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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Peter 2

 

 

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Verses 1-3

1 Peter 2:1-3. Wherefore — Since the word of God is so excellent and durable in itself, and has had such a blessed effect upon you as to regenerate you, and bring you to the enjoyment of true Christian love; laying aside — As utterly inconsistent with that love; all malice — All ill- will, every unkind disposition; or all wickedness, as κακιαν may be properly rendered, all sinful tempers and practices whatsoever; and all guile — All craft, deceitful cunning, and artifice, every temper contrary to Christian simplicity; and hypocrisies — Every kind of dissimulation; and envies — Grieving at the prosperity or good, temporal or spiritual, enjoyed by others; and all evil speakings — All reproachful or unkind speeches concerning others; as new-born babes — As persons lately regenerated, and yet young in grace, mere babes as to your acquaintance with the doctrines, your experience of the graces, your enjoyment of the privileges, and your performance of the duties of Christianity; desire επιποθησατε, desire earnestly, or love affectionately, or from your inmost soul, the sincere — The pure, uncorrupted milk of the word — That is, that word of God which nourishes the soul as milk does the body, and which is free from all guile, so that none are deceived who cleave to it, and make it the food of their souls; that ye may grow thereby — In Christian knowledge and wisdom, in faith, hope, and love; in humility, resignation, patience, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, in all holiness and righteousness, unto the full measure of Christ’s stature. In the former chapter the apostle had represented the word of God as the incorruptible seed, by which the believers, to whom he wrote, had been born again, and by obeying which they had purified their souls; here he represents it as the milk by which the new-born babes in Christ grow up to maturity. The word, therefore, is both the principle by which the divine life is produced in the soul, and the food by which it is nourished. Some critics, following the Vulgate version, render λογικον αδολον γαλα, the unadulterated rational milk. But the context evidently shows that our translators have given us the true meaning of the apostle. By adding the epithet, αδολον, unadulterated, or pure, the apostle teaches us that the milk of the word will not nourish the divine nature in those that use it, if it be adulterated with human mixtures. If so be, or rather since, ye have tasted — Have sweetly and experimentally known; that the Lord is gracious — Is merciful, loving, and kind, in what he hath already done, and in what he is still doing for and in you. The apostle seems evidently to allude to Psalms 34:8, O taste and see that the Lord is good: where see the note. Not only think and believe, on his own testimony, or on the testimony of others, that he is good, but know it by your own experience; know that he is good to you in pardoning your sins, adopting and regenerating you by his grace, shedding his love abroad in your heart, and giving you to enjoy communion with himself through the eternal Spirit.


Verse 4

1 Peter 2:4. To whom coming — With desire and by faith; as unto a living stone — Living from eternity; alive from the dead; and alive for evermore: and a firm foundation, communicating spiritual life to those that come to him, and are built upon him, making him the ground of their confidence and hope for time and for eternity. The apostle alludes to Isaiah 28:16, where the formation of a Christian church, for the spiritual worship of God, is foretold under the image of a temple, which God was to build on the Messiah as the foundation-stone thereof. See the note there. There is a wonderful beauty and energy in these expressions, which describe Christ as a spiritual foundation, solid, firm, durable; and believers as a spiritual building erecting thereon, in preference to that temple which the Jews accounted their highest glory; and St. Peter, speaking of him thus, shows he did not judge himself, but Christ, to be the rock on which the church was built; disallowed αποδεδοκιμασμενον, rejected indeed of, or by, men — First and primarily by the Jews and their rulers, as not answering their carnal and worldly expectations, nor suiting their way of building; that is, not to be made use of for the carrying on and promoting of their worldly projects and interests. By representing Christ as being rejected of men, the apostle intimated that he was the person spoken of Psalms 118:22; The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner; a passage which our Lord himself, in his conversation with the chief priests and elders, referred to as a prophecy which they were about to fulfil by rejecting him; but whose exaltation, notwithstanding all they could do to prevent it, should assuredly take place. See on Matthew 21:42. But the Jews, or, added to them, the Turks, heathen, and infidels, are not the only people that have rejected, and do reject Christ; but all Christians so called, who live in known sin on the one hand, or who expect to be saved by the merit of their own works on the other, reject him; as do also all hypocrites, formalists, lukewarm, indolent, worldly-minded professors, and all those backsliders who, having begun in the Spirit end in the flesh, and draw back unto perdition, instead of continuing to believe, love, and obey, to the saving of their souls, Hebrews 10:38-39. But chosen of God — From all eternity, to be the foundation of his church; and precious — Of unspeakable dignity and worth in himself, in the sight of God, and in the eyes of all true believers.


