Saturday, January 9, 2016

1Peter 4:8-11 comments: good stewards of the grace of God

8  And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9  Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 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. 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 for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter continues from verse 7’s thought about being sober and prayerful to tell the believers to have charity, which in the Bible refers to love between Christians. We use the phrase to act charitably today as a sort of throwback to that former definition as being kind, gracious, or understanding in your dealings. If you do not express this in your own family you are not likely to do it in the church and if you do it in the church and not in your own family it is a sham. Read the entire chapter of 1Corinthians 13 (verse 3 of that chapter shows you that the meaning of  charity here is not our common definition today) and the following verses;

2Peter 1:5 ¶  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7  And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It was a new commandment from Christ Himself, to love the brethren as a sign of their love of Him.

John 13:34  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The fighting for position in a church family, the competitiveness, the treating of others as spiritual inferiors because of their social class or gender or ethnicity, trying to dominate or control them is not of God, nor can it be pleasing to God.

Romans 12:16  Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:3  Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Hospitality, opening up your home and your time to a brother or sister in Christ, particularly one  in need, spending time together and providing a meal as a gracious host is something honoring to God.

Romans 12:13  Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

We hold the grace of God as stewards and we are called to do right by it. Are you gracious and merciful, as God? What about in your own family? Has someone let you down, sought forgiveness, and been shown it by you or are you unyielding, a pharisaical boor, demanding your respect and banishing anyone who doesn’t comply with your convictions? You will be the same in the church, no doubt.

It is important to understand the world in which these people lived. Pagan Roman and Greek religion, by the first century, had become devoid of all moral teachings and were mere following of ritual. You might get a pontiff or priest to act as a kind of lawyer between you and the gods so you didn’t anger them. However, moral philosophy and philosophers took over that part of religion that teaches and corrects morality for us. The most important moral philosophy of first century Rome was Stoicism, mentioned in Acts 17. In this philosophy which guided the Roman mind there was little compassion. One of its tenets was justice without sympathy, absolute moral standards without deviation, and virtue for virtue’s sake or as some modern pagans dressed in Christian clothes would say, “virtue is its own reward.” Christianity called for compassion and genuine love and concern plus mercy between members of a church, and by extension, I have made the point that it should extend within a family, as well.(8) The view that the poor are poor because they deserve to be poor or that if you mess your bed we’ll make sure you sleep in it is more pagan Stoic than representing the compassion of God for a fallen race of beings. Christians were called to truly care for each other, to forgive freely each other, and to express genuine concern for others.

James 2:13  For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

If you think that someone in church doesn’t do as much as you do and you gnash your spiritual teeth at them for not doing what you consider to be their share, because after all they aren’t serving God sacrificially and selflessly like you are, do you think you are acting as a Christian, or a Stoic philosopher? Are we in a human army and should we stand at attention, salute, and drop for pushups if a button is missing from our clothing? Do you practice the religion of Christ or the philosophy of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism. Do you have the attitude, “that person probably isn’t saved because they don’t act like I do?” Do you think you deserve some special treat from God (or the gods) because of your devotion?

The Stoic does right because it is the right thing to do. The Christian does right because He loves Christ, wants to please Him and show his love for Him. The Stoic regards others who have misfortunes as just not being right with God. The Christian, knowing the book of Job tells them that bad things can happen even to the most righteous acting person, feels compassion and empathy and wants to help their brother or sister. The Stoic thinks, “speaking the truth in love,” is ripping into someone for their failures, their lack of organization, lack of planning ahead, physical weakness, mental illness, or some other failing. The Christian leads by example and puts a supporting arm out for someone who is stumbling.

As the end times approach us we need to decide who we are; a pagan Stoic who believes that following the Golden Rule of ‘doing unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is evidence of their character and standards or a Christian who wants to do for others in his or her small part what Christ has done for them, as a good steward of the manifold grace of God.

When we speak it must always be something as if God Himself would say it, as something that glorifies Him. As Paul told us;

Ephesians 4:29  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Colossians 4:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

And James gave this warning;

James 3:1 ¶  My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2  For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3  Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7  For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Christian lies regarding speech that undercut our testimony with each other include, “I’m not trying to tell you what to do…,” or, “I don’t mean to criticize you,”, and other things that prepare you to next say something you insist you aren’t saying. Christians need to guard their tongues and eschew all manipulative and insulting speech that demeans others. We should speak God’s words and intent to others in the church and in our families, and not just what we wish God would say either.

Peter warns these Christians to get ready for the end times which he thinks are upon them and as they are upon all of us in every generation we should act and speak toward each other understanding the impact of our speech and how important it is to glorify God in all we do and say, measuring our speech and not speaking in a careless or hurtful manner. He is getting ready to expand on this in dealing with persecution.

(8) William Ralph Inge, Society in Rome under the Caesars (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888), 22, 23.

No comments: