Though You Are Judged In The Flesh, Live In The Spirit
Section 4.3 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 4:3-6)
For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.
In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
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.
The closing sub-section of the fourth section of the First Letter of Peter seems to conclude the letter at this point, at least within the context of providing examples of how believers should live among Gentiles who accuse them and slander them. Peter concludes that “…the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles…” This particular verse is where we can see that the intended recipients may have been a blend of both Jewish-Christian converts as well as Gentile-Christian converts lived together among the Gentiles. The point Peter is attempting to make here, followed by the list of depraved behaviors, is that all that those Gentiles among whom the recipients live do is petty and temporal. The time that has already past is sufficient. There is no need to think that you might go and try this one last time, or that there is any obligation for these believers to think they must participate in such things in order to “fit in.” Peter is attempting to get these readers or hearers to understand that they should be past any desire or want to continue living as the Gentiles do.
Peter continues by pointing out “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you…” Because they have come to faith in Christ, their wants and desires have changed. As believers, blessed by God’s grace, they have been transformed internally into a moral state of goodness that draws them away from living the former lifestyle of the Gentiles. I am sure we have all had experiences like this. As we mature in our spirit, we lose interest in those things that we used to do before coming to Christ. Our hearts are changed and our objectives in live change with it. We feel drawn to living in a right relationship with God, and this generally pulls us away from those people that may be our friends or family. When this happens, we will either find acceptance from those friends and family members, or we may find them rejecting us because “we have changed.” This can often draw emotions from us of sadness at the loss of what we thought were good friends, and depending on how they respond to our confession of faith, it could also mean that those who were our friends suddenly become our enemies.
Peter reassures the recipients that “…they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” Should any of those former friends go to the point of slander and maligning you, we should continue to love and respect them. We should not allow ourselves to feel as though we are obligated to them in any way. If they decide to hate us because of the transformation of our spirit by God, then let them do so. It is not our place to “pass judgment” (that is, to begin attempting to police them given our new belief), that is left to God alone. So, though they choose to judge us and persecute us because we have accepted Jesus, they will be judged accordingly by God. Thus, we should all continue living together in peace and love and not allow these individuals to get to us.
“For the Gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead…” Here, Peter is explaining that the Gospel serves the purpose of bringing the dead in the flesh to life in the spirit. “…though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” While we may be judged by man in the way we live our worldly lives, we choose to live in accordance with the will of God, led by the spirit. As mentioned in the first sub-section of this section, “…because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of his time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NASB). We are still creatures of flesh living in the world. As we live in accordance with the will of God, living in the spirit, the world will judge us as our worldly behavior will be changed. This change brings our lifestyle into sharp contrast with the lifestyles of the worldly. When they see this change, this has the tendency to draw out of them a sense of them being judged by how you live! When they feel the Holy Spirit working in them through how you live contrary to their fleshly lusts, they rebel immediately. This draws out of them the want and desire to slander you for what you believe. This turns into a self-licking ice cream cone of sorts, as through their slander of you, they make themselves feel better as the Holy Spirit calls them out on their sins.
This section shows us that we must not allow those around us to deter us from living according to the will of God. This makes for an excellent message to speak to new believers who are having to deal with the hardship brought on by their peer group because of their new-found faith. This is especially an issue for the youth of the congregation and young adults who are attending college. We are all too well acquainted with the nature of youth in this ‘modern’ world of ours. Growing up, going through High School, we were all compelled to fall into the world of sexual desire, popularity, and trying to climb the “social ladder.” This was made even more dramatic in our college years (mostly for those who attend certain public universities) where professors actively preach their worldviews against Christian truths, and the new-found freedom of young adulthood calls us to party, drink, and pursue our sexual lusts. Pop culture and media of all types are simply full of calls and influences that can pull us away from having a clean heart and pure conscience before God. This passage can aid new believers coming out of this world of foolishness in how to behave among their peer groups, despite how they might respond.
As you continue your path of growing in your relationship with God, remember these words of Peter. We all have to deal with political issues in the news and office politics at work. We have all seen the slander of the Christian system of beliefs in various medias, from news channels to TV shows. It is almost impossible to go to any movie or other form of entertainment that does contain within it something spits in the face of our beliefs. Do not be surprised by this. Do not let yourself think that you owe them anything. You have no guilt to share with them because of your love of God. When times are difficult, and you feel surrounded by those who hate you because of your Faith, turn to the First Letter of Peter and allow him to offer you sound advice. Pray earnestly for the LORD to place his words on your heart to strengthen your resolve and character. The grace of God is already upon you. Stay true to it, and all these acts of slander will fade in time.