The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 13, 2011


1) 1 Peter 4:4-6 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Peter 4:4-6
by Tom Edwards

After speaking about various sins of the Gentiles -- the sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries -- Peter then goes on to say in 1 Peter 4:4, "In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you."

The phrase "excesses of dissipation" is rendered in some other Bible versions as "excess of reckless living" (Analytical-Literal Translation), "excess of riot" (ASV), "violent wasting of life" (Bible in Basic English), "sink of corruption" (Darby Bible), "flood of debauchery" (English Majority Text Version, English Standard Version), "excesses of wild living" (International Standard Version), and "overflow of unsavedness" (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible).  

Commenting on the word "excesses" in this passage, Guy N. Woods  writes that it is "...from a term which means, literally, an overflowing, and in classical Greek referred to gutters suddenly swollen from rains which poured their contents into common sewers.  The picture is one of depraved and abandoned groups wildly rushing into filthy and ungodly excesses in a whirlpool of sin.  Those thus engaged 'speak evil' (literally, blaspheme) Christians for their refusal to engage with them in such."

"Dissipation," in this passage, comes from the Greek word "asotia," which Thayer defines as "1. an abandoned, dissolute life.  2. profligacy,  prodigality."  Zerr refers to it as being "an extreme degree of loose and disorderly conduct."  We can see one meaning of it in Ephesians 5:8, where the same Greek word is used: "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."  So drunkenness is one of the ways in which a person can live a dissipated life.  John Gill describes this dissipation as "...their luxurious entertainments, their Bacchanalian feasts, and that profusion of lasciviousness, luxury, intemperance, and wickedness of all sorts, which, with so much eagerness of mind, and bodily haste, they rushed into...."

The word "run" in 1 Peter 4:6, where the phrase "run with them" is used, has been pointed out to mean more than "mere association."  That  "it indicates eagerness of participation and fellowship in the vices mentioned."  And the fact that they were now no longer engaging in those activities, probably made them, in the thinking of the heathen, to be  "anti-social, unfriendly, and bigoted" (Guy N. Woods).  

Not only do these heathen think it strange that the Christians are no longer living in their same old corrupt ways, but they also malign them for that.  "Malign," of course, means "to speak harmful untruths about; slander; defame."  Coffman gives a good illustration as to why these heathen Gentiles would think it strange and malign the Christians.  He points out that "No one is any more unpopular at a drinking party than a teetotaler; and the same is true of all abstainers from popular sins."  The bad often revolts over the good.  The wicked often falsely accuse the righteous.  Do you remember, for instance, what it was that Festus cried out, when Paul was preaching the gospel before Agrippa?   Festus loudly declared, "Paul, you are out of your mind!  Your great learning is driving you mad" (Acts 26:24).  Also, after hearing of the miracles of Jesus, the Pharisees knew that they could not deny that those miracles had really taken place, for they had been witnessed; so they sought to defame the Lord by maliciously charging Him with having cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). So these heathens think it strange and also speak evil of the Christians, but Peter shows what will be the fate of these slanderers in 1 Peter 4:5, "but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."

The sin in the ill-treatment they had rendered to others will not be lessened nor eliminated through merely time, hardness of heart, or forgetfulness.  Rather, these who had spoken evil of others will have to answer for that, when they stand before the Lord in that great day of  judgment -- in which not even one sin will be able to remain hidden.  

This might remind you of the warning that Moses gave to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. After pointing out to them that if they would not help their brethren fight in the Promised Land, during the period of the Conquest, that it would be a sin; and he then warned them, and "be sure your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23).  

We, too, need to remember that -- about every sin.  It cannot be hidden.  Sin will not just go away by itself.  Even hiding it from all the world will not be enough.  For the Lord's judgment will be thorough.  Consider, for example, Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  

In addition, Jesus shows that men will also have to give an account of "every careless word" they have spoken -- and by which they will either be justified or condemned, according to Matthew 12:36,37.  

That will happen at the great judgment day, of which no one is exempt.  As Paul states, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).  "So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:12).

Jesus Himself will be the judge in that great day of reckoning.   He declares in John 5:22,  "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son." And the following verse (Jn. 5:23) shows why the Father did this: "in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him."

The thoroughness in that great day of judgment can also be seen in Romans 2:16, "...God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus."  So even those hidden things, which no other human knows about, cannot be hidden from God.  

Matthew 16:27 shows the time when Jesus will judge the world:  "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS."  So it will take place as soon as He returns -- a time which the Bible refers to as the "last day."  For on that day, all the redeemed who have passed away will be raised from the dead (John 6:39,40).  And also on that same day, the lost will be judged: "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day" (Jn. 12:48).   The fact that Christ will judge "the living and the dead," as Peter points out in 1 Peter 4:5, also expresses the completeness of that judgment.  No one will be left out -- whether alive or dead.   We also see this expression elsewhere in the Scriptures:  Acts 10:42, for example, where Peter states, "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead."  Paul also uses this phrase in 2 Timothy 4:1, "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead...."

In view of the fact that Jesus will be the judge of all, that He had appeared and has given to the world His kingdom, should have been even more incentive to Timothy toward preaching, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting (2 Tim. 4:2). 

These are the only three passages where the phrase "living and the dead" is used; and, in all of them, the KJV translates "living" as "quick." The Greek word "Zoa" is defined by Bullinger as "to live, to have life."

Nothing has to be fulfilled in prophecy before Christ can come back and do this.  It could be anytime.  Peter shows in 1 Peter 4:5 that the Lord is "ready" to do this judging.  So, we need to be ready, too.  

Peter than goes on to say in 1 Peter 4:6,"For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God."  This has been referred to as "what is doubtless one of the most controversial and difficult passages in the Bible" (Guy N. Woods).  But let us strive to understand it.  The "gospel has FOR THIS PURPOSE been preached...."  The "for this purpose" is rendered as "for this cause" (KJV), and "for this reason" (NKJ, NIV).  It, therefore, ties in the following thought with Peter's previous referral to Christ's universal judgment.  Men need to hear the gospel so they can be prepared for the judgment day.  

Peter shows it was for that purpose the gospel was even preached to "those who are dead."  Who are these dead?   Some take this to mean the spiritually dead.  It is true, of course, that often times the Bible refers to certain individuals as being "dead," while, at the same time, they were very much alive.  But though they were physically living, they were spiritually dead in their relationship to God.  Ephesians 2:1,2, for instance, speaks of this kind of "dead": "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."  "Dead" is also used in this figurative sense for "spiritually dead" in Colossians 2:13: "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions"; and Jesus also uses death metaphorically in John 5:24-26.  

But here in 1 Peter 4:6, the "dead" are the same as the "dead" in the preceding verse (1 Peter 4:5); and that is, the physically dead.  They, of course, were alive when they first heard the preaching of the gospel; but now, during the time of Peter's writing, they are dead.  We considered a similar point in the previous chapter, in 1 Peter 3:19,20. Though it sounds as if Jesus preached to departed souls in torment, it was actually Noah who preached -- by the spirit of Christ within him -- to the people of his day.  But one major contrast in these two events is that the people of Noah's day did not repent; but these whom Peter writes of in 1 Peter 4:6 are those who had repented and accepted the way of the Spirit.  So both groups were preached to while they were living; and those who rejected the message would suffer after they died (in the Hadean realm of Tartarus) -- and then, after the final judgment, in hell itself, which John refers to as "the second death" in Revelation 20:14.  But those who have accepted and kept God's message will live forever, enjoying the spiritual realm of eternal life in heaven.  

The futility of preaching to those already deceased can be seen in the Lord's account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.  Abraham, who was over in Paradise with Lazarus, had told the rich man in Luke 16:26 that "...between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us."  The eternal destinies of these people are now sealed, and cannot be changed.  So those who are dead now, that Peter is referring to in 1 Peter 4:6, were alive when they were preached to.  

As we keep in mind what we previously read, the Christians are being slandered and thought strange because of the life in Christ that they are living.  This was a judgment the heathens were making.  But the saints kept living a spiritual life, according to God.  Sometimes that judgment went to the extreme, as it was filled with hatred toward the gospel and toward Christians.  For often the irrational judgment of the heathens was manifest in more than merely cruel words; but also in the torturous deaths that they had inflicted upon the saints.  But even in spite of that -- though these Christians were being put to death in the flesh -- they knew they had the promise of eternal life, which no one could take away from them.  For though men could kill the body, they could not kill the eternal soul (cf. Matt. 10:28).  As Jesus points out in John 8:51, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death."   For though the body would die, the soul would live on -- and not just live on to exist, as even the souls of the lost will -- but to live on experiencing the quality life that Jesus has made possible for all the redeemed.  Concerning this, F. F. Bruce  writes, "Deceased Christians are not deprived of the benefits of the gospel. 'According to men' they are judged in the flesh (suffered bodily death); yet 'according to God' (from God's point of view), the spiritual life which they received...endures for ever."

Would it not be true that many in the Gentile world, whom these Christians encountered, would be those who did not believe in a resurrection?  What benefit would they then see in being a Christian, for we all die -- whether Christian or non-Christian?

But Peter, here in 1 Peter 4:6, points out a very great benefit.  As David H. Wheaton states with regard to this verse, "Those who have died (the dead) may be judged in the flesh like men, by suffering physical death; but because the gospel was preached to them (while alive, when they responded), they are now living in the spirit like God."

Compare this statement to 1 Peter 4:6 in the RSV: "...that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God."  This has also been referred to as living "in the higher, nobler life of the spirit" (Guy N. Woods).  The true Christian is one who will weather the storm, who will not allow adversities to waver his faith.  In spite of the world's persecution, the true Christian will continue living for the Lord -- to live that "higher, nobler life of the spirit"; and if doing so results in death, then he knows he has even more to gain in God's spiritual realm. 


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember the following people in prayer: Pam MacDonald and Cheryl Anderson as they heal from their recent surgeries.  Cheryl Crews who has various health problems.  Shirley Young who often suffers with fibromyalgia.  Ed St. Clair who has not been feeling well. Virginia Fontenot who has been tiring easily after about 10 minutes of exertion and experiencing shortness of breath.  And for Agnes Shuff whose weakness has limited her to very little mobility, as she has now been on hospice care for more than a year.  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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