1 Peter Class 4 - Exhortations for Ecclesial Stewards

1 Peter Class 4 - Exhortations for Ecclesial Stewards

We’ve seen over the past two classes some very specific exhortations which have nonetheless been very helpful for us. The basic principles and examples are all ones that we must apply in our individual cases. But now, at 4:7 the exhortation turns general again as he talks to the household of faith and keeps on with his message of the fiery trials before the eternal glory.

Verses 7-8

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

There must have been many words of Jesus echoing in Peter’s head as he wrote this letter. Back in Gethsemane Jesus scolded them “watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Hadn’t the Lord also said, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come?” (Matt. 24:42). He had warned them of the destruction of the temple and they were in tense anticipation of that event. In that same prophecy he had warned them,

(Mat 24:12-13) "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. {13} But he that shall endure unto the end , the same shall be saved."

Now Peter sees this end approaching and he urges them in verse 8 not to let their love wax cold.

“And above all things have fervent charity ( agape love ) among yourselves: for charity ( agape love ) shall cover the multitude of sins.”

As we study this passage we can see again the slow repetitious teaching of Peter which is driving the point home (see 1:22; 2:17; 3:8). Love the brotherhood, fervently, without grudging. The interesting addition here is the quotation from Proverbs 10:12,

"Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins ."

And a similar Proverb in 17:9,

" He that covereth a transgression seeketh love ; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends."

To cover a transgression does not mean to conceal it in secret, as if to sweep it under the rug, for the Proverbs state again and again that sins have to be openly confessed to be forgiven. The true meaning of the proverb is found in the principles of Matthew 18:15,

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone : if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."

This is how love handles transgressions. Hate would broadcast your brothers sins to others who do not need to be involved. Love covers them over. It’s between you, them and God. The only parties that really need to know. Many bad feelings and unnecessary hurts are caused when we do not follow this pattern set out by Christ in Matthew 18.

While love is a nice concept it is something that must be acted out. "Hospitality" (philoxenos G5382) literally means "fond of guests, or strangers". This is to be an attitude developed with a unhesitatingly generous mind and not one out of compulsion. It does no good in the sight of God if you don't really and truly love to take care of your brothers and sisters, one to another, and to give them those things which are necessary for the body. In this case attitude is everything. Donald Cogan who was the Archbishop of Canterbury said,

"True Christian hospitality is making people feel at home, when you wish they were at home."

While this quote is amusing it doesn't really express true Christian hospitality which is one that never wishes people to be at their own homes.

Verses 10-11

Following on then with this thought that we are to give freely of all things Peter says,

"As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

The word “the gift” does not have the article in the Greek and therefore could be understood as “a gift”. Peter is not talking here about the Spirit gifts for he is much too general here in application. There is a more general sense of the gifts of God used in scripture which has more to do with the abilities he has given us in the body of Christ. So it relates more to the parable of the talents. In fact there are many connections which draw us to Luke 12 from the teachings of the Lord Jesus that Peter has all ready drawn from.

Luke 12

1 Peter

32 - little flock

5:2-4 - feed the flock

33 - treasure in the heavens, no corruption

1:4 - reserved in heaven, incorruptible

35 - loins girded

1:13 - gird up the loins of your mind

37 - servants watching

4:7 - watch; 5:8 - be vigilant

41 - Notice that Peter is the one asking the question, “Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward , whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

42 - faithful and wise steward

4:10 - good steward

42 - household

4:17 - house of God

43 - doing

4:19 - well doing

45 - drunken servant beating other servants

4:7 - sober, loving other servants

47 - his will

4:19 - God's will

These gifts then are not a power to work miracles but the simply talents given by God to work in His ecclesia. Paul draws out some more examples of these types of manifold gifts in Romans 12:6-8,

"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy , let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; {7} Or ministry , let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth , on teaching; {8} Or he that exhorteth , on exhortation: he that giveth , let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth , with diligence; he that showeth mercy , with cheerfulness."

