I Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
In the first portion of chapter 4, Peter calls upon believers to crucify their sinful natures. We noted that crucifying the flesh has two parts – the removal of what is sinful and the addition of what is holy.
Peter also reminds us that our earthly lives pass very quickly, and we have already used some of our time in rebellion against God. Now that we are Christians, we need to live lives that glorify God.
One of the ways we do that is by being sober-minded and practicing self control. Another way is to exemplify brotherly love towards other Christians. We looked at both of these mandates in our last post.
Peter now urges his readers to show hospitality without complaint. What is hospitality? Why did Peter need to mention it to his readers?
On the surface, the concept seems pretty simple: Hospitality is the reception of travelers as honored guests. But in practice, things get complicated in a hurry!
The first thing we need to understand is that during ancient times, people generally did not travel for pleasure or education, as we do today. Because they traveled only when truly necessary, there were no hotels or inns in existence as there are now. Along the busiest roads (trading routes) there were a few inns, but they had scandalous reputations. Moral, upright, honest citizens did not want to stay there.
Instead, those who traveled stayed with friends or family. If this was not an option, the traveler may hang around the city gates where the rulers and influential men of the city met, and wait for an invitation to stay the night. Alternatively, they would simply come to town, knock on the door of a house and request a place to stay.
Granted, this seems very weird to us. If a stranger knocked on our door and requested hospitality, we would be inclined to slam the door shut and call the police, rather than let them inside! But many earlier cultures including the Greeks, the Romans, and the Orientals all practiced hospitality.
In fact, hospitality was considered the duty every citizen. It was scandalous to be a poor host; one’s personal reputation and honor demanded that the duties of hospitality be fulfilled completely. You and your family were disgraced, openly shamed and even shunned for failing to provide adequate hospitality.
What were the basic duties of the host? As soon as the traveler arrived, he was furnished with water to wash his feet and otherwise refresh himself. He was provided with food for himself and his beast. But the host would not just give him a bologna sandwich and a glass of water – he would put on the equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast for his guest. The meal was considered a reflection of the host’s wealth and reputation in the community, so nothing was held back. He would make the meal as lavish as possible.
In addition, the host would act as the servant, waiting on his guests. Often, he would inconvenience himself by giving the traveler his own bed. He would do anything and everything to ensure his guest(s) were treated like kings.
The Jews were among the Oriental/Eastern people who practiced hospitality. For instance, in Genesis 18:3-5, we find Abraham showing hospitality to three strangers who turned out to be of heavenly origin. In Genesis 24:1-33, we find that Laban showed hospitality to a stranger, who eventually took Rebekah to Canaan as a wife for Isaac. Even Job practiced hospitality (Job 31:32). There are many more examples that you will find during your reading of the Old Testament.
We also find the practice of hospitality in the New Testament.
When Jesus sent the 12 disciples out to preach the word, they relied on the hospitality of other Jews:
Matthew 10:11 – And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till you go from there.
In fact, New Testament Christians were expected to continue the practice of hospitality: Romans 12:13, I Timothy 3:2 and 5:10, Titus 1:8, Hebrews 13:2, and Peter 4:9.
Now that we understand some of the facts of hospitality, let’s picture a few scenarios.
Suppose there is a major event taking place in the city. The very limited number of rooms available at the inns would be full, and travelers would be relying on the hospitality of local families. But even these accommodations would fill up if enough people flooded into town. This helps to explain why Mary and Joseph had no place to go during the census; they were sheltered in a barn/stable, because that was literally all that was left in Bethlehem.
Enormous, overflowing crowds also filled Jerusalem during the Passover each year. The Jews who resided there were always called upon to provide hospitality for the Passover visitors, many of whom had come from far away.
Consider another situation – Jews who have come to accept Jesus Christ as savior. These Jews were disowned by their families and friends and they often lost their employment. It was not uncommon for them to leave Jerusalem for some other area, and depend upon the hospitality of other Christian Jews as they built a new life from scratch.
Can you imagine what it would be like for you to be minding your own business, when all of a sudden there is a knock on your door and it is a family of strangers – Christian Jews from Jerusalem, carrying all their possessions with them, seeking your hospitality?
You would be expected to open the door to them, give them your best, provide for them, and protect them, because that was your duty. We can see that hospitality comes with a cost – the host must expend time, energy, money and resources in order to fulfill his obligation.
