And If The Righteous Scarcely Be Saved
by Dr. Henderson Ward
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The Bible has the knack for cutting through the fog of uncertainty and ambivalence and getting to the heart of the matter with a directness and clarity that is awesome. If people saw the Bible for what it really is - a roadmap to the heart and the mind of God - and used it to its fullest extent in all situations, then they would enter the most blessed and productive relationships with God and be assured that the Bible has all the answers needed for our walk of faith.
The above topic, as believers well know, is the first part of a most interesting scripture and one that so many fights with to their own destruction. People wrestle with scripture at times not because the scripture is difficult to understand, and let us be honest and admit that some scriptures are difficult and puzzling, but because of its logical application.
No other book comes close to the mighty Holy Bible. This is because the Bible is not a dead document like the works of Shakespeare or Plato but the living word of God; and you can read the same verse of scripture every day and get entirely new and different insights and inspiration; and it will address your needs and concerns as if God is addressing you by telephone.
For this reason, above all else, the Bible is the most valuable and effective document in all creation and no matter how perverse and wayward the world is, the Bible is still the most read document there is, and year after year it is the world's best-selling book.
Believers need to start looking with fresh eyes at the Bible, stop taking it for granted and move away from the routine use of last thing at night or first thing in the morning and start dipping into it frequently, unplanned and impulsive and enjoy the spiritual gems on offer.
The gem on offer from our topic, and if the righteous scarcely be saved, is mined from 1 Peter 4:18 and the full verse reads like this, "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
The Apostle Peter, leader of the church universal, was writing to the churches in the Roman Province of Asia Minor (present day Turkey) and was encouraging them to be ready for the coming brutal assaults and persecution.
By the same token this verse, 1 Peter 4:18, is appropriate to our time; not because we are physically abused and brutally persecuted as in pre-Constantine times but because the world is drowning in a surfeit of ungodliness. The things Paul warned us about, "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God..." (2 Timothy 3:2-4) are here and happening now and those not anchored in Christ run the risk of being overwhelmed.
The Apostle Peter was not saying that believer's salvation, or status with God is tentative, cautious or unsettled, he was not alluding to any uncertainty or lack of sureness that would leave believers in a spiritual state of doubt or inertia.
Peter would not because the Bible gives mighty assurance to all believers about their salvation:
"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." (John 6:39)
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (John 10:28)
No, there is nothing tentative about believer's salvation and there is absolutely no uncertainty as regards believers standing with God. So what did the Apostle Peter mean by those words in 1 Peter 4:18? Here is the verse again but from the Easy-to-Read Version, “If it is hard for even a good person to be saved, what will happen to the one who is against God and full of sin?”
God does not punish the obedient righteous with the wicked, but the righteous because of their bad choices put themselves in peril and at times escape God's judgement by the slimmest of margins.
This is what the Apostle Peter was referring to.
The story of Lot makes interesting reading and we know that Lot, because of his bad choices, barely escaped God's judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah. In spite of repeated warnings, and the strong arm of angels, Lot almost got caught up in the deflagration that consumed those two cities as recorded in Genesis 19:1-26).
Bad choices are not necessarily sinful, but when people make bad choices there is the tendency to defend those choices even when there is convincing evidence that those choices are harmful. People hate saying "I was wrong" "I am sorry" "I messed up" "I should have known better" and move on to better choices. This is one of people's most besetting faults and believers are not exempted.
Believers, just like many people, make bad choices in many areas of their lives and sometimes they suffer in silence the awful consequences.
We make bad choices in our politics.
Many people have very little interest in politics and they never get involved in the political process except at election time when they cast their vote. If you vote for a political party and that party wins the election and then goes on to do foolishness you might then effortlessly condemn them for their foolishness, regret you voted for them and move on.
This is commendable but many people are partisan, they belong to the party and will defend its policy even when in their heart of heart they know their party is on the wrong track. I understand that certain "Christians" were still "blessing" Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party throughout World War 2 and army chaplains employed by Hitler's army were busy bolstering their morale and giving them spiritual sustenance during their campaigns.
Today believers are still making bad choices in their politics and are afraid to speak out against wrongdoing because they are afraid of being victimised.
Whatever your politics, and it is good that Christians have different political affiliations, unlawful activity and bad behaviour should never be tolerated and the principles that you live by should never be trodden underfoot without your most vociferous objections.
We make bad choices in our friendships.
Some friendships are special and we all wish that we had a special friendship like that of David and Jonathan. Throughout the Bible there was no closer friendship than these two and the Bible records the essence of it thus, "And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." (1 Samuel 18:1)
A lot of people will find themselves in hell because they made the wrong friendship and were not perceptive enough to see where it was leading and did not exercise enough courage to sever the friendship bonds.
Rehoboam made the wrong friendships when his father King Solomon died and as a consequence he tore Israel apart, ruled for a time in Judah and eventually submerged himself in wickedness on the advice of his friends, "And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done." (1 Kings 14:22)
Alas some people, believers included, would rather stick to their friends and sink with them into perdition rather than make the sensible, life-saving choice and move on. Happily some do.
We make bad choices in our church affiliation
Church affiliation is not only a spiritual matter it is also an emotional matter and it is not surprising that people are almost irrational in their response when their church affiliation is questioned.
Many people still do not understand that there is only one church, The Church and it belongs to Jesus Christ and all true Christians are part of that church. Jesus referred to it as "my church" (Matthew 16:18) and there is no other Christian church.
The denomination to which you are affiliated or the local assembly that you attend may or may not be part of the true church.
As we evangelize we never tell converts to go to any specific assembly or join any specific denomination but we always tell them to affiliate to a proper Bible believing, gospel preaching, mainstream church that is Christ-centred.
But some people make bad choices and end up in assemblies that are spiritually toxic and mentally devastating and may even be physically destructive like the assembly of Jim Jones of the Guyana disaster or David Koresh of Waco infamy.
Many believers still affiliate to denominations that are shown to be Christian cults that do not teach sound biblical doctrines or follow the Apostolic Traditions handed down through the ages or respect the faith, "... which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 1:3)
Judgement is surely coming to this world and believers need to be ready; need separation and distance; need to take seriously their calling and being chosen by God and strictly observe the admonition of the Apostle Paul when he wrote, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2)
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