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1 Peter 4:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Judgment must begin at the house of God - Our Lord had predicted that, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem, his own followers would have to endure various calamities; see Matthew 24:9, Matthew 24:21, Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:12, Mark 13:13; John 16:2, etc. Here his true disciples are called the house or family of God. That the converted Jews suffered much from their own brethren, the zealots, or factions into which the Jews were at that time divided, needs little proof; and some interpreters think that this was in conformity to the purpose of God, ( Matthew 23:35; : That on you may come all the righteous blood shed from the foundation of the world), "that the Jewish Christians were to be involved in the general punishment; and that it was proper to begin at them as a part of the devoted Jewish nation, notwithstanding they were now become the house of God, because the justice of God would thereby be more illustriously displayed." See Macknight. But probably the word κριμα, which we here translate judgment, may mean no more than affliction and distress; for it was a Jewish maxim that, when God was about to pour down some general judgment, he began with afflicting his own people in order to correct and amend them, that they might be prepared for the overflowing scourge. In Bava Kama, fol. 60, 1, we have the same sentiment, and in nearly the same words, as in Peter, viz.: "God never punishes the world but because of the wicked, but he always begins with the righteous first. The destroyer makes no difference between the just and the unjust, only he begins first with the righteous." See Ezekiel 9:1-7, where God orders the destroyer to slay both old and young in the city: But, said he, begin at my sanctuary.

And if it first begin at us - Jews, who have repented, and believed on the Son of God; what shall the end be of them - the Jews who continue impenitent, and obey not the Gospel of God? Here is the plainest reference to the above Jewish maxim; and this, it appears, was founded upon the text which St. Peter immediately quotes.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For the time is come - That is, this is now to be expected. There is reason to think that this trial will now occur, and there is a propriety that it should be made. Probably the apostle referred to some indications then apparent that this was about to take place.

That judgment must begin - The word “judgment” here ( κρίμα krima) seems to mean “the severe trial which would determine character.” It refers to such calamities as would settle the question whether there was any religion, or would test the value of that which was professed. It was to “begin” at the house of God, or be applied to the church first, in order that the nature and worth of religion might be seen. The reference is, doubtless, to some fearful calamity which would primarily fall on the “house of God;” that is, to some form of persecution which was to be let loose upon the church.

At the house of God - Benson, Bloomfield, and many others, suppose that this refers to the Jews, and to the calamities that were to come around the temple and the holy city about to be destroyed. But the more obvious reference is to Christians, spoken of as the house or family of God. There is probably in the language here an allusion to Ezekiel 9:6; “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; and begin at my sanctuary.” Compare Jeremiah 25:29. But the language used here by the apostle does not denote literally the temple, or the Jews, but those who were in his time regarded as the people of God - Christians - the church. So the phrase (בּית יהוה bēyt Yahweh) “house of Yahweh” is used to denote the family or people of God, Numbers 12:7; Hosea 8:1. Compare also 1 Timothy 3:15 and the note on that verse. The sense here is, therefore, that the series of calamities referred to were to commence with the church, or were to come first upon the people of God. Schoettgen here aptly quotes a passage from the writings of the Rabbis: “Punishments never come into the world unless the wicked are in it; but they do not begin unless they commence first with the righteous.”

And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? - If God brings such trials upon us who have obeyed his gospel, what have we not reason to suppose he will bring upon those who are yet in their sins? And if we are selected first as the objects of this visitation, if there is that in us which requires such a method of dealing, what are we to suppose will occur in the end with those who make no pretensions to religion, but are yet living in open transgression? The sentiment is, that if God deals thus strictly with his people; if there is that in them which makes the visitations of his judgment proper on them, there is a certainty that they who are not his people, but who live in iniquity, will in the end be overwhelmed with the tokens of severer wrath. Their punishment hereafter will be certain; and who can tell what will be the measure of its severity? Every wicked man, when he sees the trials which God brings upon his own people, should tremble under the apprehension of the deeper calamity which will hereafter come upon himself. We may remark:

(1) that the judgments which God brings upon his own people make it certain that the wicked will be punished. If he does not spare his own people, why should he spare others?

(2) the punishment of the wicked is merely delayed. It begins at the house of God. Christians are tried, and are recalled from their wanderings, and are prepared by discipline for the heavenly world. The punishment of the wicked is often delayed to a future world, and in this life they have almost uninterrupted prosperity, but in the end it will be certain. See Psalm 73:1-19. The punishment will come in the end. It cannot be evaded. Sooner or later justice requires that the wicked should be visited with the expressions of divine displeasure on account of sin, and in the future world there will be ample time for the infliction of all the punishment which they deserve.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 480

In the typical service only those who had come before God with confession and repentance, and whose sins, through the blood of the sin offering, were transferred to the sanctuary, had a part in the service of the Day of Atonement. So in the great day of final atonement and investigative judgment the only cases considered are those of the professed people of God. The judgment of the wicked is a distinct and separate work, and takes place at a later period. “Judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel?” 1 Peter 4:17. GC 480.1

The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment. Says the prophet Daniel: “The judgment was set, and the books were opened.” The revelator, describing the same scene, adds: “Another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Revelation 20:12. GC 480.2

The book of life contains the names of all who have ever entered the service of God. Jesus bade His disciples: “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20. Paul speaks of his faithful fellow workers, “whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3. Daniel, looking down to “a time of trouble, such as never was,” declares that God's people shall be delivered, “everyone that shall be found written in the book.” And the revelator says that those only shall enter the city of God whose names “are written in the Lamb's book of life.” Daniel 12:1; Revelation 21:27. GC 480.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 198

I was also shown that the parable of the unjust steward was to teach us a lesson. “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” If we use our means to God's glory here, we lay up a treasure in heaven; and when earthly possessions are all gone, the faithful steward has Jesus and angels for his friends, to receive him home to everlasting habitations. 1T 198.1

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” He that is faithful in his earthly possessions, which are least, making a judicious use of what God has lent him here, will be true to his profession. “He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” He that will withhold from God that which He has lent him, will be unfaithful in the things of God in every respect. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” If we prove unfaithful in the management of what God lends us here, He will never give us the immortal inheritance. “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?” Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours; but we are placed here on probation to see if we will prove worthy of eternal life. God proves us by trusting us with earthly possessions. If we are faithful to impart freely of what He has lent us, to advance His cause, God can entrust to us the immortal inheritance. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1T 198.2

God is displeased with the slack, loose manner in which many of His professed people conduct their worldly business. They seem to have lost all sense of the fact that the property they are using belongs to God, and that they must render to Him an account of their stewardship. Some leave their worldly business in perfect confusion. Satan has his eye on it all, and he strikes at a favorable opportunity, and by his management takes much means out of the ranks of Sabbathkeepers. And this means goes into his ranks. Some who are aged are unwilling to make any settlement of their worldly business, and in an unexpected moment they sicken and die. Their children who have no interest in the truth, take the property. Satan has managed it as suited him. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?” 1T 199.1

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