Conduct Suited to Christian Position and Relationships
1 Peter 1:13 – 2:17
1 Peter 1:13 – 2:17
1 Peter 1:13 – 2:17. Having established and encouraged the saints in their heavenly calling, the apostle Peter next exhorts the saints to the proper conduct that is suitable to them in their new relationships and position. The exhortations continue from v.13 to the end of Peter’s epistle. There are seven short sections that Peter gives, and each one addresses the believer according to various positions and relationships that we are in: as children of obedience (ch.1, v.14), as redeemed (ch.1, v.18), as born again (ch.1, v.23), as newborn babes (ch.2, v.2), as living stones (ch.2, v.4), as a chosen race (ch.2, v.9), and as strangers and pilgrims (ch.2, v.11)
Children of a Holy God and Father (1:13-17)
13 Wherefore, having girded up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope with perfect stedfastness in the grace which will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; v.13 A Prepared and Focused Mind. In ancient times, when a person would gird themselves they would gather their flowing robes together and bind them tightly around their waist with a belt or girdle. This would preserve the person from tripping or being otherwise encumbered while working or running. As Israel was preparing to leave Egypt, they would eat the Passover with loins girded. They were ready to leave, and they ate in haste, with shoes on their feet and their staff in their hand. Peter may be alluding to that very occasion, and applying the girding of the loins as a metaphor to focusing and preparing our minds. Like Israel just before the exodus, we too are to live in the expectation of the imminent return of Christ. Our thoughts can be like loose robes, spread all over, indulged in many pursuits. We need to focus our thoughts “with perfect stedfastness” on the hope that is set before us; the gracious prospect of reigning with Christ when He appears, and of being manifested with Him (Rom. 8:18-19). To be “sober” is to have right moral judgment with respect to the world. This does not mean going around with a long face. We can still be characterized by joy (v.8) while we have sober thoughts. Those who are “sober” are separate now from what will soon be judged “at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.
14 as children of obedience, not conformed to your former lusts in your ignorance; 15 but as he who has called you is holy, be ye also holy in all your conversation; 16 because it is written, “Be ye holy, for “I” am holy.” [Lev. 11:44] vv.14-16 Practical Sanctification. Before conversion we did our own will; as children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2; 5:6 Col. 3:6) acting on our own lusts in ignorance of God. We were not saved to do our own will, but to obey. We are now children in the family of God (1 John 3:1), characterized by obedience. The exhortation is to “be holy”. The motivation is that “he who has called you is holy”. To support this, Peter quotes from Leviticus where the Lord tells the people, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” The principle is this: our state ought to match the character of the One who has called us. Holiness is spoken of in scripture in two different ways. It can refer to the character of a nature, or to an objective state. In the first sense, holiness is the character of God’s own nature. It is the love of good and the hatred of evil. God is light, and His nature is “holy, holy, holy” (Rev. 4:8). But holiness is also used in another sense, referring to an objective state, which answers to sanctification. There is an inward character, but there is also a outward condition. By positional sanctification the believer is made holy in an absolute sense. There is also practical sanctification, which is a process. If we look at where this is quoted from, Leviticus 11 gives various instructions for clean and unclean animals. This shows us that what Peter has in view is practical holiness; “be ye also holy in all your conversation”, or manner of life.
17 And if ye invoke as Father him who, without regard of persons, judges according to the work of each, pass your time of sojourn in fear, v.17 The Father’s Government. Peter then brings in another consideration regarding practical holiness: the righteous government of God. Here it is the Father’s government, or the special, fatherly discipline of God in the lives of believers. Since we “invoke” God “as Father”, He acts toward us as a father. The basic principle of that government is this: the Father righteously “judges according to the work of each”. He generally rewards people on earth according to their deeds, whether good-for-good or evil-for-evil. The government of God is universal in that it applies to all people, whether believers or unbelievers, but here it is focused on believers. God does not act as Father over unbelievers. But His government is impartial; He judges “without regard of persons”. How different from the slanted and biased judges of our earthly governments! When we understand the fatherly discipline of God, it causes us to live here below in “fear”: with a holy reverence or respect. Again, in relation to the world Peter views us “strangers” (v.1), “sojourners” (v.17), and “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11).
