Be Sound In Mind and Well Balanced

1 Peter 4:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

7 Now the end of all things is at hand; therefore be sound in mind, and well balanced in prayers.

We had spoken of the “last days” at length earlier. The reason Peter could say, “The end of all things is at hand,” is that the life, ministry, ransom, sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has initiated the “last days.”[1] (1 Cor. 10:11; 1 John 2:18) Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John spoke and wrote as though the end of the wicked age of Satan and the inherited Adamic sin were about to end. (Matt 24:36–25:46; Rom 13:11–12; Phil 4:5; Heb. 10:23–25; Jas 5:7–8; Rev 1:3; 22:10) In the middle of verse 7 is “therefore,” which introduces the need to be sound in mind and well balanced in prayer, because the end of all things being at hand.

THE BOOK OF JAMESBack in Genesis 3:15, God had set his redemption plan in motion, saying that he was going to send a seed, who would end up being a Savior, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, of the house of David. Jesus’ life, ministry, and especially his ransom sacrifice (Matt 20:28), redeemed repentant humankind from Adamic sin.[2] This set-in motion the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should live as though Jesus’ return is tomorrow, but plan as though it is 50-years away. We learned in chapter 1 that this means that we live as though Christ is returning tomorrow, by walking with God, having a righteous standing before him. We plan as though it is 50-years away by living a life that makes plans for a long-term evangelism program that fulfills our end of the Great Commission. (Matt 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) We do not just evidence that we are truly Christian by saying that we have faith in the hope of Jesus’ future return. The evident demonstration is how that hope affects our human lives each day. As we wait the day for his return, we need to focus our lives on the task of carrying out the work he gave us.

What does it mean to be “sound in mind”? In view of Christ’s return, where should the Christian mind be focused? The Greek word nepho, for “sound in mind” is rendered as follows by other translations: “sober-minded” (English Standard Version), “remain calm” (The New American Bible), “sane” (Revised Standard Version), “be of sound judgment” (New American Standard). Paul also uses the same Greek word under a similar context, when he writes, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thess. 5:6, ESV) Other translations have “be self-controlled” (LEB), and “be serious” (HCSB). The sense of the word is that we need to ‘keep our senses.’ However, in relation to what should we be sober-minded, serious-minded, sound in mind, possessing self-control, using sound judgment, keeping our senses?

First on [Peter’s] list of priorities is purposeful prayer. Such prayer must be clear minded and self-controlled. To “be clear minded” suggests that believers pray intelligently or that they think about and evaluate their situations in life maturely and correctly as they begin to pray about them. In light of the context, perhaps Peter was cautioning them against giving way to eschatological frenzy and panic. To be “self-controlled” as one comes to prayer suggests that believers are to pray with a mind that is focused and alert. In other words, prayer should not be practiced nonchalantly or flippantly. Believers are to take prayer seriously.[3]

Peter’s words here in 4:7 are typical of expressing “last days” information to readers. Many Christian leaders throughout the centuries have set dates for the return of Christ, and almost no denomination is free from doing this. Many Bible scholars throughout Christian history have made charts to map out the return of Christ. There is not one single verse in the New Testament that suggests anyone do this, so these ones have gone beyond the Word of God. The purpose of these “last days” verses throughout the New Testament is to keep the reader awake because he does not know the day or the hour, the exact time. Christians are to live in a heightened expectation of Jesus’ return, making Christ their priority, until that day is upon us. – Matt 24:36–25:46; Rom 13:11–14; 1 Cor. 15:58; Phil 4:4–9; 1 Thess. 5:1–11; 2 Pet 3:11–16.

We Are to Be Sound in Mind

The Christians who walked with Jesus, who witnessed his execution, and his resurrection, as well as his ascension, were very alert for his return decade after decade. Even thirty years after Jesus ascension, Peter is telling the people “the end of all things is at hand.” Peter did not tire of waiting, nor did he stop believing as though it were imminent. This is when he offers the critical advice to “be sound in mind.”

The Greek nepho, “sound in mind” is literally “sober-minded.” In other words, it means to think properly. Yes, figuratively, it means to “be free from every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkenness.”[4] This is not literal drunkenness, but rather any irrational thinking, which may give you the wrong perception. This is sort of a spiritual clear-headedness when it comes to our worship of God. If we are thinking correctly, we will better understand, perceive what the will and purposes of God are, and then apply them accordingly. Reasonably, we walk by self-control and steadiness in sound thinking, our outlook, and behavior, in our seeking the kingdom of God.

[1] In the OT the last days are anticipated as the age of messianic fulfillment (see Is 2:2; Mic 4:1), and the NT writers regard themselves as living in the last days, the era of the gospel.–Tyndale Bible Dictionary (p. 801)

[2] Adamic sin is imperfection, what all humans have inherited from Adam.


[4] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., 672 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).