How can we live as Christians in this hostile world to bring glory to God?
1 Peter 2: 11-25
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.
All Christians are called to live honorable lives no matter our cultural context.
Too often Christians say what they believe but their lives say something else. It’s what our lives say that is the true reality and a clear picture of what we believe. If we claim to be a Christian and then live no different than the lost world around us, how can we have any assurance that our profession of faith is real?
So, Peter shows us what honorable or Chistian living looks like.
What does a life look like that would cause the lost world to take notice and give glory to God?
What would a life look like that would make a lost person glad that you’re a Christian even if they do not believe?
The Christian communities that Peter wrote to made up a small segment of the Roman Empire. Peter addresses how should Christians conduct themselves while living as exiles among unbelievers?
Should they withdraw from society?
Should they simply seek to fit in?
Should they spend their lives protesting the evils of society?
It seems that none of the responses I mentioned are what God teaches here—He doesn’t want us to withdraw, fit in, nor spend a life in protest. What God teaches is to simply live out your faith among the lost world. Engage in honorable living.
1. Christians are to abstain from the passions of the flesh. (11)
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
Abstain from the passions of the flesh:
The pleasures of the world are tempting and enticing. There is a great struggle and warfare against such desire. While living on this earth, Christian have to fight the desires of sin.
Example: Today’s temptation of the world - Sex, Money, Power, fame or glory - Magazine, Newspaper, etc.
Peter, call us to be holy as our God is holy (1:15).
We can only abstain from the passions of the flesh as we live as sojourners and exiles, as those who recognize that this world is not their home, and that they have a home and a citizenship in heaven.
Which wage war against your soul.: Peter understands that these passions of the flesh… wage war against the soul. To be a Christian means to fight against the lusts of the flesh, and the battle continues as long as we live in this flesh.
It is easy to see how the pursuit of fleshly lusts can destroy our physical body.
Just ask the alcoholic dying of liver disease, or
Ask the sexually immoral person with HIV Positive.
But Peter reminds us that the passions of the flesh also war against the soul. Some escape disease in the physical body when they sin, but the disease and death of the inner man (or soul) is that no one escapes.
2. Christians are to show proper submission to the government.
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
The overall intention of Peter is to explain that Christians are to be law-abiding citizens and not troublemakers. Christians are to be subject to every civil authority.
As Christians we should be good citizens, submitting to the government. This was very different from those zealous Jews in Peter’s day who recognized no king but God and paid taxes to no one except God.
Peter wrote this in the days of the Roman Empire, which was not a democracy and no special friend to Christians. Yet he still recognized the legitimate authority of the Roman government.
Peter is saying, we are to be those who do good to all people even if we do not agree with them or if they are our enemies. We are to go out of our way to treat all people with respect and kindness. What Peter gives us is a general overarching command to be model citizens and to do good to all people.
For the Lord’s sake: This is why we obey the government. As sent by him : Peter also insisted that rulers are sent by him; that is, sent by God. Governments are sent by God to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. Since governments have a rightful authority from God, we are bound to obey them – unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man. In Acts 4:19: Peter and John before the council.
19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God”.
15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
He stresses, in this section, doing good: that means to go over and above what is expected. So, based on this, simply obeying the law is not enough; that’s the minimum not over and above. Specifically, it means good work beyond what is normally expected in a given situation. The reason is so that the authorities will take notice and praise you and in turn even praise God for your good works.
Example: A Traffic man in CCpur who was continuing in spite of the rain.
We are called to be active in society. Our purpose is for society’s betterment and God’s glory. We want to do this because this is God’s will for all Christians.
We see an example of this in the OT when Israel was sent to Babylon in captivity.
Jeremiah 29:4–7 (ESV)
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
I want to make sure we are getting Peter’s point here in our text. We are to live peacefully and do good to others in our world whether they are lost or saved.
That by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
Peter knew that our conduct is a way to defend the gospel.
He knew that those who never read the Bible will read our lives,
So it is by doing good that we put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
We are slaves to Christ but being a slave to God is, in fact, freedom. Not freedom to do what we want but a freedom to obey our loving merciful God. He calls us to go out of our way to be model citizens and those who seek the welfare of others because it’s now in our DNA to love others and serve them.
