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1 Peter 2

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In this great chapter, Peter stressed the duties of the church as the new Israel of God, who were bound by their privileges to exhibit lives worthy of their sacred calling (1 Peter 2:1-10); and then he gave the first of a number of admonitions directed to the Christians with regard to their obligations to the outward society (1 Peter 2:11-25).

Verse 1

Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

Putting away therefore … This is from [@apothesthai], "which is the word for stripping off one’s clothes."(F1) The child of God must denounce and turn away from all manner of wickedness, just as one might strip off filthy clothing. The words here are strongly suggestive of what occurs at the time of baptism:

Paul connects the putting on of Christ with baptism (Galatians 3:27); and Peter, when speaking of baptism in 1 Peter 3:21; both used the Greek word which corresponds to the word here, "laying aside."(F2)

Hunter also agreed that the words here have the meaning of "Since you are born again,"(F3) the sins about to be enumerated being by implication survivors from the old bad way of life.

Guile … is deceitfulness, especially lying and false speech; thus it is usually spoken of as being on the lips, or found in the mouth.

Hypocrisies and envies … Hypocrisy was the leaven of the Pharisees, according to Christ himself, the same being a way of life for the religious leaders of that day. It is pretending to be what one knows he is not.

Envies … So long as self remains active in one’s heart, there will be envy in his life."(F4) It springs from jealousies which are, in fact, concealed malice in hearts that are displeased with all beauty, achievement, virtue, or any other desirable quality in others.

And all evil speakings … All evil speakings are prohibited to Christians, whether against brethren, officers of the state, or any other persons.

Verse 2

as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation;

As newborn babes … Paul used this same figure in 1 Corinthians 3:2; but Peter here, using the same figure, stresses, not the contrasting diet of infants and adults, but the appetite which all Christians should have in order to grow. All Christians should have a constant and intense longing for the word of God.

Long for the spiritual milk which is without guile … There are two changes from the KJV in this verse: (1) the addition of the words "thereby unto salvation," which is a very wholesome change, and (2) the substitution of this clause for "desire the sincere milk of the word," which in no sense improves the meaning; for as Hunter pointed out, "belonging to the word" is a thought surely contained in the Greek.(F5) In fact, he said, "The King James is preferable, the milk of the word, the word being the gospel.(F6) This is the first of a number of instances in this chapter where the KJV is definitely superior to the subsequent versions.

That ye may grow thereby unto salvation … The doctrinal force of this is significant. This indicates that salvation is a mature state, not something achieved "per saltum" (at a leap) at conversion.(F7)

Without guile … This is rendered "sincere," which is true, but one of the meanings of it is "unadulterated."(F8)

Spiritual … Paul used this in Romans 12:1, where it means "reasonable," or pertaining to the reason. It should be noted that it is not the word of God mixed with human additives that enables people to grow unto salvation; but it is the pure word of God. As Macknight put it, "The milk of the word will not nourish the divine nature in those who use it, if it is adulterated with human mixtures."(F9)

Verse 3

if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious:

In this verse from Psalms 34, Peter applied to the Lord Jesus the great Old Testament word for God, "the Lord." The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 6:4-5) also mentioned "tasting" as a metaphor of understanding and appropriating to one’s own needs the word of God. As Mason said, "This gives quite a new complexion to the 34th Psalm,"(F10) applying it as a prophecy of Jesus Christ. The Psalm is also quoted again in 1 Peter 3:10. It is also quite evident that the metaphor of Christ as the bread of life (John 6:35) lies behind the thinking of the apostle in this verse. The "if" which stands at the head of the verse, as frequently in the New Testament, "has reference to a fact, rather than to a condition."(F11)

Verse 4

unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious,

Peter here combined the thought of Isaiah 28:16 ff; Isaiah 8:14 ff, and Ps. 122:18 in his presentation of Christ the Stone, living, elect, foundation, precious, rejected, the chief corner, and the stone of stumbling, in one of the most beautiful metaphors of the word of God. For a full discussion of this, see in my Commentary on Romans, pp. 352-357. It must surely be true, as Barclay said, that Peter could hardly have spoken of Jesus in this manner without thinking of Jesus’ words to himself,"(F12) "On this rock I will build my church, etc." (Matthew 16:13 ff); and yet Peter, in this passage, made no connection with his own person, stressing the view that Christ is the foundation, not Peter. He did not use either of the words [@Petros] or [@petra], but "spoke of Christ as the [@lithos]."(F13)

A living stone … This is an appropriate metaphor for Christ who is the Lord of life. He is the eternally living one. "Rejected indeed of men …" Jesus Christ the Messiah was the true and only foundation of this spiritual temple; but he did not fit the designs and purposes of the "builders" in Jerusalem who found him totally unsuitable for any use at all in the building they had in mind; therefore, they rejected him. Really, this should have been expected, because their concept of a temple for God was precisely like that of the idol temples which filled the world of that era, namely, a pile of stone, timber and gold. The idea of such an edifice being in any real sense God’s temple was a human conceit from the very inception of it. See article on the True Temple, below.

But with God, elect … The purpose of building a spiritual temple upon the Lord Jesus Christ was God’s purpose from the beginning. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). It was of Christ and the spiritual temple "in him" that Nathan spoke to David (2 Samuel 7:13); and in the light of that promise, it is clear enough that even the temple of Solomon was not God’s plan for a temple. It was David’s idea, not God’s; God never gave a pattern for the building of it, as he did the tabernacle; and, if it had been truly God’s temple, God would never have destroyed it.

Precious … The ASV margin gives "honorable" as an alternate reading, the idea being that all honor and glory are due to Jesus Christ who is the cornerstone and foundation of God’s true temple. The contrast is between the worthless status accorded Jesus by the Pharisees, who found no use at all for him in their plans, and the fact of our Lord’s being God’s most precious and only begotten Son.

The great prophecies of Isaiah which formed the background of the apostle’s thought here, and which he would immediately quote, foretold, "The formation of the Christian church, for the spiritual worship of God, under the image of a temple, which God would build on Messiah as a foundation-stone thereof."(F14) Both the foundation stone of Isaiah 28:16 and the rejected keystone of Psalms 118:22 are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. "He is both the Foundation on which the church is built and the Keystone into whom it grows up."(F15)

Of that collection of Old Testament texts Peter was about to quote, Hart wrote, "This collection of texts can be traced back through Romans 9:32 f to its origin in the saying of Mark 12:10 f";(F16) but such a view is totally wrong. The conception of Christ as the Stone goes back to the Saviour himself (Matthew 21:42 f). That Peter who had heard the Lord use this very figure would have needed to borrow it from either Paul or Mark (who received practically all of his information from Peter!) is one of the little conceits of New Testament critics which true students of the New Testament view as preposterous. Long before this epistle was written, Peter had himself also used the same figure of the chief corner set at naught by "you builders" (the Jewish hierarchy) (Acts 4:11).

Verse 5

ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Ye also, as living stones … The figure of the spiritual temple of God is continued in this; just as Christ is the living stone, so also are the Christians. And why "living"? Because the Lord is the living One, and the life-giving One, the same yesterday, today, and forever. As members of Christ’s spiritual body, Christians partake of the same nature as their Lord, and they too are "living stones," endowed with a measure of the Spirit which shall raise them up at the last day. Nicholson was correct in seeing here a contrast between a spiritual temple of born-again believers with the stone temple in Jerusalem."(F17)

The words "living stone" and "living stones" are to be understood as "distinguishing the Christian church, the spiritual temple of God, both from the temples of the idols and the temple in Jerusalem, which were built of dead materials."(F18) It is not enough, then, to see the spiritual temple of God, which is the church, as merely attaining a higher glory than the Jewish temple; the true temple is of a totally different kind, the same being the only kind God ever wanted.

Are built up a spiritual house … It is important to note that house here bears its ecclesiastical sense of temple. Jesus himself used the word in that same sense when he declared, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). In this statement, Peter gave the same teaching that Paul gave, who said, "Ye are a temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16 f), and "being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 3:20).


This was never the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. True, God permitted that temple to be built and accommodated himself to it in exactly the same manner as he did the secular kingdom of the Jews; but neither that secular kingdom nor the temple was ever, in any sense, a fulfillment of God’s will. It was the rejection of God’s government that led to the formation of the secular kingdom (1 Samuel 8:7); and it was the rejection of the tabernacle that led to the building of the temple (2 Samuel 7:13).

That this is true regarding the temple is apparent from a number of considerations.

(a) It is called in Scripture Solomon’s Temple, and that is exactly what it was; and who was Solomon? He was a debauchee whose life was the scandal of ten generations. As the martyr Stephen sarcastically put it, "Solomon built him a house" (Acts 7:47); that remark coming after Stephen had just recounted all the glories of Israel that had come to them while they were worshipping in the tabernacle, "even as God appointed," a tabernacle that had been constructed after the pattern that God gave Moses; and it was followed by the key declaration that "The Most High dwelleth not in houses (temples) made with hands." Did God dwell in Solomon’s temple? Of course not.

(b) Every statement Jesus ever made concerning the temple corroborates this view. "My house (the true temple) shall be called a house of prayer; but ye made it a den of robbers" (Matthew 21:13). "Behold your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). "Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise" (John 2:16). This is not an endorsement of the temple as God’s house, but a condemnation of their house of merchandise. Matthew has, "Jesus entered into the temple of God"; but even if the text is valid the passage must be understood as Matthew’s use of a common popular name for Solomon’s temple (rebuilt by Herod the Great); but as the margin indicates (ASV), "Many ancient authorities omit of God."

(c) The very idea of building a temple for God was David’s idea, not God’s (2 Samuel 7): and Nathan’s prophecy that after David’s death one of his seed should rise up after him and build God a house, whose kingdom would be established for ever (2 Samuel 7:13), refers to the kingdom of Christ and the true spiritual temple of which Peter was writing in this passage. The whole chapter reveals that any thought of a secular temple was no part of God’s purpose.

(d) When the apostles and elders in Jerusalem sent out that letter to the churches, they quoted Amos 9:11-12, which records God’s promise of rebuilding again "the fallen tabernacle," not the ruined temple.

(e) All of the typical material in the book of Hebrews has reference to the tabernacle, not to the Solomonic and Herodian temples. While true enough that the temple had been constructed after the general pattern of the tabernacle, the writer of Hebrews ignored it (Hebrews 9:2), which under the circumstances is tremendously significant.

