Grace Means...Righteousness



1 Peter 2:11-25

 

The last two verses of 1 Peter 2 give us a brief summary of the truth of salvation. These verses contain a concise, beautiful statement of how we are saved.

1 Peter 2:24–25 (NKJV) 24who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

 

These words give us a picture of grace. We were lost in sin.

 

Wait a minute! What on earth do we mean when we say lost in sin?”

 

Before we go any further, we need to know what we mean by sin” and how we understand lost.”

 

Sin and the concept of sin are treated as a joke in our society. People will casually call themselves sinners, even laughing about it. However, sin as a concept and as a reality is a grave matter. All the wars on earth, all the disease and death on earth are all directly the results of sin. God says (Ephesians 2:8) that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. He also says (Romans 6) that we were slaves to sin. So what” is the attitude of many. I am not a bad person,” says another. However, our sinful condition has destined us for wrath. We don't consider ourselves to be bad people." Still, everything we do is tainted, stained with sin, and the bad part is we can do nothing to free ourselves or remove the stain.

 

Now comes the part where we talk about being lost. By lost, we mean subject to judgment and condemned because of sin. Hell is treated as a laughing matter in our world. Of course, the devil wants people to discount the thought of hell. But Jesus said that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. Here is what He said:

Matthew 25:41 (NKJV) Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

 

Those on the left hand” are people ordinary everyday people who were slaves of sin. This is what it means to be lost.” One more Scripture passage about sin:

Revelation 20:14–15 (NKJV) 14Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

Not having ones name written in the Book of Life is the same as being lost. Being lost in sin” is the most terrifying, awful thing I can think of. This brings us back to 1 Peter 2:24-25.

1 Peter 2:24–25 (NKJV) 24who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

 

We were lost in sin, condemned, and Jesus bore our sins in His own body. He saved us by paying for our sins, by taking our judgment in our place. This is how we know what love is. This is how we understand the meaning of grace. Salvation is a gift. We did not, cannot earn it. We do not deserve it. But God in His love and kindness gives it. That is grace.

 

Tucked in the middle of 1 Peter 2:24-25 is the reason God saved us from sin. It says, that we might live for righteousness.” This is our subject today. Grace means righteousness. We will look at how righteousness impacts our relationship with our flesh, our government, and our masters.

 

1 Peter 2:11-12 say:

1 Peter 2:11–12 (NKJV) 11Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

 

The Apostle Peter is begging. The Apostle Paul begs in Romans 12:1. The reason is that our fleshly lusts war against our souls. Where our English translation says abstain," Peter used a word that means to have in full,” or to have enough.” This leads to the idea of being done with something. To be finished with it.  We have had plenty of opportunity to fulfill the desires of our flesh. As Ephesians 2:3 says:

Ephesians 2:3 (NKJV) among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

 

We have seen the futility of living for the flesh. We can see its end. We have had our fill. Now, be done with it.

 

The result of righteousness relative to our flesh is that our good conduct brings glory to God. The day of visitation spoken of here in verse 12 is the day of judgment—the day when we all give an account to God.

 

People will and do speak evil against the children of God. Those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Let us not give them a reason to blaspheme our God by living according to our flesh. If we are truly sojourners and pilgrims (strangers) in this world, we must show this by our lives. If we live according to our flesh, then we are not living by the Spirit, nor will we have any effective witness to God's saving grace.

 

While we must not submit to the desires of our flesh, Peter next tells us a couple things we must submit to. The first is government.

 

While we are not of the world (we are sojourners and pilgrims), we are subject to the laws of the land. While we answer to a higher law, we submit to those whom God has placed over us.

 

1 Peter 2:13 says:

1 Peter 2:13 (NKJV) Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lords sake.

 

We need to take time to understand what Peter is saying here. This phrase is difficult to translate from Greek because the word that the NKJV translates as ordinance” is only used of God in the New Testament. In those cases, it means creation.” So, some translators have rendered this word as creation.” As in, submit yourselves to every human creation.” Others have translated this word as institution.” As in, submit yourselves to every human institution.” As every ordinance or piece of legislation may prove impossible to obey, and the following verses mention kings and governors, the meaning institution” and thus government” becomes clear.

 

Even when the governor, Pilate, was doing wrong, Jesus submitted to his authority. However, Jesus also warned Pilate.

John 19:11 (NKJV) You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.

 

Romans 13:1-7 gives a clear explanation of our attitude toward government. Our passage in 1 Peter 2 acknowledges that governments are human institutions created by men and provides us with the reason for submitting to these flawed creations. This reason is that by doing good, we might silence the ignorance of foolish men. Here as in the case of abstaining from fleshly lusts, the idea is to give no occasion for people to speak evil of our God.

 

Attached to this is a warning. Read the following carefully.

1 Peter 2:16 (NKJV) as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

 

We all know people who disobey the government because of desires. The law harshes” their groove, so they ignore it. The most common example is speed limits, but many other examples exist. The idea is that we are prone to take exception to laws not based on principle but based on preference. To take exception for righteousness’ sake is one thing (for example, we must preach the gospel no matter what the law says). However, preference is no reason to be rebellious.

 

The principle that captures the idea of the whole theme of righteousness is stated in verse 17.

Honor all. Love the brotherhood.” (The word people does not appear after honor all” in the original. It was added to make the meaning clear.)

 

We should not disrespect anyone. We are not even to insult those who insult us. If someone strikes us, we are to turn the other cheek. Jesus serves as our example. 1 Peter 2:23 says:

1 Peter 2:23 (NKJV) who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.

 

Jesus did not do this because of weakness, but because He had confidence in God. We, too, can have confidence in God. This confidence extends to trusting God even in the face of mistreatment by our masters.

 

In times of slavery, men have beaten, raped, and killed their fellow human beings without fear of punishment or reprisal. Such treatment of others is evil. It is the picture of how sinful we are as humans. However, Peter tells us:

1 Peter 2:19 (NKJV) For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.

 

Jesus bore His suffering without a word. He was not bitter but pitied those who would suffer the judgment of God for what they were doing. He committed Himself to God. This serves as our example.

 

Most of us will never face slavery, but we all have those to whom we must answer, and these are not always just. According to Peter, if we continue to honor all” and maintain our respect for authority, this is commendable.” The word Peter uses that is translated as commendable” is the word grace.” It also means favorable or pleasant, but its primary meaning is grace. In other words, when we bear up under unjust suffering, we are most like our God, who is full of grace. This is why the example of Jesus is given for us to follow.

 

Of course, we are not God, and everything we do is tainted by sin. So, we often suffer because of our own sin. There is nothing honorable about such suffering. Peter clarifies that if we suffer for the wrong we have done, we are only getting what we deserve.

 

When we abstain from the lusts that drive the world around us, we glorify God by making the world's criticism look foolish. When we submit to government, we silence the ignorance of evil men. And when we bear unjust suffering, we show Jesus Christ to the world. These three things should motivate us to live righteous lives.

 

The best statement of living a righteous life is found in 1 Peter 2:17.

1 Peter 2:17 (NKJV) Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

 

As believers for whom Christ died, we should recognize the value that God puts on every person and treat each person as precious in the sight of God. This is evidence that we have experienced the grace of God. 1 John 4:19 tells us:

1 John 4:19 (ESV): We love because he first loved us.

 

This love experienced by us in the grace of God is the source of a proper attitude and the appropriate treatment of our fellow human beings. This is righteousness relative to people. Treating others right (righteousness) begins with loving our neighbor as ourselves, honoring them, and when appropriate submitting to their authority.

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