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1 Peter 2

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Verse 1

1 Peter 2:1

The Milk of the Word.

This subject divides itself into three parts:

I. Healthy appetite, or, in other words, an earnest desire for spiritual nourishment: "As new-born babes, desire" earnestly, covet eagerly, "the sincere milk of the word."

II. Healthy food, or, in other words, God's truth as contained in Holy Writ: "Desire the sincere milk of the word." The milk of the word, or, according to a better translation, rational milk, the sincere milk, i.e., milk free from all deleterious admixtures.

III. Healthy growth: "that ye may grow thereby unto salvation." Growth unto salvation implies (1) growth in knowledge, (2) growth in holiness.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 214.

References: 1 Peter 2:1-3 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 459. 1 Peter 2:2 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 139.

Verse 2

1 Peter 2:2

The Baptismal Vow.

I. In our hearts and lives, the evil which we cast away is for ever returning; the truths which we have learned we are for ever forgetting; the good which we should do we are continually leaving undone. Wherefore our baptismal promise requires to be renewed, not once only at our confirmation, but continually all our lives. We never can hear another renewing it with his lips without having great cause to renew it ourselves also, for his need of renewing it is not greater than ours. And as the three parts of our vow, although distinct, are yet all renewed together at our confirmation, so do they need to be also by us all. Repentance, faith, and holiness are joined inseparably in all our earthly life; it is only by keeping them so joined that we shall come to that blessed division of them when, there being no more sin, there will be no more repentance, when sight will leave no place for faith, and holiness shall then be all in all for ever.

II. Every day we need repentance. Our baptismal vow promised to renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that we would not follow or be led by them. It is either by the temptations of the flesh, or by those of the world, or by both, that by far the greatest number of souls, and in by far the greatest portion of their lives, are tempted and are overcome. The evil, then, not renounced, but allowed to overcome us, is a thing which requires of us indeed a deeper thought and a deeper sorrow than to many of us may seem even possible. We shall not care to believe God's truths, nor shall we care to follow His holiness, unless we do earnestly desire to renounce our evil, unless we watch for it everywhere, and fear God's judgment upon it, and believe that it is as great and as abiding as His word and as the death of His Son declares it to be.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 122.

Verse 3

1 Peter 2:3

The Spiritual Temple of Priestly Worshippers.

I. We have in the text a spiritual house: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house." Christ is the foundation; and as stone after stone is placed on Him, He, being a living stone, infuses His life right through the entire mass. Evidently no one can be a member of the Church unless he has come to Christ, for the Apostle distinctly says that the spiritual house consists of those who have come to the living Rock, Christ Jesus. (1) Now where are the stones formed? They are cut out of the quarry of nature; stone by stone is brought out of that deep cavern, placed upon the living Stone, and each united to the others. The Spirit of God goes into the deep, black quarry of human nature, and there hews out the hidden stones, and by His own almighty power bears them to the foundation-stone and places them in a living temple, to go no more out for ever. (2) The stones must be brought to each other. There must be union existing between all the stones of the spiritual temple, ay, and not only union, but also mutual support. While all rest on the foundation, each stone touches, and serves to strengthen and support, the others. (3) The Church is spiritual also in its glories. There was an external magnificence about the temple of Solomon, although the external glory even of that material temple was nothing compared with the internal beauty. But what is the beauty of the Lord's temple now? Is there anything external about it? You will find, generally speaking, that the majority of Christians consist of the poor.

II. Within this spiritual house we have priestly worshippers "a holy priesthood." The death of Christ abolished all earthly priesthood by making every believer a priest. In the old dispensation the priesthood was limited to one tribe; I should be correct if I said it was found in one family: but when Christ died, invisible hands took hold of the veil of the Temple and rent it in twain from the top to the bottom, and now, by virtue of union with Christ, every believer is a priest. It is this doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers that is the very core and centre of New Testament teaching. All believers in the world are kings and priests unto God; and though apparently without robes, yet are they all decked in the glorious garment of the Lord our Righteousness.

III. Spiritual sacrifices. There can be no priesthood without sacrifices. The two things were correlative, and the chief employment of the priest was to offer up sacrifices. Now, although the work of sacrifice is changed in its nature, it is not done away with. In a spiritual house, and by a spiritual priesthood, there must, for the sake of conformity, be a spiritual sacrifice. What is the sacrifice that the holy priesthood offers? Surely (1) communion in prayer, (2) also communion in praise; and (3) we offer ourselves in sacrifice.

A. G. Brown, Penny Pulpit, No. 1093.

References: 1 Peter 2:3 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 142. 1 Peter 2:4 . Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1334.

Verse 4

1 Peter 2:4

The Living Stone.

I. Note the Church, or spiritual temple, in its foundation: Christ.

II. The Church, or spiritual temple, in its superstructure.

III. The Church, or spiritual temple, in its service: "a holy priesthood."

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 233.

The Spiritual Church.

Believers in Jesus are here presented in two aspects: they are called a "spiritual house" and "a holy priesthood," two phrases which, if you translate the word here rendered "house" into the more sacred word "temple," will be found to have a very religious significance and a very close connection with each other. "Coming to Christ as a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious," believers rise into a spiritual house from Christ, the great High-priest, consecrated after no carnal commandment; believers rise into a holy priesthood by a majestic investiture that is higher than the ordination of Aaron. There are two points especially presented to us here: spirituality and holiness. Let us take those and dwell upon them for a moment.

