Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Peter 2
We should lay aside all evil dispositions, and desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:1-3. And come to God to be made living stones, and be built up into a spiritual temple, 1 Peter 2:4, 1 Peter 2:5. The prophecy of Christ as chief corner stone, precious to believers, but a stumbling stone to the disobedient, 1 Peter 2:6-8. True believers are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, etc., 1 Peter 2:9, 1 Peter 2:10. They should abstain from fleshly lusts, 1 Peter 2:11. Walk uprightly among the Gentiles, 1 Peter 2:12. Be obedient to civil authority, according to the will of God, 1 Peter 2:13-15. Make a prudent use of their Christian liberty, 1 Peter 2:16. Fear God and honor the king, 1 Peter 2:17. Servants should be subject to their masters, and serve them faithfully, and suffer indignities patiently, after the example of Christ, 1 Peter 2:18-23. Who bore the punishment due to our sins in his own body upon the tree, 1 Peter 2:24. They were formerly like sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, 1 Peter 2:25.
Wherefore, laying aside - This is in close connection with the preceding chapter, from which it should not have been separated, and the subject is continued to the end of the 10th verse.
Laying aside all malice - See the notes on Ephesians 4:22-31 (note). These tempers and dispositions must have been common among the Jews, as they are frequently spoken against: Christianity can never admit of such; they show the mind, not of Christ, but of the old murderer.
As new-born babes - In the preceding chapter, 1 Peter 1:23, the apostle states that they had been born again; and as the new-born infant desires that aliment which nature has provided for it, so they, being born again - born from above, should as earnestly require that heavenly nourishment which is suited to their new nature; and this the apostle calls the sincere milk of the word, το λογικον αδολον γαλα , or, as some translate, the rational unadulterated milk; i.e. the pure doctrines of the Gospel, as delivered in the epistles and gospels, and as preached by the apostles and their successors. The rabbins frequently express learning to know the law, etc., by the term sucking, and their disciples are often denominated those that suck the breast. The figure is very expressive: as a child newly born shows an immediate desire for that nourishment, and that only, which is its most proper food; so they, being just born of God, should show that the incorruptible seed abides in them, and that they will receive nothing that is not suited to that new nature: and, indeed, they can have no spiritual growth but by the pure doctrines of the Gospel.
That ye may grow thereby - Εις σωτηριαν , Unto salvation, is added here by ABC, and about forty others; both the Syriac, the Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, and several of the ancient fathers. The reading is undoubtedly genuine, and is very important. It shows why they were regenerated, and why they were to desire the unadulterated doctrines of the Gospel; viz.: that they might grow up unto salvation. This was the end they should always have in view; and nothing could so effectually promote this end as continually receiving the pure truth of God, claiming the fulfillment of its promises, and acting under its dictates.
If so be ye have tasted - Ειπερ εγευσασθε· Seeing ye have tasted. There could be no doubt that they had tasted the goodness of Christ who were born again, of incorruptible seed, and whose hearts were purified by the truth, and who had like precious faith with the apostles themselves.
That the Lord is gracious - Ὁτι χρηστος ὁ Κυριος· From the similarity of the letters, many MSS. and several of the fathers have read, Χριστος ὁ κυριος , the Lord is Christ, or Christ is the Lord.
To whom coming, as unto a living stone - This is a reference to Isaiah 28:16: Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation. Jesus Christ is, in both the prophet and apostle, represented as the foundation on which the Christian Church is built, and on which it must continue to rest: and the stone or foundation is called here living, to intimate that he is the source of life to all his followers, and that it is in union with him that they live, and answer the end of their regeneration; as the stones of a building are of no use but as they occupy their proper places in a building, and rest on the foundation.
Disallowed indeed of men - That is, rejected by the Jews. This is a plain reference to the prophecy, Psalm 118:22: The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
Chosen of God - To be the Savior of the world, and the Founder of the Church, and the foundation on which it rests; As Christ is the choice of the Father, we need have no doubt of the efficacy and sufficiency of all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of a lost world. God can never be mistaken in his choice; therefore he that chooses Christ for his portion shall never be confounded.
Precious - Εντιμον· Honourable. Howsoever despised and rejected by men, Jesus, as the sacrifice for a lost world, is infinitely honorable in the sight of God; and those who are united by faith to him partake of the same honor, being members of that great and glorious body of which he is the head, and stones in that superb building of which he is the foundation.
Ye also, as lively stones - Λιθοι ζωντες· Living stones; each being instinct with the principle of life, which proceeds from him who is the foundation, called above λιθον ζωντα , a living stone.
Behold, I lay in Sion - This intimates that the foundation of the Christian Church should be laid at Jerusalem; and there it was laid, for there Christ suffered, and there the preaching of the Gospel commenced.
A chief corner stone - This is the same as the foundation stone; and it is called here the chief corner stone because it is laid in the foundation, at an angle of the building where its two sides form the ground work of a side and end wall. And this might probably be designed to show that, in Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles were to be united; and this is probably the reason why it was called a stone of stumbling, and rock of offense; for nothing stumbled, nothing offended the Jews so much as the calling of the Gentiles into the Church of God, and admitting them to the same privileges which had been before peculiar to the Jews.
Elect, precious - Chosen and honorable. See on 1 Peter 2:4.
Shall not be confounded - These words are quoted from Isaiah 28:16; but rather more from the Septuagint than from the Hebrew text. The latter we translate, He that believeth shall not make haste - he who comes to God, through Christ, for salvation, shall never be confounded; he need not haste to flee away, for no enemy shall ever be able to annoy him.
Unto you therefore which believe - You, both Jews and Gentiles.
He is precious - Ὑμιν ουν ἡ τιμη τοις πιστευουσιν· The honor is to you who believe; i.e. the honor of being in this building, and of having your souls saved through the blood of the Lamb, and becoming sons and daughters of God Almighty.
Them which be disobedient - The Jews, who continue to reject the Gospel; that very person whom they reject is head of the corner - is Lord over all, and has all power in the heavens and the earth.
A stone of stumbling - Because in him all Jews and Gentiles who believe are united; and because the latter were admitted into the Church, and called by the Gospel to enjoy the same privileges which the Jews, as the peculiar people of God, had enjoyed for two thousand years before; therefore they rejected the Christian religion, they would have no partakers with themselves in the salvation of God. This was the true cause why the Jews rejected the Gospel; and they rejected Christ because he did not come as a secular prince. In the one case he was a stone of stumbling - he was poor, and affected no worldly pomp; in the other he was a rock of offense, for his Gospel called the Gentiles to be a peculiar people whom the Jews believed to be everlastingly reprobated, and utterly incapable of any spiritual good.
Whereunto also they were appointed - Some good critics read the verse thus, carrying on the sense from the preceding: Also a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense: The disobedient stumble against the word, (or doctrine), to which verily they were appointed. - Macknight.
Ye are a chosen generation - The titles formerly given to the whole Jewish Church, i.e. to all the Israelites without exception, all who were in the covenant of God by circumcision, whether they were holy persons or not, are here given to Christians in general in the same way; i.e. to all who believed in Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, and who received baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Which in time past were not a people - This is a quotation from Hosea 1:9, Hosea 1:10; Hosea 2:23, where the calling of the Gentiles, by the preaching of the Gospel, is foretold. From this it is evident, that the people to whom the apostle now addresses himself had been Gentiles, covered with ignorance and superstition, and now had obtained mercy by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
As strangers and pilgrims - See the note on Hebrews 11:13. These were strangers and pilgrims in the most literal sense of the word, see 1 Peter 1:1, for they were strangers scattered through Asia, Pontus, etc.
Abstain from fleshly lusts - As ye are strangers and pilgrims, and profess to seek a heavenly country, do not entangle your affections with earthly things. While others spend all their time, and employ all their skill, in acquiring earthly property, and totally neglect the salvation of their souls; they are not strangers, they are here at home; they are not pilgrims, they are seeking an earthly possession: Heaven is your home, seek that; God is your portion, seek him. All kinds of earthly desires, whether those of the flesh or of the eye, or those included in the pride of life, are here comprised in the words fleshly lusts.
Which war against the soul - Αἱτινες στρατευονται κατα της ψυχης· Which are marshalled and drawn up in battle array, to fight against the soul; either to slay it, or to bring it into captivity. This is the object and operation of every earthly and sensual desire. How little do those who indulge them think of the ruin which they produce!
Having your conversation honest - Living in such a manner among the Gentiles, in whose country ye sojourn, as becomes the Gospel which ye profess.
