1 Peter 2:11-12 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What is the apostle Peter’s manner (harsh, gentle, nonchalant?) as he addresses the church in 1 Peter 2:11 (printed below?) Why do you think he assumes this manner?

Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and refugees, to abstain from the fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

The apostle Peter here addresses us with a great deal of tenderness and empathy: “Beloved, I exhort you…to abstain from fleshly lusts.” Peter knows that we are constantly confronted with a world (a society and culture) that is filled with all kinds of seductive temptations (note 1 John 2:16). Peter knows from personal experience how vulnerable we are to this vast array of seductive temptations. Peter was very sincere about his commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was highly confident of his ability to maintain that commitment in the face of temptation (note Luke 22:33). But when he was actually confronted with the temptation, he discovered how weak he was, how vulnerable: he was swept away by the power of the temptation (note Luke 22:54-62).

2. Does our moral weakness excuse our indulgence in “fleshly lusts?” Why or why not? Note Romans 8:13 (printed below)

…if you live according to the sinful nature, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13)

The recognition of the vast array of worldly lusts we encounter and our susceptibility to them do not qualify as excuses to yield to such temptations. (As Romans 8:13a warns us, “If you live according to the sinful nature, you must die.”) On the contrary, these factors are the reasons that convince us that we cannot rely upon ourselves, we must take refuge in Christ and rely upon His Holy Spirit in order to maintain and cultivate our Christian life. (As Romans 8:13b informs us, “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”)

3. Why does Peter exhort us to abstain from “fleshly lusts?” See 1 Peter 2:11 (printed above under question #1?)

The apostle Peter urges and exhorts us to abstain from worldly lusts because we no longer belong to the world. We have become children of God and citizens of His holy kingdom, and we must conduct ourselves accordingly (note Galatians 1:4; Galatians 6:14; Revelation 18:4-5). Furthermore, the apostle Peter exhorts us to abstain from worldly lusts because those lusts “wage war against the soul.” As Christians living in this present world, we find ourselves living in a spiritual war zone in which there is no neutrality and in which our very soul is at stake.

4. How did the unbelieving community (whom Peter refers to as “the Gentiles”) treat the church of Christ? See 1 Peter 2:12 (printed below) Why do you suppose they treated the church this way?

Conduct yourselves in a proper way among the Gentiles; so that, even though they slander you as evildoers, by observing your good works they must glorify God on the day of his visitation. (1 Peter 2:12)

Peter reminds the church that the Gentiles (here to be taken as a reference to the unbelieving community at large rather than referring to ethnic non-Jews) “slander you as evildoers.” That is to say, the unbelieving community was accusing these Christian people of being trouble makers, of disturbing the peace and upsetting the unity of the empire and the solidarity of the society. In the first centuries of the New Testament era, Christians were thrown to the lions and executed by the Roman authorities not so much because they worshiped Jesus, but because they refused to worship the emperor, declaring that Jesus is Lord. They were viewed as being disruptive to the unity of the empire and a threat to the absolute sovereignty of the Roman state. Consequently, the expression of Christian living is perceived to be a threat to a hedonistic society and a “hindrance” to social progress towards a unified humanistic utopia.

5. How are we to conduct ourselves as Christians and why are we to do so? See 1 Peter 2:12 (printed above under question #4)

Because the world is watching, we are exhorted to conduct our lives in an honorable manner—for the glory of God. Note: this consideration to lead an honorable, godly life before the world for the glory of God must have its affect upon our private life as well as our public life, for what is entertained in the heart cannot be contained within the heart, eventually it will be revealed in the conduct of the life (note Proverbs 14:14a). Our lives should be a testimony that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and that He is living in us by His Holy Spirit, so that the world will finally be compelled to give glory to God for what they have seen.