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This chapter may be divided into three parts:
I. An exhortation to those whom the apostle addressed, to lay aside all malice, and all guile, and to receive the simple and plain instructions of the word of God with the earnestness with which babies desire their appropriate food, 1 Peter 2:1-3. Religion reproduces the traits of character of children in those whom it influences, and they ought to regard themselves as new-born babes, and seek that kind of spiritual nutriment which is adapted to their condition as such.
II. The privileges which they had obtained by becoming Christians, while so many others had stumbled at the very truths by which they had been saved, 1 Peter 2:4-10;
- They had come to the Saviour, as the living stone on which the whole spiritual temple was founded, though others had rejected him; they had become a holy priesthood; they had been admitted to the privilege of offering true sacrifices, acceptable to God, 1 Peter 2:4-5.
- To them Christ was precious as the chief cornerstone, on which all their hopes rested, and on which the edifice that was to be reared was safe, though that foundation of the Christian hope had been rejected and disallowed by others, 1 Peter 2:6-8.
- They were now a chosen people, an holy nation, appointed to show forth on earth the praises of God, though formerly they were not regarded as the people of God, and were not within the range of the methods by which he was accustomed to show mercy, 1 Peter 2:9-10,
III. Various duties growing out of these privileges, and out of the various relations which they sustained in life, 1 Peter 2:11-25;
- The duty of living as strangers and pilgrims; of abstaining from all those fleshly lusts which war against the soul; and of leading lives of entire honesty in relation to the Gentiles, by whom they were surrounded, 1 Peter 2:11-12.
- The duty of submitting to civil rulers, 1 Peter 2:13-17.
- The duty of servants to submit to their masters, though their condition was a hard one in life, and they were often called to suffer wrongfully, 1 Peter 2:18-20.
- This duty was enforced on servants, and on all, from the example of Christ, who was more wronged than any others can be, and who yet bore all his sufferings with entire patience, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps, 1 Peter 2:21-25.
Wherefore laying aside - On the word rendered laying aside, see Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:8. The allusion is to putting off clothes; and the meaning is, that we are to cast off these things entirely; that is, we are no longer to practice them. The word “wherefore” (οὖν oun) refers to the reasonings in the first chapter. In view of the considerations stated there, we should renounce all evil.
All malice - All “evil,” (κακίαν kakian.) The word “malice” we commonly apply now to a particular kind of evil, denoting extreme enmity of heart, ill-will, a disposition to injure others without cause, from mere personal gratification, or from a spirit of revenge - Webster. The Greek word, however, includes evil of all kinds. See the notes at Romans 1:29. Compare Acts 8:22, where it is rendered wickedness, and 1 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Titus 3:3.
And all guile - Deceit of all kinds. See the Romans 1:29 note; 2 Corinthians 12:16 note; 1 Thessalonians 2:3 note.
And hypocrisies - See the 1 Timothy 4:2, note; Matthew 23:28; Galatians 2:13, on the word rendered dissimulation. The word means, feigning to be what we are not; assuming a false appearance of religion; cloaking a wicked purpose under the appearance of piety.
And envies - Hatred of others on account of some excellency which they have, or something which they possess which we do not. See the notes at Romans 1:29.
And all evil speaking - Greek: “speaking against others.” This word (καταλαλιὰ katalalia) occurs only here and in 2 Corinthians 12:20, where it is rendered “backbitings.” It would include all unkind or slanderous speaking against others. This is by no means an uncommon fault in the world, and it is one of the designs of religion to guard against it. Religion teaches us to lay aside whatever guile, insincerity, and false appearances we may have acquired, and to put on the simple honesty and openness of children. We all acquire more or less of guile and insincerity in the course of life. We learn to conceal our sentiments and feelings, and almost unconsciously come to appear different from what we really are. It is not so with children. In the child, every emotion of the bosom appears as it is. “Nature there works well and beautifully.” Every emotion is expressed; every feeling of the heart is developed; and in the cheeks, the open eye, the joyous or sad countenance, we know all that there is in the bosom, as certainly as we know all that there is in the rose by its color and its fragrance. Now, it is one of the purposes of religion to bring us back to this state, and to strip off all the subterfuges which we may have acquired in life; and he in whom this effect is not accomplished has never been converted. A man that is characteristically deceitful, cunning, and crafty, cannot be a Christian. “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 18:3.
As new-born babes - The phrase used here would properly denote those which were just born, and hence Christians who had just begun the spiritual life. See the word explained in the notes at 2 Timothy 3:15. It is not uncommon, in the Scriptures, to compare Christians with little children. See the notes at Matthew 18:3, for the reasons of this comparison. Compare the 1 Corinthians 3:2 note; Hebrews 5:12, Hebrews 5:14 notes.
Desire the sincere milk of the word - The pure milk of the word. On the meaning of the word “sincere,” see the notes at Ephesians 6:24. The Greek word here (ἄδολον adolon) means, properly, that which is without guile or falsehood; then unadulterated, pure, genuine. The Greek adjective rendered “of the word,” (λογικὸν logikon,) means properly rational, pertaining to reason, or mind; and, in the connection here with milk, means that which is adapted to sustain the soul. Compare the notes at Romans 12:1. There is no doubt that there is allusion to the gospel in its purest and most simple form, as adapted to be the nutriment of the new-born soul. Probably there are two ideas here; one, that the proper aliment of piety is simple truth; the other, that the truths which they were to desire were the more elementary truths of the gospel, such as would be adapted to those who were babes in knowledge.
That ye may grow thereby - As babes grow on their proper nutriment. Piety in the heart is susceptible of growth, and is made to grow by its proper aliment, as a plant or a child is, and will grow in proportion as it has the proper kind of nutriment. From this verse we may see:
(1) The reason of the injunction of the Saviour to Peter, to “feed his lambs,” Joh 21:15; 1 Peter 2:1-2. Young Christians strongly resemble children, babies; and they need watchful care, and kind attention, and appropriate aliment, as much as new-born infants do. Piety receives its form much from its commencement and the character of the whole Christian life will be determined in a great degree by the views entertained at first, and the kind of instruction which is given to those who are just entering on their Christian course. We may also see,
(2) That it furnishes evidence of conversion, if we have a love for the simple and pure truths of the gospel. It is evidence that we have spiritual life, as really as the desire of appropriate nourishment is evidence that an infant has natural life. The new-born soul loves the truth. It is nourished by it. It perishes without it. The gospel is just what it wants; and without that it could not live. We may also learn from this verse,
(3) That the truths of the gospel which are best adapted to that state, are those which are simple and plain. Compare Hebrews 5:12-14. It is not philosophy that is needed then; it is not the profound and difficult doctrines of the gospel; it is those elementary truths which lie at the foundation of all religion, and which can be comprehended by children. Religion makes everyone docile and humble as a child; and whatever may be the age at which one is converted, or whatever attainments he may have made in science, he relishes the same truths which are loved by the youngest and most unlettered child that is brought into the kingdom of God.
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious - Or rather, as Doddridge renders it, “Since you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” The apostle did not mean to express any doubt on the subject, but to state that, since they had had an experimental acquaintance with the grace of God, they should desire to increase more and more in the knowledge and love of him. On the use of the word “taste,” see the notes at Hebrews 6:4.
To whom coming - To the Lord Jesus, for so the word “Lord” is to be understood in 1 Peter 2:3. Compare the notes at Acts 1:24. The idea here is, that they had come to him for salvation, while the great mass of people rejected him. Others “disallowed” him, and turned away from him, but they had seen that he was the one chosen or appointed of God, and had come to him in order to be saved. Salvation is often represented as corning to Christ. See Matthew 11:28.
As unto a living stone - The allusion in this passage is to Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” See the notes at that passage. There may be also possibly an allusion to Psalms 118:22, “The stone which the builders disallowed is become the headstone of the corner.” The reference is to Christ as the foundation on which the church is reared. He occupied the same place in regard to the church which a foundation-stone does to the edifice that is reared upon it. Compare Matthew 7:24-25. See the Romans 9:33 note, and Ephesians 2:20-22 notes. The phrase “living stone” is however unusual, and is not found, I think, except in this place. There seems to be an incongruity in it, in attributing life to a stone, yet the meaning is not difficult to be understood. The purpose was not to speak of a temple, like that at Jerusalem, made up of gold and costly stones; but of a temple made up of living materials - of redeemed people - in which God now resides. In speaking of that, it was natural to refer to the foundation on which the whole rested, and to speak of that as corresponding to the whole edifice. It was all a living temple - a temple composed of living materials - from the foundation to the top. Compare the expression in John 4:10, “He would have given thee living water;” that is, water which would have imparted life to the soul. So Christ imparts life to the whole spiritual temple that is reared on him as a foundation.
Disallowed indeed of men - Rejected by them, first by the Jews, in causing him to be put to death; and then by all people when he is offered to them as their Saviour. See the notes at Isaiah 53:3.Psalms 118:22; “Which the builders refused.” Compare the Matthew 21:42 note; Acts 4:11 note.
But chosen of God - Selected by him as the suitable foundation on which to rear his church.
And precious - Valuable. The universe had nothing more valuable on which to rear the spiritual temple.
Ye also, as lively stones - Greek, “living stones.” The word should have been so rendered. The word lively with us now has a different meaning from living, and denotes “active, quick, sprightly.” The Greek word is the same as that used in the previous verse, and rendered living. The meaning is, that the materials of which the temple here referred to was composed, were living materials throughout. The foundation is a living foundation, and all the superstructure is compassed of living materials. The purpose of the apostle here is to compare the church to a beautiful temple - such as the temple in Jerusalem, and to show that it is complete in all its parts, as that was. It has within itself what corresponds with everything that was valuable in that. It is a beautiful structure like that; and as in that there was a priesthood, and there were real and acceptable sacrifices offered, so it is in the Christian church.
The Jews prided themselves much on their temple. It was a most costly and splendid edifice. It was the place where God was worshipped, and where he was supposed to dwell. It had an imposing service, and there was acceptable worship rendered there. As a new dispensation was introduced; as the tendency of the Christian system was to draw off the worshippers from that temple, and to teach them that God could be worshipped as acceptably elsewhere as at Jerusalem, John 4:21-23 as Christianity did not inculcate the necessity of rearing splendid temples for the worship of God; and as in fact the temple at Jerusalem was about to be destroyed forever, it was important to show that in the Christian church there might be found all that was truly beautiful and valuable in the temple at Jerusalem; that it had what corresponded to what was in fact most precious there, and that there was still a most magnificent and beautiful temple on the earth.
Hence, the sacred writers labor to show that all was found in the church that had made the temple at Jerusalem so glorious, and that the great design contemplated by the erection of that splendid edifice - the maintenance of the worship of God - was now accomplished in a more glorious manner than even in the services of that house. For there was a temple, made up of living materials, which was still the special dwelling-place of God on the earth. In that I temple there was a holy priesthood - for every Christian was a priest. In that temple there were sacrifices offered, as acceptable to God as in the former - for they were spiritual sacrifices, offered continually. These thoughts were often dwelt upon by the apostle Paul, and are here illustrated by Peter, evidently with the same design, to impart consolation to those who had never been permitted to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, and to comfort those Jews, now converted to Christianity, who saw that that splendid and glorious edifice was about to be destroyed. The special abode of God on the earth was now removed from that temple to the Christian church. The first aspect in which this is illustrated here is, that the temple of God was made up of “living stones;” that is, that the materials were not inanimate stones but endued with life, and so much more valuable than those employed in the temple at Jerusalem, as the soul is more precious than any materials of stone. There were living beings which composed that temple, constituting a more beautiful structure, and a more appropriate dwelling-place for God, than any edifice could be made of stone, however costly or valuable.
A spiritual house - A spiritual temple, not made of perishable materials, like that at Jerusalem net composed of matter, as that was, but made up of redeemed souls - a temple more appropriate to be the residence of one who is a pure spirit. Compare the Ephesians 2:19-22 notes, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 notes.
An holy priesthood - In the temple at Jerusalem, the priesthood appointed to minister there, and to offer sacrifices, constituted an essential part of the arrangement. It was important, therefore, to show that this was not overlooked in the spiritual temple that God was raising. Accordingly, the apostle says that this is amply provided for, by constituting “the whole body of Christians” to be in fact a priesthood. Everyone is engaged in offering acceptable sacrifice to God. The business is not entrusted to a particular class to be known as priests; there is not a particular portion to whom the name is to be especially given; but every Christian is in fact a priest, and is engaged in offering an acceptable sacrifice to God. See Romans 1:6; “And hath made us: kings and priests unto God.” The Great High Priest in this service is the Lord Jesus Christ, (see the Epistle to the Hebrews, passim) but besides him there is no one who sustains this office, except as it is borne by all the Christian members.
There are ministers, elders, pastors, evangelists in the church; but there is no one who is a priest, except in the general sense that all are priests - because the great sacrifice has been offered, and there is no expiation now to be made. The name priest, therefore should never be conferred on a minister of the gospel. It is never so given in the New Testament, and there was a reason why it should not be. The proper idea of a priest is one who offers sacrifice; but the ministers of the New Testament have no sacrifices to offer - the one great and perfect oblation for the sins of the world having been made by the Redeemer on the cross. To him, and him alone, under the New Testament dispensation, should the name priest be given, as it is uniformly in the New Testament, except in the general sense in which it is given to all Christians. In the Roman Catholic communion it is consistent to give the name “priest” to a minister of the gospel, but it is wrong to do it.
It is consistent, because they claim that a true sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ is offered in the mass. It is wrong, because that doctrine is wholly contrary to the New Testament, and is derogatory to the one perfect Oblation which has been once made for the sins of the world, and in conferring upon just one class of people a degree of importance and of power to which they have no claim, and which is so liable to abuse. But in a Protestant church it is neither consistent nor right to give the name “priest” to a minister of religion. The only sense in which the term can now be used in the Christian church is a sense in which it is applicable to all Christians alike - that they “offer the sacrifice of prayer and praise.”
To offer up spiritual sacrifices - Not bloody offerings, the blood of lambs and bullocks, but those which are the offerings of the heart - the sacrifices of prayer and praise. Since there is a priest, there is also involved the notion of a sacrifice; but that which is offered is such as all Christians offer to God, proceeding from the heart, and breathed forth from the lips, and in a holy life. It is called sacrifice, not because it makes an explation for sin, but because it is of the nature of worship. Compare the notes at Hebrews 13:15; Hebrews 10:14.
Acceptable to God by Jesus Christ - Compare the notes at Romans 12:1. Through the merits of the great sacrifice made by the Redeemer on the cross. Our prayers and praises are in themselves so imperfect, and proceed from such polluted lips and hearts, that they can be acceptable only through him as our intercessor before the throne of God. Compare the notes at Hebrews 9:24-25; Hebrews 10:19-22.
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture - Isaiah 28:16. The quotation is substantially as it is found in the Septuagint.
Behold, I lay in Sion - See the Isaiah 28:16 note, and Romans 9:33 note.
A chief cornerstone - The principal stone on which the corner of the edifice rests. A stone is selected for this which is large and solid, and, usually, one which is squared, and worked with care; and as such a stone is commonly laid with solemn ceremonies, so, perhaps, in allusion to this, it is here said by God that he would lay this stone at the foundation. The solemnities attending this were those which accompanied the great work of the Redeemer. See the word explained in the notes at Ephesians 2:20.
Elect - Chosen of God, or selected for this purpose, 1 Peter 2:4.
And he that believeth on him shall not be confounded - Shall not be ashamed. The Hebrew is, “shall not make haste.” See it explained in the notes at Romans 9:33.
Unto you therefore which believe - Christians are often called simply “believers,” because faith in the Saviour is one of the prominent characteristics by which they are distinguished from their fellow-men. It sufficiently describes any man, to say that he is a believer in the Lord Jesus.
He is precious - Margin, “an honor.” That is, according to the margin, it is an honor to believe on him, and should be so regarded. This is true, but it is very doubtful whether this is the idea of Peter. The Greek is ἡ τιμὴ hē timē; literally, “esteem, honor, respect, reverence;” then “value or price.” The noun is probably used in the place of the adjective, in the sense of honorable, valued, precious; and it is not incorrectly rendered in the text, “he is precious.” The connection demands this interpretation. The apostle was not showing that it was an honor to believe on Christ, but was stating the estimate which was put on him by those who believe, as contrasted with the view taken of him by the world. The truth which is taught is, that while the Lord Jesus is rejected by the great mass of people, he is regarded by all Christians as of inestimable value:
I. Of the fact there can be no doubt. Somehow, Christians perceive a value in him which is seen in nothing else. This is evinced:
(a)In their avowed estimate of him as their best friend;
(b)In their being willing so far to honor him as to commit to him the keeping of their souls, resting the whole question of their salvation upon him alone;
(c)In their readiness to keep his commands, and to serve him, while the mass of people disobey him; and,
(d)In their being willing to die for him.
II. The reasons why he is so precious to them are such as these:
(1) They are brought into a condition where they can appreciate his worth. To see the value of food, we must be hungry; of clothing, we must be exposed to the winter’s blast; of home, we must be wanderers without a dwelling-place; of medicine, we must be sick; of competence, we must be poor. So, to see the value of the Saviour, we must see that we are poor, helpless, dying sinners; that the soul is of inestimable worth; that we have no merit of our own; and that unless someone interpose, we must perish. Everyone who becomes a true Christian is brought to this condition; and in this state he can appreciate the worth of the Saviour. In this respect the condition of Christians is unlike that of the rest of mankind - for they are in no better state to appreciate the worth of the Saviour, than the man in health is to appreciate the value of the healing art, or than he who has never had a want unsupplied, the kindness of one who comes to us with an abundant supply of food.
