11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

With a pastor’s heart, Peter speaks to the church as “dearly beloved”. Because every saved soul is still in need of sanctification, the apostle pleads for God’s people to abstain from fleshly lusts, because they war against the soul.

War Against the Soul

Fleshly desires war against the soul by multiplying, and growing like a mighty conquering army. Sensual desires unite with Pride, Covetousness, Greed, Willfulness, and Evil Communication, to grieve the Holy Spirit, subdue any expression of true spirituality, and eventually harden the heart to any form of divine rebuke, resulting in the sin unto death. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [are dead]” (1 Cor. 11:30).

Fleshly desires war against the soul by suggesting invisible spiritual treaties which prove to be deceitful, and eventually bind the will to enslave it with a sense of helplessness. The main provisions of these unholy alliances of the soul with the flesh, is a promise the will shall prevail against God, and shall be followed by pleasure. The pattern established in the Garden of Eden with Eve has not changed. Despite the known will of God “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6). Because sin enslaves the soul, Christ must come to set the captives free (Luke 4:18).

Fleshly desires war against the soul by demanding to be served as lord and master. The attempt is to dethrone Christ. Those who have only a form of godliness but no vital spiritual power, will yield their bodies as instruments of unrighteousness with predictable results. Some will “creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts “2 Tim 3:6). Others will be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Those who are losing the war against the soul will be marked with some, or all of the following characteristics.

  • Lovers of their own selves
  • Covetous
  • Boasters
  • Proud
  • Blasphemers
  • Disobedient to parents
  • Unthankful
  • Unholy
  • Without natural affection
  • Trucebreakers
  • False accuser
  • Incontinent
  • Fierce
  • Despisers of those that are good
  • Traitors
  • Heady
  • High-minded
  • Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God

12 Having your conversation [manner of life] honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Once more Peter contrasts evil with good in order to exhort the Church to good works, while providing two strong gospel motives for a life of holiness.

Gospel motive one. Those who speak evil, meaning they speak in an injurious manner against a Christian, will have no legitimate basis for their accusation when a holy life is lived. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD” (Isa. 54:17).

Gospel motive two.A good life can lead to the conversion of someone. It was the teaching of Christ to love all, and to pray for those who lashed out to hurt. A passive response to evil is not natural to the flesh, for the law of the spiritual jungle is “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth.” Only by having the love of God shed abroad in the heart can there be any hope of a proper gospel response, and effective witnessing leading to the conversion of the sinner. “And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 22)

13 Submit [obey] yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

The laws of a federal, state, or local government may be harsh, and unreasonable, but when civil authorities are submitted to with a sweet spirit in the name of Jesus, the soul is well pleasing to the Lord. The poet Cowper said, “Behind a frowning providence He hides a shining face.”

16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness [badness], but as the servants of God.

The relationship between the believer, and the state, is basically one of submission. There is precedent in the scriptures for civil disobedience when the law of God has been violated. When forbidden to preach the name of Christ at the sake of being punished, Peter let it be known he planned to do what was right and suffer the consequences.

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straightly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:27-29).

In the name of conscience, and for the sake of Christ, the believer must never use political liberties, and Christ’s freedoms, for a cloke of maliciousness. It is possible for the gospel to be abused, which is why many restrictions and prohibitions are given to the church, not only for consideration, but for implementation as servants of God, and also to silence the voice of foolish individuals who oppose the gospel. Sometimes Christians are their own worst enemies, for they want to provoke needlessly, or remain willfully stubborn, or unwisely obstinate.

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

The fear of God is something that must be taught.

“Then one of the priests whom they [the Assyrians] had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.” (2 Kings 17:28)

“Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Psalm 34:11).

Six Ways to Show God is Feared

God is feared, when it is remembered He is able to destroy both body and soul. Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

God is feared when there is a rational, and emotional response to natural elements, and animals divinely directed.

“And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).

“So, Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel” (1 Sam. 12:18).

“And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them” (2 Kings 17:25).

God is feared, when the threats of men fade before knowledge of the divine will, and the heart knows it is better to obey God, than to violate His know will. 1 Kings 18:3 And [King] Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly: 4 For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) John Witherspoon wrote, “It is only the fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man.”

God is feared when the absence of His presence is threatened to be withdrawn. Following his great sin with Bathsheba, king David pleaded with God saying, “take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

God is feared, when a particular temptation is fled, knowing it will offend the Lord. When Joseph was tempted to sexual immorality, he asked Potiphar’s wife, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9).

