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Are You Living In Your Sweet Spot?

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God Expects Us To Serve (4:7-9)

Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Epistles of Peter and of Jude 13. Christian Life as the End Approaches (4:7–11)

In the Greek is at hand (ēggiken) is almost ‘has arrived’: cf. esp. Mk. 1:15; Rom. 13:12. The conviction expressed was universal in the primitive Church (e.g. Rom. 13:12: ‘the night is far gone, the day is at hand’; 1 Cor. 7:29: ‘the appointed time has grown very short’; Heb. 10:25: ‘you see the day drawing near’; 1 Jn. 2:18: ‘it is the last hour’), but is particularly intense and vivid in 1 Peter (1:4 f.; 8–12.; 20; 4:17). The consummation is described as the end of all things because, according to primitive Christian thinking, history would reach its climax and heaven and earth as we know them would pass away. The prospect has its terrifying aspect, but is full of exciting hope for God’s elect.

Peter’s line of thought here is that the persecution afflicting the church should be viewed as one sign of the world’s imminent end. Thus, he injects a note of urgency into Christian living. If the coming of Jesus is near, then Christians must be ready for him. Those who live lives inconsistent with their faith will experience the coming of Jesus as a dreadful shock (see 1 Thess 5:1–11).

A. “be serious” “be watchful” “be prayerful” (v.7)
Be of a sound mind, sobriety of mind is in view here. To think and live wisely with self-control over one’s passions and desires, to be reasonable and sensible; don’t let thoughts run in every direction and don’t let your heart wonder, clear minded. The nearness of the end had caused some to lose their heads and act irrationally, like doing nothing and waiting for the Lord. It should provoke believers to serve and depend on Him, and this dependence is manifested in “right” praying.
Be of a sound mind, sobriety of mind is in view here. To think and live wisely
If we are sober-minded, we will “watch unto prayer.” If our prayer life is confused, it is because the mind is confused. Dr. Kenneth Wuest, in his translation, shows the important relationship between the two: “Be calm and collected in spirit with a view to giving yourself to prayer.” The word “watch” carries with it the idea of alertness and self-control. It is the opposite of being drunk or asleep (). This admonition had special meaning to Peter, because he went to sleep when he should have been “watching unto prayer” ().
You find the phrase “watch and pray” often in the Authorized Version of the New Testament (; ; ; ). It simply means to “be alert in our praying, to be controlled.” There is no place in the Christian life for lazy, listless routine praying. We must have an alert attitude and be on guard, just like the workers in Nehemiah’s day ().
An expectant attitude toward Christ’s return involves a serious, balanced mind and an alert, awake prayer life. The test of our commitment to the doctrine of Christ’s return is not our ability to draw charts or discern signs, but our thinking and praying. If our thinking and praying are right, our living should be right.
B. Love and be Lovable (v.8)
The Greek word here translated “fervent” means literally “stretched out.” The idea is that of a love that is extended to reach the one loved. It is the act of one who, instead of living a self-centered life, gives of himself to others. The word means here, “intent, earnest, assiduous.” “Have among yourselves” is literally “having (love) toward one another.”
Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament 15. Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake, the Accompaniment of a Separated Life (4:1–11)

The Greek word here translated “fervent” means literally “stretched out.” The idea is that of a love that is extended to reach the one loved. It is the act of one who, instead of living a self-centered life, gives of himself to others. The word means here, “intent, earnest, assiduous.” “Have among yourselves” is literally “having (love) toward one another.”

The words “above all” are more properly “before all in order of importance.” That is, love is a prerequisite to all proper exercises of Christian duty. Courtesy without love is a cold thing. Generosity without love is a harsh thing. Love makes all the other virtues what they should be. The reason for this exhortation to love one another is that love covers a multitude of sins. That is, when one Christian truly loves his fellow Christian, he will not publish abroad his failings, but will cover them up from the sight of others. How much gossip is eliminated when we love each other.