I. Any thoughtful observer of the successive ages of the world's history will discover that each generation has in some remarkable particulars progressed upon its predecessor. This progress is inseparable from the creation of God; is present everywhere, from the formation of a crystal to the establishment of an economy; is seen in the successive dispensations in which God has manifested His will to man. You can trace through all these dispensations the essential unity of revealed religion. Believers are the stones in the spiritual temple, broken, it may be, into conformity or chiselled into beauty by successive strokes of trial; and wherever you find them, in the hut or the ancestral hall, in the climate of the snow or the climate of the sun, whether society hoot them or whether society honour them, whether they robe themselves in delicate apparel or rugged home-spun, they are parts of the grand temple which God esteems higher than cloister, crypt, or stately fane, and of which the top stone is to be brought on with shouting of "Grace, grace, unto it!" That is the first thought: a "spiritual house," and also of these lively stones is built up a "spiritual house."

II. Then take the second thought: holiness: "a holy priesthood." In the Jewish dispensation these words often meant nothing more than an outward separation of the services of God. Thus the priests of the Temple and the vestments of their ministry were said to be ceremonially holy; but there is more in that word, surely, than this ritual of external sanctity. There is the possession of that mind which was in Christ Jesus the Lord; there is the reinstatement in us of that image of God which was lost by the foulness of the Fall. Many are the passages of Scripture in which holiness is considered as the supreme devotion of the heart to the service of God, and is represented as the requirement and the characteristic of Christianity. "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?" "Be ye holy, as I am holy"; "As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation"; "For God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness"; "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

W. M. Punshon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 161.

References: 1 Peter 2:4 , 1 Peter 2:5 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1376. 1 Peter 2:4-6 . W. Spensley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 268.

Verse 5

1 Peter 2:5

Trifles to do, not Trifles to leave undone.

I. It was a great saying of the Psalmist when he said, "I am small and of no reputation, yet do I put my trust in Thee." A very great saying; for, indeed, nothing makes man yield to temptation so easily as the thought of being insignificant, and that what he does matters little. If you are so small that nothing you do makes much difference, and of no reputation, so that your actions will not be known, why not do as you please? insinuates the devil. Take your own way; no one will be the worse for so unknown and obscure a person. Satisfy your own will; God does not care, or man either, for you and yours. And so the deed is done which makes the leak; the little hole, as it were, is bored which lets the water through the dyke; the loosening has begun, and, small though it be, all will break up. It is the bad work of the small, the idle sins of the many of no reputation, that ruin the world. For, indeed, every life as a life is equally valuable. The progress of the world is marked by the level the many get to, or, in other words, by the goodness of the small and those of no reputation who nevertheless, like the Psalmist, put their trust in God. This main truth is stamped in characters so broad and large everywhere that, like the daily miracle of nature, no one heeds it.

II. Never neglect in yourself or another what comes every day. Many a great love has been overthrown by a little disagreeable habit always recurring. The dropping of water has passed into a proverb for the transcendent power of this seeming weakness. And how do little, vexatious, and mean offenders, like the flies in summer, sting all the more because they are mean. That is great to us which touches us greatly. and small things touch us most; and our being small does not prevent us from being powers.

E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. ii., p. 177.


I. The measure of a man's excellence is his power of uniting with others for good; the measure of a nation's excellence is the obedience and co-operative power that are in it, freedom from abusive language; freedom from violent acts; the sense to see great men; the sense to see great laws; the sense to appreciate good work and despise talk and self-glorification. The end of the world's existence is that this iron fact of society's linked chain shall become a glorious perfection of many in one and one in many, an image of the perfect unity of God.

II. We all know that man does not live alone. How few consider the deep, the terrible meaning of this great fact. Take, for instance, Abraham and his race. How for thousands of years the Jew has been a marked man in feature, a marked man pre-eminent in patience, perseverance, intellect, in a word, in intense vitality, shown all the more as being the vitality of a fallen race, whilst all other fallen races have practically disappeared. What a grand inheritance Abraham, the faithful, the true, the temperate, the hardy man of God, passed on to his children taken as one body! Society means that good and evil are ever intermingling with unfailing energy, and that, as one or other prevails, the society lives or dies. This is as true on a large scale as on a small, true in a nation, true in a man.

E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. ii., p. 171.

References: 1 Peter 2:5 . E. Thring, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiv., pp. 90, 103; J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 409; W. Skinner, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 225; A. Mursell, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 89; J. Keble, Sermons from Christmas to Epiphany, p. 313; Ibid., Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 415; J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 234; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., pp. 296, 297.

Verse 6

1 Peter 2:6

The Divine Foundation.

I. Jesus Christ as the foundation-stone. This means that Jesus is (1) the cardinal truth of the Christian system; (2) the central truth of Christianity; (3) the all-comprehensive truth of Christianity.

II. Jesus Christ is the corner-stone, or the harmonising truth, of Christianity. He is the corner-stone (1) of the religions of the world; (2) of Christian doctrines; (3) of Christian Churches.

III. He is the sure foundation. "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be confounded."

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 251.

I. Jesus Christ is the corner-stone, uniting Jews and Gentiles. (1) Jews and Gentiles met in His person. (2) They had a place in His ministry. (3) They are united in the Church He established.

II. Jesus Christ is the corner-stone, uniting men and angels.

III. He unites God and man (1) in His person; (2) in His ministry; (3) in His Church.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 271.

Reference: 1 Peter 2:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1429.

Verses 6-7

1 Peter 2:6-7

Christ the One Foundation.

Let us consider a few of the senses in which Christ makes good this title of corner-stone.

