“And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:18.
Many Christians appeal to 1 Peter 4:18 to say that if we do our best as Christians, we will barely be saved. Consequently, many Christians do not have confidence about their salvation. God wants us to know that we have eternal life that our joy many be full (1 John 1:4; 5:13). God does not want us to live in continual anxiety about our eternal destinies, but rather to have confidence at Christ’s coming (1 John 2:28). Does 1 Peter 4:18 tell us that we, as Christians, will barely be saved?
First Peter is a book about suffering. In 1 Peter 4:12, Peter begins talking about the trials that will soon come upon the Christians that were the original recipients of this letter. The time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was fraught with wars and persecutions from various groups (Matt. 24:6-12). Nero set fire to Rome and blamed Christians; thus, Roman persecution of Christians was a danger. The Jewish arm of persecution on Christians reached beyond Jerusalem to other cities that were strongholds for Judaism (Acts 9:2; 14:19; 17:5-9; 26:11). These Christians were about to suffer because they owned Christ as their Lord. They were encouraged by Peter to rejoice for the reason they were persecuted was “for the name of Christ” (1 Peter 4:14).
In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter talks about an imminent judgment. We know that he cannot be referring to the final judgment because as we stand here today it has yet to come. Nearly 2,000 years away would not be described as “the time has come” (1 Peter 4:17). The judgment is a period of severe trial upon the church, the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15); this would take place in the years leading up to the Roman-Jewish War. Thus, in 1 Peter 4:18, Peter is not talking about the salvation of their souls from sin, but rather the salvation of their lives from the bloodshed in this upcoming war. When Peter talked about their souls being saved, he painted a very different picture. In 2 Peter 1:11, he writes, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” These then must be different salvations, for one is said to be scarce while they other is abundant. The Christians who obeyed Jesus’ warnings of Matthew 24:4-35 would barely be saved from the bloodshed of the severe trial that was soon to come upon the church, but Christians who walk in the light of God’s commands are given an abundant entrance into the heavenly kingdom.
Take heart, Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus is the captain of your salvation (Heb. 2:10), and because of who He is, those who are saved do not barely squeak by, but dwell in the love of God and are made whole, that boldness may be theirs in the day of judgment (1 John 4:14-18).