“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2.11-12
For centuries Christians have been doing good deeds. This is not from hence our salvation comes but as a means to witness to the world in which we live. The motivation to do good deeds is to first glorify God and second to testify to God’s grace.
Peter is writing this letter to a bunch of Jews turned Christians who are now living in foreign lands, without homes or their Temple or the way of life many grew up experiencing. They are trying to make sense of this Christianity. The New Testament is still being written so their only guide to how to practice their faith in Christ is coming from letters like these from Peter and the Gospels which are being circulated among the some odd thirty “early” Churches.
Peter’s urging is for them to refrain from sin. It’s not to go on mission, work in the soup kitchen or build a bigger church building. The first push is to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” Can you relate? I certainly can.
The benefit of living according to holiness is to bear witness, do good deeds, have a good reputation in order to win more people to the way of Christ. Too seldom the Church gets this backwards. We do good deeds, neglect sin or live life we want, and think our salvation is a matter of social justice, agenda drive, human rights for all.
But this is not the Gospel. The Gospel is simple — “Christ came to die for sinners of whom I am the worst,” 1 Timothy 1.15. The do-gooders may not be saved simply because they do-good. Sinners who are redeemed, rescued from the pit of hell, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit must come first then we do good so that those pagan around us might too find Christ and live in obedience to his word.
I am thankful for Peter for writing such words of encouragement and direction to a bunch of Christians not unlike us, trying to find their way.
“O Lord God, thank you for Peter’s urging, for his being filled with the Holy Spirit so we might be reminded of holy living. Come now, Lord Jesus, save the lost, redeem the broken, rekindle the fire of your Church and your world. I love you Lord and confess I am but a sinner who is saved by your grace. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen