Studies in Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter
35. 1 Peter 2:11-18 - How Then Should We Live?
Since we are a special people, with a special role, we are also called to have a different way of life. Peter gives another exhortation, reminding readers of their social status: “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (verse 11). Sinful desires are an enemy of spiritual health, but they can be resisted.
One goal of good behavior is to put the gospel in a good light: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (verse 12; see also Titus 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:1). Whether for good or for bad, the message is often judged by the behavior of the messengers.
As part of good behavior, Christ wants us to be law-abiding citizens: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14; cf. Romans 13:1-7). Peter is giving general advice, not an absolute rule. If rulers command a sin, we should not obey.
“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (verse 15). God wants us to respond to persecution with good behavior, not rebellion. Let our faith be seen as harmless.
We are free in Christ, “but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” (verse 16). Grace is not permission to be selfish (Galatians 5:13). We are not slaves of society and are not obligated to follow its customs. Rather, we should obey God, and he wants us to “show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (verse 17).
Just as Peter advised citizens to submit to government officials, he also advised slaves: “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (verse 18).
Peter does not want anyone to think that the gospel is a disguise for slave rebellion. Centuries later, however, the opposite need arose. As societies change, Christians need to discern when to adapt and when to resist.
Something to think about:
- In what ways do I declare God’s praises? (verse 9)