David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
1 Peter 2
1 Peter 2 - The Glory and the Duty of God's People
A. Coming to Jesus through His word.
1. (1-3) How to respond to the eternal word of God.
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
a. Therefore: Peter has just demonstrated the glory and eternal character of God's word. Now therefore, in light of what God's word is to us, we should receive the word and receive it with a particular heart.
b. As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word: The word desire is strong. In the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) it is used for man's deepest longing for God: As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God (Psalm 42:1). It speaks of the desire each believer should have for the word of God.
i. Babes . . . desire: A healthy new baby has an instinctive yearning for its mother's milk. When things are right, you don't have to tell it to want the milk.
ii. The failure to either desire or to receive this pure milk of the word is the reason for so many problems in both individual Christian lives and in congregations. "The sickly condition of so many Christians sets forth a lamentable complaint of the food with which they are supplied. To say nothing of strong meat, they do not even get milk. Hence the Church of God too much resembles the wards of a children's hospital." (Meyer)
c. That you may grow thereby: The Word of God is necessary for the growth of the Christian. We should all desire the pure milk of the word, even though Paul rebukes the Corinthians for being able to only receive milk (1 Corinthians 3:1-2), the Christian should never get tired of the simple truths of the Gospel simply presented.
i. Who are the newborn babes? In a sense, we all are. "The most advanced among us, in knowledge and attainment, are, in comparison with what they shall be, only as babes." (Meyer)
ii. "To drink the milk of the Word is to 'taste' again and again what he is like, for in the hearing of the Lord's words believers experience the joy of personal fellowship with the Lord himself." (Grudem)
d. Laying aside all malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking: This described the attitude of heart that receives the word and grows by the word. This is a humble, honest heart, willing to do what the Word of God says.
i. Evil speaking: This ancient Greek word has more the idea of spicy and hurtful gossip than the idea of profane speech.
e. If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious: If we have received from God and have tasted (personally experienced) that the Lord is gracious, then we have great reason and responsibility to receive the word in the enthusiastic way that babies receive their milk.
2. (4-5) Coming to Jesus.
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
a. Coming to Him as to a living stone: Peter's picture here is that God is building a spiritual temple (a spiritual house) using living stones (Christians), those who have come to the ultimate living stone (Jesus).
i. This spiritual house shows that as much as Israel had a temple, Christians also have one. Yet the Christian's temple is spiritual, and they themselves are the temple.
ii. Jesus is first called the living stone; then we are called living stones. We live because we are connected with Him who is the source of life. "It is in union with him that they live, and answer the end of their regeneration; as stones of a building are of no use but as they occupy their proper places in a building, and rest on the foundation." (Clarke)
b. Chosen by God and precious: As much as God chose Israel, so the church is also chosen. As much as Israel had a priesthood, so Christians are a holy priesthood. And as much as Israel had sacrifices, so Christians offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
i. A holy priesthood: The believer is his own priest before God. He does not need any mediator except his great High Priest, Jesus. "There can no longer be an elite priesthood with claims of special access to God, or special privileges in worship or in fellowship with God." (Grudem)
ii. Peter's idea isn't that God has abandoned Israel or that they have no place in His redemptive plan, but that Christianity is in no way inferior to Judaism.
c. To offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ: God does the work of building (being built), but we do the job of offering sacrifices pleasing to Him, as we come to Jesus as who we are - living stones, made by Him.
i. Even a living stone cannot build something great for God as it sits all on its own. What God does in us together is important. He is building something out of us together.
ii. We can only serve as priests as we do it through Jesus Christ. In ourselves, we have no priestly authority, but only in Jesus.
3. (6-8) The glory of the Chief Cornerstone.
Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
a. Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone: If we are being built into a spiritual house, there is no doubt who our Chief Cornerstone is. Even though men rejected Jesus, He has become the Chief Cornerstone in the work of building the church.
i. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Psalm 118, the stumbling stone of Isaiah 8, the foundation stone of Isaiah 28, the supernatural stone of Daniel 2, and the rock that miraculously gave Israel water in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4).
b. Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious: Though this chief cornerstone is rejected by the disobedient and unbelieving, undeniably He is precious to those who believe. One way to know if a person has truly Biblical faith is to see if Jesus is truly precious to them.
i. When Charles Spurgeon was 16 years old, he preached his first sermon in a village cottage to a handful of poor people, and he chose for his text 1 Peter 2:7: "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious." Spurgeon said that he didn't think he could have preached on any other Bible passage, "but Christ was precious to my soul and I was in the flush of my youthful love, and I could not be silent when a precious Jesus was the subject." (Spurgeon)
ii. "Is Jesus precious to your soul? Remember, on your answer to this question depends your condition. You believe, if he is precious to you, but if he is not precious, then you are not believers, and you are condemned already because you believe not on the Son of God." (Spurgeon)
Christ is precious intrinsically.
Christ is precious positively.
Christ is precious comparatively.
Christ is precious superlatively.
Christ is precious suitably to the need of the believer.
iii. This is true; though G. Campbell Morgan preferred the Revised Version translation: For you therefore which believe is the preciousness. "The declaration is not that believers know the preciousness of Christ; it is rather that they share it. . . . The qualities of Christ that create His preciousness, His honour, are placed at the disposal of the believer."
iv. "The honour is to you who believe; i.e. the honour 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." (Clarke)
c. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone: Those who reject the Chief Cornerstone and refuse to build on Him instead stumble over Him. Instead of being their salvation, Jesus becomes to them a rock of offense.
i. Jesus quoted this passage from Psalm 118 in regard to Himself (Matthew 21:42). A chief cornerstone is the starting point of a building; everything is laid out according to its connection to the chief cornerstone. Because it stands at the corner, the same stone is the starting place for two walls.
ii. Thus Jesus set out the course for both Jew and Gentile to be joined together into one glorious house for God. This in itself was a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for the Jews, who thought that Gentiles should not have equal share with the Jews into God's great house.
iii. In the thinking of many Jews of that time, God should not have built a new building with both Jew and Gentile. He should have simply renovated the present structure of Judaism (adding Jesus as the Messiah) and invited Gentiles to come into that structure. But God did something different, and it was a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for many first-century Jews.
iv. Therefore these great titles of 1 Peter 2:9-10 now apply to all believers, Jew and Gentile alike; whereas before they only applied to the Jewish people as God's covenant people.
d. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed: It is appointed that those who are disobedient to the word should stumble over Jesus.
i. When Jesus spoke of Himself as the stone of Psalm 118, He spoke of what those who rejected Him are appointed to: "And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." (Matthew 21:44)
4. (9-10) The privileged place of God's people.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
a. But you are a chosen generation: The things that once exclusively belonged to Israel - their election (chosen), priesthood, and calling are now no longer the property of Israel alone. These are now the property of every Christian, and we have them in a greater and spiritual sense.
i. We are a royal priesthood. The offices of royalty and priesthood were jealously separated in Israel. But Jesus, who is our King and Priest, has brought them together for His people.
b. His own special people: We are special because we belong to God. A museum may be filled with quite ordinary things: hats, canes, shoes, and so forth; but they may be significant because they once belonged to someone famous. God takes ordinary people; and because He works in them, they are special.
i. These same titles were applied to Israel (Exodus 19:5-6, Deuteronomy 4:20, Deuteronomy 7:6, and Isaiah 43:20-21). Now in Jesus we belong to God as His own special people.
ii. "The description of the Church is systematic and exhaustive. It is a race, and this suggests its life principle. It is a priesthood, and so has right of access to God. It is a nation, and so is under His government. It is a possession, and so is actually indwelt by Him." (Morgan)
c. Who once were not a people but are now the people of God: We once were without these privileges, and were not even a people before God. We had not seen the mercy of God, but now have obtained mercy.