That whereas they speak against you as evil doers - In all the heathen countries, in the first age of the Church, the Christians and the Jews were confounded together; and as the latter mere everywhere exceedingly troublesome and seditious, the Christians shared in their blame, and suffered no small measure of obloquy and persecution on this very account. It was doubly necessary, therefore, that the Christians should be exceedingly cautious; and that their conduct should prove that, although many of them were of the same nation, yet they who had embraced Christianity differed widely in their spirit and conduct from those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who had not received the faith of Christ.
In the day of visitation - I believe this refers to the time when God should come to execute judgment on the disobedient Jews, in the destruction of their civil polity, and the subversion of their temple and city. God did at that time put a remarkable difference between the Jews and the Christians: all the former were either destroyed or carried into slavery; not one of the latter: nor did they deserve it; for not one of them had joined in the sedition against the Roman government. That the day of visitation means a time in which punishment should be inflicted, is plain from Isaiah 10:3: And what will ye do in the Day of Visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from afar? To whom will ye flee for help? And where will ye leave your glory? Some think that by the phrase in this place is meant the time in which they should be brought before the heathen magistrates, who, after an impartial examination, should find them innocent, and declare them as such; by which God would be glorified, the work appearing to be his own. Others think that it signifies the time in which God should make them the offer of mercy by Jesus Christ. The words, however, may refer to the time in which the Christians should be called to suffer for the testimony of Christ; the heathens, seeing them bear their sufferings with unconquerable patience, were constrained to confess that God was with them; and not a few, from being spectators of their sufferings, became converts to Christianity,
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man - In every settled state, and under every form of political government, where the laws are not in opposition to the laws of God, it may be very soundly and rationally said: “Genuine Christians have nothing to do with the laws but to obey them.” Society and civil security are in a most dangerous state when the people take it into their heads that they have a right to remodel and change the laws. See the whole of this subject fully handled in the notes on Romans 13:1, etc., to which I beg every reader, who may wish to know the political sentiments of this work, to have recourse.
Or unto governors - By king as supreme, the Roman emperor is meant; and by governors, ἡγεμοσιν , are meant, leaders, governors, presidents, proconsuls, and other chief magistrates, sent by him into the provinces dependent on the Roman empire.
For the punishment of evil doers - This was the object of their mission; they were to punish delinquents, and encourage and protect the virtuous.
For so is the will of God - God, as their supreme governor, shows them that it is his will that they should act uprightly and obediently at all times, and thus confound the ignorance of foolish men, who were ready enough to assert that their religion made them bad subjects. The word φιμουν , which we translate put to silence, signifies to muzzle, i.e., stop their mouths, leave them nothing to say; let them assert, but ever be unable to bring proof to support it.
As free - The Jews pretended that they were a free people, and owed allegiance to God alone; hence they were continually rebelling against the Roman government, to which God had subjected them because of their rebellion against him: thus they used their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness - for a pretext of rebellion, and by it endeavored to vindicate their seditious and rebellious conduct.
But as the servants of God - These were free from sin and Satan, but they were the servants of God - bound to obey him; and, as he had made it their duty to obey the civil magistrate, they served God by submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord‘s sake.
Honour all men - That is, Give honor to whom honor is due, Romans 13:7. Respect every man as a fellow creature, and as one who may be a fellow heir with you of eternal life; and therefore be ready to give him every kind of succor in your power.
Love the brotherhood - All true Christians, who form one great family of which God is the head.
Fear God - Who gives you these commandments, lest he punish you for disobedience.
Honour the king - Pay that respect to the emperor which his high authority requires, knowing that civil power is of God; that the authority with which he, in the course of his providence, has invested him, must be respected in order to its being obeyed; and that if the man be even bad, and as a man be worthy of no reverence, yet he should be respected on account of his office. If respect be banished, subordination will flee with it, and anarchy and ruin will rise up in their place. Truly religious persons are never found in seditions. Hypocrites may join themselves with any class of the workers of iniquity, and say, Hail, brethren!
Servants, be subject - See the notes on Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22 (note); and Titus 2:9 (note).
With all fear - With all submission and reverence.
The good and gentle - Those who are ever just in their commands, never requiring more work than is necessary or proper, and always allowing sufficient food and sufficient time.
