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( 1Pe_2:1 ).
Having been born of the word, and thus having a new nature with new desires, and having the truth whereby we can purify our souls, the apostle warns us against some of the evils of the old nature which would hinder love to one another, as well as our spiritual growth. We are to lay aside malice that entertains evil thoughts of others, guile that seeks to hide what we are, hypocrisy that pretends to be what we are not, and envy that leads to slandering the one of whom we are envious. Guile and hypocrisy ever accompany malice. The one speaking maliciously of his brother may seek to hide his malice under the plea that he is acting for the good of his brother - this is guile; further, he may profess that he has nothing in his heart but love for his brother - this is hypocrisy. Behind malicious words there is envy, which is the real motive for evil speaking. Truly the wise man says, “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” ( Pro_27:4 ).
4. Our practical life in relation to the word of God .
(Vv. 2, 3). In relation to the word of God we are exhorted ever to retain the spirit of a newborn babe that craves and enjoys the milk by which it grows. The word, which is the seed of life, is also the means provided by God to sustain the life. All true desire for the word is the outcome of having tasted that the Lord is gracious. The more we enjoy the company of the Lord the more eager shall we be to sit at His feet and hear His word. To seek Christ in all the Scriptures will sustain loving interest in the word of God, and make many a difficult passage plain and simple. One has said, “The Bible is intended for a child's book 'From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures', which are able to make wise unto salvation, and to furnish the man of God unto all good works. He reveals Himself unto babes, because the wise and prudent will not listen to Him”.
Mary of Bethany is a striking example of one who tasted that the Lord is gracious, with the result that she delighted to sit at His feet and hear His word. Had we a deeper sense of the goodness of the Lord we should ever retain the babe's delight in the word, welcome every occasion to feed upon the word, and come together to read the word. The result would be that we should “grow up to salvation”. We should increasingly be saved from everything that hinders our spiritual progress, until at last we are completely saved at the coming of Christ, when the body of humiliation will be changed into the likeness of His body of glory.
The desire for food is the proof of vitality in a babe. Spiritual vitality thus manifests itself in the desire for the spiritual food of the word, not simply the desire for intelligence in truth, but the desire for the word as that which feeds the soul by presenting Christ, and as making Him more precious to the soul.
5. Our practical life as living stones.
Hitherto the apostle has spoken of individual blessings, and the practice consistent with these blessings. Now he passes on to speak of collective blessings, and the practical united testimony that should flow from believers as a whole.
(V. 4). Here believers are viewed as “living stones” in relation to Christ, the “living Stone”, and, as such, forming a spiritual house. Writing to believers from amongst the Jews, the apostle constantly alludes to material things connected with the nation of Israel. He shows that the material foreshadowed the spiritual; and that, if through the failure of Israel the material things had lapsed, yet the spiritual reality of these things remained. In the first chapter we learn that, if Israel's earthly inheritance in the Land had been lost, yet in Christianity believers have an inheritance reserved in heaven. In this second chapter we learn that, though the material house at Jerusalem had been set aside, yet God has a spiritual house composed of living stones, in which “spiritual sacrifices” are offered up by “an holy priesthood”.
Israel of old was distinguished from all nations by the fact that God's house was in their midst. There God dwelt. From that house praise was to ascend to God, and testimony flow out to the world. That house was material - “a house . . . made with hands”. Men, as we know, corrupted the house, turning the house of praise into a house of merchandise and a den of thieves. The Father's house was turned into the house of corrupt Israel, and, as such, God forsook the house, leaving it desolate, to be thrown down by the Gentiles, so that not a stone was left upon a stone ( Mat_23:38 ; Mat_24:2 ).
Nevertheless, the wickedness and failure of man cannot frustrate the purpose of God. Christ, on earth, becomes the temple of God, the One in whom God dwelt, in whom God was glorified, and through whom God in all His love and holiness was set forth before men ( Joh_2:18-21 ). Alas! men rejected Christ. To have God dwelling in the midst is intolerable to man, even if present in blessing. As the nation of Israel had corrupted the temple at Jerusalem, so they destroyed the temple when set forth in Christ by nailing Him to the cross. But again we see that God does not give up His purpose to dwell among men. Christ, though rejected by men, is exalted by God, and from the place of His exaltation the Holy Spirit comes to build a habitation for God, a spiritual house composed of all believers.
The coming formation of this spiritual house was revealed to Peter by the Lord, when He said, “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” ( Mat_16:18 ). Christ is the living Stone, the foundation of this spiritual house. As the living Stone He is rejected of men, but chosen of God, and precious. Coming to Christ as the living Stone, believers as living stones are built up “a spiritual house”. It is true that the Christ to whom we come is the living Stone, rejected of men; but we may ask, How many have come to Christ in the realisation that He is rejected by man and in reproach? Coming to Him in the consciousness that He is in rejection will of necessity involve that we leave behind the corrupt religious world that in practice denies His rejection. We go forth unto Him, bearing His reproach.
