Dear ones, don’t be surprised when you experience your trial by fire. It is not something strange and unusual, but it is something you should rejoice in. In it you share the Jesus’ sufferings, and you will be that much more joyful when His glory is revealed. If anyone condemns you for following Jesus, consider yourself blessed. The glorious Spirit of God rests on you. But none of you should ever merit suffering like those who have murdered or stolen, meddled in the affairs of others or done evil things. But if you should suffer for being a Christian, don’t think of it as a disgrace, as it would be if you had done wrong. Praise God that you’re permitted to carry this name.
For the time for judgment has come, and it is beginning with the household of God. If it is starting with us, what will happen to those who have rejected God’s good news? It is written in Proverbs, “If it is hard for the righteous ones to be saved,what will happen to the ungodly and the sinners?” So even if you should suffer now for doing God’s will, continue doing good and trust your futures to the judgment and mercy of a faithful Creator.
Four points in this section, three of which we’ve covered already in this book, and the fourth, which will be our focus today.
- First, it is not a strange or unusual thing for the people of God to face trials or be persecuted because of their faith.
- Second, it’s not persecution if you are reaping the sin that you sowed. Don’t do evil things, and don’t meddle in the affairs of others.
- Third, in the midst of trials, remember that Christians get the Holy Spirit now and glory later.
- Fourth, God is a righteous judge– and it starts in His people.
What does this mean? Honestly, there is a lot of speculation surrounding this. It’s probably a quote of a common proverb, and figuring out Peter’s specific purpose in this context is not an easy thing. His audience probably made the automatic connections because it was their culture and their proverb. It’s a little harder 2,000 years later But, we are going to give it a shot :)
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‘Judgment’ may mean affliction and distress God sends to purify His people.
In the Old Testament era, the Jews believed that if God was going to judge the world for something, He would begin with His own people.
- See Ezekiel 9:1-7; Ezekiel has a vision of God’s judgment for sin, and it begins in the Temple.
- In Jeremiah 25, when God talks about judging the nations, the first cup that Jeremiah delivers is to Jerusalem. In fact, God judges Judah with the Babylonians before he judges the Babylonians.
- In Malachi 3, when God approaches the temple, Malachi wonders if anyone will be left standing as God purifies the priests.
- The Talmud states (Bava Kama, fol. 60,1): "God never punishes the world but because of the wicked, but he always begins with the righteous first..."
The idea seems to be that if God is going to judge those who are not His people, expect Him to clean house first. He will deal with His own before He moves to others. It’s not a good show to hold the world accountable for something you overlook close to home. Those who have positioned themselves closest to God will be the first to be held accountable.
It’s one reason I get frustrated when I hear discussion that natural disasters in the U.S. are God’s judgment on the United States. If God uses natural disasters under the New Covenant in the same way he did in the Old Covenant – and that’s an “if” we can discuss in Message Plus - then the first place we should look when we think something is God’s divine judgment is within our own walls. It’s hard to imagine that God would let his church rot from within while cleaning up all around it. We are to be salt and light; if the world is lacking salt and light, that’s an “us” problem, not a “them” problem.
“Judgment” might simply be discipline (Hebrews 12:4–11) designed to purge the sin from our lives and teach us obedience. 
“Scripture makes a distinction between God’s purifying discipline of the church and His ultimate condemnation of the wicked. (1 Corinthians 11:31-32): ‘But if we took care to judge ourselves, then we wouldn’t have to worry about being judged by another. In fact, the Lord’s hand of judgment is correcting us so that we don’t suffer the same fate as the rest of the rebellious world: condemnation.’”
The judgment or condemnation of sinful actions in God’s people is always meant to bring about maturity, conviction, and repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10; James 1:2–4; James 4:8) so that, as Romans 8:17says, “we may also share in his glory.”
Another way of viewing this is to think of this as the way in which God separates the wheat from the tares (weeds) in the church (Matthew 13).It is a winnowing the separates true believers from social club members. In this way, judgment begins in the house of God. There’s a sifting among God’s people by God Himself.
So, Judgment begins in the house of God means:
- Disciplinebegins in the house of God.
- Accountability begins in the house of God.
- Weeding (holiness; separation)begins in the house of God.
- Justicefalls first in the house of God.
- Integrity and purityis demanded first in the house of God.
- Moral responsibilitybegins in the house of God.
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Here’s the hard summary:
If we are looking for God’s righteous judgment to fall on something in our culture, God’s righteous judgment will begin in the church, and it might be accomplished through the culture we want judged.
God won’t judge lust in the culture until we’ve dealt with lust in the church. 34% of women, 37% of pastors, an around 65% of men in the church currently struggle with or intentionally access pornography. Pastoral stats are about the same.
God won’t judge abortion in our culture until we have dealt with abortion in the church. TheAlan Guttmacher Institute reports that 43% of aborting women identify themselves as Protestant, while 27% identify themselves as Catholic. That’s 70% of all abortions in the U.S. The best place to protest, pray and offer counsel is close to churches.
