Sunday School 05 19 2013

 

 

 

  

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GOD CHASER WILLIAM MURPHY

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"Active Hope"

Lesson Text: 1 Peter 4:1-11

Background Scripture: 1 Peter 4

Devotional Reading: Luke 16:10-13

 

1 Peter 4:1-11 (KJV)

1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

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.

OBJECTIVES

  To understand that Christ’s suffering bought hope to believers.

  To know and show that nothing is more important than love!   

  To serve God by serving others.

 

INTRODUCTION

Time: A.D. 64

Place: Rome  

   Perhaps you have noticed that people like to wear clothing that bears the colors and logos of their favorite sports teams. People dress this way to make their loyalties clear. 

   How do followers of Jesus display their “team colors”? Some Christians wear distinctive clothing, and one can buy T-shirts and caps emblazoned with Christian slogans. But we recognize that something other than clothing is what declares a person to be a follower of Jesus. 

   That “something different” is a way of life. Our lifestyle reflects what Christ has already done, what Christ will do in the future, and who we are as a result. It has to do with how we think, how we speak, and how we act. Without exception, the new way of life is what the New Testament provides as the distinguishing mark of the Christian. That subject is the focus of today’s text.

 

LESSON BACKGROUND 

   Today’s text takes us back to 1 Peter to address the situation faced by its original readers. They were subjects of the Roman Empire, living in places and a time when the Romans were increasingly hostile to Christianity. With some localized exceptions (such as in Acts 18:2), Roman hostility did not extend to Jews as such. Roman respect for Judaism is traced to decisions and actions of Emperor Julius Caesar, who died in 44 B.C. 

   Roman suspicion of Christians grew as the Romans began to realize that Christianity was a new faith, not just a subset of Judaism. The result was increasing persecution of Christians. This is probably why Peter refers to Rome by the code word “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13. 

   Identity was important to these Christians. It was their identity that had created the trouble they were experiencing. Could they maintain that identity, expressing it consistently in the face of pressure to abandon it? Their challenge was to be true to their Lord. Their lives were to reflect what He had done and promised to do, not simply enduring the pressure that they faced.

 

Living for God (1 Peter 4:1-6)

1. What kind of attitude should we as Christians have towards sin? What was Christ’s attitude (1 Peter 4:1-2)? 

   Peter begins by reminding his readers how their life with Christ began. It is first of all Christ’s death that makes them His. By dying on the cross, He took the penalty for the sins of the world. Rising from the dead, He overcame and defeated sin. His death and resurrection therefore mean, in a very real and important sense, that sin is over. Its rule is finished.

 

   Christians are united with Jesus in His resurrection and its victory over sin (Romans 6:3-6). The resurrection life is, ideally, a life free from sin. That does not mean that sinful behaviors and temptations suddenly disappear. Sin and Satan remain active in this present age, though they are genuinely defeated. Those united with Christ in His death and resurrection have to fight deliberately against sin with the consciousness of a new life and the strength that Christ provides.

 

   So Peter uses a military expression, “arm yourselves” (1 Peter 4:1), and focuses on our foundational issue of intent, with the same mind. We must believe and insist that we are dead to sin so that we can live the resurrection life to keep sin in its defeated state. Since we have eternal life, we ought to pursue sin’s defeat now, not just wait for its full and final elimination in eternity.

 

   Our Lord came to earth to deal with sin and to conquer it forever. He dealt with the ignorance of sin by teaching the truth and by living it before men's eyes. He dealt with the consequences of sin by healing and forgiving; and, on the cross, He dealt the final deathblow to sin itself. He was armed, as it were, with a militant attitude toward sin, even though He had great compassion for lost sinners.

   Now, our transformation in Christ is to produce the identifying signs of new life in Him. In the old life, there is nothing to drive a person except one’s own desires (“the lusts of men” refers to all kinds of desires, not just sexual desires -v. 2). In Christ our motivation is changed: doing God’s will is now paramount.

   The good news of Jesus shows us how miserable our lives were when we pursued our own desires. The good news shows us how much God has done for us, driving us to replace a focus on our own desires with a focus on God’s will.

What Do You Think?

 

   What attitudes and practices of Jesus do you most need to develop as you “arm” yourself for the Christian life?

 

Talking Points for Your Discussion

 

   Jesus’ method and practice of prayer (Luke 5:16) | Jesus’ choice of companions (Luke 7:34)

 

   Jesus’ sense of priorities (John 4:31-34) | Jesus’ self-denial (John 6:38) | Other

 

2. How did Peter urge the persecuted Christians to live for God (1Peter 4:3-6)?   

  The persecuted Christians who read this letter live in a world dominated by pagan religions. These offer little or no moral teaching, and some even encourage indulgence in sex and alcohol. The lives of pagans, or Gentiles in this verse (3), reflect the sinful acts in a variety of ways people do evil.  

   So Peter reminds his readers of the kinds of self-destructive behaviors still around them, behaviors they used to practice themselves. Lasciviousness is unrestricted sexual activity. Lusts also suggests strong sexual desire, underlining the excesses of the old life. Excess of wine is drunkenness, of course. Revellings and banquetings add additional underlines that refer to gatherings for overindulgence in food, intoxicating drink, and immoral activity. 

   The list reaches its high point (or low point!) with abominable idolatries. This is the worship of false gods, a practice that lies at the heart of all the others. It often accompanies the most obvious displays of self-indulgence. 

   We may not have been guilty of such gross sins in our preconversion days, but we were still sinners—and our sins helped to crucify Christ. How foolish to go back to that land of life! 

A Patient Attitude toward the Lost (1 Peter 4:4-6) 

   Unsaved people do not understand the radical change that their friends experience when they trust Christ and become children of God. They do not think it strange when people wreck their bodies, destroy their homes, and ruin their lives by running from one sin to another! But let a drunkard become sober, or an immoral person pure, and the family thinks he has lost his mind! Festus told Paul, “thou art beside thyself” (Acts 26:24) and people even thought the same thing of our Lord (Mark 3:21). 

   We must be patient toward the lost, even though we do not agree with their lifestyles or participate in their sins. After all, unsaved people are blind to spiritual truth (2 Cor. 4:3-4) and dead to spiritual enjoyment (Eph. 2:1). In fact, our contact with the lost is important to them since we are the bearers of the truth that they need. When unsaved friends attack us, this is our opportunity to witness to them (1 Peter 3:15).

   The unsaved may judge us, but one day, God will judge them. Instead of arguing with them, we should pray for them, knowing that the final judgment is with God. This was the attitude that Jesus took (2:23), and also the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

   We must not interpret 1 Peter 4:6 apart from the context of suffering; otherwise, we will get the idea that there is a second chance for salvation after death. Peter was reminding his readers of the Christians who had been martyred for their faith. They had been falsely judged by men, but now, in the presence of God, they received their true judgment. “Them that are dead” means “them that are now dead” at the time Peter was writing. The Gospel is preached only to the living (1 Peter 1:25) because there is no opportunity for salvation after death (Heb. 9:27).

   Unsaved friends may speak evil of us and even oppose us, but the final Judge is God. We may sacrifice our lives in the midst of persecution, but God will honor and reward us. We must fear God and not men (1 Peter 3:13-17; see Matt. 10:24-33). While we are in these human bodies ("in the flesh"), we are judged by human standards. One day, we shall be with the Lord ("in the spirit") and receive the true and final judgment.

What Do You Think?

   What is your attitude when thinking of the judgment that unbelievers face? What changes do you need to make in this regard?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Satisfaction—they will get what they deserve

   Thankfulness—“I was lost, but now I’m found”

   Guilt—for ever sharing their lifestyle | Helplessness—just knowing their fate

   Compassion—how can I reach them? |Other

 

Serving God and His People (1 Peter 4:7-11)

3. Why is it important for Christians to remain “sober, and watch” as we await the coming of Christ (1 Peter 4:7)?

  The end or goal for which God has prepared the world is at hand, Peter reminds his readers (compare Romans 13:11, 12; 1 John 2:18). His previous discussion of God’s judgment raises this topic to the forefront. But to our minds, the question we ask ourselves is how the end of all things could truly have been at hand in the first century since nearly 2,000 years now have passed and Christ still has not returned. To understand Peter’s statement, we need to think carefully about what the New Testament teaches about the nearness of the end in comparison with the uncertainty of its timing.

   Jesus affirmed both that His return was “near” (Matthew 24:33, 34) and that no one could know the time in advance (24:36). In light of both statements, we can understand that the nearness of His return is not calculated by a specific measure of time. Rather, the nearness of Jesus’ return is a word of personal assurance to all His people: Jesus returns soon enough to rescue every one of His people from the sinful world and bring them together into the fullness of His kingdom.

   With that assurance, coupled with the knowledge that the time is uncertain, we realize that we need to live expectantly and urgently. We anticipate Christ’s return, and so we live with confidence while valuing every moment as an opportunity for serving Christ.

   This attitude of expectancy must not turn us into lazy dreamers (2 Thes. 3:6) or zealous fanatics. Peter gave "ten commandments" (so to speak) to his readers to keep them in balance as far as the Lord's return was concerned:

  1. Be sober (alert)—v. 7
  2. Watch unto prayer—v. 7
  3. Have fervent  charity (love)—v. 8
  4. Use hospitality—v. 9
  5. Minister your spiritual gifts—vs. 10-11
  6. Think it not strange—v. 12
  7. Rejoice—v. 13
  8. Do not be ashamed—vs. 15-16a
  9. Glorify God—vs. 16b-18
  10. Commit yourself to God— v. 19

What Do You Think? 

   How does (and should) the nearness of the end affect your daily service for Christ? 

