Peter tells that two parties are watching (1 Peter 2:12). The “nations” or “Gentiles” are observing. And God is watching (day of visitation). We need to think about both of these from a Gospel perspective.
In Bible translations, the “Gentiles” are all those nations who are not Jews. They were, from an OT perspective, in large part, not the people of God. In the NT, since the Church is not identified with the Jewish people, it seems that a better translation is the “nations.”
In 1 Peter 2:9, the Church is called, among other things, “a holy nation.” The nations mentioned in v.12 then, are the “unholy” nations. The one has an interest in the holiness of God. The other has no interest in His holiness.
Now why is it that the nations are observing the lives and conduct of Christians? Normally, we don’t even notice, unless, of course, there is something interesting. That is, there is something distinctive, unique, or strange (as in “strangers,” 1 Pet 1:1).
1 Peter 4:4 says that the Gentiles, or nations, are “surprised when you do not join them” in their ungodly activities. There is a contrast in the lives of those without God, and those who are children of God. Other differences become apparent as we review 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 and Ephesians 4:17ff. In fact, I think it is a beneficial exercise to actually think what the contrast would be to the miserable conditions or ungodly behaviors mentioned in relations to the nations. For instance, in Eph 2: 1-4, they are described as:
Dead – we have been “made alive” (1 Pet 1:3)
They belong to “the course of this world.” We understand that the course has been changed “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3)
They have a prince (small “p”). We have a Prince (capital “P”) (I know that there are not caps in the original, but the little “p” only bruised His heel, while the capital “P” crushed his head (Gen 3:15).
They have a spirit. We have the Holy Spirit
They are driven by lusts. We are characterized by love for God and neighbor. (It strikes me as I write this how far we fall short, which is why the nations find us so un-interesting.
They are given over to self- indulgence. We are to be known for sacrificial service.
They are called “children of wrath.” We are children of mercy (1 Pet 1:3; 2:10).
The list then is continued in Eph 4:17-24:
They are characterized by sensuality. We are to be known for a spirituality that is due to the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Drunkenness is countered by a sobriety and seriousness that is taken up with eternal and ultimate issues.
Carousing and drinking parties that end up in disgrace are contrasted with gatherings in which grace is given and blessings are shared.
Abominable idolatries bespeak a continual search to find that which is worth living for – while Christians are linked and locked in to “the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom (He) has sent (John 17:3).
We are to be “a light to the Gentiles (or nations)” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47; 26:23). Our light is dim in that we have sunk to many practices that look suspiciously like the nations who do not know God. We aren’t all that interesting.
The second point is that God is “visiting” or “overseeing.” Jesus, in 1 Peter 2:25, is called “the Shepherd and Overseer (or Guardian) of our souls.” He is watching.
But many people have erroneous views of God’s oversight. Some think that He is watching, waiting to pound us when we mess up. But they miss the all-important point that, in Christ, we are “accepted in the Beloved.” There are no paybacks for Christians. Our punishment has been meted out to Christ, and it found satisfaction in the righteous judgment of God. He is not watching us to catch us, but because He delights in us.
On the other hand, some view God’s interest in His children as inconsequential. They suppose that, now forgiven, they should give no thought to what God thinks of their conduct. This is a denial of authentic faith. Faith in God is a dynamic presence in the life of a man that manifests itself in expressions of faith, one of which is fear and love for God. Luke 12 reminds us that if God has His eye on the sparrow, then He certainly will observe and care for His children far more.
We sometimes live as though no one is watching, neither the world around us, or God. We live as though there is nothing or no one to life for. How can we miss the point so badly?