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1 Peter 4:1-6; 5:10 and Victory Over Sin, Part 2

by Karl Kemp  
8/15/2014 / Bible Studies

We continue this verse-by-verse study of 1 Peter 4:1-6 here in Part 2, starting with 1 Pet. 4:6. We will also discuss 1 Pet. 5:10.

(6) For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even [[Verse 6 shows that God had the gospel preached to those who were spiritually dead to get those who will (fully) submit to the gospel (fully) ready to "give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (verse 5). Those who submit to the gospel in faith leave spiritual death behind and become part of "the living" of verse 5: they have life in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, being indwelled by the Holy Spirit of life (see the discussion of the words "they may live by the Spirit" below). Those who fully submit to the gospel end up living in full agreement with the will of God (in His truth, righteousness, and holiness), by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. They will, therefore, be fully ready to give account to God. Verse 6 (along with most of 1 Pet. 4:1-6, much of this epistle, and much of the New Testament) shows what is required of Christians (those who submit to the gospel with repentance and faith). It must also be understood that those who reject the gospel and "do not obey the gospel of God" (1 Peter 4:17) will have to give account to God for that foundational sin that shows where their hearts are.

The fact that Peter spoke in terms of the gospel having been preached (using the aorist in the Greek), instead of being preached, undoubtedly includes the ideas that the gospel had been preached to his readers in the past, as in 1 Pet. 1:12, 25 (and to those who rejected disobeyed the gospel; see the next paragraph), and goes with his viewpoint expressed in this epistle that the Lord Jesus was coming very soon; apparently he wasn't thinking in terms of many more people leaving spiritual death behind and becoming Christians.

All the spiritual dead (all mankind) are called to repent and submit to the gospel, but many reject and disobey the gospel (see 1 Pet. 4:17; 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9; 1 Tim. 2:1-7; 1 John 2:2, for example). 1 Peter 2:8 shows that God isn't surprised when many reject and disobey the gospel. He also isn't surprised by those who submit to the gospel (see 1 Pet. 1:1, 2, for example; cf. Eph. 1:4; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30). For one thing, God knows (and foreknew) the hearts of all people. It is important to see that this epistle (along with most of the New Testament) was written for the most part to, and for, the elect, the people who would become Christians. See 1 Pet. 4:1-5, for example.

I'll mention a detail that is not of crucial significance. I prefer a translation without the word "even," with the NEB, but I would interpret this verse the same with, or without, the "even." "The dead" here undoubtedly refers back to "the dead" at the end of verse 5. (For the record, the definite article is not included before the word "dead" in verses 5 or 6 in the Greek.) The NIV has "even" and the KJV and NKJV have "also." "Kai," the word translated "even" by the NASB, is left untranslated in some verses in some English translations. In 1 Pet. 4:19, for example, the NASB translated "kai" "also," but the NIV, KJV, and NKJV left it untranslated.

One factor that confuses the interpretation of this verse is that some believe that the preaching here refers to Christ's supposed preaching to the dead in 1 Peter 3:19. I don't believe 1 Peter 3:19 says anything about such preaching. See my discussion of 1 Pet. 3:18-22 on pages 27-31 of my paper, "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations," that is on my internet site ( Also, many who do not see any connection to 1 Pet. 3:19 believe that "the dead" of verses 5 and 6 refers to those who are physically dead.

I'll quote three sentences from D. Edmond Hiebert ("First Peter" [Moody Bible Institute, 1984], page 249) that show that 1 Pet. 4:6 has been interpreted many different ways: " '[1 Pet. 4:6] has been described as the most difficult text in the Bible' (J. Howard B. Masterman, 'The First Epistle of S. Peter,' p. 143). Lillie notes that 'perhaps a score [twenty] different interpretations' of it have been proposed. (John Lillie, 'Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter,' p. 269) It would be unprofitable to trace all the confusing and often contradictory views that have been advanced."]] to those who are dead [[or, better yet, "to the dead." In the Greek this is all one word, the adjective for dead in the dative case. The dead here are the spiritually dead, as in 1 Pet. 4:5 (cf., e.g., John 5:25 with 5:28). The gospel always comes (is preached) initially to those who are spiritually dead. All mankind, which is spiritually dead, is called to repent and submit to the gospel. At one time all of Peter's born-again Christian readers (including us) had been spiritually dead, but after hearing the gospel and submitting to it in faith, they were born again; they became part of "the living" spoken of in 4:5.

