J. A. Trench.
Article 18 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
"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." (1 Peter 4:17)
There is a double aspect in which Christians are looked at as suffering in this passage, from verse 12. First as suffering under persecution, and the like, directly for Christ's sake; and in this they are partakers of Christ's sufferings, which carries with it the rich recompense of exceeding joy in the day when His glory shall be revealed, while even now the Spirit, the firstfruits of that day of glory, rests upon them. This is the reproach of Christ; it is individual, and the highest character of Christian suffering as allowed of God.
But the Christian also belongs to the house of God, which consists of all who profess Christ's name, and cannot but be involved in its state and God's dealings with it. God looks that His house should answer to His own nature: "Holiness becometh thy house for ever." Has it answered to Him? The addresses to the seven churches in Revelation 2, 3 give us the answer, being the Lord's judgment of its whole course since it fell from its first love in Ephesus, till He has to spue it out of His mouth in Laodicea, taking home all His own out of it at His coming.
The time was come in Peter's day when in God's holy government of that which bears His name, judgment by the chastisements He inflicts must begin at His house, as it will surely extend out to the unbelieving and ungodly world.
The individual child of God knows how to discern in these ways of God the discipline of a Father's love; he may be perfectly apart in spirit and walk from that which brings on the chastisement, kept so, indeed, by these very dealings of God, whose faithful love he recognises in them. But as Caleb and Joshua, true and whole-hearted as they were, had to tramp the wilderness for all the years of Israel's wanderings, brought upon them by the nation's unbelief and rebellion, so with His own in the midst of the profession of Christ's name now. To Laodicea He says: "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten" — the very means God takes that they may be kept out of the fatally insidious current of indifference to Christ that had set in.
In verse 18 it has been noted that "scarcely saved" as to the righteous hardly conveys the true sense. It is, "If the righteous be saved with difficulty," not implying any uncertainty in their being saved. It must be remembered that the salvation of this epistle is the full, final deliverance of the believer at the coming of Christ in glory. (See 1 Peter 1:10-13) The righteous saved with difficulty! yes, because it contemplates all the conflict and opposition of every principle of the world and power of the enemy, all the trial and danger through which their path lies. It is by the power of God through faith the Christian is kept, and brought through safely to the glorious end. But, if this be only accomplished by divine power for the righteous, where will the ungodly and sinner appear?