The Righteous Scarcely Saved

"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and the ungodly appear?"—1 Peter 4:18.

In preference to any comments of our own on this passage, we present the views of "orthodox" commentators, who express our opinion of the passage exactly.

Dr. Macknight says: "Indeed the time is come, that the punishment to be inflicted on the Jews as a nation, for their crimes from the first to last, must begin at you Jewish Christians, now become the house of God. And if it begin first at us, who are so dear to God, what will the end be of those Jews who obey not the gospel of God? And when God thus punishes the nation, if the righteous Jews, who believe in Christ, with difficulty can be saved, where will the ungodly and sinful part of the nation show themselves saved from the divine vengeance? That the apostle is not speaking here of the difficulty of the salvation of the righteous, at the day of judgment, will be evident to anyone who considers 2 Peter 1:11. What he speaks of, is the difficulty of the preservation of the Christians, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; yet they were preserved, for so Christ promised (Matt. 24:13). But the ungodly and wicked Jews were saved neither in Judea, nor anywhere else."

Dr. Adam Clarke: "Judgment must begin at the house of God. Our Lord had predicted that, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem, his followers would have to endure various calamities. (See Matt. 24:9,21,22; Mark 13:12,13; John 16:2, etc.) Here his true disciples are called the house or family of God. And if it first begin at us, Jews who have repented and believe on the Son of God, what shall be the end of them, the Jews who continue impenitent, and obey not the gospel of God? Here is the plainest reference to the above Jewish maxim; and this, it appears, was founded upon the text which St. Peter immediately quotes.

"Verse 18—And if the righteous scarcely be saved. If it shall be with extreme difficulty that the Christians shall escape from Jerusalem, when the Roman armies shall come against it, with the full commission to destroy it, where shall the ungodly and sinner apear? Where shall the proud Pharisaic boaster in his own outside holiness, and the profligate transgressor of the law of God, show themselves, as having escaped the divine vengeance? The Christians, though with difficulty, did escape, every man; but not one of the Jews escaped, whether found in Jerusalem or elsewhere. I have, on several occasions, shown that when Cestius Gallus came against Jerusalem, many Christians were shut up in it; when he strangely raised the seige, the Christians immediately departed to Pella, in Coelosyria, into the dominions of King Agrippa, who was an ally of the Romans; and there they were in safety; and it appears from the ecclesiastical historians that they had but barely time to leave the city before the Romans returned under the command of Titus, and never left the place till they had destroyed the temple, razed the city to the ground slain upwards of a million of those wretched people, and put an end to their civill polity and ecclesiastical state."

This salvation relates exclusively to deliverance from the approaching terrors of those times, and not to any sufferings after death by those to whom Jesus spoke, or to any others.

But by "accomodation" we may apply the language to all men, and say that if now, in this world, even the righteous but just escape the temptations and evils that surround them—"scarcely be [not shall be] saved"—the ungodly and sinner experience no such deliverance. "They are like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt continually." But in no event can the words be applied to any other state of existence than the present, without perverting the meaning of the Savior.

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