Bible Class Notes on 1 Peter 4:11 | Notes on the Petrine Epistles
Peter has just mentioned that everyone has received a gift. All Christians have received some type of gift they can use in God’s kingdom. Peter then tells us how to use those gifts:
- We are to employ those gifts for the good of one another—Peter is here discussing gifts God has given for the helping of his people.
- We are to use our gift as good stewards of God’s grace. We can be wasteful with the gifts God has given us. Peter tells us not to be wasteful but to use these gifts appropriately.
In the verse currently under consideration, Peter only mentions two gifts. This strikes many as odd. Other texts which enumerate God’s gifts mention more gifts than just these two. There are seven gifts in Romans 12:6-8. There are nine gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. However, here Peter seems to lump the graces mentioned there into two broad categories.
Peter first discusses the gift of speaking. Many places in this epistles discuss the dangers of evil speaking. The Gentiles often spoke evil of God’s people. “They [may] speak against you as wrongdoers” (1 Pet 2:12). “Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet 3:16). “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return” (1 Pet 2:23).
Christians cannot speak evil, even if others speak evil against them. “Put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander” (1 Pet 2:1). “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless” (1 Pet 3:9). “he that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile” (1 Pet 3:10).
Peter has told these Christians how they are not to speak; he is now going to tell them how they ought to speak.
What does Peter mean by “speaking?” He does not include here common conversations among Christians. This gift is to be used “for one another.” Peter is here discussing authoritative speaking in church assemblies. Such speaking could include, but would not necessarily be limited to: teaching, tongue speaking, and prophecy.
Those who spoke were to do so as God’s oracles. Many of the new translations say “the very words of God” instead of “oracles.” Such is a good translation—God’s oracles are his words. “The Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2). Here “oracles of God” stands for the Jewish scriptures. The message Moses received at Mt. Sinai is called “living oracles” (Acts 7:38). “Though by this time you ought to be teachers you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of
God” (Heb 5:12). Therefore, what is proclaimed publicly in worship assemblies must be God’s very words.
Peter next discusses the gift of service. “Service” could actually refer to any act performed on God’s behalf, including the “speaking” just discussed. However, since “speaking” and “service” are here listed as two separate gifts, “service” probably carries a semi-technical meaning. This probably refers to the “practical” ministries opposed to the ministry of proclamation. This distinction would be quite similar to what is found in Acts 6:2: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” This is probably those deeds done for the benefit of others.
This service is to be performed “by the strength which God supplies.” Some gifts could not have been used at all without God’s power, e.g., healing. “Oracles of God” and “strength which God supplies” are parallel thoughts. The one who speaks before the church must do so using God’s words. The one who serves the church must do so using God’s strength. This parallelism shows that God is the One who must be behind what the church does.
These ministries are to be performed “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
To glorify God is to honor him. Everything the church does should glorify—honor—God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Peter places great emphasis on God in these two verses. In these two short verses, God is mentioned four times. Peter is showing that God is the focus of church ministry and church relationships. If God is not the focus of the church, the church accomplishes nothing.
Glory comes to God through Jesus Christ.
He has glory and dominion for ever and ever. There is some question as to whether this doxology praises Christ or the Father. Many argue that this doxology could not praise Jesus, for church ministry glorify God “through Jesus Christ.” Christ, they claim, could not be the means of glorification and be glorified at the same time. However, the most natural reading of the passage takes Jesus as the antecedent of “him.”
Glory and dominion belong to him for ever and ever. The verb in Greek is actually “is.” Peter is not just expressing a wish that Jesus would be glorified; he is actually stating the truth—Jesus is already glorified.