1 Peter 4:1-11
Living Under Lordship

Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter.  All rights reserved.
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV


My paternal grandfather passed away in the autumn of 1972, shortly before my wife, AnnMarie and I were married.  I can still vividly remember my grandfather and the time he spent with me as a young boy when we visited his home in Conklin, New York, a small town that is situated on the Susquehanna River valley.  I was adopted by my family at the age of four, and an important part of that adoption was the change of my name from Jack Howard Buchanan to John William (Jack) Carter.  This name change represented something quite significant.  When my name was changed I was brought into a new and fundamental relationship with a new family and with a new father.  From the day of that adoption I would be under both the care and the authority of a new father.  I went from the vagabond life of an unwanted orphan to the stable life as a member of a caring and loving family.

It was always apparent that my paternal Grandfather was very pleased to have a grandson, and we were very close. He would take me on walks across the neighboring fields, up and down the railroad tracks near his home, and through his gardens as he would talk to me about any number of things that were on his mind.  The one thing I remember most from those, rather one-sided conversations, was related to his concern that I was his only remaining male heir in my generation.  I have no brothers and all female first cousins.  One day he said to me something like, “Always remember that you are a Carter: you will be representing this family everywhere you go.”  He gave me the impression that the character that people would see in me was a direct reflection on him and upon our family.

Several years later our country was engaged in the war in Vietnam and I found myself in boot camp as a new volunteer recruit.  Those in authority replaced our civilian clothing with military uniforms and did their best to replace our civilian world view with military bearing.  It was made clear that the uniform that we wore represented the people of the United States of America and our behavior was expected to be consistent with the codes of the U.S. Military.  Now I was not only representing the character of my family, but also the character of the people of the United States of America.

Our personal character is a reflection of that set of influences in our lives to which we choose to submit.  Inappropriate behavior as a young person would have brought embarrassment to my family.  Inappropriate behavior as a soldier would have been an embarrassment to the military and to the uniform.  When we take that life-saving step of turning to God in faith, we place ourselves under another authority that is superior to family, superior to the military, and superior to any authority on earth.  Character is established by living a life of obedience.  As a child, I was obedient to the set of behaviors that were expected by the family culture so that my parents would never regret their adoption decision.  As a soldier, I was obedient to the set of behaviors that were expected by the military code of conduct.[1]  As a Christian, we find that our character is also established by our obedience to God.  We find obedience to God by placing ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and it is this submission that is the true evidence of sincere, saving faith.  Without such submission, there is no true faith.[2]

The apostle Peter understood this concept, and he also experienced a name change that defined the character of his new set of personal relationships.  His name was originally Simeon in the Hebrew, or Simon in the Greek.  Jesus gave Simon the surname Peter (or literally Petros in the Greek) that means “rock” or “small stone.”  Peter was also then called Cephas, a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic word for “small stone.”  Peter understood that the name change from Simon to Peter was directly associated with a change in his character that was found in his faith in Christ.  Sometimes people misunderstand the basic teaching of Jesus’ purpose in using Peter’s name:

Matthew 16:18.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The early Christian orthodoxy made reference to this verse without considering the surrounding context, coming up with an understanding that the church was built upon Peter, the Rock.  In truth, the church is built upon the confession of faith in Jesus Christ, demonstrated by Peter in the previous verses.  The Greek grammar clearly denotes that it is Peter’s faith that Jesus refers to as “this rock.”  The foundation of the church is faith in the One true God, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.[3]  Paul writes to the Romans,

Romans 10:9.  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

A key word in Paul’s imperative is “LORD.”  This is the same word that is rendered, “YAHWEH” in the Old Testament.  It is the covenant name for God.  It is the name that recognizes and acknowledges God’s rightful authority over us and our willingness to be placed under that authority. 

