12 September 2017

1 Peter 4:1-19

“Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (vv. 8-10)

Psalm: Psalm 78:1-7


Those who first read Peter's letter were in a very different mindset to that we might find ourselves in today.

Peter begins just as he finished the previous chapter, speaking of the suffering of Christ and goes on to list the sins the individual might have been guilty of before they came to faith. He then contrasts the lifestyle of the new Christian with those who have not yet known Jesus for themselves, and how that can have an influence on those outsiders. In addition, he reminds the believers that even those who have not come to faith as they have done will have to come to judgement at the end of time. Peter reminds them that, as was the thinking at that time, the end times are approaching, the time when God will act to bring about the conclusion of the earth which God had created; and would take to all those who have done God's own will throughout the ages. Bearing that in mind, his readers are encouraged to go on to "lead an ordered and sober life" (a translation of 1 Peter 4:7) so that they are right with Christ.

We are then given a distinctive portrait of the Christian community. Love, hospitality and service are three key aspects of the Christian life as we can see from reading the letters of Paul, but Peter adds to this the statement that "love covers a multitude of sins".

The last section of the passage seems rather odd in that a fiery ordeal is upon them (verse 12). We do not know the particular circumstance described and we can only assume that Peter is referring back to the beginning of his letter where he speaks about gold being passed through the assayer's fire (1 Peter 1:7), thus indicating that the suffering that a believer might undergo, whether by persecution or other torments, will, in the end, bring about their salvation.

To Ponder

  • How do we come to terms with the many places in the New Testament where the final judgement is considered to be imminent?
  • Is the formula set out by Peter in verses 7-10 a suitable formula for church members today, or is it too narrow for our times? Why?
  • Verse 17 states "for the time has come for judgement to begin with the household of God". How would you suggest that such a process should begin?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.