The Pulpit Commentary

1 Peter 2:12 (1 Peter 2:12)

Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles. If we read ἀπέχεσθαι , in 1 Peter 2:11 (some ancient manuscripts have ἀπέχεσθε ) , there is a slight irregularity in the construction, as the participle ἔνοντες is nominative; it gives more force and vividness to the sentence (comp. in the Greek, Ephesians 4:2 ; Colossians 3:16 ). The conversation ( ἀναστροφή , mode of life or behavior) of the unconverted is described as " vain " in 1 Peter 1:18 ; the conversation of Christians must be seemly ( καλή ), exhibiting the beauty of holiness. The Churches to which St. Peter wrote were in Gentile countries; they must be careful, for the honor of their religion, to set a good example among the heathen—a warning, alas! too often neglected in modern as well as in ancient times. That, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers ; literally, wherein, in the matter in which they speak, i.e. in reference to manner of life. Christians were commonly accused of "turning the world upside down;" of doing "contrary to the decrees of Caesar," as at Thessalonica ( Acts 17:6 , Acts 17:7 ); of being atheists and blasphemers of the popular idolatry, as at Ephesus ( Acts 19:37 ). Suetonius calls them a "genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficse" ('Vit. Neron.,' 1 Peter 16.). Probably the grosser accusations of Thyestean banquets, etc., came later. They may by your good works, which they shall be hold, glorify God in the day of visitation. The word rendered, "which they shall be bold" ( ἐποπτεύσαντες , or, according to some of the older manuscripts, ἐποπτεύοντες , beholding), occurs only here and in 1 Peter 3:2 . It implies close attention; the Gentiles watched the conduct of the Christians, narrowly scrutinizing it to discover faults and inconsistencies. The use of the corresponding substantive, ἐπόπτης , in 2 Peter 1:16 is a coincidence to be noticed. It is not probable that there is any reference to the heathen use of the word in connection with the Eleusinian Mysteries. St. Peter hopes that this close observation of the lives of Christian people would lead the Gentiles to glorify God; he was thinking, perhaps, of our Lord's words in the sermon on the mount: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' Perhaps in the following clause also we may trace an echo of the Savior's words in Luke 19:44 , " Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" ( ἐπισκοπῆς , as here). St. Peter hopes that the holy lives of Christians may be made the means of saving many Gentile souls in the time of visitation; that is, when God should visit the heathen with his converting grace, seeking to draw them to himself, whether by gracious chastisement or by the preaching of his servants. This seems more natural than to understand the words of God's visitation of the Christians in the persecutions which were impending; though it is true that many Gentiles were won to Christ by the calm and holy bearing of suffering Christians.

- The Pulpit Commentary