Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for February 18, 2018

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for February 18, 2018

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By Jim Barnette, Ph.D.
Samford University and Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook

I Am Just Passing Through
1 Peter 2:11–17

Because Christians are God’s precious people, their true home is with Him. As such, their conduct in this world is to be that of those who are only passing through it. But in doing so they are to show by their behavior that they are citizens of a better country.

Do good works that point to Christ. (11–12)

The phrase “resident aliens” refers to the way in which a person may temporarily reside in a different country, as when diplomats are sent to a post for a few years in another part of the world.

They do not take up permanent residence and change their citizenship; they remain loyal to their own country. They will respect the customs and just laws of that foreign country but their true loyalty is with their homeland. The word “strangers” expresses the more transient aspect of their stay, while “aliens” expresses more their status as noncitizens.

The tension between Christian outsiders and pagan insiders is not merely a struggle between two social groups. Pagans long for the things of the flesh; Christians long for the gifts that strengthen the soul. Peter notes later in his letter that the struggle between flesh and spirit is part of the struggle between God and Satan (see 1 Pet. 5:6–11).

The outcome of these battles between flesh and spirit, God and Satan, are really not in doubt. Peter has already assured them with the words of the prophet Isaiah: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Pet. 1:24–25; Isa. 40:6–8).

Submit to the authorities over you. (13–15)

The apostle states that good conduct is to be expressed in a submissive acceptance of the expectations of human institutions. It is striking that Peter, writing probably in the age of Nero, still sees the state as a God-appointed society for the enforcement of moral values. A Christian’s righteousness should raise him or her above the slanders and suspicions of the ignorant. Christians must render unto Caesar what is his due; in other passages, however, it is clear that Peter knew when to refuse Caesar when the emperor claimed what is God’s (see Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29). Put another way, the emperor and “governors” are to be honored along with all other human beings, but only God is to be feared (see 1 Pet. 1:17).

Use your freedom in Christ to show love and honor to others. (16–17)

Christians do not have the freedom to do wrong. Though free in a greater way than anyone apart from Christ can ever be, Christians are still in another sense “slaves of God.” As it should be, for we owe Him our whole lives and entire being. True freedom, true ability to choose and do what one really wants to do comes paradoxically in entire submission as His obedient servants. Therefore, as God’s “free servants,” Christians should never use their freedom to cover up or hide wrongdoing (“as a cover-up for evil” as the NIV translation says). Freedom must result in the great joy of doing right.

Believers are not only to honor and love God, they also are to “fear” Him, something they should not do toward unbelievers (1 Pet. 3:14) or toward other believers (1 Pet. 1:17). In fearing the One who will lead us to His heavenly home, Peter assures us that we can live in the world as part of the world, not simply as passing strangers.