Judgment at the House of God

1 Peter

Judgment at the House of God

August 7th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM

1 Peter 4:17-18

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 ungodly and the sinner appear?
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Peter 4:7-19

8-7-60    7:30 p.m.


Now let us look to God for a great hour and a great service and a marvelous appeal.  We turn to the fourth chapter of 1 Peter, the fourth chapter of 1 Peter.  Let us read from the seventh verse to the end of the chapter, and the text will be next to the last verse.  First Peter, almost to the end of the chapter—I mean, almost at the end of the Bible, 1 Peter, almost to the end; shows you how near we are coming to preaching through this Book.  The fourth chapter of 1 Peter, beginning at the seventh verse, now all of us let us read it together, and read to the end of the chapter, 1 Peter 4:7:

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

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 ungodly and the sinner appear?

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

[1 Peter 4:7-19]

You will notice that you found that word “Christian”: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian” [1 Peter 4:16].  The word’s only used twice in the Bible: one time when Herod Agrippa said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” [Acts 26:28]; and then the second time the word is used in the Bible is here, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian” [1 Peter 4:16].  The text that you read, which is the text for the pastor tonight, is one of the most unusual to be found in the whole Word of God: “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 ungodly and the sinner appear?” [1 Peter 4:17-18].

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” [1 Peter 4:17].  There is a judgment for God’s people, for us; it is a judgment that is going on now.  It is a sifting of God now [1 Peter 4:17].  And of course, there is a final judgment of fire that every Christian must face some day at the judgment seat of Christ.  “For we shall all stand at the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things that are done in the body, whether they be good or bad” [2 Corinthians 5:10].  Every man shall someday stand at the judgment bar of God: the Christian at the judgment seat of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10]; and the one who disobeys the call and the appeal of the gospel at the great white throne judgment of perdition and damnation [Revelation 20:11-15].  And this sifting, this judgment is going on now; “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” [1 Peter 4:17].  There are two ways that God sifts, that God judges His people.  One is by the direct agency of God Himself; and the other, by the permissive agency of the evil one, of that old serpent and our arch adversary, of Satan himself.

Now there is a sifting, there is a going on of judgment at the hands of God among God’s people.  It never fails to continue.  For example, when Nicodemus came to Jesus; he was a Pharisee of the bluest blood [John 3:1-2].  He came in his beautiful robes of blue with the tassels at the corners, and the bells and the pomegranates and all of the other insignia of his high office.  He was a member of the Sanhedrin.  He was a ruler among his people.  And yet when Jesus spake to him, He said not by robes of royalty, and not be election to high office, and not as a member of the great supreme Sanhedrin, but a man must be born again; and except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven [John 3:3].  He may be a fine man, a good man, a moral man, an upstanding man, a famous man; but except he be a man of the household of faith, except he be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.  There is a sifting; there is a separation here at the hands of God [John 3:3, 7].

Another time there came up to the Lord Jesus a rich young ruler [Mark 10:17-22].  He was a youth, he was young, he was rich, he was a ruler, he had everything that anybody could covet or desire in this world.  And when he came to Jesus he humbly bowed before the Lord, and asked how he might enter into the kingdom of God [Mark 10:17].  And Jesus said to him, “You go sell everything you have, give it away, get rid of it; for the road is too narrow, and the gate is too strait for a man to enter in with his arms and his heart filled with the love of the world.  Get rid of it, then come pick up your cross, and follow Me” [Mark 10:21].  “He was sad at that saying, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions” [Mark 10:22]. 

There is a sifting among God’s people at the hands of God.  You can’t come in, the door’s too narrow, and you can’t walk the road, it’s too strait for a man who’s got the world in his soul and in his heart.

There’s a sifting among God’s people by God Himself.  And those who listen to the Lord [John 6:24-25], who had eaten of the loaves of the fishes [John 6:26], followed the Lord, thronged the Lord; and He turned to them and said, “Except a man eat My flesh, and drink My blood, he cannot be one of My disciples [John 6:50-58].  And they strove with one another, saying, How can a man eat His flesh, and drink His blood?” [John 6:52].  Jesus placed the truth in the harshest terms.  “Because,” Jesus said, “you do not follow Me for the good of your souls and the spiritual life that I give; but you follow Me for the loaves and the fishes [John 6:26-27].  And from that time those disciples went back and followed Him no more; and He was left with just the original twelve” [John 6:66-67].  There’s a sifting, there’s a shaking, there’s a judgment of God among the Lord’s people.

And that sifting and that judgment continues by the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit of God.  And there came up to Simon Peter there in the church, Ananias and Sapphira, and lied to Simon Peter about how much they were giving to the Lord; they’d sold their farm and brought a portion and said, “We are giving everything to God.”  And Simon Peter said, “Why is it that you lie to the Spirit of God?” And Ananias fell down dead [Acts 5:1-5].  And in a moment there came in Sapphira his wife, and corroborated that lie, and she fell down dead [Acts 5:7-10].  And then it says here, in the thirteenth verse of that same chapter, in the fifth chapter of Acts, “And of the rest durst no man join himself unto them” [Acts 5:13].  Man, I don’t blame them.  What if every liar in this church fell down dead when he walked into one of these doors?  I’d have dead people stacked on that side, and I’d have dead people stacked on that side, and I’d have so many funerals I couldn’t conduct them.  I’d have to ask my assistants here, “Here, you take that bunch of liars and bury them.  And you take that bunch of liars out and bury them.”  That’s exactly what the Book says: “And of the rest durst no man join himself unto them” [Acts 5:13].  Man, if God were to kill all the liars in the church, what an awful thing.  And that’s exactly what happened.  God was making a division, a judgment.  “The time has come when judgment begins at the house of the Lord” [1 Peter 4:17].

You have again the judgment of the Holy Spirit in the apostles in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts: God shaking and sifting His people.  There were a great many things done by Philip, and Simon the Magus, Simon the necromancer and Simon the trickery man, Simon the wizard, Simon the crystal ball gazer, the fortuneteller, he’d been accustomed to deceiving people all of his life, and everybody he saw doing anything, he thought was just better at trickery than maybe he was.  So when he saw Philip, why, he decided to join, and he was baptized and became a member of the Baptist church there in Samaria.  Law me, that’s not the first critter like that that ever got into a Baptist church.  And so when the apostles came down from Jerusalem to Samaria, why, they could even do greater things than Philip.  And Simon this Magus, Simon this necromancer, Simon this crystal ball gazer, Simon this wizard, who’d been tricking people all of his life, he came up to the apostles and he said, “Here, I’ve got money in my pocket from deceiving people.  I give it all to you if you’ll show me how to get this power of the Holy Ghost by putting my hands on people’s heads” [Acts 8:18-19].  Then it was that Simon Peter said, “Thy money perish with thy bitter and miserable soul.  Pray to the Lord that none of these things we have spoken may come upon thee” [Acts 8:20-22].  There’s a changing, there’s a sifting, there’s a shaking, there’s a judgment of God at the house of the Lord on God’s people.

Now that’s in God’s direct agency.  Think of the permissive agency, when Satan gets ahold of God’s people.  Satan said to God about Job: “Why, look at him, You have got a hedge around him, the wind cannot blow him, and the enemy can’t get to him.  Man, I would be a Christian myself if it paid off like that.  Does Job serve God for nought?  No, he gets a big dividend out of it.  But you let me take away what he has, and he will curse You to Your face! [Job 1:9-11]

God said, “All right, take Job, My best member; take Job, the finest pillar in the church; take Job, God’s best example of a Christian; take him and shake him and sift him” [Job 1:12].  And Job was sifted by the hands of Satan; judgment at the house of God among God’s people [Job 1:13-2:8].

