Duty in View of the Nearness of the End
1 Peter 4:7-11
But the end of all things is at hand: be you therefore sober, and watch to prayer.…

I. NEARNESS OF THE END. "But the end of all things is at hand." It is presupposed that all things are to come to an end, i.e. the Divine purpose in all things is to be brought forward to its completion. What gives this solemn significance to us, is that there is to be, in view of probation, a final relating of us to the purpose. How shall we stand related to the completion of all things? Stress is laid here on the time of the end. It is not revealed when definitely it is to be - whether it is to be today or a thousand years hence. In judging of the language employed, it is to be borne in mind that with the Lord "a thousand years are as one day." Allowance is to be made for the great vividness of the language. The early Christians, taking some words of revelation too literally, thought the end of all things was to be in their day. We go to the opposite extreme, and put it far off. It is intended that the Church, in all times, should have a vivid realization of the end.


1. Personal duty.

(1) Calmness. "Be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober." The two verbs are to the same purport. The first points rather to governing considerations; the second points rather to the effect of governing considerations. Because the end is near, we are not to be imaginative, extravagant, unbalanced. We are to be free even from the intoxication of the coming glory; not driven to idleness, but bringing ordinary prudence to bear on our daily duties; not taking our pleasure, but rather being the more exacting on ourselves.

(2) Calmness unto prayer. "Unto prayer." A calm mind is needed for prayer; prayer, again, reacts on the mind in making it calm. By prayer we quietly refer the determination of the future and of the end to God. The force of the plural seems to be that we are to connect prayer with every event as it transpires; thus shall we be prepared for the last event.

2. Relative duty.

(1) Ministering love in its intensity. "Above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins." It is presupposed that we are to have love among ourselves; the essential thing is that this love is to have its proper intensity or warmth. Soon the end is to be upon us; why should there be any coldness or disagreements? The apostle does not enjoin without presenting sufficient reason. He goes back, as is his manner, on Old Testament language. "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Proverbs 10:12). It is the latter clause that is made use of here, with the substitution of "a multitude of sins" for "all sins." It is not difficult to catch the meaning. Where there is rancor or coldness there are constant occasions of variance; where there is good feeling there is a passing by faults in the spirit of forgiveness. For the removal of faults connected with brotherly intercourse, the Church must depend on the fervency of love.

(2) Ministering love in its manifestations. Hospitality. Using hospitality one to another without murmuring." It is taken for granted that we are hospitable. There was greater opportunity when Christians had sometimes to leave their homes, to lose their employment, on account of their religion. Stress is laid here on the quality of this form of ministration. Let it be without murmuring, i.e. at the trouble and expense caused by the hospitality. There is a hint here, which is not unneeded. Our religion requires that we should give out of our means for its support and extension. When we thus give out of our means, in loyalty to our convictions, let us not spoil the giving by murmuring. Exercise of gifts. Rule for their exercise. "According as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." All that God graciously bestows on the Church is here called grace; particular manifestations are graces (the words being connected). The grace of God (summing up the particular manifestations, and implying their homogeneity) is manifold, i.e. the gifts graciously bestowed on members of the Church are very varied. Each hath received a gift, i.e. one or more. According to the kind of gift which each hath received we are to minister it. We are not to allow it to be unused; and the rule for its ministration is that we are to use it for the good of the Christian community. This proceeds on our being not absolute owners, but stewards of the gift. As God has bestowed the gift, he has the right to determine the use to which it is to be put; and he intends it for the service, not of the individual (which would be division), but of the society (which preserves unity). What, then, we have to aim at is to be good stewards, i.e. to have the excellence of stewardship - fidelity to our trust. Let us see that we faithfully carry out the intention with which the gift was bestowed on us. Application of the rule to speaking. "If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God." It is a complaint brought against Christian teachers that we assume too much. We assume the existence of God; we assume that the Bible has come from God. We do not argue about these things in the pulpit. We have warrant for taking this course. We proceed on the principle here laid down by the Apostle Peter. In speaking, we speak as it were the oracles of God, i.e. as uttering the Divine thoughts, as giving forth the truths presented to us in God's book. And it is preaching that answers to this description - is an effective uttering of the Divine thoughts, opening of the meaning of Scripture, that is fitted to produce the best results. Application of the rule to doing. "if any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth." We are not to think merely of official ministering. There is a ministering official and unofficial to the young, to the poor, to the sick, to the ignorant, to the erring. The rule for this ministering is here laid down. Whatever service we render to the congregation, or to any section of those who need to be cared for, we are to do it, not as out of our own store of strength, but out of the strength which God supplieth. It is by attention to this rule (difficult, for self will come in, even when we profess to be unselfish) that Christian service is to be purified and elevated. Let us seek, even in our ordinary services, to be filled with the thought of God supplying the strength. End contemplated in the rule. "That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen." The speaking and the acting are both regulated so that, in all things embraced under these, God is to be glorified, and not we the speakers and actors. It is God's thoughts we utter, not our own; and so God has the glory for these. It is God's strength that we employ in service; and so it is to him that we ascribe the enabling power. It is only through Christ's agency that we can either speak or act; and so when we glorify God, it is through him. The glory and the power we ascribe to God to the ages of ages. To this ascription let us add our hearty "Amen." - R.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

WEB: But the end of all things is near. Therefore be of sound mind, self-controlled, and sober in prayer.

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