Exegesis of I Peter 2:11-12

General Epistles Exegetical Paper on 1 Peter 2:11-12


The debate concerning the Christian’s relationship to this world has been ongoing since the early Christian centuries. That this has been a perennial debate is beyond doubt. The historical and theological waters are too deep to plummet in a work of this essay’s purview; nevertheless, Peter did have something to say concerning the relationship of the city of God to the city of man. Peter called the churches of Asia Minor to a presence in this world that is faithful to God. This essay will seek to interpret 1 Peter 2:11-12. In order to interpret Peter, there is a gulf of modern interpretations which must be bridged before engaging the New Testament text so that modern presuppositions will become less of a determining factor in the interpretation of the text. Nevertheless, this passage cannot be rightly interpreted without asking these sort of modern questions and making the reader aware of the various interpretations by modern scholars.[1]

History of Interpretation

This passage and others related to life in, and engagement with, this world are understood in two significantly distinct ways since the reformation of the 16th century. The Reformed have classically held to an embrace of this world yet a faithful presence in that same world. The Anabaptists held to an embrace of the kingdom of heaven but not the kingdoms of this world. These are broad brushstrokes, but they shall suffice as the basic distinction as it stands in current scholarship.[2]

The “hands on” approach to this world, represented by Reformation theology, should not be confused with radical revolutions, but rather faithful presence. It is “hands on,” but let that be qualified as “hands on in a right way.” The basic distinction is that the Reformed have embraced this world as created by God and as the realm in which Christ is building his kingdom. This is tempered by a clear distinction between the future fullness of the Kingdom of God, and the presence of that future in the present world.

On the basis of the presence of the future rule of Christ, this world is not an enemy but a place of great potential for the dominion mandate to be taken up. The Christian shares this task with the world. I. Howard Marshall said on this passage, “From all this we see that Christian are aliens of this world insofar as it is sinful. Yet as citizens of this world [should] recognize a basic goodness, Christians should live by the good standards of this world.”[3] Nevertheless, this world is marked by the sin of Adam, and will be until the end of the age. The Christian should embrace culture as God’s gift, all the while there is a tension for the new creation, for which this world groans, as in labor pains.

The distinction comes down to how one interprets the nature of the exile as a colony of God’s kingdom on earth. The reformed see this exile as the beginning of colonization of the future kingdom. The kingdom in the present is the presence of the future kingdom. Thus, being an exile in this world is a task that takes shape as one who must be faithful to their Covenant Lord even while in a foreign land. The Christian is both abstinent from the sins against his Covenant Lord, and engaged positively among the gentile nations.

Many characterizations of the Anabaptists view are that they abstain from sin, but also from the world. This is true, but not complete. There is also a strong victim mentality which fuels their way of engaging this world. Being an exile means that one is part of a colony which works among itself as a separate body from the pagan world.  The “already” and “not yet” is not so much in view here as is the ultimately distinct new creation which will come at the consummation. However, though this is true of their rhetoric, the underlying theology is a bit more complex. Anabaptists do indeed engage this world, they just do it in a different way.

James Davidson Hunter recently described the Anabaptist method of engaging the world as using the culture transformation methods of the current American political culture, from which they, ironically, claim to be separate. The method is that churches are motivated by a narrative-myth of their plight which is created by their political opponents. This creates resentment toward the political opponent and motivates churches to action. Hunter argues that this method pervades most evangelical and liberal churches as well.[4] 

This comports with historic Anabaptist views of martyrdom. 20th century theologian Ethelbert Stauffer demonstrated profoundly that the theology of the magisterial radicals of the 16th century saw the martyrdom of their members as the most significant way of bringing about the ultimate state in the kingdom of heaven. Martyrdom acted as a baptism by blood, which lead to the coming of the kingdom (in the sense of going to heaven, not the kingdom coming as rule of Chirst on earth as he does in heaven). The narrative created by the martyrs was a rhetoric of resentment against their Roman Catholic opponents and resulted in the motivation of churches against their political enemies.[5]    

The problem with the Anabaptist interpretation of Peter is that he commanded them to be both faithful to their Covenant Lord, but also to be present within this world. Peter wrote of keeping “your behavior excellent among the Gentiles” (2Pet 2:12). He also commanded his audience to be faithfully present in the face of slander (2:12). He point is not to be a victim, but to be legitimated in the eyes of the pagans who do slander the Christians. Finally, Peter’s command here is based in the presence of the future kingdom of God. These contexts must be kept as the undergirding principle by which this text should be interpreted. Though the debate has been wages over the past two millennia, and especially fervently since the 16th century, Peter still speaks to the issue clearly.

