1 Peter 2:11, 12
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;…
I. ASPECT UNDER WHICH THEY ARE ADDRESSED. "Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims." There is here a well-marked transition to a new section. It is introduced by a word which gives an earnest, affectionate tone to his exhortation. He addresses them under the aspect of " sojourners and pilgrims." The language is based on Psalm 39:12, "For I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were," where, in the Greek translation, the same two words are used as here. The two words strengthen the idea; there is very little difference in sense. The first word points to our not being at home; the second wind points to our not being among our own people. We are not at home on earth where there is so much evil, where especially we have not the immediate presence of our Father. To this is added that we do not live among our own people; for, though we have our own circle, yet the men of the world are as those that speak a strange language and do not follow our customs.
II. DUTY PRESENTED.
(1) Form. "To abstain from fleshly lusts." We are not to understand "fleshly" in the narrow sense, but as including all the desires of sinful human nature. The context suggests lusts that have to do with insubordination; and there are not excluded drunkenness, gluttony, and what is called lust. They agree in being irregular; they are the desires belonging to our nature going beyond the order appointed for them. The call is to abstain from them. This is a Christian word with a wider range than is sometimes given to it in the present day. It defines the movement we have to make against our lusts.
(2) Reason. "Which war against the soul." There is reason for our moving against fleshly lusts in this, that they move against us. They are not only antagonistic, but are actively aggressive. They move against us in our highest nature, viz. the soul - that by which we are capable of a higher destiny than is to be got on earth. As sojourners and pilgrims, we are looking forward to "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven;" we must not, by giving ourselves into the power of lusts, unfit ourselves for our noble destiny. "Abstain" is the word for those who would have their souls saved.
(1) Form. "Having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles." The whole of Christian duty is not contained in the word "abstain." There must be, on the positive side, the having our behavior seemly. The usual translation of the word is "beautiful," "fair." Where strictness is often repellent; there must be what is attractive about our conduct, especially if we take into account those who are yet unfriendly to Christianity.
(2) Christian motive. "That wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." There is often a very loose way of classifying men. The Christians were classed with evildoers. Those who had the highest conception of God were spoken against as atheists, simply because they rejected the objects of heathen worship. Those who were called by their religion to live most holy lives were spoken against as anarchists, and even as introducing abominations, the only foundation for it being that they had necessarily to put themselves in opposition to many heathen ways. How, then, were they to act before the heathen? They were to see well to the seemliness of their behavior. Peter might have urged that they were to do this, that they might not come into collision with heathen authorities. He goes a point beyond that, and urges that by good works (beautiful works, being the same word that is translated "seemly") they were to aim at the conversion of the heathen. We can understand, from what follows, that he had in his mind exemplariness in the different relations of life, and not returning evil for evil; but we can also think of the deeds for which Tertullian praises the Christians. "When the pagans deserted their nearest relatives in a plague, Christians ministered to the sick and dying. When the pagans left their dead unburied after a battle, and cast their wounded into the streets, the Christians hastened to relieve the suffering," By such fair deeds as these they could hope to break down prejudice. The heathen beholding them might be led to change their mind about them as irreligious in their faith and life, might be led to think favorably of their God, and thus to be converted to Christianity. Such a result would be glorifying to God, and it was only in keeping with his procedure. It was a day of visitation from God (in the coming of the missionaries) that accounted for their deliverance from heathenism; what was to hinder a similar day of visitation in the conversion even of their defamers? - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;