1 Peter 2:11-17
Jeff Overton, lead pastor
Beulah Baptist Church, Douglasville
A little over a year ago my wife and I moved back to Georgia. As we sought to get all the utilities and other luxuries of life up and running, each place we went would ask for proof of residency. We had to demonstrate that we were who we said we were and that we lived where we said we lived.
In our text for today, Peter reminds us that we are strangers and aliens in this world. Our home is heaven and we should live life is such a way that we demonstrate to others we belong to Christ and are just passing through this world.
The first place that Peter starts is in our behavior. He tells us we are aliens and strangers here. We are just passing through this land. We belong to Christ, and as such, we have a permanent home in heaven with Him. Peter instructs us to be diligent while traveling through this land to make sure we live in such a way that people know we belong to Jesus. We are instructed in the text to abstain from sinful desires. These sinful desires are the desires of the flesh that every believer must confront on a daily basis.
It reminds us of how difficult this battle between flesh and Spirit really is. Peter knew the unbelievers of his day already looked upon Christianity with skepticism and thought it was evil. The proper behavior of the believer would cause the unbeliever to have to reexamine his take on Christians and the God they served. It is interesting that Peter did not call the believers to go on the attack and fight those who opposed them. He simply called them to avoid living in the flesh and to let their lives be a testimony to the love and power of the God they served.
This method is still very effective today. If we are faithful to live out our faith by avoiding the desires of the flesh and living by the Spirit, we can “flesh out” our testimony. We add a walk to our talk that the world has to recognize. When we do this, they see something different – the Christ we love – and may be drawn to a relationship with Him as well.
Peter also goes on to point out as aliens and strangers just traveling through, we are to submit to the authorities that are over us. Some may think this makes the authorities have more power than God. Peter is very clear this is not the case. The submission we are able to give to authorities comes from the fact that we have already submitted to the authority of God.
We submit to local authorities because God has told us to. Because we are submitted to God we are able and willing to submit to the authorities God has put over us. In submitting to these local authorities we are doing what God expects of us and bring pleasure to Him. We do this simply because it is God’s will and we want others to know that we belong to Him. We may be just traveling through this world, but because we belong to God and honor Him, we will submit to local authorities.
Peter also knew this action would cause the non-believer to see the submissive act of believers and be drawn to the Jesus they served. He wanted these non-believers to know this act of submission was done because of the inward submission of the believer to God and not just to the authority of the local leader. Peter would go on in verse 16 to call the believer to live freely.
While this may seem a contrast to the call to submit to local leadership, Peter is saying that we are free in Christ to live in just such a way. It is our freedom that we find in Christ that allows us to submit to local authorities. We do not submit to this authority as slaves but as those who have been freed by the blood of the Lamb of God and now live in submission to Him. Our loyalty will always be to God first and because we are loyal to God we will do as He says and honor the authorities He has allowed to be over us.
Peter then closes out our text with simple instruction in verse 17 – Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. As Peter has said, because we fear God, we can honor others and the local authorities. We are not called to fear the authorities but to simply honor them as we fear and faithfully follow our Lord.
We are aliens and strangers in this land. As we dwell here it is of great importance we live in such a way that others will know where we are from and Who we belong to.
Questions to consider:
- What does submission mean?
- Is there a conflict in submitting to God while also submitting to local authorities?
- What are ways for a believer to deal with the “desires of the flesh”?