Bible Study for April 30: Life in the Church

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1 Peter 4: 7-11
Bucky Kennedy, evangelist

In 1988 I was a student at Mid-America Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. My wife, Stacey, and I had the wonderful opportunity of attending Bellevue Baptist Church, where we worshipped under the preaching of Dr. Adrian Rogers.

In 1988 Edgar C. Whisenant sold 4.5 million copies of his book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988. He specifically predicted the rapture would take place sometime between September 11-13 of 1988. There was tremendous fervor and interest among evangelicals. Dr. Rogers promoted and preached a sermon on Sunday night, Sept. 1, entitled, “Preparing for the Rapture.”

The church was packed with thousands hanging on to Dr. Roger’s every word. He even shared his skepticism regarding Edgar Whisenant and his prediction by informing the audience that only God knows the schedule of the rapture. Hundreds responded to the invitation of salvation offered that night.

Later that week, I had the opportunity of spending some time with Dr. Rogers and I commented on the incredible response to his message. He responded, “Folks cramming for the final.” Before I forget, Whisenant was wrong about the date.

The early church lived in expectancy of Christ’s return. This is why they lived in urgency. In these five verses the Apostle Peter encourages the church in the practice of their fellowship in preparation for “the end of all things.”

Stay Calm and Pray

In verse 7 Peter is describing what James calls “the effective prayer of a righteous man” (James 5:16). It is the prayer life of an individual who has intentionally set his mental faculties on the things of the spirit as instructed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8. The encouragement of possessing a sober spirit speaks to being free from anxiety, extreme emotions, or irresponsible and sensual indulgences.

Peter is describing the prayer life of Jesus. Jesus prayed frequently and in fervency, but never in fear. Jesus could pray with a calm confidence because He trusted His Father and rested in the sufficiency of His father’s presence in His life. “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44, NASB95).

Being mentally sound and spiritually sober doesn’t release you from the agony of the moment, but you should not be assaulted by the anxiety of doubt and unbelief.

A sound mind and sober spirit keep us aware of our need to depend on the Holy Spirit living and working in us, resting in His sufficiency and security. Prayer is essential to the communion of saint and Savior, child and Father, soldier and commander.

Peter is telling them exactly what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7, NASB95).

Serve others graciously

We need to remember that the early church existed under extreme persecution. Peter’s instructions are given to folks living under great pressure. This is why he reminds them of their need for one another.

We are instructed to love one another with fervency and forgiveness. To love with fervency is to love with eagerness and intensity. It is not the passive “call me if you need anything” sentiment. It is a love that seeks to serve before being asked, of checking on someone without being called, and serving them without desire or want of reciprocation or recognition.

To love with forgiveness is not to condone sin or ignore it but it is to cover it, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12, NASB95). Forgiving love frees us from pettiness, but it also has no desire to publicize the sins of another. This kind of love seeks to pick up fallen sinners without publicly destroying them.

Peter then instructs in verse 9 to be “hospitable to one another without complaint.” Some of the saints had been burned out of their homes and beaten because of their proclaimed faith in Jesus. The offer of shelter, food, and physical care should be done with a heart of joy and compassion.

Hospitality is very important in the Middle East because poverty is so prevalent. Most folks can’t afford to stay in hotels or eat the food sold in restaurants. Hospitality is also encouraging to believers facing adversity and difficulty.

Finally, Peter instructs them to be effective servants of the church by serving others in the sufficiency of their giftedness for the benefit of the body. Believers all have gifts for the effective function and fellowship of the church. Some gifts allow for greater visibility, but all gifts have sufficient viability. One’s giftedness is not indication of superiority, but of service to the body.

I think the big push here is to move folks from spectators to participators.

Glory to God

In verse 11, I can almost see Peter chuckle as he thinks about the expressions of those hearing this letter. They’re probably saying, “Does Peter understand the conditions and circumstances we are dealing with?” Maybe some super positive saint said something like, “We must try and do this for Jesus because e of all that He did for us. He didn’t quit on us and at least we’ll die trying.”

The only way a church can effectively serve and glorify God is to do so in the sufficiency and strength of God’s provision, His Son Jesus.

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