Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE END IS AT HAND (1 Peter Chapter 4)

1 Peter 4:7-11, “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.”

“The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7).  So said the Apostle Peter.  Some have supposed him mistaken in light of the fact that it has been nearly two thousand years since he spoke of such things.  But he was speaking of the imminence of Christ’s return, not its immediacy.  Christ’s return is imminent, it could happen at any time.  John MacArthur has commented on this matter: “A natural reading of the New Testament yields the truth that to the early church Jesus’ coming was imminent; that is, that it could happen at any time. They believed that He could come back for them in their lifetime. For the early church, imminence contained elements both of certainty and uncertainty. They were certain that Jesus would one day return, but (unlike numerous modern date setters) were uncertain when. Not knowing when He might return, they wisely lived prepared for and hoping for Jesus to return at any moment.”

There are many who are even now preparing for some kind of future doomsday.  They build shelters and stockpile supplies, but their motivation does not arise from a spiritual concern.  Peter’s instructions speak to the spiritual and moral imperatives that should govern the lives of God’s children in light of the reality of Christ’s imminent return. 

The imminence of Christ’s return challenges us to be “self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).  We are to “continue steadfastly in prayer,” but mundane affairs and countless distractions work against our resolve and devotion (Cf. Colossians 4:2).  Our thoughts and behavior need to be as those awake to the reality of Christ’s imminent return (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8).

In view of the imminence of Christ’s return we are to fervently love one another.  This is something we are to do “above all” (1 Peter 4:8).  Peter had previously written of the need to love one another in this manner (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22).  This kind of sincere and earnest love for one another is to characterize the lives of Christ’s followers (Cf. John 13:34-35).

There is also the need to show hospitality.  The Greek word translated “hospitality” means literally to be “friendly to strangers.”  Hospitality involves more than entertaining guests and is especially called for in times of need or persecution (Cf. Acts 2:45; Matthew 26:35-40).  The recent persecution of believers in Iraq—when thousands were forced to flee from their homes—is a good example of a kind of situation in which showing hospitality proves necessary.

The imminence of Christ’s return motivates us to fully utilize our spiritual gifts.  Every believer in Christ has received a gift.  Whereas the Apostle Paul lists various gifts (Cf. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 27-30; Ephesians 4:11), Peter speaks of two broad categories--serving gifts and speaking gifts.  “As good stewards of God’s varied grace,” believers are to use their gifts “to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10).  Those serving are to serve “by the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11).  Those speaking are to speak as “one who speaks the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).  Gifts are to be used for the common good (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7), to the building up of the body (Cf. Ephesians 4:12), and to the glory of God (Cf. 1 Peter 4:11).

J. Vernon McGee spoke of the need to live our lives according to the earnest expectation of Christ’s imminent return, “Today we see a lot of careless, slipshod living, but also a great emphasis on prophecy. I hear people say, ‘Oh, I’m waiting for the Lord to come!’ Brother, my question is not whether you are looking for the Lord to come, but how are you living down here? How you live down here determines whether or not you are really looking for the Lord to come.”  We don’t know when Christ is returning, but we know that His return in imminent.  In view of His imminent return we need to pray earnestly, love fervently, care purposefully, and serve wholeheartedly.

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