Sermon #681                                              Miscellaneous Sermons


          Title:            If The Righteous Scarcely Be Saved...”

          Text:            1 Peter 4:18


          Subject:       The Difficulties Grace Must Overcome

          Date:            Sunday Morning - January 12, 1986

          Tape #        




          Most people seem to think that it is a very easy thing to be saved, that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is very simple. Traveling back and forth, up and down this country for the past nineteen years, I have met a lot of people, most of them have been very religious people. Most of the people I preach to are very sure they are saved. Most of them never disturb themselves by questioning the matter. They walked down a church aisle, knelt at an “altar”, and said “the sinner’s prayer.”


·        Some because of tragedy

·        Some because of fear

·        Some because of pressure - Peer Pressure - Emotional pressure - Psychological pressure, etc.


They did what the preacher told them to do. They said “the sinner’s prayer.” They “believed on Jesus.” I know many who had this experience, even as small children. But they are confident they are saved, because they followed “the simple plan of salvation.” I know that some of you have had that same experience. You profess that you are saved, because you walked that church aisle, said that “sinner’s prayer,” and felt that unexplainable feeling of relief when it was all over. You were talked into a profession of faith by a slick “soul winner.” And you never question the reality of that profession. Perhaps you do sometimes question it; but you suppress those questions, fearing that they are Satanic temptations.


          Now hear me well. Salvation is not an easy thing. It is not a simple thing for a sinner to exercise faith in Christ. Men do not get saved by walking a church aisle, kneeling at an altar, or reciting “the sinner’s prayer.” If you are still clinging to such a profession as the basis of your hope before God, I urge you to give it up. Renounce it at once. It is a Satanic delusion.




          My friend, It is not an easy thing to be saved.


          I know that in this day of mass-evangelism, easy believism, and decisional salvation, the statement I have just made will not be popular, nor will it be quickly received. Some of you may even become angry at hearing it. But hear it you must. It is not an easy thing to be saved. Let’s see if the Word of God will back me up in that statement. It is not an easy thing to be saved.


·        Matthew 19:25-26 - The Rich Young Ruler

·        Luke 13:24 - “Strive (agonize) to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”


          If saving faith is no more than saying a prayer, making a decision, walking an aisle, or believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (the historical facts), why did Judas perish? Why was Simon Magus lost? Why did Demas die? Why was Diotriphes destroyed? My friend, true saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is such a rare thing that our Lord himself asked, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8). The way of truth and holiness is so plain that “wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” Yet, because of the sin and hardness of our hearts, it is no easy thing for us to enter into that way, and no easy thing for us to continue in the way until we reach our everlasting home in glory.


          Now, look at 1 Peter 4:18 - “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”


          NOTE: The word “scarcely” is a very poor translation. Peter is not suggesting that God’s elect barely get into heaven, or that we shall enter in with fear, trembling, and hesitancy. God’s saints shall be ushered into heaven in a blaze of glory, triumphant and victorious by his grace! The word “scarcely” would better be translated, “with difficulty.” Peter’s meaning is this: “If the righteous are saved with great difficulty, what shall become of the ungodly and unbelieving?”




1.     God’s elect are saved only with great difficulty.

2.     What does this fact teach us?


I. First, be sure you understand Peter’s doctrine in this text - GOD’S ELECT ARE SAVED ONLY WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY.


          This difficulty in salvation does not arise from any deficiency in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. There is no lack of efficacy in his sin-atoning blood or in his heavenly intercession. Thank God, there is no difficulty there! Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient Savior. There is no lack of power in the Holy Spirit to save us. And there is no lack of faithfulness in our gracious God.


          I would do nothing to discourage any sinner from trusting Christ. My heart pleads with God for you. But I do not want you to be deceived. I must be honest with you. It is a difficult thing for a sinner to be saved. You will be wise, before you engage in this warfare, to sit down and count the cost (Lk. 14:28-32).


          Here are five difficulties which must be overcome before you can enter into eternal glory.


          A. The demands of divine justice.


          How can God be just and yet justify the ungodly? How can a holy, righteous, just and true God pardon guilty, justly condemned felons? How can God both punish the sinner and save the sinner? The law and justice of God demands both righteousness and satisfaction. We cannot give either. Justice demands that God either slay the sinner or sacrifice his own righteousness. But God in infinite wisdom found a way to save sinners - Substitution (Rom. 3:24-28).


·        “Deliver him from going down into the pit, for I have found a ransom!” (Job 33:24).

·        “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psa. 85:10).

·        “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (Prov. 16:6).


          This is the first difficulty that must be met - The demands of divine justice. It could never be satisfied except by Christ. (Explain imputation.)


          B. The depravity of our fallen nature.


          Man by nature is fallen and depraved. That simply means that man’s heart by nature is bent upon sin. He is averse to all that is good, righteous, and holy. Man is not opposed to religion, or even to morality. What he is opposed to is God. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). Man is fallen; but very proud. He will not naturally submit to salvation by grace alone through the merits of a Substitute (John 5:40).


          1. The natural man does not see his need of a Substitute.


          Man thinks he can save himself. He will not come to Christ, because he feels no need of Christ. He does not know his condition. He does not believe God.


          2. The natural man will not submit to God (Rom. 10:1).


          3. He has no ability to change his condition.


          Man by nature is so far away from God that he cannot and will not of his own accord return to God. He is dead. Before he can or will trust Christ, God must come to him and do something for him. His nature must be overcome. The dead sinner must be given life, or he cannot believe. He must be made willing or he cannot come. This is regeneration (Eph. 2:1-4; Psa. 65:4).


Illustration: Ezekiel’s Dry Bones! (Ezek. 37).


          The depravity of our fallen nature is another difficulty which grace must overcome. Man’s spiritual condition of depravity and inability necessitates that salvation must be by grace alone.


          C. The demands of Christ as Lord (Lk. 14:25-33).


          Saving faith is something more than believing certain facts and propositions. Saving faith is nothing less than surrender to the claims of Christ as sovereign Lord.


          Saving faith involves at least four things:


1.     Knowledge - A heart knowledge of gospel truth (Rom. 10:13-17). It is impossible to trust an unknown, unrevealed Christ.

2.     Reconciliation - A reconciliation of the heart to God as he is revealed in Holy Scripture (1 Cor. 5:20).

3.     Trust - Confidence in and dependence upon the merits of Christ. “If you will, you can make me whole.”

4.     Surrender - No man is saved until he raises the white flag of surrender to Christ as his Lord.


Illustration: Surrender to the surgeon’s knife.

                                         Surrender of a conquered enemy.

                                         “Chief give himself to Jesus.”


          NOTE: Either you will be a servant under the dominion of King Jesus, voluntarily giving up all to his claims as Lord, or you will go to hell.


          What is your point of rebellion? That is where you are going to have to do business with God.


          D. The manifold temptations we face everyday.


          God met the difficulty of his own offended justice and satisfied justice by the blood of his own dear Son. God sent his Spirit and gave us new life in Christ, causing us to believe. And God by grace overcame the depravity of our nature. And God has by grace conquered our will, causing us to bow to the claims of Christ as Lord. Yet, everyday we have to face the difficulty of manifold temptations, temptations by which Satan would devour our souls.


1.     The world allures us and charms us (Matt. 13:22). Illustration: Weeds in a garden.

2.     The flesh wars against us (Gal. 5:17). Illustration: Caged eagle.

3.     The devil, like a crafty serpent, would beguile us (2 Cor. 11:3).


·        Many before us have fallen.

·        We would perish too, but for one thing - “We are kept by the power of God!”


Illustration: The Hill of Depravity must be climbed

                                      on hands and knees.


          Grace alone can overcome the difficulty of our manifold temptations (1 Cor. 10:13).


          E. The trials by which our faith is proved (Heb. 12:5-11; 1 Pet. 4:12).


          This is the context in which our text is found. “Judgment must begin at the house of God!”


·        Gold is by fire refined.

·        Dross is by fire consumed.

·        Wheat must be separated from chaff by threshing.

·        Those who by the grace of God endure this difficulty of manifold trials are saved and shall enter into eternal glory (James 1:12).


          Do you see the meaning of Peter’s words - “If the righteous scarcely be saved”? Even God’s elect, those who are made righteous in Christ, can only be saved with great difficulty.


·        The demands of divine justice.

·        The depravity of our fallen nature.

·        The demands of Christ as sovereign Lord.

·        The temptations we face everyday.

·        The trials by which our faith must be proved.


II. God’s elect are saved only with great difficulty. Now, WHAT DOES THIS FACT TEACH US?


          Peter says, by way of inference, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”


·        If the righteous, God’s own elect, meet with such trials upon the earth, what woeful judgment awaits the wicked!

·        If the righteous attain eternal bliss and glory only by such great difficulty, the unbelieving shall never obtain it.

·        If it is difficult for a believer to be saved, where shall you be who have no Mediator, no Substitute, no Savior, and no grace! What will become of you who despise Christ?


          Now, I am certain that Peter’s words are intended by the Holy Spirit to teach us three things specifically:


          A. If the righteous are saved only with difficulty, then those people who have been “saved” without difficulty have never really been saved.


          My friend, there is a great difference between believing that you are saved and really being saved.


·        No conviction, no conversion.

·        No struggle, no salvation.

·        No trouble, no triumph.

·        No cross, no crown.

·        No conflict, no conquest.


          B. If the righteous are saved only with such great difficulty, salvation must be the work of God’s free grace alone.


·        Grace alone found a way to satisfy justice.

·        Grace alone could cause a dead sinner to live.

·        Grace alone could make a stubborn rebel a willing servant.

·        Grace alone has preserved us amid such strong temptations.


          C. The righteous shall surely be saved.


          Those who have been made righteous by Christ shall not perish! By the grace of God, no difficulty, no trial, no temptation shall destroy us. Grace must prevail. We shall be saved at last (Rom. 8:31-39).




          In order to be saved, you must look to Christ and be made righteous by him (Heb. 12:14; Phil. 3:8-14). (Old Faithful.)