Redeemed by the Blood of Christ (1:18-21)
18 knowing that ye have been redeemed, not by corruptible things, as silver or gold, from your vain conversation handed down from your fathers, 19 but by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ, vv.18-19 The Cost of Our Redemption. Another consideration regarding practical holiness is the cost of our redemption. To be redeemed is to be purchased and set free to do the will of God. When we consider the incredible cost to God in order to redeem us, the reasonable response is to surrender ourselves fully to His claims. As Paul said to the Corinthians; “ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The value of a thing is measured by when a person is willing to pay for it. We consider expensive earthly objects to be precious, because they are redeemed with “silver and gold”. But those are corruptible things. Under the law, the Jews would pay the half shekel of silver as the price to redeem every man in Israel (Exodus 30:12-16). Gold was also used in atonement (Num. 31:48-54). Gold and silver required under the law; “from your vain conversation handed down from your fathers”. But we have been redeemed with something far greater than corruptible gold and silver; “by precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ”. Christ was “without blemish” internally (pure in nature and motives, no sin in Him), and “without spot” outwardly (pure in word and deed, He did no sin). The blood of a spotless lamb contained the value of that spotless life, and therefore it was precious to God. Christ as the Lamb of God is the ultimate and true sacrifice for sin, and His precious blood contained the value of His atoning sufferings, and His holy life laid down for us. God estimate is what matters; “precious”. His was the only life that could be given. All the others were forfeited by sin. How can the believer walk in self-will and sin when he is conscious of the tremendous price that Has been paid to redeem him? We belong to the Lord, not to ourselves any longer.
LORD, we are Thine, bought by Thy blood,
Once the poor guilty slaves of sin;
But Thou redeemedst us to God,
And mad’st Thy Spirit dwell within;
Thou hast our sinful wanderings borne
With love and patience all divine;
As brands, then, from the burning torn,
We own that we are wholly Thine.
Lord, we are Thine: Thy claims we own,
Ourselves to Thee we’d wholly give.
Reign Thou within our hearts alone,
And let us to Thy glory live;
Here let us each Thy mind display,
In all Thy gracious image shine;
And haste that long-expected day
When Thou shalt own that we are Thine.1
20 foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but who has been manifested at the end of times for your sakes, 21 who by him do believe on God, who has raised him from among the dead and given him glory, that your faith and hope should be in God. v.20 The Purpose of God. The Lamb was foreknown in the counsels of God before creation, but was manifested “at the end of times” (see Heb. 1:1) for us who believe. How wonderful to see that, before we ever existed, before the foundations of the world, God purposed that Christ would suffer and die for our blessing. Christ as the sin-bearer was eternally before the mind of God. We find in Eph. 1 that we too, who in time have believed, were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world! But Christ as the Lamb of God’s providing was not revealed until “these last times”, when Christ came. The expression “last times” in scripture is used in connection with Israel to the end of the age, from the first coming of Messiah through the second, encompassing 2000 years that was impossible to foresee from their perspective. The same expression is used in the New Testament epistles to refer to the last days of Christianity, from the declension of the early church all the way to the destruction of the false church in Revelation. In v.21 the believer’s faith is brought in. We are redeemed by Christ’s blood, and also He is the object of our faith. Christ is the means of attaching our faith to God; “who by him do believe in God”. Therefore the resurrection and glorification of Christ is brought in, which above any of His works demonstrated the infinite power of God, and not arbitrarily so, but that He is for us (Rom. 8:31). The resurrection and glorification of Christ are the fullest proofs of our redemption – that our sins are gone!2 The result is “that your faith and hope should be in God”. This is similar to how Israel came to believe in Jehovah after the redemption at the Red Sea.