(V. 5). Having spoken of the character of Christ as the living Stone, the apostle passes on to speak of the character of believers viewed as stones in God's house. They are “living”, partaking of the life of Christ, the living Stone, a life that death cannot touch. They are formed into “a spiritual house”, of which we know from the Gospel of Matthew that Christ is the builder. Nothing unreal enters into that which He builds. The Builder is perfect; His work is perfect; the stones are living. Throughout the Christian period the building grows, apart from all human instrumentality.
Then we learn that God's great object in forming a spiritual house is to have an holy priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Believers, in contrast to an earthly and carnal order of priesthood, form “an holy priesthood”. It is not only that they are priests, which might imply praising individuals; they are a priesthood, involving a praising company.
(V. 6). The apostle quotes the prophet Isaiah to show that it was ever God's purpose that Christ should be the sure foundation for all blessing for His people. He is the chief corner Stone that carries the whole weight of the superstructure. As He is chosen of God and precious, we may be sure that none that believe in Him will be confounded.
(Vv. 7, 8). This leads the apostle to draw a contrast between believers and rejectors of the living Stone. Unto those who believe is the preciousness; all the preciousness of Christ, all the blessing He secures, is made good to the believer. Alas! there are those who are disobedient, and, being such, they cast away as worthless the One who has been exalted by God as the Head of the corner. To such He becomes a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. Men stumbled at His word. They would not believe the truth, and therefore to this end they were appointed. They were not appointed to sin or to disobey, but being rebellious and disobedient they were destined by their unbelief to stumble at the humiliation of Christ.
6. Our practical life as a chosen race.
(Vv. 9, 10). Had Israel obeyed the voice of God and kept His covenant they would have been to God “a peculiar treasure”, a kingdom of priests and an holy nation ( Exo_19:5 ; Exo_19:6 ). They failed, and, the nation having been set aside, believers are now viewed as taking the place of Israel as a witness to God before the world. The apostle quotes the prophecy of Hosea, which tells us that in a day to come Israel will again be taken up. In the meantime, the prophet's words are applied to the believing remnant of the Jews. Such, under the eye of God, form a royal priesthood, a kingdom of priests, to show forth the excellencies of God, who hath called us out of darkness into the marvellous light of the full revelation of Himself.
We have thus a beautiful picture of the Christian circle composed of all believers drawn to Christ, the One whom the world has rejected. In the outside place of reproach they are formed into a spiritual house for the dwelling place of God, constituted an holy priesthood to offer up the sacrifices of praise, and formed into a kingdom of priests to set forth the excellencies of God before the world.
Christendom, entirely failing to answer to the picture, proceeds on the false assumption that Christ is in honour in the world. Men have again erected magnificent temples after the pattern of the material temple, and have lost the truth of the spiritual house. A humanly-ordained priestly class has been instituted in contrast to the holy priesthood composed of all true believers; worship has become ritualistic, in place of worship in spirit; and again Christendom has set up so-called Christian nations in contrast to a chosen race of believers.
It is difficult, if not impossible, in this day of ruin to find any collective setting forth of the Christian company as described in these verses. Nevertheless, the truth still remains in the Word, set forth in all its beauty; and it is still our privilege and responsibility to obey the Word. Obeying the Word, we should be set free from all the great religious systems of men that, in their constitution and practice, are a total denial of the truth. Those set free could not claim to be the “holy priesthood”, nor the “royal priesthood”, but in simple faith they could follow righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart, seeking to walk in the light of these great truths.
7. Our practical life as strangers and pilgrims.
(V. 11). In the first verse of the Epistle the believing Jews are addressed as strangers, as they are outcast from the land of Israel, and scattered among the Gentiles. Here, in common with all believers, they are viewed as strangers and pilgrims because they belong to heaven. In one case, they are strangers as the result of the judgment of God that had driven them out of their earthly inheritance; in the other, they are strangers as the result of the grace of God that had called them from earth to heaven. The man of the world is a stranger to heaven because he knows not the Father and the Son. The believer is a stranger in heart to the world because he knows the Father and the Son. He is a stranger, out of touch with this world, and a pilgrim going on to another world. Nevertheless, the flesh in the believer wars against the spiritual progress of the soul. We are therefore exhorted to “abstain from fleshly lusts”. We are not called to “war” against these lusts, but rather to abstain from them. It is hardly our business to wage war against drink or impurity or other evils in the world, but rather to show forth the excellencies of Him who hath called us out of darkness into light.
(V. 12). Having warned us against fleshly lusts within, the apostle proceeds to exhort us as to our outward conduct before the world. We are to be careful to act in all honesty, so that by our good works we may give the lie to hard words, by which we are spoken against as evildoers.
The day of visitation refers to God's present dealings with the world. Men may speak evil of the Christian, but when trouble overtakes them, through yielding to their lusts, they will have to admit that God blesses those who quietly and patiently pursue a life of good works.