As the words that follow in this verse demonstrate, Peter is zeroing in on those who had heard the gospel and repented and submitted to the gospel. His words (like 1 Pet. 4:1-3, 5 and so many other verses of this epistle and throughout the New Testament) exhort and warn his Christian readers with the need to live (with the spiritual life of God) by the Spirit, in accordance with the righteous and holy will of God.

We must make it top priority to believe and live in accordance with the truth of God. This in spite of the fact that living for Christ will involve some suffering, as (for one thing) we are judged in accordance with the judgments of people who are spiritually dead. We certainly cannot coast into heaven. Faith is active. We must make God, His Son, His gospel, and His righteousness and holiness top priority, and all the more so because of the very real opposition (the world, the old man, and the devil and his multitudinous hosts). We cannot be passive and coast into heaven.]], that though they are judged [or, condemned] in the flesh as men [[First let's discuss the words "as men." For one thing, these two words come before "in the flesh" in the Greek, and it is probably better to translate in the order of the Greek words. Instead of translating "as men," I would translate "according to [or, in accordance with] men." The Greek preposition "kata," used here with the word for men, is normally translated this way. (This preposition isn't translated "as" anywhere else in the New Testament by the NASB, but it is translated "according to" 140 times and "in accordance with" 12 times.) It is significant that kata is used later in this verse, and it is translated "according to" by the NASB. As we have seen, Peter's original Christian readers were being judged/condemned "in accordance with" the wrong judgments of "men" (their non-Christian opponents). (1 Peter 4:4 shows that they were being maligned by non-Christians; 1 Peter 4:14 speaks of their being reviled for the name of Christ; and there are quite a few similar verses in this epistle.)

Now we'll discuss the words "in the flesh." These three words in English are one word in the Greek, the word for flesh in the dative/instrumental/locative case, as in 1 Pet. 4:1 (twice). Here the translation "in the flesh" would be acceptable, or we could translate "so far as the flesh is concerned," or "in the realm of the flesh." Spiritually dead men (men in the flesh, men without the Spirit) are doing the judging, condemning, maligning, and reviling. The "flesh" here is contrasted with the "Spirit" spoken of later in this verse (as it often is throughout the New Testament), even as "in accordance with (kata) men" is contrasted with "in accordance with (kata) God."]], they may live in the spirit according to the will of God." [[The order of the words in the Greek is preferable to show the symmetry with "though they are judged/condemned in accordance with men in the realm of the flesh": We could translate, "they may live in accordance with God in [or, by] the Spirit."

Let's discuss the verb [Greek "zao"] "they may live." They live by the life of God, through the indwelling Spirit of God as born-again Christians. The BAGD Greek Lexicon says the Greek verb "zao" is used here with the meaning "have eternal life," as in, for example, John 6:51, 58; and 1 John 4:9. They are "the living" of 1 Pet. 4:5, and it is understood that they are living righteous and holy lives (in accordance with God). Their faith and transformed lives were what brought about the judging/condemning of the non-Christians.

We very much need to keep in mind that Peter (and the other writers of the New Testament) doesn't just assume that his Christian readers are all living in the truth, righteousness and holiness of God. As I have pointed out, this passage (I Peter 4:1-6) along with the much of the rest of this epistle and much of the New Testament, exhorts and warns Christians with the need to live as they are called, enabled, and required to live, and all the more so in that the coming of the Lord Jesus and the day of judgment is near. As I demonstrated, the apostle Peter wrote from the point of view that it was very near (1 Pet. 4:7, 17, 18). Peter was apparently thinking in terms of his being the last generation. Apparently WE ARE living in the last generation!

Now we'll discuss the words "according to [or, in accordance with (kata)] the will of God," which come before "in [or, by] the Spirit [the NASB has "spirit"; so too do the NIV, KJV, and NKJV]" in the Greek. The three words added in italics by the NASB ("the will of") are reasonable in the light of 1 Pet. 4:2, which speaks of living for the will of God. I would, however, skip these added words in the translation. For one thing, this simpler translation will better bring out the intended contrast with the words "in accordance with men" used earlier in the verse.

For another thing, living "in accordance with God" means more than living in accordance with the will of God. Our life by the Spirit comes from God and is in accordance with His nature and with His plan of salvation. With His life/salvation comes His righteousness and holiness. The new man Christians put on is in accordance with (kata) God (see Eph. 4:24 and Col. 3:10). When judgment day comes, which was just mentioned in 1 Pet. 4:5, there is only one judgment that matters, the judgment of God, and He will judge us according to our works (e.g., 1 Pet. 1:17), works that come by grace through faith, works that demonstrate what is in our hearts (faith is of the heart).

