During the time of Peter’s writing of 1 Peter many philosophical groups had what were called holiness codes. These codes laid out the moral conduct of people within the group. It should be no surprise to Christians that we also have a holiness code. In fact it is expected since we are required to be “holy as God is holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Thus for us to know how to be “holy in all our conduct” (1 Peter 1:15) we have to have instruction on what that looks like. Peter has been giving this instruction since the second half or chapter 1.
Remember, Peter has a two-pronged purpose is the book. First, he wants to convince these Christians that they really are in the true grace of God, even though they are facing trials. Second, he wants to teach them how to stand firm in that grace. The conduct he is describing is how “we stand firm in it.”
Peter states in verse 11 that we are to “abstain” from worldly lusts. These worldly lusts wage war against us. There is an internal battle within all of us. A battle between holy conduct and following worldly lusts. Peter is purposely vague in this verse because “worldly lusts” can take many different forms. However, 2:1 and 4:1,2 would give us an indication of some of the lusts of which Peter speaks. Notice the basis for this “abstaining” is our new identity as “pilgrims” and “sojourners.” The reason we are not to participate in these lusts is because we are no longer citizens of this world (worldly).
Abstaining from worldly lusts means that we will also be living a “beautiful” life amongst Gentiles. The word translated “honorable” in verse 12 is the Greek word for beautiful. God is calling Christians to beautiful living. This beautiful life consists of abstaining from worldly lusts.
The result of this abstaining from worldly lusts would be that when the Gentiles (non-Christian) see our good works they will glorify God on the day of visitation. The day of visitation could either refer to the final judgment day when every knee will bow, or (and I prefer this one) refers to their day of salvation. Thus, once Gentiles do become Christians they will glorify God because of our beautiful life.
Submit to Government
Verse 13 begins a new aspect of conduct. This aspect is submission. Peter is going to speak of submission to government, masters, husbands, and elders as the book unfolds. This unmistakeably means that proper Christian conduct requires submission.
The first area of submission is to government at all levels. From the king down Christians are to submit to government. This is because government plays a vital role in God’s design. They have been instituted to promote good and punish evil (more on this role click here). Thus, submission to government is the will of God.
This submission of governance also serves a pragmatic approach. In doing so it would show the foolishness of those who claim that Christians are insurrectionists. In affect it would prove Christians are not enemies of the state, but rather good citizens.
It appears that verse 16 is an answer to a would-be objection. The objection would be why do I have to submit, I have freedom in Christ. Peter makes it clear though that the freedom we have in Christ does not mean that we can do evil, because we are still slaves of God.
Peter in this section continues the call to proper conduct by Christians. He wants us to “stand firm” in God’s grace. He begins by describing the beautiful life. The beautiful life is a life that abstains from worldly lusts. He also wants to teach us that submission is a part of the Christian conduct and he starts by commanding us to submit to all levels of government.