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Preaching to the Dead

Eternal life is bound up in spiritual life now.

“For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead.” (1 Peter 4:6, NKJV) 

In verse 3 Peter says we have spent enough time doing what the Gentiles do, and then goes on to give a laundry list of sin: lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. Are we who are not ethnic Jews reading a letter addressed to someone else? Aren’t many of us Gentiles? 

Peter is expressing himself the same way Paul does in his letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:17-19). We in Christ are the true children of Abraham, heirs of the covenant promise, believing ethnic Jews, believing ethnic Gentiles, one people of faith (cf. Rom. 9:6-8). 

Our new identity and life in Christ mandates a new orientation under the lordship of Christ. Paul sums it up as putting off our former manner of life and putting on a manner of life that reflects our new state where we grow in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. 

Peter says that as we endeavor to live for Christ those not of Christ will make fun of us and speak evil against us. Peter, however, reminds us that “they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:5), both those who are still alive and those who have gone to the grave. 

The gospel provides for us the only refuge from judicial guilt. As our Lord Jesus put it: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). Those in Christ have already been judged in Him who suffered in the flesh for them, and acquitted. 

That’s why Peter emphasizes response to the gospel while we have opportunity (cf. Heb. 9:27). “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6). Opportunity to believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved (Acts 2) is given in this life. Eternal life is bound up in spiritual life now. 

REFLECTION: The gospel that brings salvation begets sanctification. 

Unless noted otherwise, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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