Conflict within and conflict without (I)
1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
On the last couple of occasions we’ve looked at 1 Peter we’ve considered chapter 2 verses 9 and 10 where we read: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.
From those verses we found answers to three questions.
The first question was “What are we?”
We did see that the answer was that believers in Christ, as a collective whole, are “God’s people”. That is because we are chosen by Him, we’re servants of Him, we’re set apart for Him and we belong to Him. As such, we are the spiritual fulfilment of the promises that God made to the nation of Israel in Old Testament times.
The second question was “How are we what we are?”
We saw that the answer was that we are “God’s people” by having been powerfully called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light which shines in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The third question was “Why are we what we are?”
We saw that the answer was that we are “God’s people” in order “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him” or, more literally “that you might set forth the virtues of Him”.
Today we’re moving on to look at verses 11 and 12 where we read: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”.
So, having stressed that his readers are God’s people in order to declare His praises or proclaim His excellencies, Peter goes on to introduce what he has to say next by saying: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles”.
Firstly, notice that he addresses them as “Beloved”.
In speaking of them as “Beloved” it’s not clear from the text whether he’s referring to his love for them or the fact that they are loved by God. The NIV has opted for the former as it uses the words “Dear friends”. However, Peter has been emphasising God’s love and mercy towards them, so that could be what he has in mind in addressing them as “Beloved”. Whatever Peter meant, he was clearly stressing to them that they were loved and the reality was that they were loved by both God and Peter.
Secondly, notice that he goes on to refer to them as “sojourners and exiles”.
Does that sound familiar? It should because he’s spoken of them in that way twice before in the letter. In chapter 1v1 he addressed them as: “elect exiles of the Dispersion” or, as the NIV put it: “elect, exiles, scattered”. Then, in chapter 1v17, he said: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile”. The fact that Peter repeatedly mentioned this shows that he considered it important that they should recognise that they were “sojourners and exiles” in this world and see themselves as such.
So, on the one hand, they were loved by God.
However, at the same time, they were “sojourners and exiles” in this world. That’s the tension that exists for believers during their earthly life. What does he have to say to those who are both loved by God and yet despised by the world? Well, he says “I urge you”. The Greek word here is very emphatic. It would be better translated as “I strongly urge you”. Remember, they’ve been made to be God’s people in order to show, declare, proclaim God’s praises and Peter is now urging them to do that. What does Peter urge “sojourners and exiles“ to do? Well, he specifically mentions two things.
Firstly, in verse 11, he urges them “to abstain” and then, in verse 12, he urges them “to keep your conduct honourable”.
We could say that he strongly urges them to abstain and maintain. Stop doing certain things and continue doing certain other things.
Now, these aren’t just instructions that he’s throwing out because they sound like a good idea. They are given in a context that shows that there are important reasons for these instructions. In the hymn we’ve been singing we had the words:
“Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come”
That could provide good titles for today’s sermon such as “Many a conflict” or “Fightings within, without”. You see, Peter’s instructions are given because believers in Christ live in a context of conflict and his instructions make it clear that there is both conflict within and there is conflict without.
Next post we’ll be considering the: Conflict within
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!