In the previous lesson I shared a line from one of my favorite Star Wars movies. This week I have another movie quote for you from a completely different genre of movies. At the beginning of the movie Gladiator, General Maximus is rallying his army to fight a bunch of barbarians and says “What we do in life, echos in eternity.” Every time I hear that quote I get a bit fired up. But the premise of our text rearranges that quote a bit. In our text we learn that Eternity changes what we do in life.
So far we have seen that Peter is writing to Christians who are living in modern day Turkey. World history would teach us that they were facing intense persecution and suffering. Peter reminds them that this world is not our home but we are exiles and strangers. We are citizens of God’s kingdom and because of that we are secure in Christ. That security gives us what I called HOLY GRIT, that allows us to enduring suffering and difficulties. We can grow and thrive and live holy lives in the midst of sufferings because of all Christ has done for us.
Now as we start chapter 2 we begin to see a bit more practically how we can thrive, even in the middle of difficult seasons. Peter begins to unpack what our conduct as strangers and exiles should like especially in seasons of hardship.
The Foundation of our Conduct
As Peter begins chapter 2 he gives us the foundation for the type of conduct that we are to live. The way we live flows out of these two things.
God’s Word is our Foundation
1 Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Peter starts right off in verse one by telling us to rid ourselves of several things. These things hinder your growth. They hinder you effectiveness to share Christ and demonstrate his glory so Peter says get rid of them. Malice is a desire to injure someone, or wickedness and evil. So Peter says to be benevolent. Next is deceit. Peter is encouraging us to be honest. The he encourages us to get rid of hypocrisy. Basically be genuine. Next on the list of things to get rid of is envy. It is so easy to compare and desire what God has given to someone else, so Peter challenges us to be content. Lastly we are instructed to get rid of slander. Be kind. Speak well of people, don’t tear them down.
Peter tells us “because of everything we learned in chapter one, get rid of these things. Get them out of your life.” These are things that hinder our holy living and keep us from thriving in the midst of our suffering. He then tells us in verse two to crave the word of God. God’s word is what enables and causes our growth. It is what strengthens us and sustains us. There is no way we will be able to even survive difficult seasons with the Bible. So Peter tells us to desire it just like a newborn baby desires her mothers milk.
Everyone of my four children instinctively craved milk when they were newborns. They could be the sweetest little babies until they got hungry. Then they demanded sustenance! One minute we would have angel baby and the next we would have fallen angel baby. Truthfully, nothing really changes as they get older. The first thing out of their little mouths in the morning is usually “Im hungry.”
Seriously though, God built into humans a sensation called “hunger” so we would know when we need to eat so we can survive and grow and continue to be a healthy human beings. And just like that new baby needs her mother’s milk, we need God’s Word.
Now the phrase “so that you may grow” is passive in the Greek. Which means we are not the cause of our growth. That phrase could be translated “so that you may be caused to grow.” The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to cause our growth. Now we do play part. We desire and feast on the Word. The Holy Spirit then uses it to enable our growth. We need God’s Word to survive. Look at this verse written by David.
Psalm 119:77 May your compassion come to me so that I may live, for your instruction is my delight.
We need God’s Word to survive. The problem is we often choose spiritual malnourishment. We are “full” on so many other things that we have no appetite for God’s Word and we become weak and malnourished Christians who have no holy grit to endure suffering. We loose hope so fast because our hope is anchored to a million things other than God’s Word. So Peter challenges us to desire God’s Word like our very survival depends on it. Let me challenge you to read your Bible that way you watch a movie. Now I know that sounds funny and maybe even wrong at first. But think about it, you never watch 5 minutes of a movie then turn it off. You watch the whole thing, so you can experience the entire story in all of its context. But how sad is it that we will give an hour and a half to a movie but 5 minutes to God’s Word.
Let’s continue. Desire God’s Word IF you have tasted that the Lord is good. Peter is quoting Psalm 34:8. David wrote this while he was fleeing from Abimelech fearing for his life. In the middle of his suffering he says…
Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!