So where as Paul lists seven gifts of grace, Peter summarizes them down into two categories of speaking and ministry. Lord willing, we can see inside each one of us one of these gifts. We’ve all been given something and it’s up to us to discover it and capitalize on it for the glory of God. Whoa be unto us if we neglect the gift and bury the talent.

(1 Pet 4:11) "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."

So some may have the gift to speak, to prophecy, to exhort and teach. The first phrase may be better rendered "if anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God" (NIV). This does not mean that a speakers words are inspired but that they should approach what they say very carefully because they are commenting on God's direct words. There is no wisdom of ourselves for all things are of God.

Even our ministering is of God. If we have a special ability to be a leader. If we can give freely of our substance. Even if we show mercy these too are gifts that we cannot say are our own. Our ministering in whatever capacity must also be acknowledged as from God. For we are truly created for his glory and as his vessels this is truly all we seek after.

Verses 12,17

It almost seems as if Peter would have finished his letter here with the word “amen”. Yet thankfully for our benefit he continues by going back to the familiar topic of fiery trials before glory. The words “fiery trial” is one word in the Greek, purosis. It has the idea of “fiery, burning and smelting.” So once again Peter as in 1:7 uses the idea of us as precious metals being purged of our dross by fire. For the fourth time he focuses these things on the sufferings of Christ. He once again says that it is according to the will of God that we may suffer for righteousness. Lord willing in a little while we will draw more on the sufferings of Christ for our exhortation.

I had mentioned before that the persecutions that these brethren and sisters were undergoing were not physically but verbal with reproaches and slander. Peter also says that they may or may not undergo these types of sufferings as he uses the word “if” in 3:14; 4:14 and 4:16. Yet he didn’t leave out the possibility for physically violence to come their way. From historical records we can see that shortly after this epistle Christians were to undergo the worst of persecutions by being thrown to lions and burnt to death. Peter thus prepares the ecclesia for their trials to come.

The only other place the term "Christian" (v. 16) is used in the Bible is Acts 11:26 and 26:28. Some have taken this to be initially a derogatory slander on followers of Christ. Peter's usage here may lend some weight to that theory. The "name" Christian did come to play an important part in persecutions as is evidence by this quote,

"Nearly fifty years after the probable date of 1 Peter, Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62-113), the Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus (109-111), one of the provinces to which this letter was addressed, wrote to the emperor Trajan for advice on how to deal with Christians:

"I have never taken part in investigations of Christians, so I do not know what charge is usually brought against them. Neither do I know whether punishment is given just for the name, apart from secret crimes connected with the name. This is the course I have taken: I asked them if they were Christians. If they said yes, I asked them a second and a third time, with threats of punishment. If they still said yes, I ordered them to be executed. Those who denied being Christians, I thought it right to let go. They recited a prayer to the gods at my dictation, offered incense and wine to your statue, and cursed Christ. Those who are really Christians cannot be made to do these things." (Pliny, Letters 10.96)" Norman Hillyer, New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Peter, Jude

It is always sobering to read things like this. How would we do under similar circumstances? It is difficult to even grasp being in such a trial in the society of our times which seems so tolerant and accepting. There are brothers and sisters living now in foreign lands who know a little more acutely what Peter is talking about. How can we take these times for granted? We have an open door in front of us to preach the gospel, free of hindrance. What an opportunity. Why do we squander our time on other menial things?

Verses 17-18

Can we be assured that times will always be so good for us who live in the last days? Absolutely not,

"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? {18} And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"

The judgment is not speaking here of condemnation but of the overall process where something is found either good or bad. The judgment process is one that is actively happening in the ecclesia to purge out the dross and reveal the gold of faith in it's members. Those who cannot stand the heat, leave and are judged to be not worthy but those who endure to the end will be saved. The trials that we go through therefore make manifest the intentions of our hearts. It’s under pressure that our true nature will come shining through whether it be bad or good.

