1 Peter 2:11-12 ~ 20081130~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/30 1 Peter 2:11-12 conduct that glorifies God
2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation-- 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," 8 and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
11 agaphtoi parakalw wv paroikouv kai parepidhmouv apecesyai twn sarkikwn epiyumiwn aitinev strateuontai kata thv quchv 12 thn anastrofhn umwn en toiv eynesin econtev kalhn ina en w katalalousin umwn wv kakopoiwn ek twn kalwn ergwn epopteuontev doxaswsin ton yeon en hmera episkophv
Peter has reminded us of our identity in verses 9-10. We have been chosen by God, to be priests to God, set apart as holy for God, we are now the possession of God, in order to make proclamation about the great worth of God. God called us out of darkness by an act of his great mercy. Our ultimate purpose is to proclaim his excellencies. We have been chosen, set apart, given the office of priests, possessed by God so that we can make proclamation to others about the greatness of God. Our primary purpose is proclamation. And the content of our proclamation is God - the beauty of his nature and the excellencies of his character. We are to noise abroad the supreme worth of our redeemer who by his life giving word called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We exist to make him known.
Verse 11 begins a new section of the letter. Peter starts this section of the letter by addressing his readers as 'beloved'. He will start the next section of his letter in chapter 4 verse 12 by again addressing them as 'beloved'. This section begins and ends with reference to the theme of God's glory.
1 Peter 2:12 ...they may see your good deeds and glorify God ...
1 Peter 4:11...--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
In this section, Peter fleshes out how we are to proclaim God's excellencies to the hostile community in which we live:
We glorify God in our lifestyle by our attitude of submission to authority; in 2:13-17 we are to be submissive to the governing authorities; in 2:18-25 slaves should submit to masters; in 3:1-6 wives should submit to husbands; in 2:21-25 Christ's suffering is set up as the supreme example to imitate. The goal in every instance is to live in such a way that unbelievers will glorify God and repent and believe.
Verses 11 and 12 are the introduction to this new section. They give us a two-pronged approach to proclaiming the excellencies of Jesus with our lives; first negatively and then positively. Negatively, we are to abstain from certain desires; positively, we are to make sure that our conduct in the world has a certain integrity. All this is for the purpose of bringing glory to God. That's the big picture; now lets look closer at the details of verses 11-12.
Back in the first line of this letter, Peter pointed us to God's call or selection of us as the basis for our alienation from the world:
1Peter 1:1 ...To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion..
Now he looks at our alien identity as a base from which to wage war against the desires that linger in our flesh. This is how Abraham identified himself when he was seeking to buy a burial plot for his wife Sarah.
Genesis 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”
He had no permanent possession. He was an outsider in their community. He worshiped a different God. His customs and culture were distinct from theirs. His world view was completely different from theirs. He understood their culture and was able to make a business transaction in it, but he maintained his distinct identity. Because of who we are - we are sojourners and exiles - our conduct should not match the conduct of the citizens. If our citizenship is truly in heaven, there should be a distinction between our conduct and our values and our desires and the conduct and values and desires of a worldling.
Peter begins by addressing us as 'beloved'. The word is 'agapetoi' (agaphtoi) from the root 'agapao' (agapaw) which is God's undeserved love. Peter is expressing his affection for his readers, but his primary meaning is to remind us again of our position. We are the beloved of God. And because of this, we are sojourners and exiles. This is a re-statement of what he said in 1:1-2 that we are 'elect exiles ... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father'. God loves you - you are the beloved. Because you are dearly loved by God, your character must be affected.
The Apostle urges us as elect exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh. No mere abstinence from the outward acts of sin is commanded here, but an all-out attack on the root and power of sin within; an attack on the inclinations and desires of the soul. Christianity is not a list of do's and don'ts, rules and regulations. Christianity is a genuine transformation of our wants and desires. The word here translated 'passions' can refer to good or bad desires. We are to abstain from our natural desires in contrast with desires that are renewed by the Spirit of God. Our desires are to be different from the desires of the world. Desires for possessions and power and honor and pride, position and prestige, comfort and leisure, these things are not to be the driving impulses of the believer. The Spirit of God produces new desires and new affections in our souls - desires to bring him honor and praise, desire to bless others, desire for God to be made much of in our lives, desire to be weak so that his strength is seen through us, a contentment with what we have, joy and delight in knowing who we are in Christ, desire to see others come to know him, desire to bring him pleasure in all our thoughts and desires.