i. In our culture, with its Christian foundations, we don't easily understand the great sense of privilege and relief that came to Gentiles as they were shared in the New Covenant with the God of Israel. Peter's message is wonderful: "You didn't used to belong, but now you belong to God and among God's people."
d. That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: The purpose for these high privileges is not so we can grow proud, but so that we can proclaim the praises of Him who has done such great things for us.
i. Since it is true that believers have a new life principle (chosen generation), a new access to God (royal priesthood), a new government (holy nation), and a new owner (His own special people), it will affect the way the believer lives life. That effect is described in the following verses.
B. How those who have come to Jesus are to live.
1. (11-12) When we come to Jesus, we are to abstain from fleshly lusts.
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
a. Abstain from fleshly lusts: We can only abstain from fleshly lusts as we live as sojourners and pilgrims, as those who recognize that this world is not their home, and that they have a home and a citizenship in heaven.
b. Which war against the soul: Peter understands that these fleshly lusts . . . war against the soul. To be a Christian means to fight against the lusts of the flesh, and the battle continues as long as we live in this flesh.
i. It is easy to see how the pursuit of fleshly lusts can destroy our physical body. Just ask the alcoholic dying of liver disease, or ask the sexually immoral person with AIDS or one of the 350,000 people on this earth who contracted a sexually transmitted disease in the last 24 hours. But Peter reminds us that fleshly lusts also war against the soul. Some escape disease in the physical body when they sin, but the disease and death of the inner man is a penalty that no one given over to the flesh escapes.
c. Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles: This kind of godly living makes our conduct honorable among those who don't know God yet. Though we can expect that they will speak against you as evildoers, they can still be brought to glorify God by seeing our godly conduct.
i. Christians were falsely accused of great crimes in the early church. Pagans said that at communion Christians ate the flesh and drank the blood of a baby in a cannibalistic ritual. They said that Christian "agape feasts" were wild orgies. They said that Christians were antisocial because they did not participate in society's immoral entertainment. They said that Christians were atheists because they did not worship idols.
ii. But over time, it was clear that Christians were not immoral people - and it was shown by their lives. "The striking fact of history is that by their lives the Christians actually did defeat the slanders of the heathen. In the early part of the third century Celsus made the most famous and the most systematic attack of all upon the Christians in which he accused them of ignorance and foolishness and superstition and all kinds of things - but never of immorality." (Barclay)
d. The day of visitation: This is probably a reference to their ultimate meeting with God, either when they go to meet Him or when He comes to meet them. The idea is that the Gentiles might be persuaded to become Christians by seeing the lives of other Christians, and that they would glorify God when they meet Him instead of cowering before His holy judgment.
i. "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?" (Clarke)
2. (13-17) When we come to Jesus, we are to show proper submission to the government.
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
a. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man: As Christians we should be good citizens, submitting to government. This was very different from those zealous Jews in Peter's day who recognized no king but God and paid taxes to no one except God.
i. Peter wrote this in the days of the Roman Empire, which was not a democracy and no special friend to Christians. Yet he still recognized the legitimate authority of the Roman government.
ii. "The meaning of St. Peter appears to be this: the Jews thought it unlawful to obey any ruler that was not of their own stock; the apostle tells them that they should obey their civil magistrate, let him be of what stock he may, whether Jew or Gentile, and let him exercise the government in whatsoever form." (Clarke)
b. For the Lord's sake: This is why we obey the government. Since governments have a rightful authority from God, we are bound to obey them - unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God's law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man (Acts 4:19).
i. "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." (Clarke)
c. As to those who are sent by him: Peter also insisted that rulers are sent by him; that is, sent by God. Governments are sent by God for the punishment of evildoers and for the recognition of those who do good.
i. God uses governing authorities as a check upon man's sinful desires and tendencies. Governments are a useful tool in resisting the effects of man's fallen nature. Based also on what Paul wrote in Romans 13, we can say that the greatest offense government can make is to fail to punish evildoers, or to reward evildoers through corruption.
d. That by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: Peter knew that our conduct is a way to defend the gospel. He knew that those who never read the Bible will read our lives, so it is by doing good that we put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
e. Yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God: We are warned against taking the liberty we have in Jesus as an excuse for sin. Instead we use our liberty in Jesus to show the kind of love and respect that Peter calls for.
