EBible Fellowship Sunday Bible Study – 18-Oct-2009


by John McOwen


In 1 Peter 4, we are going to read verses 7-10.  Our study today will be involving an attitude, a certain behavior pattern for these last days.  1 Peter 4 gives us an admonition beginning in verse 7.  We are going to start there and read through verse 10, and we are going to look at a few different attributes in this passage. 

Ask yourself these questions while we are reading this and certainly while we go through this study today: “Am I doing this?  Am I living this?  Is this part of my character?” 

In 1 Peter 4:7, we read: 

But the end of all things is at hand… 

This is the setting of this whole passage, and we are also going to read the next four verses.  “The end of all things is at hand.”  We who are sitting here alive today now know that the end is a little over a year and a half away. 

1 Pet 4:7-10 says:

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity [love]… 

I am translating the word “charity” into the word “love.”  In Scripture, this is the Greek word agape

…have fervent [love] among yourselves: for [love] shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 

Going back to 1 Peter 4:7, the very setting of this passage is: 

But the end of all things is at hand… 

It is around the corner.  It is really close.  So the Scripture says:  

…be ye therefore… 

Since we know the end is so soon to come, the Bible is saying to therefore be this way. 

We all need to look at ourselves today.  Am I being this way?  Am I acting this way?  Is my character defined by these attributes that we are going to look at today?  And if not, I am going to pray for them; I am going to try to exercise these things more and more in my life.

So the very first thing Peter says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that since the end is at hand, we are to:  

…be ye therefore sober… 

“Sober” is the very first word that is used.  Since the end is so close, the Bible says that we are to be sober. 

When we hear the word “sober” in our language today, in what we talk about when we use this word “sober,” what does this usually refer to?  It is usually referring to the opposite of being drunk.  Being sober means that someone is not drinking or getting drunk.  This is how we typically and most frequently use this word. 

This is a part of its definition, of course, but this is not really the essence of the word “sober.”  The Greek definition of this word is very similar to our English definition.  This is why I am going to look at the English definition.  In the English, this word is an adjective.  It means “marked by sedate, grave, earnest, or thoughtful character or demeanor.”  Therefore, this is referring to someone who is very sedate or very grave or very serious.  It is temperance, moderation, seriousness—these are all adjectives used to describe this word “sober.” 

When we think about this, moderation is really what comes into play.  When we talk about sobriety, we are usually referring to someone who is no longer drinking too much alcohol, someone who is maybe addicted to it but who is remaining sober.  Temperance is another word that we could use.  The idea is that someone is not partaking of something in excess; they are being very moderate.  But the key word and definition of the word “sober” that the Bible has in view is the word “serious.”  This means that someone is very grave; that this is serious business. 

In other words, because the end is so close, the Bible instructs us to be sober.  This is not referring to no longer drinking, even though this should be done anyway because no one should be drunk, which is made clear from other passages of Scripture.  But this is referring to the seriousness with which we should now conduct our lives—the fact that we are to keep ourselves under control.  When someone becomes drunk, they have lost control.  This is what it means to become drunk with excess of wine or alcohol.  In doing so, a person loses their self-control. 

The Greek word for “sober” is Strong’s #4993, and this Greek word really has its main meaning in the Greek at that time, which is to have a sound mind and to have self-control.  Having a sound mind and self-control is really getting back to the seriousness of life again.  You are seriously looking at things and you maintain control.  You are not losing control.  You are completely on top of it because you understand the seriousness of what is at hand.  You are acting and conducting your life in this manner as you go through each day.  Each thought, each action you take, is carefully thought through.  You are not doing anything whimsically.  You are not just being blown by the wind. 

So let us take a look at how the Bible uses the word “sober” to see if we are this way.  Mark 5:15 talks about being in our right mind.  Remember, Jesus here had healed this man who was possessed, and in Mark 5:15 it says: 

And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil… 

There was a man who was possessed: 

…and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 

From the definition that I read to you earlier, we do not see the word “sober” in this verse, but the Greek word is exactly the same.  The Greek word that was translated as “sober” in 1 Peter 4 is translated in Mark 5:15 as: 

…in his right mind… 

This man was now in his right mind.  What was he doing before this?  Look at verse 5 of this same chapter.  Here is the contrast: before Jesus had dispossessed him of the devil, in Mark 5:5, it says: 

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 

This is not normal behavior.  This is being out of your mind.  This is losing control.  This is not having a sound mind at all.  But later he was found to be in his sound mind; he was in his right mind.  This is why the people were amazed.  It is because this man was known to be a lunatic or possessed with the devil. 