(f) God permitted the destruction of the Solomonic temple, which he would not have done had it been God’s true temple. The Herodian temple, which in time replaced it, was also destroyed by divine flat, Christ himself pronouncing the doom of it, and decreeing that "not one stone shall be left on top of another" (Matthew 24:2), an inconceivable fate if that temple had indeed been the true house of God.

(g) The early church found the Jewish temple to be the center of enmity and hatred against the church. It was the masters of the temple who bribed witnesses to lie about the resurrection of Christ; they imprisoned, beat and threatened the holy apostles; they forbade them to preach in the name of Christ; and, as for the character of the temple establishment, it was as corrupt as anything that history records.

(h) The apostle Paul, upon his conversion, went to the temple; and while there he saw a vision of the Lord, but the Lord commanded him to get out of the temple and even out of the city of Jerusalem (Acts 22:17 ff); but Paul had difficulty understanding this, and seemed to think that something could still be accomplished in the temple. Although expressly forbidden to go back to the city of Jerusalem (Acts 21:4), Paul, through some misunderstanding of the Spirit’s message, even though it was reinforced by the entreaties of Luke (Acts 21:12), nevertheless went to Jerusalem and even into the temple, where, except for God’s repeated intervention, he would have suffered death. The temple establishment organized a mob to slay Paul; through the duplicity and reprobacy of the high priest himself, they set up a phony trial in the hope of assassinating him; a group of brigands under the direction of the high priest bound themselves with an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had slain Paul. After those wicked events, there is never any record of any child of God subsequently entering that temple again; but it was tragic that they were compelled to learn the hard way the truth that Jesus had spoken, namely, that the temple was a "den of thieves and robbers."

(i) It was the secular temple that, more than anything else, blinded Israel to the recognition of the Messiah. Jesus plainly spoke of himself as the true temple, even from the first: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19); and "One greater than the temple is here" (Matthew 12:6); but the religious leaders were so blinded by their own ideas of a temple that they were never able to understand the nature of that holy institution which Jesus came to establish. It was Stephen’s stress of the spiritual nature of the true temple that unleashed the full fury of the temple mob against himself and which issued in his martyrdom.

(j) The fundamental error of David himself in planning to build God a temporal house was evidently the same identical error that led to the formation of the secular kingdom, i.e., the desire to be like the nations around him. There were great idol temples all over the world in David’s day; and, in the last analysis, Solomon’s temple was exactly like all the rest of the human temples, a beautiful edifice enshrining the nation’s vanity, and controlled by an unscrupulous band of pirates.

To be a holy priesthood … The original purpose of God was that all of the Israelites should be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6); and the subsequent development of a special priestly class came about as a result of the weakness and sins of the people. God’s purposes are eternal; and therefore the same goal of having a "holy nation" a "kingdom of priests" still prevails. The priesthood of every believer in Christ (that is, obedient believers) is evident in a statement like this. This conception is also in the book of Hebrews and in Revelation 1:6, where it is written that God made Christians to be a "kingdom and priests unto God." It should be noted especially that it is a "holy" priesthood to which Christians are ordained. All wickedness must be put away, stripped off, renounced by all who would participate in the priesthood mentioned here.

To offer up spiritual sacrifices … This is a continuation of the thought, in which the type of sacrifices to be offered by God’s nation of priests is given, i.e., "spiritual" sacrifices. A closer look at this is necessary.


Under the old law, sacrifices were dead, bloody, burned with fire, smeared with fat, carnal, temporal, and salted with salt (Leviticus 2:13; Mark 12:49). By contrast, in the church, sacrifices are spiritual, living, clean, pure, holy, and acceptable to God. They are described as "better sacrifices" (Hebrews 9:23).

Although Christians must offer sacrifices to God, such are always "lesser sacrifices," the one true, great and efficacious sacrifice already having been offered, namely, Christ himself. "Now once at the end of the ages hath he (Christ) been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26). This was the "one sacrifice for ever" (Hebrews 10:12). Christ’s blood alone is the blood of the everlasting covenant (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 13:20; Hebrews 10:29).

Nevertheless, there are sacrifices which God’s holy nation of the new Israel, which is the church, must now offer according to the will of God. And what are these?

(a) Our faith is our sacrifice. "Even if I am to be poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all" (Philippians 2:17).

(b) The love of God is our sacrifice. "And to love … is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33).

(c) Our repentance is our sacrifice. "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; and say unto him, take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; and so will we render the calves of our lips" (Hosea 14:2). It is safe to assume that if repentance, even under the old covenant, was a "sacrifice," so it still is.

(d) Our confession of faith in Christ is a sacrifice. "Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips which make confession to his name … with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:15-16).

(e) Our baptism into Christ is our sacrifice. "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service" (Romans 12:1). See also Hebrews 10:19-22.

(f) Our praise of God is our sacrifice. "Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise unto God, that is, the fruit of our lips" (Hebrews 13:15). There are also important Old Testament glimpses of this same truth. "Bringing sacrifices of praise unto the house of God" (Jeremiah 17:26). "Sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving and declare his works with rejoicing" (Psalms 107:22; Ps. 116:117).

(g) Our contributions are our sacrifices. Paul spoke of having received a contribution brought by Epaphoditus thus, "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18).