Plus, as my father always says, ‘Fish and house guests both begin to stink after 3 days’! A more polite way of phrasing that idea might be this: putting two families together in the same house for even a short period of time, could cause conflict or intense irritation.
When Peter penned his letter to the Christians in Asia Minor, he probably had this scenario in mind – Christian Jews who fled Jerusalem due to persecution, and sought refuge or hospitality with other Jews.
He instructs Christians to offer hospitality without complaining or literally ‘without murmurs’. They were not to complain of the hardship of doing it; of the time, expense or trouble required to provide good hospitality. They should perform this duty willingly and with a cheerful mind.
Hospitality is an aspect of showing love to your Christian brothers and sisters. Again, this was especially needful during the age of persecution when Christians were often driven from their homes.
While hospitality is not practiced this way in our culture, we should still be willing to expend time, energy and resources to help those in need.
I Peter 4:10-11 – As each has received a gift, use it to serve on another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
What gift does Peter refer to here? The actual word means ‘endowment of any kind, spiritual or temporal’.
If you read the verse closely, you can’t help but notice that everyone (this means you) has received a gift from God. Notice also that we are not proprietors, but stewards of our gifts.
A proprietor is one who has a legal right or exclusive title to something. As owner, he can withhold his gift from others or he can charge any price for it.
A steward is one who manages something for the true owner. God is the ultimate owner of any gifts we possess and he wants us to use them for the benefit/good of others. God always intends to do good to people, and he accomplishes that good through us; that is why he has entrusted you with your gift(s).
Consider what God, in his great providence, has done. He has not given each person everything they need. Instead, he has given each one of us gifts which places us in a position of needing what others have. Thus, we are to work as a united family. We assist others with our gift of encouragement, while another uses material wealth to meet needs, while another teaches/preaches the word, while someone else provides much needed wisdom, etc (Romans 12:5-8). Individually, we would be lacking in many things, but collectively, we should have all we need.
As we use these gifts to the best of our abilities, people will acknowledge God as their benefactor, and he will be glorified through us.
Withholding this assistance from our bothers is essentially the same as burying our talent (Matthew 25:24-25). This is a form of robbing God; he is denied the glory due to him, and the gift he has given us is wasted.
We can no more refuse to share our gifts than the Christians of Peter’s day could refuse hospitality. How are you stewarding the gifts God has entrusted to you?
I Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Peter now goes on to speak about fiery trials of affliction and persecution. Christian suffering should not come as a surprise to us, nor should it catch us off guard; Jesus has forewarned his followers that it would come.
John 15:20 – Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
God allows these trials into our lives. He is not trying to destroy us, but rather to test our faith, patience and maturity in him. These trials can, in fact, be very beneficial to the Christian. They can actually strengthen and expand our faith as we lean on and obey Jesus during the suffering. In addition, trials prepare us for heaven, by keeping our focus on eternal matters.
We must also bear in mind that the Christian who has been diligent to crucify the flesh (as mentioned earlier), has no doubt set his mind resolutely on Christ and righteousness, and thus he will be much better prepared to handle fiery trials.
I Peter 4:13 – But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
To be identified with Christ is the ultimate consolation of every believer; for the world to view you as they viewed Jesus our Lord is the highest compliment that can be paid.
To the extent that we share in his suffering on earth, we will partake of his glory in the next life. Or, we might consider it this way – in the same proportion that we suffer like him, we shall also be glorified with him.
This refers back to Peter’s earlier statement, that Christians should not be surprised at suffering. If we are caught off guard by suffering, we will be distraught and anguished. However, if we understand that suffering may very well occur and that it is for our benefit and God’s glory, we can rejoice when the time of suffering comes, knowing that we will also be glorified with him.
I Peter 4:14 – If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Jesus himself was insulted many times by the religious leaders and the masses of people. They accused him of being possessed by a demon (John 7:20), of being mad (John 10:20) and of being a Samaritan (John 8:48). They even mocked him multiple times before and during the crucifixion (Mark 15:20, Luke 22:63, Luke 23:36, etc).
If we are insulted for the testimony of Jesus we should consider our situation blessed. This does not mean that we find personal joy or fulfillment in being reproached. It means the world recognizes that we are like Christ and we will receive spiritual influence in this world, as well as rewards in heaven.
It is of further comfort that those who suffer do not suffer alone, or merely in their own strength. Holy Spirit rests upon them and abides with them. They will receive an extra measure of grace and strength in proportion to their trial, bringing them peace and strength for their situation.
Many scholars believe this extra grace from Holy Spirit also rests upon people under other types of suffering as well, such as sickness, bereavement, loss and even death itself. Thus, God leads and guides them into victory.
I Peter 4:15-16 – But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Again, as discussed earlier in this epistle, Christians should be careful not to suffer for doing evil. The only blessed suffering comes when one suffers for righteousness. As Matthew Henry has said, “it is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr”.
II Timothy 2:12 – If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…
Those persecuted for living a godly Christian example should not be ashamed of being rejected and mocked. Rather, they have a reason to glorify God – their testimony for Christ has been recognized by the world and it carries heavenly rewards.
I Peter 4:17-18 – For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
What does Peter mean by the term ‘judgment’? In this case it seems to refer to severe trial(s). These trials would test the depth and value of a believer’s faith.
They also reveal any areas in which the believer has wandered away from the narrow path of righteousness. God will then use the trial as a form of discipline to bring his child back into holiness, to prepare them for heaven, to humble them, and to mortify their fleshly desires.
I Corinthians 11:31-32 – For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
So there is reason for hope and comfort for the Christian: God’s judgment/testing is corrective in nature, not destructive. Like any good Father, God corrects his children in love so they will properly mature. He often uses the furnace of affliction to burn away impurities and make us pure and holy. Therefore, these trials are ultimately for our good.
But what of the judgment of the wicked, who live in open transgression and rebellion against God?
The truth is that suffering comes to both Christians and Sinners.
- The Christian has comfort knowing his suffering is for good, the wicked have no such comfort or peace.
- The Christian has hope for a better life in eternity; the wicked has only eternal death and damnation in his/her future.
- The Christian suffers a judgment of grace resulting in mercy; the wicked suffers under a judgment of wrath which results in punishment.
- The Christian suffers temporarily, in earthly life. The wicked suffer eternally in the next life.
The details of the end for the wicked are, for the most part, shrouded from our understanding. We do not know the true horror their existence will entail. What we do know is that the scriptures give warning to those who rebel against God – their creator, Father and King. Rebellion is not tolerated by mortal men, why would God tolerate it?
Furthermore, Christians can expect to inherit what their Father has to offer: life, peace and eternal reward. Sinners can also expect to inherit what their father has to offer: death, turmoil and eternal suffering.
I Peter 4:19 – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Here is Peter’s conclusion:
Righteous suffering should be patiently endured because it is for our eternal good. If God has allowed it, there is a purpose behind it.
God is our Father and we can trust him with the safe keeping of our eternal soul; we must commit ourselves to him in well doing and obedience to his commands.
God is faithful to preserve and defend whatever is under his protection and power.
2 Timothy 1:12 – For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
However, those who refuse to commit their lives to God in obedience to the gospel have no such assurance or hope. Rather than hoping in God, they fear him.
When considering the outcome of the wicked, we should not envy their present prosperity, but we should consider their final outcome, and be even more diligent to introduce them to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me offer you some encouragement:
Every generation of Christians seems to struggle with the prosperity of the wicked. And every generation must search the scriptures to find that the end of the wicked is only death/destruction.
Even though the righteous suffer, it is not punitive. Our loving Heavenly Father is more concerned with our eternal good than our earthly comfort and he is not adverse to placing us in the furnace of affliction to burn off impurities. This is a normal part of being a child of God.
Let me offer you some relief:
You can trust God. In your private, personal relationship with him, you can commit your ways, hopes, dreams, desires, faults and strengths to him. He will use these for his glory and your good. No matter what life holds on earth, God preserves the lives of his children for all of eternity.
Let me offer you some strength:
The promises given in this portion of scripture are for those who have committed their lives to Christ. If you are reading this now, there is still time for you to commit or recommit your life to Him.
If you desire to have your sins forgiven and entrust your eternal soul to a loving Heavenly Father, then pray this prayer to him, from your heart:
Dear Jesus, I confess to you that I am a sinner. I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin. I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior. I commit myself to you right now. Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life. Amen.
If you prayed this prayer and sincerely meant it, then you have received the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ!