The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to
observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to
the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
April 17, 2011
1) 1 Peter 4:17-19 (Tom Edwards)
1 Peter 4:17-19
by Tom Edwards
After pointing out that God's people need not feel ashamed for
suffering as a Christian -- but, instead, can "glorify God in this
name" -- Peter then declares, "For it is time for judgment to begin
with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be
the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
What "judgment" is Peter speaking of in this passage? Since he
says, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God,"
he is not talking about the final judgment, which still hasn't
come. As we consider Peter's epistle, persecution upon the
Christians is what he has been pointing out. This the saints were
warned of and told not to think it strange, nor should they feel
ashamed for suffering for righteousness' sake.
The Greek word is "krima." It is actually used to refer to
various kinds of judgments in the Scriptures, just as the English word
"judgment" also does. So the context must be taken into
consideration to understand just how it is being used in the particular
Another misunderstanding would be to take this "judgment" in 1 Peter
4:17 to mean the righteous judging that Christians are to render.
Though from elsewhere in the Scriptures, we do read of this need to
judge, such as in John 7:24, "Do not judge by appearance, but judge
with righteous judgment"; here, in 1 Peter 4:17, Peter has a different
kind of judgment in mind, as mentioned above. The judgment that
Peter is speaking of goes along with what he has already been
expressing in this epistle: For instance, in the very first
chapter, he points out the distressing trials they are undergoing; but
that those trials serve as a testing of their faith. He then
exhorts them to gird up their minds for action; to be sober in spirit
for the purpose of prayer; to be obedient; to abstain from sin; to set
forth the right kind of example to the world; to not be surprised at
the fiery ordeal among them, which will test them; but to keep on
rejoicing to whatever degree they share in the sufferings of
Christ. So the judgment Peter is speaking of is what he has
already been mentioning: These persecutions, these trials, which would
test their faith and could also have a good impact upon the world, as
they would behold the Christians' faithfulness and dedication, in spite
of those trials. So these trials, these judgments would reveal
the true character of those saints who were undergoing such and,
therefore, also, show to the world that there certainly is much
advantage toward believing in and living for the Lord Jesus Christ --
an advantage worth even suffering and dying for. As brought
out in Foxes Book of Martyrs, some spectators had been led to accept
the gospel, after having seen the serenity of countenance on Christians
who were willing to be tortured to death -- rather than to deny the
Lord Jesus in order to save their physical life. These intense
persecutions truly tested the faith and commitment of these saints who
proclaimed their allegiance to the Savior.
Something else that helps us see this judgment as being persecution and
trials is how this chapter concludes in 1 Peter 4:19, "Therefore, those
also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls
to a faithful Creator in doing what is right."
Suffering for righteousness' sake is certainly a major theme in this
epistle. Peter also says in 1 Peter 4:17 about this judgment that
"if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome of those who do
not obey the gospel of God?" If the Christians were not spared
from these persecutions, then what will be the experience of those who
reject the gospel? Will there be difficult things they will have
We pointed out that some of the persecutions Christians were caught up
in were those persecutions inflicted upon the Jews in general.
For since Christianity was from a Jew, Jesus, those who were Christians
(whether Jew or Gentile) were often persecuted, along with the
unbelieving Jews. And a major, devastating event upon the Jewish
people was soon to happen in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem and the
temple would be destroyed, after the city had been besieged by the
Roman armies for 2 years. Since Peter's first epistle was written
about A.D. 64 or 65, it was given just a few years before that
destruction, which Jesus spoke of as being a "great tribulation, such
as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor
ever will" (Matt. 24:21). He goes on to say that "Unless those
days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the
sake of the elect those days will be cut short" (v. 22).
The Lord had given signs that would indicate when His people would need
to flee the city to avoid the destruction; but there were many
unbelievers who did not take heed; and, as a result, more than a
million people perished.
This comparison in 1 Peter 4:17 might also remind you of Romans
11:21, "For if God did not spare the natural branches [the unbelieving
Jews], neither will He spare you [Gentiles who would become
unbelievers]." There is a need to be on the alert, a need for
caution, a need for continual faithfulness -- regardless of who we are.
The "end" (1 Pet. 4:17) of those who obey not the gospel is also
rendered as "outcome" in the NASB. Commenting on this, Guy N.
Woods observes, "...if the church, which is ever the object of God's
care, is soon to fall into trial and sore persecution, how much greater
must be the misery and wretchedness of those who do not rely on the
Lord, and are thus without the comforting assurances of the gospel?"
We think, too, of the hope, comfort, and encouragement Christians can
have in God when undergoing difficult times; but what does the
non-Christian have when undergoing similar adversities? And,
ultimately, what will the non-Christian have who has left this world,
having rejected Christ?
