1 Peter 2:11-12; 3:1-2
2 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.
3 1Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
THE EXAMPLE OF HOPE
Freedom is a very intoxicating word: all through history the world has produced heroes in the cause of freedom. The people to whom Peter was writing were suffering under one of the most powerful and ruthless dictatorships the world had known – the Roman Empire. These people had no vote; laws were imposed from hundreds of miles away; there was no such thing as free speech. How should professing Christians respond to such a situation? We might have expected Peter to respond to this by saying, ‘Christians of the world unite: cry ‘freedom.’ But he doesn’t.
Abstain: He refers to his readers as ‘aliens and exiles’ – words which emphasize the Christian status as a temporary resident in a world that is not their home – and says, ‘I strongly urge you’ or ‘I strongly appeal to you to abstain (present tense) from the passions of the flesh.’ That is, he is urging his readers constantly to be alert to longings, attitudes and actions that are inconsistent with their Christian profession – lust, greed, envy, covetousness, deception, to name some examples. Such longings, Peter says, wage war against our souls. To entertain these longings which may appear harmless, is to be spiritually naïve, for they make us spiritually weak and our witness ineffective.
Maintain good conduct. ‘Furthermore,’ he says, ‘in all relations with the unbelieving world, you are to maintain good conduct – so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation. This really is quite extraordinary – Peter is saying that even when we’re being slandered and falsely accused, the consistency of our life may still result in the salvation of others. The phrase day of visitation simply means, a day when God visits to bring either blessing or judgment. On that day, Peter tells us, unbelievers who are currently slandering Christians will glorify God. This is the voluntary praise of people who have been converted. Peter is not referring to the forced acknowledgement by unbelievers that God has been right, for the word glorify, which occurs 61 times in the New Testament, never refers to unbelievers who are forced unwillingly to admit that God or his people have been in the right.
That they may glorify God. ‘These people have come to glorify God,’ Peter says, ‘because they have seen your good works; they have been drawn to the Lord who has transformed your life.’ Peter gives us a specific example of hope in the first two verse of chapter 3, where he says that husbands may be converted when they see the good conduct of their Christian wives.
Significantly, 1 Peter 2: 11-12 is telling us that as we put away sinful longings and work at living an exemplary patterns of life, our changed lifestyle will be evident to others. Indeed, it may be because they have been personally touched and affected by some dramatic and unexpected act of kindness by one of God’s people that they come to hear of the gospel or the Lord Jesus Christ. Humanly speaking, somewhere along the way people need to hear the gospel.
You may want to consider:
- the way in which God has entrusted his good name to those who profess to be his people: our actions can cause people to reject God or turn to him;
- the way in which reaching out to others involves more than words;
- practical ways in which we can adorn the gospel – see Titus 2:10.
Let me encourage you to pray
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.