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1 Peter 4:1-11: The Treatment of the World and the Treatment of Believers Print E-mail
1 Peter
Sunday, 29 April 2007

In light of everything that has transpired in the last couple of weeks, I am somewhat tempted to spend this time differently this morning. My sinful pride wells up inside of me and yells, “You need to defend yourself and your beliefs. You need to use this time to serve that end.” Yet, the Lord keeps whispering to me: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Thus, even though I know that we are going through difficult times as a Church, all I know to do is to let the Lord heal, teach, encourage, and instruct, through His Word. The time that we have set aside to look at His Word will be best spent on exactly that. The hour is too sacred to spend on anything else. As always, if you need to speak with me about any of these other matters, then my door is open and I encourage you to do so. As for this morning, I am still convinced that the people of God need the Word of God. Thus, if you have your Bibles, look with me at 1 Peter 4:1-11.

In light of everything that has transpired in the last couple of weeks, I am somewhat tempted to spend this time differently this morning. My sinful pride wells up inside of me and yells, “You need to defend yourself and your beliefs. You need to use this time to serve that end.” Yet, the Lord keeps whispering to me: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Thus, even though I know that we are going through difficult times as a Church, all I know to do is to let the Lord heal, teach, encourage, and instruct, through His Word. The time that we have set aside to look at His Word will be best spent on exactly that. The hour is too sacred to spend on anything else. As always, if you need to speak with me about any of these other matters, then my door is open and I encourage you to do so. As for this morning, I am still convinced that the people of God need the Word of God. Thus, if you have your Bibles, look with me at 1 Peter 4:1-11.

As we have seen throughout this book, Peter moves between the relationship that believers have with the unbelieving world and the relationship that believers have with each other. This morning our text could be divided along those lines. Verses 1-6 deal with our relationship with the world, while verses 7-11 deal with our relationship with one another. We can approach the text with two questions: how will the world treat us and how should we treat one another? Let’s begin with the first question, namely how should we expect the world to treat us as believers?

The World will mock us for our Refusal to join with them in sin (v. 1-6).

It is not hard for us to see examples of this all around us. The world mocks us for spending our Sundays singing together and listening to some preacher try to explain a 2,000 year old book. The world mocks us for missing out on all their ‘fun,’ whether it be sex, drunkenness, parties, or whatever else. Yet, this is exactly how Peter says they will respond. After listing some of these sins in verse 3, he tells how the world will treat us in verse 4. Look at that verse with me. The world is surprised by our unwillingness to join them and Peter says that they will malign you, which refers to verbal mockery of our beliefs and convictions. Yet, how are we supposed to respond to such treatment? Peter answers…

First, we must be prepared to suffer in the flesh (v. 1-2). Look at verses 1-2 with me. Picking up on the argument from chapter 3, Peter tells his readers to be ready and willing to suffer like Christ. Christ suffered in the flesh on this earth and if we follow and obey Him, then we will suffer as well. Notice that our willingness to suffer will be evidence of our break with sin. The text does not mean that suffering will mean that we are perfect. Rather, the point is that you have to be very committed to something in order to be willing to suffer for it. Thus, our willingness to suffer in the flesh for Christ will visibly evidence our devotion to Him and our break with sin.

Second, building on our first response, we must put away former sins (v. 3). Look at verse 3 with me. Peter reminds his readers that they have wasted enough time on their sin. At one time they enjoyed the passing pleasure of sin, but now, even in the face of suffering, they must not spend any more time on such things. I was talking with a member this week who came to Christ in his twenties. One of the things that he talked about was the overwhelming grief he had for the time he had wasted. Probably many of you who were converted later in life understand this sentiment. Peter is simply saying to us all, ‘Why would you waste more time on your sin?’ I used to tell my youth: ‘I have never regretted obedience to the Lord, but I constantly wrestle with regret over sin.’ Peter reminds us that we have all spent sufficient time on our sin. Thus, we should spend the rest of our days in obedience to our Lord.

Third, as we have stated, we must expect mockery and remember the coming judgment (v. 4-6). Even though the world will mock us on the earth, they will not have the final say. Look again at verses 4-6. Peter reminds us that death is not the end. No, after death, we must all face the Judge. On that day, which Peter tells us is imminent, men will have to give an account, specifically, unbelievers will have to give an account for their treatment of believers. Thus, we can leave all retaliation and judgment to the Lord. As we have seen, we are not to be vindictive, but we are to trust the Lord even in suffering. As Peter goes on to say in verse 6, believers too will face the judgment of physical death, but through belief in the gospel they will ultimately be saved. Thus, when believers die, we rejoice that even though they have been judged in the flesh (physical death), they will live on in the spirit the way God does.