So this is one of the ways in which the Bible uses this word “sober.”  In this case, it defines it as being “in your right mind.”  But we also find that there is another angle on being sober.  Again, the end is at hand.  Be sober.  What does it mean to be sober? 

Let us go to Romans 12 where we will find another angle.  Paul says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:3-6: 

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly… 

What is the contrast?  To think soberly means that we are not to think in what manner?  It means that we are not to think proudly.  In this case, it is the opposite of being proud.  This would be another definition for this word “sober.” 

So we see here in Romans 12:3 that we are not to think more of ourselves than we ought:

…but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us… 

We are all different and we acknowledge and recognize that some people have strengths in certain areas, whatever they may be.  In our day with the end coming so soon, some of us are better at hospitality as we read earlier in one of the verses.  Others are better at doctrine and understanding.  But the bottom line is this: to be sober at this time means to not think more of yourself than you ought.  To be sober also means to not be proud. 

Being in our right mind means that we are really no better than anybody else; therefore, we are to treat everyone with gentleness and kindness.  One of the reasons for this is because we are all members of one body.  And how about the example of the body in Scripture: the ears, the eyes, and the nose?  “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?”  No.  Every member of the body is vital to feel good and to operate and to be functioning on all cylinders, as the saying goes.  But the Bible here says to not think more highly of ourselves than we should. 

So to be sober also means not to be proud.  We can look at ourselves today.  Are we humble even though we have this incredible knowledge that the end is right around the corner, as well as a lot of other things that God is opening up to us in Scripture?  Let us be humble about it. 

As we are commanded to “be ye therefore sober” because the end is so near, another way in which we are to apply sobriety is what God tells us in Titus 2:6.  This is going to speak to one specific way in which we are to exercise sobriety.  Titus 2:6-8 says: 

Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded

There is our word “sober.”  So what does this mean? 

In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. 

So to be sober not only means to be of a sound mind, it also means to take everything very seriously because the end is near and that we are also not to be proud.  But how do I do this?  Verse 8 really underscores what being sober means.  Young men are to be sober minded in what?  We are to be sober minded in our speech, in what we say.  We have to watch our language in what we say to others.  We really have to be careful. 

Titus 2:8 says: 

Sound speech, that cannot be condemned… 

The purpose for this is so we will not be ashamed when somebody else on the contrary hears what we say, what we write, what we do, how we express ourselves.  We need to understand that sobriety with the end so near means to not be proud.  Instead, we are to be careful about what we think.  We are to be of a sound mind, to be serious, to have no proud thoughts, to speak with humility and gentleness and kindness toward one another regardless. 

We remember of Paul that he was “such an one caught up to the third heaven.”  Because of this, God gave him “a thorn in the flesh.”  It was not because he was proud.  It was because God had shown him so many things.  God had revealed so much to him that he therefore had to be careful.  God gave him “a thorn in the flesh” to remind him that he was just a man. 

So let us ask ourselves, “With the end so close, how can I instill this sobriety?”  What typically happens at the end of anything?  When the end of anything is near, does that not always give you extra energy?  For the person who has been in jail for 10 years out of a 10-year sentence, that last week is going to be easy compared to the first week when you know you have another 9-plus years ahead of you, is it not?  You can get through it! 

What happens when there is suddenly a rift in a marriage where one of the partners is threatening to leave?  Sometimes that will spur someone into action.  When someone realizes that their marriage might actually end, this will sometimes cause them to change their behavior.  They suddenly get the energy to do what it takes to make it work out. 

How about a lawyer’s closing argument?  When there is a long court case, what is typically saved for the closing argument?  The best: the best evidence, the best persuasion for the jury.  They typically save the very best for last because usually it is at the very end of the case right before the jury is ready to deliberate when the lawyer gives that incredible, hopefully eloquent charge right before the end. 

If you are exercising in the gym, is it not always easier to do that last set of whatever it is because you know that you will not have to do anymore?  You can somehow continue to push out a certain number of repetitions. 

This is innate in us.  When we know the end is near, we suddenly have this reserve energy we did not know we had before and we are able to break through a threshold we previously thought we had. 