I. How, do we think, did the first preachers to the heathen win converts? By appealing to men's deepest sense of need, to the felt necessity of a centralising, consolidating principle of human life. Two things, at least, we must secure if life is not to be a failure. (1) One is something certainly true, a truth to stand by amid uncertainties. As we advance in our earthly journey, perplexities gather round on all sides; life has not verified our first expectations; it raises questions which it does not answer; there is a confusion and discord of theories, but where is that which we can depend upon and grasp firmly, looking life and death in the face? The answer is in the words of Jesus, "I am the Truth." (2) Again, man needs a power of moral and spiritual rectification. He wants to be cleansed from his own unholiness, relieved of his own sense of guilt, otherwise he cannot build in peace; how should he? Life, to be worth having, must be a life with a quiet conscience. To believers in Christ He is all-precious, because He can and does help them to become pure and single-hearted, high in aim and active in duty.

II. In His relation to the several doctrines and institutions of His kingdom, Christ sustains the character of the one foundation. (1) It is so in regard to doctrines; He is the one object whom they set before us. (2) He is also the foundation of all His ordinances. (3) If Christ be in these ways the foundation of our spiritual life in all its aspects, should He not be also the foundation of all that we do? Let us "consider our ways," and resume the building of the spiritual house within us, being assured that the promise will be abundantly verified to us, "Be strong, and work, for I am with you."

W. Bright, Morality in Doctrine, p. 291.

Verse 7

1 Peter 2:7

The Preciousness of Christ.

The writer, in some four or five verses of the chapter, has been employing the image of a building, or rather of a temple, to describe the relation existing between Christ and His Church. According to this image, the Lord Jesus Christ is the solid foundation-stone, which bears the weight of the entire superstructure, and upon which the firmness and solidity of the edifice depend. This stone has been selected by God and placed by Him in its appointed situation; this stone, moreover, is a living stone: it has the property of communicating life to that which is brought into contact with it, and to it are drawn in rapid succession the other living stones, the members of the mystical body of Christ, who are to be built together into a spiritual house. The main thought of the passage that Christ, the personal Christ, is the foundation-stone of the sacred structure, and that as such He is precious to a certain class of persons, though undervalued and contemned by others is simple and obvious enough.

I. Christ is valuable, or precious, when considered in Himself. The rarity of an article or of a substance is one of the constituting causes of its value. The one last copy of a remarkable edition of a remarkable book; the one picture of a famous artist, who deviated for once from his ordinary style, and left behind him a singular production of his genius; the one gem, which surpasses all other gems in size and brilliance, or even, it may be, in the peculiarity of its defects these things, and such as these, are frequently the subjects of an earnest and eager competition, and happy is the man considered to be who can succeed in making himself the possessor of a coveted prize. Rarity, then, makes a thing valuable. And if so, how valuable must He be whom the Scripture calls wonderful, He who is the only-begotten of the Father, the incarnate Son of God. (2) Our foundation-stone is precious also on account of its own intrinsic worth and excellence and its perfect adaptation to the purpose which it is intended to subserve. (3) Christ's preciousness is enhanced by that training and discipline, that process of intellectual and spiritual preparation, which it was the Father's good will that He should be called upon to undergo.

II. Christ is valuable, not only in Himself, but also in the estimation of His people. They think much of Him. There is nothing His people would not consent to part with, if the parting were necessary, in order to retain their possession of Christ. And Christ is more precious to His people the longer and the better they know Him. I have heard it said that the feeling of many persons, when they first see the far-famed cathedral of St. Peter at Rome, is one of disappointment. The building seems neither so large, nor so grand, nor so imposing, nor so beautiful as they had expected it to be. But when they become better acquainted with it the feeling of disappointment passes away; the beauty, the glory, grow upon the visitor. So what we knew and appreciated of Christ when we first put ourselves into His hands is as nothing when compared with what we know and appreciate of Him upon further acquaintance.

G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 1005.

Verses 7-8

1 Peter 2:7-8

Believers and Unbelievers.

I. The relation which Jesus Christ sustains to believers: "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious." (1) The first element in our idea of preciousness is rarity. (2) Another important element in our idea of preciousness is usefulness. (3) There must also be real intrinsic worth. All these we have in Christ Jesus.

II. The relation which Christ sustains to unbelievers. (1) He is by them rejected. (2) He becomes to them a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. (3) Those who through unbelief crucify to themselves afresh the Son of God do themselves incalculable moral hurt.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 288.

References: 1 Peter 2:7 , 1 Peter 2:8 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 242; vol. xvi., No. 931; vol. xxi., No. 1224; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 61; H. Allon, The Vision of God, p. 75; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 124.

Verse 9

1 Peter 2:9


I. It is impossible to read the Scriptures and not to see that there are some persons predestinated to glory. There are persons who, in the words of St. Paul, are vessels which God hath aforetime prepared unto glory. It is a fact we see it with our eyes that God makes a distinction between the heathen who have never heard the name of Christ and the Christian. The latter has high privileges which the former has not. The Christian has God's word to guide him, but not only this: he has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him; he can reach to higher degrees of excellence here; and reason would surmise that he is intended for higher enjoyments hereafter. What reason surmises, revelation asserts. This, then, is the first, the foundation blessing of Christianity, in which we may humbly rejoice, and according to which all spiritual blessings are to be dispensed; it is the first link in the golden chain of glory which is to raise man from earth to heaven, the first round of that ladder up which man is to ascend to God, as angels descend to man.

