Living As Worthy Citizens
What is required of us to live in this world as citizens worthy of all the wonders and relationships belonging to the next?
The Apostle Peter gives us his answer in two simple words in 1 Peter 2: abstain (v. 11) and keep (v. 12).
Abstain from the Passions of the Flesh
Peter’s first admonition comes in verse 11: “Beloved . . . abstain from the passions of the flesh.” To live in this world as citizens worthy of all the wonders and relationships belonging to the next, we must refrain from acting upon the impulses and desires of the flesh.
To understand what Peter has in mind when he exhorts us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” we must reach all the way back to what he wrote in 1:14:
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.
Peter then went on to define what those passions were. He listed them as “malice,” “deceit,” “hypocrisy,” “envy,” and “slander” (2:1). These are the things a person in Christ puts away. These are the vices from which we abstain. They are the attitudes, actions, and way of life in which we once walked. They speak of the season when we were tethered to this world without God’s indwelling power to resist.
To put it simply, if Peter was alive and preaching today, each of us would sense the angst in his appeal and the emotion in his voice. We must abstain from the malicious desires of our mind that would feast on others as carcasses to be devoured, and we must renounce our tongue when it brings forth the dead wood of slander (2:1).
To put it simply, if Peter was alive and preaching today, each of us would sense the angst in his appeal and the emotion in his voice.
Further, we must learn to cover ourselves when tempted to go nakedly into the presence of the illusion that physical pleasure is the end of all things. To “abstain from the passions of the flesh” requires us to live with a renewed mind, a disciplined tongue, and a controlled body.
Keep Your Conduct Honorable
Interestingly, 1 Peter 2:11, 12 are two sentences in English. In the original, however, they are only one. Verse 12 is a continuation of verse 11—we live well not merely by those things from which we abstain, but by the host of things we choose to embrace. Peter says: "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."
Our lives are to be filled with good works. Notice: the “honorable . . . conduct” of the first half of the verse is connected to the “good deeds” of the second half. In other words, we are called to honorable conduct, which is nothing less than doing good deeds. It is nice to know that Christianity is more than a call to abstain from a list of activities. We are to be people who are busy filling our lives with good things as well.
What the New Testament Says about Good Works
The ironic tragedy, however, is that Protestantism, after the Reformation, most often refers to good works solely in a negative fashion. This is, of course, because of its insistence on justification by faith. But the New Testament epistles are filled with this idea of good works as an expression of our calling:
Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Titus 2:7 reads, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.”
Titus 2:14 declares that Jesus redeemed us “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
In Titus 3:8 Paul concludes his charge to Titus by saying, “I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”
1 Peter 1:15: “ . . . as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
1 Peter 2:15: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
1 Peter 2:20: “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
1 Peter 3:6: “And you are her [Sarah’s] children, if you do good.”
1 Peter 3:11: “Turn away from evil and do good.”
1 Peter 3:13: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?”
1 Peter 3:16: “so that . . . those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
1 Peter 4:19: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
Stay Close to Your Lord
This is what honorable conduct looks like. And yet the greatest text of all is taken from Matthew 5:16. Here we find the dominical words of Christ: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Peter appears to have intentionally borrowed the words of Jesus, for verse 12 is a very close paraphrase of what Jesus had taught him long ago. He is staying close to his Lord.
Let us therefore do likewise.
Let us seek to live lives that model the mature honorable conduct for which Peter is calling. May it be rooted in our knowledge of his love. And may we be faithful until Christ’s return.
This article is adapted from 1 Peter & Jude: Sharing Christ's Sufferings by David R. Helm.