And one day Satan came to the Lord God and said, “So You have got twelve disciples here.  And You think they are devoted to You.  Well, You let me have them for a while, let me have them.”  And you know Satan divides all of us into two classes: one class hypocrites, and the other class the dupes and the dopes and the deluded.  And Satan puts all of us in one class or the other.  And he didn’t make any exception to the apostles.  And he said to Jesus, “Let me have those twelve apostles, and let me shake them, and let me sift them.”  And when Satan got through sifting the twelve apostles, he sifted Judas right out [Matthew 26:14-16].  And he made Simon Peter, the head of the apostolic band, he made Simon Peter curse and deny that he ever even knew the Lord [Matthew 26:69-75].  That’s the way he sifts.  That’s the way judgment is at the house of God.  And it goes on now.

You know there’s an unusual doctrine here in the Bible: in the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter, it says, “For there must needs be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” [1 Corinthians 11:19].  What Paul is saying there is that these “isms” that ought to be “wasms,” and all of these false pseudo-philosophies and these crazy theological aberrations, and all of these things that are going on all around us, Paul says that the reason for them is that the man who is steadfast, and the man who is true, and the man who is anchored, and the man who is devoted may be manifest!  You don’t find God’s real children following off after some impossible leader, taking up some esoteric doctrine, swallowing down some theosophy or some philosophy or some pseudoscience.  These heresies, says Paul, are sent among us that the approved of God may be manifest!  When we lose some of our people to that strange cult out there, and that unusual doctrine over there, that’s according to the will of God: God is judging His people, He is sifting His people.

Over here in the Book of 1 John, they were having a lot of trouble in the church by people going after Clementine, and going after the Gnostics, and going after the Docetics, and I don’t know how many other of the strange Oriental philosophies and mystery religions to whom the church was losing members.  And when John wrote to those people he said, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they may be made manifest that they were not of us” [1 John 2:19].  That’s the shaking of God at the house of the Lord.  These that stay by the stuff, these that remain steadfast, these that have their feet on the rock of God, these who are given to the truth of Christ, they are manifest when God gets through shaking the house of the Lord.  “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” [1 Peter 4:17].

Now may I speak of that fiery judgment that all of us shall someday face at the judgment seat of Christ?  According to the second Corinthian letter, the fifth chapter, and the tenth verse, “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” [2 Corinthians 5:10].  And according to the third chapter of the first Corinthian letter:

Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon for some build precious stones, gold and silver; and then some build wood, hay, and stubble.

And every man’s work shall be tried by fire.  For the day shall declare it. . .  And if a man’s work stands. . .he shall receive a reward.

But if any man’s work be burned up, he shall suffer loss, though he himself shall be saved, yet as by fire;

[1 Corinthians 3:11-15]

Scarcely saved, barely saved.

In that great and final day, when God’s people stand at the judgment seat of Christ, what an immense mountain of rubbish will be burned up!  All of the worldliness, and all of the selfishness, and all of the vanity and ambition, and all of the pride wherein we have served God will be burned up.  Very little of our work, I have long been persuaded, comes out of just sheer, unadulterated, simple, loving devotion to Jesus.  We’ve got an axe to grind in what we do.  When we do things we like to be commended for them.  And if the commendation isn’t forthcoming we’re hurt.  It shows what you’re doing is for men, not for God!  We like to be elected to office.  We like to stand up and scintillate.  We like to shine.  We like to be approved.  We like to be cajoled.  We like to be patted on the back and furthered.  All of these things are of men and not of God!  But everything we do and every devotion we made and every great effort we put forth for the praise of men will be burned up with fire [1 Corinthians 3:15]—judgment at the house of God.  And someday the fire will try every attitude, and every devotion, and every effort, and every laborious sacrifice we’ve made.

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” [1 Peter 4:17].  And he says if it begin at us, if God’s people are going to be tried and are tried, and if God’s people are going to stand at the judgment bar of God, and the fiery trial’s going to burn up their works that do not please the Lord, then “what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of Christ?” [1 Peter 4:17].

If a man who is a Christian shall stand in the fiery day of God’s awful judgment, where shall those stand who obey not the appeal of the pastor, who do despite to the Spirit of grace, who trample underfoot the blood of the covenant, the sanctified Jesus [Hebrews 10:29], who say no to the Spirit and no to the invitation; what shall become of them?  They shall fall into unforgiven sin, and into misery, and damnation, and perdition, and fire, and flame, and hell, and brimstone, and forever, and forever in the torment of that awful place be shut out from God.  It’s awful to contemplate.  “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” [1 Peter 4:17].  There’s no other way for a man to be saved but in Christ [Acts 4:12].  And when a man turns aside from the gospel of Jesus, he turns aside from the only forgiveness in the world or in the world that is to come.  He says no to the only One, the great God our Savior [Acts 4:12; Jude 1:25], who can pardon us, and who can give us entrance into the beautiful city of glory and light.  When a man says no to Jesus, he says no to his soul, he says no to his life, he says no in the hour of death, in the hour of judgment; he says no to God, no to heaven, he says no to the One who only can save and keep him.  And he says yes to hell, and he says yes to death, and he says yes to Satan, and he says yes to hell, and he says yes to the flames and to the torment and to the damnation.  Oh, what does a man do when he turns aside from Christ and refuses the only pardon we know in this world?

I read this week one of the strangest things.  I’d heard of it in years past, but I hadn’t thought of it in many years since.  One of the most unusual cases that ever came before the Supreme Court of the United States happened in the days of the presidency of Andrew Jackson.  There was a man, he was a young fellow, there was a man by the name of George Wilson.  And on a railway train, going through the state of Pennsylvania, he being a railway clerk, he killed his fellow railway clerk, and he bound himself up, in some way tied himself up, and took away and hid away all of the money, and all of the registered mail.  And then when the train stopped and they went into the railway car, why, there was his companion, dead, and there was this George Wilson, somehow he tied himself up.  But as they probed him, and as they asked him, and as they talked to him, and as they questioned him, why, there were discrepancies in his story; and finally he confessed the whole sordid murder.  It was a terrible thing.  And they tried him in Pennsylvania, and they convicted him to be hanged by the neck until he died.  He had many friends.  He was a fine fellow.  And they circulated petitions and they made appeals, and finally, President Andrew Jackson of the United States pardoned him.  And then the most amazing thing that the world had ever heard of happened.  When they came with the pardon and offered it to George Wilson at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, George Wilson refused it.  He said, “I will not take it.  I have done this dastardly crime, and I want to die by hanging.”

“Oh, but you’re pardoned.  They can’t hang you.”

“I want to die by hanging,” said George Wilson.  It was an astonishing thing!  And they took that thing to the Supreme Court of the United States.

And in those days the most famous Chief Justice that the United States has ever had presided over the Supreme Court of America.  His name was John Marshall.  And John Marshall wrote the unanimous opinion, the vote was nine to nothing—John Marshall wrote the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court of our government, and he closed that great opinion with these words, and I copy that legal document: “A pardon is a paper, the value of which depends upon the acceptance by the person implicated.  It is hardly to be supposed that one under sentence of death would refuse to accept a pardon.  But if it is refused, it is no pardon.  George Wilson must hang!”  And they hanged him by the neck until he died.

 There’s pardon for the sinner, there’s forgiveness in the grace and mercy of God, there’s salvation in Jesus; but if a man doesn’t accept it, if a man refuses it, if a man says no, then it’s a piece of paper, this Bible; it’s a sound and a furor, the appeal of this preacher; it falls to the ground in dust and ashes, and a man in his sins dies forever and forever and forever in hell and in torment, an unforgiven transgressor shut out from the mercy [Titus 3:5], and grace of God [Ephesians 2:8].  “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 Christ?” [1 Peter 4:17].  Nothing but death and hell forever and forever.

Then he continues, then he continues: “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” [1 Peter 4:18].  If the righteous scarcely be saved, if they barely are saved, if it is with great difficulty that the righteous are saved, where will the impenitent rebellious transgressor appear?  What shall become of him?

