Living in the Light of the End of All Things (3)
We’ve been looking at our responsibilities in view of the fact that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 3:7a). We’ve come to the third and fourth of Peter’s exhortations. Continue reading . . .
We’ve been looking at our responsibilities in view of the fact that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 3:7a). We’ve come to the third and fourth of Peter’s exhortations. Here again is how the Apostle put it:
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each 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” (1 Peter 4.7-11).
(3) Our third responsibility, in view of the impending end of all things, is to graciously and generously host one another. Peter here calls for happy hospitality (v. 9).
It’s really quite shocking to discover how important hospitality is in the NT and how essential it is to defining those who are truly followers of Jesus! Hospitality is one of the defining marks of the Christian church (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:8). And who can possibly forget Hebrews 13:2 - Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Indeed, loving, heart-felt hospitality is one of the clear signs or indications of true, saving faith: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
It was especially important in the first century when public lodging could not be afforded or was not available. There was not a Motel 6 or Hampton Inn on every corner! The Christian mission depended on believers providing lodging and food and finances for those traveling with the gospel (Mt. 10:11,40; Acts 16:15; 3 John 7-11).
I call it “happy” hospitality because of Peter’s qualifying phrase, “without grumbling” (v. 9b). Hospitality is hard. People can take advantage of you (they stay too long; “are they ever going to leave?” and exploit your generosity). It is easy to begrudge your charity to others.
But let’s get specific and connect v. 8 with v. 9. Grumbling about what? Maybe about the time and effort it takes to fix a meal or clean the house or put things back together after your guests wrecked the place! John Piper believes that Peter means grumbling about people, and I concur. Love covers over sins. Let hospitality be without grumbling. Love says, "I'm just going to cover the things about which I could complain and grumble."
Or could the grumbling be ultimately against God for having so ordered or arranged our lives that we are tired and worn out and running short of money because of the needs of those we are hosting?
Stress can intensify. Patience grows thin. Irritation begins to spread throughout your soul. Resentment begins to well up from within. The ingratitude of those for whom you have sacrificed so much starts to eat away at your spirit. Clearly, a lot of sins need to be covered. Do it!
What are your plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Before you quickly respond by saying, “But that’s a family affair! That’s for our immediate blood relationships,” let me ask you to expand your hearts and realize that your spiritual family is of greater importance still. There are young people and middle-aged people and old people in your local church who will spend Thanksgiving and Christmas all alone. God forbid!
(4) Our fourth and final responsibility, in view of the impending end of all things, is to use our spiritual gifts to serve one another. Peter here calls for grace-empowered, Christ-centered service (vv. 10-11a).
Let me mention several things about spiritual gifts:
First, they are undeserved expressions of divine favor, of his “varied grace”!
Second, every Christian has at least one (“as each” – v. 10a); no Christian has them all (1 Cor. 12). Spiritual gifts forever shatter the myth that there are two kinds of Christians: those who minister and serve and those who are served and ministered to; those who have spiritual gifts and those who don’t. All have at least one gift and all of us are to minister and serve.
No Christian can refuse to contribute to the life of the body of Christ without quenching the Holy Spirit! There is no such thing as passive membership in the body of Christ! To belong to the body of Christ is to have a function; it is to have a ministry. You may choose to sit back and do nothing, but if you do you are sinning!
No one can claim to be an exception to this, perhaps by insisting that he/she has been taken up into some heightened personal flight of spiritual fancy outside and beyond the community of faith. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5).
Third, they are always “other-oriented” and designed to build up the body (1 Cor. 7:7-10).
Fourth, spiritual gifts are a trust (we are called “good stewards”); i.e., they are less a privilege and more a responsibility. 1 Cor. 12:11. In a very real sense, then, my gift is not really mine. It is only entrusted to me for the sake of others.
Fifth, although there is only one giver, God, there is a variety of differing gifts. There are five separate and different listings of gifts; no one gift is on every list and no list includes all the gifts.
Sixth, gifts are divided by Peter into two kinds: speaking and serving. Speaking gifts include teaching, prophecy, apostleship, tongues, interpretation of tongues, exhortation, word of knowledge, word of wisdom; while serving gifts include giving, leading, administration, mercy, helps, healing, miracles.
Some of you have only one speaking gift; some have only one serving gift. Some have several speaking gifts. Some have several serving gifts. Some have both several speaking gifts and serving gifts. But no one has no gift!
Seventh, all gifts, regardless of whether they are speaking or serving, are empowered by God’s strength, not our own (1 Cor. 12:7-11). This is why this incredible paragraph concludes with a doxology: “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Everything the Christian man or woman does, if it is to be virtuous and glorifying to God, must be done conscious of the fact that God is the one who supplies the strength for everything, God is the one who empowers every deed, God is the one who stirs our spirits and moves our wills and sustains our good intentions and inflames our affections.
Peter’s reference to “serving” here cannot be restricted to only a few spiritual gifts. All service is carried out by the power that God supplies. That means that the prayer which Peter commanded in v. 7 is undertaken in the strength that God supplies. And the love that we feel for others is expressed in the strength that God supplies. And the hospitality we show to one another is awakened and sustained by the strength that God supplies. And the exercise of all spiritual gifts finds its source in the strength that God supplies.
It’s critical that we know this so that when someone hears you praying or sees you loving or is the recipient of your hospitality or benefits from the use of your spiritual gift they will instinctively give God the glory rather than you (look again at v. 11b – “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ!”).
“Oh my, how those people do pray. Thank you God! Wow! They certainly know how to love one another. Thank you God! My, my, their hospitality is so joyful and devoid of grumbling. Thank you God! I was so blessed by that teaching and that word of encouragement and that financial gift. Thank you God!”
So, if I may again use the words of Peter from his second epistle, chapter three: what sort of person are you going to be as you patiently await the end of all things (2 Peter 3:11-12)?