“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17, NASB95)
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about the “hypocrites” at church, and how the church having them is an excuse for others not putting their foot insider the doors. The reality of us living as people who are saved in Christ but who have not yet left our bodies behind to join His presence is that we still stumble and even sin. Though our sins have been taken upon Himself by our Savior Jesus Christ and we have been 100% forgiven, we still struggle with the desires of the flesh and the ways of the world. We engage in spiritual battles in many ways, and we even lose some of those same skirmishes over and over again. The amazing thing is that God knew absolutely every single aspect of this before He ever sent His Son. If fact, He knew it from before the foundation of the world and Him ever creating man. He knew He was to create Adam and Eve and that they would sin.
I don’t think there was anything earth shattering in the above statement or that would rock our understanding of being a Christian. Just speaking about the tongue, James wrote, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” (James 3:6–10, NASB95)
The last words of this passage state the obvious truth, “these things ought not to be this way.” It is this “ought not to be this way” that Peter is writing about in this passage today. As believers we are to continually put off the old ways as we have our minds renewed by the Word of God, and put on the new ways. Rather than spending a lot of time discussing this, I am going to cite some verses that speak to this.
“How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.” … “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9, 11, NASB95)
“that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:22–24, NASB95)
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16–25, NASB95)
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2, NASB95)
Clearly, we are to be about living differently than we did before becoming a Christian. This is not something we muscle through, but something God enables us to do as we hide His Word in our hearts and entrust ourselves to the help of His Spirit. Having said this, there are times when we all need help in the process. We need to be taught. We need to be shown where we are off course and how to get back on course, and we need to be encouraged in the journey. God does this through His Word and through each of us as Christians as we engage in this process with one another.
This is what we read in 1 Thessalonians 5. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB95) The Thessalonian believers were doing well here. They were actively engaged in helping each other to grow in Christ. Having encouraged them in the good that they had been doing, Paul went on to get specific about some of the details that they may have been missing or in which they may have needed some tweaking. He added, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14–15, NASB95) Did you notice the word “urge”? It has the meaning of exhorting or pleading or coming alongside to encourage. We are told that we are to be involved with one another in the building up of each other, even to extent of getting involved with the ugly stuff. As Christians, we are to grow together into accurately reflecting the image of Christ.
God takes this seriously. Peter wrote “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God….” This term “household” refers to a dwelling place or an inhabited building, and here it speaks of God purging His church. This is where judgment is to begin. This is not the judgment for salvation, because if we have placed our trust in Christ then we are truly saved and nothing can be done to remove us from His hand. He is the One that holds onto us, and we are to entrust ourselves obediently to Him in response. But the Bible does speak about God disciplining those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Comparing us to the father and child relationship, we read just a few verses later: “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:10–11, NASB95)
As believers, both individually and corporately, God will deal with us when we turn our eyes from Him and seek after other things. Here Peter speaks directly to the “household of God” or the church. When the church turns its eyes from God to other things God will judge the church. We see this in the first chapters of Revelation where we read that God had something against the churches.
To the church at Ephesus, after commending them for their works, a warning was given: “‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:4–7, NASB95)
To the church at Pergamum the following warning was given: “‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. ‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” (Revelation 2:14–16, NASB95)
And to the churches at Thyatira and Sardis He also had charges against them from which they were exhorted to turn lest they also incur judgment. The last of the churches was the one in Laodicea, which He said He would spew out of His mouth because it was lukewarm. To each of these He gave a warning and a promise. But there were two to whom the words were not so harsh. To the church of Smyrna there was an encouragement to endure the harsh treatment of Satan to come upon them knowing that ahead for them was laid the crown of life. And to the church at Philadelphia He said, “‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. ‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. ‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. ‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Revelation 3:8–11, NASB95)
The relationship between Christ and His church is a priority. We are in a time when the church is being prepared for her groom as we look forward to joining in His presence at a great wedding feast. When the church turns, God will deal with it, and for some local churches this means that their light will cease to shine. God takes this very seriously. Christ’s plan for His church is so much better as we read in Ephesians chapter 5, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;” (Ephesians 5:25–28, NASB95)
In just a couple of verses Peter turns his attention to the leaders of the church. On them God has placed a great responsibility to oversee His sheep and to keep them on track such that the things warned against here do not happen. The other side of this is the incredible joy that we have in store as we are received together in heaven as one church to be with our Lord forever. It is with that hope that we live now according to His image that we bear.
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NASB95)