II. But we may proceed yet farther. Our blessed Saviour tells us that there are many mansions in His Father's house, comparing the house that is to be to that which existed on earth while He yet tabernacled with men. In the temple of the first Jerusalem there was a variety of chambers or mansions, employed for different purposes, though all relating directly or indirectly to the services of the sanctuary. In the new Jerusalem, which will itself be the temple of the universe, there will in like manner be many mansions or chambers. It is very possible that we are not only each of us predestined to heaven, but predestined also each to our particular place in heaven, that our very mansion is fixed. Let the glory which is awaiting us, and to which we are predestined, elevate our characters, ennoble our thoughts, extend our views. Co-heirs we are with Christ Himself, who is our Head; vessels we are designed for high honour; we are of the household of the King of kings; we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, called out of darkness into His marvellous light.

W. F. Hook, Sermons on Various Subjects, p. 48.

References: 1 Peter 2:9 . R. Flint, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 216; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 284.

Verses 9-10

1 Peter 2:9-10

The True Israel.

I. "Ye are a chosen generation," the word "generation" here meaning, not contemporaries, but the offspring of one common parent, the offshoots of one original stock. The Israelites were a special "generation." (1) They had sprung from Abraham as their common progenitor. (2) The Jews were, moreover, a "chosen generation" called out of the darkness of Chaldæan idolatry to the marvellous light of Divine revelation.

II. "Ye are a royal priesthood." (1) The Jews were a nation of priests. (2) "A royal priesthood." "Ye are kings and priests," kings over yourselves and priests unto God. A grand spectacle to see men monarchs of themselves, ruling their own passions and keeping their lusts in subjection. (3) "Ye are a royal priesthood, to show forth the excellences of Him who hath called you.". By your holy conversation, upright demeanour, you are to show forth the character of your God.

III. "Ye are a holy nation." As a people bound together for the purposes of holiness, we should show forth the excellences of God.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 307.

References: 1 Peter 2:12 . Archbishop Thomson, Church of England Pulpit, vol. i., p. 273. 1 Peter 2:12 , 1 Peter 2:13 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 98. 1 Peter 2:15 . W. Walters, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 358; J. Keble, Sermons from Easter to Ascension, p. 303.

Verse 16

1 Peter 2:16

The text sets before us the limits of Christian liberty, the responsibility which lies upon every Christian for the right government of his private individual will, according to what he knows, or ought to know, or might have known, of the will of God.

I. The love of liberty is generally said to be a feeling implanted in the heart of man. It begins to show itself in his earliest years. Even in our childhood we are all apt to show impatience at the control exercised over us by our parents and guardians, and in our strong manhood we chafe under the restraints of law and the commands of our superiors whenever they happen for the moment to cross or impede anything we desire to do. The sense of freedom is itself pleasure.

II. And yet, notwithstanding this hearty love of freedom, which appears so natural to us, the very earliest lesson we have to learn is that we are not free to act as we please even in earthly matters; that our will is not our own, but that of our parents and governors. Even when we are grown up and think we are about to taste the desired fruits of the liberty of manhood, the disagreeable conviction is forced upon us that if we would live happily and creditably here, we must prevent our desires and wills from ranging too widely. It is our highest interest, as it is our bounden duty, to consider in all our actions how far they will be for the general good as well as for our own good.

III. This, then, is the measure of the Christian's liberty in the world. We are free agents within the limits of God's laws, and of human laws also, as deriving their force and value from God's permission. The true Christian is the only man who is free upon earth because he will never desire to do more than God's law permits him, and that, indeed, in glorious liberty. There is no such freedom as serving God.

P. Williams, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, April 24th, 1884.

Freedom and Law.

I. Christ has given to us men, first of all, political or social freedom. He has not, indeed, drawn out a scheme of government and stamped it with His Divine authority as guaranteeing freedom. The New Testament only notices two elements in man's life as a political or social being. One is the existence of some government which it is a duty to obey, be it assembly, president, king, or emperor; the other element is the freedom of the individual Christian under any form of government whatever. The whole social fabric totters to its base when there is a conflict between human law and Divine law enthroned in conscience, when law and the highest liberty are foes. To avoid such a misfortune must be the aim of all wise legislators, to deprecate it the heartfelt prayer of all good citizens.

II. Christ gave men also intellectual freedom. He enfranchised them by the gift of truth. He gave truth in its fulness, truth absolute and final. Until He came the human intellect was enslaved. The religion of Christ gave an immense impulse to human thought. He led men out into the great highways of thought, where, if they would, they might know the universal Father, manifested in His blessed Son, as the Author of all existence, as its object and as its end.

III. Christ has made us morally free. He has broken the chains which fettered the human will, and has restored to it its buoyancy and power. Man was morally free in paradise; he became enslaved in consequence of that act of disobedience which we name the Fall. How was he to be enfranchised? What had been lost was more than regained in Christ. A Christian lives under a system of restrictions and obligations; and yet he is free. Those obligations and restrictions only prescribe for him what his own new, heaven-sent nature would wish to do and to be. They are acceptable to, they are demanded by, the "new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

H. P. Liddon, Easter Sermons, vol. ii., p. 211.

References: 1 Peter 2:16 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 227; E. Bickersteth, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 221; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 295.

Verses 16-17

1 Peter 2:16-17

Christian Freedom.

I. We are here warned against two great enemies of our souls, which are ever seeking to bring us into bondage, and to substitute for the true Christian liberty the fancied freedom, but real slavery, of self-indulgence. These two enemies are (1) the lust of the flesh, and (2) pride. Our own consciences will tell us that they are not enemies whose hostility is limited to persons placed in particular circumstances or to one particular period of Christian history, but that they make war upon all classes at all times. One proof of their universal enmity to Christ's servants is that they are two of the temptations through which the devil assailed Christ. It well becomes us, then, to take heed against snares so subtle that they were chosen by the great enemy for his own evil purposes; and, at the same time, if we tremble at our own experience and recollection of their power, we shall be comforted by the thought of One who, in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, being tempted by those very inclinations, is able to succour them that are tempted.

