Having reminded the believers of their glorious corporate identity as the chosen people of God, whom He has acquired for His own possession (2:4-10), Peter then returns to the subject of how we are to conduct ourselves in this world, as sojourners and exiles on our way to our heavenly home. He reminds his readers (ref 1:14) that they are to abstain from the lusts of the flesh which controlled them while they were still in the world. These things, though pleasant to the senses, war against the health of the soul. They will affect our purity, fellowship, and usefulness in the service of the Lord.
We are then to seek to glorify God by having commendable behavior among our unbelieving neighbors, relatives, co-workers, and the world at large; so that as they see our godly character and good works, they will not only cease from reproaching us, but actually come to believe in the gospel through our witness. This underscores the importance of having a godly character coupled with our verbal witness; and the damage incurred to the cause of Christ by a verbal witness that is devoid of a Christ-like character.
The next area of our witness in society that Peter addresses (2:13-17), is that of our submission to human institutions, particularly the government. Although we are citizens of heaven and subjects of King Jesus, yet while on earth, we are to submit to God-ordained authority. Ironically, Peter is writing during the time when the ruler of the Roman government (Caesar) was considered divine and anyone who did not acknowledge his lordship would be considered insubordinate and worthy of death; and yet Peter tells us that we are to honor them for the Lord’s sake. Paul tells us the same thing in Romans 13:2 (“.. whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment”).
Now when human authority commands us to disobey God, then we must obey God rather than man. We see examples in scripture when believers had to go against the command of the authorities, both religious and civil. Daniel continued to pray to Jehovah God, defying the edict of king Darius; Peter and John continued to preach Christ, defying the command of the religious rulers. Thankfully we are still free to worship and preach the gospel in this nation; but there may come a day when the gospel is considered hate speech; when that time comes, we must obey God rather than man.