Here in 1 Peter 4:17, we also see a phrase that is often used in
expressing what alien sinners need to do in order to become Christians;
and that is that they need to "obey the gospel." So that is not
merely a phrase coined by man, but one we find in the Scriptures.
But, of course, it is used not merely to refer to those initial steps
in becoming a Christian, but also in continuing to live faithfully unto
the Lord throughout our lives. For this need for obedience is
seen throughout the NT. Consider, for example, Hebrews 5:9 where
it shows that Jesus "...became to all those who obey Him the source of
Peter then says in 1 Peter 4:18, "And if it is with difficulty that the
righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the
sinner?" The KJV says, "And if the righteous scarcely be
saved...." This might give us the idea that Christians are just
barely saved; as if they are hanging on to the hope of salvation by
only a thread. But is that what is really being expressed in this
passage? First of all, let us note that though it is true that a
Christian can lose salvation, the one whom Peter is referring to in 1
Peter 4:18 is "the righteous." A righteous man is one who has
been saved from his past sins and is living faithfully unto God and,
therefore, has the hope and assurance of eternal life. Is the
hope of eternal life something that the righteous person scarcely
has? What answer can we infer from 2 Peter 1:10,11? Here
Peter states, "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make
certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice
these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into
the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be
abundantly supplied to you." From this passage, we see that
salvation will be "abundantly supplied" -- or "richly supplied" (ASV)
to the faithful -- and neither of these phrases sound like
"scarcely." Consider, too, John 10:27-29: "My sheep hear My
voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to
them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of
My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than
all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."
Salvation is a sure thing for those who abide in the Lord. Notice
how safe and secure the sheep are who hear and follow the voice of the
Shepherd. And the righteous whom Peter speaks of would be those
who hear and follow the Lord. To these, they can have the
assurance that is set forth in the Scriptures, such as in 1 John 5:13:
"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son
of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."
The faithful Christian can be sure in the hope of salvation,
based on God's word.
But this is not to say it would not be difficult for the Christian,
with regard to the adversities he would be up against. Paul
pointed out to the brethren, whom he had been strengthening in the Lord
and encouraging to continue in the faith, that it would be "Through
many tribulations [that] we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts
The Greek word used in 1 Peter 4:18 that the KJV translates as
"scarcely," in the phrase "scarcely be saved," is shown to also mean
"with difficulty" and "with much work," as Strong defines it.
Thayer also gives "with difficulty" as part of the first definition.
Again, as we think in terms of the persecution Christians would
undergo, that would be what would be an ordeal. It would be a
difficult thing to undergo, but the heavenly salvation of the righteous
would be secure.
As we saw concerning the Roman besiegement of Jerusalem and its
destruction (Matt. 24:21,22), the days of the persecution at that time
were shortened so that the righteous could be saved -- not for eternal
life (for even death couldn't hinder them from that). But,
rather, as Guy N. Woods writes, as a "physical deliverance from the
trials and ordeals of that event. We hence conclude that the salvation
of the 'righteous' alluded to by Peter and to be accomplished with such
difficulty as to be a matter of wonder was deliverance from complete
destruction in the persecution which swept over the world in connection
with the destruction of the temple and annihilation of the Jewish state
The chapter then concludes by saying in 1 Peter 4:19, "Therefore, those
also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls
to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." The ASV says,
"commit their souls" for "entrust their souls."
In this, we are reminded of Jesus, while on the cross. Luke 23:46
declares, "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, INTO
YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.' Having said this, He breathed His
Also in 1 Peter 2:23, "and while being reviled, He did not revile in
return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting
Himself to Him who judges righteously."
And, similarly, with Stephen in Acts 7:59, "They went on stoning
Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my
Stephen was not merely one who was giving his spirit to God in that
final hour, but one who had given his spirit to the Lord when first
obeying the gospel. Now, however, his spirit was to be taken some
place apart from the body. For the body would return to dust, but
Stephen's spirit would return to God who gave it (cf. Eccl. 12:7).
It is wonderful to know that God is "a faithful Creator" who will
always do "what is right." But we must also be willing to meet
His conditions, in order that we can truly entrust our souls to
Him. If you have not done that yet, but do believe that Jesus is
the Christ, then why not repent today (Luke 13:5); acknowledge your
faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38); be baptized in water for
the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), so you can be saved (Mark 16:16; 1
Peter 3:21) and risen from baptism to "walk in newness of life" (Rom.
6:3,4). That will put you into Christ (Gal. 3:26,27), whom we are
to then faithfully follow by being loyal to His word. And what
greater blessing can one have on earth than to have all sins blotted
out, one's soul entrusted to God, the hope of eternal life, and the
Lord's help throughout our earth-life -- and all the way to
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
CHURCH OF CHRIST
9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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