1 Peter 4:7-11, "Living at the End of the Age"
They stand there in all their youthful glory with stars in their eyes, she in a beautiful white gown that cost a month’s wages or more, he in a dark suit gazing at the young woman who is about to become his bride.
I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death separates us.
I said to Lloyd Howard whose wife lingers in the nursing home, not knowing him, “You didn’t know when you married Esther that this is what was included in those vows, did you?”
But this was included and Lloyd like many others has accepted that reality and lives out faithfully the vows that he took so long ago.
Of course this is not all that was included. The many good years, the children born and raised, including grandchildren were included also.
At the moment of marriage, none of us could anticipate what would be included, but we took those vows with a fixed purpose that we would be faithful unto the end.
The end was included in the beginning, whether it were a matter of a few years or many.
And that is exactly what we see in 1 Peter 4:7 “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Peter has been faithfully serving the Lord according to Christ’s command and now he is approaching the end of his life. The fall of Jerusalem predicted by the Lord Jesus which would take place in 70 A.D., is probably just a few years away since it is thought that Peter probably wrote this letter in 62 0r 63 A.D. He has written much about suffering in order to strengthen the believers.
As my study Bible says, “Those who persevere in faith while suffering persecution should be full of hope, for they will certainly enjoy end-time salvation since they are already enjoying God’s saving promises here and now through the death and resurrection of Christ.” ESV p. 2401
“When Peter says, the end of all things is at hand, it does niot mean that Peter was expecting Christ to return in a few weeks or months. It means, rather, that the major events in God’s great salvation plan- the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost had already occurred. Therefore, Christ’s return could happen at any time; it was “at hand” in Peter’s day, and it still is today.” ESV p. 2411
In actual reality, the time since Peter spke those words is not that long ago. 2000 years: 20 centuries and both Harry Little and Percy Howard have lived through 1/20th of that time.
Every one of us will bear witness to how fast time passes. Our years which are but as an hand’s breadth, pass away like a tale that is told, and are but as a vapour which appears for a while, and then vanishes away.
When Peter wrote, this was true with regard to the Jews, the end of their church and civil state was near at hand, of their sacrifices, temple, city, and nation; this may be said to be at hand in the apostle’s time, though so long ago, because that was the last time, and the last dispensation of things; and whereas they knew not the exact time when it would be, they frequently spoke of it as near, in order to stir up the saints to the more diligent discharge of duty, and fervent exercise of grace, as here:
It is the same sense of anticipation as the vows that young couple exchange: the beginning takes in and anticipates all that shall come until the actual end of their lives., just as Peter’s words include all that will come until the actual return of Christ.
- What Peter is seeking to get across is how Christians should live during this extended period of time.
- The first change is a new awareness of the solemnity of life. “The end of all things is at hand.” v. 7
But you see, the believers knew that they stood in the shadow of eternity. They knew that the Lord Jesus said, “Behold I come quickly” “I am coming back soon”, and they believed Him. Yes and Christians all down through these 2,000 years have lived with this expectation. Every generation has looked at the pages of scripture and said, “It could be today!”
And that awareness of Christ’s return has led believers to take life seriously. It has been a wonderful incentive to service. There has been the constant realization that “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
“Therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”
When I went to Seminary, I was already married, and had been a teacher for a number of years. So I was a little older than many of the students, I knew why I was in Seminary, I knew my wife was having to teach school to make it possible for me to be there, and I felt very blessed to have the privilege of studying for the ministry.
Well, when I arrived there were 3 fellows who were great friends just a year ahead of me, and they were the most awful goofballs. The names of that terrible trio were Jack Hannah, John Greb, and Ian Bowie. And they were always clowning around. I had a hard time appreciating them. I wondered why they didn’t realize the seriousness of the Christian life, and of the ministry they were preparing for.
A few years ago, my wife and I attended the Memorial service of Ian Bowie. Jack Hannah gave a testimonial, and John Greb gave the message. And we were blessed! These fellows have gone on to do outstanding service for Jesus Christ. They have lived up to their gifting, and they have achieved great things in the service of Jesus.
You see, their love of fun did not stop them from being serious about serving Jesus!
Watch unto prayer. Prayer is the Christian soul breathing out its praises and its petitions unto God. Every Christian needs to be serious about prayer. There are so many distractions to keep us from prayer, that we have to make prayer a serious commitment, both personally, and corporately.
- The second change is a new love for your fellow Christians.
“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” v. 8
What this calls for is that we have God’s love for our fellow believers, especially those ones we know. You know. Dear ones, we can use many excuses for not loving some Christians, but I wonder how many of our reasons will stand up in God’s sight. Here we are urged that love will cover a multitude of sins. It will lead us to forgive the real or perceived wrongs of others in light of our understanding of how often we ourselves have fallen short and been forgiven by God.
- The third change is a new degree of selflessness toward others.
“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” v. 9
In New Testament times, there were not the hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts etc. which we enjoy today, and so believers needed to open their homes to other Christians who were in need or travelling. And they were to do it without grumbling. This suggests that they probably found it to be an inconvenience then, too. Grumbling would indicate the surfacing of the old self centredness which they were to overcome.
How would this play itself out today? It is a call to selfless service to others, especially those who are Christians. If it is the opportunity to use our homes, or our cars, or our other possessions, then we are called upon to do so with joy and with thanksgiving to God.
- And again, there is a call to use our gifts in the service of God and of the church.
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
It is the teaching of the scripture that every Christian has received some special gift or gifts from God. In this passage, all of the gifts are reduced to two main areas: gifts of speaking and gifts of service.
These may grow directly out of out natural abilities and talents or these may involve new gifting which we have received at the point where we trusted Christ. The Lord knows all about you. He knows your entire makeup. He knows the plans He has for you, and He desires to use you in His service.
Therefore there is no excuse. No one can plead that there is nothing he or she can do. Our friend Del Groves from Kamloops uses her gifts of cooking and of her love of crafts to bless the church family and she gets a great deal of pleasure out of it.
I think that holds a key to this area of spiritual gifts. What do you enjoy doing? What do you feel good about doing? “Let him do it with the ability the Lord supplies that in all things, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever.”
God never intended that there would be a professional clergy who would do the work of ministry. God intended that every believer would minister to the body according to your own ability. Yes, Paul urged Timothy to appoint elders in every place. But God descibed the church as a body in which every joint and sinew would have its important place.
The young couple stand there in joyous anticipation of all that life will bring to them. Yes there may be trials ahead but that should not stop them from living in faithfulness to one another.
Yes as Peter writes, it is true there is suffering in the world, and Christians are not exempt. But that should not stop you from trusting Christ and becoming a Christian. As I spoke last Sunday evening to the possibiliuty that there might be someone present who was considering this whole matter of the Christian life, perhaps today is the day when one should trust the Lord Jesus! And in becoming a Christian God plans to place you into a local church where you can be taught, where you can grow, where you can love and be loved, and where you can use your gifts in the service of your Saviour and Lord. Amen.