The Wonder of God’s Love Working Through His Saints
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All we like sheep have gone astray we have turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). All have committed wickedness and sinfulness, suppressing the truth about God in unrighteousness, and the wrath of God abides upon all unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
But, God loved the world in this way, He gave His one, unique Son (John 3:16).
… He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:2b-3).
Yes, the only Son of God, the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, existed in the very form of God, but did not count equal status with God a thing to be held onto, but emptied Himself of that honor, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-11).
The Son of God was publicly crucified so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that the ones believing in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:15-17).
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13).
Repent therefore and turn to God that your sins may be wiped out (Acts 3:19).
Those who repent, calling upon the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ are followers of Christ and are called Christians.
Peter is writing to Christians, those who love the Lord Jesus Christ their Savior, those who are believing in Him, those, Peter tells us, who have been born again into God’s own family, those who are chosen by God and precious to Him, those who have an eternal inheritance secured for them in Christ Jesus even as they are those who are now waiting for the appearing of their glorious Lord and Savior.
And as they wait they are those who are being grieved by various trials.
In 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 7 we are told that Christians are grieved by various trials in order to prove that their faith is genuine – real. Proved genuine faith is more precious than gold that perishes because it will result in praise, honor, and glory at the revealing of Jesus Christ.
So Peter sets out to tell us who we are, the glorious inheritance that is ours, the everlasting joy that will be ours with Jesus when He appears. And Peter sets out to instruct us about how then we, as heirs of glory, ought to conduct ourselves in this world until He comes, putting away the desires of the flesh and instead desiring the pure milk of the word having tasted that the Lord is good.
Yes, we are even now being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ the precious cornerstone. We live in this world now as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once we were not a people, but now we are the very people of God; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy.
We are here to be salt and light.
We remain in this dark world so that others might see our gospel wrought good deeds and glorify God on the Day of visitation.
- The way you relate to the governing authorities ought to proclaim that you are of the people of God, born of His spiritual seed.
- The way you relate to harsh and unjust masters ought to display that you have entrusted yourself to Christ who judges justly, just as your glorious master Jesus Christ suffered without threatening of reviling.
- The way you relate to your husband ought to show that you have set your hope in God with a gentle and quiet spirit.
- The way you relate to your wife ought to show that you believe this life is not all there is and you and she will soon shed these earthly tents.
Christians are to be peculiar people in this world – Christ died so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds we have been healed and so when we are reviled we do not revile in return. On the contrary we are to bless.
We are here to show that we have set Christ apart in our own hearts as Lord. We are here to show that our hope is in Christ. Our words and our conduct are to display that we are indeed aliens here – this is not our home – we are children of God. We are to be those who wage war against the flesh and strive to be holy and gentle and long suffering, turning away from evil and pursuing the will of God.
Two weeks ago, in 4:1-6, we were called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We were called to arm ourselves with a willingness to suffer. We will suffer as we follow Jesus for two reasons. First, because the world will malign us for not participating any longer in their flood of debauchery, and second, because as we follow Jesus we will be denying our flesh the sinful pleasures it craves.
- Are you armed with a willingness and an expectation that this life will not be easy?
- Are you prepared to experience may sufferings?
- Is Christ and the everlasting inheritance He promises your hope and treasure or are you hoping for a pleasant pain free life of wealth and comfort and honor here?
- Do you believe that the praise, honor, and glory that will be given to you when Jesus appears is worth a life of grief and trials?
- Are you in love with this present world or in love with Christ and the world to come?
Last week Peter told us that the end of all things is at hand. The appearing of the Judge of all the earth is imminent – it could happen at any time. He is ready to judge the living and dead. Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will come a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him (Hebrews 9:28) and to send the cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). He is coming with the clouds and every eye with see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him (Revelation 1:7).
Peter is telling us that the end of all things is at hand in order to stimulate Christ honoring behavior in this world until the Lord Jesus appears.
Peter is grounding his instruction to the church in these verses (4:7-11) in the monumental fact that Jesus is at any moment going to appear and all will give and account to him. In verse 7 Peter says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
Peter does not see the imminent coming of Christ as an excuse for inactivity or sin. He sees it as a motivating reality. The fact that we are standing on the edge of eternity and the conclusion of all things should be motivation to stay sober and self-controlled in these last hours so that our prayers are strong and constant and effective. For the sake of your communion and communication, and dependence upon God are you sober and self-controlled? These are not days to be drunk and foolish and prayer-less.
In verse 8, now, Peter continues instructing us in light of the monumental reality that the end of all things is at hand. He says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Notice that this instruction is the absolute highest priority, in the apostles’ mind. This action, he says, is to be placed above all others. If you miss all other applications for Christian conduct and for the life of the church don’t miss this one: keep loving one another earnestly.
I would like to unpack the significants of this “above all” phrase because this gets to the very heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ in this world; this gets to the very center of what Christianity is.
What Peter does here in the little phrase “above all” is to tell us something that every New Testament writer understood because it was something Jesus made abundantly clear. Peter is telling us that earnest, that is real, genuine, deep, sincere, love that goes on – it does not peter out or go away or run out of steam. It perseveres. This kind of sincere love that goes on is the highest and most quintessential expression of the Christian faith.
It is in fact what Christ came to produce – a newly born people who love God and love one another.