Now that’s a strange way to make an argument.  “If the righteous scarcely be saved” [1 Peter 4:18, what does he mean by that, “if the righteous scarcely be saved”?  Why, I thought we were certainly going to be saved, we were surely going to be saved, without doubt we were to be saved.  What does he mean, “if the righteous scarcely be saved”?  Is he referring to the covenant of redemption as though it were loosely and superficially applied?  Is he talking about the blood of Christ as though our Lord was barely able to wash our sins away, as though there were not all-sufficiency in the sacrifice of our Savior?  Is Immanuel’s merit not able to cover all of our sins?  Just what does he mean?  Well, he doesn’t mean that the covenant of redemption is adventitiously, facetiously, just summarily conjectured up by God as a last thought and as an ultimate remedy.  No, He was the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]; from the beginning of time and before the world was made, God had this plan of redemption.  Well, is the blood of Christ not able to save us from our sins?  “And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7].  Well, is Jesus weak?  “If the righteous scarcely be saved,” is Jesus barely able to save His people?  All the government, Isaiah said, is on His shoulder [Isaiah 9:6], and He avowed that “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18].  And the Book of Hebrews 7:25 says, “And He is able to save us to the uttermost, we who come unto God by Him,” save us from the uttermost of sin, and guilt, and despair, and doubt, and age, and transgression.  What does he mean, “if the righteous scarcely be saved”? [1 Peter 4:18].  Does he mean that we might fail of that heavenly city and that glorious celestial home?  Does he mean that we’re scarcely saved?  Oh no!  “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” [John 10:28].  Or as Paul says, “If we have been reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” [Romans 5:10].  He liveth to deliver us someday without spot and blemish in the presence of God [Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:21-22].  Kept forever, Peter himself says, kept forever to that inheritance, reserved for us in heaven, we who are kept by the power, guarded by the power of God [1 Peter 1:3-5].

Well, what does he mean, “if the righteous scarcely be saved”? [1 Peter 4:18]. Oh, he has a great meaning that I can corroborate in my life and in all of your lives.  Scarcely saved.  He is not talking about our ultimate.  We shall certainly get there.  We shall certainly appear in the presence of God.  We shall certainly walk through those pearly gates and down those golden streets [Revelation 21:21].  “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, nor shall anyone pluck them out of My hand.  My Father, who gave them Me, is greater than all . . . and My Father and I are one” [John 10:28-30].  No one is able to pluck them out of God’s hand.  He’s talking about the process of salvation.  We are scarcely saved; we are saved with great trial and great difficulty, scarcely saved.  That is, first the children of God are in this house of clay, and in this house of unregenerate flesh; and the old nature is still with us!  And however a man may be saved, he is in agony, and he’s in a war, and he’s in a battle, and he’s in a strife.

This week, I read from George W. Truett something he said here in this pulpit.  He was testifying, and I want to read it to you:

I went for years seeking Christ.  From a lad I sought him.  I was definitely called when I was eleven years old.  As vividly as though it were yesterday I can remember my burden, my pain, my loneliness, and my fear.  I was shrinking, I was timid; I could not venture to speak to anybody.  Oh, if somebody could have divined my situation and have taught me.  I knew I was a sinner.  I knew I was lost.  I had a sense of alienation from the holy God because of personal sin.  I knew it all, but I could not see the way.  I groped in the darkness.  Then, after years and years when young manhood came on, in a quiet church like this, in a quiet church like this, one Sunday, like this, a man threw out the lifeline and said to me, “Lay hold on eternal life.”  And I laid hold.  From that little church I went down the country road wondering if I would ever have another battle again.  The skies were beautiful beyond words.  The very stars seemed to be one great galaxy of mighty choirs praising God.  And all about me nature seemed in unison with the divine will.  I thought I would never, never, never know what it was to step aside, to stray, to blunder, to err again.  And yet—

and yet, after that glorious conversion in young manhood; “and yet,” the great pastor says—

And yet, the very next day, every dog out of the pit seemed at my heels.  Doubts came, darts pierced, temptations smote, and clouds enshrouded.  Oh, how little I knew about the Christian faith, and what the Christian life meant!

Scarcely saved.

When a man trusts God as his Savior, then the hounds of hell assail him, and the fiery darts of the evil one pierce him through; and he falls into fiery trials and into temptations and into doubts;“if the righteous scarcely be saved” [1 Peter 4:18].  And that’s because we live in this unregenerate body.  My soul is regenerated, my spirit has been born again, but my body is not born again, my body is not regenerated until the great resurrection day of the Lord, when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible [1 Corinthians 15:51-52].  And my regenerated spirit, my born-again soul lives in this house of clay, in this unregenerated house of flesh [Galatians 5:17]; and it wars against me, and it trips me, and it deceives me [James 1:14], and I’m bewitched and I’m bewildered, and I’m so in an agony.  “If the righteous scarcely be saved” [1 Peter 4:18].

As Paul says in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans, “What I would do I do not do, and what I would not do that I do” [Romans 7:15, 19].  “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord” [Romans 7: 24-25], “If the righteous scarcely be saved” [1 Peter 4:18], scarcely be saved.  And when a man’s born again [John 3:3, 7], he’s born as a little child, and he’s weak, and anything can just simply snuff him out.  Were it not for the grace of God that keeps the seed and the little life alive, all of us would yet be lost to the evil one.  “If the righteous scarcely be saved”; it refers to the great conflict.  You just read in this Book and see those signs by which God points at the life of a Christian: it’s a warfare, He says; it’s a battle, He says; it’s a race, He says; it’s a wrestling, He says; it’s a box, and it’s a fighting, He says.

 Remember what Jesus said, “Broad is the way, and wide is the gate, that leads down to destruction. . .but strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads to life everlasting, and few there be that go therein” [Matthew 7:13-14].  Then he said, “Strive to enter in at the narrow gate, at the strait gate.”  Strive, the Greek word is “agonize,” agonize [Luke 13:24].

“If the righteous scarcely be saved” [1 Peter 4:18]; and it refers to the sorrows through the years and the ages and in our lives that comes to God’s children.  “If the righteous scarcely be saved.”  Old Jacob, looking upon the blood-stained garments of his son whom he loved and crying, “I will go down to my grave mourning for my son” [Genesis 37:35].  And Rachel, weeping over her children, and would not be comforted because they are not [Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:15].  God’s people in sorrow, God’s people in trial, God’s people fed to the lions, God’s people burned at the stake, God’s people tried by the fires of the evil one.  “If the righteous scarcely be saved,” scarcely be saved.  If we’ll toil in agony and suffering and trial and flame and fire, God’s people enter into the gates of glory and the city celestial [Hebrews 11:9-10; Revelation 21:2].

“If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” [1 Peter 4:18]. Oh, I have no word to describe it.  May God take the appeal and place it on your heart.  If this godly man in an agony, in a trial; if this godly sainted woman in a great commitment to God is barely able, barely able in the sorrows and trials of life, barely able to see through the fog, and the flame, and the mist, and the night, and the dark, the face of Jesus; think of the engrossing, enshrouded, abysmal damnation upon those who have no hope.  Nothing but death and nothing but the night and nothing but the dark.  If the righteous scarcely see the face of God, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?  [1 Peter 4:18].

If we who love our Lord fall into all of these battles and agonies trying to see the face of God, what of the blotting out of that one who has never turned and trusted Jesus, and never sought forgiveness at His hands?  Nothing for him but the fires of hell.  Nothing for him but the damnation of perdition [John 3:36].  Nothing for him but the blackness of the night.  Nothing for him forever and forever, shut out, blotted out, sent out, away from God.  When the great day of His wrath shall come, and we who are not saved are asked to stand, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” [1 Peter 4:18].  Oh, my brother, what we have to face!

There’s a day a-comin’, there’s a trial a-comin’, there’s a fire a-comin’, there’s a death a-comin’, there’s a pallbearer coming, there’s a funeral car coming, there’s a grave digger coming, there’s a night coming, there’s a death coming, there’s a judgment coming.  And if I don’t have God, and if I don’t have Christ, and if I don’t have pardon, and if I don’t have forgiveness, O God, what shall become of my soul?  Forever and forever and forever shut out from Thee.  Said no to Thee now, said no to Thee the last time, intend to say no until the end; and then, find that my “no” has turned into an everlasting negating and damnation, and I am lost, forever lost!  “If the righteous scarcely be saved,” if God’s sainted children through great difficulty barely enter the celestial city, “where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” [1 Peter 4:18].

