Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. – 1 Peter 4:1-6
What do we make of v. 6, above? Is Peter saying that people who have died are able to hear the Gospel, repent from their sins, believe and be saved? A better understanding of this verse flows from the verses immediately before, as one commentator suggests:
“Those who are now dead seems to refer deceased believers in Christ. When they were alive, the gospel was preached to them. While on earthy they were judged by men in the fleshly realm, or condemned and martyred on account of the gospel. But they now live by God in the spiritual realm, heaven. – Holman Christian Standard Bible, Study Bible Notes, Broadman & Holman, Pub.
More important than speculation about the dead is the clarion call for us to to avoid living as the Gentiles do, “in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” Peter even says that they are likely surprised the Jesus’ followers don’t just go along and join in on the same revelry!
Perhaps the question ought to be: When was the last time I surprised someone? Or: Do I realize that when people ridicule me for my faith, my stance, and lifestyle choices, they are really expressing surprise at my dedication to following Jesus? They might actually be convicted by your example because of their own failure to resist temptation to something that they know is immoral.
Having been saved by Jesus’ death, through faith in God’s promises centered in Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection, and second coming, we now embrace the whole council of God and live a life that is markedly different from the world. In doing so we may experience ridicule. But thank God we have the Gospel!
Even if we experience ridicule and rejection, we can be confident of an eternal blessedness and glory of heaven. Eternally blessed. Eternally joyful. Eternally alive. The whole council of God points us to that hope.