The froward - Σκολιοις· The crooked, perverse, unreasonable morose, and austere. Your time belongs to your master; obey him in every thing that is not sinful; if he employs you about unreasonable or foolish things, let him answer for it. He may waste your time, and thus play the fool with his own property; you can only fill up your time: let him assign the work; it is your duty to obey.
For this is thankworthy - If, in a conscientious discharge of your duty, you suffer evil, this is in the sight of God thankworthy, pleasing, and proper; it shows that you prefer his authority to your own ease, peace, and emolument; it shows also, as Dr. Macknight has well observed, that they considered their obligation to relative duties not to depend on the character of the person to whom they were to be performed, nor on their performing the duties they owed to their servants, but on the unalterable relations of things established by God.
For what glory is it - It appears from this that the poor Christians, and especially those who had been converted to Christianity while in a state of slavery, were often grievously abused, they were buffeted because they were Christians, and because they would not join with their masters in idolatrous worship.
Hereunto were ye called - Ye were called to a state of suffering when ye were called to be Christians; for the world cannot endure the yoke of Christ, and they that will live godly in Christ must suffer persecution; they will meet with it in one form or other.
Christ also suffered for us - And left us the example of his meekness and gentleness; for when he was reviled, he reviled not again. Ye cannot expect to fare better than your master; imitate his example, and his Spirit shall comfort and sustain you. Many MSS. and most of the versions, instead of Christ also suffered for Us, leaving Us, etc., read, suffered for You, leaving You, etc. This reading, which I think is genuine, is noticed in the margin.
Who did no sin - He suffered, but not on account of any evil he had either done or said. In deed and word he was immaculate, and yet he was exposed to suffering; expect the same, and when it comes bear it in the same spirit. It is very likely that the apostle mentions guile, because those who do wrong generally strive to screen themselves by prevarication and lies. These words appear to be a quotation from Isaiah 53:9.
But committed himself - Though he could have inflicted any kind of punishment on his persecutors, yet to give us, in this respect also, an example that we should follow his steps, he committed his cause to him who is the righteous Judge. To avoid evil tempers, and the uneasiness and danger of avenging ourselves, it is a great advantage in all such cases to be able to refer our cause to God, and to be assured that the Judge of all the earth will do right.
Who his own self - Not another in his place, as some anciently supposed, because they thought it impossible that the Christ should suffer.
Bare our sins in his own body - Bore the punishment due to our sins. In no other sense could Christ bear them. To say that they were so imputed to him as if they had been his own, and that the Father beheld him as blackened with imputed sin, is monstrous, if not blasphemous.
That we, being dead to sins - Ἱνα ταις ἁμαρτιαις απογενομενοι· That we, being freed from sin - delivered out of its power, and from under its tyranny.
Should live unto righteousness - That righteousness should be our master now, as sin was before. He is speaking still lo servants who were under an oppressive yoke, and were cruelly used by their masters, scourged, buffeted, and variously maltreated.
By whose stripes ye were healed - The apostle refers here to Isaiah 53:4-6; and he still keeps the case of these persecuted servants in view, and encourages them to suffer patiently by the example of Christ, who was buffeted and scourged, and who bore all this that the deep and inveterate wounds, inflicted on their souls by sin, might be healed.
For ye were as sheep going astray - Formerly ye were not in a better moral condition than your oppressors; ye were like stray sheep, in the wilderness of ignorance and sin, till Christ, the true and merciful Shepherd, called you back from your wanderings, by sending you the Gospel of his grace.
Bishop of your souls - Unless we consider the word bishop as a corruption of the word επισκοπος (episcopos), and that this literally signifies an overseer, an inspector, or one that has the oversight, it can convey to us no meaning of the original. Jesus Christ is the Overseer of souls; he has them continually under his eye; he knows their wants, wishes, dangers, etc., and provides for them. As their shepherd, he leads them to the best pastures, defends them from their enemies, and guides them by his eye. Jesus is the good Shepherd that laid down his life for his sheep. All human souls are inexpressibly dear to him, as they are the purchase of his blood. He is still supreme Bishop or Overseer in his Church. He alone is Episcopus episcoporum, “the Bishop of bishops;” a title which the Romish pontiffs have blasphemously usurped. But this is not the only attribute of Jesus on which they have laid sacrilegious hands. And besides this, with force and with cruelty have they ruled the sheep: but the Lord is breaking the staff of their pride, and delivering the nations from the bondage of their corruption. Lord, let thy kingdom come!
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