God won’t judge sexual sin in the culture until we have dealt with sexual sin in the church.
- Approximately 45 percent of Christians indicate having done something sexually inappropriate, and 23 percent having sex outside of marriage. The church has its own #metoo movement right now.
- Since 1993, about 2.4 million young people have signed a TLW pledge. Just 12 percent kept their promise. The rates for having sexually transmitted diseases "were almost identical for the teenagers who took pledges and those who did not.".24(http://www3.dbu.edu/jeanhumphreys/SocialPsych/evangelicalmind.htm
- “For the last twenty years, thousands of men from across America struggling with sexual sin have come to our intensive counseling workshop. Over half were pastors and missionaries.” – Harry Schaumburg, “Sexual Sin In The Minstry”
God won’t judge materialism and greed in the culture until we have dealt with materialism and greed in the church.
- “Meaning and purpose comes from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life.” This is a view held by one-fifth of practicing Christians (20%); it’s held by 37% of those under 40.” (Barna and Summit Ministries)
- “Today, on average, evangelicals in the U.S. give about 4% to the church. In 2002, Barna discovered that only 6 % of born-again adults did so—a 50 percent decline from 2000, when 12 percent did. And in 2002, just 9 percent of Barna's narrow class of evangelicals gave to the church.16” So, 9% give an average of 4%. (http://www3.dbu.edu/jeanhumphreys/SocialPsych/evangelicalmind.htm)
God won’t judge gossip and lies in the culture until we have dealt with gossip and lies in the church. I am pretty sure I have seen just as much fake news spread on social media by Christians than by non-Christians. We seem eager to want the worst to be true of others, and we have no problem distorting facts or fabricating them to further our agenda.
God won’t judge the vulgarity and the coarseness of our culture until we have dealt with vulgarity and coarseness in the church.
The White House Correspondent’s roast was disrespectful and demeaning to our President and his administration (as well as a lot of other people). Our President has been just as offensive in his disrespect and demeaning of others. Why would Christians decry one and not the other when God is displeased with both? If judgment is going to begin about what people enable or even applaud in our culture, let it begin with what people of God defend and applaud.
I hear a lot of discussion about how our nation is increasingly offering legal challenges to Christian actions and morality. Even as President Trump appoints more professing Christians to political positions than any other President and issues 25 page memos from the Justice Department on religious freedom, we seem to be losing ground in how people view us and how our rights play out.
My opinion – and it’s just my opinion – is that the OT gives us insight meant for us today. God will get His people’s attention, even if He has to use Babylon as the means to do so. If there is to be judgment, it will begin in His people, and it will begin in His Temple, with His priests. And the church is the temple, and we are all priests.
“If my people….” We love that verse in 2 Chronicles 7. It’s worth noting there are two “if’s”. This was for Israel and Solomon, but I think there is a broader, timeless principles worth noting. God cannot and will not bless unholiness in His people. As we read, think of Israel as Christians, the temple as the ‘church’, and the land as their ‘sphere of influence’ or reputation:
19 “But if youturn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given youand go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 This temple will become a heap of rubble. Allwho pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 22 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’”
“13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”
God’s judgment of His children is not meant to lead to crushing guilt. Godly sorrow is meant to bring repentance. God’s judgment/discipline/ winnowing/pruning of His church and his children is for our good and the good of his church: to refine us, to purify us, to mature us, to transform us into the salt and light the world so desperately needs.
Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of the sins I mentioned or for any of your sins you might be thinking about right now. Grace and forgiveness are beautiful things designed to turn our stories of brokenness and failure into hopeful stories of redemption and life.
It’s clear that we need the power of Christ in us. This is about God equipping us, in the midst of our surrender, repentance, humility, and commitment, to live as He called us, and to be the instrument through which the land is healed. Paul used the language of sweat equity: we take up our cross; we die daily; we train with the commitment and intensity of an Olympic athlete. But the only way we can do “all things” is through Christ, who strengthens us.
Judgment begins in God’s house. But so does mercy, love and truth. God’s plan is for His church to be the city on the hill that cannot be hidden, shining light into darkness, bringing hope where there is despair. What begins in refining judgment ends in redeeming grace.
We must go through the refinement to get to the redemption.
And it’s in redemption that the beauty of Christ is seen in us, in the church and in the world.
Adam Clarke: “The inspector of another; meddling with other people's concerns, and forgetting their own; such persons are hated of all men. But some think that meddling with those in public office is here intended, as if he had said: Meddle not with the affairs of state, leave public offices and public officers to their own master, strive to live peaceably with all men, and show yourselves to be humble and unaspiring.”
Paul wrote in Romans 8:1 that “there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but the Spirit.”This doesn’t mean we don’t call out sin when there is sin; it means, literally,“exact sentence of condemnation handed down after due process”(biblehub). Jesus has already paid the final and eternal judgment for our actions on our behalf.