The words “above all” are more properly “before all in order of importance.” That is, love is a prerequisite to all proper exercises of Christian duty. Courtesy without love is a cold thing. Generosity without love is a harsh thing. Love makes all the other virtues what they should be.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 422.
The reason for this exhortation to love one another is that love covers a multitude of sins. That is, when one Christian truly loves his fellow Christian, he will not publish abroad his failings, but will cover them up from the sight of others. How much gossip is eliminated when we love each other.
Christian love is forgiving. Peter quoted from —“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” This verse is alluded to in and and 7. Love does not condone sin; for, if we love somebody, we will be grieved to see him sin and hurt himself and others.
Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), .
Rather, love covers sin in that love motivates us to hide the sin from others and not spread it abroad. Where there is hatred, there is malice; and malice causes a person to want to tear down the reputation of his enemy. This leads to gossip and slander (; ; see ).
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 422.
gives us a beautiful illustration of this principle. Noah got drunk and shamefully uncovered himself. His son Ham saw his father’s shame and told the matter to the family. In loving concern, Ham’s two brothers covered their father and his shame. It should not be too difficult for us to cover the sins of others; after all, Jesus Christ died that our sins might be washed away.
C. Be Hospitable (v.9)
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 422.
Hospitality was one of the marks of the Christian community (cf. ; ; ; ). 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 (, ; ; ).
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. , ; ; ; ).
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.
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 213.
Peter knows human nature, for he realizes that at times overnight guests take advantage of a host when they prolong their stay or fail to reimburse him. The apostle encourages the hosts to open their homes to overnight guests and adds, “Do it without grumbling.”
The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers that by welcoming strangers into their homes, “some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (13:2). Therefore, we must show kindness willingly and cheerfully.
Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, vol. 16, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 168–169.
Some live by the old Italian proverb: Guests are like fish; after about 3 days they start to smell.

God Encourages Us To Serve (4:10)

We all received gifts a week or so ago., what gifts is the text talking about? A church’s ministry depends on God’s distribution of spiritual gifts. The idea is that God equips the members of the church for mutual service rather than that they have natural abilities for these tasks.
The word “gift,” often translated as “spiritual gift,” is derived from the word for “grace,” and not from the word for “spirit.” Thus the thought is primarily of receiving a gracious gift from God, which is to be shared and passed on to others.
The person with the gift is regarded as a steward of the grace of God in its many, varied forms. Although the word “grace” primarily refers to the loving quality of God toward sinful, needy people, it can also refer to what he graciously gives to them or to the way in which grace manifests itself.
3. It follows that God’s gracious gifts are to be exercised in serving. When Christians receive God’s grace, it is their responsibility to share with fellow Christians. What has been given to an individual has been given for others, and that person is merely the agent of God in passing it on. Consequently, the main thrust of verse 10 is that gifts are to be used to serve others. The point is trite, but it perpetually needs repetition, that when a person does anything in the church, the purpose is to serve other people, to do something for their good.
It follows that God’s gracious gifts are to be exercised in serving. When Christians receive God’s grace, it is their responsibility to share with fellow Christians. What has been given to an individual has been given for others, and that person is merely the agent of God in passing it on.
Consequently, the main thrust of verse 10 is that gifts are to be used to serve others. The point is trite, but it perpetually needs repetition, that when a person does anything in the church, the purpose is to serve other people, to do something for their good.
It is worth observing that the concept of serving others is virtually new in Christianity or at least strongly characteristic of it. Neither in the Old Testament nor in the Hellenistic world of the time was the concept of work as service to be found.
It stems from Jesus, who lived out what he taught in and . When Paul talks about esteeming others more highly than ourselves, part of his thought is that we are to serve others.
I. Howard Marshall, 1 Peter, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), .
The word “serve” is derived from serving at table and reflects the sentiment that the person who is served is greater than the person who serves (). Yet Jesus was prepared to take this lesser position. This is the attitude that his followers must show—especially in the church.
The point is that spiritual gifts are given to serve and to help others, to strengthen others in the faith. They are bestowed for ministry, not to enhance self-esteem.
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 214–215.
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 214.
Paul emphasized the same theme, reminding believers that gifts are given to build up and edify others, not to edify oneself (, ; , ; ). When believers use their gifts to strengthen others, they are functioning as “good stewards” (NRSV, kaloi oikonomoi) of God’s grace.
The gifts are divided into two categories, speaking and serving gifts. It must be said immediately, from v. 10, that all gifts involve serving and edifying others, and Peter was not denying that emphasis here. Now he examines the gifts functionally, observing that some involve speaking and others serve fellow believers in a variety of ways.
In placing the gifts into the two categories of speaking and serving, all the spiritual gifts are included under these two classes. In his listing of the gifts Paul provided more detail, so that we have some idea which gifts would fall under speaking and which would fall under serving.
The gifts of apostleship, prophecy, teaching, tongues, and exhortation are comprehended under speaking (; , ; ), whereas gifts like giving, leading, mercy, helps, healing, and miracles (; , ) fall under serving.
Talk about individual gifts and how we have one or more.

