1 Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 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.
I’ve heard it said that a preacher’s job is comparable to that of a chef. The goal of a chef is to serve a good-tasting, enjoyable, sustaining meal. In order to do that he or she needs to spend time in both the kitchen and the dining room. It is in the kitchen that the right ingredients need to be selected, cut, pealed, mixed and otherwise prepped. Combined, they need to be cooked for the right amount of time at the right temperature. You get the idea. Once the meal is fully ready, the chef brings it out to be served in the dining room. Much of what it took to get the meal to the point of being ready to be served never leaves the kitchen and is often unknown to the one who will eventually eat it. And yet, as anyone with any culinary knowledge understands, some knowledge of the kitchen-work of a good chef only serves to enhance the enjoyment of the meal. Again, preaching is a lot like that.
Throughout the week I spend many hours preparing what I serve you on Sunday morning; much of which you never hear about. Every week, for your sake, I have to decide how much of my prep work to share with you and how much to leave out. While occasionally interesting, things like word studies and arguments between commentators often distract from your ability to appreciate the meaning and implications of the text. My aim is to share enough for you to see all the glory and meaning of the text, but not enough to unnecessarily bog you down.
I’m telling you all of this now because we need to spend a bit more time in the kitchen than usual this morning. There’s a connection in our text that is remarkably significant, but also somewhat hidden. By spending a bit more time behind the scenes I think you’ll see a lot more glory and find a lot more help for obedience. Let’s pray, then, that God would make it so.
This primary text for this sermon is the second half of 1 Peter 4:11, “… in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This brief passage gives us two simple—yet all-of-life-encompassing—points: 1) God’s people must glorify God in all things, 2) Because all glory is God’s. Let’s back up for just a few minutes before pressing into these.
All of 1 Peter is meant to instruct the persecuted Church on how to navigate persecution in a manner pleasing to God. The sum total of all Peter’s instructions amount to this: God’s people suffer well when we view our suffering through the lens of the gospel, make decisions in our suffering in light of the gospel, and seek to put the saving and transforming power of the gospel on display when we suffer. The rest of the letter, once again, is meant to explain how to do that in different ways and in different situations.
Thus, under that banner and as a means to that end, in 4:7-11 we find four commands flowing from a particular reality. The reality is that Peter’s readers were living (as are we) at a point in history in which “the end of all things is at hand”. The commands that flow from that reality are: 1) Be self controlled and sober minded, 2) Love one another above all, 3) Show grumble-free hospitality, and 4) Use your gifts to serve the Church. Our passage is connected to the fourth command in this section. Before we get there, however, let’s head to the kitchen for just a bit.
The primary reason for this brief kitchen tour is to help you see why I chose to take “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” with “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.”
To understand my answer to that, let’s look back one more time to the previous verses. The ESV translators make it clear that the first and second commands (of 4:7-11) have particular reasons attached to them (“Be self controlled and sober minded…for the sake of your prayers” and “Love one another above all…since love covers a multitude of sins”). The ESV team also makes it clear that there is no such reasoning attached to the third command. But what about the fourth command?
Again, the way our translators rendered vs.10-11 it certainly looks like they mean us to understand “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” to be the reason for the fourth command (“as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another…”), and both (the command and the reason) to be disconnected from the final sentence (“To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever”). That is, in our bibles (because the only period in 10-11 is found after “Jesus Christ”) it looks like Peter is charging Christians to use our God-given-gifts to serve one another in order that God would be glorified, and then, as a separate, concluding, doxological thought, declaring that all glory and dominion are God’s.
It is certainly true that Christians ought to use our gifts to build up the Church as a means of putting God’s glory on display. And it is certainly true that glory and dominion belong to God forever and ever. But, did Peter really mean us to see these as disconnected truths?
Again, the formatting of our ESV bibles is designed to highlight the connection between using our gifts and glorifying God. However, it is also designed to (on some level at least) disconnect all of that from the final sentence. Why, then, would I spend an entire sermon on a connection that the ESV translators (at best) minimize? Ultimately, it is because I think the ESVers got this a bit wrong. To understand why I believe that we need to spend just a little more time in the kitchen. (Don’t worry, it’s almost time to eat.)
Remember, in the original Greek, there is no punctuation at all. All punctuation is supplied by translators for clarity. Let’s look again, then, at the text, paying particular attention to the ESV added punctuation.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 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.