(h) Our songs are our sacrifice. "Singing with grace in your hearts unto God" (Colossians 3:16). By virtue of these songs being "unto God," they are understood as sacrifices.

(i) Our prayers are our sacrifices. "Having golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints" (Revelation 5:8). "My name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen" (Malachi 1:11).

(j) The whole life of honor and love on the part of devoted Christians is their sacrifice. Paul wrote, "I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Timothy 4:6). "Even as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell" (Ephesians 5:2).

Faith, love of God, repentance, confession, baptism, praises, contributions, songs, prayers and a total life of devotion — these are our sacrifices; no wonder they are called "better sacrifices."

Those sacrifices in view in the above passages did not easily lend themselves to the type of exploitation so dear to the Jewish temple concessioners, and the inevitable result was a bitter hatred of the new faith. Mason observed that "The substitution of something else in lieu of the Jewish temple was one of the greatest stumblingblocks to the Hebrews from the very first."(F19) However, it was not the true spiritual temple which was "substituted for" the Jewish temple, but that temple itself had been "substituted for" the true temple God had promised.

Acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … "Through Christ alone are these spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. They are offered through Christ, and only through him."(F20)

Verses 6-8

Because it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

Behold I lay in Zion … Zion is the poetic name for Jerusalem; and "The laying of this precious cornerstone in Zion for a foundation signifies that the Christian church, the new temple of God, was to begin in Jerusalem."(F21)

A chief corner stone … The type of stone meant here is not the kind usually called by that name today. "It was the stone at the extremity of the angle which controls the design of the edifice and is visible."(F22) In the church, Christ is both the foundation stone (1 Corinthians 3:11) and the cornerstone.


In Christ, the Law of Moses ended; and the gospel began.

In Christ, the Old Testament culminated; and the New Testament began.

In Christ, all history split into B.C. and A.D.

In Christ, the wicked find their doom, and the saints find their salvation.

In Christ, the old Israel perished, and the new Israel began.

In Christ, the infinite past and the infinite future met.

In Christ, God and humanity came together.

In Christ, God’s humiliation and man’s glory united.

In Christ, the destiny of every man is turned, those on the right entering

his joy forever, and those on the left departing from his presence forever.

Elect, precious … See the comments on these expressions under 1 Peter 2:4. In this section of Isaiah, especially the 29th chapter which came in close connection with Peter’s quotation here, the destruction of Jerusalem is foretold and also the reprobacy of the Jewish leaders who changed the word of God by their traditions; therefore, "Peter’s quotation here is as much intended to show his Hebrew readers the sweeping away of the carnal Israel as to encourage them in their Christian allegiance."(F23) These passages cited by Peter, especially in their Old Testament context, show that "Even while the Mosaic service was in force, the Lord was planning on another one and made predictions concerning it."(F24) Scholars like to point out that Peter’s quotation of these passages is "from neither the Hebrew nor the Septuagint (LXX) versions of the Old Testament, some supposing it to have been quoted from memory."(F25) However, in our studies of the Pauline letters, it became clear that the inspired writers often combined Old Testament passages with their familiar phraseology to express new truth not always evident in the "quotations" cited in the Old Testament; but it should never be forgotten that the apostles of Jesus were as fully inspired (and more) than any of the Old Testament writers, and that their words, therefore, are true Scripture in the highest sense of that word, and that it is a sin to charge the New Testament writers either with "faulty" quotations from the Old Testament, or a "fallible" memory.

"And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame … In view here is the eternal shame which attaches to the Jewish nation for the rejection of the Messiah, the shame being simply this: the very Christ whom they contemptuously rejected was chosen by God to be the head of the new Israel; and the Father gave him "a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9). On the other hand, fidelity to Christ brings honor and glory to the believer, since he partakes of the honor and glory of Christ himself.

For you therefore that believe is the preciousness … All honors and benefits are denied to unbelievers. Only the Christian shares the joy of redemption in Christ Jesus.

The stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner … It should be pointed out that this famous line is founded upon an actual event. In the building of Solomon’s temple, the first stone that came down from the quarry was very remarkably shaped, having been marked and cut at the quarry. The builders of the temple did not know what to do with it, and it was dragged to a place apart and became finally hidden by debris and rubbish. "It was afterward found to be that on which the completeness of the structure depended, the chief corner stone where the two walls met and were bonded together."(F26)

There were many providences in the building of the Jewish temple, despite the fact of its being a departure, really, from the will of God; just as there were also many wonderful providences and miracles connected with the secular kingdom, which also was not really the will of God; and surely, this incident of the rejected cornerstone must be one of such wonders. It is the perfect illustration of how the "builders," the Jewish hierarchy, rejected the true and only head of all holy religion. Peter was fond of this illustration and told the Sadducees to their face that they were the "builders" who had rejected the chief corner stone (Acts 4:11). In this passage, Peter extended the application to include all unbelievers as partakers of the same blame that pertained to the "builders." Macknight’s paraphrase of this verse is:

To you therefore who believe is this honor of being built on him, and of not being ashamed. But to the disobedient is the dishonor written (Psalms 118:22): the stone which the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner of God’s temple.(F27)

A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence … Some have been puzzled by Peter’s putting these two passages from the Psalms and Isaiah together, exactly as Paul did in Romans, and have therefore supposed Peter’s dependence on Paul; but such a device is both erroneous and unnecessary. Peter was present no doubt and heard the Lord Jesus Christ himself put the two passages together in exactly the same manner as here (Luke 20:17-18). Therefore, neither Peter nor Paul was dependent upon the other, their teachings, as in the case of all the sacred writers, going back to Christ himself, the fountain source of the entire New Testament.

