Friday, 25 October 2019
…having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:12
Peter had just instructed his reader to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” He now gives a reason why this should be. It is not only for their own holiness, health, and betterment, but because they are representatives of Christ to the world. Understanding this, he says, “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles.”
Peter is writing to Jewish believers, as is noted in the opening of his epistle. However, he is not making a divide between Jews and Gentiles, by saying what he now says, as if there are two gospels. The phrase “among the Gentiles” is a common expression of Paul, used in the exact same manner when he writes to his Gentile audience. The idea is not one of separation between Jew and Gentile, but one of reflecting the Lord’s holiness – by Jew or Gentile – among the nations.
With that explained, Peter now says, “that when they speak against you as evildoers.” The word “evildoers” speaks of a criminal, or someone bent on doing what is wrong. It is only found in 1 Peter where he will use it three times. The same thought is expressed, using the two roots of the word Peter uses here, concerning Jesus in John 18:30. As Christ was spoken of as doing evil, so His people are expected to be accused of being evildoers.
However, one of the main points found in the book of Acts is that Christianity fell under the auspices of a sect of Judaism. This was important at that point in history, because Judaism was considered an acceptable and allowable form of religious expression within the Roman Empire. If Christianity were considered a new religion, it could have been forbidden immediately.
However, because it is the fulfillment of the Jewish oracles to believe in the Messiah, Christianity was considered as a part of this already-accepted religion. However, Jews spoke against it throughout the nations, and in front of the Gentiles. An example of this is found in this passage from Acts –
“Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” Acts 14:1-3
This is exactly the type of thing that Peter is speaking about. Eventually, the Roman Empire under Nero brought its weight down upon Christians, and the persecution became great. Christians were spoken of as evil by Jews and by Gentiles. But Peter exhorted them because he knew that being spoken against as evildoers was, and would continue to be, the norm.
As Peter speaks equally to the Jewish believers in the end times, the words to them are no less relevant today. The messianic believers are persecuted by the Jews. And yet, their testimony in Israel is bringing together more believers from the non-Jews who live in Israel and elsewhere, and they are also bringing in new Jewish believers to the faith all the time as well.
Therefore, believer’s conduct is to be exemplary in front of these Gentiles, so that “they may, by your good works which they observe,” have a positive effect on them. Peter will explain what that effect is with his final words of the verse. For now, the word translated as “which they observe” is a present participle in the active voice. The people around believers are observing them and making constant determinations about them.
The word signifies an attentive viewing, not just a casual look. The word is unique to Peter and is used only here and in 1 Peter 3:2. It is this general thought, of being carefully evaluated while living holy lives, that the Gentiles would then see the proper conduct of believers and then “glorify God in the day of visitation.”
This phrase is debated over. Is it speaking of the time of Christ’s coming? Is it referring to another particular event? The word translated as “visitation” is a general word where a visit occurs by anyone for any reason. What is probably on Peter’s mind is a simple visitation of the blessing of the Lord upon people who actively witness the conduct of the Christian believers, and realize that Christians are not who they have been portrayed as. Instead, they are seen to be valid messengers of the truth of God. At that time, they believe and their visitation, by the Holy Spirit for salvation, comes to pass.
Life application: This verse should make believers stop and really reflect on the consequences of what Peter is implying. When Peter speaks of the “Gentiles,” he is speaking of the people of the world among whom believers in Christ live their lives. This is similar to what Paul said when speaking of his Jewish brethren who didn’t believe –
“For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.” Romans 11:13, 14
The conduct of believers should be right at all times in order to lead people to Jesus. If we don’t act appropriately, we not only keep them from desiring a relationship with Jesus, but we also bring discredit upon His name. Our actions and conduct before unbelievers should be as holy as our actions and conduct while in church on Sunday morning. Consider that as you conduct your daily life.
Heavenly Father, it is sure that our conduct has not always been a source of inspiration to the non-believers around us. We also know that there will be those who will have accusations against us on the great Day of Judgment. For this, we feel remorse. Give us the heart’s desire to always reflect Your glory from this day on. Amen.