Peter spent most of his ministry in a pastoral and apostolic context within and around the city of Jerusalem.  And though he did not seem to engage in a significant ministry outside of the city, it is clear that his heart was deeply concerned about the condition of believers throughout the region.  It was to this audience that Peter wrote these letters that are included in the New Testament, letters that are full of encouraging instruction as Peter draws from his own life’s experience to help Christians understand how to live a life that is consistent with their profession of faith, a life that is representative of that new name, “Christian.”  In the first of these letters he writes,

Arm Yourselves with the Mind of Christ.

1 Peter 4:1.  Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin 

We might expect that if we are going to follow closely one who suffered, we will also experience suffering.  One does not suffer unless there is some conflict entering one’s life, and when one turns to God in faith, one enters into that same conflict that Jesus came to address:  the conflict of sin and its consequences in this pagan and secular world.  The godless character of this world stands firmly against godly character, so when one comes to God in faith one also comes into that same conflict that Jesus encountered.  Those to whom Peter is writing are experiencing that conflict in the form of marginalization and persecution from those who stand against God’s presence and purpose.   When I was a child I stayed faithful to my new name because of the benefits that I received from being a member of a family.  When I was in the military I stayed faithful to my new status both because of my love for my country and my respect for the uniform code of military justice.  I was also aware of the benefits and rewards given to obedient soldiers.  How do we stay faithful to the authority of God in our lives?  We do so by submitting wholly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Peter provides us with some resources to help us in that effort.

The words "arm yourselves" is a literal military term that means to take on a full array of armaments.  This clearly implies that Christians are engaged in an active battle.  As a child I had no desire to return to my orphan days, days that I quickly and completely forgot.  I have absolutely no memory of any event prior to the moment I met my adopted parents.  However, as Christians, we find those old days much harder to forget, and we find the old ways much harder to change.  So, the battle lines are drawn.

What are we to arm ourselves with?  Peter states that we are to arm ourselves with the same mind, or literally, the attitude of Christ.  Attitude has two meanings, both of which may be relevant.  Placing ourselves in the proper attitude involves both a mental and physical state.  Attitude can refer to our physical state:  we can place ourselves where Christ wants us to be both in our geographical location and in our position within the complex web of relationships that define us.  Attitude also refers to our mental state:  the foundational set of choices and opinions that define our world view.  Our world view as a Christian will be a transformation of the world view we had prior to our profession of faith as our new perspective comes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as informed by our submission to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  Taking on the mind of Christ is the first and most important step in overcoming the conflict with this sinful world.

The last phrase has been misinterpreted to allow a teaching that suffering atones for sin.  Those who hold to this position claim that we must experience suffering in order to receive forgiveness.  However, Jesus suffered on the cross so that sin would lose the power to condemn those who place their faith and trust in God, so no further suffering is necessary for salvation.  However when we are engaged in the conflict that godly living will encounter in a godless culture, we are going to experience some level of persecution, some level of suffering.  Peter states that the level of Christian commitment that brings one to the point of being willing to suffer for his or her faith also tends to make a person able to resist temptation and sin.  Faith in Christ takes away the desire, or the “want” to sin that so characterized our prior lives.

Live by God’s will, not your own.

1 Peter 4:2.  That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

The word used here for “live”[4] is a durative verb that which can mean "to spend an entire life."  Peter is referring to a change in lifestyle that characterizes the life of a Christian from the day of salvation until the day that the LORD brings us home.  We can see a clear call for Christians to mature in the LORD as the desire for the world of men is gradually and completely replaced by a desire for the kingdom of God.

How do we actually accomplish this transition from one world to another while we are still immersed in the old one?  The answer is found in our choice of authority: that of the world, or that of God.  These authorities are mutually exclusive.  Christians are not to allow their lives to be dominated by worldly human passions, but rather to let God's will be the determining influence of their lives.  This is another example of the biblical doctrine of the Lordship of Christ, and the instruction that the scripture provides concerning the call for obedience to God's authority. 

