1 Peter 4
by Pastor David Groendyk
The big themes of this book can be described by lots of ‘s’ words: salvation, sanctification, submission, suffering, stewardship, shepherding. Two of these words in today’s chapters are stewarding and suffering.
What Peter describes as stewardship in verses 1–11 is summed up in one sentence in 1 Peter 2:16: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” Since we have been saved, our lives must be used for the glory of God and serving and loving one another. This requires two actions on our part: 1) put your sin behind you and never go back to it, and 2) actively use your gifts to serve God. If we are going to live truly for God’s glory, we must put to death our sin, even if it means being mocked and persecuted by unbelievers (v. 4). And when we’re willing to be maligned and suffer for the sake of putting sin to death, “the nerve center of sin is severed in [our] lives” (ESV Study Bible on v. 1). Although we will never be totally free from sin, sin’s power over us broken when we choose to live for the will of God at the cost of being persecuted. So now, instead of living life selfishly to fulfill all of your own sinful passions, use your life to serve and love one another. Whether you’re an up-front teacher or a behind-the-scenes server, glorify God in what you’re doing by helping others. One of the most important ways we can love other people is in forgiving them and looking past their sins (v. 8). Forgiveness heals relationships and binds people together. It allows us to put aside our small offenses and link arm-in-arm again as we strive to glorify God together. But I find it fascinating that Paul throws hospitality into the mix too. Hospitality flows right out of love for one another. Remember that hospitality is not entertaining. Hospitality is welcoming your brothers and sisters, not just into your home, but into your life. Sacrificing time, money, energy, and convenience is worth it for the sake of building relationships.
How can you be a better steward of the life you’ve been given? What sins and earthly loves do you need to forsake for the sake of living for God’s will? What offenses can you forgive? How can you grow in and practice hospitality?
Peter also further describes what suffering looks like for Christians in verses 12–19. This is a principle we’ve seen all throughout the book, but Peter draws out one particular aspect of his teaching on suffering here. Verses 14–15 teach us that if we find ourselves persecuted, we had better be being persecuted for the right reasons! If you break the law by murdering someone and get punished for it, don’t go around saying, “I’m being persecuted!” If we can broaden the application for this teaching a little bit, we can say that if we are going to offend unbelievers by being Christians, we must be sure it is the gospel that’s offensive not the way we present the gospel. Here’s another example. If people are offended and taunt and mock us when the Fenton Right to Life group meets together to pray in public and have individual conversations with unbelievers, we’re suffering for the right reasons—we’re trying to be a public witness to unbelievers. But if the Fenton Right to Life group hurled insults back at the onlookers and called them nasty names, then we’re no longer being attacked for the name of Christ but because we’re, in fact, just being nasty people! Peter has been clear that we ought to do everything we can not to offend unbelievers (1 Pet. 2:12, 15). Paul himself did literally everything he could to win an audience with all kinds of groups of people (see 1 Cor. 9:19–23). If unbelievers are going to hate us, they must hate us because of the gospel not because of our conduct. And when we do suffer true persecution, we can take heart, because we know that our souls are entrusted to our faithful God.
Is there anything in your life that might unnecessarily offend unbelievers and unnecessarily cause you to lose an audience with them? How does Christ’s example of suffering (v. 1) give us comfort and strengthen us when we ourselves suffer?