New Testament Testimony
The Lord Jesus said in John 13:34-35,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
In Romans 13:8-10 we read,
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
1 Timothy 1:5
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins…
A Multitude of Sins
Do you hear the New Testament’s vision or the life of God’s New Covenant people in this world?
I find it interesting that Peter assumes that there may be a multitude of sins that need covering in the life of God’s New Covenant people until Christ returns. Let that sink in.
How many relationships in the assembly of God’s people (the church) have exploded, split, and parted company because earnest love did not continue? There are reasons to leave a local church. There are legitimate reasons to part company with Christian brothers and sisters in ministry, but there is never a legitimate reason to cease being humble, gentle, or patient, bearing with one another in love. There is never a reason to break the unity of the Spirit in bond of peace which binds genuine new creation believers together.
Yet how many people have broken off relationships, left local churches for the simple reason that it was just too hard to love those people, or that person – it was too hard to bear with them? too hard to forgive them?
So often, when we are hunting for a church it is not to serve, but to be served. None of us wants a dysfunctional, difficult family, with a multitude of sins. I think many of us hope to find that local church where the saints there are already glorified.
And yet Peter anticipates that in the church there will yet be a multitude of sins that will need covering. He says so in verse 8 and he has written an entire letter encouraging the saints to press on toward holiness because he knows we need the encouragement.
What marks the people of God in the world today while we are waiting to see Jesus is not the total absence of sin, but the presence of genuine love that perseveres. As believers we are called, as Spirit led new creatures, to wage war against the desired of the flesh. Yes, we are to pursue holiness and flee the futile ways inherited from the world, but when we stumble and when we fail in this battle, when we hurt one another, disappoint one another, betray one another, what ought mark us is earnest love for one another that perseveres and so is able to cover a multitude of sins.
Has the good news about God’s grace in sending His one and only Son to rescue undeserving us (the gospel) so gripped us in this place that we are able to turn and forgive and love one another?
Is the gospel so real and wonderful to us that we are a humble and gentle and meek people, wanting to see others healed and helped as we have been by our Savior? Eager to forgive, eager to restore, eager to encourage and build up even those who have failed us? Or are we marked in this place by gossip, back biting, grudge bearing, unresolved conflict, and unforgiveness?
I believe that our expectations for a healthy Christ-exalting, gospel-saturated local church should not be one where all the members float above the earth in sinless perfection, practically glorified and untouched by the temptations of “those sinners out there.” Instead, I believe our expectations for a healthy Christ-exalting, gospel-saturated local church should be one where in each one’s heart war is being waged against the flesh and where love for one another is real, genuine and goes on even after sins – multitudes of sins.
This place is a war zone.
If the Spirit of Christ is present among us He is leading us into battle against every sinful inclination. And until the flesh is removed when Christ appears and we are glorified the battle will be raging and ugly and unpleasant. But it is among this company of new creatures, who love Christ and the gospel of His grace, who have been born of imperishable seed, with the very Spirit of Christ in us – this is where genuine, persevering love is displayed.
It is this company of new creatures who have been so forgiven and loved by their Savior that they are able to bear with the failings and weaknesses of others. When the debt you owe, which is infinitely crushing, is removed forever from your shoulders and is replaced by peace and life everlasting with your Beloved Savior, the debts of others owed to you suddenly become pretty light and insignificant.
I believe the question this morning is this: Do you know how deeply, genuinely, and perseveringly you have been loved? It is as we grasp that glorious hope soon to appear that we will keep loving one another earnestly into Christ appears.
So, there are two things I’d like to highlight which we need to do in response to this instruction.
The first I hope you are even now doing. And that is to consider and be struck by the depths and darkness of your own sin and the heights and glory of God’s grace toward you in Christ Jesus. This is a constantly needed activity in each of our lives, to recognize how richly and utterly undeservedly we have been blessed in Christ Jesus. Oh, may we grow to love Christ more and more and may we cling ever more to the message of salvation!
If we are not overwhelmed by Christ’s love for us, we will not be humble, tenderhearted, long suffering, or forgiving. We will not keep loving one another earnestly. Sin will multiply and walls will go up and peace will leave and we who ought to have people asking us for a reason for the hope that we have will look no different from the world.
So consider again and again the wonderful work of Christ and His love for even you. Oh, how blessed we are.
Hospitality without Complaining
The second thing I’d like to highlight which should be a response to Peter’s instruction here is, as Peter says in verse 9, to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Here is a wonderfully practical expression of love. Inviting one another into our homes without grumbling. Do we generously receive and entertain one another without complaining about it?
Oh, how I have room to grow here.
I am more and more convinced that a sign of health in a local church is the desire for and practice of regular hospitality. And as Peter makes plain here there is cost. It is not always comfortable (especially for us introvert-types) to invite each other into our homes and our lives and at times our messes. It takes preparation, it take humility, it takes time, it takes sacrifice. Especially if it something we do regularly.
The command is clear: show hospitality without complaining. How each of us implements this will look different, but I think each of us should sit down and make a plan for how we will obey it. How will we grow so that when people think of us they think of people whose doors are open and whose tables are welcoming?
Have we made an effort to show hospitality to each person in this congregation?
Are there unresolved conflicts that would make inviting certain people into your home impossible?
Can you honestly say that you love the people in this room earnestly and desire to show hospitality?
I think we should be praying and talking about how we might obey this command more fully here.
Do you see deficiencies in yourself? Me too. But let us press on to love and good works. We have been blessed; let us strive to lay our lives down to bless one another.
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober- minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”