See in my Commentary on Romans, p. 356, for full discussion of the metaphor of Christ the Living Stone.

The particular application of "stumbling stone" as a figure of Christ is that of comparing him to a heavy stone blocking a path or road that people travel, resulting in their stumbling and falling. Christ, as the aged Simeon prophesied, was "set for the falling and rising of many in Israel" (Luke 2:34). People, through their pride, stumble at the lowly birth of the Saviour and at the humility of his followers, the stern morality of his teachings, and his sharp exposure of their sins.

For they stumble at the word, being disobedient … There is much to commend the viewpoint of Macknight on this place, who wrote, "Peter does not mean that they stumbled at the preached word, but against Christ himself, one of whose titles is the Word (John 1:1)."(F28)

Whereunto also they were appointed … This does not mean that God foreordained, or appointed certain individuals to fall; but it means that God has finally and irrevocably appointed all disobedient souls to stumble. When the proud hierarchy of the ancient Israel refused to believe in Christ, they thereby thrust themselves under the blanket indictment of all unbelievers; and they fell, as God had ordained and appointed all unbelievers to fall. The indictment still stands, and unbelievers still incur the wrath of God through their unbelief.

Verse 9

But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

Here are repeated one after another all of the glorious titles which once belonged exclusively to the old Israel, the Hebrews, the children of Abraham; but here Peter trumpeted the bestowal of all those titles upon the new Israel, now no longer restricted to those of Abrahamic descent, but available to Jew and Gentile alike "in Christ Jesus." Peter had already cautioned his readers (1 Peter 2:5) to be what they were supposed to be, and to show the kind of life and character that would be pleasing to God, thus warning them to avoid the mistake of the old Israel who had failed so spectacularly in that very duty.

An elect race … Just as the living stone was elect, so are the living stones who make up his spiritual body; but they are not elect in their own right, being elect "in Christ." It is true of the elect, no less than of the disobedient, that they are "appointed" unto their destiny. This means that God has predestined and appointed all who shall be found in Christ to eternal glory; but people come under the benefits of such an appointment only when they are baptized into Christ and are "found in him" at last (Revelation 14:13).

A royal priesthood … Jesus Christ is the true king, and therefore those "in Christ" are a royal priesthood, being themselves also, through their union with Christ, in a sense, even "kings" (Revelation 1:6).

A holy nation … Nothing can diminish the obligation of Christians to be in fact what their lawful title implies, i.e., a truly "holy" nation. It is the absolute and invariable necessity of this that underlies the oft-repeated dictum in the word of God to the effect that people shall be judged "according to their works," as Peter, Paul, Jesus and all of the New Testament writers declared over and over again.

A people for God’s own possession … In the old versions this was translated "a peculiar people"; but in time the expression came to mean "odd" or "queer," and is thus better rendered as here. "The phrase literally means `a people for (God’s) possession.’"(F29) There is also a meaning of "especially, for his very own" in the words.

That ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you … "Show forth" comes from a word "used nowhere else in the New Testament,"(F30) and has the meaning of "to tell out," or "to tell forth." It presupposes that every Christian is automatically an evangelist so full of the knowledge of the excellencies of God that he is compelled to tell it forth to all with whom he comes in contact. Note too that Christians are not saved for themselves, and their own sake only, but for the purpose of enlisting as many other souls as possible in the service of our excellent God. It was precisely here that the ancient Israel failed wretchedly. Hugging to themselves the precious promises of God, they made no real effort to extend to the Gentiles any saving knowledge of the Lord, coming more and more to despise the very nations they were commissioned to enlighten. God grant that his holy church shall not founder and sink upon this same shoal.

Out of darkness … There is an indication here that many of Peter’s readers were converts to Christ from heathenism, for such is the usual import of the word.

Into his marvelous light … The marvelous light of God, in its fullness, is unapproachable (1 Timothy 6:16); and yet it is into that very light that we are called. The children of God are children of the light, or the day; and the sons of the evil one are children of darkness.

Verse 10

who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

The sweep of the paragraph concluded here is infinite. The vast dimensions of the love of God and of his overflowing mercy to all people, even to those who had fallen into shame and debauchery, are as wide as heaven and earth. The same outflowing love for the Gentile converts which marks much of the Pauline writings is also in evidence here. The "no people" are now the people of God; and the people without mercy have now received it through Christ. How marvelous indeed is such wonderful love.

By Peter’s use of no people" in this verse, it should be concluded that Peter’s letter was to Christians of Gentile origin. Mason pointed out that "no people" also refers to all, regardless of race, who are in rebellion against God, and that it is quite obvious that Peter was writing to Christians of both Jewish and Gentile origins who were then "one new man in Christ."

Verse 11

Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

Beloved … This term of endearment carries with it a certain feeling of concern and pity, for no one knew any better than Peter the fury of the gathering storm that was so soon to break over the defenseless heads of the Christians.

I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims … Like the overture to a great opera which gathers the dominating strains of the whole production, these words suggest the tragedy that lies so close at hand. "These words, when compared with Psalms 39:12, Septuagint (LXX), from which Peter drew them, prepare for the description of distress which is to follow."(F31) For more comment on "sojourners," see under 1 Pet. 2:1:1. The word "pilgrim" means primarily, "one who journeys."

Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul … There ar two reasons assigned in this verse to support the renunciation of fleshly lusts: (1) the readers are sojourners, and (2) the lusts make war against the soul. The metaphor of warfare is an apt one for the Christian life. That life is a constant struggle against many enemies, both within and without. The social order itself is basically hostile to Christianity, and the inward desires of the flesh and of the mind also constantly tend to erode spirituality.

Verse 12

having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles; that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

The winning of acceptance in a hostile environment is here held forth as the motivation for righteous behavior in the midst of the alien Gentile population.

They speak against you as evil-doers … Already, despite the fact of the first great Roman persecution being yet a little while in the future, there were widespread antagonisms vented against Christians in the form of every kind of slander and reproach. Why? The Christians were the noblest, purest and most lovable people ever to appear on earth, and yet they were hated. Why? "Christianity by its very essence opposed the vanities of paganism at every turn."(F32) Like ancient Noah, the very purity of their behavior "condemned the world" (Hebrews 11:7), and that was reason enough for the world’s hatred. There was a double source of hatred for Christians, their model demeanor being one, and their also being widely confused with the Jews another. The Jews themselves were hated and expelled from Rome in apostolic times, and many vile slanders against them were circulated in connection with such displacements. Many of the people identified Christianity as a form of Judaism and therefore transferred to them the existing hatred of the Jews. Regarding the nature of slanders against the church, Barclay pointed out that:

They were accused of cannibalism …, this took its rise from a perversion of the words of Jesus, "This is my body … this is my blood, etc." They were accused of killing and eating a child at their feasts.

They were accused of immorality and incest. The famed Agape, or love feast, was misrepresented as a sensual orgy.

They were accused of turning slaves against their masters.

They were accused of "hatred of mankind."

They were accused of disloyalty to Caesar, due to their refusal to worship the emperor.(F33)

By your good works which they behold … "The good works here were not what are commonly called acts of benevolence."(F34) The thing which the non-Christian beheld was the beautiful moral conduct of the Christians, emphasized by their adamant refusal to indulge in the sensualities of paganism.

May glorify God … Peter had learned his lesson at the Master’s feet, because Christ himself taught this same principle in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:16).

In the day of visitation … Whether the day here is understood as the final judgment, or some time of future conversion, it yields the same basic meaning; because "The glorification of God on the day of judgment would presuppose their previous conversion."(F35)

As Barclay said of this verse:

Here is our challenge and our inspiration. It is by the loveliness of our daily life and conduct that we must commend Christianity to those who do not believe,(F36)

Verse 13

Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well.

Be subject … This means "submit, or obey"; and "It is the key word in this epistle, occurring here and in 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5; 1 Peter 3:22, and in 1 Peter 5:5, six times in all."(F37)

To every ordinance of man … Macknight translated this "to every human creation of magistrates,"(F38) making it clear that Peter rejected the sophistry of the zealots who maintained that obedience was due only to those magistrates appointed by God. Yes, it is human governments which Peter here commanded Christians to obey. This command is not absolute, as the next phrase indicates.

For the Lord’s sake … Jesus is still Lord; and under certain circumstances, Peter himself affirmed that "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Whether to the king, as supreme … One might have expected Peter to say, "to the emperor, as supreme," but the meaning is the same.

By "the king" is meant the Roman emperor, who was frequently so described by the Greek writers. Nero was emperor when St. Peter wrote. Christians were to obey even him, wicked tyrant as he was; for his power was given him from above, as the Lord himself had said of Pilate (John 19:11).(F39)

The existence of human governments is here revealed to be of God; and this is not hard to understand when the alternative chaos that would ensue without them is contemplated. Even the worst of governments is better than none at all. For full discussion of the Christian and the state, see in my Commentary on Romans, pp. 447-450.

Or unto governors, as sent by him … Actually in Rome at the time of Peter’s writing, the emperor was the only actual ruler, the many governors of the provinces being no more than deputies whose authority and tenure were subject absolutely to the whim of the current Caesar. Among such governors mentioned in the New Testament were Pilate, Felix, and Festus.

For vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well … This states the general purpose of human governments and may not be understood as a declaration that the governors sent by Nero were scrupulous to observe such guidelines.

Verse 15

For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

So is the will of God … refers to the institution and continuity of human governments.

That by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men … There is a charge in this that the slanders of the Christians were grounded in the ignorance and foolishness of their accusers; but there is a definite culpability both in such ignorance and in such foolishness. "In the Bible, `foolish’ is often used in the sense of evil-disposed or wicked."(F40) Also, the kind of ignorance that repeats a vicious slander without checking the truth of it is likewise reprehensible.

