1 Peter 2:11-17 Honorable Conduct WC McCarter
From the beginning of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, he was preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Early on He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. His fame was spreading, and great multitudes followed Him. On one memorable occasion, Jesus saw the multitudes and, so, He went up on a mountain, sat down, and began to teach them. He began by telling them how to live the blessed life, and then He said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In our passage today, we come to a new section in Peter’s letter. We will be discussing even more specifically the Christian lifestyle. You may find it interesting that it is not so much your lifestyle that directly brings glory to God, but it is more so your lifestyle which motivates others to put their faith in Christ and that is what brings great glory to God. All the great things of the new birth and the Christian’s identity which we have talked about in the first parts of 1 Peter are what we want for those around us. We want others to experience the blessed life which we are experiencing.
Read Scripture- This is the Word of God
Abstain from Fleshly Lusts (11-12)
In these seven verses, Peter uses four different titles for Christians. He urges them on the basis of who they are to do the will of God. The first name he uses is “Beloved.” It is based on God’s love for the church and Christians’ love for one another that Peter begs them to abstain from lusts. As only a good friend would, Peter begs Christians to keep away from those things that will bring them great danger and possibly destroy them.
Not only are the believers Beloved, they are also called sojourners and pilgrims. The word “sojourners” means “foreigners.” It is the Greek word, “παροίκους” (from pará, "close beside" and oíkos, "house") which means, “Someone living close to others as a temporary dweller, in a specific locale as a non-citizen.” The second word, “pilgrim” or “exile,” is closely related and means literally, “An alien alongside” or, in other words, “a resident foreigner.” These names, which we are called, indicate our lowly status in this world.
So, before Peter gives them the command, he basically says, Remember who you are. Then, he commands them to “abstain from fleshly lusts.” We are to abstain from fleshly lusts because they war against the soul. The Christian life does not divorce the physical world from the spiritual world. Peter wants us to abstain from fleshly lusts precisely because they war against the soul. Your conduct can be beneficial or detrimental to your spiritual life. Too few Christians either don’t realize or completely ignore this fact. There is a connection between how we live and our spiritual life. The thinking that separates the two still persists today so that folks claim one thing but live in a way that is opposite from their claim. The heart of the issue is that God demands the whole person—body and soul.
Notice in verse twelve that “honorable conduct” is the same as “good works,” and this is what brings about the opportunity for conversion for some people. In the first of two names given to unbelievers in this passage, they are referred to as “Gentiles,” meaning that they are all those who are outside of the people of God, outside of the church, outside of the Faith. In the first century, Christians were called all sorts of things by the pagans around them. They were even referred to as evil doers. The conversion that Peter is considering here is for an outsider (Gentile) to go from speaking against Christians to actually glorifying God. That is a radical change, isn’t it? One day a person is hurling insults at the people of God, and the next day the person is glorifying God. That is night and day. That is conversion, and Peter says that your conduct can help to make that happen.
The very end of verse twelve reminds us that there will be a Last Day. There will be a Day when God brings this age to an end. He will visit this world in a way that mankind has not yet seen. We want those around us, as corrupt and mean-spirited as they may be now, to come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and willingly glorify God in the day of His visitation.
Submit to Every Ordinance of Man (13-14)
Christians, you are commanded by the word of God to abstain from fleshly lusts (and for good reason). This is honorable conduct, and these are the good works that we are called to do. Now we have a “therefore” in verse 13. Christians, you are also commanded to “submit to every ordinance of man.” This is a large part of having honorable conduct among the Gentiles, obeying human establishments. Yet, this is said to be for the Lord’s sake. So, it cannot mean that we are to submit to the government even if it is contrary to the Lord’s clear commands. We are to submit to (1) the king, as supreme, (2) governors, and (3) those sent by authorities. There would be some very violent Caesars who would come along very soon who would lash out against Christians. In fact, Peter, the one who wrote this letter, would soon be put to death under the reign of Nero. Those who are sent by authorities are ordained by God to (1) punish evildoers and (2) praise gooddoers.
This is the Will of God (15-17)
Have you tried to discern the will of God? We are God’s people, and we want to do His will. We try to seek it out. We pray for it. There are plenty of times when we do not have a “Thus saith the Lord.” This is not one of those occasions. Do you want to know how you are to associate with the establishments around you? How are you to relate to government? You are to submit to every ordinance of man.
The second name given to unbelievers is “foolish men,” and Peter considers their conversion once again. He thinks of how they could turn from speaking against Christians in their ignorance to actually being silenced.
The last name that Christians are given in this passage is “bondservants of God.” This is a very good translation. The original word means “slaves,” but not in the sense of what was North American slavery. That kind of slavery was forced and abusive. Many people were captured in their homelands and brought against their will to America where they were sold as slaves. Yet, slavery in the first century Roman Empire was drastically different. Multitudes of people sold themselves into slavery in order to pay off their debts. It was not usually forced but voluntary. In fact, many slaves in the first century would finish out the terms of their original agreement and then renew their “slavery contract,” as it were, because they had grown so close to the master and were grateful for the benefits they received by living in that house. What is Peter saying? He is saying that Christians are “free,” but choose to use their freedom to voluntary serve God. This is what it means to be a Christian. We seek to do God’s will on every occasion.
Verse 17 gives us four summarizing commands for today’s sermon:
1. Honor All People: Respect all people
2. Love the Brotherhood: We are to love the church, fellow Christians
3. Fear God: Healthy and motivating to do His will
4. Honor the King: Specifically, we are to revere those in authority
If you want to dodge bullets in this world, honor all people and honor the king.
Conclusion and Christian Application
Our goal is to bring God glory and to live peaceably with all people. Peter’s commands are to help us do those things. You can bring God glory and live peaceably (at least have the opportunity) with the world if you silence the critics by honoring all people and submitting to every human ordinance. We cannot give reasons for others to criticize us. We must live out our lives with honorable conduct so that we may see others converted.