Christians today often think of themselves as a unique generation. We incorrectly imagine that we face trails foreign to previous generations of Christians. A careful reading of the New Testament corrects this contemporary pity-party. Paul proclaimed the uniqueness of Christ at the Athens Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34). Only three possible worldviews exists. Representatives of all three worldviews were present at Mars Hill. The Epicurean philosophers were the materialistic naturalists, a philosophy that dominates our educational and legal systems today. The Stoic philosophers were the pantheistic mystics, a philosophy that shares many features with Eastern religions and New Age thought. Paul was a supra-naturalist; he affirmed a personal being beyond materialism.
Early Christians fought the same cultural battle we fight. I personally believe the battle will intensify before the culmination of history. Peter commended specific Christian attitudes for living with the end-times in view.
First, Peter reminded Christians of the connection between the end-times and ethics. Peter stated, “the end of all things is near” (v. 7). The term “end” describes the climax of history as well as the goal of history. God desires all Christians to affirm their generation might be the last (Rom. 13:11-12; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Heb. 13:11). Why? The New Testament emphasis upon end-times does not relate to date-setting schemes. The New Testament emphasis in connection with end-times is upon ethical living. The doctrines related to end-times have a purifying effect upon believers.
Second, Peter highlighted the importance of discipline as the end draws near (v. 7). End-time frenzy dishonors the Lord. A study of Christian history reveals abhorrent Christian behavior in light of end-time expectations. In contrast, Peter commends a two-fold discipline. He encouraged Christians to exercise sobriety of judgment. Sobriety of judgment is vital as Christians pray intelligently.
Third, Peter elevated Christian relationships within the church as the end draws near (4:8-9). Specifically, Peter commands Christians to love and to be hospitable to one another. Love is not an emotion. Love is a decision of the will, as evidence by the Scriptural command. According to the HCSB, we are to keep our love at “full strength.” The term translated “full strength” means “to love stretchingly.” Because of a decision of the will, we stretch out our hand to help other believers. As well, we stretch and absorb the barbs of others and return to our original shape. Peter connected love to the specific matter of sin. Love covers sins in the sense that love overlooks the faults of others.
Peter further elevated the Christian virtue of hospitality. Christians are to treat others believers in a hospitable manner without complaining. The word translated “complaining” has the connotation of ‘quiet muttering or murmuring.” This behind-the-scenes discontent often causes more harm to the church family than public disagreement.
Fourth, Peter challenged Christians to glorify God by the exercise of spiritual gifts as the end draws near (4:10-11). Peter affirmed five key teachings regarding spiritual gifts. First, a spiritual gift is a grace received from God. We do not deserve these grace endowments to serve God. The word for gift is ‘charisma” or “charismatos.” ‘Charis” is the Greek word for “grace.” The Greek suffix “mat” indicates something that produces results. A spiritual gift is a grace from God that produces results. Second, every Christian is a charismatic because God gives a grace enabling to every believer. We have allowed groups with a specific theology to designate themselves as charismatics when biblical truth affirms that all Christians are charismatics. Third, the purpose of a spiritual gift is to serve others, not to build up oneself. Fourth, all Christians are stewards of the grace gift granted by God. We are accountable for the use or neglect of the gift. Fifth, Peter classified all spiritual gifts into two broad types: speaking gifts (for example, teaching and preaching) and serving gifts (for example, leadership and mercy)
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