1 Peter 2:11-12
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 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.
Peter and James are two of the most holy driven books in the new testament, by this I mean that both men encourage believers to live out their faith with boldness and with a perspective that what they do matters, not just to God but to those around them. Now we would be foolish though to think that these calls to Holiness and Righteous lives are devoid of any Spiritual understanding. Rather both James and Peter root their calls for Holiness in the truth of Christ and the reality of our new birth through Him. Today I want to briefly remind us of Peter’s encouragement to us as to why and how we live out the faith in Holiness.
First Peter reminds us that we sojourners and exiles. The importance in this reminder is that he uses a combination of these two words in a way that harkens the reader backwards into biblical history. It connects us to another important figure who spent his life living among people that were not his own, as one called out and set apart for a new life, a life filled with promises that would not be fully realized in his own time. That man was Abraham. In reminding us of Abraham’s own words we are reminded of how God provided for Him and loved Him. We are reminded of a man, who though he made mistakes, was never forgotten by God or lost sight of the promised future. God’s promises to Abraham were fulfilled, and so too will the promises made to us God’s children. We are being transformed into the image of the living God and as such he will now encourage us to live in light of that reality.
Not only does this reminder connect us back to the blessing and provision of God towards Abraham, but also the reality that He was a man called out and chosen by God, just as we are. In the opening chapter of Peter’s Epistle he continually reinforces the truth that we are called to the new life we live. We are not here by accident, and nothing that occurs to us or around us is a mistake or accident. God has called us into a new and lasting Kingdom, and as such He has given us the blessing of knowing that our future is assured and our life is His. When we begin to realize that our lives are secure in Christ and that He has set us free from the burdens of the world we can then better appreciate the call He gives us to be Holy as God is Holy.
So then secondly, we are now being greatly urged to abstain from the passion of the flesh. Again because we are a new creation and God has given us new life in the life and death of Christ, our lives will be different. Our lives are no longer simply a passive experience, but rather a battle against the forces of this world and our own innate passions. Scripture gives us several examples of passions we do battle with:
1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
1 Peter 4:3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.
Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
These are but an overarching theme of what Peter is encouraging us to remember: if we are beloved by God and growing in the faith these will be the things that will try to creep in and destroy that faith, but as believers in Christ we can overcome. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that there are no temptations in this life that cannot be overcome through Christ. The call to abstain from the passion of the flesh is not an impossible one, but it is one that requires us to be mindful of our choices and to think more clearly about each step we take. We live our lives in an active state before a watching world, as such we are also called to maintain Good Conduct.
Peter encourages the believers over the reminder of Chapter 2 and into chapter 3 to ensure that the way they act and live isn’t simply free from the passions of the flesh, but that it is active in its obedience to Christ and the maintaining of good conduct around those who would question the faith or even seek to destroy it. Peters words remind us of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:14-16) “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. 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.
So the Christian life is more than simply abstaining from sin, it is a willful pursuit of Christ that leads to a maintaining of good conduct. It is becoming Holy as He is Holy.
However, what is so interesting about this passage is how Peter connects our desire to follow God in righteousness with the proclamation of the Gospel. Peter encourages us to live in righteousness that the world and those who would stand against us would see the Jesus, and as such create an opportunity to come to faith. Here our way of life is a representation of God to the people. Every word we say, every action we take, everything thing we post online, is a representation of Christ to the World, and a declaration of who He is and how He has changed us. Our lives should show that we are different from the world not a nicer dressed version of it. Our conduct should show them more and more of the true life found in Christ, not a false faith of our own making.