With the authority of an apostle, Peter wrote to Christians who lived under the threat of persecution for their faith. After issuing a call to holy living in the first chapter (see 1:15-16), he describes in the second chapter the changes and the behaviors that will lead to holiness.
Verse 1 lists five opposites of Christ-like character that are self-promoting. Each of these sins is an attempt to make myself appear better than others. But the answer is not to merely appear to be better, but to actually become better — and that is accomplished by growing in spiritual maturity. Just as a baby needs a healthy appetite for nourishment in order to grow, we need an appetite for “pure spiritual milk” — fellowship with Jesus in His Word and in prayer (v.2-3).
Jesus is the cornerstone of our lives. To know Him is to know the meaning of life; to fellowship with Him is to receive vitality, strength, and an eternal life-force. We are “living stones” that are built on Him and receive life from Him (v.4-5). Peter speaks of believers as members of a special group that has been called “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (v.9). As a group, we are different from the rest of the world because we build our lives on Jesus and our real home is with Him. While we are in this world the best thing we can do is live honorable lives that cause others to take notice and turn to Jesus themselves (v.11-12).
Because the world is watching us, we should be model citizens of whatever government we live under. Living within the law and treating others with Christlike love will silence our critics and please the Lord (v.13-17). If we are persecuted, it should be for doing right, not doing wrong (v.18-20). When we do suffer, we should follow the example of Jesus, who faced pain and injustice with humility, calmness, and faith in His Father’s will (v.21-23). The greatest suffering Jesus ever endured was the cross, where He “bore our sins in His body” (v.24). He suffered the ultimate punishment when He took responsibility for our sins: He died. But in His death we find life, and because of the scars of His suffering we enjoy soul-health. That is a reason to rejoice today!