In 1 Peter chapter 4, Peter picks up again from where he digressed at verse 18 of chapter 3 – back onto the subject of living for God and coping with suffering.
The early Christians were being mocked for not joining in with the life of drunkenness, idolatry and indecency. Things are no different now, in fact it sounds very much like our modern world’s behavior which seems to almost expect this type of behaviour and trys to portray it as normal. As Christians we have left that lifestyle behind and must try to live our lives under God’s control and will rather than our own earthly desires. This challenges us to think about our behaviour – do you still drink perhaps more than you should? Go to watch movies that are perhaps a little “risky”? There are so many ways we can be subtly drawn into the worlds ways and it is not easy to make a stand and say, “No”, Thank you, but I don’t want to do that any more. We may get abuse, teased etc, but Peter says in verse 5 that they will have to give account for their behaviour (as will we).
Verse 6 is again a complex verse;
That is why the good news was preached also to the dead, to those who had been judged in their physical existence as everyone is judged; it was preached to them so that in their spiritual existence they may live as God lives (v6)
I’ve struggled a bit trying to understand this verse as following the comments in chapter 6 about Jesus going back to preach to the dead, it may sound like this is referring to a similar situation. Again there seem to be several interpretations.
Some of the original meaning appears to have been lost in translation. The original text apparently words this in such a way that indicated that the preaching took place while they were still alive in the body. Hebrews 9 v 27 makes clear that there is no “second chance” after death
Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God
Perhaps that helps clarify a little the theory we looked at with the people of Noah’s time – they were effectively judged before death when God sent the floods.
The simplest explanation that I have found is that Peter was addressing concerns of the Christians at that time about what happened to those that had died before Christ’s death and resurrection. The “Good News” was announced while Christ was on earth in the physical body, but had been taught through the prophets, priests and the law before that even through Noah. God will judge fairly according to how they had responded to that word.
In working through these “blogs” I am noticing just how much of the Old Testament is repeated in the New – even Jesus taught based on the scriptures that would have already been known to many
Peter then moves on to discuss our “Gifts”
Each one, as a good manager of Gods different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God (v 10)
We are told to;
- be self controlled and alert to be able to pray
- love one another earnestly
- open our homes to each other (without complaining)
- be a good manager of the gifts he gives us
- use those gifts for the good of others
It is no use us having these gifts unless we use them to benefit those around us.
He created us all with different skills, we are not all preachers, but the majority of us can help put the chairs out or make the tea and coffee. Some are more “outgoing” and are better at meeting people at the door and welcoming them. Some are musical and can serve in the worship team or are good at technology and can make the sound system work properly.
Whatever our gifting, we are to use it to God’s glory. Sometimes though we need to just step in and do something practical like making the teas and coffees so that those who have more “up front” ministry gifts can focus on those rather than having to rush around trying to do everything as seen by the Apostles in Acts 6.
Peter then returns again to the topic of suffering for being a Christian.
The time has come for judgement to begin, and Gods own people are the first to be judged. If it starts with us, how will it end with those who do not believe the Good News from God? As the scripture says;
It is difficult for good people to be saved; what, then will become of godless sinners? (v 17-18 and Proverbs 11 v 31)
This seems to indicate that these trials and persecutions were part of the process of judgement for the believers. They were being purified though this so that when the final judgement day arrives they would be found righteous.
So then, those who suffer because it is God’s will for them, should by their good actions trust themselves completely to their creator, who always keeps his promise. (v 19)
Quotes from The Good News Bible