“Beloved, do not be astonished at the fiery trial happening among you for your testing, as if a surprise were occurring to you; but according as you share the sufferings of Christ, rejoice; so that you may rejoice exultingly at the revelation of His glory. If you are reviled in the name of Christ, you are blessed, because ‘the Spirit of God and of glory rests on you.’ Truly, according to them, He is blasphemed; but according to you, He is glorified. For do not let any of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer, or as a meddler in the affairs of others. But if one suffers as a Christian, do not let him be ashamed, but to glorify God in this respect. Because the time has come to begin the judgment from the house of God; and if firstly from us, what will be the end of the ones disobeying the gospel of God? And ‘if the righteous is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear?’ So as indeed the ones suffering according to God’s will, as to a faithful Creator, let them commit their souls in well-doing” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
A summary of 1 Peter 4:18 is if justified Christians suffer in this way for the sake of Christ, how much more will the ungodly and wicked suffer in the life to come? Or another way to put it: If these fiery trials by which they are scarcely saved happen to the godly, what kind eternal fire will be for the ungodly. Or yet another way: If those whom God loves are so disciplined and tested by all these fiery trials and sufferings — which many come at the hands of wicked men — then what will the end be for those whom God hates? Obviously, the words “scarcely saved” have reference to the struggles and sufferings Christians must pass through on their way to glory. It is in this way that they are “scarcely saved.” Their glorification is as sure and certain as Christ’s glorification.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give eternal life to them, and they shall not perish to the age, never! And not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
Obviously, from the above passage, the “scarcely saved” of 1 Peter 4:18 does not mean that Christians are clinging onto eternal life, and entering into eternal life “by the skin of their teeth.” For Christ has given them eternal life, and Christ is not struggling to keep life, death, angels, rulers, or powers, etc., from plucking the sheep out of His hand. Certainly they can be spoken of as clinging on to temporal life if they are enduring a beating for the sake of Christ, but that is another matter altogether.
“Come to Me, all those laboring and being burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, because I am meek and lowly in heart, “and you will find rest to your souls.” For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
The “scarcely saved” of 1 Peter 4:18 speaks to the difficulty of the Christian life prior to glorification in the sense of persecution from unbelievers. Thus, the Christian life can be extremely difficult and grievous at times. But in the sense of Christ’s perfect obedience that answers the demand of God’s law and justice, and how we love to obey Christ out of love for Him and His work on our behalf, then in that sense the Christian life is easy. It is “easy” in the sense that we do not find His commandments heavy or burdensome:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not heavy” (1 John 5:3).
“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding. For its profit is better than the gain from silver, and its increase more than fine gold; she is more precious than rubies, and all the things you can desire are not to be compared with her. Length of days is in her right hand, riches and honor in her left hand. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace. She is a tree of life to the ones who lay hold on her, and happy are the ones holding her fast” (Proverbs 3:13-18).
This passage above reminds me where Jesus said:
“I leave peace to you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be timid” (John 14:27).
We can be grieved over certain trials while we are walking in paths of peace, being ever mindful of the One who suffered for us (1 Peter 4:1) and also to “rejoice to the extent that [we] partake of Christ’s sufferings, [and] that when His glory is revealed, [we] may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).
“But the people were expecting, and all reasoning in their hearts about John, lest perhaps he is the Christ, John answered all, saying, I indeed baptize you with water; but He stronger than I comes, of whom I am not fit to loosen the thong of His sandals. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire, whose sifting fan is in His hand; and He will fully purge His threshing-floor, and will gather the wheat into His storehouse, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out” (Luke 3:15-17).
Judgment (trial, testing, purging) begins at the the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). This looks like a parallel to fully purging His threshing-floor. So if the wheat is being thoroughly threshed like that, then where will the chaff appear? Obviously, the wheat IS and IS NOT “scarcely gathered into His storehouse.” The wheat “took a beating” on the way to the storehouse and so with much difficulty it is saved. But the sense in which the wheat was NOT “scarcely” brought in is the sense that gives credence to the false idea that the wheat *nearly ended up being burned up with the chaff, as if salvation was conditioned in some degree on the sinner rather than on Christ ALONE.
“…And calling the apostles, having flogged them, having charged them not to speak on the name of Jesus, even they set them free. Then they indeed departed from the presence of the sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were deemed worthy to be dishonored on behalf of His name” (Acts 5:40-41).
Acts 5:40-41 greatly illustrates the truth we are to live by in 1 Peter 4:13, 14, 16, 19).
“And having announced the gospel to that city, and having made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting to continue in the faith, and that through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).
It is “through many afflictions [that] we must enter into the kingdom of God.” Or as Peter put it: “The righteous is scarcely saved” (1 Peter 4:18).
“Indeed, first, I hear divisions to be among you when you come together in the assembly. And I believe it in some part. For also heresies need to be among you, so that the approved ones may become revealed among you” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19).
More purging of the wheat on the threshing-floor. Thrash that stalk all over the place and what happens? Damnably heretical chaff is separated from the blessedly orthodox wheat.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Even as it has been written, “For Your sake we are killed all the day; we are counted as sheep of slaughter.” But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
They are “scarcely saved” due to persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword. If Christians were only said to “conquer,” then all of the aforementioned trials would merely be not ultimately harmful.
BUT since they are NOT simply conquerers, but more than conquerors, all of these things not only do not harm them ultimately, but do greatly benefit them.
