“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.”
that they might be judged according to men in the flesh,
“That” denotes aim or purpose. God’s purpose in preaching the gospel is twofold:
1. that non-Christians will evaluate Christians as people in the flesh, and
2. that those who accept the gospel will live forever according to God’s norms
The judges, in this case, are non-Christians who hear the gospel and make their negative evaluation of the gospel according to their own set of norms. They judge the Christian according to their standards. They set up their norms of evaluating the Christian life, and they slander what they see. The impact of this is that all those who malign Christians will themselves face the Judge of all the earth. This is the point of the “for” at the beginning of the verse.
Even though these people came fully face to face with the gospel, they went negative volition towards it because they measured the gospel by a different scale of values (“according to”). They rejected the gospel even though they sufficiently saw its power in the lives of Christians around them.
but live according to God in the spirit
The Greek has a contrast that is not evident in the English – “That they might be judged according to men on the one hand but live according to God in the spirit on the other hand.” This deals with a double purpose: that non-Christian norms on the one hand may judge Christians and that they may go on living by God’s norms on the other hand.
The judgment of men’s norms is not the final end of the Christian. That is only one side of the story. The other side of the coin is that Christians will live eternally according to God’s norms in the spirit. Christians will live according to God’s standards in eternity. Christians will live forever after their physical death.
John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
Christians live according to a different set of values than non-Christians.
God will not condemn Christians in eternity. Their sins have already been judged by the death of Jesus on the cross. Therefore, God will not condemn Christians (Ro. 8:1) because they accepted the gospel while on earth.
Therefore, the Christian lives according to a different scale of values. We abide by a different manual. We march according to a different drumbeat. We look at life differently because we have been born from above. We do not live “according to the norms” of the world.
On the other hand, we concur with God, “according to the standard of God in the spirit.” We do not fit in with the herd anymore. The Savior spoils us for “living according to the standards of men in the flesh.” He spoils the values of the old crowd. We did not give up those values, but they gave us up because the Savior gave us soul satisfaction. That satisfaction more than compensates for the fair-weather friends we lost when becoming Christians.