Born Again by the Word of God (1:22-25)
22 Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth to unfeigned brotherly love, love one another out of a pure heart fervently; v.22 Purity through Obedience. Peter then speaks of inward purity an its results. When a person is converted, they purify their souls. This is an inward purity in contrast to the outward purification of Jewish rituals. A purified soul is one whose thoughts and motives are brought into conformance with the will of God. The Word of God, which is often pictured by water, purifies the soul from sin when we obey it. It is a once-for-all action taken when a person believes the gospel, but there is an ongoing maintenance of that purity through illumination and self-judgment; “the washing of the water by the Word” (Eph. 5:26).3 It isn’t merely by reading or hearing the Word that our souls are purified, but “by obedience to the truth”. Obedience to the truth is the expression of faith. Faith is manifested by obedience. When we submit ourselves entirely to the Word of God, ever thought and motive is brought into captivity, and the heart thus purified flows out in unfeigned and intense love toward our brethren. Brotherly love cannot be truly had and enjoyed apart from purity and obedience to the truth.
23 being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the living and abiding word of God. v.23 Born Again by the Word of God. While purifying our souls is something we must do, there is a preceding work that God does in us, that is the action of new birth. Both the purification of our souls and new birth are accomplished through the Word of God, though in reverse order chronologically. The Word of God is the thread tying these verses together. Even before we obeyed the gospel, God caused us to be born again. It wasn’t as Nicodemus thought, a fresh start for man, as if going back into his mother’s womb would even be possible. Could a man enter his mother’s womb a second time, it would only produce the same fallen sinful nature. That is because the natural life we have from Adam is “corruptible seed”. We need a new life that comes from another source altogether. Hence, the believer is spoken of in 1 John as “born of God” (1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18). The life that comes from God is an “incorruptible seed”. Just as the flesh cannot change its monstrous character, so the new nature cannot change its Divine character. Brotherly love (v.22) is innate to the new nature. But Peter shows us here that that new birth is communicated to the believer by the “living and abiding word of God”. The abiding character of the Word is shown in vv.24-25. But first, notice that both Peter and James insist on the role of the Word of God in causing the new birth (Jam. 1:18). This what Jesus said to Nicodemus; “Except any one be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The water of the Word cleanses, and the Spirit gives life. Read more…
24 Because “all flesh is as grass, and all its glory as the flower of grass. The grass has withered and its flower has fallen; 25 but the word of the Lord abides for eternity.” [Isa 40:6] But this is the word which in the glad tidings is preached to you. vv.24-25 The Abiding Character of the Word of God. Concluding this little section, Peter quotes from Isaiah 40 to show the abiding character of the Word of God in contrast to the weakness and transient character of man in the flesh. The life that we have by new birth is communicated to us through the action of the Word of God, and this in total contrast to the futile efforts of man in the flesh. In the context of the chapter, Israel had boasted in themselves as greater than the Gentiles. But their sin had proven that they were no better. It was shown first in the captivity of Babylon, and again more emphatically in the dispersion of the Romans, that “all flesh is as grass”. The flower of the grass is that which is pleasing to the first man; the glory of man. What failing man needs is an unfailing resource. This is the Word of God. It never fades or fails, but instead “abides for eternity”.
The Word of God. The unfailing Word of God is what God uses as an incorruptible seed to cause us to be born again (v.23), what we obey in order to purity our souls (v.22), what we feed on as new born babes in order to grow spiritually (ch.2, v.2).
Growing Babes (2:1-3)
1 Laying aside therefore all malice and all guile and hypocrisies and envyings and all evil speakings, v.1 Lay Aside the Fruits of the Old Nature. Having remarked on the believer’s being born again by the Word of God, and also on the unreliability of the flesh, which is as grass, the believer is now called to act on this in a twofold way. First, to lay aside those fruits that arise from the flesh (v.1). Second, to nurture the new nature with the food that it desires (vv.2-3). If self-judgment (v.1) isn’t active in our life, feeding on the Word of God (v.2) won’t be either. We still have the old nature, but we must not allow it to act. The things in v.1 are morally reprehensible, and they are also things that hinder the Christian from having an appetite for the Word of God. They must be expunged from our lives. Notice the tense of “laying aside” is the aorist; a once-for-all action. A believer does this when converted, but often there is a need to “return to Gilgal” so to speak, and freshly pass judgment on the flesh. It is interesting that all five things have to do with our attitude or spirit. These five sins are a progression. It begins in the heart (malice) and comes out from the mouth (evil speaking).
