This past Tuesday morning's text was I Peter 4, and the discussion began around I Peter 4:6 which states:
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 men at the Bible study offered four different observations and interpretations of this verse, including the following:
(1). The dead are those who lived in the antediluvian age, and the gospel was proclaimed to them by the Spirit as much as to those living in Peter's day.
(2). The dead are those who are "spiritually" dead, and the Spirit makes them alive through the preaching of the gospel.
(3). The dead are the martyrs who have died for their faith in Christ, and the judgment they received "in the flesh" was the judgment from the men who put them to death, but the Spirit makes them alive to God.
(4). The dead are those who Christ proclaimed victory to after his death at Calvary - but before His resurrection - when He took "captivity captive" and carried from Hades those He redeemed by the Spirit.
The various positions were elucidated, not so much advocated, by those who offered them, and we all listened with respect. The spirit was loving, the discussion healthy, and when it was all over I learned a great deal. Not all of the possible interpretations of that text can be correct. In fact, I am quite comfortable in saying that there is one correct interpretation of the sacred text found in I Peter 4:6.
That which stands out to me about our Bible study, however, is the love, respect and Christian charity shown by all the men toward each other - even those who disagreed with the various interpretations offered.
As I left "The Grace Place," I thanked the Lord for bringing me to a church full of people who would rather gently elucidate than proudly advocate. I also realized that those in the Southern Baptist Convention who are so cocksure about their interpretations of Scripture (i.e. "tongues have ceased," or "the gift of tongues continues"; i.e. "God is trying as hard as He can to save every person," or "God only desires to save the elect"; i.e. "women can't teach men the Bible," or "women can teach men theology," etc . . . ). I have absolutely no problem with any Southern Baptist believing any of the above examples, or any Southern Baptist explaining why they believe what they believe.
It is the arrogant, cocksure approach that a specific interpretation being advocated is the only possible correct interpretation that winds up causing conflict in the SBC. May God give us all a little humility to understand we are fallible men and women, and it is much better to elucidate one's views rather than advocate them.
In His Grace,