If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18, NKJV)
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jno. 16:33). As they preached the gospel, Paul and Barnabas were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). Peter said, “do not think it strange” when fiery trials happen to you because of your faith (1 Pet. 4:12). These statements do not suggest we earn our way to heaven. They explain being a faithful Christian brings you face to face with challenges and turmoil that require the effort and conviction of a faith to endure and prevail when they come. “Scarcely” is from a Greek word that means “with difficulty.” Luke used it in Acts 27:16 of securing the skiff with difficulty during a storm. He also used it in Acts 14:18 of the difficulty of restraining the mob from sacrificing to Paul and Barnabas. The righteous are saved, but not without difficulties that test our faith. Trials purge the dross from their faith and identify them as being unashamed to live for Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:16-17). On the other hand, the “ungodly and the sinner” will not appear in glory due to their lack of faith. They are unwilling to endure tribulations to enter the kingdom of God, preferring not to obey the gospel of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17, NKJV)
The apostle Peter speaks of judgment commencing at God’s house. Since it has been almost two thousand years since he wrote this, we can safely conclude what started then continues to be true now. God’s house is the church (Heb. 3:4-6; 1 Tim. 3:15). So, we readily admit the church of Christ has and will undergo judgments. Judgment in this verse means “the process of judgment (separation) leading to a decision” (Vine, I:222). Peter has been discussing intense persecutions already happening to Christians. He said God’s people should not think it a strange (foreign, novel) thing when trials come upon us (1 Pet. 4:12). Instead, he exhorts us to “rejoice” since such trials are our fellowship with the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 4:13; Phil. 3:10). God blesses and comforts Christians who suffer for His name’s sake. Accepting reproach for our faith without shame, we are to glorify God in the name “Christian” (1 Pet. 4:14-16). To be ashamed of being a Christian judges us unworthy of Christ (Mk. 8:38). Suffering for one’s faith in Christ separates the faithful from those who abandon their faith to escape reproach. Thus, persecution has the effect of judging Christians. It separates the unfaithful from the righteous. Since Christians are saved through such difficulties, it becomes obvious that those who “do not obey the gospel of God” will not be saved (1 Pet. 4:17, 18).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
Yesterday we learned from this verse that whosoever believes in the Son “has eternal life” precisely because one obeys the Son. One who “does not obey the Son” is under God’s wrath instead of life. There is one more thing worth our consideration here. Many who believe one is saved “by faith alone” also believe in the impossibility of apostasy (“once saved, always saved”). However, if it is true that once the believer has eternal life he will always have life and never lose it – even if he becomes disobedient – then it necessarily follows the disobedient unbeliever can never escape the wrath of God that “remains on him.” To believe “once saved, always saved,” one must (according to this view of John 3:36) also believe “once lost, always lost.” (We are aware Calvinistic theology accepts these conclusions.) However, the gospel does not. It is for all (Mk. 16:15). God desires the salvation of every sinner (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Freewill enables us to choose to hear, believe, and obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21-22, 37-41; 17:30). It also allows us to choose to sin and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Security in Christ is sure when we obey in faith: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36, NKJV)
It is unfortunate the King James translators in 1611 used “believeth not” in the second part of this sentence. The New King James version followed suit, using the more modern, “does not believe.” But, the word in the Greek manuscript is apeitheō, which means “disobey” (BDAG), as in Romans 2:8 where the KJV and NKJV translate it, “do not obey” the truth. When the word is properly translated, John 3:36 takes on a whole new meaning: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, ESV, see also, NASB). Obedience is necessary to have everlasting life. Since the one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who does not obey the Son “shall not see life,” we properly conclude that believing in the Son takes more than faith alone. Surely this why Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Believers obey Jesus. Those who reject Him are “disobedient (apeitheō) to the word” (1 Pet. 2:7, 8). Demons believe, but faith alone will not give them eternal life (Jas. 2:19-20). Those who believe in the Son have everlasting life precisely because they trust and obey Him. The disobedient shall not have life, but punishment (Matt. 25:46). Have the faith to obey Jesus, and you will see everlasting life.
24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” 25 But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.” (Acts 26:24–25, NKJV)
Paul was permitted to speak before King Herod Agrippa II (his consort Beatrice, and the Roman governor Festus) for himself in answer to the charges made against him by the Jerusalem Jews (Acts 26:1-3). He spoke of “the hope of the promise made by God” to their fathers (Acts 26:6). He spoke of God raising the dead, of his former persecution of Christians, and of how Jesus of Nazareth appeared to him (Acts 26:8-17). He spoke of Jesus sending him to the Gentiles with His gospel, of his conversion, and of obeying his mission (Acts 26:18-20). Paul said this was why the Jews seized him and falsely accused him – because he testified that Jesus fulfilled Moses and the prophets, bringing forgiveness and light to both Gentiles and Jews (Acts 26:21-23). Festus accused Paul of being insane to believe in things like resurrection, visions, redemption, and a Christ (anointed One). Far from insanity, the gospel Paul preached contains words of truth and reason (“soberness,” ASV). Some still say the gospel is crazy, and Christians are “mad.” Yet, the gospel remains true, upright, and certain. It is still sober, sane, and rational. Name-calling and demonizing its messengers will not lessen the gospel’s truth or its power to save. Honest souls continue to be persuaded and saved (Acts 26:26-29; 18:8; Lk. 8:15).
But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” (Luke 8:25, NKJV)
Jesus dramatically used His power over the elements to calm a windstorm on the Sea of Galilee, and by doing so, to strengthen the faith of His disciples (Lk. 8:22-24). Jesus had fallen asleep in the boat, and the fearful disciples thought Jesus was unconcerned as the boat filled with water (Mk. 4:38). Fear seized their hearts and exposed the smallness of their faith (Matt. 8:26). The Lord’s question to them is as penetrating as it is perceptive. Jesus had much work to do. Did they think a windstorm would prevent Him from accomplishing it? Faith in Jesus assures us that even in the face of trouble, His will shall prevail. So, “where is your faith?” Doubt weakens and disables faith when it resides in the realm of fear. Faith’s joy in the midst of trial and trouble is possible because we know the Lord will accomplish His will (Jas. 1:2-4). Faith in Christ trusts His power to fulfill His will. The winds and water obeyed Jesus when He commanded them. Live by faith (not by sight) by obeying Jesus when He commands you (2 Cor. 5:7; 4:16-18). Bold faith obeys Jesus through the storm, because He is Lord of heaven and earth.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3–5, NKJV)
Paul faced unrighteous judgments. Yet, he understood some things about judgment that helped him withstand that pressure. Understanding what he knew will help us, too. 1) Paul did not overvalue human judgments of himself. He knew human judgments can be flawed with bias, incomplete information, and other variables. Human courts are not always accurate and just in their judgments. Do not give greater value to the judgments of others than they properly deserve, or you will become a people-pleaser instead of a God-pleaser. 2) Paul did not judge himself. He knew his evaluation of himself could be flawed with bias, incomplete information, and other variables. He was not aware of anything incriminating against himself, but that did not make him innocent before God and men. We can think we are innocent, but that does not mean we are. 3) Paul trusted in the Lord’s judgment. God’s judgment will be timely, truthful, thorough, and telling. When we live for the judgments of others, we seek their praise. When we judge ourselves, we invariably praise ourselves. But, when the Lord judges us righteous, our praise will come from God.