The End of All Things Is Near, So Be Ready
Section 5 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 4:7-11)
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
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.
The fifth section of the First Letter of Peter is not further broken down. It consists of a few things that demonstrate the back drop to Peter’s guidance. The first verse brings up an eschatological (answering questions regarding things to come) understanding, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” The apostles understood the idea of Christ’s return as happening soon. Those who accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the letters in the New Testament must then come to wonder about this. How can Peter say “The end of all things is near…” almost 2000 years ago, yet here we are? The apostles, when writing their letters, were guided by the Holy Spirit in their teaching and writings. This does not suggest that the Holy Spirit was incorrect or deceptive in its revelation and guidance to Peter. It does suggest that the writers, though guided by the Holy Spirit, were not entirely controlled by the Holy Spirit in what they wrote. They wrote what they could understand and convey of what the Holy Spirit was communicating to them. In addition to this point, just because we struggle with understanding the passage, does not mean the passage is incorrect, it just means there is something we are missing to place the statement in a context that allows us to understand it.
From here, Peter continues with a list of things that should be done because of this event that is to come. The first of these is “…be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” Sound judgment meaning to be ready to consider the things you experience and do so carefully and rationally. Being of Sober Spirit means that your spirit needs to be clear in your heart and mind. Together, this phrase “Be of Sound Judgment and Sober Spirit” can be understood as a whole figure of speech meaning to have your mind and your heart ready for something. Don’t let either one be distracted, don’t allow your mind to be content, and don’t let your spirit fade. The reason for this is given as “…for the purpose of prayer.” Throughout this letter, Peter has been giving guidance related to the reality that they have their reward stored in heaven as an inheritance that can not ever be taken away. They are to live according to Christ’s example and to expect to experience hardship because this results in a life style that stands in contrast to that of those from which they came. This is due to the way being one that draws out of the observer an understanding of their ways being wrong. How do we know these things? How do we understand how to act and what to do? We do this through prayer.
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Peter mentions this within what must be the context of an audience that understands the ideas of sin and what the result of sin is at the “end times.” Not only are we to be of sound judgment and sober spirit so that we can pray and hear God’s guidance and direction, but we are to love each other, because it covers a multitude of sins. When we seek to love one another, our sinful nature can be brought under control, and that of others. When we have in our hearts a love for our brothers and sisters, then our best intentions are put forward in caring for them. Though they may sin, our love for them will draw them back. It puts us in the proper heart-set (like mindset but of the heart) to receive the Holy Spirit and to give it to others. In this way, those who sin can feel their forgiveness as expressed through the love of others.
“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” During times where there is suffering and persecution, what reason is there to not be welcoming to our peers experiencing such things. The acts of sin that are used against another can be countered through our love of the one who survives the ordeal, and our willingness to bring them into our care. When we see those who are in need due to the hurt of sin, we must be able to welcome them without complaint, knowing in our heart that our love can heal that hurt, while complaint can aggravate it.
Peter then transitions into the subject of special gifts. “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” When the Lord gives us a special gift, it is not to be used for our own benefit. It is to be used in service of others. We are given the gift so that we can be good care-takers of it. That gift is God’s grace being given forth through us so that it may be a blessing to others, not to ourselves. Together, each with our own gifts from God, are caretakers of his “manifold” grace. A manifold generally being a point where something from a single source is brought to then be distributed to multiple outputs. Thus, the manifold of God’s grace is in the body of Christ, every believer in whom God has given the gift, so that it can be then distributed to the others. In this we must be good caretakers and stewards of it.
“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God;” If you have a gift for speaking to the benefit of others, speak as one whose words are those of God. Speak with love and compassion, but with authority and power. “whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies;” As we serve others, we must do so knowing that it is God who is giving us the means to do so. But why should we do these things? Why should we do them in these ways? “So that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
The world around us is filled with a great darkness. The light fades, not because it is being extinguished as though the enemy was winning. The light fades only because we aren’t moving in the direction of the darkness. Just as the light need not do anything but shine to squelch the darkness, so it is with us. As we go forth, in sound judgments and sober spirit, prayerfully with love for one another, being hospitable without complaint, speaking the truth and serving each other as representatives of God through Christ, His light will shine through us. It is one thing to call out the darkness where you see it, it is another to bring forth the light which replaces the darkness. Just as the intended recipients of this letter, in their own time, were surrounded by darkness, so too are we today. These directions are not just for them, but they are lasting guidance and direction from the apostle for all generations. Let us all go forth and follow through on these words.