Christians – foreigners and pilgrims

1 Peter 2:11

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

Talking about the host of people who trusted in God down through the ages, the writer to the Hebrews says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland” (Hebrews 11:13-14).

The writer mentions Abraham and his family (Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob) who were promised the land flowing with milk and honey. We know that, "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised." They did not personally experience the possessing of the Promised Land. Yet, they lived with a sense of guarantee that God would fulfill His promises: "but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them." They fully accepted the certainty that the Lord would some day give that land to their seed. Meanwhile, they confessed that they were content to live as strangers concerning this world and as pilgrims anticipating the world to come: "acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth."

It is in this sense that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to Christians in order that they should have a proper perspective of their lives.

Let us press on to consider a strategic extension of Abraham's testimony concerning his obedient, earthly sojourn, by faith. We see him traveling through life on earth as an alien, a stranger (in the world, but not of it). Here we see Abraham's patient, heavenly pilgrimage, by faith. His previous testimony concluded with this pilgrimage theme: "For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10). Early in the present continuing testimony, the two themes are coupled. "They were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." A stranger (sojourner) is one who does not belong to the given locale. The pilgrim is one who is marching toward a given spiritual destination. The Lord wants us to set our daily course toward heaven, rejecting earthly cravings that diminish spiritual vitality.

So in our present passage, the same theme is echoed, “Beloved, I beg you as foreigners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” [1 Peter 2:11]. Elsewhere, the inspired Apostle Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” [Colossians 3:1-4].

God wants us to focus on Him. He wants us realize who we are as His people. He wants us to realize that we have died to “self” and the carnal “fleshly” life when we were baptized into Christ and that Jesus is to shine forth in and through us. He assures us of the fact that when Christ our Lord, “who is our life appears” we also will appear with him in glory.