Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Deliverance in Difficult Times

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? Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:17-19)
Peter speaks of a judgment that is at hand. The Greek word for “time” here is kairos, a pregnant and propitious moment of significant fulfillment. Notice, he does not say that the time for judgment will come but that it has come.

This judgment begins at the “house of God.” Peter is alluding to a couple of prophetic passages from the Old Testament (Jeremiah 25:15-9; Ezekiel 9:6) that speak of God’s judgment on His disobedient people. However, Peter uses it quite differently here. Judgment begins at the house, or household, of God. “With us,” he says. Not the judgment of God on His disobedient people but the judgment exercised by the world on God’s faithful ones. Those who believe the gospel of about King Jesus the Messiah are being judged and persecuted by the world. But there is coming a time in which God will judge those who do not believe. The persecution believers may experience now cannot compare to the judgment that awaits those who do not obey the gospel, that is, those who reject Jesus.

Peter may also have had in mind the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which was foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24 and fulfilled in AD 70, just a few years after this letter. It was a time of great tribulation and bloodshed for the Jews, but those who believed in Jesus, having been warned by Him of this terrible holocaust, were for the most part able to escape desolation.

Peter quotes Proverbs 11:31, “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” This is not how it renders from the Hebrew text but from the Septuagint, an early Greek translation, which better serves his purpose. The use of “saved” here does not speak of eternal salvation of the soul but of deliverance in the time of trouble. The word “scarcely” means “with difficulty,” and indeed that was the case for these scattered believers. It was a very rough time.

“Therefore,” Peter says, as he introduces the response such a time of persecution calls for, “let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” The will of God here is not what He prescribed but what He permitted. God allows persecutions to come on His people — indeed, Jesus promised us there would be persecutions (Mark 10:30) — but He does not abandon us to them. He is faithful and we can trust Him to see us through every trial and circumstance.

Notice in this verse that the words “to him” are in italics. There is no textual basis for this, but translators supplied it in an attempt to help make the text more understandable. It leads us in the proper direction; we are to commit ourselves to God our creator. But leave out those italicized words and we discover how we are to do just that. We trust ourselves to Him by “doing good.” Here again is that word agathapoios, which we saw in 1 Peter 2:15 and 20, the giving of self that blesses others.

God has created us — Paul says that those who are in the Messiah are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) — and He will continue to take care of us no matter what. The way we commit ourselves to His faithful care is by continuing to do good to others, no matter what. That is how we live in the freedom we now have in Jesus.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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