The First Letter of Peter: Chapter 2:11-12

Study No.9: (1 Peter 2: 11-12)

There is an old gospel song that has lyrics in a stanza that go something like this. “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid down, but Lord what will I do? The angels beckon me from heaven’s open doors and I can’t be at home in this world anymore.” The faithful Body of Messiah to whom Peter was writing were facing severe persecution and it was about to burst upon them with a full on intensity and severity and their faith was going to be tested and tried and purified in the fire of affliction (1:7) (4:12-14).The apostle John clearly tells us in his first letter that the world is not our friend (1 John 3:13).

The Messiah our Lord Jesus also told us this when He said; “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).

James tells us that we cannot be friends with this world and be friends with God at the same time (James 4:4). Even though we must live in this world and deal with the people of this world and use the things of this world form our daily living we still need to live differently than the people of this world live. As a famous preacher once said; “A ship in the water is alright but water in the ship isn’t.” While we are in this world we are not of this world in relation to its self-centred, self-gratifying, and self-seeking attitude and lifestyle and all the things it provides to satiate the fallen fleshly appetites and desires of the fleshly sinful nature. If we really “nail our colours to the mast” by publically acknowledging the Lord Jesus as our Saviour and as our Lord and soon coming king, the unsaved pagan world will think we are peculiar and rather odd (Titus 2:14 KJV). When we think about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob they lived in tents even in the Promised Land. They were not aligned with the pagan nations that surrounded them.

In the Book of Hebrews we are told concerning Abraham; “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10). Having said this, in the age to come all of the redeemed saints of all of the ages will co-reign on the earth with the Messiah in His Messianic Millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:6) (2 Timothy 2:12). So then we do not have a settled permanent place in this present world as this world with its desires are passing away but whoever does the will of God remains forever (1 John 2:17).

All of the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews Chapter 11 had the same attitude towards the pagan world. As we read concerning them; “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16). We are like them even though we do not live in tents like them and live in houses and have a car and other amenities and possessions, we do not centre our lives on what we possess in this world as it is all temporary. We use them but when they start to use us and control us we fall into the sin of idolatry.

The first century Body of Messiah were not by and large wealthy or worshipping in buildings but often found themselves worshipping wherever they could and primarily in their homes or meeting places where the pagan authorities could not find them. The opulence and wealth of structured Christendom with its denominational structures and buildings and sanctuaries of one sort or another are a far cry from the way the first century Body of Messiah worshipped and conducted their affairs. In fact until the fourth century Christianity was declared as an enemy of Rome. Things however started to change when in 306AD Constantine became the Roman Emperor. He claimed to be converted to Christianity in 312AD and subsequently Christianised the Roman Empire. Satan had made a master stroke in that he could not eradicate the faithful Church through martyrdom, as they just multiplied anyway. So he started to spiritually seduce the Church introducing pagan festivals, holidays and symbols and re-packaging them in Christian wrapping. “Babylon” entered Christendom! (This is a whole subject in itself!)

In the Bible when we see Satan depicted as the Red Dragon he is the persecutor. When he is depicted as the serpent he is the seducer. If he cannot physically kill Christians he can spiritually seduce them, and we see this conspicuous feature within global Christendom today especially within the western democracies. There are genuine spiritual revivals happening, especially in third world countries and in Islamic countries where faithful believers are being persecuted or living within war zones, but by and large, the world and all that is in it is heading towards the maelstrom that draws the unsaved down into the dark watery depths of perdition As it is written; “The wicked shall be turned into hell (Sheol), all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). Having looked at these matters related to believers living in this present world let’s now look at our text…

Exposition: (1 Peter 2:11-12)

(Vs.11) “Beloved, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

As New Covenant Bible believers living in this world we are engaged in constant warfare and conflict with the passions, the pursuits, the ambitions and desires of this fallen world and constantly resisting the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. While we can overcome sin by the blood of Jesus, by the Word of God and by the Spirit of God we still have to deal with the desires of the old sinful nature that are constantly at war with the desires of the Spirit also living with us if we have been spiritually reborn from above (Galatians 5:16-18). Satan knows that it is through the lusts of the fleshly fallen nature we can allow ourselves to be drawn into that web of sin’s entanglement, and that by our sinful lusts when we allow them to have their way in us (James 1: 13-15). When this happens Satan can get a foothold in our lives and start to turn us aside from the path that God has planned for us to walk. If we do not repent and persist in our disobedience then we can become spiritually oppressed by an evil spirit such as we see in the life of King Saul in the Old Testament.

In this world we are aliens and strangers to the ways the people in this world are living without God. We don’t fit in, we are marginalised, we are seen as extreme and as those who do not go along with the prevailing trends of life or chase after the things this world offers in material possessions and having things good in this world. When you see the hyper faith prosperity preachers on the internet plying their wares and profiteering on the Blood of the Lamb, fleecing the sheep of their hard earned cash as the money changers did in the Jewish temple in the time of the Lord Jesus, and the promoters of kingdom dominion, kingdom now as the manifestation of the sons of God doctrine, you see a mask for covetousness.

Peter now urges us that we are to abstain from sinful desires that wage warfare against our souls. Now the word “urge” has the idea “to admonish, exhort, to beg, to entreat, to beseech, to strive to appease by entreaty.” It is a word that expresses urgency in light of a situation that will soon confront those who are being admonished or exhorted to prepare themselves for what lies ahead. We are to, with a sense of urgency, to strive with the help of the Holy Spirit and by faith in the power of the blood of Jesus the Messiah, to abstain from those sinful desires that run contrary to the desires of the Spirit.

The word “abstain” is “to “hold back, to keep off, to shake off and to prevent” one from succumbing to those evil passions and desires that go contrary to the law of God that are present in us and part of our old sinful nature. It is “to hold back as you would hold a tight rein on a horse to control it.” This takes time and effort and it is only through constant practice in the power of the Holy Spirit and by the revelation knowledge of God’s Word that our five physical sense gates can be trained to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:13-14). We are at war, not with flesh and blood, although they are often the means through which Satan works his mayhem and mischief. However, our wrestling match is with the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). This is why every day we must put on the whole spiritual armour God has provided accompanied by praying in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:13-18).

God’s Word tells us to put on the Lord Jesus Messiah and not to make any provision for the flesh to have its way in our life. “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Messiah, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:13-14). But how do we clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Messiah? How to we put Him on as we would put on a coat? We must feed upon the Word of God. The Lord Jesus Himself is the living expression of the Word of God. He is both “the Logos” being God in human form and “the rhema” being the revelation knowledge of Himself. When we feed our inner spirit man on the Word of God we are feeding on the Lord Jesus and eating His flesh and blood spiritually. This is the substance of what He is teaching in John Chapter 6. He is not speaking about literally eating His physical body and drinking His physical blood, but speaking about the eternal life that comes from the Word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit (John 6:35-40, 47-57) (Romans 10:17).

The Lord Jesus Himself also said; “The Spirit gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). The whole chapter concerning the bread of life has nothing at all to do with transubstantiation in the mass of Roman Catholicism. We are born again through the Spirit-breathed Word of God revealed to us supernaturally by the Holy Spirit deep down on the inside of us (Titus 3:5) (James 1:21) (Ephesians 5:26). In both Testaments we actually see God telling His servants to eat the scroll they are seeing in a vision. In other words through a vision He is telling His servants to eat and to digest His Word. It is not a physical scroll of course (Ezekiel 3:3) (Revelation 10:9).

Feeding our inner spirit man with the Word of God is an action of our will, not primarily one of our emotions as we live by faith and not by what we see and feel in the natural visible realm. If we are not born again then the downward gravitational pull of sin will control us. We may try to overcome our sin but its downward pull is too strong. It can be likened to the law of gravity vs the law of lift. Only after being born again do we have the supernatural life of the Holy Spirit deep down on the inside of us that gives us the capacity to spiritually experience the law of lift instead of experiencing the law of gravity.

To illustrate this spiritual principle if you take a balloon and fill it with air and let it go into the sky it will fly upwards for some time but because the downward pull of the law of gravity is stronger than the law of lift, it will come back to earth. This is like our works and self-effort to reach God and it will not work because the downward pull of our sinful nature in us is stronger than the spiritual law of lift. However, if you take the same balloon and fill it with Helium which is lighter than air, and let it go into the sky it will keep flying higher and higher because the law of lift is greater than the law of gravity. Even though we still have the downward pull of the sinful nature to deal with every day we have the Spirit of life in Jesus the Messiah, the spiritual law of lift, which is stronger than the downward law of the gravitational pull of our fallen sinful nature. As the apostle Paul writes; “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Jesus. For in Messiah Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Through the indwelling Holy Spirit we have a spiritual power that is stronger than our fallen fleshly nature and we are enabled by the Spirit to fly heavenwards.

So then it is only the blessed Holy Spirit Himself who can empower us not to yield to our lower nature with its appetites and desires moulded in Satan’s image, but to yield to our new nature modelled in God’s image. There are five spiritual weapons we need to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. These spiritual weapons are the Word of God, the Spirit of God, the blood of Jesus, the name of Jesus and by praying unceasingly in the Holy Spirit. By faith, as we train our wills to do practice these spiritual principles of living in God’s kingdom, we will beat the devil and run him out of our affairs every time he attacks us. As the apostle James writes; “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8).

In the work of the new spiritual birth from above God does not patch up the old nature but imparts to us a new divine nature. New wine is for new wineskins. If you try to put new wine into old wine skins they will tear open (Mark 2:22). Through the new birth we become a new spiritual creation in the Messiah Jesus that does away with the old way of living and infuses into or inner spirit man the new way of life in the Messiah through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). And so Peter continues…

(Vs.12) “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

As those who openly confess the Lord Jesus as our saviour and Lord the world is watching us especially where we work or interact with others who are unsaved. The moment we “nail our colours to the mast” as it were, we become marked men and women by the unsaved. The unsaved world then will be watching us carefully in the things we say and do. The last thing we will want to do as New Covenant believers in our Lord Jesus is to bring disgrace and shame to His name and character and denigrate the work of God’s kingdom in their eyes. Sometimes the unsaved people in the world will accuse us even when we have done nothing wrong, If we seek to live as Jesus lived through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit then our good deeds will be seen, if not at present, they will be seen and acknowledged by the unsaved when the thoughts of men and women’s hearts are laid bare in the day of judgement.

At present it may seem that the world is judging us. Sometimes they are justified in their observations due to our own lack of due diligence in spiritual matters. However, one day they will be forced to acknowledge us and the words we have spoken and the deeds we have done to the glory of God and in staying loyal to our Lord Jesus. The world may laugh at us now but they will mourn and weep on the day of judgement while we will be rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of the glory of God!

Go to Study No. 10