William Nicholson, 1862
"Having 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." 1 Peter 2:12
The preceding verses contain most important truths. A reference to Christ as the glorious foundation of the Church, verse 6. The blessedness of resting on that foundation, and the dreadful consequences of rejecting Christ under that character, verse 7, 8. The Apostle then reminds believers of their various privileges and distinctions through grace, or by connection with the sure Foundation, verse 9, 10. And then, in the most affectionate manner, he exhorts them to let their conduct and deportment correspond with their profession of Christ, verse 11, 12. Were all Christians to act thus, what an impetus would be given to the progress of Christ's cause! The neglect of consistent Christian conduct, has frequently produced the most affecting consequences.
I. The Conduct Recommended by the Apostle:"Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles," etc. Observe:
1.The word "conduct" denotes peculiar behavior — the whole tenor of our conduct.
The Christian, by reason of the work of the Spirit on his soul, and his faith in his Redeemer, becomes a citizen of Heaven; he belongs to "a better country," etc.; he has it in prospect, he will finally settle there, though he is now away from his Father's house.
As this is the case, a suitable mode of conduct befits him. A citizen of Heaven resides on earth for a season, but he is a stranger, and pilgrim here. Though he is in the world, he is not of it; but while the will of God detains him here, he must have his conduct honorable , etc.
2.The word "honorable," in its present connection, has a comprehensive import — meaning sincere, upright, just, consistent, amiable, honest. The Christian character is to be adorned by "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable." Philippians 4:8
3.The sphere in which they move, and the people by whom their conduct is observed. The sphere is a world of iniquity — a world in which they must toil, and suffer, and die. Their observers are "Gentiles." In the Apostolic age these were Heathens, idolaters, and deadly enemies to Christianity. And the wicked have the same antipathy now — they hate Christ — they hate Christians.
Never forget these three things,
(1.) While you live you will have to associate and do business with the ungodly — in your shops — in your places of employment. How important that your conduct and speech should be as befits the Gospel of Christ!
(2.) The eyes of the wicked are upon professors of religion. They are watchful observers, and bold censurers. Give the enemies of Christ no cause to blaspheme. Be watchful — the wicked will endeavor to ensnare you, to draw you into temptation, and then accuse you!
Nothing is more congenial to the mind of an infidel, than to see a professor of Christ step from the path of rectitude.
(3.) You will be often spoken of as evil-doers, even though your conduct may be consistent. Christ was called a glutton, a blasphemer, an impostor, etc. It is rare to escape the scourge of tongues. A bad opinion, a bad report — makes no one a bad man.
4.The conduct which Christians should manifest. The text and context declare. They are regarded as sustaining various relations in society, the respective duties of which they are required to fulfill submission to the laws, verse 13-15.
As citizens they are entitled to a conscientious enjoyment of their liberty, verse 16. They are to be kind and courteous in their behavior to men, verse 17.
As members of Christ's Church, they are to love as brethren, verse 17. In all they do, they are to "fear God," they are to "honor the king," which respect to earthly majesty is to be subordinate to that of fearing God, verse 17.
As servants, they are to learn subjection, verse 18.
How great would be the influence of such upright and honorable conduct! To have the conduct honorable among the Gentiles, more particularly, there must be:
1. Sincerity of profession. "An Israelite indeed in whom there is no deceit." We must be what we profess to be. The honesty of our profession is proved by gracious experience, and holy practice. Not merely in external forms, etc. Romans 2:28, 29.
2. Truth, or veracity of speech. The Gentile or Heathen world have ever been subject to the vice of lying. See Titus 1:12. The Apostle therefore was urgent that in respect of truthful speech, Christians should be distinct from others.
Lying is a base and despicable vice, and sinks a man in the esteem of others. In nothing does the corruption of our nature more evidently appear than in this horrid vice, which is one of the worst ingredients in the human character. Lying is wicked in any man, and utterly inconsistent with the Christian profession.
Our Lord, in his sermon on the Mount, has given most important injunctions to his disciples on this subject. He would have them so plain, sincere, and free from deceit, that their word should be equivalent to the most solemn oath, and that in all their assertions they should content themselves with a simple affirmation, "It is — or it is not." "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'." Matthew 5:37.
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor!" Ephesians 4:25.
"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices!" Colossians 3:9
The evil consequences of lying may be seen in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11. Among those who shall be excluded from the kingdom of Heaven, are "Everyone who loves and practices falsehood!" Revelation 22:15; " . . . all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur" Revelation 21:8.
To have your conduct honorable, etc., avoid every species of deception.
Avoid duplicity and misrepresentation.
Avoid flattery, for it is an unworthy kind of deception.
Avoid vague and equivocating language, used with a design to deceive.
You must understand the odiousness of lying — correct the vice — and inculcate the importance and necessity of truth.
3. The exhortation requires justice and equity in all our transactions. The golden rule is to be the directory; "You shall do unto others — as you would like others to do unto you." This rule forbids all defrauding, overreaching, or taking an undue advantage, or employing artifice or deceit — to secure or promote worldly interest. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
4. It requires fidelity in reference to all our engagements. Some are servants — some have financial trusts — some are overseers, etc., some have high offices. How important then is fidelity! The affairs of life cannot be managed without it. Time is a trust; riches are a trust; talents, authority, etc. etc., are trusts; are we faithful? Titus 2:9, 10.
The preceding characteristics are indispensable. "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken!" Psalm 15:1-5
5. The exhortation requires "good works." The Gospel induces men to work. Though we shall never be saved for our works; yet without working we never can be saved, James 2:14, etc. These good works of love, of sympathy, of visitation, of prayer, of charity, must be seen by men, not to feed human boasting, but to show the power of the Gospel. They must be seen, or how can believers become patterns of good works? Titus 2:7; see also Matthew 5:16.
II. The Reasons or Motives Assigned for Such Conduct.
1. It will exhibit the power of the Gospel. It will show what a change has been effected; that holy fruits have been produced from a most unlikely soil. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age!" Titus 2:11-12.
2. It will show the excellency of the Christian religion. How different from sin! What a pure morality! To speak the truth, to be sincere, to do justice, and love mercy, is to be like angels, like Christ, like God!
3. It will counteract slander. "Evil-doers." Because Christians cannot associate with them, they are charged with being too precise, and hypocritical, 1 Peter 4:4. Christians are frequently represented as enemies to government, because they conscientiously differ, etc.; the best answer is to live a quiet and peaceable life. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders." 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. 1 Timothy 2:2. The influence of genuine piety is irresistible. The best way of answering false accusations, is to live them down.
4. It will promote the Divine glory; and that too "in the day of visitation." God visits his people in a way of mercy, Luke 1:68; he visits sinners in a way of judgment, Luke 19:44.
Some have been allured to the love and espousal of the gospel by the exemplary conduct of believers — especially by their conduct in affliction, persecution, and death. Some, when visited by affliction and trouble, have been induced to confess the reality and excellency of religion, from what they have observed in the conduct of its genuine professors.
When the flood came, the wicked must have known that while they were wrong, Noah was right. So with the inhabitants of Sodom. The convictions of Pharaoh often betrayed themselves in the presence of Moses and Aaron. When the mysterious handwriting appeared upon the wall, the consternation of Belshazzar was sufficiently evident. In all these instances an involuntary homage is rendered to truth, and God is glorified.
A day of visitation is coming, even the judgment day, when the wicked will be compelled to testify that saving religion is the one thing needful.
1 Is your conduct befitting the Gospel?
2. What has been its effects? Have sinners been convinced? Has God been glorified?
"For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men!" 1 Peter 2:15