Thursday, 24 October 2019
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 1 Peter 2:11
Peter now uses a word of close personal affection which is used by every author of an epistle – Paul (in all but three of his epistles), the author of Hebrews, James, Peter, John, and Jude. It is most commonly used by Paul, but Peter uses it eight times in his two small epistles. It is translated as “beloved.” In its highest sense, it signifies divinely-loved. In his second epistle, Peter will use the term of Paul.
Here, he uses it to begin an exhortation unto holy living, starting with, “I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims.” The word translated as sojourners signifies an alien. It is seen only four times in Acts, Ephesians, and now here for the last time. It signifies a temporary dweller, especially a foreigner.
The word translated as pilgrims is similar. It was used by Peter in his opening words, and now he uses it here as its last use in Scripture. It signifies someone who resides in a strange country. It is someone who is simply passing through.
As this is the state of believers, Peter notes that they should not get caught up in the ways of those who are a part of this system, and so he says for believers to “abstain from fleshly lusts.”
The idea is that a person who is a foreigner in a strange land will not take part in the customs of those around him because he has no affiliation with them. The true home of the believer is with Christ. We have been redeemed out of this world, and therefore our conduct here is to be reflective not of what we have been redeemed out of, but that of the place where we are redeemed to. The Lord is holy, and we are to be holy. To follow after the lusts of the flesh is to not pursue holiness.
Peter then finishes with, “which war against the soul.” Vincent’s Word Studies notes, “The compound pronoun denotes a class, of that kind which, classifying all fleshly desires in one category.” Peter’s words are all-inclusive. Anything which is fleshly and which wars against the soul of the believer is to be abstained from.
The idea of the “soul” of the believer is one that is renewed by the Spirit, and it is no longer to be aligned with the fallen things of the world. As we have been renewed by the Spirit, our lives should reflect that higher spiritual attitude. But Paul, writing about this, notes how hard that is. In Romans 7, he said –
“I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:21-25
After saying this, he closes out Romans 7:25 with –
“So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
Through reliance on Christ, believers are delivered from the “body of death” which wars against us. Peter now admonishes believers to abstain from anything which would cause this war of the soul to rise up in us.
Life application: If both Peter and Paul acknowledged that these things exist around us, then it is obvious that they had the same war in their own souls. Such is true with all people. In other words, being an apostle, preacher, minister, or missionary does not make one immune. We all have a responsibility to not get entangled in these things, and it is something we all struggle with. When you slip and fail, confess and turn back. Jesus is merciful and forgiving.
Lord God, we must acknowledge that we have the very war in our own souls that the writers of the New Testament speak of. The world pulls one way, even as our hearts tell us to resist such things. Certainly, we fail You often, and we simply cannot walk this path alone. Instead, we need You with us each step of the way. Strengthen us, and give us the ability to win this war – to Your glory! Amen.