(2) The Lord Jesus is in fact of more value to them than any other benefactor. We have had benefactors who have done us good, but none who have done us such good as he has. We have had parents, teachers, kind friends, who have provided for us, taught us, relieved us; but all that they have done for us is slight, compared with what he has done. The fruit of their kindness, for the most part, pertains to the present world; and they have not laid down their lives for us. What he has done pertains to our welfare to all eternity; it is the fruit of the sacrifice of his own life. How precious should the name and memory of one be who has laid down his own life to save us!
(3) We owe all our hopes of heaven to him; and in proportion to the value of such a hope, he is precious to us. We have no hope of salvation but in him. Take that away - blot out the name and the work of the Redeemer - and we see no way in which we could be saved; we have no prospect of being saved. As our hope of heaven, therefore, is valuable to us; as it supports us in trial; as it comforts us in the hour of death, so is the Saviour precious: and the estimate which we form of him is in proportion to the value of such a hope.
(4) There is an intrinsic value and excellency in the character of Christ, apart from his relation to us, which makes him precious to those who can appreciate his worth. In his character, abstractedly considered, there was more to attract, to interest, to love, than in that of any other one who ever lived in our world. There was more purity, more benevolence, more that was great in trying circumstances, more that was generous and self-denying, more that resembled God, than in any other one who ever appeared on earth. In the moral firmament, the character of Christ sustains a pre-eminence above all others who have lived, as great as the glory of the sun is superior to the feeble lights, though so numerous, which glimmer at midnight. With such views of him, it is not to be wondered at that, however he may be estimated by the world, “to them who believe, he is precious.”
But unto them which be disobedient - Literally, “unwilling to be persuaded,” (ἀπειθὴς apeithēs) that is, those who refused to believe; who were obstinate or contumacious, Luke 1:17; Romans 1:30. The meaning is, that to them he is made a stone against which they impinge, and ruin themselves. See the notes at 1 Peter 2:8.
The stone which the builders disallowed - Which they rejected, or refused to make a cornerstone. The allusion here, by the word “builders,” is primarily to the Jews, represented as raising a temple of salvation, or building with reference to eternal life. They refused to lay this stone, which God had appointed, as the foundation of their hopes, but preferred some other foundation. See this passage explained in the Matthew 21:42 note; Acts 4:11 note; and Romans 9:33 note.
The same is made the head of the corner - That is, though it is rejected by the mass of people, yet God has in fact made it the cornerstone on which the whole spiritual temple rests, Acts 4:11-12. However people may regard it, there is, in fact, no other hope of heaven than that which is founded on the Lord Jesus. If people are not saved by him, he becomes to them a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.
And a stone of stumbling - A stone over which they, stumble, or against which they impinge. The idea seems to be that of a cornerstone which projects from the building, against which they dash themselves, and by which they are made to fall. See the notes at Matthew 21:44. The rejection of the Saviour becomes the means of their ruin. They refuse to build on him, and it is as if one should run against a solid projecting cornerstone of a house, that would certainly be the means of their destruction. Compare the notes at Luke 2:34. An idea similar to this occurs in Matthew 21:44; “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken.” The meaning is, that if this foundation-stone is not the means of their salvation, it will be of their ruin. It is not a matter of indifference whether they believe on him or not - whether they accept or reject him. They cannot reject him without the most fearful consequences to their souls.
And a rock of offence - This expresses substantially the same idea as the phrase “stone of stumbling.” The word rendered “offence,” (σκάνδαλον skandalon) means properly “a trap-stick - a crooked stick on which the bait is fastened which the animal strikes against, and so springs the trap,” (Robinson, Lexicon) then “a trap, gin, snare”; and then “anything which one strikes or stumbles against; a stumbling-block.” It then denotes “that which is the cause or occasion of ruin.” This language would be strictly applicable to the Jews, who rejected the Saviour on account of his humble birth, and whose rejection of him was made the occasion of the destruction of their temple, city, and nation. But it is also applicable to all who reject him, from whatever cause; for their rejection of him will be followed with ruin to their souls. It is a crime for which God will judge them as certainly as he did the Jews who disowned him and crucified him, for the offence is substantially the same. What might have been, therefore, the means of their salvation, is made the cause of their deeper condemnation.
Even to them which stumble at the word - To all who do this. That is, they take the same kind of offence at the gospel which the Jews did at the Saviour himself. It is substantially the same thing, and the consequences must be the same. How does the conduct of the man who rejects the Saviour now, differ from that of him who rejected him when he was on the earth?
Being disobedient - 1 Peter 2:7. The reason why they reject him is, that they are not disposed to obey. They are solemnly commanded to believe the gospel; and a refusal to do it, therefore, is as really an act of disobedience as to break any other command of God.
Whereunto they were appointed - (εἰς ὅ καὶ ἐτέθησαν eis ho kai etethēsan.) The word “whereunto “means unto which. But unto what? It cannot be supposed that it means that they were “appointed” to believe on him and be saved by him; for:
(1)This would involve all the difficulty which is ever felt in the doctrine of decrees or election; for it would then mean that he had eternally designated them to be saved, which is the doctrine of predestination; and,
(2)If this were the true interpretation, the consequence would follow that God had been foiled in his plan - for the reference here is to those who would not be saved, that is, to those who “stumble at that stumblingstone,” and are destroyed.
Calvin supposes that it means, “unto which rejection and destruction they were designated in the purpose of God.” So Bloomfield renders it, “Unto which (disbelief) they were destined,” (Critical Digest) meaning, as he supposes, that “into this stumbling and disobedience they were permitted by God to fall.” Doddridge interprets it, “To which also they were appointed by the righteous sentence of God, long before, even as early as in his first purpose and decree he ordained his Son to be the great foundation of his church.” Rosenmuller gives substantially the same interpretation. Clemens Romanus says it means that “they were appointed, not that they should sin, but that, sinning, they should be punished.” See Wetstein. So Macknight. “To which punishment they were appointed.” Whitby gives the same interpretation of it, that because they were disobedient, (referring, as he supposes, to the Jews who rejected the Messiah) “they were appointed, for the punishment of that disobedience, to fall and perish.”
Dr. Clark supposes that it means that they were prophesied of that they should thus fall; or that, long before, it was predicted that they should thus stumble and fall. In reference to the meaning of this difficult passage, it is proper to observe that there is in the Greek verb necessarily the idea of designation, appointment, purpose. There was some agency or intention by which they were put in that condition; some act of placing or appointing, (the word τίθημι tithēmi meaning to set, put, lay, lay down, appoint, constitute) by which this result was brought about. The fair sense, therefore, and one from which we cannot escape, is, that this did not happen by chance or accident, but that there was a divine arrangement, appointment, or plan on the part of God in reference to this result, and that the result was in conformity with that. So it is said in Jude 1:4, of a similar class of people, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.” The facts were these:
(1) That God appointed his Son to be the cornerstone of his church.
(2) That there was a portion of the world which, from some cause, would embrace him and be saved.
(3) That there was another portion who, it was certain, would not embrace him.
(4) That it was known that the appointment of the Lord Jesus as a Saviour would be the occasion of their rejecting him, and of their deeper and more aggravated condemnation.
(5) That the arrangement was nevertheless made, with the understanding that all this would be so, and because it was best on the whole that it should be so, even though this consequence would follow. That is, it was better that the arrangement should be made for the salvation of people even with this result, that a part would sink into deeper condemnation, than that no arrangement should be made to save any. The primary and originating arrangement, therefore, did not contemplate them or their destruction, but was made with reference to others, and notwithstanding they would reject him, and would fall. The expression “whereunto” (εἰς ὅ eis ho) refers to this plan, as involving, under the circumstances, the result which actually followed. Their stumbling and falling was not a matter of chance, or a result which was not contemplated, but entered into the original arrangement; and the whole, therefore, might be said to be in accordance with a wise plan and purpose. And,
(6) It might he said in this sense, and in this connection, that those who would reject him were appointed to this stumbling and falling. It was what was foreseen; what entered into the general arrangement; what was involved in the purpose to save any. It was not a matter that was unforeseen, that the consequence of giving a Saviour would result in the condemnation of those who should crucify and reject him; but the whole thing, as it actually occurred, entered into the divine arrangement. It may be added, that as, in the facts in the case, nothing wrong has been done by God, and no one has been deprived of any rights, or punished more than he deserves, it was not wrong in him to make the arrangement. It was better that the arrangement should be made as it is, even with this consequence, than that none at all should be made for human salvation. Compare the Romans 9:15-18 notes; John 12:39-40 notes. This is just a statement, in accordance with what everywhere occurs in the Bible, that all things enter into the eternal plans of God; that nothing happens by chance; that there is nothing that was not foreseen; and that the plan is such as, on the whole, God saw to be best and wise, and therefore adopted it. If there is nothing unjust and wrong in the actual development of the plan, there was nothing in forming it. At the same time, no man who disbelieves and rejects the gospel should take refuge in this as an excuse. He was “appointed” to it no otherwise than as it actually occurs; and as they know that they are voluntary in rejecting him, they cannot lay the blame of this on the purposes of God. They are not forced or compelled to do it; but it was seen that this consequence would follow, and the plan was laid to send the Saviour notwithstanding.
But ye are a chosen generation - In contradistinction from those who, by their disobedience, had rejected the Saviour as the foundation of hope. The people of God are often represented as his chosen or elected people. See the notes at 1 Peter 1:2.
A royal priesthood - See the notes at 1 Peter 2:5. The meaning of this is, probably, that they “at once bore the dignity of kings, and the sanctity of priests” - Doddridge. Compare Revelation 1:6; “And hath made us kings and priests unto God.” See also Isaiah 61:6; “But ye shall be named priests of the Lord; men shall call ye ministers of our God.” It may be, however, that the word royal is used only to denote the dignity of the priestly office which they sustained, or that they constituted, as it were, an entire nation or kingdom of priests. They were a kingdom over which he presided, and they were all priests; so that it might be said they were a kingdom of priests - a kingdom in which all the subjects were engaged in offering sacrifice to God. The expression appears to be taken from Exodus 19:6 - “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests” - and is such language as one who had been educated as a Jew would be likely to employ to set forth the dignity of those whom he regarded as the people of God.
An holy nation - This is also taken from Exodus 19:6. The Hebrews were regarded as a nation consecrated to God; and now that they were cast off or rejected for their disobedience, the same language was properly applied to the people whom God had chosen in their place - the Christian church.
A peculiar people - Compare the notes at Titus 2:14. The margin here is purchased. The word “peculiar,” in its common acceptation now, would mean that they were distinguished from others, or were singular. The reading in the margin would mean that they had been bought or redeemed. Both these things are so, but neither of them expresses the exact sense of the original. The Greek λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν laos eis peripoiēsin) means, “a people for a possession;” that is, as pertaining to God. They are a people which he has secured as a possession, or as his own; a people, therefore, which belong to him, and to no other. In this sense they are special as being His; and, being such, it may be inferred that they should be special in the sense of being unlike others (unique) in their manner of life. But that idea is not necessarily in the text. There seems to be here also an allusion to Exodus 19:5; “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure with me (Septuagint λαὸς περιούσιος laos periousios) above all people.”
That ye should show forth the praises of him - Margin, “virtues.” The Greek word (ἀρετὴ aretē) means properly “good quality, excellence” of any kind. It means here the excellences of God - His goodness, His wondrous deeds, or those things which make it proper to praise Him. This shows one great object for which they were redeemed. It was that they might proclaim the glory of God, and keep up the remembrance of His wondrous deeds in the earth. This is to be done:
(a)By proper ascriptions of praise to him in public, family, and social worship;
(b)By being always the avowed friends of God, ready ever to vindicate His government and ways;
(c)By endeavoring to make known His excellences to all those who are ignorant of Him; and,
(d)By such a life as shall constantly proclaim His praise - as the sun, the moon, the stars, the hills, the streams, the flowers do, showing what God does. The consistent life of a devoted Christian is a constant setting forth of the praise of God, showing to all that the God who has made him such is worthy to be loved.
Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light - On the word called, see the notes at Ephesians 4:1. Darkness is the emblem of ignorance, sin, and misery, and refers here to their condition before their conversion; light is the emblem of the opposite, and is a beautiful representation of the state of those who are brought to the knowledge of the gospel. See the notes at Acts 26:18. The word marvelous means wonderful; and the idea is, that the light of the gospel was such as was unusual, or not to be found elsewhere, as that excites wonder or surprise which we are not accustomed to see. The primary reference here is, undoubtedly, to those who had been pagans, and to the great change which had been produced by their having been brought to the knowledge of the truth as revealed in the gospel; and, in regard to this, no one can doubt that the one state deserved to be characterized as darkness, and the other as light. The contrast was as great as that between midnight and noonday. But what is here said is substantially correct of all who are converted, and is often as strikingly true of those who have been brought up in Christian lands, as of those who have lived among the pagans. The change in conversion is often so great and so rapid, the views and feelings are so different before and after conversion, that it seems like a sudden transition from midnight to noon. In all cases, also, of true conversion, though the change may not be so striking, or apparently so sudden, there is a change of which this may be regarded as substantially an accurate description. In many cases the convert can adopt this language in all its fulness, as descriptive of his own conversion; in all cases of genuine conversion it is true that each one can say that he has been called from a state in which his mind was dark to one in which it is comparatively clear.
Which in time past were not a people - That is, who formerly were not regarded as the people of God. There is an allusion here to the passage in Hosea 2:23, “And I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” It is, however, a mere allusion, such as one makes who uses the language of another to express his ideas, without meaning to say that both refer to the same subject. In Hosea, the passage refers evidently to the reception of one portion of the Israelites into favor after their rejection; in Peter, it refers mainly to those who had been Gentiles, and who had never been recognized as the people of God. The language of the prophet would exactly express his idea, and he therefore uses it without intending to say that this was its original application. See it explained in the notes at Romans 9:25. Compare the notes at Ephesians 2:11-12.
Which had not obtained mercy - That is, who had been living unpardoned, having no knowledge of the way by which sinners might be forgiven, and no evidence that your sins were forgiven. They were then in the condition of the whole pagan world, and they had not then been acquainted with the glorious method by which God forgives iniquity.
Dearly beloved, I beseech you strangers and pilgrims - On the word rendered “strangers,” (παροίκους paroikous,) see the notes at Ephesians 2:19, where it is rendered “foreigners.” It means, properly, one dwelling near, neighboring; then a by-dweller, a sojourner, one without the rights of citizenship, as distinguished from a citizen; and it means here that Christians are not properly citizens of this world, but that their citizenship is in heaven, and that they are here mere sojourners. Compare the notes at Philippians 3:20, “For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven.” On the word rendered “pilgrims,” (παρεπιδήμους parepidēmous,) see the 1 Peter 1:1 note; Hebrews 11:13 note. A pilgrim, properly, is one who travels to a distance from his own country to visit a holy place, or to pay his devotion to some holy object; then a traveler, a wanderer. The meaning here is, that Christians have no permanent home on earth; their citizenship is not here; they are mere sojourners, and they are passing on to their eternal home in the heavens. They should, therefore, act as become such persons; as sojourners and travelers do. They should not:
(a) regard the earth as their home.
(b) They should not seek to acquire permanent possessions here, as if they were to remain here, but should act as travelers do, who merely seek a temporary lodging, without expecting permanently to reside in a place.
(c) They should not allow any such attachments to be formed, or arrangements to be made, as to impede their journey to their final home, as pilgrims seek only a temporary lodging, and steadily pursue their journey.
(d) Even while engaged here in the necessary callings of life - their studies, their farming, their merchandise - their thoughts and affections should be on other things. One in a strange land thinks much of his country and home; a pilgrim, much of the land to which he goes; and even while his time and attention may be necessarily occupied by the arrangements needful for the journey, his thoughts and affections will be far away.
(e) We should not encumber ourselves with much of this world’s goods. Many professed Christians get so many worldly things around them, that it is impossible for them to make a journey to heaven. They burden themselves as no traveler would, and they make no progress. A traveler takes along as few things as possible; and a staff is often all that a pilgrim has. We make the most rapid progress in our journey to our final home when we are least encumbered with the things of this world.
Abstain from fleshly lusts - Such desires and passions as the carnal appetites prompt to. See the notes at Galatians 5:19-21. A sojourner in a land, or a pilgrim, does not give himself up to the indulgence of sensual appetites, or to the soft pleasures of the soul. All these would hinder his progress, and turn him off from his great design. Compare Romans 13:4; Galatians 5:24; 2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:12; 1 Peter 1:14.
Which war against the soul - Compare the notes at Romans 8:12-13. The meaning is, that indulgence in these things makes war against the nobler faculties of the soul; against the conscience, the understanding, the memory, the judgment, the exercise of a pure imagination. Compare the notes at Galatians 5:17. There is not a faculty of the mind, however brilliant in itself, which will not be ultimately ruined by indulgence in the carnal propensities of our nature. The effect of intemperance on the noble faculties of the soul is well known; and alas, there are too many instances in which the light of genius, in those endowed with splendid gifts, at the bar, in the pulpit, and in the senate, is extinguished by it, to need a particular description. But there is one vice preeminently, which prevails all over the pagan world, (Compare the notes at Romans 1:27-29) and extensively in Christian lands, which more than all others, blunts the moral sense, pollutes the memory, defiles the imagination, hardens the heart. and sends a withering influence through all the faculties of the soul.
“The soul grows clotted by contagion,
Embodies, and embrutes, till she quite lose
The divine property of her first being.”
Of this passion, Burns beautifully and truly said -
“But oh! it hardens a’ within,
And petrifies the feeling.”
From all these passions the Christian pilgrim is to abstain.
Having your conversation honest - Your conduct. See the notes at Philippians 1:27. That is, lead upright and consistent lives. Compare the notes at Philippians 4:8.
Among the Gentiles - The pagans by whom you are surrounded, and who will certainly observe your conduct. See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 4:12, “That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without.” Compare Romans 13:13.
That, whereas they speak against you as evil doers - Margin, “wherein.” Greek ἐν ᾥ en hō - “in what;” either referring “to time,” and meaning that at the very time when they speak against you in this manner they may be silenced by seeing your upright lives; or meaning “in respect to which” - that is, that in respect to the very matters for which they reproach you they may see by your meek and upright conduct that there is really no ground for reproach. Wetstein adopts the former, but the question which is meant is not very important. Bloomfield supposes it to mean inasmuch, whereas. The sentiment is a correct one, whichever interpretation is adopted. It should be true that at the very time when the enemies of religion reproach us, they should see that we are actuated by Christian principles, and that in the very matter for which we are reproached we are conscientious and honest.
They may, by your good works, which they shall behold - Greek, “which they shall closely or narrowly inspect.” The meaning is, that upon a close and narrow examination, they may see that you are actuated by upright principles, and ultimately be disposed to do you justice. It is to be remembered that the pagan were very little acquainted with the nature of Christianity; and it is known that in the early ages they charged on Christians the most abominable vices, and even accused them of practices at which human nature revolts. The meaning of Peter is, that while they charged these things on Christians, whether from ignorance or malice, they ought so to live as that a more full acquaintance with them, and a closer inspection of their conduct, would disarm their prejudices, and show that their charges were entirely unfounded. The truth taught here is, “that our conduct as Christians should be such as to bear the strictest scrutiny; such that the closest examination will lead our enemies to the conviction that we are upright and honest.” This may be done by every Christian this his religion solemnly requires him to do.
Glorify God - Honor God; that is, that they may be convinced by your conduct of the pure and holy nature of that religion which he has revealed, and be led also to love and worship him. See the notes at Matthew 5:16.
In the day of visitation - Many different opinions have been entertained of the meaning of this phrase, some referring it to the day of judgment; some to times of persecution; some to the destruction of Jerusalem; and some to the time when the gospel was preached among the Gentiles, as a period when God visited them with mercy. The word “visitation” (ἐπισκοπή episkopē,) means the act of visiting or being visited for any purpose, usually with the notion of inspecting conduct, of inflicting punishment, or of conferring favors. Compare Matthew 25:36, Matthew 25:43; Luke 1:68, Luke 1:78; Luke 7:16; Luke 19:44, in the sense of visiting for the purpose of punishing, the word is often used in the Septuagint for the Hebrew פּקד paaqad, though there is no instance in which the word is so used in the New Testament, unless it be in the verse before us. The “visitation” here referred to is undoubtedly that of God; and the reference is to some time when he would make a “visitation” to people for some purpose, and when the fact that the Gentiles had narrowly inspected the conduct of Christians would lead them to honor him.
The only question is, to what visitation of that kind the apostle referred. The prevailing use of the word in the New Testament would seem to lead us to suppose that the “visitation” referred to was designed to confer favors rather than to inflict punishment, and indeed the word seems to have somewhat of a technical character, and to have been familiarly used by Christians to denote God’s coming to people to bless them; to pour out his Spirit upon them; to revive religion. This seems to me to be its meaning here; and, if so, the sense is, that when God appeared among people to accompany the preaching of the gospel with saving power, the result of the observed conduct of Christians would be to lead those around them to honor him by giving up their hearts to Him; that is, their consistent lives would be the means of the revival and extension of true religion. And is it not always so? Is not the pure and holy walk of Christians an occasion of His bending His footsteps down to earth to bless dying sinners, and to scatter spiritual blessings with a liberal hand? Compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man - Greek, “to every creation of man,” (ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει anthrōpinē ktisei The meaning is, to every institution or appointment of man; to wit, of those who are in authority, or who are appointed to administer government. The laws, institutes, and appointments of such a government may be spoken of as the creation of man; that is, as what man makes. Of course, what is here said must be understood with the limitation everywhere implied, that what is ordained by those in authority is not contrary to the law of God. See the notes at Acts 4:19. On the general duty here enjoined of subjection to civil authority, see the notes at Romans 13:1-7.
For the Lord’s sake - Because he has required it, and has entrusted this power to civil rulers. See the notes at Romans 13:5. Compare the notes at Ephesians 6:7.
Whether it be to the king - It has been commonly supposed that there is reference here to the Roman emperor, who might be called king, because in him the supreme power resided. The common title of the Roman sovereign was, as used by the Greek writers, ᾀυτοκράτωρ autokratōr, and among the Romans themselves, “imperator,” (emperor;) but the title king was also given to the sovereign. John 19:15, “we have no king but Cesar.” Acts 17:7, “and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” Peter undoubtedly had particular reference to the Roman emperors, but he uses a general term, which would be applicable to all in whom the supreme power resided, and the injunction here would require submission to such authority, by whatever name it might be called. The meaning is, that we are to be subject to that authority whether exercised by the sovereign in person, or by those who are appointed by him.
As supreme - Not supreme in the sense of being superior to God, or not being subject to him, but in the sense of being over all subordinate officers.
Or unto governors - Subordinate officers, appointed by the chief magistrate, over provinces. Perhaps Roman proconsuls are here particularly intended.
As unto them that are sent by him - By the king, or the Roman emperor. They represent the supreme power.
For the punishment of evil doers - One of the leading ends of government. “The Roman governors had the power of life and death in such conquered provinces as those mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1“ - Doddridge. Ulpian, the celebrated Roman lawyer, who flourished two hundred years after Christ, thus describes the power of the governors of the Roman provinces: “It is the duty of a good and vigilant president to see to it that his province be peaceable and quiet. And that he ought to make diligent search after sacrilegious persons, robbers, man-stealers, and thieves, and to punish everyone according to their guilt.” Again, “They who govern whole provinces, have the power of sending to the mines.” And again,” The presidents of provinces have the highest authority, next to the emperor.” Peter has described the office of the Roman governors in language nearly resembling that of Ulpian. See Lardner’s Credibility, (Works, i. 77, edit. 8vo., Lond. 1829)
And for the praise of them that do well - Praise here stands opposed to punishment, and means commendation, applause, reward. That is, it is a part of their business to reward in a suitable manner those who are upright and virtuous as citizens. This would be by protecting their persons and property; by defending their rights, and, perhaps, by admitting those to share the honors and emoluments of office who showed that they were worthy to be trusted. It is as important a part of the functions of magistracy to protect the innocent, as it is to punish the wicked.
For so is the will of God - That is, it is in accordance with the divine will that in this way you should put them to silence.
That with well doing - By a life of uprightness and benevolence.
Ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men - See the notes at Titus 2:8. The reference here is to men who brought charges against Christians, by accusing them of being inimical to the government, or insubordinate, or guilty of crimes. Such charges, it is well known, were often brought against them by their enemies in the early ages of Christianity. Peter says they were brought by foolish men, perhaps using the word foolish in the sense of evil-disposed, or wicked, as it is often used in the Bible. Yet, though there might be malice at the bottom, the charges were really based on ignorance. They were not thoroughly acquainted with the principles of the Christian religion; and the way to meet those charges was to act in every way as became good citizens, and so as “to live them down.” 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.
As free - That is, they were to consider themselves as freemen, as having a right to liberty. The Jews boasted much of their freedom, and regarded it as a birthright privilege that they were free, John 8:33. They never willingly acknowledged their subjection to any other power, but claimed it as an elementary idea of their civil constitution that God only was their Sovereign. They were indeed conquered by the Romans, and paid tribute, but they did it because they were compelled to do it, and it was even a question much debated among them whether they should do it or not Matthew 22:17. Josephus has often referred to the fact that the Jews rebelled against the Romans under the plea that they were a free people, and that they were subject only to God. This idea of essential freedom the Jews had when they became Christians, and everything in Christianity tended to inspire them with the love of liberty.
They who were converted to the Christian faith, whether from among the Jews or the Gentiles, were made to feel that they were the children of God; that his law was the supreme rule of their lives; that in the ultimate resort they were subject to him alone; that they were redeemed, and that, therefore, the yoke of bondage could not be properly imposed on them; that God “had made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth,” Acts 17:26; and that, therefore, they were on a level before him. The meaning here is, that they were not to consider themselves as slaves, or to act as slaves. In their subjection to civil authority they were not to forget that they were freemen in the highest sense, and that liberty was an invaluable blessing. They had been made free by the Son of God, John 8:32, John 8:36. They were free from sin and condemnation. They acknowledged Christ as their supreme Head, and the whole spirit and tendency of his religion prompted to the exercise of freedom.
