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The Terrible Horror of Faithfulness

Peter’s pen scratched out what appear to be some of the most frightening words in the bible. In 1 Peter 4:12-18, the apostle warns that judgment will begin with the house of God. While declaring that it begins with “us,” he asked; what will happen to the ungodly and the sinner, since the righteous are barely or scarcely saved? It’s easy to see how his words might produce a feeling of dread among those who consider themselves to be believers and followers. Judgment is a word that means a penal reckoning for wrongdoing. Perhaps it even means a kind of vengeance (Deuteronomy 32:35). The Christian might wonder what kind of harsh punishment awaits him. Whatever it is, Peter argues that it will be barely passable!

Thankfully, he doesn’t leave us on that fearful note. Instead, he reassures us that we must trust our righteous suffering to a faithful God (1 Peter 4:19). And it is that word “faithful,” that should bring the Christian joy and hope instead of dread and fear. The word carries the meaning of trustworthiness, loyalty, and steadfastness. God is faithful, loyal, trustworthy, and steadfast regarding his promise to complete in us that which he has started (Philippians 1:6). The thing which he has started is to spiritually transform us into the kind of person that can call Jesus a brother (Romans 8:28-29). This means that any judgment he brings to those in his house is for the purpose of removing any vestiges that are un-Christlike, and to forge in their place a kind of character that conforms us into the image of his perfect son. The bible’s narrative is full of examples of that kind of faithfulness. More importantly, true Christians find proof of that faithfulness as they examine their lives, and note what God has done for them at every stage – even in those stages that were difficult, and appeared to be barely passable!

But the word “faithful” should be terrifying to any human being who chooses relentless rebellion against God. This is because God will be steadfast, trustworthy, loyal and faithful in his judgment to allow such a person to acquire those ungodly things which they desire over goodness. Since their desire is to be separate from God, and to bask in their own perceived wisdom, God will faithfully turn them over to their own way of thinking (Romans 1:28), and they will then follow that thinking to a separation from all that can rightly be called good. They will live in an eternal torture of their own doing.

God rewards holy faith with faithfulness to his promises, and he also punishes an intractable, fruitless rebellion with the same kind of faithfulness to his promises.

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