“that... they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12, NKJV)
Perhaps you’ve heard the exhortation to “preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” That has a nice ring to it, particularly when so many professing believers live hypocritically, saying one thing but doing another. There is something appealing and authentic about being living epistles, reflecting Christ in us, the hope of glory. Plus, it accords with our Lord’s teaching from the Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
The problem with this exhortation, however, is that it is unbiblical, or at best does not reflect the whole of biblical teaching. It is true that we are to live as light in darkness. Peter has admonished us to comport ourselves in a manner consistent and conspicuous for Christ. The way we conduct ourselves differentiates us from those without God and without hope in this world, and may well provoke inquiry from those who take notice (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).
Here in chapter two Peter addresses us as a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God, loved by Him. He urges us to abstain from evil and devote ourselves to our Kingdom calling under the lordship of Jesus Christ, with an eye to provoking glory to God in the eyes of others. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 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 Pet. 2:11–12).
While they may indeed provoke a conversation, our good works cannot stand by themselves as witness. If we witness without words, to what conclusion might people jump? They could think that salvation is gained by being good. Our good deeds must point not to how great we are but to how gracious Christ is (cf. 1 Pet. 2:23-24).
Only by explaining our behavior in terms of Christ will God be glorified on the day of visitation.
REFLECTION: Just as Scripture is necessary to give God glory in creation, so our verbal testimony is necessary to give God glory as new creations.
Unless noted otherwise, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.