Through Jesus Christ
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:7-11
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. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen
Specific or General
In response to some feed back I received last week I’d like to spend some time together making sure we know how these commands to God’s people are to be applied. For example, when Peter says, “Keep loving one another earnestly” – who is the one another? – or when Peter says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” – or this morning Peter will say, “As each one has received a gift,” use it to serve one another – who is the one another?
Last time, I was functioning from the assumption that the one another here refers to those within the community of faith – that is, the assembly of elect exiles, those sojourners and strangers who are gathered into local assemblies, and who are waiting for the appearing of Jesus Christ. But, the feed back was, could it be that Peter is instructing the church to love, show hospitality, and to serve everyone – believer or not? I think it is worth wrestling with that question.
We know from other portions of Scripture that we are to do good and honor everyone regardless of whether they are a believer in the Lord Jesus or not. For example,
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
We add to this Paul’s example of love for the unsaved,
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.
Paul loved his fellow Jews and longed that they might come to Christ and be saved. And in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul tells us that his love for the lost extended beyond the borders of Israel. His great aim was to see all kinds of people saved.
1 Corinthians 9:22
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
So, there is a clear imperative in the New Testament to do good and honor everyone. There is also Paul’s example of love and good will toward the perishing – specifically to see them saved. But in the New Testament we also see that there is a special love we are to have for those who are in Christ. In fact there is a priority to doing good and loving those who are of the household of faith.
But the question remains, is Peter telling us here in our passage, to love, be hospitable, and serve everyone? The answer is no, he is not. There will certainly be occasion to do just that, but here Peter is focussing especially on how believers are to interact with one another.
Yes, this term one another limits the recipients to those being addressed. Peter is not writing to the human race. He is writing to the church – elect exiles – and he says to them love one another. It would be like if I gathered my boys together and said, “boys, love and serve one another.” I am not telling them specifically to love their cousins or other children at the playground. I am telling them to love one another. This is what Peter is saying. “believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, love one another.”
This instruction is specific and intentional. The people of God are to be specifically marked by love for one another. Yes, the people of God are to be marked by honor toward all people and a relentless heart to see them come to faith, but that is not what Peter is focusing on here. The question here is are we marked in this place by a love for one another that keeps on, hospitality toward one anther without grumbling, and now, are we using our gifts to serve one another?
It is so important that we recognize who we are.
If you are believing in the Lord Jesus Christ your identity has radically changed. You are no longer who you once were. Once we were not of God’s people. Once we had not received mercy. Once we were dead in trespasses and sins. Once we had no hope, no claim to God’s favor, by nature children of wrath just like the rest of mankind. “…But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in out trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… (Ephesians 2:4-5).”
Oh, how important it is to know who you are. You are not a “gentile” anymore. That term in the NT often refers to those outside of God’s chosen people. Peter uses the term Gentile to distinguish New Covenant believers from the unsaved world in 4:3 and 2:11-12. You have been made alive by God’s Spirit, welcomed into God’s family, graphed in among the people of God and now share in the nourishing root which is Christ (Romans 11:17).
Do we know who we are?
We have escaped, we have been rescued from the wrath soon to be poured out upon the wicked. We have been chosen for life and glory and peace and joy with Christ forever. God is for us and not against us! And so we are now in a strange land. The United States is not our home. This place is not our home – we yet wait for a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells – that is our home – with Jesus.
That God May Be Glorified
So, Peter’s instruction is directed toward citizens of heaven to keep loving one another, show hospitality to one another cheerfully, serve one another, because if we can’t do this here, among the Spirit filled citizens of glory, there is something dreadfully wrong.
If you drop your eyes down to verse 11 we are told that all our serving of one another, whether in word or deed, is to be done so that something might happen. Why is our serving one another so important? What, in the Apostle’s mind, will be the glorious result if we, the people of Christ, love one another? Or to ask it negatively, what does it mean if we fail to love one another? Well, if we start in verse 10 we read,
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Notice carefully that our love for one another – our serving one another with our God given gift is designed to result in the glory of God through Jesus Christ.
Do you see how?
God has taken dysfunctional, selfish, sin-laden, people who deserved only everlasting punishment and has gathered us into His own eternal family through Jesus Christ. He has rescued us from the futile ways we have inherited from our forefathers. He has rescued us from sin and dissipation and futility and set our feet upon the Rock, Jesus Christ – He has grafted us into the nourishing root, Jesus Christ.
Led by His Spirit, we are even now to pursue holiness, putting our sinful inclinations to death – and one day we shall be fully changed to be like Him. But, if we here are those blessed people, gathered into this local body, and we cannot love one another – what does that say about God’s work through Jesus Christ?
These verses say, that when we serve one another God is glorified through Jesus Christ. Our love and care and service for one another glorifies God through Jesus Christ because Christ died, that is He “…gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). That is why He died.
If we do not love one another, cheerfully show hospitality to one another, or serve one another with the gifts given by God – we are saying something very loudly about the power and goodness and effectiveness of Christ’s work in our lives. Actually, we are saying something loudly about ourselves.
1 John 4:11-13, 20-21, 5:1-2
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He is us, because He has given us His Spirit…
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother [in Christ] whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother…
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
The hard facts are these: if we are Christians we must love our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you say you are a Christian and yet you refuse to love your so called brothers and sisters in Christ, you are a liar. That is, you are not a Christian. You say you believe in Jesus? What does the evidence of your love for Christ’s people say?
We who do love Jesus and His glorious work of grace, let us glorify God and magnify Christ’s work by demonstrating its power in our lives by loving one another.
Gifted for Service
And this morning we are being called to service. But Peter lets us in on an important fact. The command to love and serve one another comes to people who have been especially equipped to do it. Not only have you and I been loved beyond description, given Christ the Treasure to trade all treasures to possess, and not only has the Lord gathered us together as His people, He as also according to verse 10, given each of us a gift. Let’s read it again.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
We need to let this sink in. Every single person who has believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ has received a special gift and the way we become good stewards of that gracious gift is by using it to serve one another. Every person in this room who is truly a child of God has been gifted for service in the household of faith. No one here can say, “I have nothing to give. I am not equipped to serve in the community of faith,” because we know that God has given you a gift.
Ephesians 4 talks about how Christ’s victory resulted in His giving gifts to His people. He distributed the plunder of His victory. The gifts are Spiritual in nature and are given to each one. Not gold and jewels but in fact the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one (1 Corinthians 12:7) designed to help the whole community of faith grow and build itself up in love. Like a body each part is designed to do its part to join and hold the body together and to help it grow and become mature and fully conformed to Christ. And so we all have need of your manifestation of the Spirit of Christ – your gift here.
God as especially gifted each one here for the growth and maturing of this body to the glory of God through Jesus Christ. Peter uses the word stewards. We are stewards of grace. God has given something that belongs to Him and He has given it to you for a purpose and that purpose is the building up of others in this local body. God intends to extend grace and blessing to this body through your service. He has given you a gift that you might share it with us.
Pinpointing Your Stewardship
Now, there may be some here that wonder, “what is my gift?” and “how do I know how I have been gifted?” Well, there are all kinds of surveys and tests out there designed to get us looking inward and thinking about ourselves and our abilities and our strengths. And there certainly may be a place for those kinds of things.
But I fear those kinds of things tend to pigeonhole people with a crisp category, so at the end of the survey you can say, “I am… a preacher.” And what happens is the dynamic gift that God has given you is reduced to one or two categories as if that was the sum and substance of your manifestation of the Spirit for the good of the Body.
I think we need to be careful not to think too one dimensionally about giftedness.
Of course the New Testament does speak about categories of gifts. For example, Romans 12 talks about prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, acts of mercy and 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the categories of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, languages, and interpretation. So, yes, there are categories of gifts listed in the New Testament.
But, Peter does not take the time to make and exhaustive list all the possible gift categories – nor, do I think, does any New Testament writer. Yet, Peter does give us two categories of giftedness. He describes speaking gifts and doing gifts.
But I think it is a misunderstanding to think, “well, I have a speaking gift and that is it.” Or, “I have a serving gift and that’s it.” Or to use the categories in Romans, “I have the gift of generosity and that’s just who I am – nothing more.” I just don’t think the categories are given so that we can pinpoint exactly what we have or don’t have – as if there were just eight colors to choose from in the crayon box.
John MacArthur has helpfully said that each Christian is like a spiritual snowflake, utterly unique. I think this is a great image. You have been given a gift to build up this body, but that gift is multifaceted and uniquely beautiful. Your gift from the Spirit of God may include a unique teaching component, a unique contributing component, a unique faith component, and so one.
So I really don’t think the question is “what gift do I have?” as much as “how can I love and serve this body with the way God has made me?” Rather than looking inward toward ourselves we should be looking outward loving one another. The Spirit of God has uniquely gifted you for service in this body. Seek to love and serve and help the Body of Christ and I believe your giftedness will emerge – your unique and beautiful manifestation of the Spirit will emerge.
There is a danger that we are so focus on figuring out ourselves and how we are gifted that we fail to actually love our brothers and sisters – the thing we were gifted to do.
God’s Words and God’s Strength
So, if we take the categories Peter give us here of speaking and doing there may be occasion for each of us to speak and an occasion for each of us to do with our unique gift. Speaking gifts are more broad than preaching and public teaching. Words of private encouragement, discernment, wisdom, exhortation are all speaking. You are uniquely gifted to speak and God intends to bless others by your words.
Doing is more broad than being a faithful financial contributor. There are endless ways to serve and build each other up as many here regularly demonstrate – and your service will look different from mine or anyone else’s.
So as we think about speaking and doing for the good of others Peter tells us that in all our speaking we are to speak …as one who speaks oracles of God… In all our doing we are to… serve by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
I wonder if this characterizes our speaking. When you open your mouth do you always speak to serve one another with the words that God would have you speak. That is not to say that you can only quote Scripture or that anything we say should be considered authoritative, rather is our intention to bless others with words that God would approve of? Does this characterize our Christian homes? Does this characterize our fellowship here – that we only speak here words intended to help and heal and serve and care for and build up the hearers, words that God has given you for the encouragement of others?
I wonder if verse 11 characterizes our doing. When we move ourselves to act do you act to serve others? And do you use the energies and abilities that God has given you to build up and strengthen, help and heal your brothers and sisters. In all that we do we are to do it recognizing that it is God who has given us the strength and ability to do it.
The danger is that love will not be our motivation here.
This morning we are being reminded that we are here to display the glory and power of God through Jesus Christ – he has created a new people. People who are not only forgiven and going to heaven, but people who have been given the very Spirit of Christ – to love one another. Each of us is uniquely gifted to love each other. Let us use what God has given us so that the church is strengthened and God is seen to be the powerful Savior He truly is through Jesus Christ.
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.
Let us press on to glorify God through Jesus Christ by loving one another.