God is feared, when He is spoken of to others with reverence and awe.”Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name” (Mal. 3:16).

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward [warped].

The relationship between labor, and management, can be strained if laborers are exploited, and just compensation is not given for work done. Realizing injustices will be generated, the gospel instructs Christians to bear patiently these reproaches in order to receive the praise of God.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

The apostle clearly teaches that what is acceptable, and pleasing to God, is when a verbal or physical injustice has been borne by the Christian that endures grief, and wrongful suffering without seeking revenge, or an audience to vent to. While the Christian suffers wrongfully, the believer must be careful not to inflict wrong on others.

“As I watched them tear a building down
A gang of men in a busy town
With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman,
“Are these men skilled,
And the men you’d hire
 if you wanted to build?”

He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.”

“I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken years to do.”

And I thought to myself,
as I went my way
Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?

Am I shaping my work
to a well-made plan
Patiently doing the best I can?

Or am I a wrecker who walks to town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

“O Lord let my life and my labors be
That which will build for eternity!”

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

The way Christ accepted suffering as part of the will of the Father is for our example. The Father has many lessons to teach the Christian, some of which can only be learned through the process of suffering. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).

For those who do not think God wants Christians to suffer, this passage alone should silence that concept. There is a place for pain and suffering in the will of God over which He is sovereign, and directs it for His own good purposes.

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

One of the most difficult courses of actions in the face of unjust criticism is to remain silent. The natural tendency is to defend, explain, and justify. The gospel command is to decline to return the rhetorical rhetoric in kind, and make no threats, but commit the matter to the Father who will judge righteously. If any type of retributive justice is in order, God has taken that responsibility upon Himself. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19).

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

During the time of the Old Testament economy, on the Day of Atonement, a goat was brought to the high priest. The sins of the nation were confessed over the goat, and the animal was taken away by an escort into the desert. (Lev 16:10, 21). The person who released the goat was to wash his clothes and bathe afterwards (Lev 16:26). The “Scapegoat” (Azazel) was meant to represent the Messiah, who would come to bear the sins of His people.

Leviticus 16:8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat…10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar…26 The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Another goat also present on the Day of Atonement was sacrificed as a part of the sin offering (Lev 16:9). Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sinners, as He carried far far away the sins of the elect.

In the divine economy, the moment a person is given eternal life, and lives in the sight of God, is the moment a death to sin takes place. While positionally, in the sight of God, the believer has died in Christ, experientially, the mortification of sins through the Spirit continues (Rom. 8:13; Col 3:5).

“Take time to be holy,
speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always,
and feed on His Word.

Make friends of God’s children,
 help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy,
the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret,
with Jesus alone.

By looking to Jesus,
like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct
His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy,
let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him,
whatever betides.

In joy or in sorrow,
still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus,
still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy,
be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive
beneath His control.

Thus led by His Spirit
to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted
for service above.”

William D. Longstaff, 1882

Ultimate death to sin, and its harmful expressions, will come in the glorification of the soul, either through a departure of this life to be in the presence of the Lord, or when Jesus comes the second time, and individuals are transformed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

“[A]nd whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51).

The death of Christ is the ultimate foundation for all healing, spiritual, physical and material. Because of Christ, souls are healed of the plague of all plagues, sin. Because of Christ, the heart can hope for a resurrected body. Because of Christ, the universe will one day cease to groan, for there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Christ has come with “healing in His wings “(Mal. 4:2).

“Heal us, Emmanuel, here we are
We wait to feel Thy touch;
Deep wounded souls to Thee repair,
And Savior, we are such.

Our faith is feeble, we confess
We faintly trust Thy Word;
But wilt Thou pity us the less?

Be that far from Thee, Lord!

Remember him who once applied
With trembling for relief

“Lord, I believe,”
with tears he cried;
“O help my unbelief!”

She, too, who touched Thee in the press
And healing virtue stole,
Was answered,

“Daughter, go in peace;
Thy faith has made thee whole.”

Concealed amid the gathering throng,
She would have shunned Thy view;
And if her faith was firm and strong,
Had strong misgivings too.

Like her, with hopes and fears we come
To touch Thee if we may;
O send us not despairing home;
Send none unhealed away.”

William Cowper, 1779

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

During turbulent difficult political times, and social upheaval, the Christian would do well to live as a stranger passing through the land to his ultimate destination before the throne of God.  

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