Have you tasted and seen that God is good? Especially in your suffering? As you taste and see that he is good you will desire to spend more time with him in his Word, and then you will put away all the things we are told to get rid of in verse one. So we see God’s Word is our foundation. But we also see…
Jesus Is Our Foundation
Peter 2:4-10 As you come to him, a living stone — rejected by people but chosen and honored by God — you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame. So honor will come to you who believe; but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected — this one has become the cornerstone, and A stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word; they were destined for this. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter is describing Jesus and what happens to us when we come to Christ. Peter relies quit a bit on the Old Testament passages and Old Testament imagery in this section. In the Old Testament the spiritual house or temple was the place where God had promised to meet with his people. There, the priests represented God to the people and the people to God, and together, priest and people represented God’s rule to the world. In this section Peter directly quotes from Isaiah.
Isaiah 28:16 Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.
So what Peter is saying here is that Jesus fulfills Isaiah 28:16. Jesus was rejected by men, by chosen and honored by God. When we place our faith in him we become living stones in the spiritual house that he is building. This is referring to the corporate people of God – the CHURCH. Every person who comes to faith in Christ becomes a living stone and is brought into God’s building project built on the foundation of Jesus sharing in his identity and status. Peter is telling these exiles, these outsiders, that they are actually a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession! When we place our faith in Christ we become the ultimate insider.
Verse seven and eight tell us, just like God will honor Jesus, God will honor believers. Just like Jesus is God’s chosen, we are God’s chosen. We, like Jesus are living stones, part of the new temple. But unbelievers will stumble over Jesus. They will be put to shame. Jesus is the ultimate dividing factor. What a person does with Jesus is without a doubt the most important decision.
Peter encourages his readers by telling them that whatever the cost they must now pay for their faith in Christ, they can persevere through the suffering and shame brought upon them by the world, knowing that their fortunes will be reversed. The exile, the suffering, the trials we face now are all temporary. Now what does this practically mean?
First and foremost it means regardless of how difficult or dark the church’s circumstance may get, God is always with us.
As God’s temple his presence is always with us, no matter how difficult our suffering may be. We can actually embrace the difficulties that come with suffering because we know God is with us. We don’t have to invite or beg Jesus to come into our presence in order for him to show up. He is ALWAYS with us. Charles Spurgeon had a great quote on this section of Scripture. He said “All Christ has promised to be, he will be to those who trust him. To risk all with Jesus is to end all risk.” Because we have the guarantee of God’s presence we know that we will ultimately be okay, even if everything around seems like it is falling apart.
Second, it means that worship is no longer limited to a central sanctuary.
In the Old Testament God’s presence was at Temple, so that was where they worshiped. Now, God’s presence is in us by His Spirit. So whenever and wherever we gather as a church, God meets with us. Worship is no longer tied to a sacred place. We could meet in a building, under a tree, in a field, in a cave, in a home, on Zoom. It’s like God tailor made the church for suffering. No matter where Christians meet in the world, God is right there with them. What an amazing truth.
Third, since we are now the new temple, a spiritual building made up of believer priests we offer sacrifices because Christ offered himself as a sacrifice.
We are being built so that we can be a holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices to God. Throughout scripture we see our prayer is a sacrifice (Revelation 8:3-5) We see our praise is a sacrifice according to Hebrews 13:15. The very next verse in Hebrews 13 tells us our good works our a sacrifice. Romans 12:1 encourages us to make our bodies a living sacrifice. Throughout the Psalms we see our thanksgiving to God is a sacrifice. As believer priests everything we do in this life is to be a sacrifice offering to God. By doing this, we put the beauty of God’s Kingdom Rule on display for a lost world to see.
We have seen the Foundation for our Conduct. Now let’s look at…
The Expression of our Conduct
What does holy conduct in suffering actually look like?
1 Peter 2:11-2 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.
We Cannot Isolate Ourselves From The World
As priests, our conduct is to point the lost world to Jesus. Because of this we must resist the temptation to isolate ourselves from the world. I don’t know about you, but there have been plenty of times I wanted to become a hermit and live up in the mountains all by myself. But God does not allow us to completely isolate ourselves from the world because our lives our meant to point people to Jesus. We can’t point people to Jesus if we refuse to ever be around people. I can only imagine as Peter wrote verses eleven and twelve he had Jesus’ words from Matthew 5 on his mind.