God Equips Us To Serve (v.11)

Those who speak should endeavor to speak “the very words of God.” The expression used is “oracles of God” (RSV, logia theou). The “oracles of God” refer to the words God has given his people (cf. ; ; ).
The phrase is rooted in the Old Testament, where we have both “oracles of God” (LXX , ; and “oracles of the LORD,” logia kyriou, LXX ; 17:31) and “your oracles” (LXX , , , 158, 162; cf. ).
Using speaking gifts to minister to others means that the one speaking endeavors to speak God’s words. How easy it is to think that we can assist others with our own wisdom, but those who are entrusted with the ministry of speaking should be careful to speak God’s words, to be faithful to the gospel (cf. ; ).
Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 215–216.
The pastor, teacher, evangelist, instructor, and anyone who has communicated the gospel can testify to the words Jesus spoke to disciples who would even risk arrest: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (; also see ).
pastor, teacher, evangelist, instructor, and anyone who has communicated the gospel can testify to the words Jesus spoke to disciples who would even risk arrest: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (; also see ).
The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in anyone who speaks the very words of God to edify others. Any preacher or teacher of God’s Word can testify to this indwelling power of the Spirit that is at work when he speaks.
That is, a spokesman for God cannot substitute his own thoughts and opinions for the “very words of God.” He must faithfully deliver the “living words” he has received from God (see ; ; ; ). When he faithfully administers God’s grace in preaching or teaching the Word, he experiences a miracle taking place: God is speaking through him.
Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, vol. 16, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 170.
Peter wrote so that those who speak will do so in accord with the gospel, not to suggest that the words spoken become part of the revelational deposit for believers. Similarly, those who minister and serve others must not rely on their own strength. They must minister “with the strength God provides,” relying on his power to carry out their tasks.
Peter encourages the believer to put his God-given talents to work. The clause if anyone serves denotes the activities of the deacons (see the requisites listed in ). But it includes any Christian who works in the context of the church and who willingly and cheerfully serves the Lord.
encourages the believer to put his God-given talents to work. The clause if anyone serves denotes the activities of the deacons (see the requisites listed in ). But it includes any Christian who works in the context of the church and who willingly and cheerfully serves the Lord.
The worker is completely dependent, however, on “the strength God provides.” In the Greek, the verb provide points to someone who defrays the expenses of something, for example, the training of a choir. The verb has the meaning to supply lavishly. God, then, abundantly supplies the Christian worker with the necessary strength to accomplish the task.
Because God supplies every need, his name receives the praise in all things. Yet all this is done through Jesus Christ.
Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, vol. 16, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 170.
Presumably they rely on his power through prayer. When those who speak utter God’s words rather than their own and those who serve do so in God’s strength rather than their own, God through Jesus Christ receives the glory.
God receives the glory because he is the one who has provided the wisdom and strength for ministry. The provider is always the one who is praised.
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 Christ.
Are you living and serving in your sweet spot? When you look back to this past year can you say you are in your sweet spot? As you look forward, determine to find and live and serve in your sweet spot.
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