Commentary on 1 Peter 4:7-11

Notes (NET Translation)

4:7 For the culmination of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer.

Verses 5-6 ended with a reference to the final judgment. Verse 7 picks up from there by noting that the end (to telos) of all things is near.

How, then, is “the end” (to telos) to be construed? While modem readers may immediately think of the end of the world, the semantic range of the word telos suggests more than mere termination and may refer to the last stage of a process as well as to its outcome or goal. Peter is saying that because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his readers are living in the last stage of God’s great redemptive plan, and the goal of that plan is being realized. The collocation of to telos with the verb engizo (to be near) in its perfect form (engiken) reinforces this eschatological sense. The same perfect form of this verb occurs repeatedly in the Synoptic Gospels, in the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2) and in Jesus’ teaching about the “nearness” of the kingdom of God (e.g., Mark 1:15; Matt. 4:17; 10:7; Luke 10:11; 21:8). The consummation of the kingdom of God will involve the return of Christ and the end of history as we know it because those events are necessary for God to achieve his telos, the redemption of humanity. Therefore, “the end is near” signifies the final stage of that redemptive process, which leads to its consummation in the return of Christ.

This understanding is consistent with Peter’s statement in 1 Pet. 1:20 that Jesus Christ has been made known “during the last of times” (ep’ eschatou ton chronon). “The last of times” indicates the final stage in God’s redemptive plan, inaugurated by the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Therefore, Peter’s statement that “the end is near” is not precisely equivalent to saying that the end of the world will happen soon. While “the end” is certainly a future-oriented concept, Peter is not referring to one termination point in time. He rather has in mind the period of time after which Christ, who all along has been sovereign over all things, has finally been revealed as such in the resurrection. Peter’s description of his readers in 5:10 as those who have been called into the age of God’s glory in Christ corroborates the idea that a period, rather than point, of time is in view. An exclusively temporal interpretation has misled some to point out that Peter (and Jesus!) must have been wrong, since two thousand years later the world still goes on. The NT writers may or may not have been surprised that two thousand years would pass without the return of the Lord, but that is somewhat beside the point of what Peter is saying. We, too, are living in the last stage of God’s redemptive process; it is no more or less true that “the end is near” today than it was when Peter first said it. (Jobes loc. 4277-4292)

The nearness of the end functions as a stimulus for the actions described in the rest of this passage.

The two verbs “be clear minded” (sophronesate) and “be self-controlled” (nepsate) are virtually synonymous and should be understood together. Indeed, the word “pray” (lit., “prayers,” proseuchas) is attached to both verbs. . . . [B]elievers should think sensibly as they contemplate the brevity of life in this world. Those who know the contours of history are able to assess the significance of the present. Their sensible and alert thinking is to be used for prayer, for entreating God to act and move in the time that still remains. The realization that God is bringing history to a close should provoke believers to depend on him, and this dependence is manifested in prayer, for in prayer believers recognize that any good that occurs in the world is due to God’s grace. (Schreiner 211)

4:8 Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins.

The phrase “above all” indicates that love for one another is central to the Christian life. The adjective “fervent” (ektene) speaks not so much of emotional intensity as it does to steadfastness. The phrase “love covers a multitude of sins” (cf. Jas 5:20) does not mean that love atones for one’s own sins. Christ’s death atones for one’s sins (1:18-19; 2:24-25; 3:18). Rather the phrase means that when we love one another we overlook the sins of others (Prov 10:12; 1 Cor 13:4-7). We do not respond to evil with evil (2:1; 3:9). Note this does not mean we should “cover up” a sin illegitimately (Michaels 247). Peter is concerned with behaviors that could destroy the Christian community (Jobes loc. 4339). Clement of Rome, who wrote only a couple decades after Peter and from the same city, writes: “Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony” (1 Clement 49).

4:9 Show hospitality to one another without complaining.

Hospitality was particularly crucial for the Christian mission in a day when lodging could not be afforded, and hence the advance of the mission depended on the willingness of believers to provide bed and board for those visiting (Matt 10:11, 40; Acts 16:15; 3 John 7-11). The early church was aware that such hospitality could be abused (cf. Did. 11:3-6). Furthermore, hospitality was necessary in order for the church to meet in various homes (cf. Rom 16:3-5, 23; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phlm 2). The words “without grumbling” acknowledge that those who open their homes may grow tired of the service. Hence, they are exhorted to be hospitable gladly, not caving in to the temptation to begrudge their charity to others. (Schreiner 213)

The courier of 1 Peter, Silvanus (5:12), needed to be housed as he shared the letter from one community to the next in Asia Minor.

4:10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.

The Greek word charisma (“gift”) implies that the gifts are a result of God’s grace. Gifts are not a privilege but a responsibility to serve others.

4:11 Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

The gifts can be divided into two general categories, speaking gifts and serving gifts. Paul names certain gifts in Rom 12:6-8 and 1 Cor 12:7-11. The first sentence (“Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words”) is directed at speakers and implores them to speak God’s words. It does not mean that every word spoken in a church service is a divine revelation (Schreiner 215). It means the speaking should be in line with the OT and the gospel, not one’s personal speculation. The appropriate use of gifts glorifies God because he is the one who provides the gifts.

We should note that God receives the glory ‘through Jesus Christ,’ for the glory that redounds to God comes through the gospel the Petrine readers received (1:3, 10-12, 18-19; 2:21-25; 3:18). This gospel focuses on Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen Lord, and hence God is praised for what he has done in and through Jesus the Christ. (Schreiner 215-216)

The doxology at the end of the verse closes the section of the letter from 2:11-4:11. The doxology may be directed at God, Jesus Christ, or both. It is not a wish but a statement of fact (Elliott 762). The Greek kratos denotes “power,” “might,” “authority,” “rule,” and “dominion” (Elliott 762).

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Paul J. 1 Peter. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996.

Elliott, John Hall. 1 Peter. Yale University Press, 2007.

Jobes, Karen. 1 Peter. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2005.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003.

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