Our Stewardship

1 Peter 4  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 7
1 Peter 4
The 1st verse of 1 Peter 4 is undoubtedly connected with the 18th verse of the previous chapter, which latter gives a most beautiful motive why a Christian never should suffer for sins, as we have seen. In between, the apostle has given a parenthesis, brought in for the comfort of these Hebrew believers, who were taunted with the thought that because they were a little company therefore they were not right.
(Verses 1-8) “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; 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, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.” As man, Christ actually died on the cross in this world. It is not, exactly the same truth as Paul gives — Paul gives us the doctrine; Peter gives us the practical side of it. He is showing us all through his epistle how a Christian must expect to suffer. If you do what Jesus did, you must suffer. He did the will of God perfectly, and the result was He suffered in the flesh. Satan came to Him in the wilderness and offered Him everything, if He would bow down to him; and again in the garden of Gethsemane the enemy sought to turn Him aside; but there was nothing in Christ to answer to his temptations; and therefore He suffered being tempted, but would rather die than not do the will of God. He did the will of God, and it brought Him into death. Now, says Peter, you must arm yourselves with the same mind.
The expression “flesh” is not used as meaning the principle of evil, as Paul uses it. Paul means by the term that standing in which I am found as a child of Adam — the principle of evil which man has in him as a child of Adam fallen, having a corrupt nature, away from God. Peter means by “flesh,” our life here in the body. Christ as a man suffered here, and if doing the will of God produces suffering, we too are privileged to get into glory by the pathway of suffering.
(Verse 1) First, he takes up what is within. You have a nature that likes its own way; but if you do God’s will it is always at the expense of your own — at the expense of suffering here.
(Verses 2-3). That is the contrast between the lusts of men and the will of God. If I give way to the lusts of men, I do not suffer — not in the sense in which Christ suffered, doing God’s will. How Christ might have saved Himself had He pleased Himself!
To do the will of God brought the blessed Lord into the deepest suffering, brought Him into death,
and the apostle says we must arm ourselves with the same mind, be prepared to suffer, and to die too.
Then if you arm yourself with the same mind, you do the will of God, and do not sin. God has left us here for a little while, and what for? To do the will of God. Supposing you suffer by the will of God, go to God about it. It is often His will that we should suffer. The person who does not suffer, in some way or other, we may confidently say, is not walking closely after Christ. If you are in a pathway without suffering, you may safely conclude you are not in God’s pathway.
(Verses 4-5) “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.” Here he is giving them comfort. The Gentiles say you are strange; never mind, the apostle says; supposing you did go with them, they would think it inconsistent of you, and now that you do not, they think it strange. But, says Peter, we are walking not to please them, but to please the Lord, and we have to remember this, that God is ready to judge the living and the dead, and they will have to give an account to Him. The judgment of the living was evidently that with which a Jew was familiar. The apostle is bringing out here that God is going to judge both the living and the dead — the living, according to Matthew 25, at the commencement of the kingdom, and the dead, as the final act of the kingdom, at the end of the millennium — at the great white throne.
There are three things that Peter uses the word “ready” in connection with. In the first chapter he tells us that God is “ready” to take us out of the world; in the fourth chapter he tells us that He is “ready” to judge the world; and between these two moments, the Christian is always to be “ready” to give an answer to anyone who asks him the reason of the hope that is in him.
(Verse 6) “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.” This verse may have an allusion to the end of the 3rd chapter, to those who lived in Noah’s day; but I do not think we can limit it to these, but rather that it takes in all who had died before the time of the coming of the Messiah, to whom promises had been made. God holds us responsible, not only for what we have received, but for what we have heard, that is, for our privileges. The testimony God has given, whether in that day or in this, is that men should live in view of God, by the Spirit. They will be taken up and dealt with on the ground of the privileges they have had. If they turn their back on the testimony of the Lord, that testimony turns for a witness against them, and by it they will be judged.
(Verse 7,) “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” We must not forget that the apostle was writing to a little Jewish company, and no doubt had before his mind that the moment drew near when the Lord’s word would be fulfilled, that everything should be upset, and not one stone remain upon another of the temple. But the verse goes further than that. Peter feels that a saint should be one who is always taking, as it were, his last step — feeling, I am on the threshold of all that God is going to bring me into, the world is just going to be judged, and therefore there should be temperateness, and watchfulness, and prayer. And if this were true in Peter’s day, how much more true is it in ours! because one cannot but see that the elements which conduce to the bringing in of the Antichrist are powerfully at work now. There never was a time when even Christians were in such danger of letting go the foundations of their faith, thus paving the way for Christendom believing a lie, for man was not born to be an infidel. The devil is seeking to clear out the truths of Christianity, in order to get the house clean swept and garnished, ready for the entrance of the seven devils, by-and-bye. (See Matt. 12:43-4543When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:43‑45); 2 Thess. 2:8-128And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:8‑12).)
Men do not go on long believing in nothing, and if they turn away from the truth, the reaction will come in a little while; but what will that reaction be? Not the reception of the truth of Christ, but the reception of the lie of Antichrist.
(Verse 8) “And, above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” The apostle now turns to what is very helpful for us who are within. Towards those who are outside, there is to be sobriety and watchfulness, coupled with prayer to God; but now among ourselves, what is there to be? Fervent charity. Why? Because that is the thing that God delights in — “Love covereth all sins” (Prov. 10:1212Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. (Proverbs 10:12)). This is the reason why he presses that this fervent charity should work in them, because it not merely keeps people going on well with God, but happily with each other.
There are no people who have such opportunities of irritating each other, as those who are seeking to walk in faith and in the truth, outside human systems. They are flung much together, all the old barriers broken down, and they are simply brought together on the ground of the Church of God. Unless grace thoroughly works, there is no place where people can so pain and wound each other, and therefore Peter says we need this fervent charity, not only for going on together, and for the restraint of what is not lovely, but also for the activity of divine love in the saint of God, and finding the very opportunity for its activity in the naughtiness of someone else!
The worse a thing is in another the more lovely an opportunity it gives you for covering it up. “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Not one or two, but a multitude — a thousand little things that the devil would like to tell in every quarter, in order to upset the saints, and thus introduce a dead fly into the ointment, and produce a stinking savor. What is the cure? says Peter. Oh, this divine love; you cover it up. Peter says, God has His eye on you, and if you are keeping up another’s fault, you are keeping it up for God to see, and He cannot like that.
But supposing you cover with a mantle of love my naughtiness, what does God see? The reproduction in you of the same love and grace there was in Christ. Peter says, I expect you to get on smoothly with the saints, no matter what other people are doing.
(Verse 9) “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” This is perfectly beautiful, though some people would grumble at you for doing it; not so, says Peter. I find in Romans 12: “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” First, look out that nobody is in want: and, secondly, you are to keep an open house free. You are, nay more, enjoined so to do. This is a beautiful divine balance.
God very often not only thus brings His people together, but by these means binds them together. Use your house to get your brethren together, and get to know them, and they you, and that not because you must — not grudgingly, but in love.
(Verse 10) “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” When the apostle talks of a gift, it is not only a man being able to preach or teach. He says, “As every man hath received the gift.” Then you see that you have a gift, and you are responsible to use it, and the sphere in which you are to use this gift is the Church first of all. Whatever you have it is not yours; you are only a steward. It all belongs to Christ; and you must be a good steward, because you will have to give an account of your stewardship by-and-bye.
(Verse 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 forever and ever. Amen.” If you speak, that is a gift for edification. If you minister — that is, carrying perhaps a little basin of soup to some sick saint, or a few shillings to one who is in need of them — according to the measure of your ability, do it. It is a question of using the temporal things of this life for the glory of God.
How beautiful it makes the acts of everyday life God is as well pleased with the right use of everyday things, the goods of this life, as with the exercise of spiritual gifts, either preaching, for the conversion of the world, or ministry, to the building up of the body of Christ.
