The Christian paradox is that we are in the world, but not of it. We are in the world to serve the world like Jesus; doing good, telling the Gospel, healing the sick and so on. But we are evidently separate from the world too.
Peter exhorts his readers that the times where we lived like the world are past. We are called to be different – sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and idolatries are not what we do, because they are not who we are.
So Peter calls us to arm our thinking to be like Jesus – in this world, not of it and ready to suffer because of our faith. Living differently will lead to being maligned v4. At different times and in different places it has been more than malignment – full on persecution and even martyrdom.
Peter’s reassurance that those maligning your faith will be judged, because God sees all and judges those living now and those who are dead. Romans teaches us that God’s judgement while we are alive is to deliver people over to their sin – if that’s what you want do it and suffer the consequences. God’s judgement for the dead is heaven or hell.
We come to a most perplexing verse in verse 6. What does the gospel preached to the dead mean? How can that be so they might live in the Spirit? It can’t mean that the dead have a second chance at responding to the gospel – they are dead and can no longer live in the Spirit.
The passage has been about being maligned, even persecuted for faith. The persecutors will be judged – alive or dead. They will get their due. So those believers who have already died – will have been judged faithful. The Gospel was preached to them when they were alive, so that they might live in the Spirit. And now dead, they have passed judgement! They like Jesus died for their faith. People maybe surprised by your obedience to the Lord and malign you for it. You heard the gospel and live in the Spirit as did others the persecutors killed. That I think is a better understanding of this difficult text.
Peter then urges us not to be surprised at fiery trials. Keep living in the Spirit the way Jesus did.
- Be self controlled
- Be sober minded
- Love one another earnestly
- Be hospital
- Serve with your gift
- Rejoice and be glad God is with you
- Stay blessed even when insulted because the Spirit of glory is on you!