What Does It Mean that “Judgment Begins at the Household of God”?

inside photography of church

In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter makes an interesting statement; he says: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

Judgment might seem like an odd word to use in regard to the people of God… Hasn’t Jesus already taken our judgment upon himself on the cross? What is Peter referring to here, and how should we understand this statement?

The Waters That Buried Some, Lifted Others

In 1 Peter chapter 3, Peter referred to the judgment that took place in the time of Noah, and said that the waters of that flood were a type, or a picture, of baptism. The judgment of the flood, which was a judgment upon human wickedness, did effect, touch, and impact even those who were believers. However, because those believers were in the ark, the waters of the flood did not crush them, but rather lifted them up.

The ark, in this case, is a picture of Jesus. When we climb into Him by faith, and are hidden in Him, He takes the brunt of the storm of God’s judgment, which, apart from Him, we would not be able to survive on our own. As we are in Him, the waters which destroyed those outside the ark actually serve to lift us up and they have a cleansing and purifying effect.

The Fire That Destroys Some, Purifies Others

Along with water, Peter uses another word-picture in this letter: fire, which is used to purify precious metals, like gold.

Paul uses this same analogy in 1 Corinthians 3, where he talks about how our actions in this life will be tested by God as by fire; those things which were pure in motive will withstand the test, and those good things we might have done for the wrong reasons will be burned away like wood, hay and stubble.

Essentially, Peter is saying that the judgment of God will have the effect on believers, not of destroying them, but of purifying them, and clarifying who is really in the faith.

This makes sense, especially in light of the fact that earlier in the same chapter (1 Peter 4:1-4), Peter called his readers to holiness and to separate themselves from the sins which formerly enslaved them.

Malachi’s Prophecy

In his commentary on 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney says that in these verses (1 Peter 4:12-19), Peter is alluding to a prophecy of Malachi:

See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. (Malachi 3:1-3)

God’s judgment has a double purpose: to purify his worshipers and to consume the wicked.

In Hebrews 12, the writer says that it is proof of God’s fatherly love for us that He disciplines us.

Rather than cleansing us in purgatory, God’s cleansing of his people is a process which takes place in this life through our trials. Our suffering in this life does not atone for our sins, Jesus’s suffering did that for us, but God uses our trials in order to form us into the image of Christ (cf. Romans 8:29), purify us like gold, and prepare for us a weight of glory to be revealed.

Further Discussion

https://twitter.com/DominicDone/status/1199788112060112896

This week Mike and I sat down to discuss this verse in more detail. One of the things we talked about was how persecution and hardship has the effect of purifying the church and “weeding out” those who have come to Jesus for the wrong reasons. One example we bring up is my experience with the Roma (Gypsy) population in Hungary and the false promises of the “prosperity gospel.” Check it out:

Thoughts on Representative Klingenschmitt’s Comments about the Judgement of God and the Assault in Longmont

Last week Colorado State Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt from Colorado Springs stated on his YouTube channel that the Bible says that the Longmont woman who was assaulted and had her baby cut from her stomach was the wrath of God coming against America because we have failed to protect unborn children. To make this point, he quoted from Hosea 13:16.

Since then, both conservatives and liberals have distanced themselves from Klingenschmitt and he has been removed from at least one comittee that he was a member of.

I went and checked out the statement he made, because I know how sometimes things can be misconstrued when relayed by media – I was curious if that was the case here.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. The one way that Klingenschmitt might have been misrepresented was that he was not saying that God was judging this woman individually, who was the victim of the assault – rather he said that God is judging our soceity in general, and what happened to this woman was part of that judgment.
  2. He quoted from Hosea 13:16, a verse about how both Israel and Samaria would face God’s judgment (in the form of war) as a result of their rebellion against God. The prophet describes what will happen when war comes: no one will be spared; children will die, and even pregnant women will be killed with the sword (cut open).
    This is, first of all, not even talking about the kind of assault that took place in Longmont. Secondly, the important detail in understanding what is being said by the prophet is that judgment will come in the form of war, and in war, these are the kinds of atrocities that happen.
    In other words, it isn’t God saying that He’s going to judge them by sending people to kill their children and cut open their pregnant women, it’s God saying that he will allow a time of hardship by removing His hand of protection and allowing a foreign nation (the Assyrians in this case) to overrun them. Historically, this is exactly what happened. However, in the context of the Book of Hosea, it is important to note that this is said as a warning of the judgment that will come if the people continue in their wickedness and rebellion, and is followed in the next chapter by the urging of Hosea about the blessings and restoration that repentance would bring to the nation instead.
    In other words: “You have a choice to make. It’s not too late! You can choose to continue rebelling against God, in which case God will not protect you from the impending onslaught of the Assyrians (and just to remind you, here are the kinds of terrible atrocities that happen in war…), or you can repent and turn back to the Lord and he will restore you and heal your nation.”
    Conclusion: Klingenschmitt is clearly taking this verse out of context.
  3. The difficult question this brings up is: when do we consider something to be God’s judgment, and when do we not? In the Bible, it seems that many times things happened that were indeed the judgment of God, which, if they were to happen in our day, we might not see them as such.
    For example, in the Old Testament, in Korah’s rebellion, people got swallowed up by the Earth as God’s judgment upon them. Nowadays, if someone gets sucked up in a sinkhole, calling it the judgment of God is not exactly politically correct. In the Old Testament, wars and attacks from foreign nations were often related to God’s judgment. Do we still consider that to be the case? Or how about Ananias and Saphira – they lied to make themselves look good, and God struck them dead. We don’t often think in our day about heart attacks as being God’s judgment on a person. I’m sure that not all heart attacks are God’s judgment on people – but it would seem that sometimes they might be.
    It is incredibly difficult to discern or to say with any amount of certainty which things are God’s judgment and which are not, apart from divine revelation.

My conclusion is that this man is not evil or heartless, but perhaps a bit misguided and could use some lessons in exegesis, because he is very dogmatic about some things which he doesn’t have proper basis to be so dogmatic about. Furthermore, having a platform like the one he does as a State Congressman, he should be much more careful about what he says.

Much more importantly, my heart goes out to the victim of this terrible crime. We pray for her physical and emotional healing. We pray that she will be able to have more children after this. I have been so impressed by her graciousness in her public statements, and we do pray that she would sense the love of God and presence of God and the hope of the Gospel.