Facing the Apocalypse Part 2 – 1 Peter 4:8-11


apocalypse

1 Peter Part 17

1 Peter 4:7-11

Facing The Apocalypse Part 2

AUDIO FOR THIS SERMON CAN BE FOUND HERE

  Last time we saw Peter’s thought process in vs. 7 that:  “the end of all things is at hand, THEREFORE”.

We noted it is not that the end of the world was about to take place, but rather we have entered into the “end times” – which culminate in the final and complete UNVEILING – REVELATION – APOCALYPSE of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

And, that those who are in Christ are part of this apocalypse or unveiling now!  Philippians 2:14–15 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Christians, thinking and living like those genuinely translated out of the kingdom of darkness into Christ glorious kingdom of light, will stand out more and more in stark contrast to this present age.

We are part of God’s “revealing” – His apocalypse.

 “the end of all things is at hand – THEREFORE:

  1. “Be self-controlled and sober-minded, for the sake of your prayers.”

Self-controlled through the indwelling Spirit of Christ;

Sober-minded as informed by the Word;

And this – for the sake of our prayers. 

Now we move on to the 2nd part of Peter’s THEREFORE in vss – 8-11 

  1. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

And then he unpacks what this “loving one another” looks like.

This would be especially applicable to Peter’s first readers.

Experience shows us that when we undergo times of extreme or long term distress – for whatever cause – it is natural to turn inward and to stop thinking in terms of giving to others.

Not only that, but as fallen, yet redeemed creatures, we are prone to think of ourselves in terms only OF ourselves, and forget that God’s plan in His revelation is a plan carried out THROUGH THE CHURCH.

Remember Peter’s great confession in Matthew 16:15–18 “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Note what Jesus didn’t say: He didn’t say upon this rock I will build the mass of individual Christians – but “I will build my Church.”

And from that point on as we progress through the NT, the focus is upon individual salvation bringing people into being part of the Family or People of God – which finds its expression in the local Church. We don’t get saved and remain alone or free agents.

We are saved to be a part of His Body, His Church, His people.

It is why Church membership is so important.

Because we are not meant to live the Christian life alone, but committed to a group of God’s people as living and growing WITH God’s people – not in isolation.  

Solomon says it well in Proverbs: Proverbs 18:1 “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”

Note how the NT is arranged, the letters are all written to gatherings of Believers.

The Church at Rome.

The Church at Corinth.

The Church at Galatia, at Ephesus, at Philippi, at Colosse, Thessalonica, James – to the dispersed tribes – but in a community context, even Timothy and Titus are written to individuals as they organize and build up the Churches where they are.

Philemon, as personal as it is, is written with a greeting which included to the Church which meets in his house.

People gathered in local Churches is the great underlying presupposition of the entire NT – even as the land of Israel in the OT is to the People of God as His people.

No one can read anything in the Word which is not addressed to a group larger than themselves alone – it is for people in the context of the Churches in which they live and function and grow and minister to others.

But as we said above, in times of persecution and marginalization – it is easy to understand how some would say – “you know what? I don’t need the added aggravation of dealing with the tensions of personal disagreements and the sins of other Christians – I’ll just go it alone.”

Peter then warns them that this must be guarded against.

How?

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

In your distress…

In these scattered little house Churches as these most certainly were…

Don’t stop “apocalypting” – by failing to love one another, and not from afar, in theory only – but earnestly – which will necessarily involve  –  covering a multitude of sins.

The Church is not seen as just that mass of unconnected, individual Christians, but the Church as gathered communities of Believers.

Banded together to work and live as a group who together provide for a place for the public worship of God in society;

For the proclamation of God’s truth in the preaching of His Word in society;

For mutual prayer, counsel, comfort, confrontation and even conflict – so that we might learn how to grow in grace, since Christ’s goal for us is to be conformed to the image of Christ. 

This, Peter locates in 2 things, the 2nd of which flows out of the 1st.

  1. (9) “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
  2. (10) As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Which he then supplies us with several examples of in vs. 11.

 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

What does it mean for love to “cover” sins here?

What sins is he talking about that love “covers”?

When most of us as Christians for any time think of the “covering” of sin, our minds go back to the imagery God gave us in the Holy of Holies, where the cover of the Ark of the Covenant is referred to as the Mercy Seat. Where the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the day of atonement is sprinkled and the sins of the Jews were “covered” for another year.

The word for “atonement” in the OT comes from a word which means to cover with tar or pitch.

It makes it first appearance in Genesis where Noah is told to seal the Ark with “pitch” – with this covering that allows the Ark to carry them safely through the outpouring of God’s wrath without harm from the flood. It implied making the cracks and the defects invisible behind this pitch.

Then in the Tabernacle & Temple, the word is co-opted as blood is applied to the mercy seat or the cover of the Ark of the Covenant.

Now that covering word itself is not used in the NT, but it does have a counterpart – PROPITIATION – as in Hebrews 2:17 “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

And there, it is not a repeated action – but something done once and for all so that the Believer can be permanently reconciled to God the Father through Jesus’ work on the Cross.

But Peter’s word here is not the same. His idea of covering here is not in propitiating for sin the way Christ did.

This word is more common and having to do with covering up other’s failures, so that they are not exposed to others. It is even used of burying, of being completely covered over.

What is Peter after? Karen Jobes in her commentary says it well: What does it mean that love “covers” sins?..love’s covering is put in antithetic parallelism to “hatred stirring up dissension and quarrels”: “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs” (Prov. 10:12 NIV). Since “hatred” is the antonym of “love,” the phrase “covers a multitude of sins” in this antithetic parallel suggests that the sense of “covering” and “stirring up dissension” are also opposites…the love that covers sins is probably best understood as a forbearance that does not let wrongs done within the Christian community come to their fullest and most virulent expression. This was the way Clement of Rome understood 1 Pet. 4:8 in the late first century…The downward spiral is broken when someone in loving forbearance breaks the cycle of acting on hard feelings and doing wrong[1]

Another commentator sums it up this way: [It is]“when a private personal injury has been done to him, [acting] as though nothing had occurred. In this way, by simply ignoring the unkind act or the insulting word, … he brings the evil thing to an end; it dies and leaves no seed…This consideration gives dignity and worth inestimable to the feeble efforts of the most insignificant of us to make love the controlling principle in our daily lives.[2]

And this kind of covering another’s sins in love, Peter says is to be done “earnestly” – i.e. pursued actively over and over again.

Who can write the long sad tale of how Churches and Christians have been disrupted and divided because Christians have never learned to cover one another’s sins in love?

Because we take slights and careless acts into ourselves and allow them to fester and grow and become malignant and destructive.

Christians are not to be thin-skinned – thrown by every bruise.

No, not EVERY sin can be dealt with this way.

Where there is repeated sin which shows a true pattern or habit, we need to go to our brother or sister’s aide in helping them get free of it.

Or when serious spiritual damage by leading others into sin or false doctrine, or when those things are public and are ACTUAL sins, and not just things we don’t like or aren’t our taste or are uncomfortable with – the Bible spells out courses of action which can be taken.

But this is the FIRST course.    

Let it go.

Cover it.

Ignore it.

Move past it and on to more important things.

This is the very nature of love: As per Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Did you catch those “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”?

They’re not a cast offs. Love’s 1st assumption is that the other person is NOT out to hurt me.

If you are the kind of person who gets angry when someone steps on your toe, rather than just saying ouch – you’re in trouble, and the Church with you. If you bear with nothing – you fail to love.

Be careful, as the writer to the Hebrews warns: 12:15 “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”

It is not the Spirit of Christ to prosecute every little offense – either formally or in our hearts!

If Jesus had spent His time on earth fencing with everyone who slighted, slandered and poked at Him – He’d have had no time nor the frame of mind to minister so freely to everyone.

And He certainly would have not been prepared – to say “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” on the Cross.

 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

With everything else we’ve discussed, in these hard times – keep loving one another. Do it earnestly and persistently.

It is seated in the recognition that the Church is comprised of broken people living and working with other broken people.

And do it so as to cover a MULTITUDE of sins, not just one or two.

Which shows itself in the Church in the next verse.

1 Peter 4:9 “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Since these tiny little Churches were forced to exist only in homes – the spill over is evident: Don’t stop doing Church, hosting worship and fellowship in your homes in light of these personal issues.

Invite them still and without a grumbling heart.

For to worship together and hear the Word taught together and to pray together is of the utmost importance.

And in that – 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” – don’t stop using the graces God has given you to bless one another.

How hard our hearts can become – so that over the littlest things we can withdraw and not live to serve the Body of Christ with the gifts He has given us.

I communicated with a pastor not long ago, who found himself surrounded by a core of people who – over disagreements about petty things – decided they would show their displeasure by simply defunding the Church – refusing to give as they formerly had, in order to punish the leadership.

They let bitterness rise up in a situation where I know for a fact after investigating it personally – it was not serious sin which was at the root, but mere disagreements over procedures and preferences and power.

And they covered no one’s sins – but did what they could to expose them – and that, after sometimes even inventing sins!

They stopped receiving others but rather turned people away from the assembly.

And they robbed the Church not only of their monetary gifts, but of any true means of ministering Christ to others – because they were ticked off. And the damage to the Church was horrific. Almost causing them to close their doors.

And this, not as Peter’s readers, spread out in hostile foreign territories, but here in the midst of the relative ease and prosperity and freedom on our nation.

Shameful in every way.

NO! – Peter goes on to instruct – instead, “10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 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.”

Don’t stop serving one another with the grace God has given you.

Whether it be in word or in deed (as vs. 11 is demonstrating) – continue to gather and to bless so that in EVERYTHING, God may be glorified – revealed, “apocalypted” through Jesus Christ – as you are His servants serving in His Church in this world.

Why?

Because to Him belong glory and dominion, forever and ever.

And if it be forever and ever, NOW, falls right in the middle of that.

Oh, to be truly His lights, shining in this dark place in lives committed to His glory in the Church.

Or as Paul puts it in Ephesians 3:21 “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

 

  

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

[1] Jobes, Karen H. 2005. 1 Peter. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[2] Jobes, Karen H. 2005. 1 Peter. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

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