Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Col, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
In the ascription of Psalm 53, Augustine sees a dedication to the one suffering, whom he recognizes as the Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325849). By extension, then, Augustine sees that all Christians are in the same category. Why do Christians suffer? because, in verse one, they are surrounded by the unwise men who deny God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325855). Augustine admits that not many have the courage to make that statement, but that when we examine those who live in evil habits, they are denying God by their lives. These people, says Augustine, even think their lives of corruption must be acceptable in God’s sight, that evil is pleasing to God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325864). In case any should doubt the existence of such people, Augustine notes they were those who sought the crucifixion, saying that Jesus was not God. Verse two goes on to speak of these people as corrupted. “Corruption beginneth with evil belief, thence it proceedeth to depraved morals, thence to the most flagrant iniquities, these are the grades” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325878).
God’s response, in verse three, is to look on humans, in case some understand and are seeking God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325888). The verdict, in verse four, is that humans do not do what is good. They have together gone into sin. Augustine notes that God’s investigation doesn’t imply that he was ignorant of anything. Scripture both affirms that God knows all and that he evaluates conditions (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325892).
Verse five speaks to the idea that workers of iniquity should know God’s judgment. Augustine takes us back to the earlier concept, that it is Christians who are devoured. However, the Lord who made men to be sons of God is the hope of his people. Even when they are being devoured, they are secure in Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325907). The fools, in contrast, have not called on God. Augustine says that therefore their only hope is in the present, while the Christian has a hope for the future (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325922). Verse six goes on to say that the fool suffers fear when previously there was no fear. Augustine illustrates the difference between the godly martyrs who had no fear and the fools of his age who fear loss (Augustine Psalms, loc. 325929). The call of the Psalm, then, is that the fools should turn to God for restoration v. 7). This is where they can find life without fear.