by J. Randal Matheny, editor
In one of the many tornadoes that lashed the American south last Wednesday, an elderly sister in Christ hid under her kitchen table. After the twister had passed, nothing was left of her house, except the table and the sister underneath it, unharmed.
In another town, another sister in Christ was saved only because she clung to bathroom fixtures as the tornado ripped the shoes off her feet.
In Christ the world sometimes sweeps away around us and would whisk us away with it, if we did not hide in the shadow of God’s wing and cling to the Rock that is higher and firmer than we.
We understand Peter’s paraphrase of Proverbs:
But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name. For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners? So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. 1 Peter 4:16-19 NET
To be barely saved does not imply doubt, but difficulty, as one commentator put it.
“This is not a word of doubt, but of difficulty. It is not a word of doubt of the event, whether he shall be saved or no — there is no doubt at all of that — but it is a word of difficulty in regard of the way and passage thither.”/1
And so the LEB reads, “saved with difficulty.”
It is salvation with difficulty when all around you is swept away. When all you can do is just hold on to the Lord.
Salvation brings hardship. Suffering for the gospel. Trials for the kingdom. Dying every day for the good of the churches. Persecution for insisting on the truth.
Many, oh, so many fall away. The companions of yesterday have chosen easier path. The soldiers who won battles got fatigue and joined the ranks of God’s enemies. And the silent majority grows, cowardice wins the hour, indifference lets opposing forces slip through the defenses.
Salvation brings hardship to the saved. For theirs is the task of salvation. God throws us into the fray.
Salvation is not for our private enjoyment, but for public engagement. Salvation is the battle. The message of Christ clashes with the lies of man. The piercing truth, for those who do not love it, causes the gnashing of teeth, the throwing of stones, the gall of betrayal.
When the winds howl and the rains batter, when the gales tear at our clothes and the hail beats upon our backs, we hide in the Lord and cling to his grace, for the righteous will barely be saved.
No doubt, just difficulty. But that, as they say, is the least of our worries.
1/ Richard Sibbes, “The Difficulty of Salvation.”