- Malice is to have bad thoughts about someone, sometimes including a desire to harm them or see them fall into trouble. Paul speaks about the “leaven of malice” in 1 Cor. 5 as perhaps the root of greater sins. Bad thoughts toward others must be immediately judged, or they will progress. If we nurse malicious thoughts, they will take hold of us.
- Guile is deception, or insidious cunning. It is very natural for unjudged malice to be joined by guile, in order to hide the thoughts from others. Guile can be harboring malice with a smile. But more broadly, it is an effort to deceive others by hiding our true character, motives, or actions. Guile is opposed to truth. God wants “truth in the inward parts” (Psa. 51:6).
- Hypocrisy is trying to be something we are not; “they say and do not” (Matt. 23:3). It is a positive version of guile; where guile hides something nefarious, hypocrisy pretends to be something admirable. As guile is opposed to truth, hypocrisy is opposed to sincerity. Hypocrisy is broadly condemned by the Word of God.
- Envy is coveting something that belongs to another. It is outright discontent or resent for someone because of who they are or what they have. This resentment is often directed at those we have held malicious thoughts toward. An example is Saul envying David.
- Evil speaking is talking bad about others, whether pointing out their faults, or slandering them with dishonest accusations. Up until this fifth step, there is nothing outward. Malice, guile, hypocrisy, and envy are all internal sins of the heart and mind. When sin spills out into words and actions, this is only the tail of a very long serpent. The head of the serpent is malice.
These five kinds of sin, each one a manifestation of the flesh, like the five kings of Canaan (Jos. 10:22-26), need to be dragged into the light, judged, and put in the place of death.
2 as newborn babes desire earnestly the pure mental milk of the word, that by it ye may grow up to salvation, v.2 The Milk of the Word. The believer is compared to a newborn babe, not in the same way that Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5, where it is an abnormal condition of immaturity, where milk and solid food are contrasted, but rather as the normal appetite of the believer for the Word of God. This verse is not saying that we should remain spiritual babies (hence, “that ye may grow”), but that we should always have the same appetite a newborn has for its mother’s milk. Connect the “therefore” in v.1 with v.25 of chapter 1. Considering what a solid resource the Word of God is (especially in comparison with the flesh) we ought to earnestly desire it as a newborn desires his mother’s milk. Milk is the natural food for babies, and so the Word is the natural food for those who have been born of the Word (1 Pet. 1:23). It is the “pure” milk in that is has no harmful thing in it. It is the “mental” milk in that it increases our spiritual understanding. As a mother’s milk causes her baby to develop physically, the milk of the Word causes us to develop in our understanding of divine things. The spiritual growth has an objective in view; “that by it ye may grow up to salvation”. Here Peter speaks of salvation in the present or practical sense, of being preserved spirit, soul, and body in this lifetime. Feeding on the Word will result in spiritual maturity (being grown up), whereby we will be preserved from spiritual harm (Eph. 4:14).
3 if indeed ye have tasted that the Lord is good [allusion to Psa. 34:8]. v.3 Tasting. A newborn baby has an appetite for his mother’s milk. He tastes it, and instinctively desires more. Peter alludes to Psa. 34:8 where the Psalmist invites others to taste what he has already tasted, the that Lord is good; “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Peter, in alluding to this cherished verse, identifies Jesus with Jehovah. The believers Peter was addressing had tasted the Lord, and we have too. Jesus Himself is that which we feed on in the scriptures, and as we meditate on Him, our appetite for the pure mental milk grows stronger. The best way to develop and appetite for the Word of God (or more properly, for Christ Himself) is by reading it!
Living Stones & Holy Priests (2:4-8)
4 To whom coming, a living stone, cast away indeed as worthless by men, but with God chosen, precious, 5 yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. vv.4-5 Living Stones, Holy Priests. As believers, we come to Christ with an appreciation for Him that only God can give. Christ was rejected by this world; “cast away indeed as worthless by men”. They don’t see value in Jesus, except when they find it convenient to use a distorted view of Him as a role-model for good behavior. The world said, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). But “with God”, Christ is “chosen” and “precious”. The believer sees Christ in that same light. Christ is said to be “a living stone”. As dead and risen, Christ is the Living Stone (the seemingly contradictory phase bears that out), and therefore the foundation of all that God is doing. When the Lord gave Simon a new name (Peter or Cephas, meaning ‘a stone’), it was in associate with Jesus Himself as the Rock (Matt. 16:16-18). The name for Peter is “petros” and it means, ‘a little stone’ and the word for rock is “petra” and it means ‘a large stone’. A ‘petros’ is just a part of a ‘petra’. There Lord was saying, “I am going to make you of the same substance as the rock.” Matt. 21, . The Lord is the Living Stone, we too are living stones because we partake in His resurrection life! He is the elect cornerstone (v.6). We are elect too (ch.1, v.1), and built upon Him. Peter doesn’t speak of the body of Christ as Paul does, but speaks of the saints collectively as “a spiritual house”. This is the closest Peter comes to Paul’s doctrine (Eph. 2:22; 1 Tim. 3:15). The Jewish believers had lost their earthly temple, but we have something far more wonderful in Christianity. They didn’t need to stand afar off the presence of God any longer. They they were part of the temple, and they were a priesthood! As priests, we offer sacrifices – not animal sacrifices, but “spiritual sacrifices”. The sacrifices are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, meaning He is the great High Priest that offers them to God (Heb. 13:15).
Christian Priesthood. The subject of the individual priesthood of the believer is found in the writings of Peter (1 Pet. 2:5, 9), John (Rev. 1:6), and Paul (Heb. 10:19-22). The privileges that were granted to the family of Aaron under the law, and these only were but types of good things to come, are granted in full to every believer in Christ without distinction! Our priesthood is the highest sphere of Christians activity, and it covers things like prayer, worship, discernment, and testimony. The fact that Christ is our "great high priest" is evidence the He has a company of priests about Him, of which every sanctified one is a member. The fact that our priesthood is individual is a truth that must be guarded, lest we fall into the evil of a class-priesthood. There is no priesthood that God recognizes today other than the individual priesthood of the believer. As Christians, we are all priests. We are different from one another in gift, but we are alike in priesthood. We offer "spiritual sacrifices" to God, but "through Jesus Christ" as the mediator and High Priest. These sacrifices could be our person (Rom. 12:1), our praise (Heb. 13:15), or our possessions (Heb. 13:16). As holy priests (1 Pet. 2:5), we praise and pray; offering "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks," (1 Tim. 2:1). As royal priests (1 Pet. 2:9), we maintain a bright light and testimony for God here in this world (Num. 8:2). Understanding and keeping the truth of God is also part of our priesthood (Mal. 2:7).
6 Because it is contained in the scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be put to shame.” [Isa. 28:16] 7 To you therefore who believe is the preciousness; but to the disobedient, “the stone which the builders cast away as worthless, this is become head of the corner,” [Psa. 118:22] 8 and “a stone of stumbling and rock of offence;” [Isa. 8:14] who stumble at the word, being disobedient to which also they have been appointed. v.8 Christ, the Corner-Stone and Stumbling-Stone. Peter then quotes from Isaiah 28, Psalm 118, and Isaiah 8 to bring out the contrast between the reception that Christ received by the leaders of the Jews compare with the reception that He receives in the hearts of believers. From God’s perspective, He had placed in Zion (mountain of grace) Christ as “a corner stone, elect, precious”, as an object of faith; “he that believes on him shall not be put to shame”. Prophetically, the day of the attack of the King of the North will test the faith of Israel, when the mass of the nation will make lies their refuge, etc. and trust in the empty promises of Antichrist. The faithful remnant will believe on Christ, and will not be disappointed in His protection. The response of the Jews at Christ’s first coming should have been to believe on Him as the Messiah. Those who did believe, as the Jewish Christians Peter was addressing, had seen “the preciousness” of Christ. But those who disobeyed the gospel (for that is what refusing to believe is – disobedience), they did not see the preciousness of the Corner Stone.
God, as the all-wise and good Architect, laid an elect and precious cornerstone in Zion. This Stone ought to have been received, welcomed, and believed on by the people. However, the proud and disobedient builders rejected the Architect’s choice, and cast aside the Corner Stone as worthless. Tragically, the Stone they rejected has become “a stone of stumbling and rock of offence” to them. Inadvertently, they stumbled over the discarded Stone, and were destroyed by it as a result of their own choice. The Architect refused to allow the builders to have their way, and has in spite of the Stone’s rejection, has made Him “the head of the corner”.
The builders are the religious leaders of Israel; the ones Peter addressed in Acts 4:10-11 as “you builders”. See also Matt. 21:42-46. Rejecting Christ is the very reason for their eventual judgment by Himself (Matt. 21:44). Now Christ has begun to build (“I will build”), and He is the head of the corner – the exalted One! It adds, “being disobedient to which also they have been appointed.” Some have misconstrued this to mean that God chose the builders to be disobedient, but really that was their choice. It simply means that God chose the point of their stumbling to be at the Word; specifically the Word of God pertaining to the Person of Christ. They were appointed to stumble because they were disobedient. Stumbling upon Christ is the judgment God – in His divine wisdom – has appointed for those who reject Christ. The Stumbling Stone to Christ-rejectors is same One who is the precious Corner Stone to those who believe. The “preciousness” is only for believers.
A Chosen Race & A Royal Priesthood (2:9-10)
9 But “ye” are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light; 10 who once were not a people, but now God’s people; who were not enjoying mercy, but now have found mercy [allusion to Hosea 2:23]. vv.9-10 A Special People, A Royal Priesthood. In contrast with the disobedient builders, the believing Jews, and all Christians, are a special and beloved people of the Lord, with a wonderful calling and privilege. The language is taken from Exodus 19, where the Lord told Israel that, if they obeyed His voice, they would be “a peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6). This is what Israel could have been, had they obeyed Jehovah. He wanted Israel to be a special treasure for Himself out of all nations. As a kingdom of priests, Israel would represent Jehovah and pattern His character to the world, and thereby teach the other nations His ways. As the nations came up to worship Jehovah, Israel would conduct the worship of the nations. However, Israel never became a nation of priests, as Exodus shows, because of self-confidence and disobedience. Nevertheless, this original calling for Israel will be fulfilled when Israel is restored. In the Millennium, when the nations come up to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah (Isaiah 2:2; Zech. 14:16), under the Melchizedek Priest, Israel will indeed be that “kingdom of priests”! Read more… But as a faithful remnant, having pre-trusted in Christ before the nation (Eph. 1:12), the Jewish believers (and all Christians by extension) have that privilege, as Peter shows us here (Rom. 11:17). The character of our worship is far higher than Israel’s worship of Jehovah (John 4:23). The light that we shine to the world around is a far truer reflection of the virtues of Him who has called us (1 John 2:8). Truly, God has saved the best wine until now! The royal aspect of our priesthood has to do with testimony as the holy aspect has to do with praise.
Peter actually alludes to a passage in Hosea 2 where the restoration of Israel to her former position is prophesied. Through sin and rebellion, Israel was Lo-ammi (“not my people”) and Lo-ruhamah (“no more mercy”). They were a people cast away by God, in moral darkness. They remain so at the present time. But God will restore them one day in mercy (“ruhamah”), and Israel will be brought into His marvelous light, and will once again be the people of God (“ammi”). Peter is not saying that our Christian priesthood is the fulfillment or “spiritual replacement” of the ancient promises to Israel, as Covenant Theology states. Rather, he is showing from prophecy that it is God’s intention to have a chosen people that represent Him, that show forth His excellencies, etc. We are that people today! This however does not lower our heavenly calling to an earthly one (see v.11), nor does it rob Israel of their future blessing, as the prophecy of Hosea distinctly requires.
Strangers & Sojourners in the World (2:11-17)
11 Beloved, I exhort you, as strangers and sojourners, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that as to that in which they speak against you as evildoers, they may through your good works, themselves witnessing them, glorify God in the day of visitation. vv.11-12 Right Moral Conduct. Peter now takes up the believer’s place in the world. He begins by speaking of them as “Beloved”, an expression of tender affection only used in scripture for the saints. The world is not our home; we are “strangers and pilgrims (sojourners)”. Strangers have no home, and pilgrims are on their way home. The cross has made us strangers, and the glorification of Christ has made us pilgrims. As strangers and pilgrims, Peter exhorts us to right moral conduct in two aspects: (1) inwardly, to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul”, then (2) outwardly, to maintain our “conversation honest among the Gentiles”. The order is important; inward first, outward second.
- First, we must realize a war is raging. Our old sinful nature, the flesh, is waging war against our soul. The flesh is an enemy, and the lusts of the flesh are battle tactics! We need to avoid those lusts like a soldier avoids a rocket or a grenade. Though victorious in physical combat, Samson was ultimately defeated by his own fleshly lusts. Strangers and pilgrims pass through a land unaffected by its attractions. Fleshly lusts do opposite; they cause us to partake of the world.
- Second, we have a testimony before the world. The world may condemn us for what we believe, but there should be nothing in our actions that can be condemned. The early Christians in the Roman Empire were spoken against as “evildoers”, even viewed as criminals, because they rejected the pantheon of Greco-Roman deities and would not participate in their feasts, etc. Instead they served the one true God, invisible to the eye, and without a physical image or temple. They were even called “atheists” by many Gentiles.4 This reputation among the Gentiles could only be countered by honesty and “good works”, says Peter. They don’t admit it, but the believer’s actions are a witness to the unbeliever’s conscience of a righteous life. The “day of visitation” is an interesting expression. Some commentators explain it as referring to the times when God will bring trouble into the lives of unbelievers.5 Others explain that the day of visitation refers to the appearing of Christ when all will be manifested.6 In either case, God will see to it that the world will acknowledge that the believer is righteous, and thereby “glorify God”. In the western world, Christians have largely been viewed as well-doers. However, as western society reverts to darkness, and evil becomes good and good becomes evil (Isa. 5:20), Christians are facing similar challenges as early Christians in the Roman Empire.
13 Be in subjection therefore to every human institution for the Lord’s sake; whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to rulers as sent by him, for vengeance on evildoers, and praise to them that do well. vv.13-14 Subjection to Civil Authority. The believer is the be subject to “every human institution”. While “institutions” are very broad, what follows clarifies that civil authorities are in view; “whether to the king as supreme, or to rulers as sent by him”. In addition to abstaining from that which the world offers to entice our fleshly lusts, we are to submit to the governments that God has allowed to be in power where we live. This can be difficult at times, especially when the government is cruel or anti-Christian. What Paul exhorted the Gentile believers to do “for conscience sake” (Rom. 13), Peter exhorts the Jewish believers to do the same “for the Lord’s sake”. This was especially hard for the Jews, because they we put under the dominion of Gentiles because of their disobedience to Jehovah. The dominion of Palestine was a sensitive subject for the Jew, and the religious leaders often rejected the reality of their position under the government of God; though under Roman dominion, they would say “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man” (John 8:33). For the Jew to submit to the Gentile governments would mean reproach. But Peter tenderly brings the Lord into the matter, and presents our desire to please the Lord as the the motive. That changes everything! The very One whose right it is to rule the world, the King of kings and Lord of lords said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). The Gentile dominion is only temporary. Soon the kingdom of heaven will be manifested for all the world to see and submit to, and we will reign with Christ as co-heirs. The blessedness of this is already dawning in our hearts, as we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. “Then are the children free”. But, Christ is patiently waiting the Father’s time, and meanwhile has asked us to submit to the powers that be (Rom. 13:1). “Nevertheless, lest we should offend them, etc.” (Matt. 17:26-27). Here, Peter shows that God has ordained the civil governments “for vengeance on evildoers, and praise to them that do well”. We are to think of rulers “as sent by Him”. There may be corrupt and despotic governments, but the purpose for which God gave governments is to restrain evil (Gen. 9:6), and that is usually the case.
Submission to a higher authority. If the civil authorities were to command a believer to do something that is positively evil, we must remember that "we ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In such a case, the Christian is to suffer passively, not resist actively. To obey God rather than men is not rebellion; it is submission to a higher authority. The Assembly also is a higher authority than the government. The Assembly's authority comes from the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of two or three gathered to His name (Matt. 18:20). Paul admonished the Corinthians on this matter; "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?" (1 Cor. 6:1-2). This doesn’t mean the Christians are not to cooperate with the civil powers. Clearly, this chapter teaches that we should. If a person violates the laws of the land, the assembly cannot cover it up. The assembly collectively is not subject to the civil powers (it is heavenly), but as individual Christians we are subject to every human institution (1 Pet. 2:13). In a case of a law breaker, individuals may be responsible to testify in court, etc. but not the assembly. But it would be wrong for a Christian to sue another Christian in civil court. There is a higher authority for matters of personal trespass. Also, the governments do not set the standard of righteousness. For that we must go to the Word of God. Abortion, gay marriage, etc. are wrong, not because of what the government says, but because of what God says.
15 Because so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye put to silence the ignorance of senseless men; 16 as free, and not as having liberty as a cloak of malice, but as God’s bondmen. vv.15-16 God’s Will for Us. It is wonderful to have Scriptures that tell us what the will of God is. there was so much opposition from the world that the importance of a good testimony was imperative. While the world, whose ideology is corrupted by sin, may accuse the Christian of evil, the Christian by good conduct puts to silence the ignorant accusations of “senseless men”. How often we are reproached as ignorant, antiquated, and gullible for our faith, while the world boasts of intelligence, sophistication, and progress! Yet before God, the man of the world is ignorant and senseless. In v.16 we have Christian liberty brought in. While Christians submit to human institutions, kings, etc. they do so as ambassadors in a foreign country. We are heavenly citizens, and therefore we pass through this world with a different mindset than the people of the world – as strangers and pilgrims. We are not in bondage to the influences of the world, and therefore, we are free! But we do not use the freedom that God has given us as an excuse for sin; “not as having liberty as a cloak of malice”. Christian liberty is never liberty for the flesh to act. Therefore Peter brings in Christian servanthood. While God has set us at perfect liberty, His intention in doing so is that we might do His will; “but as God’s bondmen”.
17 Shew honour to all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king. v.17 Honorable Behavior. In conclusion, Peter gives four short exhortations that summarize honorable behavior for strangers and sojourners in the world. First, we are to show honor (implies respect and kindness) toward all mankind. Second, we are to show love (implies affection and fellowship) toward the Christian brotherhood. Third, we are to show fear (implies holy reverence or respect) toward God. Fourth, we are to show honor (implies respect for office and authority) toward dignitaries such as the king.
- Deck, J.G. Lord, We Are Thine. Little Flock Hymnbook #52A.
- The resurrection of Christ from among the dead and the glory given to Him on high are God’s mighty and distinct evidence that He is for the believer absolutely and for ever. If anything could have made this doubtful, it was our sins. But they were laid — yea, He laid on Christ (Isa. 53:6) the iniquity of us all. Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Where are they now? When He made purification of the sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Not one sin did God leave on the believer; not one did Christ carry into heaven; for what He thus did was the will of God; so that our faith and hope are in God. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.
- The expression “having purified your souls” in v.22 and “being born again” in v.23 are both the participle perfect in Greek, meaning an ongoing effect from a past action, but v.22 is in the active and v.23 is in the passive. Obeying the truth is something we must do, but being born again is the work of God alone.
- In North Africa arose the proverb: “If God does not send rain, lay it to the Christians.” At every inundation, or droubt, or famine, or pestilence, the fanatical populace cried: Away with the atheists! To the lions with the Christians!” – Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. Volume 2, Chapter 2, Section 15. Delmarva Publications, 2013
- The day of visitation refers to God’s present dealings with the world. Men may speak evil of the Christian, but when trouble overtakes them, through yielding to their lusts, they will have to admit that God blesses those who quietly and patiently pursue a life of good works. – Smith, H. The First Epistle of Peter.
- Our apostle adds “in the day of visitation;” but hardly in the sense of being visited with the same light and grace which Christians knew, still less of a day when the Gentiles should have a clearer preaching of the gospel than then. It appears rather to look on to a day when God shall judge the secrets of men, when the Lord shall come who will also both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then shall each have the praise from God. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle of Peter.