1 Peter 4:3.  For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

Before we knew the mind of Christ, we lived under the will of the world, what Peter herein refers to as the “will of the Gentiles.”  When a Christian takes on the mind of Christ, the old life becomes a gray, dark memory.  It is not appropriate that a Christian fall back into that life.  Peter is writing about arming ourselves for the conflict, and to go back to the old life is similar to a complete surrender, a decision to abandon the faith.  When we live under the Lordship of Christ, we have no desire to return to the powerless authority of this pagan world.  Peter refers to that experience as the “time past of our life.”  It is behind us now.

The manner of that old, secular life is incompatible with faith in Christ, but is very compatible with the world.  You will be less criticized by the world for openly portraying a godless lifestyle than you will be for openly portraying your Christian faith.  This godless lifestyle is advertised by the world in its publication and entertainment industries, both reporting and shaping its culture as it demands conformance by all who would express a different viewpoint.  Peter, Paul and other New Testament writers express that a person will never reach any degree of Christian morality or maturity by copying the world culture and doing what comes naturally.  Christians are to live by God’s will, following the example of Christ, and not give in to the influences of this world. The natural person is unredeemed.  Peter listed six specific sins that characterize the will of the world:

Licentiousness or lasciviousness.  This is the giving in to base desires that result in ungodly behavior.  As one matures in their faith it becomes easier to deny such desires.  However, maturity also changes the character of the enemy.  A more mature Christian may not be as given to licentious behavior, but may still give in to other unholy desires such as behaviors that demonstrate prejudice, arrogance, a lack of self-control, or any other attitudes and actions that nullify the demonstration of agape love that is the foundation of the mind of Christ.

Lusts.  This is the giving in to distractions that turn our focus to ungodly thoughts or attitudes.  Unlike licentiousness that characterizes ungodly actions, lusts characterize ungodly thoughts and attitudes.  Since lusts are not as visible as lascivious behavior, Christians may have more difficulty overcoming this enemy to the faith.  Obedience to the Lordship of Christ requires a deliberate decision to turn away from those distractions that would promote ungodly thoughts and attitudes.

Excess of wine.  This is the giving in to the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other behavior-altering chemicals.  In order to have the mind of Christ, our mind needs to be clear and sober.  When we give ourselves over to the influence of mind-altering drugs, we give them control over us, a control that compromises our ability to maintain our focus on the Holy Spirit and our testimony of submission to Him.  Again, the more mature Christian may have completely overcome any desire for alcohol or drugs, but may still deal with other excesses that compromise the health and testimony of the mind and body such as smoking or over-eating.

Reveling.  This is the giving in to the influence of pagan and secular celebrations.  This world is certainly not short on party spirit.  In the first century these celebrations were inclined to be held to promote the celebration of their understanding of the nature of their pagan gods, and their reveling included behaviors that were designed to get the attention of those gods, behaviors that were extremely inappropriate for a Christian.   At its worst, Christians today could be caught up in parties and celebrations that promote ungodly acts.  Christians today are probably more likely to engage in parties that surround family, college or professional spectator sports, and one should always be aware of their behaviors in this arena.  

Banquetings.  This is the giving in to personal pleasure, a specific form of gluttony.  This might be understood as the opposite of fasting.  The purpose of fasting is to allow the one who fasts to maintain their focus on prayer and Bible study, and avoid the time and distraction that preparation and consummation of meals requires.  Gluttony might be described as a fast on prayer and Bible study so that one can spend all of their time and energy on the pursuit of personal pleasure.   When the clock rolls around to 12:00 PM on a Sunday morning, is your heart’s desire to continue to immerse yourself in God’s Word, or are you in a hurry to get away from the church so that you can find personal pleasure in your other afternoon activities?  Christians are not impervious to the distraction of gluttony.  

Idolatries. This is the giving of authority to created things of this world or its imaginings.   In the first century context we might think of idolatry as the worship of pagan gods, yet in today’s culture those same gods still exist.  They have simply changed their names.  We give authority to worldly things when we allow them to make decisions for us.  For example, our desire for a big house, big car, big boat, etc., can result in a network of debt that is so large that we can no longer demonstrate proper stewardship in our lives.  We have become slaves to our mortgages.  An obsession with our careers or the money we make can turn us away from our true calling to serve the LORD and to serve others, including our own families.  When we engage in any activity or attitude that causes us to make decisions that turn us away from God’s will in our lives, those activities or attitudes become our idols, and we are demonstrating the sin of idolatry.  Of all of the worldly behaviors in this list, idolatry is probably the most vexing enemy of the Christian spirit.  One cannot maintain the mind of Christ when our mind is focused on the secondary authorities that we have given to things of this world.

Christians no longer run with the old crowd.

1 Peter 4:4.  Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

When one comes under the Lordship of Christ, one will “run with a different crowd,” an idiom that refers to the group of people who you draw closest to yourself.  The godless debauchery of the world is no longer an attraction to the person of faith.  The early church found themselves ostracized by the community because they no longer took part in what they considered of great importance in their social activities.  "Among the things they would no longer do is participate in the festivals that were a part of the culture of the whole Roman Empire. While practices that often accompanied those festivals bordered on the profligate, a normal part of the festival included fealty to the local gods and to the Roman emperor as the embodiment of the advantages conferred by Roman culture. Such activity could only appear as idolatry to the Christians, and as a result, they would not participate in many of these public festivities."[5] This same refusal to participate in the godless revelings of this secular and pagan culture is true today. 

The seeming alienation from this world by people of faith is with good reason: the faithful no longer look to the world to find their social relationships.  Though God will certainly use a Christian to minister to a segment of society that needs the gospel, Christians will find true koinonia, Holy Spirit-led, fellowship only in relationship with other Christians.  It is within the Christian fellowship that one receives the full benefits of the unconditional character of agape love.

Peter states that those who are a part of the secular culture from which we come will not understand why Christians are no longer in as close a relationship with them, and have chosen to literally run with a different crowd.  The illustration here is similar to that of a footrace where one is running in sync with a crowd of runners toward a defined goal.  Christians no longer run with the old crowd, for now the direction of their paths is different.

Those you left behind do not understand why you no longer find happiness in their revelings.  This makes you different, and different things are invariably criticized and unaccepted by the world.  Left to its own, the powers of this world always seek to destroy anything that is different.  At this point, the persecution is probably more personal than political.  It is fueled by the viciousness of broken friendships and lack of understanding or trust.

Those who persecute Christians will be judged by God.

1 Peter 4:5. Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Here and in other verses,[6] Peter stated that those who take part in persecuting Christians for their godly choices will be judged by the LORD.  He is writing to Christians who are doing their best to maintain a lifestyle that is under the Lordship of Christ, and they are experiencing real persecution by their godless culture as a result of their faithfulness.  Peter encourages persecuted Christians by reminding them that those who are doing the persecuting will be judged for their behavior.  Those who persecute Christians will be judged by God.  This frees Christians:

Conflict is inevitable when a person seriously seeks to live a Christian lifestyle, a lifestyle that is brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Authentic Christian living requires that believers declare a firm, resolute NO to certain kinds of behavior as we move our lives from the authority of this world to the authority of the LORD.  How do we do this?  In this short passage Peter gave us five specific instructions:

1 Peter 4:6   For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

In context, Peter was talking of people who were physically separated from them by death, those who have passed away after hearing the Gospel.  “Commentators who see in the verse a preaching of the gospel to the souls of the dead generally base their argument to a great extent on the interpretation they offer along similar lines for 3,19. In [this verse] the preaching is clearly to men and equally clearly a preaching of salvation.”[7]  By this time, many of those who had died during the lifetimes of the readers did have a chance to respond to the Gospel.  Here he is stating that the reason for the preaching of the gospel has not changed. Why?  That, though we are judged in the manner of all men, Christians are no longer condemned to eternal separation from God by their sin.  Christians are called to live according to God's will by His spirit.

