We sometimes hear or read some form of the phrase found in the title of this note. It is taken from Peter’s first epistle: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (2:9). These words often introduce the performance of music. This adaptation of the inspired phrase may be appropriate, but it overlooks the context in which it occurs, a context that defines God’s view of what it means to show forth the praises of the Son of God. As this note will illustrate, truly praising Christ involves the entire life and being, including all the following.
Purity. “Abstain from fleshly lusts,” Peter commands (v. 11). Praise does not begin with the mouth but with the mind, the heart, and the will. Christ is praised when we make a conscious choice to live a pure life.
Honesty and good works. Peter parallels the ideas of “honest conversation” and “good works” in the twelfth verse, indicating they are roughly synonymous. It is not enough to abstain from sinful sexual behavior and thoughts, Christ is to be praised by our positive embracing of good behavior. Good works never save, but they surely follow salvation.
Obedience to civil law. Many real believers take a very casual view toward the law. Yet, we cannot break even man’s law with impunity. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” is Peter’s sobering enjoinder (vv. 13-15).
Liberty, not license. Christian liberty is never a license to sin. Don’t use “your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness,” Peter warns (v. 16). Christ is praised when we exercise our liberty (which is the freedom to please God) “as the servants of God” (v. 16).
Reverence God and respect authority. Rebellion is hard-wired into our DNA. Our carnal minds would convince us that doing what we want is an expression of maturity. But the Lord reminds us that a praiseworthy life “honour[s] all men” and “fear[s] God” (v. 17). There is no substitute for godly submission.
Faithful service to employers. More than anyone else, a believer should be a good employee—even to the point of enduring unjust suffering. If we are bosses, we should be kind and just to employees. But if we are employees, employees’ rights are not as important to God as are right employees (vv. 18, 19).
Patient suffering for doing right. It is our nature to think (or at least to hope) that doing right will be rewarded with measurable blessing. Peter reminds us that sometimes doing right provokes trials and that we should not become hurt or indignant by such a result. Rather, taking such abuse “is acceptable with God” (v. 20).
Following Christ’s example. Part of the believer’s calling is to “follow his steps,” particularly in the area of suffering (vv. 21-23). We should not seek martyrdom or invite abuse by carnal behavior. But our heritage includes the promise of godly suffering. No mature believer escapes this life unscathed. If everything always works out, evidence suggests you are not saved.
Being dead to sin and alive to righteousness. Because of Christ, believers are “dead to sins”; in other words, they are no longer slaves to sin. We have the power to refuse to sin. And because we are “alive to righteousness,” we have the power in Christ to do what is right (v. 24).
Living under Christ’s authority and care. Finally, Peter rejoices that we have “returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop” of our souls (v. 25). Both terms speak of One who provides faithful and loving oversight. We are not our own but belong to the One who called us “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (v. 9).
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