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;1 Peter 4:7Christ's Absence and Return.
All the practical exhortations of this passage are founded upon the truth that "the end of all things is at hand." Yet, strange to say, there is hardly any passage of Scripture which has given rise to more frequent cavils than this simple assurance.
I. Some persons are fond of asserting that the Apostles were mistaken in this belief; that when they wrote the end of all things was not at hand. But the answer is, that the Apostles warned the men of their own age, and through them the men of every age, that by remembering the uncertainty of the world's duration they should assign to temporal things their true value and see that the true safety of a Christian consists in a life of prayer, and love, and active duty.
II. But there are some who object altogether to the hope of heavenly reward as a motive of action. Christ Himself, however, encouraged His disciples by such promises. St. Paul was stirred up by them to ever-increasing diligence and greater eagerness in pressing towards the mark. If we are not to lower our conception of goodness by practising it for the sake of future happiness, neither are we required to
"Wind ourselves too high
For sinful man beneath the sky,"
and to exclude from the heart every feeling except a cold and naked sense of duty.
G. E. L. Cotton, Expository Sermons on the Epistles, vol. ii., p. 40.
References: 1 Peter 4:7.—W. W. How, Church of England Pulpit, vol. x., p. 517; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 260.
1 Peter 4:8It is quite evident that the sins spoken of here are not our own sins, but the sins of other persons, and that the intention is to say that as hatred brings causes of quarrel to the surface, so love puts the faults of other people down out of sight.
I. Love shall cover multitudes of sins—from. God and from man. Love by silence and by veiling hides from man, and by prayer and by converting hides from God. And yet, in all ages of the Church, men have built from my text the fallacy that a man's charities are, in some way, a set-off against his sins. Love covers sins. Love learnt her office where she learnt everything: upon the bosom of Jesus Christ. It is a good and pleasant exercise to substitute for the word "charity," wherever you find it in the Bible, the word "Christ." And see how accurately and how exquisitely true the sentence runs respecting all that charity is and charity does when charity is Christ. And this is Christ's blessed work: He covers the multitude of sins.
II. Your mission as a Christian is to be a coverer of sins. If you know of anything to any one's detriment, hold it as a sacred deposit, to be used religiously. Never think that you can make yourself great by making another less. Let it be your characteristic, the point by which you are known in society, that, like your Master, you always cover everybody's sins. It will be true religion.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1865.
References: 1 Peter 4:8.—G. Dawson, The Authentic Gospel, p. 86; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension to Trinity, p. 93; F. VV. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 353; E. H. Plumptre, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 392. 1 Peter 4:9, 1 Peter 4:10.—H. D. B. Rawnsley, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 93.
1 Peter 4:10Combination.
I. Religion is, in one sense, a hidden thing—"a life hid with Christ in God." Acts rather than words are the invigorating exponents of emotion. And doubtless it is the consciousness of this law of our being which in great measure accounts for that delicate reserve which makes it repugnant to all minds of the finest temper to speak much of their religious experiences. In secrecy lies the secret of their strength. And further there is another motive, and that, too, a noble one, which makes many Christians, especially among the young, chary of giving utterance to their religious convictions. They distrust their genuineness, or at least their abiding power. To many it seems much more easy to obey Christ's teaching when He warns them against ostentatious and therefore hypocritical devotion, than when He utters the no less needful exhortation, "Let your light so shine before men," etc.
II. And yet this last exhortation must not be forgotten, or received only with a lukewarm willingness to obey it. "As every man hath received the gift." What gift? The gifts of the Holy Spirit are infinitely various, but the greatest of all is the gift of Himself, the gift of loving God, of caring for the things of heaven, of having even a definite desire to be on the side of Christ, and not on that of His enemies. This is indeed a gift, and, like all gifts of God, it brings with it a responsibility. It is something which demands not only to be appropriated, but also to be traded with and devoted to the relief of others. If any one has, through God's grace, been brought to hate sin and to see its ruinous, soul-destroying character; let him not shut up this holy conviction in his own heart, but let him be glad to find opportunities for imparting it to others. By so doing, he will greatly confirm his own sense of its importance, and he will have done much to confirm the faith and courage of his brethren. For there is no cordial so cheering to the Christian soldier as the discovery that he is not alone, but that, while he has been striving to serve his Master in secret, others also, unknown to him, have been engaged in the same struggle.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 46.
In the kingdom of grace, as in the kingdom of nature, God turns everything to account. He gave it a beginning by His own direct and almighty power; and He could just as easily, by the same power, carry it on to its final completion. But this is not His manner of doing. He expects it, by virtue of that principle of life which He has communicated to it, to carry itself on now, not independently of Him, but in reliance upon Him and receiving from Him, just as nature is dependent on Him for the continuance of its vital and vitalising force. But still, in so far as instrumentality is concerned, the work is its own, not His. God did not give us the faculty for nothing. He gave it for use; He gave it that it might come out in its appropriate life, thereby always becoming more faculty, while it continues to yield more fruit.
I. Look at the nature of the thing spoken of: ministry; service. We are apt to look upon service as a menial thing. That may be our idea, but there is nothing more glorified in the Bible. Service, mutual helpfulness growing out of mutual dependence, is the law of the universe. So it is in grace. The spiritual sphere knows no other law. It is held together by it. Let us set this down as an unquestionable fact. Service is the law of our life, by which we rise out of sense to spirit; we touch angels; we perpetuate Christ; we repeat His example and keep His memory fresh in the world.
II. Observe the range of the duty. It is universal. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same." This makes the matter very simple. It puts an end to all casuistry and all excuses. And, indeed, it could not be other than universal, since it is the law of rational life. It is not merely the law of spiritually renewed life. It is the recognised law in that case. But whether recognised or not, it is still the law. It holds angels—"Are they not all ministering spirits?"—and they honour the law; but it equally holds men and devils who break the law.
III. The rule of duty: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same." It is idle to say you can do nothing, for if you are a Christian, you have received something. This rule applies to the form and to the measure of the gift, both to its kind and to its degree.
IV. Look, lastly, at what comes out of all this—this picture, if I may so say, of the family of Christ. (1) There is universal responsibility. It takes in all. The great is not above it, and the weakest is not beneath it. (2) There is universal utility. Every one is employed, young and old, rich and poor. Every one is a minister according to his gift. (3) A totality of progress. This diversity of gifts secures that every part of the work shall be done; for it is just love in its innumerable forms addressing itself to the world's innumerable needs.
A. L. Simpson, Sermons, p. 16.
1 Peter 4:10The Christian Stewardship.
I. The manifold grace of God—the term is a remarkable one; it is that word by which the Greeks expressed infinite variety of hue or of design, the shiftings and glistenings of richly mingled colours or the dappled patterns of skilful embroidery. And by it a lesson is conveyed to us of no inconsiderable importance. We have not, I think, been good stewards of this manifold grace. We have been ever apt to look on the grace of God in one or at most in some few of its aspects only. We have forgotten its manifoldness, its many-shifting hues, its exquisite and inexhaustible richness of tint and pattern. In other words, we have assumed for the Gospel of Christ too exclusively theological a character. This has been the fault of the Church for ages. By setting forth the Gospel in its manifold points of human interest, we might have had much more hold on men's hearts, and brought in a richer harvest of souls to Christ.
II. Every one of us is more or less put in trust with this manifold grace, in one or other of its departments. And when we review the wonderful process of love by which it has been won for us, is it not a very solemn question for us all, for every one in his own case, "Am I a good steward of this manifold grace?" (1) Wealth is a stewardship. As a man's worldly means increase, so his charities ought to increase. (2) Talent is a stewardship. (3) Influence is a stewardship. If we use our stewardships as our own, His property committed to us as if it were not His, we cannot walk in the track of His gracious purposes, nor at last enter into His joy.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v., p. 15.
References: 1 Peter 4:10.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 60; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 287; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 228.
1 Peter 4:11God's Scholars.
I. Our labours of the understanding. May I say, "If any man read, let him read as if his book were God's work," or as if he were God's scholar? We cannot make a Christian use of other books, if the book of God Himself be not familiar to us. Nor, again, can we possibly turn common things into our spiritual food. We shall not easily be led to think of the highest things by the study of books on worldly matters, if even, when the occasion directly calls for it, our thoughts are still slow to travel heavenward. And therefore, if we would learn to read everything as God's scholars, we must at least read the Bible as such, I mean with a sincere desire to practise it.
II. Our labours of charity, or our acts of kindness to our neighbours. "If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth." If we give but a cup of cold water to one of the humblest of our brethren, let it be done for Christ's sake. Perhaps the need of our remembering this is greater than we are apt to imagine. There is something so delightful in kindness, so natural in the wish to please and to relieve, so exceedingly sweet in the consciousness of having done good to others and in receiving the return of others' grateful love, that I am afraid our charity is very often unsanctified. There is no real goodness, there is even no safety from condemnation, unless we glorify God through Jesus Christ. All our thoughts and all our actions are unworthy of God's acceptance; they can be accepted by Him only in His beloved Son, He in our place and we in His, that as He took upon Him the infirmities of our nature, we might be clothed with the perfections of His; and as He died because we were sinners, so we might be loved and receive eternal life because He is righteous.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 193.
Reference: 1 Peter 4:12, 1 Peter 4:13.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 291.
1 Peter 4:13Consider:—
I. What Christ could not, as a perfectly pure and holy Being, have suffered for sins. (1) One element of suffering for sin, and that a most bitter one, of which Christ could have no direct experience, is conscious guilt. Wide as is the range of its sympathies with the sinful, there is a line beyond which a nature which is itself sinless can never pass. Into that dismal region overshadowed by the gloom of guilt, and where rage the furies of an avenging conscience, He who "was in all points tempted" like as we are, yet without sin, could never follow us. (2) Another element of suffering for sin of which a perfectly holy nature could have no experience is a personal sense of Divine wrath. Betwixt the experience of a guilty soul writhing under the frown of God and His there is an impassable gulf. (3) Nor, finally, though Christ tasted death for every man, could He ever experience personally that which constitutes to the sinner the very bitterness of death: the fear of what comes after death.
II. What kind of suffering for sin may be conceived of as noble and worthy, and so not impossible to a pure and holy nature. I notice (1) that which a pure and holy nature must feel from the mere contiguity of evil; (2) the reflected or borrowed shame and pain which noble natures feel for the sins of those with whom they are closely connected. (3) Christ suffered for sin, not only as bearing relatively its guilt, but also as its Victim.
J. Caird, Sermons, p. 167.
Reference: 1 Peter 4:13.—W. Boyd-Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 97.
1 Peter 4:14The Ennobling Power of the Gospel.
I. Externally these kings and priests, these bearers on their heads of the Spirit of glory and of God, are invested with no dignities. Strangers and scattered, pained by ever-varying temptations, many of them slaves in the households of the heathen, all liable to be reproached for the name of Christ—such was their actual condition of humiliation and obligation; such, for many of them, was their actual present poverty and meanness of estate. They had been transformed, transfigured. From beings merely of the world around them, from the huge commonalty of character and condition, certainly from no assemblage of genius and culture, they had been refined into the family likeness of the children of God, by faith in Jesus. They had that upon them which, as we well know, made them an awful yet blessed power on the earth: the Spirit of glory and of God.
II. It was the nature of the message of Jesus to give to these peasants and slaves of Asia Minor the title, the aspirations, the courage, the wisdom, of citizens and heirs of heaven. It emancipated them into a Divine freedom. It raised them to a supernatural nobility. It taught them such things as facts about the soul and its future, about eternity, about God, as made them feel a totally new wonder and significance in themselves, their duty and their destiny; and so it led them to act, to live and die, with a purpose and in a manner that answered in some measure to that deep significance. Nothing but the Scripture revelation of redemption in Jesus Christ, with eternal glory, has proved itself to be the bearer of all the fruits of the Spirit. Other things can produce strength without meekness, kindness without holiness, aspirations without repentance, refinement without love. The Gospel is formed to produce them all, as the direct result from its simplest elements, and this not only because it is the message from the throne, but because, being such, it remembers, and provides for, and addresses the whole of man: his misery and his greatness; his greatness and his misery.
H. C. G. Moule, Christ is All, p. 191.
References: 1 Peter 4:17.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvi., p. 84. 1 Peter 4:18.—J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 229; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 85.
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.
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:
Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
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.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.