So, what about the second question? In these difficult last days (which began at Pentecost and will end when Christ returns), how are we to treat each other as believers?

Believers should love and serve each other with God’s gifts and His strength (v. 7-11).

As we said above, Peter now turns his attention to how we should treat each other in these last days. I think his exhortations can be broken into three commands.

First, we must pray soberly (v.7). Look at verse 7. The sense of this verse is that in light of the coming judgment and precisely because the end of all things is at hand, we need to be serious and knowledgeable in our prayers. We do not need to spend our time in prayer on mere trifles, like new cars and bigger homes. Rather, we need to pray with the end in mind. We need to labor in prayer for others that they might be prepared for the coming judgment. We need to pray for each other that we would persevere in the faith by God’s strength. With Paul, we need to pray for fruit in one another’s lives. Again, these are sober prayers in light of the coming Day. Thus, may we pray soberly.

Second, we must love constantly (v. 8-9). ‘Constantly’ is a difficult adverb is it not? Sure, I can love people when it is easy, you know, when they love me back, but surely I do not have to love people all the time. Not according to Peter. He continues to drive this point home to us. Look at verses 8-9. Notice that we are to keep loving one another earnestly. Again, another hard adverb. Peter sees this as most important among believers. We must do the hard work of loving each other not like the world loves (conveniently and inconsistently), but as the Bible teaches (earnestly and constantly). Such love will cover over a multitude of sins, not meaning that love atones for sin for Christ has taken care of that at the cross. Rather, as we are very aware, we will sin against each other at times. Yet, if we love one another, even when we are sinned against, we will go to the person in love and truly forgive them when they repent. In this way, our love for one another will cover a multitude of sins. Not only that, but our love for each other will also be practical. We will be hospitable to one another and take care of physical needs in the Body. Thus, may we love constantly.

Third, we must serve faithfully (v. 10-11). Look at verses 10-11. We must love each other practically and spiritually. Peter tells us that we must use our spiritual gifts to serve one another. God has gifted us all and we are to use such gifts to serve the Body. The gift(s) that we have were given for a purpose, namely to encourage the Body of Christ. We are not being faithful stewards if we are not serving one another with our gift(s). Thus, you need to identify your gift(s) with the help of the community and labor to use them in serving the Body here. Since every believer has been gifted by God, none of us are excluded from this charge. May we all labor to serve one another faithfully.

We see at the end of verse 11 that we are to do this in God’s strength that He might receive all the glory. We serve each other to bring God glory. We know that any true service that we can offer can only be done by God’s strength. Thus, by necessity, He gets all the glory in the Church. We exist as a Church for His glory. The gifts we have were given to us by Him and He supplies the strength we need to use them. Thus, may He receive all the praise and glory that are due His name in the Church.

As Peter continues to encourage and instruct these Churches that he is addressing in this letter, I continue to be amazed at the glorious privilege we have to be a part of God’s people. He tells us in this passage that we can expect to suffer in the flesh and suffer we will. But as he has done over and over again, he tells us that we are to suffer like Jesus did. Now granted any suffering is hard and difficult, but the suffering for the Christian has a purpose: it evidences our break with sin. Or you could say it this way, our suffering in the flesh like Christ did is simply making us more like Him. The world mocks us and persecutes us because they mocked and persecuted Him first. We are simply being transformed into His image from one degree of glory to the next. What a glorious privilege.

Yet, not only that, He has equipped and called us to continually love and serve each other as the Body of Christ. The mark of His people is love. Granted, this can be as difficult as suffering and persecution at times, but we do so in His strength. As we labor to love and serve each other, He is giving us the gift(s) and strength by which we labor. Oh what a glorious privilege indeed! And to bring it all together, Peter closes this passage by reminding us that all of this is done in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. Oh, Church, is not our hope and goal that the God who saved us by taking on flesh and dying on a cross would be glorified in all we do? Peter tells us that this is indeed what happens in the Bride as she labors to be faithful to Him. May God grant us grace this morning to do just that. Amen.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 06 May 2007 )

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