Dearly beloved, I implore you as aliens and refugees, abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.1 Peter 2:11 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Now comes the practical application again. This echoes Peter’s introduction to this epistle where he calls his audience pilgrims or refugees. We are taking temporary shelter in this world, its economies, and this fleshly body. Because we are made of the corrupt dust of this earth, and Adam ate of the fruit that corrupted our bodies, this body is only a temporary dwelling.
Therefore, in light of the sojourning, we ought to abstain from those things of the flesh. He outlined them at the beginning of this chapter; wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking. These wage war against the soul, the immortal part of us. The fruit of such things leads to destruction and will not last.
If Peter is telling us to abstain from these, we are wholly capable. Though not in and of ourselves, but because of He Who lives in us. There are plenty of admonitions to put this stuff away from us. One of those is from Paul.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outbursts, and blasphemies, with all malice, be taken away from you. And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.Ephesians 4:31–32 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
He gives us the opposite things to embrace and put on. Note how outwardly focused they are. These behaviors only exist when there is another person for whom we do them. Peter gives us an example, look at how Peter addresses those who He is speaking to as ‘dearly beloved.’
Live your lives honorably among the Gentiles, so that though they speak against you as evildoers, they shall see your good works and thereby glorify God in the day of visitation.1 Peter 2:12 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
As royal priests, part of our service to God is praise. It is good to praise God. What better way is there to praise God by not doing the works of the flesh?
This is the idea Peter is addressing. The way we behave makes others take notice. The unbelievers are going to mock and scoff. That is for sure. But they will surely notice the way we comport ourselves.
There is a greater purpose in mind though, by acting rightly. It is to bring glory to God. It does it in real-time, yet there is a future time at the end of the age, where how you act will glorify God. It will be attested to by those who perish.
Response to Established Authority
Submit yourselves to every human authority for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme, or to governors, as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and to praise those who do right. For it is the will of God that by doing right you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.1 Peter 2:13–15 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Part of the abstention from the lusts of the flesh includes submission to every human authority. It’s not just some. We cannot pick and choose. I didn’t make that up, either.
Peter is going to give us many examples. Here, he begins with those who govern. We are to be law-abiding citizens. It’s not some legalistic idea, either. I think that thought enters the conversation as a coping mechanism. It is an escape from the cognitive dissonance that comes from the warring flesh with the soul. We need to be wary of using such things.
When we look for loopholes and escapes, it isn’t right. It is part of fleshly lusts. It certainly isn’t submission. And it doesn’t glorify God at all.
We do have freedom, but Peter is going to speak on that in a bit.
Peter is speaking of a particular authority here, government. He is saying that the governments are sent by God. That would include some we’d rather deny (for those of us in the US presidents Obama and Trump.) I know, it’s shocking. But we are told to submit to the authorities. It’s not just by Peter.
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey them, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, but gentle, showing all humility toward everyone.Titus 3:1–2 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Submission to authority is part of being ready for every good work. If we cannot submit, we cannot do good things. It’s a simple enough concept.
Humility and submission work together. There isn’t one without the other. It can clearly be said to vaunt oneself is not to be in submission. Contention isn’t submission nor humility either. (The idea of contention is more to think in terms of being discourteous.)
The one that gets most of us, though is that speaking evil of no one. How tempting is it to talk unseemly about folks in secret?
Doing the Right Thing has Rewards
First, it can silence accusers.
Jesus did that for us when He chose to submit to God and go to the cross. That is most important. Peter tells us that doing right silences the ignorance of foolish people. When we do right, there are none who can bring a bad report—even one founded in ignorance.
As free people, do not use your liberty as a covering for evil, but live as servants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.1 Peter 2:16–17 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
We have awesome liberty in Jesus Christ. Paul said it this way.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things edify1 Corinthians 10:23 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Sometimes in our freedom, we do choose to do something self-serving that is evil or causes evil. We might give an excuse, “God will forgive.” That is clearly wrong. Usually, evil comes as a result of serving self. Such things we do in our freedom cause irreparable harm to those around us. It ought not to be so.
Paul connects our liberty to circumspection. That is, we need to be concerned more so with those around us than our own selves. If we are serving others before ourselves, there is very little chance for those actions to be considered evil.
Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.1 Corinthians 10:24 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
That is how we are to use our liberty, to serve others. By so doing we serve God. We honor all. We love our brothers and sisters. This brings honor to God and those who govern us.
We can seek our own desires, having that liberty. There is no honor in that. There is no reward. There is no glory to God.
Let us look first to fulfill the needs of those around us. That way, nothing bad can be said about us.