Sunday School Lessons: October 21, 2012, Explore the Bible
By Alex Sands
Published October 11, 2012
Living in Community
1 Peter 4:1-11
We all live in a community of one kind or another. It may be anything from a wide spot in the road to a small part of a large city. For many people, that’s all the community — or more than — they want or need. They want to live there and to do little else there. Many Christians feel the same way about their faith community, their church. They are content to belong to it without doing much to enhance it or their lives in it. As a result, they miss out on an important aspect of church.
Here, believers have a unique opportunity for more than merely belonging to a community. They can live in genuine community. That happens as they unite around the essentials of doing God’s will and focusing on others.
Peter begins chapter 4 by encouraging the believers to endure suffering, equipping themselves with the same resolve that Jesus had. They are to live the remaining days of their lives for God’s purpose, even if that purpose entails suffering. Some believers had heard the gospel and believed, had since died, but now live by God in the spirit (4:6).
Living godly lives means we will have to leave old behaviors, and perhaps old relationships, behind. There may be a community you had to leave behind in order to follow God’s will. God has graciously provided a new community: the church.
In light of the fact that the end (or consummation) of all things is at hand, believers should be motivated to live holy and support others striving to do so. Peter calls upon believers in verse 7 to be temperate and cultivate a disciplined prayer life. In verses 8-9, he emphasizes that believers should have an intense love for one another, exemplified by hospitality. This intense love (“intense” means “stretching or straining with exertion”) is not sentimental but sacrificial, and is to be done without complaining. The believers should also lovingly overlook others’ sins against them to keep the community.
Another expression of love within the community of faith is serving one another with spiritual gifts (4:10-11). Peter mentions two types of gifts — speaking and serving gifts — as a way of simplifying the spiritual diversity that exists within the church.
Regardless of the gifts anyone has received, they should use them to serve others as good managers of those gifts. The ability and capacity to do this is given by God. God has created and gifted the church to be the genuine community for believers who have left the world’s sinful community.
— Lessons in the ETB series for the fall quarter are being written by Alex Sands, pastor of Kingdom Life Christian Center, Greenville.