II. Selfishness and pride are here set before us as the two great enemies which war against the soul, and are ever seeking to bring it into bondage. And how are we to be delivered from their fetters, or from their assaults? The true reason why we remain slaves to these passions, in some one or more of their various manifestations, is that we are still strangers to the love of God. It is only in Christ that we can find safety or deliverance. Seek for true freedom in forgetting yourselves and remembering Him; think of the witness borne by His life and death against all self-seeking and self-exaltation; and learning to see all things and all persons no longer through the mists of pride and selfishness, but in the pure, heavenly radiance of His Gospel, let each offer up to Him the thoughtful prayer,

"Give unto me, made lowly wise,

The spirit of self-sacrifice;

The confidence of reason give;

And in the light of truth Thy bondman let me live."

G. E. L. Cotton, Expository Sermons on the Epistles, vol. ii., p. 1.

Verse 17

1 Peter 2:17

The Obligation of Christians to the World and the Church.

I. "Honour all men." Christians in deed and truth, called by the grace of God to be a peculiar people, separate from the world, have this rule laid upon them. Why? Because in all men, even in those who refuse the Gospel, in the worshippers of the world, in those who are strangers to the family of Christ, there is something worthy of honour. The most depraved of the human race has an infinite price set upon his life; the blood of the meanest does not fall to the ground unavenged. There is a Divine light, "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world"; and for the sake of that, honour is due unto him, though by choosing darkness rather than light he has dishonoured himself. You owe to all men courtesy, generosity, charity, respect, and (what is perhaps harder than all) justice.

II. Having fulfilled this law, draw the line broadly and distinctly between it and the second rule: "Love the brotherhood." Remember where you are, if you be lively members of the body of Christ. You have been chosen out of the world, gathered into a fold of which Christ is the door, adopted into a home for the members of which He prayed to the Eternal Father "that they may be one, as We are." If you be true to your character, you will find in the peace of love and unity of your Christian home not only a solace for the troubles of the world, but a counterattraction against its sinful pleasures and shelter against its dangers. And, moreover, that love and union, which ministers to your joy, serves to the glory of God, and wins souls from the world into the Church.

C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 143.

References: 1 Peter 2:17 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 405; vol. xiii., p. 274; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 4th series, p. 51; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 25; F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 17; R. Duckworth, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 211; J. G. Rogers, Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 117.

Verse 19

1 Peter 2:19

Patience under Undeserved Wrong.

I. St. Peter teaches that suffering is thankworthy, a gift from God, and acceptable in turn to Him, if it be accompanied by two conditions. (1) It must be undeserved. A slave, too, might be punished for doing what would merit punishment in a free man; a slave, too, might be violent, or abusive, or careless about that which belonged to others, or intemperate, or dishonest, or treacherous. If punished for offences of this kind, he might not complain. "What glory is it," asks St. Peter, "if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?" The law, the eternal law, that punishment follows wrong-doing, is not suspended in the case of the slave. (2) And such suffering must be for conscience toward God. It must be borne for God's cause and sake, and with a good hope of God's approval. This it is which makes pain at once bearable and bracing, when the conscience of the sufferer can ask the perfect moral Being to take note of it, just as David does in so many of his psalms. "Look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me. Lord, be Thou my Helper." Mere suffering which a man dares not offer to God, though it be borne patiently through physical courage, through "pluck," as we term it, has no spiritual value. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." This is the Consecration Prayer, uttered on the cross, uttered, if in other language, wherever men suffer for conscience toward God; and by it suffering is changed changed assuredly into moral victory.

II. And here it may be asked, "Why did not the Apostles denounce slavery as an intolerable wrong? Why did they trifle with it, and allow the Church which succeeded them to trifle with it? Why did they seem, indirectly at least, to sanction it by advising slaves to honour and obey their owners? Was not this of the nature of a compromise between good and evil between the high principles of Christian morality on the one hand and the debased institutions of heathen life on the other? Would it not have been better to break with slavery at once and altogether, better for the honour of the Christian revelation, better for the best interest of man?" Certainly, nothing can well be more antipathetic than the spirit of the Gospel and the spirit of slavery; for slavery postulates an essential distinction between man and man, which is unknown to the Gospel. The Gospel proclaims the unity of the human race and the equality of all its members before God. The Gospel is based upon, and it consecrates, the laws of God in nature; and slavery, on the other hand, is distinctly unnatural: it is a rejection of the fundamental equality of man. It often, and very consistently, professes to reject belief in the unity of the human race. To slavery the deepest of all distinctions between human beings is the distinction between the man who is his own owner and the man who is owned by another. "In Christ Jesus," exclaims the Apostle, "there is neither bond nor free." But the exact question which the Apostles had to consider was not whether slavery was a bad social institution or theoretically indefensible, but this: whether slavery necessarily ruined the prospects of the human soul. A slave might be a Christian he might be the best of Christians easily enough. If he were harshly treated, that was not peculiar to his condition of life; it might even promote his sanctification. If he were tempted to do wrong, St. James would tell him that he should count this all joy, knowing that the trial of his faith worked endurance. If he had to choose between sinful compliance with a master's will and punishment, though that punishment were death, he, with his eyes fixed on the Divine Sufferer, would know his part. The grace of God may make the soul of man independent of outward circumstances; and there is no real slavery when the soul is free. At the same time, although the Apostles were working, as I have said, for another world, in the course of doing so, and, as it were, incidentally, they were destined to be, from the nature of the case, great social reformers in this. They could not but detest slavery, but how was it to be done away with? Was it to be by some sudden revolutionary effort, supposing the thing to be possible? Was it to be by the influence of new principles first upon the opinions of men, and then upon the structure of society? The Apostles chose the latter method, but it was a method which took time. The Apostles trusted to the infiltration of new principles into the thoughts and actions of men, and not to those violent and tragical catastrophes which, even when they succeed, succeed amid ruins. It was not the duty of the Gospel to proclaim a social war. There were sects at that time nearly related to Judaism. The Essenes and Therapeutæ they were called, and their teaching was certainly very familiar to St. Paul sects which held that the slave should at once refuse all obedience to his master, in the name of human rights. But slaves, maddened by oppression into rebellion against order, would not, in that age at least, have put an end to slavery. It was better to teach a higher ideal of life, both to the slave and to the master, and meanwhile to proclaim the truth, "This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." In Christian households, a hundred courtesies softened the hardship of the legal relation between master and slave. The sense of a common brotherhood in Christ had already sapped the idea of any radical inequality between them.