The term “house of God” is a very literal translation where the NIV’s “family” and RSV’s “household” maybe the sense, what Peter is really doing here is making use again of that spiritual temple imagery (2:5). His words are based on a principle first of all echoed in Ezekiel 9. In this vision given to Ezekiel there are great judgments going to come upon Israel for their wickedness and to symbolize this the glory of God is described as leaving the temple.

(Ezek 9:3) "And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side;"

So whereas Peter in 4:14 speaks of the “spirit of glory resting upon us” here we see the complete opposite. We are then introduced to a man clothed in linen who marks the foreheads of those who "sigh and that cry for all the abominations" (v. 4) that were being done in Judah. That mark on the forehead saves them from the executioners who go out to slay the wicked according to God's command. The connection with Peter's words comes in verse 6,

"... and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house".

In the LXX the word for "begin" and "house" are the same words that Peter uses. Finally, the judgments in Ezekiel's time begins with the elders while Peter begins his next section with admonitions for the elder's (the word for elders also being the same in both passages). So it seems that Peter had this passage in mind.

We could also draw some lessons and parallels from Malachi 3. There the Lord says , "I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me". This passage was applied to the preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 1:2). Then the Lord (adon) is said to "suddenly come into his temple, even the messenger of the covenant." Malachi mentions in verse 2 a trial that will be like a fire that purifies and thus a connection is made with Peter's mention of a fiery trial (4:17). The purifying process is for the priests (spiritual priesthood, 1 Pet. 2:5, 9) to offer up an offering in righteousness (spiritual sacrifices, 1 Pet. 2:5). Then the process moves on from a purifying fire to one that will be swift witness against the ungodly and the wicked (Mal. 3:5; 4:1). The principle then is also established here in Malachi that judgment begins at the house of God and moves outward from there.

What we see in these passages are principles or patterns of the last days. The fiery trials start here but that conflagration spreads to consume the whole earth. In Ezekiel’s time it started at the temple and soon spread across the land. In Peter’s day it started with the household of faith but ended up in the mighty destruction of Israel in A.D. 70. So we too can expect our house to be tried by fire, and if we experience this then we know that soon will come the judgment upon the whole world by that man whom God has appointed, Jesus Christ.

Where will we stand in that day? We should welcome any trials that come our way to strengthen us and prepare us for,

(1 Pet 4:18) "... if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"

Scarcely has the idea of “with difficulty, with much work.” So salvation is not as easy as some would make it out to be. We cannot just back into the kingdom of God. It’s not going to happen by some fluke. We have to be seeking it first for narrow is that way that leads to everlasting life. We all know this intellectually but how often it gets lost and forgotten amongst our busy schedules and cares of this life.

Although this is a direct quote from the Septuagint version of Prov. 11:31 the answer to the question is beautifully found in Psalm 1. Here is Psalm that presents to us the righteous (v. 1-3) vs. the ungodly and the sinner in verse 4-6,

"The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. {5} Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. {6} For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish."

Verse 19

“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.”

So when and if we suffer we have this beautiful reassurance that it’s according to God’s will. It’s not done accidentally or because of blind chance. It is God’s will that we suffer and while this may seem harsh in all actuality it is very comforting. If it is God’s will then it’s according to his good purpose to mold us, and to purify us so that we might become closer to him. We can turn over our whole lives to him knowing that in the end there is a limit to the sufferings. In the end there is a light at the end of the tunnel which is the glory of God.

The “faithful Creator” has in mind the overall picture. Our “faithful Creator” is at work perfecting his creation, that is you and I. He knows what he has to do now to get us perfection. This term “faithful Creator” also has the implications of God’s awesome power for resurrection. Job, the hallmark of suffering, put it wonderfully when he said,

(Job 14:14-15) "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. {15} Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands ."