Translation of the Text

There are not really interesting textual debates in this text accept for the “ἀπέχεσθαι.” Charles Bigg claimed that the “απεχεσθαι” in 1 Peter 2:11 should be understood as an imperative second person plural.  He claims that the manuscript evidence weighs in favor of the imperative. He argues that this is definitely the case because it explains the absence of the accusative pronoun, and the following “ἔχοντες” in verse 12.[6]  It makes grammatical sense, but the general way of dealing with manuscript discrepancies is to seek the lectio difficilior (more difficult reading).[7]  The real question is if this is a case of the more difficult reading, or a more unlikely reading. The idea is practically the same as far as meaning goes in either case. The “ἀπέχεσθαι” is in a marked position already, and this is a classical phrase (“ἀπέχεσθαι ἐπιθυμιῶν,” appears in Plato).[8] Therefore, the more likely conclusion is that “ἀπέχεσθαι” is the original, because it is possible and is in this marked position. This phrase should then be rendered as a command, indirectly, even though the imperative is not present.

Further, a quick glance at “ἀπέχεσθαι” in the New Testament shows that it always occurs in this present middle infinitive (Act 15:20, 29; 1Thess 4:3; 1Tim 4:3, 2Pet 2:11). It usually has basically the same meaning as an indirect command in each of these occurrences with “ἐπιθυμιῶν”. It also usually takes an indirect object from which one is called to abstain, idols, ceremonial unclean things, or lusts. This is enough evidence to say that this word is commonly used for ethical command to abstain from lusts. There is no nuance other than the typical progressive present of “παρακαλῶ.”

There are many wonderful formal and dynamic equivalents to this text. There is no need to duplicate the work done by such scholars. However, part of the stated task of many translations is to leave ambiguity for the sake of interpretation. This is not that goal of this paper. The goal here is to be as interpretative as possible. Therefore, the following translation will make exegetical decisions on word and syntax usage meaning. The words which are translated as part of the text itself will be in normal text, implied meanings (such as antecedents and postcedents, etc) will be placed in italics, and implied theological ideas will be placed in brackets.

Verse GNT Translation
2:11 ᾿Αγαπητοί, παρακαλῶ ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους, ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς, Beloved, I implore you, in the manner as those who live as foreigners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshy lusts, which inordinate desires contends against your [renewed way of] life,
2:12 τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἔχοντες καλήν, ἵνα, ἐν ᾧ καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν, ἐκ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων ἐποπτεύοντες δοξάσωσι τὸν Θεὸν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπισκοπῆς. …while you keep on holding to your good behavior, in order that (though with regard to this behavior they speak against you as if you were evildoers) they may give recognition to God on the day of his [judgment] visitation, because they see some of your good works.


Delineating the Pericope

The initial vocative use of ᾿Αγαπητοί acts as a clear start of a new thought. It also appears in 1 Peter 4:12, and 2 Peter 3:1, 14, and 17. This formula is not particular to Peter, but also John (1John 2:7; 3:2), and Paul (1Cor 10:15; 15:48, 2Cor 7:21, Phil 2:12; 4:1). This does not mean that this topic is unrelated to the former, but this does constitute a discrete pericope.

 The end of the pericope is verse 12. Verse 12 is syntactically dependant on 11. The main verb idea of the sentence is “παρακαλῶ… ἀπέχεσθαι.” Verse 12 does not have a main verb. “καταλαλοῦσιν” is a subordinate idea because of the prepositional phrase “ἐν ᾧ.” “δοξάσωσιv” is part of the purpose clause marked out by “ἵνα.” These ideas act as elucidations of the main verb idea that Peter “calls them to abstain from the lusts of the flesh.”  



There has been much debate over the identity of the recipients of the letter, Jew or Gentile. J.H.A Hart noted that both Eusebius and Origen were already arguing for the purely Jewish recipients in the early Christian centuries.[9] Their claim, however, implies that someone probably had doubts as to whether these churches were truly of purely Jewish pedigree. This debate has been unclearly delineated since the early church.

Peter seems to confuse his “Jewish” readers with gentile circumstances. While Peter called his recipients “exiles of the dispersion” (1 Pet. 1:1), who live among the gentile nations (2:12); nevertheless, he said they were formerly “not a people” (Hos. 2:33, 1 Pet. 2:10), which is a theme also applied to gentiles by Paul (Eph. 2:11ff.). There is a great deal of Jewish imagery, and Old Testament terms in the book. These would likely not be applied to gentiles. Nevertheless, The way of life which characterized them as formerly pagan would not comport with this (1:14, 18; 4:3). The simplest explanation of this is that the confusion is by design. There is a general assumed homogeneity of the Jews and gentiles all under one banner as the people, temple, and holy nation of God.

Circumstances and Purpose:

Obviously the purpose is to encourage Christians to suffer for Christ. However, the exact nature of the suffering which Peter expects for the reader is in question. Authors have argued for circumstances of this epistle ranging from the early 60s to a terminal date in the 3rd century due to the lack of speaking about Gnosticism and the episcopate.[10] The significance of these circumstances lend to different interpretations to the text. There are three major view. First, during Trajan,75-80 ad, suffering “for the name” (1 Pet. 4:14) fits the punishment was propter ipsum nomen (without proper charge) but by a answer to the court, yes or no with regards to being a Christian. Second, during the Neronian, 64-75, and when Vespasian revisited the policy of Nero, post 80. The policy was that they were punished for crimes against Rome, or as “evil doers” (1 Pet. 2:12). The problem for both of these views is that they are spuriously based on similarities to Roman policy. Different policies were enacted at different times, but both are supposedly present at once in this Epistle.

Charles Bigg argued that this epistle better fits the pre-Neronian persecutions which coincide with Pauline and Lukan phraseology better than the Roman policies, and thus the kind of persecution is earlier than either of those policies. His evidence for this is that the Jews had already been persecuting Christians during from the beginning.[11] He pointed toward the general similarity in phraseology between Paul and Luke in Acts, and then he proceeded to demonstrate the similarities of 1 Peter to Acts.

He conceded that Christians were “spoken against as evildoers” by Nero, and were “reproached for the name of Christ”  by Trajan and the Flavian Emperors.  However, these phrases show up in Acts when the Apostles were “accused” by the Philippian slave girl, and reproached for the name from the start of the Church (Acts 16:16-18; 5:41). He gave more evidence, but these should bring this decision to a close.

The circumstances being typical Christian suffering under general persecutions by Jews or gentiles leads to a more sober and less sensational concept of suffering. Suffering for the kingdom is centered in Peter on imitating Christ’s suffering, because the Christian’s union with Him has brought the presence of the future life to bear on the current one. The eschaton is inaugurated. The suffering is done confidently with respect to the eternal life in heaven, but it is also empowered by the eternal life in the already inaugurated stage.  More of this will be dealt with below. Suffice it at this point to say that the suffering is not only suffering unto death, but this is a theme that pervades the whole of Christian living.

Structure and Argument

Verse 13 begins a variation on the theme here, so it constitutes a new section on submission to the powers that be, which flows through 3:13. The theme is living in this world as holy (1:14-16), which means separate, or distinct as aliens and strangers (cf. 1:17). The variation is then to show that the powers that be should be obeyed insofar as they are not at odds with God’s word (2:13-3:13).[12] The Next section after that also deals with the reality that opposition will follow those who live as distinctly holy people of God’s kingdom of heaven (3:14-4:6).    

The argument of 2:11-12 concludes from the general section of the book. 1:13-2:10 is a call to be Holy. Here Peter made the argument that Christians are to be aliens and strangers in this world. These two terms are related to the concept of holiness, or separateness from the world as far as behavior goes. In 2:11-12 Peter introduces the main subject of the next major section of the book. This is a call to act as citizens of heaven who are sojourning in this world. This results in a lifestyle that both attracts slander, and results in pagans who glorify God. The point is not to be victims of the world, as the Anabaptists would argue, but rather that the task of the Christian is to have an engagement with this world which is particularly holy. This seems to be a contradiction. Holiness means distinction from (which is connoted by being aliens and strangers), but they are called to be “among the nations.” The question, then, is: from what is one to be holy from? The answer is “to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” The abstinence is not from the world, but from sinning against one’s neighbor. This is the good behavior to which he refers in verse 12.  

The way to understand these two verses is as a call to be present in this world, yet faithful to the Covenant Lord. The word “beloved” is not just a term that becomes meaningless from overuse, but is the motivation for this engagement. As Christ loved the church, so the Apostle loves the church (see Jon 21). The Christian does not engage the world in such a way that sees the goal to be martyrdom, or persecution by some other means to bring about the kingdom, but rather the kingdom is the rule of God over the life of those whom he loves. Martyrdom/suffering is not the means by which the Christian engages this world, as the Anabaptist interpretation would suggest. Righteousness is the means of engaging the world, however, persecution may be occasioned by righteousness. Peter treats persecution as a accidence of being in this world, not as the end product. The love for the pagan rules over the suffering in this world. This is the distinction between the Christian and the pagan, the pagan performs works of kindness for self service, but the Christian does so out of love for both the pagan and his Covenant Lord.

The sort of engagement which the Christian has with this world is faithful to the Covenant Lord, yet present in the world. Peter called for separateness from the desires of the flesh, and yet called to a faithful presence among the nations. This idea will be demonstrated in three points below. First, Peter wrote of keeping “your behavior excellent among the Gentiles” (2Pet 2:12). Second, he commanded his audience to be faithfully present in the face of slander, and by extension, all kinds of suffering (2:12). He point is not to be a victim, but to be legitimated in the eyes of the pagans who do slander the Christians. Finally, Peter’s command here is based in the presence of the future kingdom of God. This can actually outline analogously to the rest of the major sections of the book.

2:13-3:13, Faithful yet Present 2:11 “abstain from fleshly lusts… 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles”
3:14-4:6, Victors not Victims 2:12 “so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God”
4:7-19, Presence of the Future 2:12 “in the day of visitation”


This leads to the conclusion that this verse is both a pivotal point for understanding the rest of the book, and the nature of the Christian engagement with this world.

Faithful Yet Present

The Geneva study Bible commented on this verse that it is, “a reason why we ought to live holy, that is, because we are citizens of heaven, and therefore we ought to live not according to the laws of this world, which is most corrupt, but of the heavenly city, although we are strangers in the world.”[13] Peter embraced this world yet called to abstain from is lusts.[14] In this section this paradox of faithfulness to the kingdom of God, yet presence in this world will be explained.

Peter did call for abstinence, but the abstinence is not from living among the nations and societies of this world, but abstinence from sin. The object of  “ἀπέχεσθαι” (to abstain from) is “τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν” (the lusts of the fleshes). This added content makes clear that Peter does not promote separation from this world in a local or institutional sense, but in a moral sense. The “the Lusts of the fleshes” in this context means “the sinful desires of the natural/old man.” “Lusts of men” was contrasted to the “will of God” in 1 Peter 4:2, which shows that this is the nature of this world as it will be until glory, and the nature of the “lusts of the flesh” as in direct antithesis to the will of God. The “lusts of man” and the “lusts of the flesh” refer to that sinful nature inherited from Adam. The power of the age to come at work in the Christian leads to abstinence from these inordinate lusts. Further, the explanation given to these lusts, “αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς” (which wage war against your soul), denotes the whole of this new life, not the actual immaterial person which one would call the soul. This is not the concept that one’s perseverance in the faith is on the line, but rather should be interpreted in terms of the new creation. The soul, or life (ψυχῆς), refers here to the new life created by the Holy Spirit in the Christian and fights against the old nature, which still exists (Rom 7:23, Rom 8:13, Gal 5:17, 24, 1Tim 6:9-10, James 4:1).