I deny that either you, I, or any man have a right of ministry. No! We have no liberty to speak in the assembly, unless we speak “as oracles of God”; and that is not liberty merely, but bounden responsibility. If you possess a gift you are bound to use it. Not that a man who has a gift need always be using it; he has always plenty to learn, and can hold his peace, if he be wise, on many an occasion, and profit by listening to his brethren.
If I rise to speak in God’s assembly, I must speak not only according to the oracles of God as revealed in Scripture, but as being the direct mouthpiece of God to His saints at that very moment, giving forth to them exactly what God would have them hear at that moment.
We have in the 11th verse, God communicating something to those who speak, which they are bound to give forth — something of His mind, just as in the 10th verse, you are to do it simply, if you have anything to give away, and all is to be done for God’s glory.
(Verses 12-14) “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.” Now, you notice, Peter turns again to speak to the saints of their circumstances — of the trials of the pathway. The apostle brings in now for the first time the thought of being with the Lord in glory, as the answer to suffering for Christ here. This is the highest kind of suffering that a Christian can go through. The suffering of the 13th verse is different from the suffering of the 14th verse. In the 13th verse we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; in ‘the 14th verse we suffer for Christ.
All are partakers of Christ’s sufferings — that is, of those sufferings which He passed through down here, excepting His suffering in the way of atonement. The suffering of the 13th verse every Christian has part in, but every Christian has not part in the suffering of the 14th verse. The 13th verse is suffering with Christ; the 14th verse is suffering for Christ. I ask you, have you never, in going through this scene of death and misery, heaved a groan because of it all, that is suffering with Christ, in sympathy with what He felt. That groan is the groan which the Spirit of God produces in the saint, and is in character like the groan of Christ at the grave of Lazarus. Christ suffered going through this scene as a perfect man, seeing the misery and sorrow that sin had introduced, and how God was dishonored. We suffer in our measure in seeing the same things, and that is suffering with Him.
But we do not all suffer for Christ. If we go on in the ways of this world, and seek to save ourselves, no doubt it can be done; but then there is the missing of all that Peter speaks of here. If we do as Moses would not do, we may escape suffering. You may be called everything that is bad, because of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, Peter says, happy are ye; instead of being downcast about it, take it as a privilege that you may be reproached for His blessed name. Oh, for a little more of the spirit of the apostles in the 5th of Acts: “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
(Verse 15) “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” As soon as I touch the things that do not belong to me, I am sure to suffer. Do not be ashamed to suffer as a Christian; but be ashamed to suffer as a busybody; and if you suffer as a Christian do not forget this, that in all God is letting you pass through there is a blessed purpose.
(Verse 17) “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?” It is a great thing to remember the government of God, and that it begins with us, and that He has His own blessed purpose to work out in our souls, and if He lets suffering and trial come in, though we do not like it, yet He sees the need. But if judgment begin with us, what will the end of, the gospel rejecter be? This is a serious question for all such. Their end is death, judgment, and the lake of fire. What an awful end! It surely ought to cause every unsaved reader to pause, repent, and turn to God. Let me implore my unblessed reader to come to Jesus at once. He will save you on the spot. Only trust Him — His blood cleanses from all sin.
(Verse 18) “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Why saved with difficulty? Because the devil is against you, and the world is against you, and the devil sets pitfalls and snares for your feet, but God uses these very temptations and trials to bring you nearer to Himself. It is part of His plan in leading you to glory, to give you these sufferings and trials by the way, which He sees are needed. There is no difficulty with God, the difficulties are all on our side, and only faith can surmount them, sustained by God.
(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.” You did your own will in days gone by, and it worked death: you are suffering now according to the will of God. You have to do now, Peter says, what Jesus did — commit yourself to God. He casts you on Him who has almighty power, but who is your Father likewise.
The Lord keep us seeking to so do His will always, that it may turn to praise, and honor, and glory by Christ Jesus.