You very often hear Christians say that works are not required for salvation. It is true that the apostle Paul said we are saved by faith, not works, but he would agree with James that faith without works is dead (it isn't saving faith). We must have the works of righteousness (the righteous lifestyle) which the grace of God (including the work of the indwelling Righteous Holy Spirit) enables us to do (cf., e.g., Eph. 2:10). Paul was against works without faith in Christ. He was against bringing the ceremonial works of the old covenant (like circumcision) into the new covenant. He was against works being done for the glory of man when God must receive all the glory for our salvation. And he was against trying to earn the salvation that comes to us 100 percent by the grace of God in Christ.

What Jesus said to Christians in Rev. 2:4, 5, 23, 26; 3:1-4, 8, 15, 16 should suffice (but there are a large number of similar verses in the New Testament) to confirm that righteous works (the works that are produced by the grace of God in Christ as we walk by faith) are required. 1 Peter 4:6 puts the primary emphasis on the need for Christians to make sure they are ready for judgment day, even though this will involve some suffering, as it did for Peter's first readers.

1 Peter 4:1-6 (and a large number of passages in the New Testament) make it clear that the non-Christians ("the dead" of 4:5) will have to answer to God for their sin, including the sin of persecuting Christians (e.g., 1 Peter 4:5; 2 Thess. 1:4-6), and, significantly, for not submitting to, and obeying, the gospel (e.g., 1 Pet. 4:17, 18; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9).

The words "in/by the Spirit [spirit]" are one word in the Greek, the word for Spirit/spirit in the dative/instrumental/locative case. I understand these words here in the sense, "they may live as far as the Spirit is concerned"; that is, "they may have life in/by the Spirit." They are born-again Christians, indwelled by the Holy Spirit of life; they are "the living" of 4:5. Because of this they have the ability to live in God's righteousness and holiness, in accordance with God and His will. We must understand the gospel and submit to the gospel in faith, and we must walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith (cf. Gal. 5:16) or we will be sinning to one degree, or another. We will be forgiven if we sincerely repent, but we must be aiming at the target of not sinning. This is good news!]]

1 PETER 5:10: "After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect [put in order], confirm, strengthen and establish you." The reason I wanted to discuss this verse is because I disagree with this translation (NASB). This translation clearly communicates the wrong idea that God will not "perfect [put in order], confirm, strengthen and establish" Peter's readers until after they "have suffered a little while." The Greek sentence starts with the words "the God of all grace," then the words "who has called you to His eternal glory," then "after you have suffered a little while," then "He Himself will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."

I'll quote the NIV: "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

The idea is that God has called Christians to His eternal glory after they have suffered for a little while, not that He will perfect [put in order], confirm, strengthen and establish them after they have suffered for a little while. That's quite a difference! It is clear that all faithful Christians will know some suffering, including spiritual warfare and persecution ((cf., e.g., Acts 14:22, ("strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God"; the Greek verb ["sterizo"] "strengthening" is related to the Greek verb "sterizo" that is translated "confirm" in 1 Pet. 5:10); Rom. 8:17, 18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Thess. 3:3, 4; and many verses in 1 Peter)). I'll quote a sentence from I Howard Marshall ("1 Peter" [InterVarsity Press], 1991], page 172): "During this period of affliction God will help his people." We need God's strengthening, etc. help now, when we are in the middle of trials, temptation, etc. I'll also quote a few sentences from R. C. H. Lenski ("The Interpretation of I and II Epistles of Peter..." [Augsburg Publishing House, 1966], page 228): "The aorist participle [which is translated "after you have suffered" by the NIV] should not be construed with the following future tenses [which are translated "will himself restore you and make you strong..." by the NIV] so that Peter would appear to say that after his readers have suffered the God of grace will equip, firm, strengthen them. To be so equipped, etc., is needed now and not after all suffering is over with. God's equipping will be done for this little while of suffering." And I'll quote a sentence from Scot McNight ("1 Peter" [Zondervan, 1996], page 279): "Finally, Peter's prayer is for their strength - strength to endure, to remain faithful, and to resist the temptations to the flesh (2:11; 4:4)."

The Greek verb ("katartizo") that was translated "will perfect" by the NASB and "will restore" could be translated "put in order."

May the will of God be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be edified!

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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