Sermon #1341[1]                                        Miscellaneous Sermons


          Title:            If The Righteous

Scarcely Be Saved...”

          Text:            1 Peter 4:18

          Reading:       1 Peter 4:1-19

          Subject:        The Difficulties Grace Must Overcome

          Date:            Sunday Morning - April 4, 1999

          Tape #         V-20b



          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 thirty 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 have 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 said, “In believe in 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. In fact, faith in Christ is, with men, an absolute impossibility. Faith in Christ is the gift and operation of God in us. It is not something conjured up by man’s imaginary free will, or religious excitement. No one has ever been 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.


Proposition: 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?


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.


NOTE: We believe in limited atonement. That is clearly the doctrine of Holy Scripture. Christ died for and redeemed his elect. The good Shepherd laid down his life for his sheep. But when we speak of limited atonement, remember this…


·        It is not the power, efficacy and merit of Christ’s blood that is limited. There is no limit there. We sing with joyful confidence.


“Dear, dying Lamb, Thy precious blood

Shall never lose its power,

‘Til all the ransomed church of God

Be saved to sin no more.”


·        It is only the scope, design and purpose of the atonement that is limited. In that since only the atonement is limited.


·        The Arminian, the freewiller, those who say that Christ died for sinners who yet perish under the wrath of God limit the power, merit and efficacy of Christ’s blood.


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).


Luke 14:28-32  "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace."


          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).


Illustrations: Darius’ Dilemma (Dan. 6)

                                         “Why did Jesus have to die?”


Romans 3:24-28  "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."


·        “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. Our Lord said, “Ye will not come to me that you might have life” (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. 10:1-4).


Romans 10:1-4  "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."


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)


Luke 14:25-33  "And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."


          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: A 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 Difficulty must be climbed

                               on hands and knees.


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


1 Corinthians 10:13  "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."


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


Hebrews 12:5-11  "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."


1 Peter 4:12  "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:"


          This is the context in which our text is found. “Judgment must begin at the house of God” (v. 17).


·        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).


James 1:12  "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."


          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.


          “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” God always kills before he makes alive (2 Sam. 2:6). Grace always humbles before it exalts. God will never lift you up until he puts you down. He will never cloth you with the garments of salvation until he strips you of your fig leaf righteousness.


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. 8:28-39).


Romans 8:28-39  "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."




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


Hebrews 12:14  "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:"


Philippians 3:8-14  "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."


Illustration: Old Faithful

[1] See Misc. Sermon #681 preached at Danville 1/12/86, 8/5/90, Albany, GA 3/1/87, Carbondale, MO 4/19/87, Northallerton, ENG. 5/25/87, New Caney, TX 6/28/87.