LIVING IN THE LIGHT OF JESUS' RETURN

The first six verses of Chapter 4 of Peter’s letter focuses on the task of Christians to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ while living in a world that rejects the gospel.  The conflict that arises between these two opposing world views will always bring stress into a believer’s relationship with the world, a stress that comes from the world if the believer is faithful, or from the church if the believer is apostate. Some might prefer to sit on the fence, hoping to avoid the conflict only to find out that such a position finds stress in relationships both within the body of faith and without.

Peter has been encouraging Christians to live under the Lordship of Christ without compromise, taking on the heart-view of faith, the “mind of Christ,” accepting the inherent conflict with the world while loving all people and serving Christ by serving those who would show only persecution in return.

As first-century Christians were dealing with this conflict another question was continually in the debate as it still is today:  how long will be wait for Christ to return and this conflict will end?  The context and language of the New Testament writers implies that they believed that Jesus would come back in their own lifetimes.  There are people today who make similar arguments as they would set dates and watch them pass without event.  Paul wrote to the Thessalonians[8] concerning those among them who were preaching of an imminent return of Christ, or even that Christ has already returned.  Paul reminded the Thessalonians that two events had not yet taken place that are prophesied:  the world will be in a state of utter apostasy, and the antichrist will be known to all the faithful.  Though these two events have not yet taken place, they could happen in a very short period of time, less than a day.  If the antichrist were to declare his deity tomorrow morning, the media would have the message spread throughout the world before dinner.  Consequently, though we have been waiting for 2000 years, we must be ready because the return of Christ could, indeed, happen very quickly.

1 Peter 4:7.  But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

“The hope of Christ's return is an essential part of the believer's equipment for fruitful Christian living.”[9]  Peter clearly teaches that the faithful are to live in the expectation of Jesus’ return.  That expectation is to be so real that we organize our lives and activities in preparation for the Perousia, the second coming of Christ.  It would be easy to argue that, since Jesus has not returned in two centuries there is little reason to expect that His coming is imminent.  However, That argument does not diminish the probably that Jesus’ return is imminent indeed. 

Consider what would you do if you knew for a fact that a dangerous thief was going to enter your home, brutalize your family, and steal your possessions.  Furthermore, consider that your knowledge of his coming is certain, but you have no idea of when this would happen.  What would you do?  You would be prepared.  Jesus gave this identical counsel when He told His disciples to be ready as they would for a “thief in the night.”[10]  Peter gives some advice on how to be ready.

1.  Be sober.  The word that Peter uses describes one who is in an attitude of self-control, a sound mind, not swayed by the influence of others.  “The first verb, "be of sound judgment" (σωφρονήσατε), was used of a person who was in his right mind as contrasted to one who was under the power of a demon.”[11],[12]  When we use the word the first thing that comes to mind is one who is drunk from too much alcohol.  Drunkenness dulls the senses and robs the individual of the alertness and self-control that is necessary to do even the simplest of tasks.  Any influence that can serve that purpose steals away our sobriety.   Though one may not intoxicated by drugs, one can be intoxicated by ideas and false teaching including eschatological alarm.  One can be intoxicated by their own pride and arrogance that blinds them to the truth.  There are many subtle intoxicants that can cause our view of the truth to be distorted.  Consequently, Peter calls upon the faithful to be vigilant and clear-minded in preparation for Jesus’ return.

2.  Watch unto prayer.  The Greek word for watch is a military term that refers to one who is guarding a position, watching intently for an invader.  Another relevant metaphor might be the wife who watches the ocean for the return of her ship-captain husband.  It is a form of watching that implies a continual and uncompromised expectation.  The Greek grammar ties the words sober and watch together in a manner that requires sobriety for effective prayer to take place. 

If one were waiting for the thief in the night and was armed with a weapon of defense, one would not lock that weapon away in a safe.  The weapon would be loaded and kept close at hand.  One would be listening and watching, ready to respond to the danger.  Likewise, as Jesus is coming, the faithful are called upon to be on the watch.  The “weapon” that we keep close is prayer, the continual communication with God through the words and attitudes of the heart.  As one is alert and unimpeded by insobriety, one must continue in prayer as one awaits Jesus’ return.

