The Effects of a Secured Eternity on the Life of a Believer

Background

Historically, the Assumed author of this Letter is suggested by its name – Peter.   The authorship was never doubted through the history of the early church.  More recent scholarship has tried to cast doubt on the letters Petrine authorship.[1] The letter was probably written between AD 54-68. If I was, to sum up, everything it was trying to say in one sentence I would say ‘Persevere in the Lord, with one another through the Power of God working in you as a witness to Gospel in this world in light of an eternity secured.’ Those who know Christ and believe in through the Gospel are equipped by God to endure all things, even suffering with Joy and hope because of what is to come.  Furthermore, we as Christians endure because of what we have already received from God now through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We endure all suffering through giving ourselves to the lordship of God[2] and we are to remain faithful because of the truth that God is sovereign.  The Death and resurrection of Jesus Christ stands as the paradigm for the lives of believers. We define everything from it and through it, we look back so that we are then able to look forward because of it.

Believers enjoy heavenly riches because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Yet there are duties that believers must shoulder with the help of the Holy Spirit as we live in a world that is not our own and look for the second coming of Christ.   The language of the letter is intense and urgent thus even as we read it, and look at the small section there is a sense of expectation that arises from every word.[3]  The expectation of what is to come and an expectation of how the Gospel should impact the essence of the believer live as God works in them and through them for his Glory.

An Overview

1.      Greetings and introduction (1:1-2)

2.     Salvation as Exiles (1:3-2:10)

a.     Praise for Salvation and their witness (1:3-12)

b.     The promise of Future Glory as an inspiration for perseverance (1:13-21)

c.     Living as the new people of God (1:22 – 2:10)

3.     Aliens in a world that is not our own as living as a witness to the Glory Od God (2:11-4:11)

a.     The Christian life as point and witness (2:11-12)

b.     Living as Good citizens as a witness to the Gospel (2:13-3:12)

c.     Godliness in suffering.  The perspective of eternity (3:13-4:11)

4.     Perseverance while in suffering because of the hope of the Gospel (4:12-5:11)

5.     Conclusion (5:12-14)

Our Passage in located in 3C where Peter is calling the church to endure in their suffering because their lives are an example of the culture they live in of the Power of God. They as Stewards of the Grace of God as they endure in suffering it becomes incarnate in their reality; it fuels and compels them to live differently to the world around them so that because of their witness people will see God and give him glory.

The Passage: 1 Peter 4:7-11: The Present Effects of An Eternity Secured

Passage Context

Peter has briefly pointed to the example of Christ as the inspiration and model for Christians and the suffering they are to endure because Jesus as their example endured them.  He goes on to make the point that a believer’s willingness to endure in suffering is a sign that the power of sin[4] in their lives have been destroyed. Not that they are now without sin, but their lives are being shaped be the cross; the holy Spirit is in them and they are more concerned with the things of God than anything this world may offer them.[5] Furthermore, Peter paints a picture of the lives of the unbelievers around them and it is a picture that is not dissimilar to the modern world we live in:  people living in pursuit of their own passions. The believers are reminded that they should have no part of a lifestyle where the desires of the flesh become god because their lives and worth are centred in Jesus, which gives us the courage and power to live differently, even in the face of ridicule and mockery.  We are reminded that no matter what we respond with grace because this world and the things of this world do not have the final say:  God does.  In verse six we see that the Gospels was preached to those “who were dead.” This should be understood considering peters thinking throughout every verse in this letter. Thus, even though people heard the Gospel and responded placing their faith in Christ and securing their eternity, they still faced the same judgment as non-responsive sinners: death.  The different was after and in light of eternity after they lived in spirit with God and in light of eternity their future was secured.[6]  The Gospel enables them to live with God in spirit, free from the burden and penalty of sin.

The Final Stages of Gods Plan

Verse 7 starts quite drastically, and with a simplistic reading it can feel as if Peter may have been a little eager: “The end of all things is at hand.” The tone and expectation in the statement can make it seem as if Peter was expecting the imminent return of Jesus within days, months, weeks of them receiving this letter and because of this, they should behave in a certain way.  They didn’t want Jesus finding them indulging in the sins of the world. It is not Watch out God is Coming! It is, however, a declaration that we are in the last stage of God’s salvation plan.  Peter is saying because Jesus has died, rose again and ascended; the Spirit has been poured out, then live in this way. In the next few verses, we see how these past events and the hope they give us of the future affect us now. These events – as a visible sign of the Grace and Love of God – should inspire, demand and compel something of those who believe in it.

How Eternity affects us as Individuals (7)

Thus, the reality of our past and future affects us now firstly as individuals:  we should be self-controlled, sober-minded for the sake of their prayers.  Peter’s declares that the second coming of Jesus is not an excuse for inaction or idle waiting, it does mean that we as Christians stare up into the sky hoping that Christ will descend and fix all the problems of this world. This future, this hope means that we live in the now, being self-controlled and sober-minded so we know how to pray, what to Pray for and to use the wisdom God may grant us as a faithful witness to what he is doing in our lives.  We live as individuals who are changed, trusting God’s future but also trusting where he has us now and that he will guide and lead us.  We are self-controlled because the world is not, we are sober-minded so we can know what to pray for and then pray for it.

