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God’s Word for You

1 Peter 4:17-19 from the family of God

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 17, 2022

17 For it is time for judgment to begin with [from] the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

I placed another word, “from,” in brackets following “with,” because it more accurately reflects the Greek text. We must remember that discipline (chastisement) is different from punishment. Punishment is reserved for unforgiven sins, but discipline and also testing have no connection with sin, but are imposed on believers by God out of his fatherly grace. When God disciplines us, he acts as a father to us (Hebrews 12:7) and he acknowledges us as his children (Hebrews 12:8). Therefore our crosses do not come on account of sins. While the essence of the cross (that is, the believer’s cross, Matthew 10:38; Mark 8:34) is suffering, this suffering is not in connection with punishment for sin. God does not discipline the one he is angry with, but the one he loves (Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19). So God permits our suffering to test our faith, and he uses tools for discipline; tools with familiar names: the devil (2 Corinthians 12:7), the world (John 15:19), and our sinful nature (James 1:14).

What Peter is describing is the cross (human suffering) God uses to keep us in the knowledge of our sins. God also teaches this in the prophets: “I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice” (Jeremiah 30:11). Gerhard asks: “Why and to what end does God impose such punishments and calamities upon the reconciled?” (XVIII §125). That is to say, why does God send such crosses and punishment upon us, his believing children, who know that we have a Savior? The answer: “(These things) are not merits for the forgiveness of sins nor compensations for eternal punishment nor satisfaction for sin. Rather, among others (the wicked) they are public signs of God’s judgment against sins (Numbers 12:14). With respect to the devout, they are reminders of what has already happened and warnings against what is to come.” So when war, disease, pestilence and other disasters and calamities come upon us, a special hatred and loathing of sin grows within us along with an anxious desire to retain God’s grace, and a diligence to be careful about sin. They are “the reigns which restrain the flesh” (Gerhard once again) to keep us from indulging in sin over and over again.

God keeps us from thinking lightly of our sins by reminding us, in his fatherly way, of the seriousness of sin. For sin separates us from God and from God’s love, and with his love he keeps drawing us back to himself. “Paul calls the effect of his own cross the killing of his outward man” (Hoenecke, citing 2 Corinthians 4:8,16).

The cross of Christ, of course, atoned for our sins, and the little crosses of this lifetime give glory to God. So Peter is saying that while punishment begins among God’s house, it marches outward from there into and among the unbelievers and the wicked. If God punishes his own children, those who strive to obey his gospel, what about those who persecute his children? What about those who do not obey his gospel? Their punishment will be unbearable and eternal. “The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever” (Revelation 14:11).

18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)

Peter is quoting Proverbs 11:31, for Solomon makes the same point Peter is making. If we suffer at the hands of the wicked for doing good and for believing in Christ, why would we do anything else? What awaits those who do not put their faith in Christ?

When God corrects me along the path of my life, now with a nudge, now with something stronger, I am glad to have him always at my side. For although his daily corrections bring me some little pain, and my own godly avoidance of sin might seem to diminish pleasure, the truth is that the goal of my life is kept firmly in sight at all times because my loving God disciplines me. More than that, he even trains me to discipline myself, although I am never the master of this; I am always a novice, an amateur, and a dilettante. Lord Jesus, guide me in your way. You are the Way.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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