Put to silence … "The original word here properly signifies to muzzle a beast, to hinder it from eating, or from biting."(F41) Peter’s method of doing this, of course, was that of doing so by righteous conduct. As Barnes said, "One of the best ways of meeting the accusations of our enemies is to lead a life of strict integrity. It is not easy for the wicked to reply to this argument."(F42)

Is our situation with reference to government today any different from that when Peter penned his epistle? There is, of course, the principle that in a democratic society, the people themselves are those who govern; and there is a vast difference in that. The difference, however, still does not license illegal and rebellious behavior against the duly constituted authorities. The great practical difference is that a Christian should actively participate in the affairs of his government. Agreement is felt with Barclay who said that "It is tragic that so few Christians really fulfill their obligation to the state and the society in which they live."(F43)

Verse 16

as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God.

"The meaning of this verse is that Christian freedom must show itself, not in license, but in willing obedience to constituted authorities."(F44) It has been supposed by some that a few Christians might actually have vaunted a freedom contrary to these words, claiming to be above the state and speaking contemptuously of human governments. Such an attitude of course would have further antagonized and aroused their enemies. Mason warned that no Christian "should mistake the nature of his Christian liberty so as to dream of an exemption from obedience either to God or man."(F45) It is evident that there are many today who have done exactly that, even claiming that it is not necessary or essential for them to obey even God!

Verse 17

Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

It is perhaps best to understand this verse in two parts: (1) honor all men, but go much further than this and love the brotherhood particularly, and (2) fear God first, and in all that is consistent with the fear of God, honor the king. It appears that "fear God," standing just ahead of "honor the king," has some qualification in it with reference to the latter command. It is much like the Saviour’s admonition to "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s" (Matthew 22:11).

Honor all men … This is a difficult commandment, but no more so than Paul’s admonition for every man to "count others better than himself’ (Philippians 2:3). See comment on this under that reference in my Commentary on Philippians. Every man is entitled to honor because of one trait or another.

Love the brotherhood … Paul also commanded the same thing (Galatians 6:10). The Greek term for "brotherhood" which Peter used here and in 1 Peter 5:9 occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.(F46)

Fear God … The beginning of all spiritual wisdom is in this (Proverbs 6:7); and the commandment is actually a short form of the entire duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Verse 18

Servants be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

In subjection to your masters … Peter’s instructions here are in full harmony with Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians and the Colossians (Ephesians 5:6 ff; Colossians 3:22 ff). "The sacred writers use language of studied moderation, carefully avoiding any expressions which might be regarded as exciting to violence or revolutionary outbreaks."(F47) Of course, Christianity was squarely opposed to the institution of slavery; but there were considerations of the most weighty nature that forbade any such thing as a campaign against it. Such an attack would have intensified the persecutions coming upon the church; and equally important is the fact that any overt championship of the cause of the slaves would have promptly inundated the church with a whole army of unregenerated persons, seeking not Christ, but their freedom from slavery. It was Christ’s purpose to change the world, but not with dynamite; the holy faith acts as leaven.

But also to the froward … Peter took into account the two kinds of slavemasters, the good and the bad, cautioning the slaves to give loyal and true service to both kinds, because that was God’s will. Up to here, Peter had only vaguely mentioned the suffering coming upon the church, but in this he passed to "a class who were (already) sufferers indeed, the slaves of the household."(F48) "Froward is an archaic English word that has a literal meaning of crooked, perverse, unreasonable, or cross-grained."(F49) Even such wicked masters were to be honored and faithfully served by the Christians who were slaves.

Verse 19

For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully.

If for conscience toward God … "This comes from a Greek phrase which means awareness of God.(F50) The point of its inclusion here is that of forbidding the notion that patient suffering is in itself pleasing to God, which is not the case at all, "unless it is grounded on consciousness of God’s presence."(F51)

Endureth griefs … This is a reference to the cruel, and even inhumane, sadistic treatment the slaves of that era often received from their masters. They had no legal rights whatever; they could be beaten, maimed, burned with fire, or tortured in any manner that a wicked imagination might suggest. Griefs indeed! No class of people on earth ever suffered any more than the unhappy slaves who constituted the working capital of the ancient pagan world. What an achievement for Christianity that such a scourge was finally banished.

Verse 20

For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

This is another verse in this epistle which carries the true hallmark of consonance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, who in the Beatitudes blessed, not those who were persecuted, but those who were persecuted "for righteousness sake" (Matthew 5:10), there being no honor for those who, through their own sins, might have been persecuted. Matthew 5:11 also carries the same qualification regarding the blessing of those who are reproached "falsely."

Verse 21

For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps:

This and the following four verses are some of the noblest Scripture in all the Bible. In these five verses, there are no less than six references to Christ as the Suffering Servant, as depicted in Isaiah 53. It is just what should have been expected from the apostle who so boldly identified Jesus as "God’s Servant Jesus" (Acts 3:13).

Hereunto were ye called … Christ suffered vicariously for all people; and it is incumbent upon his followers that they should not shrink from any duty because of any suffering that might be incurred. There is also the thought here that, just as slaves were obligated to obey their masters, so Christians are also obligated to obey Christ.

Leaving you an example … "The word from which `example’ comes is found nowhere else in the New Testament";(F52) and the meaning of it is very similar to words translated "figure" in Acts 7:44 and "pattern" in Hebrews 8:5. The word is [@hupogrammos], and means "a writing copy,"(F53) that is, a pattern for a copybook. This is therefore a valuable witness for existence of a heavenly pattern, not merely for the building of the church and the ordering of its worship, government and program, but also for the behavior and life-style of Christians as well.