Matthew 5:15-16 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Those apart from Christ need to see holy living so God can ultimately be glorified. Especially in our suffering! Now just like we can’t isolate ourselves from the world, we can’t get too comfortable in the world either. One of Peter’s main points in this book is the world is not our home. The more we act like the world is our home the less influence we actually will have. Which shows us that…
We Cannot View The World as our Final Home
Viewing the world as our final home can lead us into sin.
That is why he tells us to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against our soul. I love the visual language Peter uses here. We are in a battle. We should not mess with sin. The puritan John Owen famously said “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Getting too comfortable with the world may lead us into sin so we need to be on guard. But there is another temptation that we may fall prey too when we get to comfortable in the world.
When we begin to view this world as our home we put too much hope in what takes place in this world.
When things are good we are good and when things are bad we are bad. We then have no real alternative to offer people because we are in the same boat as they are. Peter then tells us to live honorably among those who don’t know Christ. Verse twelve is actually really interesting. Let’s read it again.
1 Peter 2:12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.
Basically, you will be accused of wrongdoing. You will be accused of being an evildoer. Why? Because our world is constantly calling evil good and good evil. But when they get around you, your honorably conduct will actually be the thing that leads them to Jesus. It should be our goal to make people say “I don’t agree with you, but I can’t argue with the way you live. You honor everyone. You are kind and loving.” Peter tells us this type of living paves the way for people to come to God.
This is especially important to remember in seasons like the ones we are living in because everyone is so divided over everything. Cancel culture is all the rage. You don’t agree with me-CANCELLED. But as believers, we recognize this world is not our home, so we don’t have to get wrapped up in all the drama, BUT we can enter into it with the love of Jesus and show people how God’s kingdom is actually better. We can seek the good of our city while keeping our hope and affection on a different city-the new Jerusalem-which we will one day inhabit. Consider what God told the nation of Israel while they were being held captive in Babylon.
Jeremiah 29:7 Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.
God told his people to seek the good of Babylon! Babylon was the antithesis of everything they believed. They were the enemies of the nation of Israel. Yet, God told them to seek its good. Because when Babylon thrived, they thrived. Being involved in local or state or federal government so we can seek to encourage godly policies and laws can be a part of this. It also means having regular outreaches events that help the people who live in our city. Because when the Fresno thrives, we thrive. But our ultimate hope is not in Fresno. We are not trying to set up heaven in Fresno. God will one day set up a new heaven and a new earth, so that is where our ultimate hope is.
So on the one hand, we cannot isolate ourselves from everything going on, no matter how dark things seem. While on the other hand we must recognize that this world is not our final home. As exiles and strangers we can lovingly engage the culture and demonstrate how our King, Jesus, has a better way of living. This specifically plays out in how we as believers engage with those who are in authority. Let’s look at five more verses.
How Christians Engage With Authorities
1 Peter 2:13-17 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Submit as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but as God’s slaves. Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Peter spends a few verses here laying the groundwork for how we are to interact with those in authority. What we learn is government is actually a means of common grace. Common grace is a type of grace that God gives to believers and unbelievers alike. Things like creation, food, physical activity, all of these are common grace. Government is one of those common graces. God tells us to submit to them, not because they are good, but because it is God’s will for us. Because we are free in Christ we are free to submit to and honor whoever God places in authority. Now, these instructions apply regardless of the type of government. They apply regardless of whether or not we agree with those in government. When we sinfully rebel against authorities we are unwittingly testifying that our hope is in earthly things.
Now, it’s important to understand that while we are to obey all governing authorities without exception, sometimes there are exceptions to our submission. Since we are God’s servants, earthly authorities don’t have complete authority over us. There may come a time when we will have to obey God raster than man.
Corrie Ten Boom and her family hid Jews and helped them escape the Nazi Holocaust during WW2. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, after he was arrested for participating in a non-violent protest against racism and segregation. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for praying. As Christians, we are to obey all governing authorities, but as God’s servants, if there is ever a conflict between human authority and heavenly authority, we must obey God over man. Even if our government isn’t good, we can still trust that God knows what he is doing and honor those who are in authority. So here is our takeaway for the first part of chapter two: living for eternity today gives others hope for tomorrow.