H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 943.

Verse 20

1 Peter 2:20

Writing probably from Rome, certainly in one of the closing years of his life, St. Peter saw the great tendency of social and political circumstances around him towards that outbreak of violence against the worshippers of Christ which is known in history as the first persecution, in which he and St. Paul laid down their lives. He is anxious to prepare the Asiatic Christians for the trials which are before them. Then, as now, there were bad Christians who fell under the just sentence of the criminal law, and St. Peter reminds them that there is no moral glory in suffering that which we have deserved, even though we take our punishment uncomplainingly. "What glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?" But he knew also that cruel and aggravated sufferings awaited numbers of inoffensive men and women, whose only crime would be that they were worshippers of the meek and lowly Jesus and centres of light and goodness in a corrupt and demoralised society. When the storm burst, as it would burst, they might be tempted to think that the government of the world was somehow at fault in this award of bitter punishment to virtuous and benevolent persons, conscious of the integrity of their intentions, conscious of their desire to serve a holy God, to do any good in their power to their fellow-creatures. Accordingly St. Peter puts their anticipated trials in a light which would not, at first sight, present itself, and which does not lie upon the surface of things: "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." There is no glory in submitting to deserved punishment; there is a peculiar moral glory in patience under unmerited wrong, if not according to any human, yet certainly according to a Divine, standard. "This is acceptable with God." Now, many men have said, and more, perhaps, have thought, about such teaching as this, that it is a splendid paradox. That a criminal should suffer what he has deserved satisfies the sense of justice; that a good man should suffer what he has not deserved violates the sense of justice: and if he submits uncomplainingly, he acquiesces in injustice. Nay, he does more: he forfeits the independence, the glory, of his manhood. His business as a man, knowing himself to be innocent, is, we are told, to resist to the last extremity, and to submit at last, if he must submit, under protest against the violence which deprives him of his liberty or his life. The precept to take it patiently is, in a word, objected to as effeminate and anti-social.

I. Now, here it must be remarked that for serious Christians this question is really settled by the precepts and example of our Lord Himself. "Even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but submitted Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." In His public teaching our Lord made much of patient submission to undeserved wrong. He pronounced those men blessed who suffered for righteousness' sake. "Blessed are ye," He says, "when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely. Rejoice and be exceeding glad." Not in exemption from suffering, but in truthful endurance, would His true followers find their peace. "In your patience possess ye your souls." Nay more, Christians, He says, are to welcome such trials. They are to meet the persecutor half-way. If smitten on one cheek, they are to present the other. They are to do good to them that hate them, to pray for their persecutors, for their calumniators; and their example is the all-merciful God, who sheds the light of day, who sends down the rain, upon those who set Him at defiance, upon the just and the unjust. For Christians the question whether patience under undeserved wrong is right, is a duty, is not an open question. It has been settled by the highest authority our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. From His teaching there is no appeal. In His example we Christians see the true ideal of human life. "As He is, so are we in this world," says St. John; "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ," says St. Paul; "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps," says St. Peter. And for thousands upon thousands of Christians in every generation this has decided the matter, and will decide it. If He in whom the prince of this world had no part, who is fairer than the children of men, thus came among us wounded and bruised for transgressions and iniquities which were not His own, why should we discuss the question any further whether patient submission to undeserved wrong is or is not a duty? It is ruled by the highest of all authorities, by the first of all precedents. "As He is, so are we in this world."

II. Although it is true that sin is followed by punishment, because God is righteousness, it does not follow that all human suffering in this life is a punishment for sin. The Jews came to think that, whatever sufferings befell a man, they must be in exact proportion to his personal sinfulness, and therefore that the very suffering and unfortunate among mankind were, so to speak, placarded by God's providence as the most conspicuous of sinners, that misfortunes and agony were sure proofs of known or undiscovered crime. The Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices were supposed to be sinners above all the Galileans. The eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell were adjudged worse men than any of their contemporaries. Such a theory would have regarded a fire attended with loss of life, or a great railway accident, as God's revelation of a certain number of possibly unsuspected, but certainly very wicked criminals indeed. Against this idea the Old Testament itself contains some very emphatic protests. Thus the book of Job has for its main object to show that Job's misfortunes are no real measure of his sins. His unyielding resistance to his friends on this point, followed by the Divine verdict in his favour at the close of the book, shows that pain and misfortune are not to be regarded as always penal. And if the question be asked by some anxious soul, "How am I to know? Is this unjust humiliation, or this insult, or this loss of means, or this illness, or this heartache, a punishment for past sin, or a tender discipline?" the answer is, "Conscience must itself reply." Conscience reveals to man the true meaning of pain, not pain the contents of conscience. No outward sign marks one misfortune as a penalty, and another misfortune as a discipline; but conscience, with the map of life spread out before it, is at no loss for information.