This is exactly what we want to be, “in the city, for the city” as a church.
3. Christians are to show proper submission to our employers.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
In these verses, Peter is speaking of the proper response of Christians to their earthly masters. Peter calls all servants to submit to their masters, even if they are unjust or harsh.
The command to submit to masters isn’t just to those who work for masters that are good and gentle, but also to those who are harsh and unjust. If we must endure hardship because of our Christian standards, it is then commendable before God. As Peter says, a gracious thing.
In the Greco-Roman world it has been estimated that one out of every four people were slaves. As these slaves were being converted it was important that they not rise up in revolt declaring the injustice of being slaves but show the world the difference between a lost slave and a saved slave or unbeliever slave or believer slave. This brings God glory.
But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
Here we see the same phrase as before the do good phrase. Slaves were to not just obey their masters but to go over and above just obeying. They were to be profitable servants. Not just do their tasks but do them honorably.
A great example of this is found in the story of Joseph in Egypt. He went over and beyond what was expected. Society was influenced and God was glorified…
Genesis 41:46–49 (ESV)
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.
So how are you doing your work? How are you obeying and honoring your boss or employer? Are you witnessing the Gospel through your work, wherever the Lord has placed you?
4. Christ, the Ultimate example
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Here, God gives us the perfect example of what it looks like to live honorably as an exile in this sinful and hostile world. Beloved, whether you’re a slave or a prince you still must follow the example Jesus gave us in His life. The point Peter makes is that no matter what,
Jesus was going to live a life of doing good.
He wasn’t about to let man dictate His course of life.
He was going to obey His Father no matter what.
Now we know that Jesus’ suffering purchased our eternal redemption. He suffered to purchase us. His suffering is also our perfect example of what it looks like to live honorably as an exile in this world. We must never return evil for evil because this would not bring God glory.
The principle found in the suffering of Jesus is that suffering leads to exaltation as He continues to trust God with His life.
Can you see Jesus standing before Pilate and not responding to Pilate’s interrogation?
Can you see Jesus not answering evil with more evil?
Can you see Jesus continually trusting Himself to God?
He is our example.
As exiles, we too can submit to ungodly authorities whether it’s the state or our boss out of love for Jesus and a desire to imitate Him with our lives.
It’s important that we make up our minds that:
We are going to live for God’s glory, obeying His commands no matter what.
I’m going to do the right thing no matter what.
I’m going to do what God has called me to do no matter what.
Jesus was stubborn when it came to His Father’s will, and we are called to also be stubborn as far as God’s will goes.
Then in verse 21 he says, “For you have been called for this purpose.” What purpose? To suffer for what is right, that’s what we’ve been called to, because if you’ve been called to be a Christian, you’ve been called to be at odds with the world and in some way, you will suffer for it. And if you’ve been called to be at odds with the world, you have been called to suffer. And if you manifest your Christianity, there will be hostile reaction, you will suffer; you’ve been called to that. Then he says, “Since Christ also suffered for you.” And then this, “Leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”
For Jesus Christ the path to glory was the path of suffering. And that’s the pattern for us. The path to glory for us is the path of suffering. The principle goes like this, the greater the suffering for righteousness in this life, the greater the glory in the life to come.
Jesus is the most unjustly treated human being who ever lived. And because He was perfect and all the mistreatment of hell was thrown against Him and He never sinned, He is the perfect model of how you and I are to respond to unjust treatment. Did you get that? That’s the bottom line. He’s the perfect model of how you and I are to respond to unjust treatment.
V. 24: we might die to sin and live to righteousness: Peter reminds us that when Jesus died on the cross, we also died to sins. Our life is permanently changed by our identification with Jesus on the cross, even as the Apostle Paul described in Romans 6: 13:
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
So, whatever our state in life, we are to do good always and in all circumstances. We have Jesus as our example to follow.
We do not have to have the last word because God will have the last word.
We don’t have to always defend ourselves because God will defend us.
We don’t have to exercise all our rights because God is just.
Here is a quick picture of what it looks like to live an honorable life as an exile. Jesus gave us the perfect example . . . now we must go and do likewise.