As the Geneva Study Bible claimed in 1599, it is the “laws” of the kingdom of heaven which guides the Christian, not the codified whims and desires of sinful men, which are “of this world”. I. Howard Marshall helpfully wrote, “Christians have no monopoly on good ethical teaching…”[15] The Church may therefore live in the communities of this world, and submit to national laws and customs insofar as they compliment the citizenship in heaven, but “as aliens and strangers” must never capitulate to their culture or morality. These things demonstrate that the object of denial is not this world, but the sinful parts of it. The spirituality of this kind of Christian living is thus very earthly and ordinary. The task of the Christian is to simply live a life of righteousness in every sphere in which he has leadership or service.

This is a “hands on” approach to this world, but one that is deliberately Christian. By “deliberately Christian” is meant of the right kind of abstinence and the right kind of engagement. As stated above, the abstinence is from fleshly lusts, not from this world. The kind of engagement however is “as aliens and strangers.” This has been taken to mean “disengaged” or “separatist” from the world, but on closer inspection communicates the manner by which the Christian is to rightly engage the world. The Geneva Bible showed much wisdom in framing the issue as a matter of how, not if, one should engage this world. The right kind of engagement is as a “citizen of heaven,” or in Peter’s phraseology, “alien and stranger.”  These two terms mean that the “citizenship” is in heaven, and thus the kingdom of heaven is always in view of one’s behavior. Christians should act and think with their ultimate authority always in the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdoms of this world.

“Alien” (πάροικος) echos from 1:17, which makes the argument that God will judge justly concerning the “stay” (παροικία) on earth. The word carries the connotation of the exile of livin in a foreign land but under the rule of God. For example, Acts 13:17 mentioned, “the stay (παροικία) in the land of Egypt.” Psalm 105:23 translates in the LXX “Ιακωβ παρκησεν ἐν γῇ Χαμ.” (Jacob stayed in the land of Ham). “παρῴκησεν” is the verb form of the word “alien.” More could be shown, but suffice it to say that word is freighted with the connotation of the saint who sojourns in a foreign country.

“Stranger” echos from 1:1 and addresses all who are in the churches in the representative regions. The term denotes one who lives in a foreign country, but also has a connotative meaning for the people of God. The people who lived in these city states were not foreign to the city states, but foreign-ness is what Peter conveys with this term. For example, the phrase “alien and stranger” appears in Genesis 23:4 when Abraham buys a lot for burial from the Hittites. The terms denoted “foreignness,” but the import in 1 Peter makes an analogy to the foreignness which Abraham had in the land of Canaan. Though Peter’s audience was likely born in and resident to their respective region, they were now ultimately citizens of heavenly kingdom. They are foreign in the sense that they have a distinct ruler from those around them.      

In conclusion, the Christian is called to a faithful presence in this world. The paradox, that Peter embraced this world yet called to abstain from is lusts, is resolved in the object of his abstinence, and the meaning of “aliens and strangers.” The Christian abstains from sin, yet engages with the convictions and laws of his ultimate citizenship in heaven. Further, this embrace of this world implies a general camaraderie with the pagan nations which separatists do not permit. It is a earthly and yet heavenly spirituality at one and the same time.

Victors not Victims

The nature of the kind of life a Christian has will draw criticism for refusing social mores. The end result of this is not seeking a victim status in order to fuel a resentment for this world (a sort of passive aggressive, non-violent resistance method of presence in this world), but to bear the Christian witness as the legitimate, true, and only way to live. The way of following Christ is so sure that the Christian will even suffer in order to live it rather than do the expedient and deny Christ, be it either in word or deed.

In all circumstances the Christian must be a victor, not a victim. The Anabaptist way of using this victim mentality is similar to that of the Nietzschean will to power. Ironically, Harink denies this, while practically embracing it.[16] As shown above, this victim mentality is the means by which the radical reformers of the early 16th century brought about their ends, and still continues even in its pacifist forms today.[17] Harink defines the “Lusts of the fleshes” as “the will to power… Those are the survival motive of human collectives.”[18] He thus defines lusts of the flesh (which has been defined here as the old life which remains in the justified and progressively sanctified Christian) in a psychological category.

His reasoning is basically, since the collective systems of this world act in these Nietzschean way, then the Christian should have nothing to do, or “abstain from… the politics of violence” of this world’s “collective systems.” However, this interpretation and theology practically, though in a non-violent form, embraces this same will to power.  This is because of the victim mentality which is created. Harink mentioned that a alternative “politics of good” is how the Christian “makes history.” The concept forgiveness is truly a Christian one, however, the point of this living is to use the victim status in order to show the gentiles the grace of God. The problem with this is that it is basically “making history” which acts as a narrative of the wrongs done to the Christian church, and fuels the non-violent/passive aggressive resistance. In a round about way, it is just as Nietzschean as the world around.

