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4. Living for God
1Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2that ye no longer should live the rest of your time in flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries: 4wherein they think strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 7But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer: 8above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins: 9using hospitality one to another without murmuring: 10according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; 11if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; is any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: 13but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy. 14If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you. 15For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters: 16but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name. 17For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? 19Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator.
6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, or, He has been evangelized to the dead. We see in what sense he takes the former passage in the third chapter, even that death does not hinder Christ from being always our defender. It is then a remarkable consolation to the godly, that death itself brings no loss to their salvation. Though Christ, then, may not appear a deliverer in this life, yet his redemption is not void, or without effect; for his power extends to the dead. But as the Greek word is doubtful, it may be rendered in the masculine, or in the neuter gender; but the meaning is almost the same, that is, that Christ had been made known as a redeemer to the dead, or that salvation had been made known to them by the gospel. But if the grace of Christ once penetrated to the dead, there is no doubt but that we shall partake of it when dead. We then set for it limits much too narrow, if we confine it to the present life.
That they might be judged I omit the explanations of others, for they seem to me to be very remote from the Apostle’s meaning. This has been said, as I think, by way of anticipation, for it might have been objected, that the gospel is of no benefit to the dead, as it does not restore them to life. Peter concedes a part of this objection, and yet in such a way, that they are not deprived of the salvation obtained by Christ. Therefore, in the first clause, when he says, “that they might be judged in the flesh, according to men,” it is a concession; and “judged” means here, as often elsewhere, condemned; and flesh is the outward man. So that the meaning is, that though according to the estimation of the world the dead suffer destruction in their flesh, and are deemed condemned as to the outward man, yet they cease not to live with God, and that in their spirit, because Christ quickens them by his Spirit.
But we ought to add what Paul teaches us in Romans 8:10, that the Spirit is life; and hence it will be, that he will at length absorb the relics of death which still cleave to us. The sum of what he says is, that though the condition of the dead in the flesh is worse, according to man, yet it is enough that the Spirit of Christ revives them, and will
eventually lead them to the perfection of life.
Whitby, Doddridge, and Mackight, regard the dead here as the dead in sins, according to Ephesians 2:1. The first thus paraphrases what follows, “That they might condemn their former life, and live a better;” the second, “That they might be brought to such a state of life as their carnal neighbors will look upon it as a kind of
condemnation and death;” and the third, “That although they might be condemned, indeed, by men in the flesh, yet they might live eternally by God in the Spirit.”
Beza, Hammond, and Scott, consider that the dead were those already dead, that is, when the Apostle wrote, and even before the coming of Christ, taking the dead in the same sense as in the former verse: but they differ as to the clause which follows. The two first interpret it as signifying the same as dying to sin and living to God, a meaning which the former part of the clause can hardly bear: but the view of Scott is, that the gospel had been preached to those at that time dead, that they might be condemned by carnal men, or in the flesh, as evildoers, but live to God through the Holy Spirit. The only fault, perhaps, with this rendering is as to the word flesh, which seems to mean here the same as flesh in 1 Peter 3:18, that is, the body; and the word spirit is also in the same form, for Griesbach in that verse regards the article τῷ as spurious. Then the rendering would be, “That they might be condemned in the flesh by men, but live as to God through the Spirit.” There are two previous instances of the word spirit, when denoting the Holy Spirit, being without the article, that is, in 1 Peter 1:2 and 22
It seems an objection, that the gospel had been preached to them for this end, that they might be condemned to die by wicked men; but this had been expressly stated before, in 1 Peter 2:21: “For even hereunto, (that is, suffering, mentioned in the former verse) were ye called;” or, “For to this end ye have been called.” Then Christ in his suffering is mentioned as one whom they ought to follow.
There is no other view so consistent with the whole tenor of the Apostle’s argument. — Ed.