(Vv. 13, 14). The following exhortations view the believer in relation to the institutions and authorities of this world. It would be wholly inconsistent for those who take the place of strangers in this world to attempt to form these institutions or appoint the authorities. We are, however, to be subject to them, and this with the highest motive, for the Lord's sake. We are to be subject to subordinate as well as to supreme authorities, and, again, for the reason that we view them all in relation to the Lord. Whether they exercise their authority in the fear of God or fail to do so, we are definitely to view them as sent by God for the maintenance of the government of the world.
(Vv. 15, 16). By subjection to authority, and by well-doing, the Christian would put to silence the ignorance of senseless men, who charge the believer with rebellion against authority ( Luk_23:14 ; Luk_23:15 ; Act_24:12 ; Act_24:13 ). We are free from the world, but are not to use our freedom to speak evil of this world's authorities, but rather to devote ourselves wholly to the service of God.
(V. 17). As to the social positions of the world, we are to be careful not to treat men with contempt or disdain. We are not to treat a poor man with disdain, nor a rich man with servility. We are to honour both. Very specially are we to honour all in that circle in which our happy lot is cast, the brotherhood which binds us together in Christian bonds. In this circle we can do more than honour, we can love one another.
Other Scriptures clearly show that the only limitation to our subjection to men is the fear of God. When men insist upon direct disobedience to God, we must set God first ( Act_4:19 ). So here the order is, “Fear God. Honour the king”.
Conduct Suited to the Individual Relationships
of the Christian
( 1Pe_2:18 - 1Pe_3:7 )
The apostle has exhorted us as to conduct consistent with relationships in which all Christians are found. He now refers to the conduct proper to particular relationships in which many are placed. First, he speaks of servants (2: 18-22); then of wives (3: 1-6); and, finally, of husbands (3: 7).
1. Household servants.
(Vv. 18-20). Christian servants are first addressed. The Greek word, we are told, implies household servants, though not necessarily slaves. All Christians have already been exhorted to be in subjection to every human institution. Now the Christian servant is exhorted to be subject, as later subjection is pressed upon the Christian wife, the younger brethren, and finally upon us all in relation to one other. Evidently, as one has said, subjection “is the very quality that suits strangers. If I am a king in my kingdom, I may exercise authority and dominion; but if I am a cast-out stranger, the temper that suits me is a spirit of subjection all my life through. Put the stranger in company with what relationship you please, the Spirit of God expects this spirit of subjection”.
The servant is to be subject whether the master be gentle or ill-tempered. The ill-temper of a master may involve suffering for a Christian servant. This gives occasion to introduce the second form of suffering of which the apostle speaks in this Epistle - suffering for conscience' sake. The servant, while subject, is to keep a good conscience before God by refusing to do evil. If this leads to suffering wrongfully, let the believer remember that to “do well”, “suffer for it”, and “take it patiently” is acceptable to God.
(Vv. 21-23). In a life of patient suffering for well-doing God sees the setting forth of the life of Christ. This explains many of the trying circumstances in which the Christian may be found. God allows them to give us the opportunity to express the excellencies of Christ for His pleasure and our ultimate glory.
If we are called to be with Christ in glory, we are also called to follow His steps on the way to glory. The apostle gives us three of His steps. First, He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Secondly, He suffered, being reviled and threatened. Thirdly, when reviled, He took it patiently; He neither reviled nor threatened. In the presence of all His accusers His resource was in God. He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. When falsely accused before the Jewish council, He “held His peace” ( Mat_26:63 ). To the accusations of the Jews in the presence of Pilate, “He answered nothing”. To Pilate himself, “He answered . . . never a word” ( Mat_27:12-14 ). The mocking Herod questioned Him in many words, “but He answered him nothing” ( Luk_23:9 ). He was silent before men because He had a resource in God.
How good for us to follow in His steps and, in the presence of the malicious words of men, come from what quarter they may, to keep silent in the realisation that the Lord is our resource. Well for us to take up the words of the prophet and say, “Jehovah is my portion . . . therefore will I hope in Him. Jehovah is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that one should both wait, and that in silence, for the salvation of Jehovah” ( Lam_3:24-26 ). It is noticeable that it is only in this particular relationship that the Lord can be cited as an example, for He Himself has taken the place of the Servant. From other Scriptures it is clear that the Christian may entreat, exhort, or even rebuke; but never is he to revile or threaten.
(Vv. 24, 25). Moreover, the Christian has another incentive to do right, or “live unto righteousness”. Christ has borne our sins in His own body on the tree, not only that we should be justified and saved from the judgment of sins, but that we should live unto righteousness. Having been healed by His stripes, can we go on with sin that cost Him so much to remove? Christ having suffered for our wrong-doing, it is to our shame if we suffer for wrong-doing. It is our privilege to be allowed to follow His steps and suffer for well-doing. Only by having Himself before us can we follow His steps; as His sheep, we are only safe as we follow the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29