III. In this glad acceptance of undeserved pain we see one of the central forces of the Christian religion, by which, as a matter of fact, it made its way among men eighteen centuries ago and ever since. The religion of Jesus Christ, embodied in His own teaching, and illustrated by His cross, has brought to bear a mighty force upon human life: the force of passive virtue. Heathenism knew something of active virtue. Energy for good in many forms was highly rated by it; but the passive excellences of Christian character love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness were known very slightly, or known only to be despised as mean-spirited and effeminate. Yet, in truth, passive virtue often requires more courage than active virtue. In battle soldiers can often rush forward to the charge when they cannot keep their ranks under a heavy fire; and in life to do is again and again easier, far easier, than simply to bear. Patient endurance is, indeed, a moral accomplishment, in which, as a rule, women do better than men, but it is not, in the depreciatory sense of the term, effeminate. It belongs to the highest forms of human courage. Effeminate, indeed! It is the passive virtue which has conquered the world for Christ. In the early Church there was no great stock of those showy qualities which take society by storm. Not many mighty, we know, not many wise, not many noble, were called. Few could speak or act so as to control the attention of mankind at large; but there was a something that all could do. All such was Christ's strengthening grace all could suffer in such fashion as to show that a new power was abroad in the world a power before which pain, man's ancient enemy, had ceased to be formidable. Literature, social prestige, political influence, were all against the Church; but in the long run the old empire was no match for a religion which could teach its sincere votaries generation after generation to regard pure suffering as a privilege, as a mark of God's favour, as a pledge of glory. And if this way of taking the troubles which are laid upon us supplies Christianity with its force, so it secures to human life its best consolations. It will not matter much in the long run, if by discipline the neck of our natural pride is broken, and our old sins are finally put away, and love to God is purged from earthly alloy, and an advance is made in sweetness, in humility, in self-denial, in submission to God's will, in all the points which are least easy, even for serious Christians, to acquire. "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us an exceeding, an eternal, weight of glory." "Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 806.

Verse 21

1 Peter 2:21

The Great Exemplar.

I. That which strikes us first in the example which Christ has left is its faultlessness. We are startled by His own sense of this. He never utters one word to God or to man which implies the consciousness of a single defect. Read the lives of the great servants of God in the Old or New Testament of Abraham, of Moses, of Samuel, of David, of Elijah, of St. Peter, of St. Paul. They all confess sin. They all humble themselves before men. They implore the mercy of God. Think of any great man whom you have ever known, or whose life you have read. He has feared God, loved God, worked for God through long years; yet he is full of the sense of his inconsistencies, of his imperfections, pervading his life and his conduct. He is profuse in his acknowledgments of his weakness and of his sin. Nay, if he were not thus willing to confess his sin, you yourself would question his goodness, for what he says is, as you instinctively feel, no more than the fact. But Jesus Christ reproaches Himself for nothing, confesses nothing, regrets nothing. He is certain of all that He says and does. "I do always those things that please the Father." In this sinlessness He is, although our model, yet beyond our full reach of imitation. We cannot in our maimed and broken lives reproduce the complete image of the immaculate Lamb. The best of men knows that in his best moments he is beset by motives, thoughts, inclinations, from which Christ was utterly free. "If we say that we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." But this does not destroy on the contrary, it enhances the value of His ideal example. In all departments of thought and work the ideal is, strictly speaking, by man unattainable. Yet man may never lose sight of the ideal. In the Gospels ideal human life appears in a form of flesh and blood. It is the ideal, and, therefore, it is beyond us; yet it is not the less precious as a stimulus and guide to our effort at self-improvement.

II. And then, again, we are struck by the balance and perfection of excellences in our Lord's human character. As a rule, if a man possesses some one excellence in an unusual degree, he will be found to exhibit some fault or shortcoming in an opposite direction. Now, of this want of balance in excellence, of this exaggeration of particular forms of excellence, which thus passes into defect, there is no trace in our Lord. Read His life over and over again with this object in view, and, unless I am mistaken, nothing will strike you more than its faultless proportions.

III. Consider, again, a feature which runs through His whole character: its simplicity. In nothing that He says or does can we detect any trace of striving after effect. The number of men of whom anything remotely like this is true is very small indeed. The effort to create an impression is the result sometimes of timidity, sometimes of vanity, but it always impairs moral beauty, whether of speech or work. Our Lord always says what He has to say in the most natural and unpretending words. His sentences unfold themselves without effort or system, just as persons and occasions demand. Every situation offers an opportunity, and He uses it. He attends a wedding; He cures a paralytic; He stoops to write upon the ground; He eats with a Pharisee; He raises a corpse to life; He washes the feet of His disciples, just as it comes, just as is right from day to day, from hour to hour, from minute to minute. The most important and useful acts follow on with the most trivial and ordinary. There is no effort, no disturbing or pretentious movement. All is as simple as if all were commonplace. It is this absence of anything like an attempt to produce unusual impressions which reveals a soul possessed with a sense of the majesty and the power of truth. Depend upon it, in the degree in which any man becomes really great, he becomes also simple.