The Lord has a desire for each and everyone of us that we would submit ourselves under His hand so he may work with us and bring about his desired end.

Chapter 5:1-4

The word “elders” refers to the leaders of the ecclesia. It is not necessarily a reference to age but to experience. There is scripture to show that this office of “elder” was the same as that of a “bishop”. In fact the word bishop means overseer and a connecting word for this is used in verse 2, “oversight”. So we have here something analogous to our arranging brethren.

In most modern translations you’ll see chapter 5 starting with the word “therefore” or “so” showing that the exhortation to elders is a follow on from the judgment on the house of God. This fit with what was said concerning Ezekiel 9 where the judgment began with the elders. This makes sense as the leaders of the ecclesia stand in a more precarious position having more responsibility to the flock of God. Paul says that those who serve well are worthy of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17) while James warns us “not to be many masters (or teachers), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1).

So any arranging brother needs to take into account the gravity of his position and that he is overseeing God’s flock.

(1 Pet 5:2-4) "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; {3} Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. {4} And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."

The word “feed” has a dual meaning to feed or to rule as a shepherd. The Hebrew bears the same meaning and has a rich imagery and usage in the Old Testament both for good and bad. So it could be translated as “shepherd the flock”. What does it take to do this? Well, it’s not a university degree. It’s not great administrative skills or the ability to speak well. It is not judged by how popular you are. Peter gives us three qualities of a great elder.

  1. Any service must be done "willingly" (hekousios G1596) or with a volunteering spirit that says "here am I, send me." (Isa. 6:8). "Not by constraint" (anagkastos G317) means "compulsory, compelling or of necessity". Makes one wonder about our pressing brethren into service who would not automatically have done it on their own.
  2. One must be “ready” or eager to get the job done. It is an attitude of mind that is doing not for reward or money for the opposite is "not for filthy lucre" (aischrokerdos G147) which denotes "greedy or eager for base gains" and does not necessarily refer just to money. This drive for power or money is a all to common ailment among church leaders.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, one must be “an ensample to the flock”. The opposite is "being lords" (katakurieuo G2634) which means "to exercise dominion, subject, overcome". We must be careful as leader’s that we are not protecting our egos more then our brothers and sisters. 

Paul’s list of attributes for bishops gives more details as to what sort of example we are talking about.

(1 Tim 3:2-4) "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; {3} Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; {4} One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;"

It is important to have men who are blameless, nothing bad can be said about them. Their lives give the positive teaching of how to live in the ecclesia. They are ensamples patterned after the Lord Jesus Christ, the chief Shepherd.

You’ll notice also that the flock is called “God’s heritage.” The word "God's" is not in the original but definitely has that essence when applying here to the "heritage" (kleros G2819) or "inheritance, lot or portion". The Greek word for "heritage" is "kleros" where we get our modern day word for clergy. Isn't it amazing how the Roman Catholics have changed this around to not apply to the flock but to a select group of priests! Here the ecclesia is referred to as "God's inheritance". Isn't it strange and interesting to think that God's heritage is us! A passage in Eph. 1:11 has literally been translated in Rotherham’s as "in whom also you were taken as an inheritance." This is once again Old Testament language that was applied to Israel but is now applied to the ecclesia. The practice of dividing land by lot was done by Israel when they had conquered the land. As land was apportioned there was one tribe that did not inherit because they were dedicated to the Lord, the Levitical priests. So we too have no abiding place here but we are God's inheritance, his spiritual priests (Deut. 32:9; Mic. 7:14).

Verse 5

Peter now returns to the subject of submission.

"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."

The word "younger" (neos G3501) just means "new" and leaves us open to what class Peter is referring to. The verse must refer back to the previous section as the word "elder" (G4245) is the same used in verse 1-4. So the exhortation is not so much that younger in age should honor the older in age as true as this may be (Lev. 19:32) but more of an exhortation for those new in the truth or new in ecclesial positions to honor the elders or experienced leaders.

