NOTE: Please allow me a brief word of caution about interpreting difficult passages such as the ones we are now considering. In the first place, the writer can never be sure the words he chooses are conveying the ideas in his mind to the reader. “Meaning” is never in the words, but always in the head of the one using the words. In the second place, we are dealing with things outside of human experience. At death we move outside of the space and time box we live in, and our limited vocabulary has no words for that realm. So, at best, our conjectures are just that, speculations and conjectures. Every interpretation is the theory of the one giving it, but there is no way to prove the rightness or wrongness of them, unless they violate some Biblical truth or principle. The best we can do, and it is the obligation of every teacher to do it, is to make sure our interpretations parallel the rest of the Bible story, and do not contradict any of the facts and principles established in the rest of the Book. Because of this tenuous ground, upon which each teacher stands, it does not behoove any of us to demand that our view is the only possible interpretation of such passages.)

I PETER 11

Chapter 4

Roy Osborne 2006

Reprinted July 2014

THE BODY IS DEAD BUT THE SPIRIT LIVES

In the beginning of chapter four, Peter continues with his difficult phraseology.   Again, I remind you that I am not attempting a scholarly dissertation on this text.   I am aware of the multiple theories which have been proposed by New Testament scholars, and I find most of them lacking at some point.   My purpose, however, is to point out some valid New Testament principles which can be derived from these words.

Chapter four begins with the words, “…since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in the body is done with sin”.   Whether Peter means this or not, in this passage, it is certainly true that Christ suffered and died to eradicate sin.   If you accept His death, and suffer the rejection of fleshly demands in favor of the Spiritual life in Christ, you are done with sin.   It is no longer your master.

The next difficulty occurs in verse six.   “For this is the reason that the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit”.   Again, I am not sure if Peter means this or not, but the following is nonetheless true: “The wages of sin is death”.  So, all men die, for all are sinners.   However, those who have received the gospel, though they suffered the physical death for sin, are spiritually freed from the penalty by the blood of Christ, and their spirits live on with God.   Preaching the gospel does not free us from the penalty of sin, for we are all sinners, but it gives us eternal hope for the spirit, which is freed from sin by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

In I Thessalonians, Paul speaks to this problem.   The people at Thessalonica were worried about their brethren who had died.   Paul assures them that, even though they died (which all men do because of sin), they would be raised in their spirits by their faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

I think this continues the thought that even those who were sinners, in the days when God destroyed the earth in the flood, received the blessing of forgiveness when Christ died on the cross, if they had had faith in God, even though they were sinners. The spirit of Christ’s death reached back and rescued them from death to life eternal.   All of us are sinners, and all are therefore subject to death.  However, our spirits can be saved from eternal death if we place our faith in God, for here is where we access the saving power of the shed blood of Christ, for the past, or for the future.   He died for all men, that men of faith might be saved.

(NOTE:  I repeat:  I am not a scholar, but even the best of scholars have serious disagreements concerning what Peter is trying to say here.   However, I believe that the principles I have enunciated here are true, whether this is what Peter intended to say or not. )