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“If The Righteous Scarcely Be Saved...”

by George Hutto

"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" (I Peter 4:17-19).

Rhetorical questions such as the one above are meant to cause us to think! There is much to be learned from this question.

First, the righteous will “squeak by” in the judgment, they will “scarcely be saved.” Even the most noble of God’s servants have fallen into sin: Noah, Moses, David, the apostles. Their salvation in the Last Day will be by the grace and mercy of God.

Now, the same New Testament writer, Peter, also says concerning our efforts to add the Christian Graces, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:10-11). Surely the message is that our soul’s security depends on how we respond to the gospel. In other words, you and I have something to say about the final outcome. This point is made obvious by God’s command that the gospel be preached to all.

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).

That we sin is a given. God’s grace is a sure thing (Titus 2:11-12). The deciding factor on our side of the equation is how diligently we serve God here (Hebrews 11:6). Our zeal and godly fear make the hope of salvation “click.” The faithful are in place, they are cinched down by their faithful obedience.

Second, the unrighteous will certainly be lost. “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” They will suffer the wrath of a just God (Romans 2:2-11). “Judgment must begin at the house of God,” and those outside are not even in the running.

Too many act as if they have no idea about their soul’s salvation. Surely they don’t rationally accept that they will be eternally lost and yet do nothing about it. Such behavior is beyond suicide. Perhaps they think that they’re good enough without the diligence required as mentioned above. Perhaps they don’t believe in God and the judgment, or perhaps they are simply not thinking at all.

A person might have lost hope of finding any assurance of salvation, so cynical and skeptical is the world. Loss of hope is a sure formula for lethargy and despair in spiritual matters, but the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our own resurrection and judgment. (Acts 17:31) Will you believe? Will you obey?

Third, there will be a judgment call from the Lord. God Himself will make the final call. We’ll be judged by what Christ and His Word teach (John 12:48). The books recording our works will be opened (Revelation 20:12).

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10).

The faithful have added the Christian graces (II Peter 1:5-11), have worked diligently, and have made many sacrifices for the great hope of salvation, but they yearn to hear that sentence from the Great Judge. (Matthew 25:23) The “eleventh hour worker” (Matthew 20:1-16), the lukewarm Christian (Revelation 3:21-22), the call for Rahab (Hebrews 11:31), and others demonstrate the judgment factor in God’s acceptance.

In a baseball game most plays would go unchallenged without even having an umpire in the stadium. Most balls are clearly outside the strike zone, and most runners are called “safe” without question. The need for the umpire is when the play is close. When there is a question, when there is disagreement, that’s when the judge’s call determines the outcome. He is the “official” of the game – the game belongs to him.

The pitcher will be wise to learn where the strike zone is, whether high, low, big or small. And Christians must by all means learn God’s word, that by which we will be judged “safe.” Sin is described as “missing the mark,” and those who “throw wild” with their moral and spiritual efforts will be engaging in a lot of sin. The ump is trained and positioned to watch every play, to make every call quickly and decisively. His calls and decisions are final.

Attuning our hearts and actions to the will of the judge is essential to eternal salvation. Whatever sympathy might be evoked by our respect and sincere adherence will be well worth the effort. We want to be on His side, and we pray that he will be on ours. Remember, the atoning remedy for sin is the precious blood of Christ, shed for “the sins of the whole world.” Treating it lightly will not be overlooked (Hebrews 10:26-31).

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (I Corinthians 9:24-27).

Yes, the righteous will scarcely be saved, but I want to be in that number. I don’t want to be among the lost who carelessly throw away their most valuable hope. I pray that God will forgive my sins (I John 1:7-9), and take my gospel obedience as a proper application of the blood of the Lamb (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5).