IV. And one further point to be remarked in our Lord's example is the stress which it lays upon those forms of excellence which make no great show, such as patience, humility, and the like. As we read the Gospels we are led to see that the highest type of human excellence consists less in acting well than in suffering well. The ancient world never understood this. With them virtue was always active force. Yet the conditions of our human life are such that, whether we will or no, we are more frequently called upon to endure than to act; and upon the spirit in which we endure everything depends. Our Lord restored the passive virtues to their forgotten and true place in human conduct. He revealed the beauty, the majesty, of patience, of meekness, of uncomplaining submission. Experience has shown that Christ's Divinity is no bar whatever to an imitation of His life as man. And this imitation is not a duty which we are free to accept or decline. "The elect," says St. Paul, "are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God." If there is no effort at this conformity, there is no note of a true predestination. We cannot enter into the designs of God in giving us His Son if we are making no effort to be like His Son. Like the law, the life of Christ is a schoolmaster to bring us to the cross of Christ. After gazing at Him we come to Him out of heart with ourselves, emptied, happily emptied, of self, crushed by a sense of our utter unworthiness to bear His name, to wear His livery; and He once more stretches His pierced hand to pardon, and offers the chalice of His blood to strengthen our souls for such work as may remain to make them more like Himself.

H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 1091.

References: 1 Peter 2:21 . R. Balgarnie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 407; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 152; Ibid., The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 218; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 354; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 91.

Verses 21-22

1 Peter 2:21-22

Christ our Example.

I. While our salvation is specifically described as the effect of our Lord's greatest obedience that is, His death yet, viewing the subject of redemption generally, our salvation is the fruit of His whole obedience. This is apparent from the plan itself of salvation, as revealed to the enlightened mind of a Christian in the Scriptures of truth. It was necessary that the High-priest of our profession should be holy, harmless, undefiled; that of Him, the Victim who suffered for us, it should be asserted and proved that He did no sin, and that guile was not found in His mouth.

II. His history has been before the world for more than eighteen hundred years. For eighteen hundred years the world has frequently made the attempt to imagine a faultless character; but no faultless character has ever been exhibited to mankind but that of our Jesus. His charity, His piety, His purity, His fortitude, His self-possession, His self-denial, His self-government all prove the perfection of His character and confirm the judgment of His very enemies. They could not even ground condemnation on the frivolous accusation of the false witnesses, but condemned Him at last for that fact which is the very foundation of our hope: they condemned Him because He declared Himself to be the Son of God, thereby, as they correctly and logically reasoned, making Himself equal with God. The Lord Jesus was condemned for asserting His Divinity.

III. He is now held forth to us as an example, that we should follow His steps. The precise point marked out for our imitation is not obedience simply, but obedience attended with suffering. Our virtues are never to be trusted until they are tried, and they are never tried without suffering. The Christian, then, will bear his trials thankfully. He will thank God for removing from his heart even that which rends his heart asunder, because he knows that God does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men; that He only sends affliction to effect for us or in us some ulterior blessing; and that it is good for us to be afflicted, affliction working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

W. F. Hook, Parish Sermons, p. 226.

Verse 24

1 Peter 2:24

The Witness of the Apostles.

I. St. Peter says of Christ, with whom he had lived in daily intercourse, He "bare our sins in His own body on the tree." Wonderful and unexampled assertion that He whom he called the sacrifice for human sin, the reconciliation of the world, was no person whose name had come down to him from the remoteness of time, but One whom he had himself known! He had known Him, and yet he proclaimed this unutterable mystery about Him. Had our Lord been mere man, do we not know what must have followed a constant, near intercourse with Him? How could a claim to a supernatural spotlessness, as the Lamb of God, had it not been real, have stood such an ordeal? It must have vanished with the light of day and the constant scrutiny of watchful eyes. Yet it was those who had the closest connection with Christ who announced to the world the tremendous mystery which attached to Him, the mystery which, as St. Paul says, had been hid from ages and generations: that He was the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature; that He was before all things, and that by Him all things consist; and that it pleased the Father by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth, having made peace by the blood of His cross.

II. And were the Apostles men whose witness can be set aside upon any ground of weakness, want of judgment and proper strength of mind? I think it may be said that it would be difficult to point out any set of men in history whose judgment, so far as we can gather from their conduct and writings, upon a life and character would be more solid and more competent. Our Lord gathered about Him the choicest specimens of the Jewish mind, strong and vigorous men, as their after-life showed, men of solid character and understanding, who were able when left to themselves to carry on the work which He had begun with power and firmness, with a wise policy as well as an ardent zeal, and who showed themselves able to cope with adversaries and the assailing forces of the world. It was this company of men that surrounded Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. It was such men who saw in Christ the Man without sin, the undefiled Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. It was the purpose of God to give us that special guarantee to the supernatural holiness of Christ which was contained in the testimony of such men, who had known Him, and lived with Him, and yet felt this assurance about Him, to show us that the belief in the mystery about Him had gone through the most trying of all ordeals: familiarity with Him.

J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 278.

References: 1 Peter 2:24 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 202; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 301; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1143; G. Calthrop, Pulpit Recollections, p. 133; Archbishop Maclagan, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 205. 1 Peter 2:25 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 222. 1 Peter 3:1 , 1 Peter 3:2 . R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 180. 1 Peter 3:3 , 1 Peter 3:4 . H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxiii., p. 372; G. Calthrop, Words to my Friends, p. 346. 1 Peter 3:4 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 264; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv., p. 168. 1 Peter 3:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1633.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/1-peter-2.html.
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