Talking Points for Your Discussion 

   Matthew 24:36-48; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 1 John 2:18, 24-28; Revelation 1:3, Other 

4. Why is charity such an important characteristic for Christians (1 Peter 4:8)? 

   Our identity with Christ is based on the self-sacrificial, unconditional love of God that sent His Son into the world. As a result, nothing is more important in the life of the Christian than expressing that same self-sacrificial, unconditional love (here translated as charity) for others. So Peter says that living love—love that is fervent or especially strong—is the supreme pursuit of the Christian who lives in hope of Christ’s return. 

   The expression charity shall cover the multitude of sins is a quotation of Proverbs 10:12. It is also found in James 5:20, and through repetition it has passed into our language as a cliché. Because the phrase is so familiar, we need to pay careful attention to get its meaning. In Proverbs and so here, it can mean that because of love, we should willingly forgive and forget the sins of others. When we do, we effectively hide their sins with loving forgiveness. In times of persecution when believers are feeling stressed, there is a greater chance for them to say or do something that is offensive to others. Love becomes a key factor in maintaining unity, for it does not keep track of wrongs. Instead, it continually extends forgiveness to others (also see Matt. 18:21-22; 1 Cor.13:4-7).  

5. Why is hospitality an expression of love for the believer (1 Peter 4:9)? 

  One practical expression of love is to share one’s home and food. The practice of hospitality is vital to the first-century church. It is a means of providing for people in material need, for furthering the work of traveling evangelists, and for nurturing the fellowship of the church (3 John 5-8). Hospitality is particularly important in times of persecution, as Christians meet the needs of their suffering brothers and sisters by welcoming them into their homes. 

  But such practical expressions of love can be a costly chore. So Peter reminds believers to practice hospitality without grudging—without the kind of muttering grumbles that characterizes a person who is irritated or angry. Real love is generous, and real generosity is free of resentment. We are to remember that our hospitality is an expression of love in response to God’s love for us. 

  Hospitality is a virtue that is commanded and commended throughout the Scriptures. Moses included it in the Law (Ex. 22:21; Deut. 14:28-29). Jesus enjoyed hospitality when He was on earth, and so did the Apostles in their ministry (Luke 19:5; Acts 28:7; Phile. 22).  

  Abraham was hospitable to three strangers, and discovered that he had entertained the Lord and two angels (Gen. 18; Heb. 13:2). We help to promote the truth when we open our homes to God's servants (again, 3 John 5-8). In fact, when we share with others, we share with Christ (Matt. 25:35, 43). We should not open our homes to others just so that others will invite us over (Luke 14:12-14). We should do it to glorify the Lord. 

What Do You Think? 

   What are some specific ways that you can better extend hospitality? 

Talking Points for Your Discussion 

   Toward the needy (Matthew 25:35) | Toward enemies (Romans 12:20) 

   Toward strangers (Hebrews 13:2) | Toward fellow Christians (3 John 5-8) 

6. Do all Christian have spiritual gifts?  How should we use our gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11)? 

   Each Christian has at least one spiritual gift that he must use to the glory of God and the building up of the church (see Rom. 12:1-13; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Peter 4:10). We are stewards of what God has graciously provided. God has entrusted these gifts to us that we might use them for the good of His church. He even gives us the spiritual ability to develop our gifts and be faithful servants of the church. 

  The spiritual gifts that Peter mentioned in verse 11 represent two specific examples that illustrate selfless service in the exercise of gifts. The apostle noted that some had a special ability to declare the truths of Scripture. This included all forms of speaking (for example, preaching and teaching). Peter reminded his readers that they were proclaiming the message of God (as opposed to a mere human message). Others had a unique ability to serve others. Peter exhorted them to minister to people in God’s strength, not their own.  

   The result of such service is God’s glory. Christians demonstrate to the world who God really is when we serve with self-sacrificial energy and a focus on others. We reflect what God did for us through Jesus when we serve this way. Thus Peter fittingly ends this section with a prayer that Christ receive the praise and power that are rightfully His. 

What Do You Think? 

   Which spiritual gifts do you think you have? How will you better put these into practice? 

Talking Points for Your Discussion 

   Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-10; Ephesians 4:11

 

POINTS TO PONDER

1. Just as Christ suffered for our sins, we too must die to our old life. (1 Peter 4:1-6).

2. We must earnestly serve Christ’s and His people (1 Peter 4:7-9).

3. God has entrusted us to responsibly exercise our spiritual gifts to His glory (1 Peter 4:10-11).

 

CONCLUSION 

Past, Present, and Future 

   It is often said that the Christian life is lived in three tenses: past, present, and future. In the past, God saved us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. In the present, our sins are forgiven and our lives are being transformed. In the future, Christ will come for His people and establish His rule among them fully and forever. The past and the future shape our present, Peter reminds us. Together, they demonstrate who we are: God’s people, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. 

PRAYER 

   God Almighty, we reflect with amazement on what You have done for us. You have filled our greatest need. You transform us to fulfill Your highest purpose. We offer our lives to You in service that reflects Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.  

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER 

   Live as if you belong to Christ—because you do! 

 


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