“Maintain good conduct among the non-Christians”
1 Peter 2:12a
Beauty attracts attention. You can see this in a crowded place when a beautiful woman enters. The groups in museums encircle the loveliest pieces of art. Cars stop by the side of a road so the passengers can watch a magnificent sunset. We want to surround ourselves with beautiful things. If we are to attract those who are looking for a faith that is real, we will do so only when we show forth an inner beauty that draws others to the Savior.
Read 1 Peter 2:11-3:7 to get the flow of the entire passage.
1. The first two verses of this passage (2:11-12) basically sum up the overall teaching of this section of the book. What two principles are you to follow according to these verses? What result does Peter hope will come from your obedience (v.12)? Memorize v. 12a, our verse for the week.
2. Why do you think that Peter would remind his readers that we are strangers and aliens in this world at this point in the letter?
The term “fleshly desires” (NET) or “fleshly lusts” (NASB) sounds like these must be sexual acts of some kind. Dr. D. Edmond Hiebert explains this: “Peter’s words should not be interpreted to mean that desires related to our physical nature are evil, as though the human body in itself was evil. The thought is not limited to sensual indulgences; Peter’s words circumscribe all those cravings associated with the entire nature of man as a fallen being, whether they express themselves through the body or the mind. Flesh is used in its ethical sense to denote fallen mankind as characterized by depraved and corrupting desires.”5
3. Read these cross references and write down your insights about fleshly desires:
a. Galatians 5:19-21
b. Ephesians 5:3-5
c. 1 John 2:15-17
4. We are prone to think about fleshly desires as “Top Ten” sins. What do you see in these verses that proves that not to be true? How can these “minor” sins make us less than beautiful?
5. Sharing question: What deeds or attitudes of the flesh convict you personally from this list and why?
6. Responding to God: Write down what is on your heart as God has used these Scriptures to speak to you today. Again, use whatever means works for you - a letter, a poem, a song or a prayer.
Reread 1 Peter 2:11-17.
7. List the things we are to do according to 2:13-17. Also write beside them “why” the verses indicate we are to do them. In other words, what does God want to achieve by our doing these things? How does God’s purpose relate back to 2:11-12?
8. Compare 2:13-17 with Romans 13:1-7. Write down similarities as well as additional insights from the Romans passage.
God’s purposes for our submission to government show us that we are obedient to the law when it means doing what is right. It glorifies God and makes us beautiful in the eyes of others to do the right thing. We have little witness before unbelievers when we break the law. I served on the grand jury, a real eye-opener! It was heart-breaking to be faced with the indictment of those who claimed to be Christians but who had lost their witness.
9. Sharing question: Review the instructions you listed in #7. How does it look to honor someone? Maybe you like the current President and find him easy to honor, but do you honor every President despite his political perspective? How do you honor other people in specific ways?
10. Responding to God: Read 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Write a prayer for our President and some of our other governmental leaders, keeping in mind the reasons Paul calls us to pray for them.
1 Peter 2:11-3:7 mentions submission several times. Dr. Spiros Zodhiates helps us understand the Greek word submit, hupotasso. It is a compound word meaning “to place in order”6 that comes from the root word hupo, meaning under or beneath7, and tasso, “to place, set, appoint, arrange, order”8. In these verses, it is in the middle voice in the Greek, meaning to place oneself in submission. Thus, literally it means to put yourself beneath someone. It is used in the military, meaning, “to place under rank.”9
If you are like me, you feel that you are a good, obedient citizen if you haven’t been convicted of any felonies lately. However, there is more to this than merely criminal laws.
11. What are some ways that you see Americans fail to submit to the law and consider it no big deal? Sharing question: In what area(s) have you been guilty?
There are limits to submission, and the Scriptural example helps us understand when to draw the line and say no. We’ll read a story in Acts to help us understand the principle and then return to 1 Peter.
Read Acts 3:1-4:31.
12. Summarize Peter and John’s story and how the governmental authorities responded.
13. What do you learn from Peter and John’s example about the limits of submission to governmental authorities? Explain the limits as you would to someone questioning you about it.
Reread 1 Peter 2:13-3:7.
14. What phrases in this passage support Peter and John’s refusal to submit in the Acts story? Explain how they support limits on submission.
Read Daniel 1:1-21.
15. What do you learn from Daniel about how to honor those in authority when you encounter a situation where you cannot submit?
16. Sharing question: Write the story of a situation where you failed to submit and suffered consequences. It may be a time when you were wrong not to submit or when you were justified in not submitting.
Reread 1 Peter 2:11-25.
17. What kinds of masters are slaves to obey? Why?
18. Consider this passage in light of 2:12. What is God’s overall purpose in calling slaves to submit?
We are thankful that we no longer have slavery in the United States; however, there are many parts of the world where there are slaves, although this fact is somewhat hidden in the cultures where slavery is practiced. I am grateful for Christians such as William Wilberforce and Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, whose actions led to the outlawing of slavery in Britain and the United States. They realized that although God called slaves to submit because He had a higher purpose, this institution did not reflect the character of God and needed outlawing. Their godly compassion led them to speak out.
So how does this passage apply to us today? There is not a direct correlation between slavery and employment. It is not the same in any way. Employees have freedom and opportunity to speak out that slaves never had. Yet, I think there is an attitude involved that we need to apply from this passage.
19. What do you learn from Jesus’ example in 1 Peter 2:21-25 about attitude in the midst of mistreatment? Consider what His concern was when He went to the cross. How does it parallel the concern of this whole section of the book as expressed in 2:12?
God is not necessarily asking us to suffer unjustly in our workplace and keep quiet about it; yet, we must have the right attitude as Jesus did and we must consider God’s higher purpose of 2:12. Too often we have mistakenly believed that Christians are not supposed to speak out about injustice and mistreatment, having somewhat of a martyr complex. God is concerned about injustice and unrighteousness more than we are because He is just and righteous in all His ways. As we pray about how to handle such situations, we take all of this into account.
20. Sharing question: Do you evidence Jesus’ attitude in your workplace? How would your fellow employees see this in your life?
21. Sharing question: What is one way that works for you to help you keep the right attitude when you are faced with difficult or foolish people?
22. Responding to God: It can be extremely difficult to work for unreasonable, unjust, or unwise people. If you are employed outside of the home, write a prayer concerning your own attitude at work. Pray for your supervisor as well. If you work for a fair and caring boss, write a prayer of thanks. If you are not employed, write a letter of encouragement to a friend who is. Pray for her every day this week.
It is difficult to submit to an authority who is foolish, misguided, unwise, or just mistaken. You may work under the supervision of someone who makes bad choices for that business. Yet, there is nothing really wrong in what he asks you to do; thus, you must submit. You may disagree with the tax laws because the money is spent foolishly; yet, you must submit and pay your share. What is the key to submitting when you see such situations? I believe it is faith. Do you trust God to handle the situation? Do you believe that God is at work in whatever happens? Do you believe that Romans 8:28 is really true and that God will use this to make you more beautiful within? Do you believe that God will use your right actions and attitude to be a witness to those around you?
The bottom line of this lesson is being a light in the darkness, living with excellence before a world that doesn’t know Jesus. People notice when we fail to live up to what we profess to believe. What kind of witness are you in your everyday life? Does your excellence at work reflect the God of excellence? Does your witness extend to the words that you say about people? In what areas do you need to work on excellence?
This story is from my own experience. I had hoped to receive one that I could use from a friend, but since I never did, I will share something from my own life about having excellent behavior among those who do not believe. I am sorry to say it is a story about what not to do!
As I look back on my life, I am so ashamed of the wasted years when I didn’t openly live for Christ. No one would have accused me of being a Christian for there was no evidence that I was. I certainly did not behave with excellence according to God’s standards. If I had suggested that I was a Christian in those years, I would surely have been called a hypocrite!
My concern at that point in my life was to be accepted and fit in. It is so humiliating to realize that there are some people whom I knew then that would still have a hard time accepting that I am a believer. I talked about others behind their backs; I used bad language; I laughed at dirty jokes; I went to places where I should not have been and avoided church like a plague. I cannot remember being particularly kind to anyone and certainly had little love for anyone who didn’t love me first.
How do I live with the fact that I was an embarrassment to Jesus? How do I go on and actually serve God when I brought Him shame before unbelievers? I can do that because I trust that He will use even my sins and mistakes for His glory and for my good. I live with the daily belief that He is more powerful than my sins. I accept His grace and His forgiveness and really believe that He gives more grace than I could ever need. I take it to heart that He is using even that period when I didn’t walk with Him to make me more like Jesus. I recite Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
God has surely used that time in my life to help me recognize His amazing grace for me, a sinner. He has helped me learn to give grace to those who are faltering because I was once there. I have seen His mercy and love and know that I am only here because of it. I am grateful that He can redeem even what is dark and ugly and make me more beautiful because of it.
23. Sharing question: What has God said to you this week?
6Complete Word Study Dictionary, 1427.
7Complete Word Study Dictionary, 1419.
8Complete Word Study Dictionary, 1367.
9Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Hopeful (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1984), 68.