First Corinthians 15:26 says that death will be the last thing “made to cease.” For us, we more than conquer death through our Lord Jesus Christ since He gives us the victory and has the keys to it. By His death, He swallowed up death in victory. Thus, no one for whom He died will feel the eternal sting of death which is sin (that is, the sting is eternal death).
“Behold, I speak a mystery to you: we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in a glance of an eye, at the last trumpet; for a trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, then will take place the Word that has been written, “Death was swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?” Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet, as dead. And He put His right hand on me, saying to me, Do not fear. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I became dead; and, behold, I am living forever and ever. Amen. And I have the keys to hell, and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18).
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and let him bear his cross, and let him follow Me. For whoever may desire to save his life will lose it. But whoever may lose his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Matthew 16:24-25 is yet another similar parallel to 1 Peter 4:18. Those who join the ungodly in an attempt not to be persecuted for the cross will lose their wretched lives. BUT those who make their boast alone in the cross, take it up and follow Christ saying to those vilifying the cross, “bring it on!” (bring on the persecution, that is).
To rejoice in being persecuted for the gospel of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ is to lose one’s life for Christ’s sake that one may have the life that is life indeed.
“And it shall be in all the land, says Jehovah, two parts in it shall be cut off and perish, but the third shall be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined. And I will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, It is My people, and they shall say, Jehovah is my God” (Zechariah 13:8-9).
These couple of verses (Zechariah 13:8-9) again put forth the truth that the righteous will be tried and that they ought to commit themselves to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19) by saying that “Jehovah is my God” (Zechariah 13:9)
I will stop with the commentary here, since I will be saying the same thing over and over again. What I have written up to this point, along with the continued reference to 1 Peter 4:18, applies to the verses that follow. Think about how ALL of the verses cited in this post apply and relate to one another.
“For consider Him who had endured such gainsaying of sinners against Himself, that you do not grow weary, fainting in your souls. You did not yet resist unto blood, wrestling against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which He speaks with you, as with sons, “My sons, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint while being corrected by Him. For whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and whips every son whom He receives.” If you endure discipline, God is dealing with you as with sons; for who is the son whom a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become sharers, then you are bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, indeed we have had fathers of our flesh as correctors, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and we shall live? For they truly disciplined us for a few days according to the thing seeming good to them; but He for our profit, in order for us to partake of His holiness. And all discipline for the present indeed does not seem to be joyous, but grievous; but afterward it gives back peaceable fruit of righteousness to the ones having been exercised by it” (Hebrews 12:3-11).
“Having become great, Moses by faith refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, having chosen rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than for a time to have enjoyment of sin; having counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the anger of the king; for he kept on as seeing the Invisible One…others were beaten to death, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others received trial of mockings and of floggings; yea, more, of bonds and of prison: they were stoned; they were tried; they were sawn in two; they died by murder of sword; they went about in sheepskins and in goatskins, being in need, being afflicted, being ill-treated; of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts, and mountains, and caves, and the holes of the earth” (Hebrews 11:24-27, 35-38).
“But now so says Jehovah who formed you, O Jacob; and He who made you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk in the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame kindle on you. For I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt for your atonement; Ethiopia and Seba instead of you. Since you were precious in My eyes, you are honored, and I love you; and I give men instead of you; and peoples instead of your soul. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your seed from the east, and I will gather you from the west” (Isaiah 43:1-5).
“Brothers, we are bound to give thanks to God always concerning you, even as it is right, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of each one of you multiplies toward one another, so as for us to boast ourselves in you in the assemblies of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions, and the afflictions which you endure, a clear token of the just judgment of God, for you to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed suffer; since it is a just thing with God to pay back tribulation to the ones troubling you, and to give you, those being afflicted, relief with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven with angels of His power, in flaming fire giving full vengeance to those not knowing God, and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will pay the penalty: everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord, “and from the glory of His strength,” when He comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe in that Day, because our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).
“Do not inflame yourself with evildoers; and do not be envious against workers of perversity; for they soon wither like grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in Jehovah and do good; live in the land and feed on faithfulness” (Psalm 37:1-3).
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are of a pure heart. And as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps nearly made to slip. For I was jealous of the proud; I looked upon the peace of the wicked. For there are no pangs to their death; but their body is fat. They are not in the misery of mortal man; and with men they are not touched. So pride enchains them; violence covers them like a robe. Their eyes go out with fatness; they have passed the imaginations of the heart. They scoff and speak in evil; from on high they speak oppression. They set their mouth in the heavens; and their tongues walk through the earth. Because of this His people shall return here; and waters of a full cup shall be drained by them. And they say, How does God know? And, Is there knowledge in the Most High? Behold! These are the ungodly who are always at ease; they increase their riches. Surely I have purified my heart in vain; and I have washed my hands in innocence. For all the day I was touched; and my chastening is at the mornings. If I say, This is the way I will speak; behold, I would deceive a generation of Your sons. And I thought to know this; it was a travail in my eyes, until I went into the sanctuary of God; now I understood their end. Surely, You will set their feet in slippery places; You will make them fall into ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away with terrors! Like a dream when being aroused from dreaming, O Lord, in awaking You will despise their image. For my heart was in a ferment, and I was pierced in my reins. And I was brutish and did not know; I was like animals with You. Yet I was continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. You shall guide me by Your counsel; and afterward You will take me to glory. Whom have I in Heaven? And I have no desire on earth besides You. My flesh and my heart waste away; God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever. For, lo, those who are far from You shall be lost; You have cut off all who go whoring away from You. As for me, it is good for me to draw near to God; I have made my refuge in the Lord Jehovah, to declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:1-28).