Verse 22

who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

The absolute sinlessness of our Lord is affirmed by this. Jesus, despite the perfection of his life, suffered; and the thought. for the slaves is that even if they could be sinless, there would still be occasions of suffering. And how shall the soul endure such injustice? By remembering that the Sinless One also suffered for us.

Verse 23

who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

This is a further deployment upon the sacred page of the beautiful and sinless character of the Saviour. Any person familiar with the Passion of Jesus can visualize what Peter related here. In fact the very words Peter wrote seem to have a suggestion of eyewitness testimony; and this is natural, coming from Peter who was indeed an eyewitness of those very things.

Committed himself unto him that judgeth righteously … Interestingly enough, the Douay Version translates this, "Committed himself to him that judgeth unrighteously," making the meaning to be that Jesus submitted himself to the judgment of Pilate. While true enough, in a sense, the thought is better in our version; because, although Jesus submitted to Pilate’s judgment, he did so in the full realization that Pilate had no power but from above (John 19:11). Of interest also is the marginal reading "his cause" instead of "himself that was committed. As a matter of fact, Jesus committed both himself and his cause to God.

Verse 24

who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.

See under 1 Peter 2:25 for a list of references here to Isaiah 53. Scripture could not state more plainly the great redemptive offering of Christ for our sins on the cross. There was a time when Peter himself resented this (Matthew 16:22), but how gloriously he had learned his lesson.

In what way did Christ bear our sins? He bore the consequence of our sin, which is death itself; he suffered separation, though briefly, from the presence of God; he was numbered with transgressors; and they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death. He endured a lifetime of exposure to the outrageous opposition of evil and unscrupulous men. How have we died to sins? See note 1, at end of chapter.

By whose stripes ye were healed … What kind of holy medicine is this, in which the physician pays the price and the sufferer receives the healing! Jesus, of course, was chastised literally; his precious body was marked with the stripes that redeemed us.

Verse 25

For ye were going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

The two titles, Shepherd and Bishop, are here applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. One can only marvel that a scholar like Barclay would ascribe these titles as being referred here to God. He said, "These are two precious names for God."(F54) Jesus himself said, "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:14), appropriating the title in such a manner as to affirm his Godhead, without giving the Pharisees any excuse for charging him with sedition. Furthermore, no other title of Jesus our Lord ever so completely captured the hearts and imaginations of the primitive church in exactly the same manner as did this one:

There is no symbol upon which the early church seems to have dwelt with more delight than that of Christ as the Good Shepherd, bringing home to the fold the lost sheep. It was engraved on gems; it furnished the legends of seals; it gives today an almost fabulous value to fragments of broken glass; it was painted upon the chalice of the Holy Communion; and it was carved upon the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs!(F55)

There can really, therefore, be no other way of understanding these two magnificent titles than as being ascribed here to the blessed Saviour.

Bishop … This word has none of the ecclesiastical overtones that afterward became associated with the word, indicating a date around the middle of the first century, and denying the success of those who have vainly attempted to remove 1 Peter from its rightful historical place.

One of the truly great things in these remarkable last five verses of the chapter is the correspondence of the whole paragraph with the Suffering Servant portion of Isaiah. We are indebted to Hunter for this analysis of it."(F56)

1 Peter 2Isaiah 53
1 Peter 2:21, Christ suffered for us.Isaiah 53:4, He bears our sins.
1 Peter 2:22, He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.Isaiah 53:9, He did no sin, nor was guile in his mouth.
1 Peter 2:23, When reviled, he reviled not again.Isaiah 53:7, He opened not his mouth.
1 Peter 2:24 a, Who his own self bare our sins, etc.Isaiah 53:12, He bare the sins of many.
1 Peter 2:24 b, By whose stripes we are healed.Isaiah 53:5, By his stripes were we healed.
1 Peter 2:25, For ye were as sheep going astray.Isaiah 53:6. All we like sheep have gone astray.

Note 1. In 1 Peter 2:24, Peter mentioned the fact of Christians "having died unto sins"; and there are a number of things which are included in the meaning: (1) There is preeminently the fact that Christ paid for us the penalty of death, which was due; and, the penalty having already been paid, it is legally true that all Christians are dead to sin. Although his words here do not seem to be stressing this aspect of it, the whole context of the passage with its emphasis upon what Christ has done for us allows this meaning to come through. (2) Christians are also dead to sin as far as their purpose is concerned. The first impulse of the regenerated heart is the resolution to live above sin. Therefore, as regards the purpose of Christians toward sin, they are dead to sins. (3) As Macknight pointed out, from the viewpoint of the pagan world in which they lived, and in large measure the viewpoint of our own age, Christians are not available for the practice of sensuality, immorality and drunkenness expected of them in the secular society; and as far as that godless society is concerned, they are dead, being, to all practical purposes, dead to the popular practice of evil. (4) One thing that is not meant is any implication that Christians are no longer tempted by sin. Even Christ was tempted; and there is no state of sanctification or holiness which may be attained by a child of God that can free him from the temptations to which all flesh is heir.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-peter-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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