Christian Conduct as Witnesses

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This week, we begin a new section of the book. It shows a clean break from the doctrine of the first section to the practical instruction of the rest of the book. This being the case, it may be helpful to back up and review where we have been.
[insert review]
III. Challenged to New Behavior (2:11–3:7)
This next set of verses expands on how Christians, as new people, should act to show forth God’s praises. He deals with some very practical areas of life—being a good citizens, being a good spouse, and being a good slave. Salvation should impact every area of life.
A. A New Behavior Before the World (2:11–25)
First, Peter says that the world around us should see our new actions.
1. Christian Conduct as Witnesses (2:11–12)
a. As citizens of a heavenly country, Christians must faithfully war against sin. (2:11, Ephesians 2:11–22, Romans 13:13–14, Ephesians 4:1–3, 1 John 2:15–17, Romans 7:21–23)
The first thing he says about them is that they are “dearly beloved.” At first reading, I thought this was him saying they are his dearly beloved, as he exemplifies the love from a pure heart he has recently challenged them too. But other commentators suggest that this title is speaking of God’s love, giving them a motivation to do what Peter is about to tell them to do. And I think both may be true.
A dear friend begging you to act a certain way will be much more moving than an uncaring command from someone you do not know. It can cut to your heart in a way that someone banging you over the head with a list of rules cannot.
It’s like a scene in The Lord of the Rings. Gandalf, essentially this world’s version of an Old Testament prophet, stands before an old despairing king. He raises his staff, blocking light out of the windows and making the king’s hall as dark as night, reflecting the king’s own view of the world. He asks, “Will you hearken to me?” Then with another movement he clears some darkness and lets a patch of light shine through. He says, “Not all is dark. Take courage, Lord of the Mark; for better help you will not find. … I bid you to come out before your doors and look abroad. Too long have you sat in shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings.”
With this urging, the king stands, walks to his doors, and has them opened to let the wind blow into the hall. That moment marks a change in his character as he says, “The time for fear is over.”
We are certainly the dearly beloved of God, and if Peter had known us, he would have loved us too. There are also many other people who love each of us who, like Gandalf, would not have us slip into darkness and lose all hope of victory over sin. Peter is appealing to that love—God’s love, and his own love—to give motivation to his audience’s struggle against sin. He’s coming before them humbly and begging for them to not give in and keep fighting sin.
The Bible Exposition Commentary (Chapter Five: Somebody’s Watching You! (1 Peter 2:11–25))
There is something deeper than obedience because of duty, and that is obedience because of devotion.
In addition to appealing to God’s love and his love, he appeals to their status as strangers and pilgrims. We’ve talked about this before, but it seems to contradict what Paul says in Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:12–14 KJV
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Ephesians 2:19–22 KJV
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
The key to remember is that we are not strangers as pilgrims in that we have no home, like a nomad. That’s how we were before salvation. But we are strangers and pilgrims in the same way that a tourist is a stranger and pilgrim. That’s even what the words mean—a stranger is someone visiting a country who is not their own. A pilgrim is a wanderer or traveler. We have a home country, but we are not in it. Yet we are traveling toward it.
What does this have to do with abstaining from sin? We are the citizens of a heavenly country, and that country demands holiness. Therefore, because of our true citizenship, we should not live by the temporary, lustful temptations of this world.
1 John 2:15–17 KJV
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Thus Peter appeals to our devotion and duty. It is our duty to live by the standards of our true country and our true Father. Yet, the realization of God’s love for us, combined with other people’s love for us, combined with our love for God, should make us want to flee sin.
“Abstain” means “hold oneself constantly back from” or putting “a restraint upon the passions or appetites.” These appetites don’t just offer us occasional suggestions—they war against the soul. It brings up an image of any enemy attacking a castle. They have the battering ram at the gate and are smashing against it over and over. They are leaning ladders on the walls and sending soldiers up. They are bombarding the inside with artillery. But we must not give in.
It is our own fleshly desires that are the most challenging enemy, and the first one we must conquer. If we are to resist evil and change the world for Jesus, we must first fight our own evil and change ourselves for Jesus.
The Bible Exposition Commentary Chapter Five: Somebody’s Watching You! (1 Peter 2:11–25)

Our real battle is not with people around us, but with passions within us.

Romans 7:21–23 KJV
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Peter doesn’t pretend it’s going to be easy. War is not easy. But, out of duty and devotion, we must fight.
There is one encouraging truth to note though. See how these lusts war “against the soul.” The soul is that part of us that has been redeemed. The inner self, or the real you. And as Paul says in Romans, when he sinned, it was not him, but sin that dwelt within him. It is the same for us. Not that we have no control over that sin within us, because we most certainly do. We would not be commanded to abstain if we did not. But that sin is not the real me. It is not the real you. Our redeemed souls hate sin, and the sin in the flesh is at odds with it. And one day, that soul will have a new body that no longer is at war. We will finally be whole—a perfect spirit and perfect body that love to serve God.
b. Succeeding in this war will turn unbelievers to God. (2:12, Luke 1:68-69, 19:44, Acts 15:14; 2 Corinthians 6:1–4)
“Conversation” means “lifestyle” rather than just our words. The definition has narrowed over time, just like the next word—“honest.” Honest means “upright; just; fair in dealing with others; acting and having the disposition to act at all times according to justice or correct moral principles.” In other words, to be honest is to be good. The same word is translated good later in this same verse.
“Among the Gentiles,” I believe, is referring not to ethnic Gentiles but spiritual Gentiles. Those who are unsaved. It’s hard to know for sure, but at the very least he is talking about those unsaved Gentiles around them. Their families and friends. Their old drinking buddies and partners in crime.
Why must we have an honest conversation? Well, we’ve already heard a lot of reasons. Chapter 1 was really all about that, as was the beginning of chapter 2. But here we get one more reason.
It is evident from this passage that the main persecution these Christians were facing were false accusations. This is expected. As one pastor has said, anyone living rightly for God will be called racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and all the rest. It’s part of the job description for Christians to be accused as the worst of sinners. These accusations must not be true, but they will come.
How should we respond to these accusations? Keep doing right. As they behold our good words—which are explained in the following verses—they will be proven false and eventually glorify God.
2 Corinthians 6:1 KJV
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
2 Corinthians 6:3–4 KJV
Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
One important note is that others must behold these good words. We should not be trying to be seen, like the Pharisees, but we also must live out these good works before others. We should not be undercover Christians to try and avoid any false accusations, trying to just fit in. We should act like Christians.

TERTULLIAN contrasts the early Christians and the heathen: these delighted in the bloody gladiatorial spectacles of the amphitheater, whereas a Christian was excommunicated if he went to it at all. No Christian was found in prison for crime, but only for the faith. The heathen excluded slaves from some of their religious services, whereas Christians had some of their presbyters of the class of slaves. Slavery silently and gradually disappeared by the power of the Christian law of love, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” When the pagans deserted their nearest relatives in a plague, Christians ministered to the sick and dying. When the Gentiles left their dead unburied after a battle and cast their wounded into the streets, the disciples hastened to relieve the suffering.

Those kinds of actions, wildly different from those of their unsaved neighbors, would have really made the early Christians stood out. And we should not be afraid of acting the same way.
What does it mean that the Gentiles will glorify God in the day of visitation?
Luke 1:68–69 KJV
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; For he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David;
Luke 19:44 KJV
And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
Acts 15:14 KJV
Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
Thus, in the end, our good works are meant to turn others to Christ. We are representatives of Christ. We are ambassadors. And as such, there is a certain way we should live.
2. Christian Conduct as Citizens (2:13–17)
The subject of Christians and the government has been one hotly debated throughout history. It was a topic of intense debate during COVID, and continues to be as the government grows increasingly invasive. There’s no way I can give a complete explanation of this relationship in a few minutes, and even if I had all the time in the world, I still have questions about some areas.
But Peter doesn’t even attempt to give a complete treatise on the topic. He gives one verse. So let’s examine what he says and see what we can learn from it.
a. Christians should submit to the government as a rule. (2:13–14a, 2 Samuel 12:7–10, Daniel 1:3-8, 3:16–18, 4:27, Acts 4:18–20, 5:12–32, 12:1–19)
Let me first tell you what this verse is NOT saying. It’s not, as has been said, giving a blank check to tyrants. It’s not giving the government permission to do whatever it wants, and neither is it commanding us to follow every sinful, rebellious whim of those in power.
There is, in fact, a long tradition of the people of God disobeying the government. Here are some examples.
2 Samuel 12:7 KJV
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
Daniel 1:3–5 KJV
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
Daniel 1:8 KJV
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Daniel 3:16–18 KJV
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Daniel 4:27 KJV
Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
Acts 4:18–20 KJV
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
What is the common factor between all of these times? The person, or people, confronting the authority were respectful. They did not challenge the authority’s right to be in power. They did not start calling them names or ranting about their freedom being taken away. They submitted themselves to the government.
[talk about how this applies to today]
For example, I don’t think the government has the right to set and enforce building codes. We’re going to see in the next point that this is well outside the central function of government. However, following building codes is not a sin, so in interest of being a good testimony to the world, we comply.
Look at why we should do this. It is to let our good works be seen before men, but it is also “for the Lord’s sake.” We should not be submitting to fly under the radar. We should not be submitting to get along or to avoid confrontation. We should submit because God is the king of all kings, and by submitting to earthly authorities, we are submitting to Him.
The Bible Exposition Commentary Chapter Five: Somebody’s Watching You! (1 Peter 2:11–25)

A true Christian submits himself to authority because he is first of all submitted to Christ. He uses his freedom as a tool to build with and not as a weapon to fight with.

Again, to reiterate, this does not mean we must obey everything they say. If we are commanded to come before a 50-foot golden statue of Joe Biden and worship it when the band starts playing, submitting to that order would be treason to the King of kings.
Of course, there’s much more nuance here, which is why the point says “as a rule.” But generally, our order of operation should be to obey the government and respect it’s authority unless it tells us to sin or violate our conscience.
b. Governments are intended to punish evildoers and reward righteousness. (2:14b, Genesis 9:6, Romans 13:3–4)
We should obey both the supreme ruler and his governors, who bear his authority.
This verse takes us back to Genesis, when human government is instituted.
Genesis 9:6 KJV
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
This is echoed in Romans 13.
Romans 13:3–4 KJV
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
This is the fundamental duty of government. When they do this, they are being righteous.
This is a tough place to stop, because it’s in the middle of a thought, but hopefully the points are still clear enough. First, we must abstain from sin. We must endure the war within our bodies and win it through the victory already won by Jesus Christ. Second, we must not only stop sinning, but start doing good, influencing others toward salvation. This good includes obedience to the government.
We can also draw encouragement from this. Sometimes we feel like our efforts to avoid sin and do good are pointless. But other people notice. And even when they don’t, God notices.
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