We will never have victory over the stranglehold sin has in our lives until we dig down and sever the root of desire. We may cut off the weed at ground level, but it will grow back quicker and its roots will be deeper and stronger. Our desires must be transformed if we are to have any lasting victory in our battle with sin. We must root out the old desires and fight to cultivate new desires to take their place. I think our text hints at the solution - as the beloved of God, abstain from desires of the old nature. God loves you, so fight against the things that would separate you from that love. You are loved by God – desire to please him.
Peter alerts us to the gravity of the situation. These desires are waging war against our souls. This is no game. This is all-out war - life and death. The eternal destiny of your soul is at stake. If your natural desires are allowed to grow up and choke out the word so that it cannot bear fruit to God in your life, you will be thrown into the fire and burned. Natural desires unchecked are lethal to the spiritual life.
John 15:5-6 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Galatians 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. ...21 ...I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ... 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Your hope in the superior value of the inheritance that God has secured for you should cause you to sever the root of anything that might jeopardize the realization of that blessed hope. Our society spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince you to use the right kind of soap and drink the right brand of cola, but we give no thought to the importance of eternity and the value of the human soul. Something is seriously out of balance here. We are passionate about the trivial and totally neglect the weighty issues of eternity. The most important matter in the universe is off limits in most discussions. We must crucify the flesh with its passions and desires so that we are not robbed of our eternal joy. Crucify those things that Peter listed:
2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
Peter goes on to give the positive:
12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Victory in this inward spiritual battle will have observable outward effects. Your walk of life will be admirable and attractive even to your enemies. And if you are following Jesus, you will have enemies.
In Peter's day, Christians were accused of being atheists because they didn't bow to the gods that the people worshiped. Because they refused to bow to the emperor, they were considered enemies of the state. Since the Christians did not honor the gods of the community, they were viewed as subversive and evil. The were viewed with suspicion and hostility because they did not conform to the unbelievers way of life. False accusations and slander were directed toward Christians. The reference to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters was misconstrued to indicate incestuous practices, and the celebration of the Lord's supper won them the accusation of cannibalism.
What was to be the response of the Christian community to such accusations? Go on a truth campaign and correct all the errors? Track down the source of the rumors and put them to rest? Peter's response was simple: do good. Keep your heart right and your actions pure. And the motive for doing good was not simply to clear your name. The motive was evangelistic. Peter's desire was not that the Christians be exonerated. His driving desire was that God be glorified. Good deeds are never an end in themselves, and they are never a means to earn favor with God. Good deeds serve to bring glory to God as the author of the new life which produces the good deeds. Good deeds flow from a transformed life and God is the one who has caused us to be born again (1:3). Peter's desire is that even though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God. You can proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light by continuing to do good even when you are slandered. Do good with the hope that your accusers will be persuaded by your transformed life to want what you have and come to Christ. Peter's goal is that those who slander the Christians are persuaded by the moral integrity of the Christians to trust Jesus and so glorify God.
Peter probably has in mind the saying of Jesus recorded in:
Matthew 5:10-16 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ...14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Christians in the face of persecution and slander are to so let their light shine publicly that all those that observe will give glory to God. The good works must be public – not done in order to be seen by men and be praised for them; but a public display of the glorious mercy of God. We must let our light shine publicly in such a way that we are not given credit for our good works. Our light must shine so that God is given credit for the transformation that he has accomplished in us.
The day of visitation can have implications of condemnation or salvation. On that final day even the knees of unbelievers will bow to Jesus and give God glory, but Peter has in mind the day when God visits the unbelievers with mercy and brings them to faith in Christ. God is glorified when his people exhibit his greatness so that others are attracted to him and transformed by him. Are you being persecuted? Slandered? Misunderstood? Rejected? You have the opportunity to put God on display in such a way that unbelievers are attracted to Jesus and put their trust in him! Alexander Nisbet, a minister in Scotland, in his commentary on Peter first published in 1658 writes:
“The children of the Lord should not lose their hopes nor quit their endeavours of gaining the greatest enemies to God or themselves, among whom they live, considering how soon and easily the Lord can make a change upon them: for the Apostle would have them looking upon those that were heathens and speaking against them as evil doers, as such whom God might visit in mercy, and in whose conversion they might be made instrumental...” (A. Nisbet, p.89)
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.