I want you to notice two things in particular. First, notice the lack of a period (instead a colon) at the end of v.10. Second, notice the presence of a period in the middle of v.11 (after “Jesus Christ”). Grammatically, the absence of a period at the end of v.10 is designed to make sure the connection between serving and glorifying God is plain. The presence of a period in the middle of v.11 is designed to separate that thought from the final sentence. Let me suggest an alternative punctuation that several commentators advocate for (and I believe is better).
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 11 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 whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
What’s the difference between the two subtle changes? Simply this: the second rendering is meant to make two connections instead of just one. I’ve already explained and defended the first. The second is the point of the rest of this sermon. What’s the second connection? It’s this: I think Peter means to highlight for his readers both that their gifts are to be used for God’s glory AND that the reason for this is that all glory belongs to God. The second translation option makes this clear.
Let me say that again. Rather than a disconnected, closing thought, I think the final words of v.11 powerfully provide Peter’s reason for his reason. That is, it is because glory and dominion eternally belong to Jesus that the aim of our serving and everything else must be to glorify God through Jesus Christ.
Which of the following two statements from your landlord provides more motivation for you to write out your rent check to Bill Smith?
- You need to make your rent check out to Bill Smith so that Bill can pay for his upcoming vacation.
- You need to make your rent check out to Bill Smith so that Bill can pay for his upcoming vacation because the building you rent belongs to Bill.
If all I’m given from my landlord is the command (make your rent check out to Bill) and the first reason (so that Bill can pay for his upcoming vacation), I’m left knowing what to do, but without a lot of motivation and with a number of questions. Why does Bill get my money? Why do I care if he can pay for his vacation (I have no reason to believe he cares if I can pay for mine)? Knowledge that the building belongs to Bill answers these questions and ups the consequences of failing to comply.
Of course Peter’s readers already understood that glorifying God was their goal and purpose. But Peter understood that in situations as outwardly difficult as the ones they found themselves in, more explanation would be more helpful. They should glorify God in their serving BECAUSE all glory is God’s.
Again, that’s an important connection that I believe Peter wants us to see but our translations disguise. Hopefully you can see why it was worth it to head back into the kitchen to find this. With that, then, let’s eat!
GLORIFY GOD IN EVERYTHING
I said at the beginning that this brief passage gives us two simple—yet all-of-life-encompassing—points: 1) God’s people must glorify God in all things, 2) Because all glory is God’s. The first course of our meal is Peter’s first point, “…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
My aim here is to simply and briefly attempt to impress upon you the significance of such a claim. You and I, along with all of God’s people, are meant to do every specific thing, as well as all things in general, for one primary purpose: putting on display the, glory of God. “…in order that in everything God may be glorified…”.
Even a quick survey of scripture makes it plain that this claim is not unique to Peter.
1 Corinthians 10:31 whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Matthew 5:16 let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Romans 11:36 from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Again, it is plain that God’s people are called to glorify God in everything. But what does that mean and where does it start?
In simplest terms God’s glory is his worthiness to be praised, and to glorify him is to experience that worthiness and respond to it in delight and obedience.
For so much of my life I thought I believed in God. The god I believed in, however, was anything but worthy of my unceasing praise. He was, frankly, boring. The greatest news I ever heard—as a freshman in college—was that the One True God was glorious beyond measure. The god I had believed in previously, then, was no god at all. If your understanding of God does not overwhelm you, you’re not truly thinking of God.
If we are to obey, then, where do we start? We start, as Peter clearly states, with Jesus Christ. “…in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…”. The person and work of Jesus is most worthy of our praise, the highest source of our delight, and the object of and fuel for our obedience. It is his humility and obedience that led to our salvation. He is the exact representation of the godhead. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. But on the third day he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Doing all of this is at the peak of what makes God worthy of being praised. Our ability to behold God’s glory, love it, and live for it, then, is entirely owing to Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf. He is, therefore, the pinnacle of the glory of the godhead.
If we are to obey Peter, then, we must do so through Jesus Christ. We must begin to behold the glory of God by finding the cross true and supreme and sufficient and humbling and saving and all-consuming. Only in the cross are we able to see God, ourselves, our sin, and salvation rightly. Only in the cross, therefore, can we begin to see and savor and signal the glory of God.
This leaves us with another, final question: why does God mean his people to glorify him in everything? The answer to that question is second course of our meal and Peter’s second point (made clear by the kitchen work we did earlier).
BECAUSE ALL GLORY BELONGS TO GOD
Why does God mean his people to glorify him in everything through Jesus? Or, to word it another way, why is this not selfish (as it would be for you and I to demand the same thing)? The answer, as we’ve seen, is in the final words of this passage.
“…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever.”
The reason it is right and good for God to demand glory from his people in everything is that all glory belong to him, infinitely, eternally, and all-satisfyingly. It’s wrong of you and I to demand glory because we have none that wasn’t given to us by God. The owner, not the steward of a thing is most deserving of praise. God is right to demand it because it all belongs to him. He alone is beautiful and majestic and wise and powerful. All other beauty, majesty, wisdom, and power are derivative, contingent, on loan.
Think about this for a minute. Draw to mind all the things in your life that you’ve found to be worthy of praise. The sunset, the national park, the birth of a child, the beauty of your spouse, the concert, the game, the meal, the northern lights, etc. Many of those things truly are worthy of being praised. That is, they possess a measure of glory. However, as Peter makes clear, whatever glory they possess, they possess only as stewards, as managers. It is not their glory; it is God’s. That is what passages like Psalm 19:1 (“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”) are intended to communicate. The heavens possess a measure of glory, but that glory was given to them by God in order to point to God’s glory.
This means, then, that the glory of God is so glorious that we can only glorify God (previous point) with glory that he gives us to give back to him because he alone possesses all glory (this point)! Do you see why this connection is so important and powerful? Our ability to obey the beginning of v.11 is entirely contingent on the reality of the end of the verse.
So Grace, at this point Peter means his readers to step back and consider the implications of all this. His readers, including you and I, often find ourselves in “various trials”. When we come to those trials, at this time between Jesus’ first and second coming, we are meant to stop and determine to be self-controlled, to love other Christians above all, show hospitality to strangers, and use our God-given gifts, all in such a way as to cause the watching world to see the unmatched glory of God. If we’ve tasted and seen the glory of God this makes sense. And yet, our knowledge of the fact that God is glorious and, therefore, deserves to be glorified COMBINED with the knowledge that all glory belongs to God, not only makes Peter’s commands make sense, it is infuses it with sufficient power for joyful obedience.
I want to conclude with four quick, practical thoughts on what to do about all of this:
- We must give ourselves to the Word and people of God. Obeying Peter’s command in a mature way requires us to have an increasingly accurate and full understanding of God’s glory. Ultimately, this is a gift from God. He along can give us eyes to see him as he truly is. God has said, however, that improved spiritual vision is to be found in his Word and people. Let’s give ourselves, then, to carefully and prayerfully taking in God’s Word alongside God’s people. It is there, primarily, that his glory—especially the glory of Jesus and his cross—is to be beheld and explained in order that it can be loved and reflected in everything.
- We must avoid the things that disguise, mar, distract from, or otherwise get in the way of God’s glory. If we spend all our time filling our hearts and minds with things that can only promise and point to fake glory, how will we ever be able to behold real glory? Billions and billions of dollars are spent year after year to get us to believe certain things are glorious in order that we’ll spend billions and billions of dollars to get them (and their glory). If we are to obey Peter and glorify God in everything, we must, must wake up to the fact that unless we’re vigilant we’ll be duped into giving ourselves to fake glory and death.
- We must live a life of faith. That is, we must live our lives not according to the cultural current, but according to the promises of God. That’s the life Peter is describing in this letter. So little of what he calls his readers to do makes sense apart from clear promises of God. God’s glory becomes increasingly clear as we obey in ways that require him to keep us from ruin. Again, simply, we cannot live as Peter commands if we live based on what our eyes can see. We see his glory and glorify God when his promises are our guide; and that is the essence of living by faith.
- And we must constantly be looking for the glory of God in all that we do. If we have eyes to see and a commitment to live intentionally, we cannot miss the fact that God’s glory is everywhere and, therefore, in every situation we can glorify God. Stop and consider the birds you see on your way home, flying in an efficient formation to a biologically more conducive place and glorify God who designed them in this glory. Stop and consider the cashier, made in the image of God, and glorify God by speaking to her with all the dignity and encouragement she deserves. Stop and marvel at the fact that our government, by God’s glorious design, has made and maintains orderly roads that allow us to travel freely. Stop and consider the bitterness you’re harboring toward someone and remember the pinnacle of God’s glory in the cross, forgive them, and therein put on display the glory of God’s gospel. Again, Grace, God’s glory is all around and, therefore, so is our ability to glorify God as we recognize it.
Let’s live our entire lives “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”