In 1 Peter 4:18, the apostle, using the wording of the Septuagint, emphasizes the many difficulties that attend our salvation. NOT in the sense that our salvation itself is difficult, but that those who are saved will have to face in this life tremendous afflictions. Peter seeks to paint a realistic picture of the challenges that face the redeemed. If you embrace the lord Jesus, it can prove costly, in the sense that it opens you to difficulties that will daily challenge your faith.
We are not called to a life of ease; we are called to a war zone, where we will daily face the enemy, and where we will also experience daily the divine refining of our hearts and minds. These are perilous times, and not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to walk with him in this life, and not a few find it so difficult that they abandon the journey altogether. Thus, "it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved" (1 Peter 4:18, NASB). The context in First Peter speaks of the persecutions which were allowed to come by God as a disciplinary judgment, the purpose of which was to purify their lives. They were being saved with difficulty in the sense that if it was necessary for God to purify the lives of saints - holy ones by these drastic means, namely, persecution and suffering, what can one say as to the position of the unsaved in relation to God? If the righteous need disciplinary judgments, how much more will the unrighteous merit the wrath of God whose offer of righteousness they have rejected" [Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 2, p. 122-123].
The Greek word in question is "molis," which means "with difficulty" [Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 1243], and "refers to the hard times that persecution causes the Christian. Some versions have 'scarcely,' which leaves the wrong impression" [R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, p. 212-213]. "Molishere means 'with difficulty' rather than 'scarcely'" [J. Ramsey Michaels, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 49, p. 272].
Our salvation by grace through faith is certain, but equally certain is the fact that the saved will experience great difficulties as a result of their faith. Yet, our God will get us through them all. With every trial and tribulation experienced in this life (even physical death itself) we have the blessed assurance that in Him we are already victorious.
John Gill (1690-1771), in his Exposition of the Entire Bible, writes, "Though their salvation is certain and complete, being finished by the Messiah, yet their enjoyment of it is attended with many difficulties: by reason of the corruptions of human nature, the frequent temptations of Satan, who seeks to devour them, and their wrestlings with the principalities and powers, which are above their match." Daily facing such trials and tribulations, not to mention countless temptations, one can see how some might despair of their salvation, perhaps thinking IF they make it at all, they will barely (scarcely) do so. The Scriptures, however, seek to bring us assurance that, in the face of such daily difficulties, we are nevertheless secure in the loving embrace of our Redeemer. "The frequent repetition of counsel and comfort to Christians, considered as sufferers, in every chapter of this epistle (1st Peter), shows that the greatest danger these new converts were in arose from the persecutions to which their embracing Christianity exposed them" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword].
Dr. Charles Ellicott sums it up well: "The fact that they are 'scarcely' saved imports not any uncertainty or hazard in the thing itself to the end, in respect of the purpose and performance of God, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way. Doubtless, when the best of us looks back, in the light of the last day, upon all that he has been through, he will be amazed that he ever could be saved at all" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 431].
Yes, the course we are called to follow, the path we are called to take, is filled with obstacles of every kind, and if trying to successfully reaching the end of our journey depended on our own strength, we would all likely fall along the wayside at some point.
Our salvation, however, is sure -- for it based upon what HE did, not what WE do. Yes, the journey is difficult, it is dangerous, and it can be deadly if we lose faith in the One who sustains us in this sojourn. But, with our eyes fixed upon the Savior, we reach the goal of life everlasting, having come safely through every obstacle and difficulty. It was this assurance Peter sought to instill within the hearts of a persecuted people; a message of assurance we need as much today as they did 2000 years ago.
Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon