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“By Your Good Works” – 1 Peter 2:11-17

Introduction: As Peter told the believers about Christ (again) and how they were to relate to Christ as He related to them, he now points out to them (again) the importance of living a godly Christian life in the sight of others so that the world could see Christ in them, and glorify God. This is a point made throughout the course of Scripture and one that is made here.

As the believers were going to face persecution from the powers that were in authority over them they needed to understand they still had a duty to do what was right, both in relation to them and in relation to their own personal testimony. The same is true for us today. Just because we don’t like the rules (whether they are the laws of the land or the rules of the house) doesn’t mean we have the liberty to go against those rules.

This is not an all-inclusive list of “good works” – it just gives the basics for the believers that Peter was writing to in dealing with their particular problem. They are a good base for us today as well – we can use these things as a “starting point,” if you would, for our life.

I. “Abstain” – vs. 11

A. The first thing stated is to “abstain from fleshly lusts”


  1. This means what it says – to refrain from, to hold ones self off from them – to leave them be

  2. The “fleshly lusts” seem to be the old desire to fight against those that would oppress them

  3. That being the one right interpretation, the broader application is that we are to abstain from any fleshly lust that may cross our path and tempt us Gal 5:16-21 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 1Jn 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.


B. It states that they “war against the soul”


  1. That is, they are part of the spiritual warfare that we face every day – they are, in reality, the enemy that we have to defeat every day Luk 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 1Co 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

  2. This warfare is spoken of as not being physical but “spiritual” – that is what is meant by “the soul” – the battle we face against the fleshly nature is such as to affect the very core of our being – our soul 2Co 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Rom 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Rom 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Gal 5:24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Jas 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?


II. “Honest” – vs. 12

A. This is spoken of our “conversation” – that is, our lifestyle, our outward living – what the world can see


B. Peter refers to the “Gentiles” as the ones that were watching these believers

  1. This was written to Christian Jews who would have stood out to the Gentiles around them as being peculiar, as being “strangers and pilgrims”

  2. Their “conversation” was to be “honest” – that word means beautiful and good – their life, their behavior was to be, when looked at by those around them, a thing of beauty and goodness


C. Peter says of this that “whereas they speak against you as evildoers” – the Gentiles (specifically, those that would persecute them and look for things to accuse them of)


D. That, while looking for things to accuse them of (wrong doing) they would only be able to glorify God because of the honest way the lived and by their “good works”


Mat 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Tit 2:7-8 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

E. It mentions that those “good works” would be observed, would be obvious – “which they shall behold” – literally, the were eye-witnesses – are our lives so lived as to be seen as “honest” and “good?”


F. The phrase “the day of visitation” is a unique one and has been much debated over the years

  1. It doesn’t seem to be one of judgment or punishment – the context doesn’t support that

  2. It seems, as Matt. 5:16 would support, that their living as a Christian and their good works that were seen by those that came to judge them was the very thing that led those that came to judge to see Christ in them – perhaps to even trust Him as their Saviour, which would be the ultimate way to give God the glory


III. “Submit” – vs. 13-16

A. The key point to remember as to why the Holy Spirit addresses this point here is because of the circumstances surrounding those to whom the book was written. It was not easy for them to take the position given here – and it isn’t easy for us in this country right now either.

B. The words “submit yourselves” means we are bound by the mandate of Scripture to take the initiative – whether it’s popular or not, whether it’s easy or not, whether we agree with it or not – to put ourselves under the authority of another and be subject to them, and put ourselves in the place of obedience to them

Rom 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Pro 24:21 My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

Jer 29:7 And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

Mat 22:21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

1Ti 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.


Tit 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

Jud 1:8-10 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. 10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

C. Peter then gives them a clearer understanding of what is meant – “to every ordinance of man” – means what it says

Rom 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

D. The reason we are to obey those in authority over us is “for the Lord’s sake” – it’s so that His Gospel message is not hindered by the ignorance of man

E. Vs. 13c-14 gives a sampling of just who is meant


F. Vs. 15 is a very critical verse – many people want to know the will of God – part of the “will of God” for everyone is given here – to be subject to those in authority over us in order that our testimony be not hindered


G. Vs. 16 mentions our “liberty” – that is, our liberty in not having to follow the OT Levitical Law in order to be right with God

  1. The people to whom this book was written were Jews that had believed in Jesus as their Saviour

  2. They had followed that law for a long time but now they no longer had to – they were “free” or were at “liberty” to worship and serve God as He taught them and as they desired

  3. They didn’t have the right to violate any of the “new” ordinances given by Christ just because they were now “free” from the Law

  4. They weren’t to use that “liberty” as a “cloke of maliciousness” – as a means to cause trouble Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Gal 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Jas 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

  5. The same, of course, is true of the believer today

H. The whole reason we’re to “submit ourselves” is given at the end of verse 16 – because we are “the servants of God”

IV. “Honour all men” – vs. 17

A. This phrase is not saying that we are to honor all men equally – the way it is worded in the Greek means we are to honor them as their position dictates


B, The word “honour” means to fix a value upon, to prize

  1. That’s where we get the idea that all men aren’t to be treated as equals – some are more “valued” than others

  2. Has the idea of showing respect for – in relation to “all men” we are to simply be respectful of them Lev 19:32 Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD. 1Sa 15:30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God. Rom 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Rom 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Php 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 1Ti 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

C. This is in addition of our honoring of the king as stated in vs. 13 and at the end of this verse – this is speaking of “all” – we owe it to our “fellow man” to be courteous, kind, compassionate, loving – we owe it to them honor them

D. We are, of course, not to accept their sin and wickedness – we have a responsibility to point that out to them and leave them be if they are sinners, but we are still bound by Scripture to “honor them” – show them respect

“The poor are not to be despised (Prov. 17:5); the wicked must be honoured, not for their wickedness, but for any other qualities, such as wit, prudence, courage, eminency of employment, or the hoary head. Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, the prophets, and the apostles, never scrupled to give due honour to bad men.” (Matthew Henry)

V. “Love” – vs. 17

A. “The brotherhood” – we have a responsibility to “honor all men” but we have a special responsibility as believers to not just “honor” fellow believers but to “love” them as well

B. That’s not to say we aren’t to love non- believers but we are to love fellow believers with a special, greater love, so to speak

1Pe 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

Joh 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Heb 13:1 Let brotherly love continue.


C. The word “brotherhood” is a wonderful word if it is considered properly. We – all believers everywhere on earth – form a “fraternity” or a “brotherhood” – we owe it to one another to treat them like family for they are “family”


VI. “Fear God”

A. A basic principle of Scripture – without the fear of God we can’t be right with God – without the fear of God a person would not be saved


B. If we don’t have this one right then the others won’t be either


C. The OT phrase for this is “the fear of the Lord” – following are notes from a message I preached from Proverbs 1:7

The words “fear of the Lord” are found 30 times in the Bible, 14 of them in Proverbs - that’s almost half of the times the phrase is used in the entire Bible. Thus, we could conclude that “the fear of the Lord” is paramount to the interpretation of the book of Proverbs.

By the term “fear of the Lord” is meant an awe of His authority. As we would say, “We are in awe” of someone's ability, their strength, their intelligence, etc. The reason the word “fear” is used is because to truly recognize the power of God we would, of necessity, be afraid, terrified, of Him. Awe, or reverence, comes from recognizing Who He is.


  1. The Fear of the Lord is the foundation for knowing Him Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. a) “The beginning” – means the first in place or rank – the fear of the Lord is the key to knowing God, it is the first, the foundation upon which all else is built. b)  “Knowledge” – all knowledge in general (what is knowable), specifically, knowledge regarding the Lord. c)  We must first know God through recognizing Who He is before we can begin to know true knowledge about anything else – it is the very first thing we must learn and teach our young.

  2. The Fear of the Lord is a choice Pro 1:28-30 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. a)  Just as we choose to follow the Lord we choose to fear Him. b)  We’re given a choice to know the Lord, if we choose not to then destruction is our end.

  3. The Fear of the Lord is understandable Pro 2:1-5 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. a)  This “understanding” is the promise based on conditions laid out in verses 1-4. b)  Again, without the fear of the Lord, their can be no knowledge of God, and without learning to fear Him through study of Who He is found in His Word, we will not fear Him.

  4. The Fear of the Lord involves a hatred for sin Pro 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. Pro 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. Pro 23:17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. a)  “Hate evil” - this is a general word which is the opposite of good or holy. b)  If we recognize Who God is, and fear Him, and we have chosen Him, and we understand Him, then we will of necessity hate sin, for no one can fear God that does not hate sin - they are antithetical. c)  It then lists the things specifically spoken of that God hates in relation to whether we fear Him or not (1) Pride – to think we can make it on our own without the Lord’s help (2) Arrogance – to suppose we are better than God in that we don’t need Him (3) The evil way – this is an ungodly way of life, a fearless lifestyle (4) Froward mouth – a perverse mouth, one that speaks without regard for God or for what’s right

  5. The Fear of the Lord brings some practical benefits a) Physical help Pro 10:27 The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened. Pro 19:23 The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil. Pro 22:4 By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life. b) Mental help Pro 14:26 In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. Pro 15:16 Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith. c) Spiritual help Pro 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. Pro 23:17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.

VII. “Honour the king” – vs. 17

We looked at this in the previous section – this is just a reminder that those in authority over us have a special place of honor due them because of their position.

Conclusion: How are we at showing our Saviour in our “good works?” How are we at living like a Christian?

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