The Christian Circle

1 Peter 4:8‑11  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In the preceding portion of the Epistle we have had a solemn picture of the world abandoning itself to the gratification of the flesh, in contrast to those who do the will of God and suffer rather than sin. In these verses we pass within the Christian circle to learn the conduct that becomes believers among themselves.
PE 4:8{(V. 8). If lust marks the world sphere (verse 2), love is the outstanding mark of the Christian company. Other qualities will shine in that circle, but the crowning quality—the one without which all else is vain—is love; therefore, says the apostle, "above all things have fervent love among yourselves". For the third time in the course of his Epistle, the apostle presses love as the outstanding quality of the Christian company. (See 1:22; 3:8).
Love is far from being indifferent to sin; but love does not necessarily expose sins, or gloat over the failure of others. If possible, love will deal with sins privately, so that they do not needlessly become public. When they are dealt with, and judged, love will no longer speak of them or spread them abroad. Love does not make mischief, or lead people to act as busybodies. Love covers a multitude of sins, as the wise man says, "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Prov. 10:1212Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. (Proverbs 10:12)).
PE 4:9{(V. 9). Moreover, in a circle where we are no longer strangers to one another, but drawn together by the bonds of Christ, love will delight to use hospitality, as the opportunity arises, and, where fervent love prevails, the hospitality will be without murmuring.
PE 4:10-11{(Vv. 10, 11). Passing from the use of temporal means, the apostle gives practical directions as to the use of spiritual gifts. Each one, as he has received a gift, is responsible to use it in relation to God as a steward of the grace of God. If any man speak, it is to be as the oracles of God, with the conviction that he is ministering a message that conveys the mind of God for the moment. It is not simply that he speaks the truth according to the oracles of God, but he gives the mind of God "as the oracles of God".
The apostle further distinguishes between ministry and speaking. Prejudiced, it may be, by what obtains in Christendom, we are inclined to limit ministry to speaking, whereas ministry includes much service to the Lord's people in which speaking has little or no part. It is not, indeed, that the spoken word is not ministry, but that ministry is more than speech.
Whatever form the ministry takes, it is to be exercised according to the ability that God gives. Thus natural ability is recognized as given of God. In grace God gives spiritual gifts, but He does so "to every man according to his several ability" (Matt. 25:1515And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. (Matthew 25:15)). It is true, as one has said, that "no ability constitutes a gift; but the spiritual gift does not supersede natural ability". As we can see, in giving Paul his gift, God recognized his natural ability, so that he is able to present doctrine in an orderly way. Peter, probably more fitted by his natural ability to deal with everyday practice, is given a gift in accord with this ability; his ministry, therefore, is almost wholly practical.
Whatever the spiritual gift, whatever form the ministry takes, whatever the natural ability, all is to be used for the glory of God "that God in all things may be glorified". We are to beware of the vanity of the flesh that would seek to use these things for the exaltation of self.
This beautiful picture of the Christian circle presents a company of believers marked above all by love for one another, where hospitality meets temporal needs, and where the varied gifts of the manifold grace of God are used for the spiritual blessing of the company and the glory of God in "all things", all being bound together "through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen".