1 Peter 4:18
And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
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(18) And if the righteous scarcely be saved.—This is a literal quotation, word for word, of Proverbs 11:31, according to the LXX. The quotation proves to us St. Peter’s perfect familiarity with both the Hebrew original and the Greek version. We have seen how he rejects the LXX. version when it does not suit his meaning (e.g., 1Peter 2:8): here it suits him (though it differs from the Hebrew), and he accepts it. The “righteous” man here means, apparently, as Leighton says, “he that endeavours to walk uprightly in the ways of God,” rather than the man who is then declared finally justified. The fact that they are “scarcely” saved “imports not,” according to Leighton, “any uncertainty or hazard in the thing itself to the end, in respect of the purpose and performance of God, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way.” This is only partly true. The Apostle is rather thinking of the final judgment than of the life of trial; and he means that there was but little margin left: a very few more falls, a few more refusals to follow the calls of grace, and they would have been lost. Doubtless, when the best of us looks back, in the light of the last day, upon all that he has been through, he will be amazed that he ever could be saved at all. Yet Bengel well calls us to see the other side of the picture in 2Peter 1:11.

The ungodly and the sinner.—This is the Gentile character. “Ungodly” denotes open irreligion—contempt of God and all that belongs to His worship. “Sinner” goes more to the moral side of the nature, pointing most of all to sins of the flesh. (Comp., for instance, Luke 7:37.) “Sinners” was almost a synonym for “Gentiles.” (See, e.g., Luke 6:32; Luke 24:7; Galatians 2:15.) The question “Where shall he appear?” imagines some scene such as that of Matthew 25:32 : “Where shall we see him? where will he have to stand?”

1 Peter 4:18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved — Escape with the utmost difficulty. So the word μολις, rendered scarcely, signifies. That is, If it be not without much difficulty that the Christians are secured and preserved in those overflowing, devouring judgments which are coming on the Jewish nation; where shall the ungodly and the sinner — The impenitent and unbelieving, the obstinate and wicked part of the Jewish nation; appear? — That is, what will become of them? Dreadful will be their destruction. The meaning of the apostle, however, may be, If the righteous, ο δικαιος, the righteous man, be scarcely, or not wholly saved from suffering, that is, from chastisement, (in which light the apostle represents the persecutions to which the Christians were exposed,) if God judges, and, by various temporal afflictions and calamities, punishes him, where shall the ungodly and impenitent sinner appear? How terrible will be the wrath which will fall upon him? If the faults of the loyal subject, yea, of the dutiful son, be not passed over unnoticed, unchastised, by the holy and just Governor and Judge of the world, what has not the enemy and rebel to fear? Perhaps this may be the chief meaning of the apostle, and not the deliverance of the Christians from the Roman invasion, in which very few of them were concerned, to whom the apostle addressed his epistle; namely, those sojourning in Pontus, &c. See chap. 1 Peter 1:1. And the passage may be intended to signify also the difficulty with which pious men get to heaven, through this dangerous and insnaring world. Compare Acts 14:18; Acts 27:7-8; Acts 27:16. where the word μολις, here used, signifies with difficulty. “The turn of the latter clause of the verse in the original, που φανειται, is very lively; it seems as if the apostle were solicitous to lead the sinner to consider where he should hide his head, since wherever he was he would find God immediately appearing against him as an irresistible enemy. This he might say, by way of warning to persecutors, and to encourage Christians to hope that God would vindicate their cause, and preserve them from turning aside to crooked paths. And this the connection with the following verse favours.” — Doddridge.

4:12-19 By patience and fortitude in suffering, by dependence on the promises of God, and keeping to the word the Holy Spirit hath revealed, the Holy Spirit is glorified; but by the contempt and reproaches cast upon believers, he is evil spoken of, and is blasphemed. One would think such cautions as these were needless to Christians. But their enemies falsely charged them with foul crimes. And even the best of men need to be warned against the worst of sins. There is no comfort in sufferings, when we bring them upon ourselves by our own sin and folly. A time of universal calamity was at hand, as foretold by our Saviour, Mt 24:9,10. And if such things befall in this life, how awful will the day of judgment be! It is true that the righteous are scarcely saved; even those who endeavour to walk uprightly in the ways of God. This does not mean that the purpose and performance of God are uncertain, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way; that they go through so many temptations and tribulations, so many fightings without and fears within. Yet all outward difficulties would be as nothing, were it not for lusts and corruptions within. These are the worst clogs and troubles. And if the way of the righteous be so hard, then how hard shall be the end of the ungodly sinner, who walks in sin with delight, and thinks the righteous is a fool for all his pains! The only way to keep the soul well, is, to commit it to God by prayer, and patient perseverance in well-doing. He will overrule all to the final advantage of the believer.And if the righteous scarcely be saved - If they are saved with difficulty. The word used here (μόλις molis) occurs in the following places: Acts 14:18, "scarce restrained they the people;" Acts 27:7, "and scarce were come over against Cnidus;" 1 Peter 4:8, "and hardly passing it;" 1 Peter 4:16, "we had much work to come by the boat" - literally, we were able with difficulty to get the boat; Romans 5:7, "scarcely for a righteous man will one die;" and in the passage before us. The word implies that there is some difficulty, or obstruction, so that the thing came very near not to happen, or so that there was much risk about it. Compare Luke 13:31. The apostle in this passage seems to have had his eye on a verse in Proverbs, Proverbs 11:31, and he has merely expanded and illustrated it: "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." By the question which he employs, he admits that the righteous are saved with difficulty, or that there are perils which jeopard their salvation, and which are of such a kind as to make it very near not to happen. They would indeed be saved, but it would be in such a manner as to show that the circumstances were such as to render it, to human appearances, doubtful and problematical. This peril may have arisen from many circumstances:

(a) The difficulty of forming a plan of salvation, involving a degree of wisdom wholly beyond that of man, and of such a character that beforehand it would have been problematical and doubtful whether it could be. There was but one way in which it could be done. But what human wisdom could have devised that, or thought of it? There was but one being who could save. But who would have supposed that the Son of God would have been willing to become a man, and to die on a cross to do it? If he had been unwilling to come and die, the righteous could not have been saved.

(b) The difficulty of bringing those who are saved to a willingness to accept of salvation. All were disposed alike to reject it; and there were many obstacles in the human heart, arising from pride, and selfishness, and unbelief, and the love of sin, which must be overcome before any would accept of the offer of mercy. There was but one agent who could overcome these things, and induce any of the race to embrace the gospel - the Holy Spirit. But who could have anticipated that the Spirit of God would have undertaken to renew and sanctify the polluted human heart? Yet, if he had failed, there could have been no salvation for any.

(c) The difficulty of keeping them from falling away amidst the temptations and allurements of the world. Often it seems to be wholly doubtful whether those who have been converted will be kept to eternal life. They have so little religion; they yield so readily to temptation; they conform so much to the world; they have so little strength to bear up under trials, that it seems as if there was no power to preserve them and bring them to heaven. They are saved when they seemed almost ready to yield everything.

(d) The difficulty of rescuing them from the power of the great enemy of souls. The adversary has vast power, and he means, if be can, to destroy those who are the children of God. Often they are in most imminent danger, and it seems to be a question of doubtful issue whether they will not be entirely overcome and perish. It is no small matter to rescue a soul from the dominion of Satan, and to bring it to heaven, so that it shall be eternally safe. Through the internal struggles and the outward conflicts of life, it seems often a matter of doubt whether with all their effort they will be saved; and when they are saved, they will feel that they have been rescued from thousands of dangers, and that there has been many a time when they have stood on the very verge of ruin, and when, to human appearances, it was scarcely possible that they could be saved.

Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? - What hope is there of their salvation? The meaning is, that they would certainly perish; and the doctrine in the passage is, that the fact that the righteous are saved with so much difficulty is proof that the wicked will not be saved at all. This follows, because:

(a) there is the same difficulty in their salvation which there was in the salvation of those who became righteous; the same difficulty arising from the love of sin, the hardness of the heart, and the arts and power of the adversary.

(b) No one can be saved without effort, and in fact the righteous are saved only by constant and strenuous effort on their part.

But the wicked make no effort for their own salvation. They make use of no means for it; they put forth no exertions to obtain it; they do not make it a part of their plan of life. How, then, can they be saved? But where will they appear? I:answer:

(a) they will appear somewhere. They will not cease to exist when they pass away from this world. Not one of them will be annihilated; and though they vanish from the earth, and will be seen here no more, yet they will make their appearance in some other part of the universe.

(b) They will appear at the judgment-seat, as all others will, to receive their sentence according to the deeds done in the body. It follows from this:

(1) that the wicked will certainly be destroyed. If the righteous are scarcely saved, how can they be?

(2) that there will be a state of future punishment, for this refers to what is to occur in the future world.

(3) that the punishment of the wicked will be eternal, for it is the opposite of what is meant by saved. The time will never come when it will be said that they are saved! But if so, their punishment must be eternal!

18. scarcely—Compare "so as by fire," 1Co 3:15; having to pass through trying chastisements, as David did for his sin. "The righteous" man has always more or less of trial, but the issue is certain, and the entrance into the kingdom abundant at last. The "scarcely" marks the severity of the ordeal, and the unlikelihood (in a mere human point of view) of the righteous sustaining it; but the righteousness of Christ and God's everlasting covenant make it all sure.

ungodly—having no regard for God; negative description.

sinner—loving sin; positive; the same man is at once God-forgetting and sin-loving.

appear—in judgment.

Scarcely be saved; with much labour and difficulty, through many tribulations, Acts 14:22, as going in the narrow way, and entering in at the strait gate, Matthew 7:13,14.

The ungodly and the sinner; unbelievers and impenitent sinners of all sorts; both words signify the same, in opposition to the righteous before mentioned.

Appear; he shall not be able to stand in God’s judgment against the sentence of condemnation then to be pronounced, Psalm 1:5: q.d. If the righteous scarcely be saved, the wicked shall certainly perish.

And if the righteous scarcely be saved,.... Reference is had to Proverbs 11:31 where in the Septuagint version are the same words as here: the "righteous" are such, not who are so in their own opinion, or merely in the esteem of others, nor on account of their vility, morality, and external righteousness before men, or by the deeds of the law; but who are made righteous by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them: and such are "scarcely saved"; not as if they were but in part saved, for they are completely saved; Christ has wrought out and finished a complete salvation for them; and they are saved from all enemies, and everything that might hurt them; from sin, Satan, the law, the world, hell, and death; and they are completely justified, and have all their sins pardoned, and shall be perfectly saved: nor as if their salvation was doubtful; for though they are scarcely, yet certainly saved; for they are chosen to salvation, and Christ has obtained it for them, and they have the application of it already made to them by the blessed Spirit; and being justified, or made righteous persons, nothing is more certain than that they shall be glorified: but they are said to be "scarcely" saved, because of the difficulty of it, both with respect to Christ, who met with difficulties in working out their salvation; by reason of the strictness of divine justice, and the demands of the righteous law, which would make no abatement; the sins of his people he had to bear, and make atonement for; the many enemies he had to grapple with, and the accursed death of the cross, he had to undergo; though they were such he was able to surmount, and did: and especially with respect to the saints themselves; for though their salvation is certain and complete, being finished by Christ, yet their enjoyment of it is attended with many difficulties; by reason of the corruptions of nature, a law in their members warring against the law of their minds; the frequent temptations of Satan, who seeks to devour them, and their wrestlings with principalities and powers, which are above their match; and also by reason of various afflictions and persecutions, and many tribulations, which make their way to eternal life a strait way, and through which they must enter into the kingdom of heaven: and if this be their case, as it is,

where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? the profane sinner, the Christless, impenitent, unbelieving, and unregenerate man; otherwise all men are sinners, in themselves; but here it means such as are destitute of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit, and the justifying righteousness of Christ, and that live and die in their sins: where shall such appear? not in the congregation of the righteous; nor at the right hand of Christ; nor in heaven, into which no defiled sinner shall enter; nor even on earth, among and under the rocks and mountains, which will not be able to hide them from the face of the Judge, and his wrath, when he shall come; but at Christ's left hand, and in hell, and among the devils and damned there.

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
1 Peter 4:18. Strengthening of the foregoing thought by quotation of the O. T. passage, Proverbs 11:31, after the LXX., whose translation, however, is inexact (cf. Delitzsch in loc.).

ὁ δίκαιος “is he who stands in a right relation to God” (Schott), that is, the believer who belongs to the οἶκ. τ. Θεοῦ; ὁ ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλός, the unbeliever (ὁ ἀπειθῶν τῷ τ. Θ. εὐαγγ.). μόλις σώζεται is not, with Gerhard, to be referred to the fact, that for the pious non nisi per multas tribulationes ingressus in regnum coeleste pateat, but that it is difficult (μόλις, scarcely, with great difficulty) to stand in the judgment (1 Peter 4:17), and to attain σωτηρία.

ποῦ φανεῖται] “where will he appear?” that is, he will not stand, but will be annihilated. The same thought as in Psalm 1:5.

1 Peter 4:18. To the summary excerpt from Ezekiel Peter appends the Septuagint version of Proverbs 11:31, which is followed by the Syriac and partially by the Targum: The original—according to the Masoretic text—is Behold or if the righteous will be punished on the earth: how much more the wicked and the sinner. The Greek, which probably represents a different Hebrew text, is more apt to his purpose and to the teaching of Jesus, which provoked the question, Who then can be saved (Mark 10:24-26).

18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved] Once more we have a passage from the Old Testament (Proverbs 11:31) without any formula of quotation. In this instance the Apostle quotes from the LXX. version, though it is hardly more than an inaccurate paraphrase of the Hebrew, which runs “the righteous shall be requited” (the word may mean “punished”) “upon earth, much more the ungodly and the sinner.” St Peter, following the LXX., omits the words “upon earth,” which limit the application of the proverb to temporal chastisements; but it is obvious, as he is speaking primarily of the fiery trial of persecution, that he includes these as well as the issue of the final judgment. A time of “great tribulation,” such as Christ had foretold, was coming on the earth, in which, but for the elect’s sake, “no flesh should be saved” (Matthew 24:22). The “un-godly” and the “sinner” correspond to “those that obey not” in the previous verse, the former pointing to sins against God, the latter to sins against man.

1 Peter 4:18. Καὶ εἰ ὁ δίκαιοςφανεῖται; and if the righteousappear?) Proverbs 11:31, Septuagint, εἰ ὁ μὲν δίκαιος μόλις σώζεται, ὁ ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται; Very heavy chastisements are inflicted upon the righteous, when they at any time meanwhile offend: how much heavier punishments shall the wicked suffer? The persecution of Nero preceded the calamity of the Jews by a few years. The righteous, the ungodly, and the sinner. A semi-double sentence.[38] A man is righteous with reference to his neighbour, ungodly with reference to God, a sinner with reference to himself. We must therefore supply, by the force of the opposites in the first proposition, εὐσεβὴς, godly; and ὅσιος, holy: in the second proposition, ἄδικος, unjust.—μόλις) with difficulty [Comp. Matthew 25:5; Matthew 25:9]. This is softened, 2 Peter 1:11, πλουσίως, abundantly.

[38] See Append. on SEMIDUPLEX ORATIO.—E.

Verse 18. - And if the righteous scarcely be saved. St. Peter is quoting the Septuagint Version of Proverbs 11:31. That version departs considerably from the Hebrew, which is accurately represented by the Authorized Version, "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more the wicked and the sinner." Probably the word rendered" recompensed," which is neutral in its meaning, is best understood here, not of the good deeds of the righteous, but of the sin which still cleaves to all human righteousness. The righteous shall be requited in the earth, that is, chastised for his transgressions. So it would be now, St. Peter says; judgment must begin at the house of God. He adopts the inexact Septuagint translation for its substantial truth, as we now sometimes use versions which are sufficient for practical purposes, though we know them to be critically inaccurate. We observe again the absence of marks of quotation, as often in St. Peter. Bengel well remarks that the awful "scarcely" (μόλις σώζεται) is softened by 2 Peter 1:11. Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? The" ungodly "are the impious, scoffers, and blasphemers; the" sinners" are men of profligate and dissolute lives. But the words are (probably) included under one article in the Greek; the men were the same; one form of evil led to the other (comp. Psalm 1:5; see also Matthew 19:25). 1 Peter 4:18
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