3. (18-20) When we come to Jesus, we are to show proper submission to our employers.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
a. Servants, be submissive to your masters: The command to submit to masters isn't just to those who work for masters that are good and gentle, but also to those who are harsh. If we must endure hardship because of our Christian standards, it is then commendable before God.
b. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? To be punished for our wrongs is no credit to us. But when we are punished for doing good and endure it patiently, we are complimented before God.
i. "It appears from this that the poor Christians, and especially those who had been converted to Christianity 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." (Clarke)
ii. "Our case is like that of a criminal who had better bear quietly a sentence for a crime he has not committed, lest by too much outcry he induce investigation into a list of offenses, which are not charged against him, because they are not known." (Meyer)
4. (21-25) The example of Jesus.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
a. Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example: Jesus is our example as someone who endured punishment unjustly. When He was reviled Jesus did not revile in return, but in His sufferings He committed Himself to the Father.
i. "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." (Clarke)
ii. "Which hour do you think of the sufferings of the Lord, from Gethsemane to Golgotha, would be most deeply engraved upon the memory of Peter? Surely it would be that space of time in which he was mocked and buffeted in the hall of the high priest, when Peter sat and warmed his hands at the fire, when he saw his Lord abused, and was afraid to own that he was his disciple, and by-and-by became so terrified that, with profane language, he declared 'I know not the man.' So long as life lingered, the apostle would remember the meek and quiet bearing of his suffering Lord." (Spurgeon)
b. Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree: The suffering of Jesus is clearly an example for us; but it is far more than an example. He also bore our sins as sin-bearing substitute, and provided for our healing (by whose stripes you were healed).
i. Peter clearly meant the cross of Jesus when he mentioned the tree (literally wood). Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the wood - the wood of the cross. Peter stated it here both to constantly remind Christians of the great work of Jesus on the cross, and to show them that even as the suffering of Jesus accomplished much, so their own suffering can be used of God.
c. That we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness: Peter reminds us that when Jesus died on the cross, we also died to sins. Our life is permanently changed by our identification with Jesus on the cross, even as the Apostle Paul described in Romans 6.
i. We have died to sins in the sense that our debt of sin and guilt was paid by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. When we died to sins with Jesus on the cross, it means that He paid our debts. We do not trouble ourselves over debts that are paid. "He who bore my sins in his own body on the tree, took all my debts and paid them for me, and now I am dead to those debts; they have no power over me. I am dead to my sins; Christ suffered instead of me. I have nothing to do with them. They are gone as much as if they had never been committed." (Spurgeon)
ii. We have died to sins in the sense that now a greater passion fills our life - a passion for the Lord Jesus Christ that is greater than our previous passion for sin. A miser may be dead to many pleasures and allurements of this world; but he is alive to the love of money. So we should be dead to sin but alive to Jesus.
d. By whose stripes you were healed: Peter quotes Isaiah 53:5, which primarily refers to spiritual healing but also includes physical healing. The provision for our healing (both physically and spiritually) is made by the sufferings (stripes) of Jesus. The physical aspect of our healing is received in part now, but only completely with our resurrection.
i. In context we see that Peter's main point is that if a master treats us unjustly, we should not fear whatever harm he causes. We can be healed and restored by Jesus' suffering for us.
e. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls: If not for Jesus' patient endurance under the persecution of the ungodly, we would still be going astray. But because of His work for us, we have returned to the Shepherd (pastor) and the Overseer (bishop) of our souls.
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