1 Peter 4:8.  And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

3.  Love one another.  As we prepare for the coming of the LORD, we are to love one another deeply.  The love that Peter refers to is the unconditional agape love that God gives us that we can choose to give to one another.[13]  Agape love is not the natural or reflexive response of an individual towards another.  Our own pride and prejudices will always lead us to choose whom we would love and reject those whom we consider undeserving of that love.  The gift of, agape love is a choice to love without any condition or mixture of compromise.  The faithful are called to express agape love by the LORD Himself, and the power to overcome our prejudices and to love others unconditionally comes from the Holy Spirit.   

4.  Forgive one another.  Some misunderstand the second half of this phrase and use it to argue that sincere agape love in some way atones for sins since several English translations use the word, “cover,” a word we often use to refer to atonement.  This is a false teaching that is the result of an incomplete exegesis of the text.  There is only one source of atonement for sin, and that is the work of Jesus Christ as He paid the price for sin when He died on the Cross of Calvary.  He experienced death so that those who place their faith in God would not have to.  However, if we take God’s act of atonement a step further we recognize that Jesus died on the cross because of His love for us.  Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them…” because of that love.  When we truly love one another, we are very quick to forgive, and forgiveness does indeed “cover” a multitude of sins. 

Covers a multitude of sins.  Forgiveness destroys the power of sin to separate.  It is the unconditional forgiveness of sin that seals the relationship between the LORD and the faithful for eternity.  Likewise, unconditional forgiveness between individuals serves to maintain their relationships that would otherwise be broken.

1 Peter 4:9.  Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

5.  Practice hospitality.  Hospitality was an integral and extremely important trait of ancient near-eastern culture.  Lacking the restaurants and hotels of modern society, it was necessary that travelers find food and lodging along the way in the homes of the people who lived there.  The opening of one’s home to strangers is simply a lost art in our society today.  It is considered rude in many modern societies today to knock on the door of one’s home without previous permission.  The practice is illegal in many local communities where cold-door visitation or solicitation is allowed only by permit, and the visitor must carry some form of visible identification.

Hospitality is probably a lost art.  The act of hospitality is directly related to the expression of agape love.  Again, the expression of agape love is a choice, and to love a stranger and to extend hospitality to that stranger requires the choice to do so.  Often the expression of hospitality necessitates some form of sacrifice whether it be the giving of time, resources, food, or other things that meet the needs of the stranger.  Furthermore, there is a sacrifice of faith as one accepts the risks associated with a close relationship with one who has not had the opportunity to engender trust.

It is easy for many of us to share hospitality with those whom we already love and trust.  However, the same LORD came to share the good news of salvation with all people, both those who we trust, those who we do not trust, and those who we do not know.  Agape love, hence hospitality, is to be extended to all of these without dissention.  Such dissent is simply the voice of our sinful nature that stands against the expression of agape love.

1 Peter 4:10.  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

6.  Minister one to another.  Somewhere in the historical development of the modern church it has become common practice to believe that one person in a church fellowship has the responsibility to serve as its minister.  We typically call out individual ministers, conduct some form of formal ordinance rite, and then sit back and expect them to minister to us and to others.  Even the title of “minister” implies that the named individual has the unique and special task to minister.  This practice and philosophy is simply not biblical.  Ministry is the task of every believer.

Peter teaches, as does Paul, that all believers are gifted.  Any community of people, large or small, will include those with a wide variety of gifts.  Gifts are manifestations of God’s grace[14] and can be given at birth or attained during maturation.  Gifts include that set of skills, talents, and interests that makes every individual unique.  We express our gifts in many ways, most often to bring personal gain.  However, the biblical model is that these gifts have been received from God, and that they have been received for a purpose.  We were created to glorify God, and the gifts we have been given were received by us for the purpose of glorifying Him.  Keeping gifts for ourselves, or using them entirely for personal gain is inappropriate for a person of faith.  Just as Christians are stewards of those things of this world that have been entrusted to them, they are also stewards of those gifts.  Peter goes on to state that proper stewardship of those gifts is expressed in ministry to one another.[15]  He then give a few examples.

1 Peter 4:11.  If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7.  Speak godly words of love and grace.  Peter describes two forms of gifts: speaking and serving, and some have used this verse to organize the gifts under these categories.[16]  When the expressed gift is a speaking gift, one is to teach, to edify, to encourage, and minister to others by speaking the very “oracles” of God.  The content of one’s speech is to be consistent with the mind of Christ that Peter previously described.  A Christian’s words should stand on the foundation of God’s Word, expressed in agape love, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  James wrote of the difficulties associated with ministering through words in a significant portion of his letter to the church.  How does one come to speak the “oracles of God?”  First, the believer must have a sincere faith in the LORD, and be cognizant of the context and purpose of salvation so that the truths of the gospel can be shared with others.  Then, that sharing can include the correctly applied words of scripture as occasion allows.  The more one is familiar with the scriptures, the more one can draw from them in their speech.  Furthermore, the context of the oracles is the application of God’s love and grace.  We speak the oracles of God when we speak in God’s love towards others rather than through our own selfish motives.  Since the oracles present God’s grace, our words can also demonstrate grace towards each other rather than criticism and condemnation. 

8.  Serve one another.  The second category of gifts that Peter refers to are the active ministry gifts.  These might be considered the expression of the entire body of spiritual gifts that are not speaking gifts.  For example, administration is a gift.  We often forget that the word is simply the perfect tense of the word, minister.  To minister to another is to actively work to meet their needs.  To minister in the context of the biblical call is to minister to the range of another’s needs from a motivation of unconditional agape love.  Again, all believers are given gifts that are to be used to minister one to another. 

Finally, Peter notes the reason for this list.  God has given to every believer a sacred task as we watch and wait in prayer for Jesus’ return:  that God would be glorified in and through everything we do.  God deserves our obedience because of what He has done for us, and the predominant context of that obedience is found in our love for Him as we praise Him continually.  When we declare of Jesus an eternal dominion, we are declaring His eternal Lordship over us.  Consequently, the list of tasks that Peter has described are not suggestions for better living, but rather commands from God that are to be obeyed until Jesus’ return.  This is how we fully prepare for the second coming of Christ.


[1] Uniform Code of Military Conduct, U.C.M.J.

[2] Romans 10:9-10.

[3] Note that gates are used to keep a domain secure.  The idea here is not that the church is protected from being overrun by the gates of hell… the writer states that the gates of hell cannot hold back the power of an obedient church.  Evil is overrun and overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

[4] Used only here in the New Testament.

[5] Achtemeier, Paul J.  1 Peter 4:1-8.  Interpretation, 65 no 1 Jan 2011, p 76.

[6] 1 Peter 1:13, 17.

[7] Dalton, William Joseph.  The interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6: light from 2 Peter.  Biblica, 60 no 4 1979, p 553.

[8] 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 2.

[9] Hiebert, D Edmond.  Selected studies from 1 Peter: pt 3, Living in the light of Christ's return: an exposition of 1 Peter 4:7-11.  Bibliotheca sacra, 139 no 555 Jul - Sep 1982, p 243.

[10] Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15.

[11] Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35.

[12] Ibid. Hiebert,  p 246.

[13] Downs, David J.  'Love covers a multitude of sins': redemptive almsgiving in I Peter 4:8 and its early Christian reception.  The Journal of Theological Studies, ns 65 no 2 Oct 2014, p 489-514.

[14] Note that the Greek word for gift, charisma, is derived from the Greek word for grace, charis .

[15] c.f. 1 Cor. 12:7,25-26; 14:1-19, 26; et. al.

[16] Schreiner, Thomas R.  1,2 Peter, Jude.  The New American Commentary, Vol. 37. Nashville, TN:  Broadman and Holman Publishers.  2003, p. 214. e.g.