It’s often easy to make pot shots at the arranging board when an unpopular decision has been made. Often ecclesial members don’t know all the in and outs that make up such tough judgments but nontheless you can hear the criticisms. Bear in mind that Peter (and Paul) think it very important to honor and respect the rulers of the ecclesia.

(1 Th 5:12-13) "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; {13} And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves."

(Heb 13:17) "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

They are human beings just like you doing their best to apply the principles found in the Bible. As masters to slaves, wives to husbands, children to parents so also are we to follow the same pattern as members of the body to those who rule over the house. Make that job easy for them, give them the benefit of the doubt and make their labor a joy rather then a grief. Speak no evil of them but love them for their works sake knowing that they shall have to give account at the judgment seat more then you.

This is of course an attitude which all of us must have “for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” This is another quote from the Septuagint version of Proverbs 3:34. The word "resisteth" (antitassomai G498) is actually a military term translated by Rotherham as "God against the haughty arrayeth himself". Imagine being opposed by God (like the angel against Balaam). If our attitude is pride then he just doesn't leave us alone but frustrates our efforts. So why fight it?

Verses 6-7

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: {7} Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."

H.P. says that "humble yourselves" (G5013) is in the passive voice and should be translated as "allow yourselves to be humbled". I’ve never had to save a drowning man but I’ve been told that a person who’s drowning will struggle against the one trying to save them. They’re dying and their arms are flailing all around and the life guard has to come in and knock them unconscious before they can save them. Isn’t that what we’re like in our pride. We’re all dying yet we struggle against God who is trying to save us. It’s up to Him to come in with his mighty hand and disable us and bring us back to shore.

True humility is then built on our ability to “cast all our cares upon him”. Pride will seek to solve all our problems independently. As disciples though we have to learn to quickly turn over all our anxieties into his hands for he is truly concerned for us.

Verses 8-9

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: {9} Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."

“Be sober” literally means “to abstain from wine” while the word “vigilant” is described as “to be awake, watchful”. I wonder if Peter’s mind is back in the garden of Gethsemane as this is the same word our Lord used “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”. And then came Judas. It was said of him, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70).

As it happened to Jesus so it was happening to them. The Greek word for “adversary” is “antidikos” which literally means “an opponent in a lawsuit”. “Devil” of course is the word “diabolos” meaning “false accuser” and is the only place used in 1 Peter yet we’ve all ready seen similar ideas of false accusations occurring in 2:12, 19; 3:16; 4:4; 4:14-16. These connections along with the context of verse 9 make it seem more likely that the devil referred to is a human adversary.

This connection is even more solid when looking at the imagery behind the “roaring lion”. In the Old Testament this exact phrase is used for wicked rulers and persecutors. The best cross reference is found in Prov. 28:15,

"As a roaring lion , and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people."

Psalm 7:1-5, as well, bears a striking resemblance to Peter’s message (2:20).

"O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: {2} Lest he tear my soul like a lion , rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. {3} O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; {4} If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:) {5} Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah."

If we have done wrong then we do deserve it yet if we have done no wrong and we take it patiently this is acceptable with God. We are called upon by Jesus Christ, to resist not evil but to turn the other cheek. So when Peter says we must “resist” he does not include physical actions or unlawful means but it is a resistance done “steadfast in the faith.” Our faith is the key element that must remain strong. Our faith is that shield that shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

Verses 10-11

What better summary for this epistle do we need then verses 10 and 11?

"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. {11} To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

What more encouraging words do we need brother and sisters? What ever trials and tribulations we go through in these days we can keep in mind that they are just for the briefest, tiniest, puniest moment compared to that eternal weight of glory we shall have with the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that happens to us is according to God’s will for he is doing it to perfect us, to stablish us, to strengthen us and to settle us. He is the one, and not ourselves, that is building us all up so that we might fit together in his holy spiritual temple and be for the praise of his honor both now and in the great kingdom to come.