on 1-peter 4 :17
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.
on 1-peter 4 :17
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.
on 1-peter 4 :17
4:17 The time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God - God first visits his church, and that both in justice and mercy. What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel - How terribly will he visit them! The judgments which are milder at the beginning, grow more and more severe. But good men, having already sustained their part, are only spectators of the miseries of the wicked.