How Eternity Affects us Relationally (8-9)

The next couple of verses (8-9) follow on with the same vein of thought.  This time showing us how the hope of Christ will affect us relationally.  The reconciled community will bear witness to the reality of Christ in the lives of believers.  Peter states that above all else they are to have a real and deep love for all because that is what Christ had for them.  The evidence of such real love of people living in the light of an assured Future? The covering of a multitude of sins.  Meaning, not that they ignore sin in the life of their community if it is leading them astray from God, but that where love abounds, people show one another the same grace Christ showed them, forgiving offences against one another and bearing in love because they remember that even though their sin is covered it does not mean they are sinless, they know that they are going to hurt one another, because they are sinful. However because of their hope; the same perseverance that should mark their faith must mark them relationally as well. We as believers must persevere with and another allowing our love for one and another to abound more than any hurt from the offence as a witness to our hope in the resurrection. In Verse 9,  Peters calls them to show hospitality that mirrors real love to one another – it was also an admired trait in the Greco-Roman world where five-star hotels had yet to be invented. Our love is not just for those we know but to those who may come in.  Real Love is hospitable.

How Eternity Affects How we use what God has Given Us (10-11)

In verse 10 we see that everyone who believes in Christ has at least one spiritually gift.  Gracefully given by God and those gifts should be used to serve one another.   They are to be used and not hoarded.   In our final part, all the gifts are separated into two groupings: Those who speak and those who serve. Whatever gifting someone has, it should be used in faithful service of God and the body of Christ.

Thus, those who speak must not use the position to put forward their own intellectual idea or thoughts.  They should “speak as though God himself was speaking through them.”[7]  For those of us involved in any form of Christian leadership or teaching this is of utmost important because it reminds us that we serve at the pleasure of the creator of the universe and when people see or hear us speaking they see us as an ambassador of God himself.  We should be diligent in our preparation and prayer and humble ourselves before we even begin to speak in public.  For those who might not be “speakers, ” there is another lesson:  It is a call to hold to account those who might purport to speak on behalf of God.  In an age where there seem to be so many people claiming to hear directly from God or to have some new revelation, we must “test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.”[8] It means that just because someone claims to hear from God does not make it true; that even those who might teach from Scripture may be twisting it to their own purpose and ends. So in the Light of what Paul says to Titus, those who claim to speak on behalf of God (Oracles) must be sure it accords with sound Doctrine. Secondly, those who hear it must test it against scripture and be sure it accords with sound doctrine because as 1 John reminds us there are false teachers all around leading us astray from the truth of Gospel. [9]

Then those who serve within the body of Christ must never serve of their own strength or for their own purpose, they should serve through the power of the Holy Spirit working in them for the Glory of God.  As Paul would write to the church in Colossae: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”[10] So no matter if we speak or serve, whatever we do we do it with the strength that God gives – through the power of the Holy Spirit – so that in everything we say or do God would glory through Jesus Christ.  Not us.

Conclusion: The effects of an Eternity Secured. Is Yours?

This is a short passage to look at and consider but is full of so much wisdom.  Firstly, it reminds us as Christians that because of what Christ did in the past our future is secured.  Secondly, it reminds us that every day that passes means we are one step closer to the coming of our King; the consummation of Gods salvation plan is at hand. Yet, we are not quite there yet, we might be closer than we have ever been before but we still live in the now and Jesus has not returned so we light considering our eternity secured not waiting for it.  We live as Ambassadors in this world pointing people back so that they can know the security that we know today.

Again, we see three things in this passage: We are people who live presently in light of the future aware of our time and what is going on; we are self-controlled and sober-minded so that we know how to pray and can seek the wisdom of God to live in these difficult times – where as shown in the verses before the world indulges itself self in all sorts of passions and lusts.

Secondly, an eternity secured effects our relationships: Where the world is selfish and sly and man pursues only what he wants and uses people to achieve that end; Christians are to be the opposite – a picture of Gods grace as they persevere in the faith they are to persevere with one and another in love and hospitality, where the world takes Christians must give because they have received the greatest gift of all.  Their deep love for another should allow them to forgive the sins that will occur when they live in a community.

Finally, where the world hordes and stores for itself Christians are to use all that God has given them for the benefit of one and another so that in all the things they say and do in the Power of the Holy Spirit God will be glorified and not them.  Where man seeks his own Glory in his speech and works; Christians humble themselves so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in us.  The different between those who worship the things of this world and those who worship God is whom they will give the Glory to, A sinful man takes it for himself a forgiven Christian point to God.

 The question then today is for Christians are you living in light of an eternity secured, are you self-controlled and sober in mind seeking Gods wisdom for how to live in this world, how are your relationships in church and wider afield Do you bear with love or simply bear grudges.  Finally, are you a steward or a hoarder; Do you use Gods gifts to give Glory to God, or are you a hoarder, keeping Gods gifts for yourself?  Finally, all of this is only possible if you know Jesus as lord as Saviour so today if you haven’t taken that step and trust in him so that your eternity is secured.

[1] Some suggest that it may be a pseudonymous because of the use of Greek and the fact that the background in the letter seems to reflect a later period of roman rule and persecution that was after Peters death. None of those concerns carry really substance: Peter was a middle-class fisherman and there is now significant evidence that Greek was spoken in and around Galilee or he could have used his sectary to help him write the letter, thus the original language used is not beyond his capability or context.
[2] See 4:19
[3] there are over 30 imperative verbs, about a command every three verses.
[4] Being the Desires of the Flesh.
[5] Two other interpretations of this verse are common in thought, but both appear unlikely.  1) That It refers to the suffering of Jesus Christ because he was not a sinner and took on the curse of sin defeating it. This is unlikely because the ‘whosoever’ is such a broad designation that it would be hard to apply it solely to Jesus. 2) Others point to the Pauline concept of Romans 6:1-11 of the believer being dead to sin and its power because they have died and been raised with Christ.
[6]  Some suggest this verse can be used to justify a view that people can still respond to Christs work after death; but this contridcts many verses of scripture.
[7] New Living Translation
[8] 1ST THESS 5:21 (NLT)
[9] Titus 2:1 and 1 John 4:1.
[10] Colossians 3:23-24

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