The passage does not uphold this view either. Harink claims that this “politics of good” is a “belligerent” response to the world. First, however, Peter tends to see the world as sinful, yet not so sinful that it is outside of redemption. He does indeed go on to describe the way a Christian may honor a king (2:17).  Second, it confuses the spheres of the individual and the state to say that one should overcome the evil lusts of the flesh manifest in a politics of violence. Harink argued that the Christian “mounts a revolt” of the politics of good against the persecuter (2:13). The problems are that the state is not necessarily evil, and when it does slander Christians for their good works, the Christian is not “forgiving” the state during persecution, but he is being true to conviction. Third, Harink confuses justice and mercy when he defines the messianic political justice as mercy. Peter made no mention of mercy to the gentiles here so much as acting on conviction and perseverance even in the face of slander. Fourth, the desires of the flesh are not necessarily the will to power of nations, but, as shown above, is the remnants of the old man which must be progressively sanctified.

In the final analysis, this victim mentality is totally foreign to 1 Peter. It claims to be non-aggressive, yet is very aggressive. It makes the Christian church illegitimate in the eyes of the world because it implies that the world is inherently evil and cannot even have the remnants of good in it. It does not cohere with the teaching of the text in the teaching of abstinence from sin, confusion of spheres, and confusion of justice and mercy. Finally, Harink does not deal with the nature of engagement as aliens and strangers with its connotation to law and ethics of the world to come. This paper now turns to that point.   

The Presence of the Future

Not only did Peter embrace this world, but he tempered the goodness of this world with a view of inaugurated eschatology. Harink argued that the outcome of this kind of engagement is “the justice, goodness, and mercy of God will become visible among the nations.”[19] He did have a view to the future end result of the witness, which Peter mentions, but he failed to see the presence of that future as the factor which determines the Christian’s acts in this world. He followed Karl Barth, who denied the presence of the kingdom of God, in in terpreting the Christian’s engagement with this world as a “strange, not doing” rather than a hands on approach.[20] He went on to elucidate this theology as modeled by Christ in his becoming a servant to all.[21] This strange view does not comport with what Peter communicated in our passage.   

With regards to the Christology, he forgot to mention that Jesus earned his Father’s approval and was resurrected and enthroned in heaven as ruler of the whole creation (Phil 2:9-10). If the Christian is to model Christ since he is in union with Christ, then he ought to simultaneously live in light of the already (suffering) and not yet (ruling).

Further, with regards to Harink’s denial of legitimate hierarchies and authorities in society, Peter is not independent of the scriptural teaching which declared that there are indeed legitimate authorities in society, and Peter lists similar authorities to Paul (1 Pet 2:13-3:13, Rom 13, Eph 5:22-6:9).  It would seem incongruous to argue that Peter denies legitimate authorities when he will go on to define and describe the same legitimate authorities as other New Testament authors, who to affirm them, defend as legitimate.

The rule of Christ’s kingdom is already present and working in the people of God. Peter’s statement, “That they may glorify God on the day of his visitation” should be interpreted in light of this paradigm. The purpose clause, which we translate here, “so that in the matter for which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12), means that they will glorify God at the time when he comes because they will be converted to believe in Him before he comes. Without the presence of the future, this passage would mean something like “the gentile will realize he was wrong on the day of judgment because he will remember your good deeds.” It would take “glorify” to be only in remorse, rather than joy.

This passage has a sweet fullness of meaning if taken in the sense that the pagan will indeed glorify God (in the sense of bringing praise and anticipation of that eternal bliss at the consummation) on the day of judgment since he does glorify him in the present age.  Peter had already relied on this concept to assure his readers of their salvation (1:3-4). In 1 Peter 1:3-4 he wrote that the hope which they had was “living,” and is “living” by means of the resurrection of Christ. This hope lives already because the Christian is in union with Christ, and thus he assures them that the inheritance is “reserved” for them in heaven. He then went on to say that the they will be tested and tried until that day when their faith will be “found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7).  The important word here is “glory.” Both 1:7 and 2:12 refer to the final day of judgment but with regard to that which already has occurred.


