“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, AV)
My dad was not much of a church going man. In fact, my only exposure to church was when we were very young and my mom would drop us kids off at the local Presbyterian church on Sunday morning. I am not sure if mom and dad went to worship there or not. Yet, my dad did believe in something, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24, AV). One thing I can definitely say is that based on this proverb my dad loved me a lot.
We as kids would act up from time to time. My mother would tell us to simmer down and, unfortunately, we often would not listen. Sometimes she would discipline us, but often we would hear the words, “Wait until your father gets home!” We would immediately simmer down for we know the folly of continuing in our rebellion.
There was a point to our father’s uses of the rod, (the belt in his case). It was not to punish us, but to discipline us. It was to form us into responsible adults who could contribute in society. He did not punish kids who were not in our family, just us. We did not think it was fair at the time, but looking back on it, he did not to anything to injure us but, because he loved us, he did what was necessary to keep us from making bad choices later in life.
As believers, we have a Heavenly Father who also loves us and disciplines us (Heb 12:5-8). This discipline is designed to cause us to increasingly separate us from the profane things and dedicate us to the holy things of God and His purposes. Thus, we are to become increasingly Christlike.
Peter mentioned that Christians will experience suffering in life. Here, he uses the expression of judgment at the house of God to speak of the disciplinary process by which He purifies His children, increasingly conforming them to the image of Christ. Believers are blessed to be counted as children of God so that they will incur this temporary judgment. God as our loving Father is not seeking to punish us or destroy us in this judgment, but to make us into something quite special. This is so we will live a life that is glorifying to Him and reflect His glory to those around us.
To this type of judgment in the house of God, Peter contrasts the judgment that is to come upon those who do not obey the gospel message by faith in Christ alone. These who are destitute of reverence for God and devoted to sin will experience a judgment of condemnation resulting in eternal punishment.
Peter concludes this thought with this challenge. “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 4:19, AV). Recognize that God is faithful and that He has your best at heart. The sufferings that He allows in this life are but for a moment and are producing an eternal weight of glory for you (2 Cor 4:17). Thus, keep on the path of righteousness, doing good, and glorifying your Father in heaven.