My brother, are you in Christ?  Are you looking to Jesus?  Have you trusted His blood?  According to the word of His commandment, in simple confession and contrition, have you looked unto Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the saving of your soul? [Hebrews 10:39].  If you never have, will you make it tonight?  Make it tonight.  “Preacher, I never in my life turned to look to Jesus, but I do now.  By faith I look to Him” [Ephesians 2:8].  “I never in my life went down an aisle and took a preacher by the hand and said, ‘Tonight I give my life to Jesus’; but I do it now.  I’m trusting Him to save my soul and to forgive my sins, and I’m doing it now” [Romans 10:13; 2 Timothy 1:12].

If God bids you come, if God invites you here, would you make it tonight?  Would you make it now?  In this great balcony round, coming down one of these stairways, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.  Tonight, tonight, I take Jesus as my Savior; to live, to die with Him.”  Is there a family that ought to come tonight?  Is there a youth or a child?  Is there somebody you who ought to put his life with us in the fellowship of this church?  Would you come?  Does the Lord call you to a special ministry?  Then come.  As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, will you make it tonight?  Will you make it now?  “Here I am, preacher, and here I come; God helping me, my life I deposit in the safekeeping of Jesus [2 Timothy 1:12], to live and to die trusting Him.  Here I am, and here I come.”  Will you make it now?  On the first note of the first stanza, while our people prayerfully sing the song, down this stairway, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come, preacher, and here I am.  So help me God, I decide for Jesus tonight, and here I come.”  Now, tonight, on the first note of the first stanza, “Here I am, here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

1 Peter 4:3-19


I.          The judgment of God upon His people(Hebrews 10:30, 12:29)

A.  Now,
in this world

By direct intervention of the Almighty – a sifting

a. Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3:3)

b. Jesus and the rich
young ruler(Mark 10:17-22)

c. Jesus and the
multitude He had fed (John 6:26, 53-58, 66-67)

Ananias and Sapphira(Acts
5:1-5, 13)

e. Simon Magus (Acts 8:18-22)

2.  Indirectly,
through permissive agency granted to Satan

a. Pride of Job (Job 1:6-12, 42:5-6)

b. Sifting of the
disciples(Matthew 26:56, 27:5, Mark 14:71)

There must be sifting (1 Corinthians 11:19, 1
John 2:19)

Then, in the world to come

1.  A
fiery scrutiny awaits us (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1
Corinthians 3:11-15)

Then what of those who obey not the gospel?(1
Peter 4:17)

1.  Andrew Jackson, John
Marshall – murderer given pardon rejects it

II.         The difficult salvation of God’s

What does it mean, “If the righteous scarcely be saved…”?(1 Peter 4:17)

1.  Our
salvation an afterthought? – No, it was worked out before creation (Ephesians 1:4, Revelation 13:8)

2.  The
atoning blood hardly efficacious? – No, the Bible presents the all-sufficiency
of the atonement of our Lord(Isaiah 1:18, 1 John
1:7, 2:2, Romans 5:20)

Jesus is weak? – No (Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 28:18,
Hebrews 7:25)

4.  The
Lord’s children apostasize, failing heaven’s gate? – No (John 10:28, Romans 5:10, Ephesians 5:27, Colossians 1:21-22, 1 Peter

B.  Salvation
as to its process, outworking, is unspeakably difficult; as to its ultimate,
final issue, it is gloriously certain

The drag of the old nature(Romans 7:15, 24, 1 Corinthians

Dr. Truett’s conversion

2.  The
weakness of the new nature

The power, opposition of the evil one(1
Thessalonians 2:18, Zechariah 3:1)

The agony of the Christian life (Matthew
7:13-14, Luke 13:24, Galatians 5:17)

The sorrows and trials to which the saints are exposed (Genesis 37:31-35, Jeremiah 31:15, Acts 8:2, 12:2)

C.  If
this is for God’s people, what of the lost?(Revelation
21:4-5, Luke 16:23)