Bible Class Notes on 1 Peter 2:11-12 | Notes on the Petrine Epistles
Peter addressed these Christians as “beloved.” This is not an unusual way for New Testament writer to address his readers. This description would show that Peter loved those to whom he wrote—what he was going to say was going to come from love. This description would also show God’s love—God inspired these words because he loved his people.
Peter beseeches these brethren. “I beseech” or “I appeal” is the usual way a New Testament writer begins an exhortation. This is a personal appeal: “I appeal.” He has the right to make this appeal based on his apostleship.
Peter encourages these brethren to refrain from the passion of the flesh. He addressed these Christians as “aliens and exiles.” Some have wanted to split hairs and find a difference in these two terms; however, Peter seems simply to be saying that Christians do not belong to this world. This terminology seems to come from the Old Testament. When Sarah died, Abraham referred to himself to the Hittites as a “stranger and sojourner” (Gen 23:4). When praying to God, David identified himself as a “passing guest, a sojourner” (Ps 39:12). Christians do not belong to this world (Phil 3:20).
Because Christians do not belong to this world, they must abstain from the passions of the flesh. The passions of the flesh belong to this world, not to heaven, the home of the Christian. The instruction to “abstain” was common in ethical teachings in the first century.
“Passions of the flesh” refer to unbridled impulses. Romans 1:24; 6:12. Galatians 5:16. Ephesians 2:3. James 1:14-15. 1 Peter 4:2-3. 2 Peter 2:18. 1 John 2:16. Passions and lusts are the source of temptation. Romans 7:23. James 1:14. These desires are “of the flesh,” i.e., they are opposed to the spirit and were physical in motivation and desire.
These passions wage war against our souls. Paul eloquently explains this war in Romans 7:15-24. There is often a great dichotomy between how we know we should act and how we actually act.
These Christians should maintain good conduct among the Gentiles. The behavior of Christians should be above reproach; Christians should be known as good, moral individuals. This good conduct is to be maintained with the Gentiles. Using Gentiles here further adds to Peter’s point that Christians are the new Israel—those who are not Christians are Gentiles. The use of “Gentiles” here also punctuates the former lives these Christians lived.
These Christians were to live good lives in case the Gentiles spoke evil against them. “So that in case” introduces a hypothetical situation.
The Gentiles might speak against Christians as wrongdoers. The Gentiles might malign Christians by “malicious gossip and slander.” Peter does not here identify the evil the Gentiles might speak against Christians.
We do know that pagans often did speak evil of Christians. The pagans accused Christians of murder, incest, cannibalism, and of disturbing the peace of the empire. Tacitus said, “They were hated because of their vices.” Suetonius said they were “a class of people animated by a novel and dangerous superstition.”
But Christians should live so that “they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” This sounds very much like what Jesus said (Matt 5:16). What is being taught here is that Christians should live in a manner that will cause others to glorify God.
They might do this “on the day of visitation.” “The day of visitation” does seem to refer to the Second Coming. The hope seems to be that the behavior of Christians will help lead to the conversion of individuals who will praise God on the day Jesus is revealed.