1 Peter


2. Instructions on Christian living, 2:11-3:12

i] The principle

Live appropriately within secular society as those who are but visitors


The Christian church is the true people of God, mightily blessed by God. Yet, it exists within a hostile environment and so believers must constantly resist the temptation to assuage hostility by conforming to their secular society. Believers are a set-apart people, a "spiritual house", a "holy priesthood", offering "spiritual sacrifices to God", and ordained to proclaim God's "mighty acts." None-the-less, there is a way to assuage secular hostility and that is by doubling our efforts to live "honourably among the Gentiles." So, Peter encourages his readers to behave in a way that reflects their standing in Christ.


i] Context: See 1:1-2. In his letter, Peter seeks to encourage the believers in Asia Minor as they struggle within an environment hostile to the Christian faith. Peter's practical instructions covering 2:11-3:12 promote good citizenship, which quality will help to promote acceptance from the wider society and ease access for the gospel. At the top of the list we have the obvious suspect for societal acceptance, respect for the governing authorities. Then the submission of slaves for the maintenance of economic order, and so on. This does appear a bit mercenary, but as Jobs notes, it reflects a "visitor mind-set" - as we once sang in youth club This world ain't my home I'm just passin thru. So, when in Rome do what the Romans do, without, of course, compromising Biblical ethics. See "Interpretation", 2:13-25.


Peter first lays down the principle of living with honour - exemplary behaviour is less likely to provoke hostility, 1:11-12.

He then examines a series of issues which would likely enhance the Christian community in the eyes of their pagan neighbours:

*Respect toward the secular state, 2:13-17;

*Respect by slaves / servant toward their masters, 2:18-25;

*Respect of wives toward their husbands, again with particular reference to pagan husbands, 3:1-6;

*Respect of husbands toward their wives, 3:7;

*Respectful relationships within the Christian fellowship, 3:8-9.

Peter concludes with a citation from scripture, 3:10-12.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Live appropriately within secular society:

Adopt a visitor mindset, v11;

Live exemplary lives, v12.


iv] Interpretation:

Peter has indicated that the/a purpose (oJpwV) in God's gathering of a people unto himself is that they "might proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you", 2:9. So, it can rightly be argued that the ethical instructions covering 2:11-3:12 have, as a primary, or at least secondary intent, the conversion of the Gentiles. Peter's instructions (live honourable lives and fit in with the given culture of you local community) serve to gain acceptance for the Christian community within society at large. The instructions are designed to reduce hostility / persecution, and at the same time provide an open access for the gospel.

It is probably going too far to suggest that the instructions amount to "lifestyle evangelism", Jobes; "for the hope of winning converts", Beare. None-the-less, v12 may indicate this intent. Peter encourages his readers to live honourable lives among the Gentiles iJna, "that [ ..... they may glorify God on the day of visitation]." The "day" is possibly the day when those who have seen the good works are moved to repent and believe, but it is usually viewed as the the day of judgment when those Gentiles, who have been moved to repent by the lifestyle of believers, are able to "glorify God" rather than run in fear. Yet, Peter is probably not promoting lifestyle evangelism, but rather making the point that the godliness of God's people will be vindicated in the last day and the right of it will be affirmed by all humanity.

Text - 2:11

Countering a negative perspective within a pagan / secular society by good behaviour - how to resolve the inevitable conflict between Christians and unbelieving neighbours, v11-12: i] Resting on a "visitor mind-set" within the context of an aggressive pagan / secular society, Peter encourages his readers to curb their natural impulses "toward survival and acceptance in Roman society", Michaels - the temptation to adjust behaviour and belief for social acceptance, v11.

agaphtoi (oV) voc. "Dear friends" - beloved. The vocative "expresses the intimate bond uniting author and addressees as joint members of the brotherhood", Elliott. "Its introduction at this point shows that the author is consciously passing to a new element in the discourse", Beare.

wJV "[I urge you] as" - [i encourage, exhort you] as [aliens and exiles]. This comparative particle is adverbial here, best treated as causal; "I would appeal to you that, since you have no permanent home on earth and live here as mere strangers", Cassirer. Peter's descriptive language at this point reflects Psalm 39:12, cf., Heb.11:13, "strangers or passing travellers on earth" - just passin thru. As Jobs notes, Peter is expressing his "visitor mind-set" at this point.

apecesqai (apecw) pres. mid. inf. "to abstain" - to abstain from, keep away from, avoid. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Peter exhorts; "that you avoid worldly passions."

epiqumiwn (a) gen. "desires" - [worldly, material, fleshly] lusts, passions, desires, appetites. Genitive of direct object after the verb apecw, "to keep away from." It is unclear what Peter has in mind when he refers to these worldly / material desires. We are inclined to define Peter's words as "the evil impulses of our own nature as men, which prompt us to deeds and thoughts incompatible with the new life which God has brought us through Christ", Beare. Something of a gentler bent may be in mind; "natural impulses", Michaels. Such are not evil in themselves, but they certainly are if they "wage war against your soul." It is impossible to specify what was in Peter's mind, other than to say that in the context of surviving within a hostile pagan / secular environment, an honourable other-person orientated lifestyle is likely to be more acceptable than a selfish one.

aiJtineV pro. "which" - Wallace classifies this indefinite pronoun as qualitative; "the very things that wage war against the soul", so also Dubis.

kata + gen. "against" - [war] against. Expressing opposition; "against". The main verb "wage war", being present tense, is durative; "they wage a continuous campaign against your soul", Barclay.

thV yuchV (h) gen. "your soul" - the soul. Ones inner life, or being as a person, ones being in relation to God. The word "life" can be nuanced in a number of ways, eg., "I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you", CEV.


ii] Peter, continuing his exhortation commenced in v11, encourages his readers to live honourable lives within their unbelieving local community, v12. He seems to make the point that by acting this way, hostility toward the Christian faith will be curbed; it blunts aggressive opposition to the Christian faith. In specific terms, Peter makes a point that has prompted numerous interpretations.

The most accepted interpretation is that Peter implies that through the honourable lives of the Christian community some of those who were once opponents will come to believe the gospel and stand to glorify God at the coming of Christ, so Elliott, Selwyn, Beare, Kelly, Jobes (lifestyle evangelism), .... In practical terms, the application of this interpretation struggles today in that a lifestyle which reflects Biblical values often clashes with the increasingly dominant progressive left agenda of the secular elite. Socialism and Christianity are not comfortable bed-fellows!

Another possibly interpretation, although unlikely, is that the act of glorifying God on the day of visitation is describing the conversion of those who have been impressed by the good works.

It seems more likely that Peter is addressing the issue of vindication, nicely expressed by Jobes; "the witness of a sustained good lifestyle by Christians who are being maligned by their society will be a testimony on the final day of judgment, which will vindicate the Christian faith. Those who reject the gospel will be condemned by their own harsh judgment of Christians, who refused to indulge in the values and practices of an ungodly society." On the day of judgment the ungodly will realise that they were wrong and that believers were acting under divine authority. The ungodly will indeed, in that day, praise God, although it is the universal glorification of God by mankind on the day of judgment, not necessarily that of converted pagans, cf., Phil.2:10-11, so Michaels, Achtemeier.

"Live an exemplary life among unbelievers so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Always remember, everything will be set right when Christ returns."

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "live" - having [the conduct, lifestyle, way of life of you in = among the gentiles]. A participle will sometimes introduce a dependent statement, although usually of perception, whereas here it is indirect speech after the verb to exhort, v11, so best classified as attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the infinitive "to abstain", v11; "I exhort, ...... that you abstain ....... and that you conduct ...."

kalhn adj. "good" - good. This adjective is best taken as a substantive, accusative complement of the direct object "the conduct of you among the Gentiles", standing in a double accusative construction.; "keep (have) your conduct among the gentiles honourable", ESV. Contra Elliott who treats it as an attributive adjective modifying / limiting "conduct"; "maintain honourable conduct among the Gentiles." The word kalos "good", "denotes conduct that is both morally just and aesthetically attractive, thus behaviour that is in all senses worthy of honour", Elliott.

en + dat. "among [the pagans]" - Locative, spacial; "in = among".

iJna + subj. "that" - so that. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "I urge, v11, ..... that you live good lives ...... so that / in order that, [although (en) they speak against you as evildoers, because (ek) they see your good deeds], they may praise God on the day of visitation."

en + dat. "though [they accuse]" - in [which they speak against]. Introducing an adverbial prepositional construct modifying the purpose clause "in order that ....... they may glorify God ....", possibly temporal, Achtemeier, "when they speak against you", ESV, concessive, as NIV (Elliott suggests either temporal or concessive), local, en w|/, "in which" = "in a case (or situation) where ..." Michaels, "in the very matter wherein they slander you", Beare, leaning toward reference / respect, so Dubis, "with reference to that which." "The hope is that unbelievers will one day glorify God with regard to that very thing (ie., The Christian faith) that they currently speak evil of", Dubis.

uJmown gen. pro. "you" - you. Genitive of direct object after the kata prefix verb "to speak evil of / against."

wJV "of" - as if speaking against. Comparative; "they speak evil against you / slander you like they would speak against evildoers." Simplified as NIV, TNIV, CEV, ..

kakopoiwn (oV) "doing wrong" - evildoers, bad people, criminals. Genitive of direct object after the assumed verb "to speak evil against"; "people slander you as they slander evildoers", Dubis.

ek + gen. "-" - from [the good works]. Introducing a second adverbial prepositional construct modifying the purpose clause "in order that ..... they may glorify God ...", here probably expressing means / ground, a means consisting of a source, "by", "through the influence of the good works", Beare, or cause, "because of", "because of your good lifestyle", Dubis. This preposition sometimes serves instead of a partitive genitive and this is suggested here by Achtemeier who sees the prepositional phrase serving as the object of the participle "observing"; "observing of (some of) the good works." Although a matter of debate, is is unlikely that this prepositional phrase modifies katalalousin, "they speak evil against", "they speak evil against you because of your good deeds"; it is more likely that it modifies doxaswsin, "they may glorify", "because of your good deeds they will glorify God", ie., in the day of judgment those who were hostile to the Christian faith will have to recognise the right of it.

epopteuonteV (epopteuw) pres. part. "they may see" - seeing, beholding, observing. The present tense being durative may give the sense "continuing to observe." The participle here may be treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "the good deeds", "the good deeds which they behold", AV, or adverbial, causal, "the nonbelievers will be led to glorify God because they observe the Christians' conduct", Achtemeier. Dubis takes an interesting approach when he suggests that it stands in apposition to the prepositional phrase "from the good works"; "because of your good works (that is because seeing them) they might praise God ....." The participle would then explain the causal function of the good works, namely, that those initially opposed to the gospel, having observed insightfully ("spiritual insight", Beare) the positive lifestyle of the Christian community, are moved to accept the gospel and so affirm Christ's coming in the last day. This sense takes the verb to mean "observing that leads to a change of mind or outlook", Michaels; note the case against this interpretation above.

en + dat. "on [the day]" - [they may glorify god] in [day]. Temporal use of the preposition, as NIV; "in order that ......... they may glorify God on the day when he comes in judgment."

episkophV (h) gen. "he visits us" - of visitation. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of time; "when he visits us." The day of visitation is best understood in eschatological terms as the day of judgment, the day of the coming of the Lord.


1 Peter Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]