They were not to submit to the chains of slavery; not to allow their consciences to be bound, or their essential liberty to be interfered with; nor in their subjection to the civil magistrate were they ever to regard themselves otherwise than as freemen. As a matter of fact, Christianity has always been the friend and promoter of liberty. Its influence emancipated the slaves throughout the Roman Empire; and all the civil freedom which we enjoy, and which there is in the world, can be traced to the influence of the Christian religion. To spread the gospel in its purity everywhere would be to break every yoke of oppression and bondage, and to make people everywhere free. It is the essential right of every man who is a Christian to be a freeman - to be free to worship God; to read the Bible; to enjoy the avails of his own labor; to train up his children in the way in which he shall deem best; to form his own plans of life, and to pursue his own ends, provided only that he does not interfere with the equal rights of others - and every system which prevents this, whether it be that of civil government, of ecclesiastical law, or of domestic slavery, is contrary to the religion of the Saviour.
And not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness - Margin, as in Greek, “having.” Not making your freedom a mere pretext under which to practice all kinds of evil. The word rendered “maliciousness” - κακία kakia - means more than our word maliciousness does; for it denotes evil of any kind, or all kinds. The word maliciousness refers rather to enmity of heart, ill-will, an intention to injure. The apostle has reference to an abuse of freedom, which has often occurred. The pretence of these who have acted in this manner has been, that the freedom of the gospel implied deliverance from all kinds of restraint; that they were under no yoke, and bound by no laws; that, being the children of God, they had a right to all kinds of enjoyment and indulgence; that even the moral law ceased to bind them, and that they had a right to make the most of liberty in all respects. Hence, they have given themselves up to all sorts of sensual indulgence, claiming exemption from the restraints of morality as well as of civil law, and sinking into the deepest abyss of vice. Not a few have done this who have professed to be Christians; and, occasionally, a fanatical sect now appears who make the freedom which they say Christianity confers, a pretext for indulgence in the most base and degrading vices. The apostles saw this tendency in human nature, and in nothing are they more careful than to guard against this abuse.
But as the servants of God - Not free from all restraint; not at liberty to indulge in all things, but bound to serve God in the faithful obedience of his laws. Thus bound to obey and serve him, they could not be at liberty to indulge in those things which would be in violation of his laws, and which would dishonor him. See this sentiment explained in the notes at 1Co 7:22; 1 Corinthians 9:21.
Honor all men - That is, show them the respect which is due to them according to their personal worth, and to the rank and office which they sustain. See the notes at Romans 13:7.
Love the brotherhood - The whole fraternity of Christians, regarded as a band of brothers. The word used here occurs only in this place and in 1 Peter 5:9, where it is rendered “brethren.” The idea expressed here occurs often in the New Testament. See the notes at John 13:34-35.
Fear God - A duty everywhere enjoined in the Bible, as one of the first duties of religion. Compare Leviticus 25:17; Psalms 24:7; Psalms 25:14; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 23:17; See the Romans 3:18 note; 2 Corinthians 7:1 note. The word fear, when used to express our duty to God, means that we are to reverence and honor him. Religion, in one aspect, is described as the fear of God; in another, as the love of God; in another, as submission to his will, etc. A holy veneration or fear is always an elementary principle of religion. It is the fear, not so much of punishment as of his disapprobation; not so much the dread of suffering as the dread of doing wrong.
Honor the king - Referring here primarily to the Roman sovereign, but implying that we are always to respect those who have the rule over us. See the notes at Romans 13:1-7. The doctrine taught in these verses Romans 13:13-14 is, that we are faithfully to perform all the relative duties of life. There are duties which we owe to ourselves, which are of importance in their place, and which we are by no means at liberty to neglect. But we also owe duties to our fellow-men, to our Christian brethren, and to those who have the rule over us; and religion, while it is honored by our faithful performance of our duty to ourselves, is more openly honored by our performance of our duties to those to whom we sustain important relations in life. Many of the duties which we owe to ourselves are, from the nature of the case, hidden from public observation. All that pertains to the examination of the heart; to our private devotions; to the subjugation of our evil passions; to our individual communion with God, must be concealed from public view. Not so, however, with those duties which pertain to others. In respect to them, we are open to public view. The eye of the world is upon us. The judgment of the world in regard to us is made up from their observation of the manner in which we perform them. If religion fails there, they judge that it fails altogether; and however devout we may be in private, if it is not seen by the world that our religion leads to the faithful performance of the duties which we owe in the various relations of life, it will be regarded as of little value.
Servants, be subject to your masters - On the duty here enjoined, see the notes at Ephesians 6:5-9. The Greek word used here (οἰκέται oiketai) is not the same which is employed in Ephesians, (δοῦλοι douloi.) The word here means properly “domestics” - those employed about a house, or living in the same house - from οἶκος oikos, “house.” These persons might have been slaves, or might not. The word would apply to them, whether they were hired, or whether they were owned as slaves. The word should not and cannot be employed to prove that slavery existed in the churches to which Peter wrote, and still less to prove that he approved of slavery, or regarded it as a good institution. The exhortation here would be, and still is, strictly applicable to any persons employed as domestics, though they had voluntarily hired themselves out to be such. It would be incumbent on them, while they remained in that condition, to perform with fidelity their duties as Christians, and to bear with Christian meekness all the wrongs which they might suffer from those in whose service they were.
Those who are hired, and who are under a necessity of “going out to service” for a living, are not always free from hard usage, for there are trials incident to that condition of life which cannot be always avoided. It might be better, in many cases, to bear much than to attempt a change of situation, even though they were entirely at liberty to do so. It must be admitted, however, that the exhortation here will have more force if it is supposed that the reference is to slaves, and there can be no doubt that many of this class were early converted to the Christian faith. The word here rendered “masters” (δεσπόταις despotais) is not the same which is used in Ephesians 6:5, (κυρίοις kuriois.) Neither of these words necessarily implies that those who were under them were slaves. The word used here is applicable to the head of a family, whatever may be the condition of those under him. It is frequently applied to God, and to Christ; and it cannot be maintained that those to whom God sustains the relation of δεσπότης despotēs, or “master,” are “slaves.” See Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Timothy 2:21; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4; Revelation 6:10. The word, indeed, is one that might be applied to those who were owners of slaves. If that be the meaning here, it is not said, however, that those to whom it is applied were Christians. It is rather implied that they were pursuing such a course as was inconsistent with real piety. Those who were under them are represented as suffering grievous wrongs.
With all fear - That is, with all proper reverence and respect. See the notes at Ephesians 6:5.
Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward - The word rendered “froward” (σκολιοῖς skoliois) means properly “crooked, bent;” then perverse, wicked, unjust, peevish. Anyone who is a servant or domestic is liable to be employed in the service of such a master; but while the relation continues, the servant should perform his duty with fidelity, whatever may be the character of the master. Slaves are certainly liable to this; and even those who voluntarily engage as servants to others, cannot always be sure that they will have kind employers. Though the terms used here do not necessarily imply that those to whom the apostle gave this direction were slaves, yet it may be presumed that they probably were, since slavery abounded throughout the Roman empire; but the directions will apply to all who are engaged in the service of others, and are therefore of permanent value. Slavery will, sooner or later, under the influence of the gospel, wholly cease in the world, and instructions addressed to masters and slaves will have no permanent value; but it will always be true that there will be those employed as domestics, and it is the duty of all who are thus engaged to evince true fidelity and a Christian spirit themselves, whatever may be the character of their employers.
For this is thank-worthy - Margin, “thank.” Greek, “This is grace,” (χάρις charis). Doddridge renders the expression, “This is graceful indeed.” Various interpretations of this expression have been proposed; but the meaning evidently is, that it is acceptable to God, (see 1 Peter 2:20, “this is acceptable to God” - χάρις παρὰ Θεῷ charis para Theō;) that is, this will be regarded by him with favor. It does not mean that it was worthy of thanks, or that God would thank them for doing it, (compare Luke 17:9-10;) but that such conduct would meet with his approbation.
If a man for conscience toward God - If, in the conscientious discharge of his duty, or if, in the endurance of this wrong, he regards himself as serving God. That is, if he feels that God, by his providence, has placed him in the circumstances in which he is, and that it is a duty which he owes to him to bear every trial incident to that condition with a submissive spirit. If he does this, he will evince the true nature of religion, and will be graciously accepted of God.
Endure grief - That is, endure that which is suited to produce grief, or that which is wrong.
Suffering wrongfully - Suffering injury, or where there is “injustice,” (πάσχων ἀδίκως paschōn adikō̄s.) This, though a general remark, has particular reference to servants, and to their duty in the relation which they sustain to their masters. In view of what is here said, we may remark:
(1) That if this has reference to slaves, as has been usually supposed, it proves that they are very liable to be abused; that they have little or no security against being wronged; and that it was a special and very desirable characteristic of those who were in that condition, to be able to bear wrong with a proper spirit. It is impossible so to modify slavery that this shall not be the case; for the whole system is one of oppression, and there can be nothing that shall effectually secure the slave from being ill-treated.
(2) It would follow from this passage, if this refers to slavery, that that is a very hard and undesirable condition of life; for that is a very undesirable condition where the principal virtue. which they who are in it are required to exercise, is “patience under wrongs.” Such a condition cannot be in accordance with the gospel, and cannot be designed by God to be permanent. The relation of parent and child is never thus represented. It is never said or implied in the Scriptures that the principal virtue to which children are exhorted is patience under wrongs; nor, in addressing them, is it ever supposed that the most prominent thing in their condition is, that they would need the exercise of such patience.
(3) It is acceptable to God, if we bear wrong with a proper spirit, from whatever quarter it may come. Our proper business in life is, to do the will of God; to evince the right spirit, however others may treat us; and to show, even under excessive wrong, the sustaining power and the excellence of true religion. Each one who is oppressed and wronged, therefore, has an eminent opportunity to show a spirit which will honor the gospel; and the slave and the martyr may do more to honor the gospel than if they were both permitted to enjoy liberty and life undisturbed.
For what glory is it - What honor or credit would it be.
If, when ye be buffeted for your faults - That is, if you are punished when you deserve it. The word “buffet” (κολαφίζω kolaphizō) - means, to strike with the fist; and then to strike in any way; to maltreat, Matthew 26:67; Mar 14:65; 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 12:7. Perhaps there may be a reference here to the manner in which servants were commonly treated, or the kind of pun ishment to which they were exposed. They would be likely to be struck in sudden anger, either by the hand, or by anything that was accessible. The word rendered “for your faults,” is sinning, (ἁμαρτάνοντες hamartanontes.) That is, “if being guilty of an offence, or having done wrong.” The idea is, that if they were justly punished, and should take it patiently, there would be no credit or honor in it.
Ye shall take it patiently - “If, even then, you evince an uncomplaining spirit, and bear it with the utmost calmness and patience, it would be regarded as comparatively no virtue, and as entitling you to no honor. The feeling of all who saw it would be that you deserved it, and there would be nothing to excite their sympathy or compassion. The patience evinced might indeed be as great as in the other case, but there would be the feeling that you deserved all that you received, and the spirit evinced in that case could not be regarded as entitled to any particular praise. If your masters are inflicting on you only what you deserve, it would be in the highest degree shameful for you to rise up against them, and resist them, for it would be only adding to the wrong which you had already done.” The expression here is, doubtless, to be understood comparatively. The meaning is not that absolutely there would be no more credit due to one who should bear his punishment patiently when he had done wrong, than if he had met it with resistance and complaining; but that there is very little credit in that compared with the patience which an innocent person evinces, who, from regard to the will of God, and by control over all the natural feelings of resentment, meekly endures wrong.
This expresses the common feeling of our nature. We attribute no particular credit to one who submits to a just punishment even with a calm temper. We feel that it would be wrong in the highest degree for him to do otherwise. So it is when calamities are brought on a man on account of his sins. If it is seen to be the fruit of intemperance or crime, we do not feel that there is any great virtue exhibited if he bears it with a calm temper. But if he is overwhelmed with calamity when it seems to have no particular connection with his sins, or to be a punishment for any particular fault; if he suffers at the hand of man, where there is manifest injustice done him, and yet evinces a calm, submissive, and meek temper, we feel that in such cases there is eminent virtue.
This is acceptable with God - Margin, as in 1 Peter 2:19, “thank.” It is that which is agreeable to him, or with which he is pleased.
For even hereunto were ye called - Such a spirit is required by the very nature of your Christian vocation; you were called into the church in order that you might evince it. See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 3:3.
Because Christ also suffered for us - Margin, “some read, for you.” The latest editions of the Greek Testament adopt the reading “for you.” The sense, however, is not essentially varied. The object is, to hold up the example of Christ to those who were called to suffer, and to say to them that they should bear their trials in the same spirit that he evinced in his. See the notes at Philippians 3:10.
Leaving us an example - The apostle does not say that this was the only object for which Christ suffered, but that it was an object, and an important one. The word rendered “example” (ὑπογραμμὸν hupogrammon) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly “a writing copy,” such as is set for children; or an outline or sketch for a painter to fill up; and then, in general, an example, a pattern for imitation.
That ye should follow his steps - That we should follow him, as if we trod exactly along behind him, and should place our feet precisely where his were. The meaning is, that there should be the closest imitation or resemblance. The things in which we are to imitate him are specified in the following verses.
Who did no sin - Who was in all respects perfectly holy. There is an allusion here to Isaiah 53:9; and the sense is, that he was entirely innocent, and that he suffered without having committed any crime. In this connection the meaning is, that we are to be careful that, if we suffer, it should be without committing any crime. We should so live, as the Saviour did, as not to deserve to be punished, and thus only shall we entirely follow his example. It is as much our duty to live so as not to deserve the reproaches of others, as it is to bear them with patience when we are called to suffer them. The first thing in regard to hard treatment from others, is so to live that there shall be no just occasion for it; the next is, if reproaches come upon us when we have not deserved them, to bear them as the Saviour did. If he suffered unjustly, we should esteem it to be no strange thing that we should; if he bore the injuries done him with meekness, we should learn that it is possible for us to do it also; and should learn also that we have not the spirit of his religion unless we actually do it. On the expression used here, compare the Isaiah 53:9 note; Hebrews 7:26 note.
Neither was guile found in his mouth - There was no deceit, hypocrisy, or insincerity. He was in all respects what he professed to be, and he imposed on no one by any false and unfounded claim. All this has reference to the time when the Saviour was put to death; and the sense is, that though he was condemned as an impostor, yet that the charge was wholly unfounded. As in his whole life before he was perfectly sincere, so he was eminently on that solemn occasion.
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again - He did not use harsh and opprobrious words in return for those which he received:
(1) He was reviled. He was accused of being a seditious man; spoken of as a deceiver; charged with being in league with Beelzebub, the “prince of the devils” and condemned as a blasphemer against God. This was done:
(a)By the great and the influential of the land;
(b)In the most public manner;
(c)With a design to alienate his friends from him;
(d)With most cutting and severe sarcasm and irony; and,
(e)In reference to everything that would most affect a man of delicate and tender sensibility.
(2) He did not revile those who had reproached him. He asked that justice might be done. He demanded that if he had spoken evil, they should bear witness of the evil; but beyond that he did not go. He used no harsh language. He showed no anger. He called for no revenge. He prayed that they might robe forgiven. He calmly stood and bore it all, for he came to endure all kinds of suffering in order that he might set us an example, and make an atonement for our sins.
When he suffered, he threatened not - That is, when he suffered injustice from others, in his trial and in his death, he did not threaten punishment. He did not call down the wrath of heaven. He did not even predict that they would be punished; he expressed no wish that they should be.
But committed himself to him that judgeth righteously - Margin, his cause. The sense is much the same. The meaning is, that he committed his cause, his name, his interests, the whole case, to God. The meaning of the phrase “that judgeth righteously” here is, that God would do him exact justice. Though wronged by people, he felt assured that he would do right. He would rescue his name from these reproaches; he would give him the honor in the world which he deserved; and he would bring upon those who had wronged him all that was necessary in order to show his disapprobation of what they had done, and all that would be necessary to give the highest support to the cause of virtue. Compare Luke 23:46. This is the example which is set before us when we are wronged. The whole example embraces these points:
(1) We should see to it that we ourselves are guiltless in the matter for which we are reproached or accused. Before we fancy that we are suffering as Christ did, we should be sure that our lives are such as not to deserve reproach. We cannot indeed hope to be as pure in all things as he was; but we may so live that if we are reproached and reviled we may be certain that it is not for any wrong that we have done to others, or that we do not deserve it from our fellow-men.
(2) When we are reproached and reviled, we should feel that we were called to this by our profession; that it was one of the things which we were taught to expect when we became Christians; that it is what the prophets and apostles endured, and what the Master himself suffered in an eminent degree; and that if we meet with the scorn of the great, the frivilous, the rich, the powerful, it is no more than the Saviour did, and no more than we have been taught to expect will be our portion. It may be well, too, to remember our unworthiness; and to reflect, that though we have done no wrong to the individual who reviles us yet that we are sinners, and that such reproaches may not be a useless admonisher of our being guilty before God. So David felt when reproached by Shimei: “So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?” 2 Samuel 16:10.
(3) When this occurs, we should calmly and confidently commit our cause to God. Our name, our character, our influence, our reputation, while living and after we are dead, we should leave entirely with him. We should not seek nor desire revenge. We should not call down the wrath of God on our persecutors and slanderers. We should calmly feel that God will give us the measure of reputation which we ought to have in the world, and that he will suffer no ultimate injustice to be done us. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass; and he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day,” Psalms 37:5-6. The Latin Vulgate has here, “But he committed himself to him who judged him unjustly,” judicanti se injuste; that is, to Pontius Pilate, meaning that he left himself in his hands, though he knew that the sentence was unjust. But there is no authority for this in the Greek, and this is one of the instances in which that version departs from the original.
