Trust In Our Faithful Creator
Section 6.2 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 4:17-19)
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?
AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
This second sub-section of the sixth section of the First Letter of Peter continues this lengthy conclusion to the letter. Continuing from the first sub-section, Peter puts his previous words into their proper context. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…” This provides greater contextual understanding within the worldview of the believer. During the early church period, this judgment comes about through acts of separation between those who accept the Lord, and those who reject Him. Peter is contextualizing all of these persecutions that the recipients are experiencing within the worldview they have adopted that sees God working through His people to call people to Himself. At that time, the household of God is among the Jewish people, (again, leading one to accept the view that this letter is intended for Jewish-Christian converts) from whom the Messiah came. It is then extended to the believer, where their profession of faith comes to be tested as the evil seeks out the righteous, for what is there to gain from going after their own?
“…and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The way that this is worded can make it difficult to grasp the meaning. It may follow this line of thinking:
“If the righteous are to suffer in this way, then one can only imagine the suffering of the evil and the wicked.”
This is certainly the one that stands out to the reader the most. One would figure, given the words of Peter elsewhere in the letter, that he is attempting to get the recipients of the letter to understand that though they are suffering at the hands of wicked men, the suffering those wicked men will experience will certainly be far greater. Peter follows this up by quoting the Septuagint version of Proverbs 11:31, “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the Godless man and the sinner?” This results in a slight change to the understanding here. Perhaps you can understand it in this way:
“If it is difficult for even the righteous to be saved, then what will become of those who are blatantly against being righteous all together?” This changes things up a bit, and this seems to be suggesting that Peter is encouraging the recipients to not follow the ways of the gentiles and think they can be saved. Elsewhere, Peter has already pointed out that the members of these congregations need to stay away from behaving as their gentile neighbors do. So, perhaps this is a call to not give up, to not allow themselves to fall back to their old ways due to the hardships they are experiencing. This would make sense within the context of the letter. Peter is reminding a people who seem to be losing hope that their reward is not in the earth, but in heaven. Perhaps, whatever correspondence was shared with Peter from these congregations stated that believers were losing their faith due to this persecution. Thus the focus on what is to come, and what is promised by God to the believer.
The verse prior to this sub-section is “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler…” (1 Peter 4:11 NASB). Peter closes out this sub-section with “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” As can often be the case in a loving counseling of a beloved child, the scolding that may be necessary might be saved for the end of the counseling and done with loving but authoritative tones. I believe that may be what we are seeing here. It is reasonable to conclude that it is likely there is some disruption among the congregations, where people are pointing fingers and laying blame amongst fellow believers for their fate. Given the nature of this passage, it is reasonable to conclude that in the communications with Peter from these congregations, there must be reports of individuals are reacting harshly because of the persecutions. Perhaps there is division in the ranks so to speak.
A great deal of the letter does focus on calling the congregations to love one another. So, perhaps we can find reason here for considering the recipients to be a mixture of Gentile-Christian converts as well as Jewish-Christian converts. Here, we find Peter giving rebuke against rivalries and partisanship among these groups that are experiencing hardships that surely are brining great anguish and fear among the people. The following sub-section being targeted at leadership and young men may add to this point as well. I think we can acknowledge at this point that Peter is calling these congregations to come together during a time of hardship, both from the outside and from the inside. So, it seems this sub-section serve as a great redirect in our understanding of the context of this letter, perhaps. Much of the verses about experiencing slander and reviling may not only be from outside these gatherings of believers, but it may also be within the church as well.
However, with all of this being said, it is clear that there is combination of addressing the external issues as well as the internal issues among these congregations. Peter is attempting to unite a group of people who are experiencing persecution at the hands of wicked men, and we can all relate to that. We can also all relate to how such stresses can wear on the cohesion of a group of people who experience such things. Perhaps Peter is here attempting to address all of these issues. Regardless, the overall appeal is to trust in a faithful Creator who will do what is right, and to not allow their experiences to compel them to react harshly against those bringing on the persecution. Peter is calling for love and for unity among these peoples who are going through a hardship many of us can not even fathom. However, we can all relate to this. Soft as our persecutions may be, we all know how they can impact people differently. Reading Peter’s words today should remind those who are experiencing persecutions individually to remember their inheritance and God’s promise. For those experiencing such issues as a group should remember Peter’s words as calling for unity in such times of trial. We must all be strong, and come together, knowing that our God is just, and that He is faithful.