Well, that is the case here.  God is saying that because the end is near, there is no excuse; we have to be sober.  All these things that we have just read concerning sobriety are things that we want to make sure we are exercising.  We want to make sure that these are a defining part of our character as the end draws near. 

Let us go back to 1 Peter 4 where we read of another thing that we are charged with.  We are not only to be sober with the end right around the corner, but directly after that 1 Peter 4:8 says: 

And above all things have fervent [love] among yourselves… 

We are to have fervent love among ourselves.  Like I said earlier when I read this verse, this is referring to agape love.  In the Greek, this is the word agape.  We find this word in 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter (and we will look at a couple of things there).  But before we talk about love, what does “fervent” mean?  We are to have “fervent [love].”  Do we use this word in our vocabulary? 

In our vocabulary, “a burning desire” is a good definition for “fervent.”  It means to exhibit great intensity, a zealousness.  It is when your emotions are at their highest peak, their highest level.  This is what “fervent” means. 

In the Greek, this word means to have earnest and intense feeling and emotion.  So to have “fervent love” is not just plain and routine, it is intense love, which means it is ratcheted up a notch or two from what you maybe are normally used to. 

Once again, our focus is on the end being so near.  If you are in sports or if you are a cross-country runner, you know that when you have just another 50 yards to go, some how, some way, you can sprint to the finish line, even though you have been running for the last five miles at a certain slower pace. 

So God is saying that we are to have fervent and intense love because the end is near.  When the Bible uses this word for “fervent,” the Old English translation is also “without ceasing.”  And where would we find this phrase in the Bible?  What does the Bible tell us to do without ceasing?  Pray! 

In Acts 12:5, we see this same word where we read: 

…but prayer was made without ceasing… 

This was an intense time of praying.  “Without ceasing” means “to the utmost degree.”  “Pray without ceasing” means “always.”  This is hard to imagine. 

So when the Bible says “fervent love,” it means always and with an intensity of love.  It means showing love, exercising it, displaying it, living it, doing it, and finding ways to do it. 

In whatever situation you are in life—you might be a child, you might be a parent, you might be single, you may have grandchildren—there are people you come across every day, whether at school, in your family, with your friends, in your neighborhood, at your job, whatever it is, you can exercise fervent love, intense love. 

The city of Philadelphia is called Philadelphia because of that phileo love.  The name Philadelphia refers to brotherly love, and yet what area of the country is best known for this type hospitality, a hospitality that has an openness to strangers?  It is referred to as “Southern hospitality.”  So ironically, when you are in Philadelphia, it is hustle and bustle; it is similar to New York.  It is cold and callous at times.  When you are out there passing out tracts, it is not like you are met with a smile from everybody who comes by.  However, the Bible does say that we are to exercise that fervent love. 

What is the utmost demonstration of this love, this agape love?  Jesus said in John 15:13: 

Greater love [agape] hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

This is the utmost demonstration.  You are laying down your life when you are giving up your own pleasures and your own pursuits in order to see the greatest good in a stranger.  Really, there is no such thing out there as your enemy.  God says, “Love your enemies,” and so our love goes everywhere to everybody—to friends, to family, to co-workers, and to strangers on the street.  This love is giving of ourselves, of our time, for the sake of others.  In Jesus’ case, He gave His life.  

Greater love hath no man than this… 

As I mentioned, 1 Corinthians 13 is the love chapter.  It tells us how we can exercise love specifically to people whom we know, and very fervently—remember, it is with intensity. 

Let us look at a couple of things in this chapter.  1 Corinthians 13 is what you want to be trying to do, especially with the end right around the corner.  Again, the word “charity” is “agape” love, the same word as in 1 Peter 4.  We read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6: 

[Love] suffereth long, and is kind; [love] envieth not; [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly… 

Do you see the similarity with sobriety?  It is not proud, it is not puffed up, and it does not behave itself unseemly.  Unseemly means that we are not behaving in accord with proper behavior, whatever the situation may warrant.  It means that we are not acting properly.  

It continues on to say that love: 

…seeketh not her own… 

Love “seeketh not her own,” which goes back to Jesus’ example in John 15.  You are giving of yourself to others, to someone else.  Love seeks not her own.  You are seeking the better good for the other person, whoever they may be in your life, those whom you come across.  

