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1 Peter 2:11-25: Living to Honor God Print E-mail
1 Peter
Sunday, 08 April 2007

As we have stated before in this series, we do what we do as Christians because of who we are in Christ.  Last week we looked at another passage where Peter describes who we are in Christ.  He calls us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.  These are glorious descriptions of the redeemed in Christ.  Yet, we must see the responsibilities that come with such privileges.  We noted last week that we have been given this privileged place that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Thus, there is a purpose to our being privileged, namely to glorify God.  Of course the question is how do we do that?  How can we be faithful to the responsibilities that we have as Christians?

Likewise, up to this point, Peter has spoken about how believers relate to the Lord and each other, but he has not said much about how they relate to the hostile world.  The difficulty of the Christian life comes in part because we are living in enemy occupied territory.  People do not believe what we believe.  In fact, many are even hostile toward us because of our beliefs.  Thus, how are we to relate to the fallen world around us?

In 2:11 and following Peter shifts his attention to addressing these questions.  He will tell us how we can glorify God and how we are to relate to the dying world around us.  He will tell us of the responsibilities that come with being the people of God.  He begins in our passage this morning with a general call in verses 11-12 and then moves to a particular call in verses 13-25.  Letís consider these together this morning.

General Call: Conduct yourselves honorably (v. 11-12).

Before moving to specifics, Peter starts with a general statement about how Christians are to relate to the lost world.  Look at verses 11 and 12.  Once again he refers to his readers as sojourners and exiles, emphasizing the fact that this world is not our home.  This is not our permanent residence for we are citizens of heaven.  As such, Peter tells us to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Peter acknowledges that the Christian life is a war.  Even though we are no longer slaves to our sin, this does not mean that the battle is over.  Yes, our victory is secured by Christ, but this does not mean that we do not have to fight.  No, just as the passions of our flesh are waging war, so we too must fight for holiness.  The call to live holy lives that honor God is a call to arms, it is a continual battle.  We must constantly be aware of the struggle that we might faithfully put our sin to death.

Why do we do this?  As we have said, ultimately, we do this to honor God and give him glory as his people.  One of the ways our obedience leads to Godís glory is that it leads others to obey.  This is Peterís point in verse 12.  The idea of Gentiles, referring to those outside of Christ, glorifying God on the day of his visitation is a reference to people being convicted (and ultimately converted) through the upstanding lives of believers.  It is not as if our holy lives make the proclaiming of the gospel unnecessary.  Rather, it is our lives that draw attention to and validate the power of the gospel to save men from their sins.  Thus, by living holy lives among the lost, we can bring glory to God by the conversion of some.  If you are looking for Godís plan of evangelism, then you need to recognize the importance of holy living.

Well, if the general call is to live honorably to glorify God, what are the specifics?

Particular Call: Two ways to live Honorably (v. 13-25).

In our passage this week, Peter gives us two specific ways to live honorably.  First, we honor God by submitting to authority, even the authority of the government.  The next three major divisions in the text begin with the command to be subject (v. 13, 18, 3:1).  Peter is showing us that Christians are called to understand and submit to authority.  He will do this as well when he discusses elders (see 5:1-5).  In verses 13-17, he speaks of submitting to the authority of the government.  Look at those verses with me.  We must understand that all authority is given by God.  Thus, be it the president or local law enforcement, it is Godís will for His people to subject themselves to these authorities.  Granted, this does not mean that we are to obey the government if it calls us to sin.  No, there are times when believers will not subject themselves to governmental authority.  Yet, when the government is doing its job of punishing evil and rewarding good, Christians are called to faithfully submit.  By doing such, Christians are able to silence foolish accusations against them.  Scorn and persecution will come because of our belief in the gospel.  It should not come because we refuse to obey the law of the land out of spite or simple lack of submission. 

All this talk of submission does not mean that we are not free.  No, we are free, but we are free-servants of God.  Like Paul, Peter understands that we are all slaves to someone.  We are either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness.  Either our master is Satan or our master is the Lord.  As believers in Christ, we are free from sin and Satan.  Yet, because we are now servants of God, we do not want to use our freedom as a cover-up for our sin or a license to sin.  Again, we are to behave in a way that reflects who we are.  If we are truly servants of God, then we will not behave like servants of Satan by living in sin.  Peter sums this up in verse 17.  We are to honor everyone, including government leaders.  We are to love our fellow believers.  And we are to fear God alone.  

We do not think about submitting to the government very much as believers in America.  Yet, Peter calls us to this task specifically in this passage.  It is one way that we can honor God as believers.  Think of it this way, when you do not cheat on your taxes, you are bringing honor to God.  When you obey the copyright laws and refuse to download or copy CDs illegally, you are honoring God.  When you drive 30 mph in a 30 mph zone (and there is no cop behind you), you are living honorably before God.  Remember with such glorious privilege comes great responsibility.  Through faith in Christ, we are now the people of God.  May we honor Him by submitting to authority.

Second, we honor Christ by enduring suffering, even unjust suffering.  Look at verses 18-20.  Peter addresses servants in these verses.  It is difficult to find a parallel in our day to the servants that Peter is addressing here.  They were not slaves like we normally think of slaves.  Many were well educated and were paid for the work they did, some eventually buying their freedom.  Yet, they did not have the rights of others and many were cruelly mistreated by their masters.  So how does Peter instruct this group of believers?  He tells them to submit to their masters, even the ones who treat them poorly.  He tells them that they will be rewarded by God for such action.  If we suffer for doing evil, then we receive what we deserve.  But if we suffer for doing what is right, then we will receive grace from God, a possible reference to future grace received at Christís return.  Thus, we are motivated by the grace we will receive.

Yet, Peter does not stop there.  We are also motivated by the example of Christ.  Look at verses 21-25.  Christ is our example of unjust suffering.  In fact, He is the greatest example of unjust suffering.  Notice the contrast between verses 22 and 24.  In verse 22, we are told that Christ committed no sin.  Yet, in verse 24, Peter tells us that he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.  Thus, the one who was sinless bore the penalty of sin at Calvary.  This is unjust suffering.  We will never face injustice greater than the cross.  Thus, when we are called to suffer unjustly (and we will be called), we are to look to Christ as our example.  He did not retaliate.  He did not cry out, ĎUnfair, unjust.í  He did not threaten.  No, He kept entrusting himself to the faithful Judge, who will right all wrongs in the end.

At this point we should note that Christís death for us on the cross was not just an example.  In other words, Christ did not die just so that he could know what it was like to suffer unjustly.  No, He died unjustly on the cross to free us from our sins.  By His perfect life, He was the only one qualified to make such a sacrifice.  Peter borrows language from Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant text, to speak of Christ as the one who suffered in our place.  He did this that we might turn from our sins, believe in His sacrifice and follow Him as our Shepherd and Overseer.  Through faith in Him, we can now live holy lives and face unjust suffering in a way that would bring Him honor. 

Yet, what is our hope in all this honorable living?  Notice again what the hope of Christ was.  Look at verse 23.  He entrusted his whole life, all his enemies and horrible circumstances to the one who judges justly.  Was this a false hope?  I mean, He faced terrible persecution all of his life.  His enemies rejected His teaching, His miracles, and His whole ministry.  In the end, His enemies triumphed over Him by having Him nailed to a tree.  Thus, His hope in this just judge was false right?

No, because it did not end at the cross.  His bearing the wrath that we deserved was not the final chapter.  None of the gospels end with Christ in the grave.  They tell us that three days after His death, the Lord raised Him from the dead.  The enemy could not hold Him for He could not be held.  And the resurrection of Christ declares to all the world that the Judge is just.  He will punish all evil in the end and reward all righteousness.  And it says to us as believers in Christ that we too can entrust our lives to the Father.  He will right all wrongs in the end.  He will bring justice.  Thus, the resurrection of Christ should motivate and equip us to give our lives freely to the one who judges justly.  It motivates us to spend out our lives on His glory, to do all that we can to bring honor to the one who bore our sins on the tree.  Whether it is submitting to governing officials or enduring unjust suffering, may we be a people who faithfully honor the Lord.  Indeed, may we live as the people of God are called to live, namely for His glory.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 17 April 2007 )

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