The debate about the relationship between the Christian and culture has been of perennial debate since the early centuries of Christianity. Though there are various and sundry ways that this relationship has been formulated, this paper took the position of the confessional reformed. This paper has however tried to remain faithful to the Biblical text throughout. This is an exegetical paper, but the topic required the extended historical survey in order to understand the difference between this interpretation and others.

There are some applications to be made to the Anabaptist view of the relation of the Christian and culture. First, the Christian is to be both faithful to God, yet present in and among the nations of this world. The Anabaptist engages culture in a profoundly worldly way. It actually diffuses the idea that one is “not of this world” by engaging the world on its own terms. Those terms are by using being separate from the world, not just from sin, and by creating a narrative of victimization in order to motivate churches.

Second, the Christian is not a victim but a victor in this world. The neo-Anabaptist view uses this victim status to create a resentment of political opponents and motivate Christians to retaliate in non-violent ways. The problem here is not non-violence, but that they call this Nietzschean passive aggressive way of engagement “not of this world.” In contrast to this, Peter calls the Christian to be holy in this world. The means of engagement is holiness, not persecution, though it may occasion retaliation.

 Finally, the presence of the future undergirds the whole of Peter’s teaching. This eschatological scheme portrays this world as a place to be colonized by the rule of Christ. Though there will always be mixture of wheat and tares in the Church, and sin with righteousness, Jesus is working to renew and rule his kingdom. This is decidedly different than the neo-Anabaptist view of the next age. The age of the Spirit is coming, and thus they live in light of it now, and may even believe that they can usher it in. Peter’s context here is different. He argued that the future is already present in the risen Christ and his Church. Jesus rules in heaven, and continues to guide the church into all truth, and models the result of the church’s suffering. The church does not see suffering as a way of bringing the kingdom, but is rather the occasion of living holy lives. This is temporary and will yield to the final day when Christ returns. With Christ as an example, the Christian looks to the future as the goal of their witness and holy living. At the same time, the Christian looks to the presence of that future glory in the resurrected Christ, who will cause the hearts of the pagans to be renewed by their witness.

[1] Marshall, I Howard, I Peter (Ed. Grant R. Osborne, Stuart Briscoe, Haddon Robinson; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1990) 79

[2] Stauffer, Ethelbert (1945). “The Anabaptist Theology of Martyrdom””. MQR vol. 19: 179–214

[3] Marshall, I Peter, 82

[4] Hunter, James Davidson, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Mordern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010)

[5] Stauffer, “The Anabaptist Theology of Martyrdom,” Duckham, Ian, (1988) “Early Anabaptist Martyrs of the Low Countries 1525-1555” Limina Vol 4. He claims that both Protestants and Catholics were persecuting Anabaptists. He gives various figures. The point that this supports in the current thesis is that this will to power by creating resentment still exists in the Anabaptist sections of the church. It is not just that it is a victim theology, but has made itself illegitimate to the concerns of this world by both claiming so, and by using victimization as a motivating device.

[6] Bigg, Charles, The Epistles of Saint Peter and Jude (ICC, Edinburgh, London: T&T Clark, 1975 [1901]) 135-136

[7] West, Martin L. Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973) 51

[8] Bigg, 1 Peter, 136

[9] Hart, 1 Peter, 19

[10] Hart, 1 Peter 17-32

[11] Bigg, 1 Peter, 24-28

[12] Hart, J.H.A The Greek Expositors Bible (Ed., W.Robertson Nicoll,; Grand Rapids, MI: WMB Eerdmans, 1990) Vol. 5 

[13] “1 Peter” in The Geneva Study Bible (White Hall, WV: Tolle Lege Press, 2010 [1599])

[14] Marshall, I Peter, 82

[15] Marshall, 1 Peter, 78

[16] Harink, I & 2 Peter, 74

[17] Hunter, James Davidson, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010) 150-195. This analysis has been greatly aided by Hunter’s work.

[18] Harink,  1 & 2 Peter, 74

[19] Harink 1 & 2 Peter, 75

[20] Ibid, 75

[21] Ibid, 77