It says also that love:

…is not easily provoked… 

Are you provoked easily to anger by whatever someone does who is close to you?  If you are, you need to consider the fact that the end is drawing near and there is no excuse.  We are to have fervent love.  We are not to be easily provoked.  We are not to get angry with our siblings, with our child, our parent—there is no excuse for it. 

It continues.  Love: 

…thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 

 Then it says in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that love: 

Beareth all things… 

We can put up with anything with such a short time left.  Let us go back to the prisoner who had the 10-year sentence and who only had one week left.  He served 9 years and 51 weeks.  It would be pretty easy to bear that last week I would assume when you know that you are getting out in just seven days.  So love: 

Beareth all things… 

Is it not easier to bear all things when you know that the end is so close?  It should be.  Remember this fact because this is what the Bible is telling us.  Keep this in mind the next time you find it hard to put up with something that is very difficult, whatever it may be. 

Love also:

…believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 

We are to have fervent love one towards another.  Why?  What did 1 Peter 4 say?  We are to have fervent love among ourselves because…?  Let us go back to 1 Peter 4:8.  How did it finish?

…for [love] shall cover the multitude of sins. 

Let me read James 5:20: 

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. 

This is the same phrase.  A multitude of sins is being covered or hidden.  In other words, this is talking about salvation.  It says: 

…shall save a soul from death… 

What does fervent love lead to?  This leads to giving of yourself to share the Gospel with others.  Through your actions and your words, you are ministering and sharing the Word of God with others.  This is the greatest love.  You are giving of yourself for the spiritual benefit of another person in order that they might be saved.  The covering of a multitude of sins is what salvation is. 

So the Bible is saying that exercising fervent love may lead to salvation, which is the greatest good that any man or woman could ever have.  This is what is so encouraging because this is the end result of fervent love. 

You see, it just does not dissipate into thin air.  It has value.  It can lead to salvation.  It covers a multitude of sins and saves a soul from death. 

The Bible says, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.”  The Bible says that we are to “strive to enter in at the strait gate.”  However, we are not to think that our exercising this love will earn our way into Heaven or that it is going to make anybody else saved.  It is God who works through these things.  He commands us to strive to enter in.  He commands us to have this fervent love one towards another.  He is commanding us to do this.  We are charged and we should, and it would be to our benefit and to the benefit of others if we do this. 

So this is the idea of exercising fervent love.  It is giving of yourself to all these different things we just read in 1 Corinthians 13.  What it means, as Jesus said, is that if a man lay down his life for his friends, that is the greatest love.  With just a year and a half to go, the best thing that any of us can do with our time is to share this Gospel, and we have a great motivation to do this. 

Before we close, there is another thing in the Bible that relates to the end being near and that we should therefore be sober and have fervent love.  In Ephesians 4, there is another charge for us.  We will read the first few verses.  This is one way in which we can sum up sobriety.  Remember what sober means?  It means having a sound mind, being serious, not being proud, and having a fervent love for others, an intense love for my family, my friends, and the strangers I meet on the street.  Here in Ephesians 4:1-6, God is saying: 

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 

So we see this here again.  It continues: 

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 

When it said: 

…forbearing one another in love;

This means to control yourself when you are provoked.  We are back to the charge to be humble and meek, as we read in Ephesians 4:2.  We are to be lowly, to suffer long through pain or difficulty:

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit… 

And we are back to not being proud again.  We are all one.  This is our charge here because of what we read in 1 Peter 4:7: 

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober…

In other words, the charge is that the end is at hand.  We know that it is about a year and a half away.  It is really at hand.  We are talking about the end of the 13,000-year history of this universe, this cosmos. 

So God is saying here to have this fervent love, to forbear one another in love, to be sober, because we are to have the unity of the Spirit.  There is one body, one Spirit, one God and Father. 

Look at Ephesians 4:13, which really sums this up: 

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

When is this going to happen finally?  This is going to happen on May 21, 2011 for the believer.  This is when this is going to happen.  In the meantime, we are to do these things because all things will eventually be made perfect.  The day will come when we will all be one, beautifully and wonderfully, when we all come to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of the Son of Man, the perfect Man, on that last day when He raptures His people. 

May God give each of us the strength to be sober, to have fervent and intense love, to have that unity as we all strive till that last day to be one in Jesus Christ, to come unto a perfect man that He will finally make us when He appears.  Amen.

(There was no question/answer session pertaining to this study.)