Who his own self - See the notes at Hebrews 1:3, on the phrase “when he had by himself purged our sins.” The meaning is, that he did it in his own proper person; he did not make expiation by offering a bloody victim, but was himself the sacrifice.
Bare our sins - There is an allusion here undoubtedly to Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:12. See the meaning of the phrase “to bear sins” fully considered in the notes at those places. As this cannot mean that Christ so took upon himself the sins of people as to become himself a sinner, it must mean that he put himself in the place of sinners, and bore that which those sins deserved; that is, that he endured in his own person that which, if it had been inflicted on the sinner himself, would have been a proper expression of the divine displeasure against sin, or would have been a proper punishment for sin. See the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:21. He was treated as if he had been a sinner, in order that we might be treated as if we had not sinned; that is, as if we were righteous. There is no other way in which we can conceive that one bears the sins of another. They cannot be literally transferred to another; and all that can be meant is, that he should take the consequences on himself, and suffer as if he had committed the transgressions himself.
(See also the supplementary notes at 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:0; Romans 5:0; and Galatians 3:13, in which the subject of imputation is discussed at large)
In his own body - This alludes undoubtedly to his sufferings. The sufferings which he endured on the cross were such as if he had been guilty; that is, he was treated as he would have been if he had been a sinner. He was treated as a criminal; crucified as those most guilty were; endured the same kind of physical pain that the guilty do who are punished for their own sins; and passed through mental sorrows strongly resembling - as much so as the case admitted of - what the guilty themselves experience when they are left to distressing anguish of mind, and are abandoned by God. The sufferings of the Saviour were in all respects made as nearly like the sufferings of the most guilty, as the sufferings of a perfectly innocent being could be.
On the tree - Margin, “to the tree” Greek, ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον epi to xulon. The meaning is rather, as in the text, that while himself on the cross, he bore the sorrows which our sins deserved. It does not mean that he conveyed our sorrows there, but that while there he suffered under the intolerable burden, and was by that burden crushed in death. The phrase “on the tree,” literally “on the wood,” means the cross. The same Greek word is used in Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; Acts 13:29; Galatians 3:13, as applicable to the cross, in all of which places it is rendered “tree.”
That we, being dead to sins - In virtue of his having thus been suspended on a cross; that is, his being put to death as an atoning sacrifice was the means by which we become dead to sin, and live to God. The phrase “being dead to sins” is, in the original, ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογενόμενοι tais hamartiais apogenomenoi - literally, “to be absent from sins.” The Greek word was probably used (by an euphemism) to denote to die, that is, to be absent from the world. This is a milder and less repulsive word than to say to die. It is not elsewhere used in the New Testament. The meaning is, that we being effectually separated from sin - that is, being so that it no longer influences us - should live unto God. We are to be, in regard to sin, as if we were dead; and it is to have no more influence over us than if we were in our graves. See the notes at Romans 6:2-7. The means by which this is brought about is the death of Christ (See the notes at Romans 6:8) for as he died literally on the cross on account of our sins, the effect has been to lead us to see the evil of transgression, and to lead new, and holy lives.
Should live unto righteousness - Though dead in respect to sin, yet we have real life in another respect. We are made alive unto God to righteousness, to true holiness. See the Romans 6:11 note; Galatians 2:20 note.
By whose stripes - This is taken from Isaiah 53:5. See it explained in the notes on that verse. The word rendered “stripes” (μώλωπι mōlōpi) means, properly, the livid and swollen mark of a blow; the mark designated by us when we use the expression “black and blue.” It is not properly a bloody wound, but that made by pinching, beating, scourging. The idea seems to be that the Saviour was scourged or whipped; and that the effect on us is the same in producing spiritual healing, or in recovering us from our faults, as if we had been scourged ourselves. By faith we see the bruises inflicted on him, the black and blue spots made by beating; we remember that they were on account of our sins, and not for his; and the effect in reclaiming us is the same as if they had been inflicted on us.
Ye were healed - Sin is often spoken of as a disease, and redemption from it as a restoration from a deadly malady. See this explained in the notes at Isaiah 53:5.
For ye were as sheep going astray - Here also is an allusion to Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” See the notes at that verse. The figure is plain. We were like a flock without a shepherd. We had wandered far away from the true fold, and were following our own paths. We were without a protector, and were exposed to every kind of danger. This aptly and forcibly expresses the condition of the whole race before God recovers people by the plan of salvation. A flock thus wandering without a shepherd, conductor, or guide, is in a most pitiable condition; and so was man in his wanderings before he was sought out and brought back to the true fold by the Great Shepherd.
But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls - To Christ, who thus came to seek and save those who were lost. He is often called a Shepherd. See the notes at John 10:1-16. The word rendered “bishop,” (ἐπίσκοπος episkopos,) means “overseer.” It may be applied to one who inspects or oversees anything, as public works, or the execution of treaties; to anyone who is an inspector of wares offered for sale; or, in general, to anyone who is a superintendent. It is applied in the New Testament to those who are appointed to watch over the interests of the church, and especially to the officers of the church. Here it is applied to the Lord Jesus as the great Guardian and Superintendent of his church; and the title of universal Bishop belongs to him alone!
In the conclusion of this chapter we may remark:
(1) That there is something very beautiful in the expression “Bishop of souls.” It implies that the soul is the special care of the Saviour; that it is the object of his special interest; and that it is of great value - so great that it is that which mainly deserves regard. He is the Bishop of the soul in a sense quite distinct from any care which he manifests for the body. That too, in the proper way, is the object of his care; but that has no importance compared with the soul. Our care is principally employed in respect to the body; the care of the Redeemer has special reference to the soul.
(2) It follows that the welfare of the soul may be committed to him with confidence. It is the object of his special guardianship, and he will not be unfaithful to the trust reposed in him. There is nothing more safe than the human soul is when it is committed in faith to the keeping of the Son of God. Compare 2 Timothy 1:12.
(3) As, therefore, he has shown his regard for us in seeking us when we were wandering and lost; as he came on the kind and benevolent errand to find us and bring us back to himself, let us show our gratitude to him by resolving to wander no more. As we regard our own safety and happiness, let us commit ourselves to him as our great Shepherd, to follow where he leads us, and to be ever under his pastoral inspection. We had all wandered away. We had gone where there was no happiness and no protector. We had no one to provide for us, to care for us, to pity us. We were exposed to certain ruin. In that state he pitied us, sought us out, brought us back. If we had remained where we were, or had gone further in our wanderings, we should have gone certainly to destruction. He has sought us out; be has led us back; he has taken us under his own protection and guidance; and we shall be safe as long as we follow where he leads, and no longer. To him then, a Shepherd who never forsakes his flock, let us at all times commit ourselves, following where he leads, feeling that under him our great interests are secure.
(4) We may learn from this chapter, indeed, as we may from every other part of the New Testament, that in doing this we may be called to suffer. We may be reproached and reviled as the great Shepherd himself was. We may become the objects of public scorn on account of our devoted attachment to him. We may suffer in name, in feeling, in property, in our business, by our honest attachment to the principles of his gospel. Many who are his followers may be in circumstances of poverty or oppression. They may be held in bondage; they may be deprived of their rights; they may feel that their lot in life is a hard one, and that the world seems to have conspired against them to do them wrong; but let us in all these circumstances look to Him “who made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:7-8; and let us remember that it is “enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord,” Matthew 10:25. In view of the example of our Master, and of all the promises of support in the Bible, let us bear with patience all the trials of life, whether arising from poverty, an humble condition, or the reproaches of a wicked world. Our trials will soon be ended; and soon, under the direction of the “Shepherd and Bishop of souls,” we shall be brought to a world where trials and sorrows are unknown.
(5) In our trials here, let it be our main object so to live that our sufferings shall not be on account of our own faults. See 1 Peter 2:19-22. Our Saviour so lived. He was persecuted, reviled, mocked, condemned to die. But it was for no fault of his. In all his varied and prolonged sufferings, he had the ever-abiding consciousness that he was innocent; he had the firm conviction that it would yet be seen and confessed by all the world that he was “holy, harmless, undefiled,” 1 Peter 2:23. His were not the sufferings produced by a guilty conscience, or by the recollection that he had wronged anyone. So, if we must suffer, let our trials come upon us. Be it our first aim to have a conscience void of offence, to wrong no one, to give no occasion for reproaches and revilings, to do our duty faithfully to God and to people. Then, if trials come, we shall feel that we suffer as our Master did; and then we may, as he did, commit our cause “to him that judgeth righteously,” assured that in due time “he will bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon-day,” Psalms 37:6.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16