1 Peter 4:17-19
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us…
This is one of those Biblical phrases upon which in many a time of need the souls of men may fall back and rest, The phrase was intended originally for the support of some in the early Church who had been compelled to suffer for Christ's sake. Commit your souls, the Apostle writes to such, in well-doing to God as a faithful Creator. The first truth involved in this simple, large phrase is that the Creator has character. A certain well known and fundamental character, that of faithfulness, we are warranted by this Scripture in ascribing to the Creator. It is one of the general characteristics of revelation throughout the Bible that it attributes to God certain distinct moral qualities; that it brings out by these the character of God, rather than the nature or mode in which God may be conceived to exist or to create. This is the grand peculiarity of the Old Testament. This one feature lifts it up above all the literature of the ancient times, as a clear mountain above a jungle; this feature renders it an inspiring Bible for the world, that it exalts the Lord God as having character — true, holy, righteous, merciful, supremely moral character. You have known some man who had this character of faithfulness. He may have accomplished little which men will remember; but he has kept on his way faithfully. He was always to be found where others had reason to expect to find him. Many a faithful woman's life has been the one scarce noticed, continuous thread, slight, but not to be broken, on which has been bound and kept together all the happiness and success of sons and daughters. A faithful life resembles the sure, unceasing roadway, which runs on and on over the hills, and through the woods, and by the homes of men, into which we may always come back at evening time, no matter how far we may have wandered afield or how long we may have followed the winding brook, at our own sweet will during the day. Now this familiar, homelike, often unnoticed, but fundamental character is described by this Scripture directly to our God. He is the faithful One. Other Scriptures ascribe to Him characters more transcendent, and the very glory of them renders God to our thought unspeakable and high as the heavens above us. Carrying our thought of this character a step further, observe, secondly, that in this Biblical phrase is included the truth that God has some regular method in whatever He does. For regular habit, or methodical action, is a quality of faithfulness. The person who is here and there and everywhere, and whose belongings are never in their place; the person whose life follows no conceivable method may have some other attractive qualities, but would not be counted on as faithful. So that in speaking of the Creator as faithful we must mean that He has followed some method in creation. We say that our God has His regular habits of procedure: that He does not deal with His creation now on one plan and then on another; that He does not let His divine affairs run on of themselves from age to age without thought, system, or order. The faithful Creator is the God of regular habits, the God of system, the God who has His own time and place for everything. Now, think how very much it means for us to know that God is methodical, whether in the realm of nature or of redemption. Two helpful things in particular let me mention as of daily importance for us in the methodical habit of the Divine faithfulness; the one is that because God all through nature and history has been following His one chosen method, we can study what He has been doing, and find out to some extent at least what His method is, and as we find it out we can trust it and adjust our plans of life and our efforts and hopes to it. So we can live surely, as we live in accordance with God's method. Consider thus God's method in the natural creation. It is the business of all our sciences to find that out. And as our science discovers God's method in nature, we may learn to use it in our acts. We propel our street cars, we light our houses, we run our machinery, we multiply our conveniences, because we have found out something about God's regular habit or method of the light and the electricity and the admirable mechanics of the creation, to which from the beginning He has been faithful. As we learn what the laws of life are — the laws of development, survival, and fruitfulness — we discover still further truth concerning the methods of the faithful One from eternity; and we; must trust these laws of life, and adjust our free action to them, or we shall perish. It is so, likewise, in the kingdom of heaven. God has His providential methods of soul training, and soul enlarging, and soul ripening. Experience discloses to some extent these spiritual methods of the faithful One; and there is life, hope, and peace in submitting our souls to them. The other particular which I would bring out from this general truth of the methodicalness which the faithful Creator observes is this: a good method, as we know, is not to be set aside every now and then because it may seem not to meet exactly all cases and contingencies. So the fact that God has method, and must have it in order to be faithful, is reason enough why He does not vary the course of His providence to meet some of our desires, however much the good God might wish to gratify us. We indeed some times have to change our methods, because we find that they do not work. But God's regular ways of doing things, whether in the evolution of the creation or in His redemptive work of making all things new — God's methods have been formed in wisdom, and are on the whole the methods which can be trusted to work out the largest amount of possible creaturely good. There is no new reason, therefore, arising in any juncture of natural forces, or even from any emergency of human history, which should lead God to change the laws of life or to give to His Church some different method of redeeming love than that which has been followed, and is now pursued, by the Divine wisdom on this earth. If, then, God's persistency in keeping straight on along His well known ways of nature and grace may seem at times to work incidental evil; if God's steadfastness in letting fire burn, and lightnings blast, and devouring floods overwhelm, as well as the sweet sunshine restore and fructify, may at times destroy human homes or lay desolate for a season human hearts — nevertheless, it is His faithfulness which is involved, and that same faithfulness holds in its own persistent method the possibility of future good in place of present evil, and of even larger and eternal good in consequence of temporal hardship. A third element goes with those just mentioned. This text contains also the kindred truth that God has aim or object. Faithfulness is fidelity to one's aim or object. It requires that the goal be kept in sight. Faith fulness in the highest is for us to be true to our ideals. It is the same kind of loyalty in the Creator. This likewise is a grandly uplifting thought for us, that the Creator from the beginning, and through all the method of His working, has never lost sight of the goal; that He is faithful to the divine ideals; the divine ideal of a free life of the creature capable of sinning and suffering, because made also to achieve a righteousness and love which only along the way of spiritual freedom can ever be reached; the divine ideal also of embodied spirit, capable of being raised through death to celestial perfection. This likewise belongs to the faithfulness of God. One other characteristic might be added to these three elements of moral character, method, and aim, which are comprehended in the faithfulness of our God — viz., responsibility. This last, however, might be regarded rather as the resultant of all the others, or as a consequent of faithfulness. God is responsible. Think of that in relation to your own personal being and life, as well as in relation to the affairs of God's world. Perhaps we are more ready to think of it in the latter relation, and to admit God's responsibility for the world at large and its government, than we are to trust it in reference to our own individual lives. But it is equally true of both. We must assume the Divine responsibility on the large scale of history. When brave Martin Luther was once hard pressed, and inclined to be over anxious concerning the prospects of the Reformation, quiet Philip Melancthon by his side would say to him, Martin, let God be Governor of the world. The faithful Creator is the responsible One. There is not a verse of prophet or apostle, there is not a word spoken by Jesus Christ, to lead us to suppose for an instant that God on high would avoid His responsibility for His world; or that He would for a moment put off upon any man the least of His Divine responsibility for affairs. There would be indeed no use and no hope for anything we may do or say to make things human better were it not for this prior and this final responsibility of God, the faithful One from eternity to eternity. Let Martin Luther do and dare as the great reformer, because God is Governor of the world. Let us do with our might whatsoever our hands find to do, because we are but servants, and the responsibility is God's. Finally, let us take this same truth into our daily thought of ourselves, and of those with whose lives ours are bound in this world and beyond. God gave you and them power to live together in common affections and pursuits. He will be faithful to His own gifts. He will not deny Himself in the being and the powers of life, of thought, of love, which He has given you and them. God made these human hearts capable of love immortal, and even in their mourning capable of proving and deepening their power of love; He is faithful; He cannot deny Himself in the human hearts which He has made.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the time is come that 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 of God?