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1 Peter 4:17-19

17. — And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

17. — Si autem primum a nobis, quis finis eorum qui non obediunt evangelio Dei?

18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

18. Et si justus vix servatur, impius et peccator ubi apparebunt?

19. 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.

19. Itaque qui patiuntur secundum Dei voluntatem, tanquam fideli possessori commendent animas suas benefaciendo.

 

When the faithful see that it is well with the wicked, they are necessarily tempted to be envious; and this is a very dangerous trial; for present happiness is what all desire. Hence the Spirit of God carefully dwells on this, in many places, as well as in the thirty-seventh Psalm, lest the faithful should envy the prosperity of the ungodly. The same is what Peter speaks of, for he shews that afflictions ought to be calmly borne by the children of God, when they compare the lot of others with their own. But he takes it as granted that God is the judge of the world, and that, therefore, no one can escape his hand with impunity. He hence infers, that a dreadful vengeance will soon overtake those whose condition seems now favorable. The design of what he says, as I have already stated, is to shew that the children of God should not faint under the bitterness of present evils, but that they ought, on the contrary, calmly to bear their afflictions for a short time, as the issue will be salvation, while the ungodly will have to exchange a fading and fleeting prosperity for eternal perdition.

But the argument is from the less to the greater; for if God spares not his own children whom he loves and who obey him, how dreadful will be his severity against enemies and such as are rebellious! There is, then, nothing better than to obey the Gospel, so that God may kindly correct us by his paternal hand for our salvation.

18 And if the righteous It has been thought that this sentence is taken from Proverbs 11:31; for the Greek translators have thus rendered what Solomon says,

“Behold, the just shall on the earth be recompensed; how much more the ungodly and the sinner?”

Now, whether Peter intended to quote this passage, or repeated a common and a proverbial saying, (which seems to me more probable,) 5151     It certainly appears as a quotation, as the words are literally the same. It is to be observed that the Hebrew has “on earth,” which seems to confirm the view that saved here refers to deliverances from the troubles, trials, and persecutions, which the righteous have to go through during life; and that scarcely, or hardly, or with difficulty, as rendered by Doddridge and Macknight, is to be limited to the time of the Christian’s course in this world; for, as Macknight observes, the Apostle speaks in his Second Epistle of an abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom being vouchsafed to all faithful Christians. See 2 Peter 1:11Ed. the meaning is, that God’s judgment would be dreadful against the ungodly, since the way to salvation was so thorny and difficult to the elect. And this is said, lest we should securely indulge ourselves, but carefully proceed in our course, and lest we should also seek the smooth and easy road, the end of which is a terrible precipice.

But when he says, that a righteous man is scarcely saved, he refers to the difficulties of the present life, for our course in the world is like a dangerous sailing between many rocks, and exposed to many storms and tempests; and thus no one arrives at the port, except he who has escaped from [a] thousand deaths. It is in the meantime certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our pilot.

Absurd, then, are those interpreters who think that we shall be hardly and with difficulty saved, when we shall come before God in judgment; for it is the present and not the future time that Peter refers to; nor does he speak of God’s strictness or rigour, but shews how many and what arduous difficulties must be surmounted by the Christian before he reaches the goal. Sinner here means a wicked man 5252     The two words, “ungodly,” ἀσεβὴς, and “sinner,” ἀμαρτωλὸς, exactly correspond with רשע and חוטא in Hebrew; the first is he who is not pious, not a worshipper of God, having neither fear nor love towards him; and the second is the wicked, and open and shameless transgressor, who regards not what is just and right. Grotius says, that the first is he who shews no piety towards God; and that the second is one who observes no justice towards man. — Ed. and the righteous are not those who are altogether perfect in righteousness, but who strive to live righteously.

19 Wherefore let them that suffer He draws this conclusion, that persecutions ought to be submissively endured, for the condition of the godly in them is much happier than that of the unbelieving, who enjoy prosperity to their utmost wishes. He, however, reminds us that we suffer nothing except according to the permission of God, which tends much to comfort us; when he says, Let them commit themselves to God, it is the same as though he had said, “Let them deliver themselves and their life to the safe keeping of God.” And he calls him a faithful possessor, because he faithfully keeps and defends whatever is under his protection or power. Some render the word “Creator;” and the term κτίστης means both; but the former meaning I prefer, for by bidding us to deposit our life with God, he makes him its safe keeper. He adds, in well-doing, lest the faithful should retaliate the wrongs done to them, but that they might on the contrary contend with the ungodly, who injured them, by well-doing.


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