesus relates to us a parable in Matthew 24:45-51 about the good servant and the wicked servant and their respective rewards. We must work diligently to be found as one of the servants who treated his master's property well, having received so great a salvation at so great a cost. We must not be found lacking in our stewardship of the works of God!
Finally, let us examine verse 11: "...If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God." We read in the Old Testament concerning the men of God who spoke to Israel and the importance of the transmission of the message of which they were given. False prophets speaking falsely were sharply condemned for leading people astray. Although the office of prophet is no longer filled in these times, the importance of the transmission of the message of God-- the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ-- is great indeed. Those of the body who speak must be diligent to confirm that what they say is truly the will of God, knowing that he is speaking as the oracles of God. It would be a most fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God if you had claimed to be speaking His truth but had actually led many astray. Let us give heed to ourselves and our teachings! "...is any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth." Jesus relates to us the following in John 13:12-16:
So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me, Teacher, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him.
Jesus commissioned His disciples to serve others. His life is an example of servitude; perhaps no Scripture emphasizes this as well as Philippians 2:5-9. If Christ completely emptied Himself and suffered humiliation on our behalf and thus served us, should we not ourselves serve others? And since God demonstrated amply through the Son that he who serves is greatest, does He not supply the strength needed for men to serve?
We live in a world where everyone not only desires but even expects to be served, and there seems to be little room for the servant. We must decry this trend by emptying ourselves and becoming lowly servants of God, doing whatever whenever we can to serve our God and to assist all men in discovering the truth about Jesus Christ. Service is the only way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Peter concludes this portion of his message to us with the following: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Our ultimate aim in all that we do is to glorify God and the Lord Jesus Christ, for the power and the glory lie only with them. We have no power to save, nor do we have the power to sacrifice ourselves for the sins of others. We have all sinned, and we have all required the sacrifice performed on our behalf.
As the end nears, let us be diligent in applying ourselves to the message of the Gospel, to love, be hospitable, to exercise our abilities and to minister to others. Let us do all of these things to glorify our God who has saved us from all unrighteousness. Let us strive for these things while there is still time to do so in order to be found as the profitable servant who has guarded the house of the Master well!
By Ethan R. Longhenry
From Expository Files 12.8; August 2005