This is a hard verse, but here’s how I understand it: in 3:18-21 we saw how Christ preached to the spirits in prison who were disobedient to the truth in the days of Noah. He didn’t preach to try to save them; He proclaimed the victory and that He truly is Lord. Here in chapter four we see that the same message was preached to them that are now dead so that they will rightly be judged according to their works in the flesh, and they will be punished forever in their resurrected bodies: “…judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
For this reason we have no reason to fear or worry about being hated for the sake of righteousness. Instead we wait patiently knowing that,
God empowers us to work and wait for Him (:7-11)
7But the end of all things is at hand:
Suffering seems long, but history is coming to a close.
be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
Have your mind right and have your mind in prayer.
8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
The world will hate us, and that’s never going to change. But we can’t hate each other. Our love for each other wipes out our grudges. We can forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive because God’s love is in us and that how He loves us.
9Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
Be generous towards each other without complaining about it. As God has given all things to us freely, so we give all things to each other freely. We don’t hate to take care of each other, rather we relish the opportunity to provide what God’s given us to one of our brothers.
10As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
The Greek word for “gift” (like a present) is dwron, but that’s not the word used here. This Greek word means the gift of divine grace. We have favor and love and forgiveness, and patience from God, so be good stewards: as you’ve received, even so minister one to another.
11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;
If you make words, let them be as though God says them. Not necessarily in authority, but in purity.
if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth:
If you serve, do it in the ability and strength God has provided,
that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Here’s the bottom line: Christ gets praise and dominion. When the world hates us for righteousness, it really hates God who works through us. We praise Him for His good works through us and they hate Him for the same reason, but he will have dominion!
And so until then,
God wills us to suffer for His name’s sake (:12-19)
12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Don’t be shocked as if this is something new,