The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one 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. (1 Peter 4:7-11)
In this passage, Peter combines all spiritual gifts into two categories: speaking and serving. Peter does not help us identifying which specific gifts belong to which category. In fact, Peter does not say that each spiritual gift easily fits within one of these two categories, or that these are the only two categories. Again, the emphasis is not on defining or describing the individual gifts.
In context and like Paul, Peter combines the concepts of sober thought and love with spiritual gifts. Remember that in Romans 12, Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts followed the exhortation to have a renewed mind and not to think too highly of oneself. Peter uses a similar verb in v. 7 to tell his readers to think soberly. Paul also echoes Peter insistence that believers demonstrate love. In fact, it is possible that spiritual gifts in verses 10-11 actually helps explain love in verse 8 (along with hospitality in verse 9). Either way, there is certainly a close connection between love and spiritual gifts.
Also like Paul, Peter recognizes that spiritual gifts originate with God and are as different as God’s “varied grace.” Peter also emphasizes that God is the source of spiritual gifts and the ability to exercise spiritual gifts when he tells his readers to speak as if they are speaking the sayings of God and to serve from strength which God provides. For Peter, there is no place for speaking human words or serving from human strength. Spiritual gifts are provided by God and are exercised through the words and strength of God.
This passage also links exercising spiritual gifts to worship. We bring glory to God when we speak the words of God and serve in the strength that God provides. This is worship, and exercising spiritual gifts encourages others toward worship. I’m not talking about “praise and worship,” as in music and singing. Instead, I’m talking about living a life in obedience to God that brings honor to God – this is worship. And, exercising spiritual gifts demonstrates and encourages worship.
Therefore, in this passage, Peter encourages his readers – and us by extension – to think rightly and to love completely by exercising the spiritual gifts that God has provided to them. They are to exercise these gifts as God provides the means and opportunities, and they are to do so in order to bring glory to God.
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Alan Knox is a PhD student in biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a web developer. His interests include PHP and ecclesiology. His dissertation topic is the purpose of the gathering of the church in the New Testament. By God’s grace, he tries to live what he is learning about the church.
He writes about how our understanding of the church affects (or should affect) the way the we live our lives among other brothers and sisters in Christ. He's found that many aspects of our understanding of church (gathering, leading, teaching, etc.) are woven together such that it’s almost impossible to focus on only one aspect.
Find out more on his website, The Assembling of the Church.