Verse 5

1 Peter 2:5. Ye also — Believing in him with a loving and obedient faith, as lively — Greek, ζωντες, living, stones — Quickened and made alive to God by spiritual life derived from him, are built up — Upon him, and in union with each other; a spiritual house — Spiritual yourselves; and a habitation of God through the Spirit. For, according to his promise, he lives and walks in every true believer, 2 Corinthians 6:16; and collectively considered, as a holy society, or assembly, uniting together in his worship and service, you are the house, or temple, of the living God, (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:20-21,) in which he manifests his presence, displays his glory, communicates his blessings, and accepts the prayers and praises, alms and oblations, of his people; a holy priesthood — Not only God’s temple, but the priests that serve him in that temple; that is, persons dedicated to and employed for God. Thus, Isaiah 61:6, it is foretold that, in the days of the Messiah, the people of God should be named the priests of the Lord, and the ministers of our God; as also Isaiah 66:21. Christians are called a priesthood, in the same sense that the Israelites were called a kingdom of priests, Exodus 19:6. The apostle’s design, in giving these titles to real Christians, is partly to show that they are dedicated to God in heart and life, and also that in the Christian church or temple, there is no need of the mediation of priests to present our prayers to God. Every sincere worshipper has access to the Father through Christ, as if he were really a priest himself. The apostle says, a holy priesthood, because genuine Christians are very different characters from the generality of the Jewish priests, who, though the posterity of Aaron, and dedicated externally to, and employed in, the service of God, were remarkably unholy, yea, very vicious characters; whereas the true disciples of Christ are really holy in heart and life. To offer up spiritual sacrifices — Not merely their prayers and praises, but their souls and bodies, their time and talents, with all their thoughts, words, and actions, acceptable to God through the mediation of Jesus Christ — The great High-Priest over the house of God, whose intercession alone can recommend to the Father such imperfect sacrifices as ours.


Verses 6-8

1 Peter 2:6-8. Wherefore also — To which purpose; it is contained in the Scripture — In Isaiah 28:16, the passage before referred to. Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone — To support and hold together the whole building. This, as explained Ephesians 2:21, signifies the union of Jews and Gentiles in one faith, baptism, and hope, so as to form one church or temple for the worship of God through the mediation of Christ. And he that believeth on him — With a lively faith, a faith productive of love and obedience; shall not be confounded — In time or in eternity. To you therefore who believe — With such a faith; he is precious — Highly esteemed by you, and of infinite advantage to you. Or, as we read in the margin, he is an honour. The clause may also be rendered, To you who believe in this honour; the honour of being built on Christ, the foundation, or chief corner-stone of the new temple of God. But unto them which be disobedient — Who disbelieve and disobey the gospel, the words of the psalmist are accomplished; the stone which the builders disallowed — Namely, the Jewish chief-priests, elders, and scribes, called builders, because it was their office to build up the church of God among the Jews. See on Psalms 118:22. But they rejected the stone here spoken of, and would give it no place in the building; the same is made the head of the corner — And all their opposition to it is vain. It is not only placed at the foot of the corner, to support the two sides of the building erected upon it, but at the head of the corner, to fall upon and grind to powder those that reject it; and, as the same prophet elsewhere speaks, a stone of stumbling, and rock of offence — Namely, to the unbelieving and disobedient. Thus Simeon, (Luke 2:34;) This child is set for the fall as well as the rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against; a prediction awfully fulfilled. Even to them which stumble, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed — This translation of the clause seems to imply that those who are disobedient were appointed to be so; but the original does not convey that sense, but is literally rendered, Who, disobeying the word, stumble, to which also they were appointed: that is, those who disobey the word are appointed to stumble, namely, at the stone of stumbling here spoken of, according to the prediction of Isaiah, Isaiah 8:14-15; He shall be for a sanctuary, but for a stone of stumbling, &c., to both the houses of Israel; that is, to those that are unbelieving and disobedient; and many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and snared, and taken. This is what God has appointed, that they who reject Christ shall stumble at him, and fall into misery and ruin: or, that he who believeth not shall be damned: the unalterable decree of the God of heaven. Or the words may, with equal propriety, be rendered, Unto which stumbling they were disposed; those who disbelieve and disobey the gospel; being, through blindness of mind and perverseness of will, disposed to reject Christ, stumble at him, and fall into eternal ruin.


Verse 9-10

1 Peter 2:9-10. But ye — Who have been born again of incorruptible seed, and have purified your souls by obeying the truth, &c., (1 Peter 1:22-23,) and have tasted that the Lord is gracious, (1 Peter 2:3,) and are built up upon him as lively stories; ye, who bear this character are a chosen generation εκλελτον γενος, an elect race; all such, and such only, have that title, and other titles of a similar import, in the New Testament. See on Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. A royal priesthood — Kings and priests unto God, Revelation 1:6. As princes, you have power with God, and victory over sin and Satan, the world and the flesh: as priests, ye are consecrated to God for the purpose of offering spiritual sacrifices; a holy nation — Under Christ, your King; a peculiar or purchased people, as λαος εις περιποιησιν is rendered in the margin; that is, a people who, being purchased by the blood of Christ, and dedicated to, and accepted of, God, are taken into covenant with him, and are his in a peculiar sense. See on Titus 2:14; that ye should show forth — In your spirit and conduct, in all your tempers, words, and works; the praises — τας αρετας, the virtues, that is, the perfections; the wisdom, power, goodness, truth, justice, mercy, the holiness, the love; of him — Christ, or the Father, in and through Christ; who hath called you out of darkness — Out of that state of ignorance and error, sin and misery, in which you lay formerly involved; into his marvellous light — The light of knowledge, wisdom, holiness, and happiness, into which you are now brought. Which in time past were not a people — (Much less the people of God,) but scattered individuals of many nations. This is a quotation from Hosea 2:23, where the conversion of the Gentiles is foretold, as the Apostle Paul informs us, Romans 9:25. Upon which passages see the notes; which had not, formerly, obtained mercy — Namely, the pardoning, saving mercy of God; but now — In consequence of repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; have obtained mercy — Are forgiven, accepted, and made God’s children.


Verse 11-12

1 Peter 2:11-12. I beseech you, as strangers — Or sojourners; and pilgrims — Who have no inheritance on this earth, but are travelling to the heavenly country. The former word, παροικοι, properly means those who are in a strange house, a house not their own: the second, παρεπιδημοι, those who are in a strange country, and among a people not their own. We sojourn in the body; we are pilgrims in this world; abstain from fleshly lusts — Or carnal desires; from inordinate desires of any thing in this country. “The settled inhabitants of a country are anxious to acquire riches, to purchase lands, and to build houses. But they who stay but a few weeks in a country, or who only travel through it, are commonly not solicitous to secure to themselves accommodations which they are so soon to leave. In the same manner, believers, being only sojourners on earth, and travellers to a better country, ought not to place their happiness in the enjoyment of those objects by which carnal desires are gratified, and which are peculiar to this earthly state, but in securing themselves possessions in the heavenly country, the proper habitation of the righteous.” — Macknight. Which carnal desires, though pleasant to the senses, war against the soul — Against the health, the strength, the liberty, the purity, the usefulness, the comfort of the soul. Having your conversation — Your whole behaviour; honest — Greek, καλην, amiable, excellent, commendable, and honourable, pious and virtuous in every respect. But our language sinks under the force, copiousness, and beauty of the original expressions; among the Gentiles — Your heathen neighbours, who narrowly watch you; that whereas they speak against you as evil-doers — As seditious persons and atheists, because ye do not worship their false gods, and because you join yourselves with what they presumptuously call the impious sect of Christians; they may by your good works — Your unblameable, useful, and holy conduct, your obedience to the just laws of the state, your submission to magistrates, and your patience and meekness when unjustly punished; which they shall behold — Shall be eye-witnesses of; may not only lay aside their blasphemous reproaches and bitter enmities, but may exchange them for commendations and praises, and so may glorify God — By owning his grace in you, being induced to believe and obey the truth, and to imitate your example; in the day of visitation — During the season in which the gospel is preached among them, whereby they are visited with the offers of pardon and salvation. It is well known that the patience, fortitude, and meekness with which the first Christians bore persecution for their religion, and the forgiving disposition which they expressed toward their persecutors, made such an impression on the heathen, who were witnesses of their sufferings, that many of them glorified God by embracing the gospel.


Verses 13-15

1 Peter 2:13-15. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man — Greek, παση ανθρωπινη κτισει, to every human constitution of government, under which you are placed by Divine Providence, and which is formed instrumentally by men, and relates to you as men, and not as Christians. Macknight translates the clause, Be subject to every human creation of magistrates; observing that “the abstract word creation is put for the concrete, the person created; just as governments and powers are put for persons exercising government and power. The phrase, human creation of magistrates, was formed by St. Peter with a view to condemn the principles of the zealots, who maintained that obedience was due to no magistrates but to those who were appointed by God, as the Jewish kings had been.” Whether to the king — That is, to the emperor; as supreme — For though at Rome the name of king was odious, the people in the provinces gave that name to the emperor, John 19:15; Acts 17:7. When this epistle was written, Nero was emperor. Or to subordinate governors — Or magistrates, in the different provinces of the empire. “From this we learn that it is the duty of Christians, residing in foreign and even in infidel countries, to obey the laws of those countries in all things not sinful, without considering whether the religion of the magistrate and of the state be true or false.” That are sent by him — Commissioned by the emperor from Rome; for the punishment of evil-doers — The Roman governors had the power of life and death in such conquered provinces as those mentioned 1 Peter 1:1. There is, therefore, the exactest propriety in the apostle’s style. And for the praise of them that do well — For protecting and rewarding them who give due obedience to the good laws of the state. For so is the will of God — As I assure you by inspiration; that by well-doing — By your due subjection to magistrates, and the performance of all other Christian duties; you may put to silence φιμουν, may bridle in, or restrain by a bridle or a muzzle, (so the word signifies,) the ignorance — The calumnies proceeding from the ignorance of foolish men — Of men destitute of the fear of God, who blame you because they do not know you, affirming that your religion makes you bad subjects.


Verse 16-17

1 Peter 2:16-17. As free — In the noblest sense, in consequence of your relation to Christ, and your interest in the merit of his death; (see on John 8:32; 1 Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13;) as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, and therefore heirs of God; and not using your liberty as a cloak of maliciousness κακιας, of wickedness. Though you are indeed made free from the dominion of sin and Satan, the world and the flesh, yet not from subjection to magistrates; therefore use not your liberty so as, under pretence thereof, to be guilty of disobedience to governors, or any other wickedness: but act in all things as the servants of God — Observing all his laws, and performing all the duties he requires. Honour all men — As being made in the image of God, intelligent, free, and immortal beings; bought by the blood of his Son, and designed for his eternal kingdom. Love the brotherhood — All true Christians. Fear, reverence, and obey, God. Honour the king — Whom God has set over you. Pay him all that regard, both in affection and action, which the laws of God and man require. Perhaps no finer and stronger instances of the laconic style are to be found anywhere than in this passage. It is remarkable that the apostle requires Christians to honour the Roman emperor, though a great persecutor, and of a most abandoned character.


Verses 18-20

1 Peter 2:18-20. Servants οι οικεται, household servants, be subject to your masters — Though heathen, in all things lawful; with all fear — Of offending them or God; not only to the good — The tender, kind; and gentle — Mild, easy, forgiving; but also to the froward — The ill-natured and severe. “In this verse,” as Macknight justly observes, “the apostle establishes one of the noblest and most important principles of morality, namely, that our obligation to relative duties does not depend either on the character of the persons to whom they should be performed, or on their performing the duties they owe to us, but on the unalterable relations of things established by God.” For this is thankworthy — An acceptable thing to God. Greek, τουτο γαρ χαρις; literally, this is grace; that is, a grand proof of true grace; if a man for conscience toward God — From a pure desire of pleasing him; endure grief — Severe treatment; suffering wrongfully — The apostle here refers to those punishments which, according to the customs of that age, tyrannical masters were allowed to inflict on their servants, however contrary to justice and mercy such punishments might be. For what glory — Or praise; is it if, when ye be buffeted — Corrected or beaten; for your faults — For acts of manifest disobedience; ye shall take it patiently — Since the punishment being just, it ought in reason to be borne. But if when ye do well — Do your duty conscientiously; and suffer for it — As if you had neglected it; ye take it patiently — Receive it in a meek and quiet spirit; this is acceptable, or this is grace, with God — His eye, which always observes every individual of his people, and all their actions, is pleased with such a disposition and behaviour, though exhibited in the lowest ranks of human life.


Verses 21-23

1 Peter 2:21-23. For even hereunto — Namely, to suffer wrongfully, and to bear such treatment with patience and meekness; are ye Christians called; because Christ — Whose followers you profess to be, pure and spotless as he was; suffered for us — Not only hard speeches, buffetings, and stripes, but deep and mortal wounds, even the ignominious and painful death of crucifixion; leaving us — When he returned to heaven; an example of suffering patiently for well-doing; that ye should follow his steps — Of innocence and patience. Who did no sin — And therefore did not deserve to suffer any thing; neither was guile — Any insincerity, or dissimulation, or the least mis-spoken word, found to drop from his mouth — This is an allusion to the words of Isaiah, concerning the Messiah, Isaiah 53:9; neither was any deceit in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled — As he frequently was, being called a Samaritan, a glutton, a wine-bibber, a blasphemer, a demoniac, one in league with Beelzebub, a perverter of the nation, and a deceiver of the people; he reviled not again — In any one instance: he did indeed once say to the Jews, Ye are of your father the devil, and the works of your father ye will do. This, however, was not a reviling speech, but a true description of their character, and a prediction that they would murder him; and when he suffered — All kinds of insults and tortures, till they ended in his death on the cross; he threatened not the vengeance which he had it in his own power to have executed; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously — The only solid ground of patience in affliction. In all these instances, the example of Christ was peculiarly adapted for the instruction of servants, who easily slide into sin or guile, reviling their fellow-servants, or threatening them, the natural result of anger without power.


Verse 24-25

1 Peter 2:24-25. Who his own self — In his own person, and by the sacrifice of himself, and not of another, (Hebrews 9:28,) bare our sins — That is, the punishment due to them; in his afflicted, torn, dying body on the tree — The cross, whereon chiefly slaves or servants were wont to suffer. The apostle alludes to Isaiah 53:12; He bare the sins of many. “The phrase, bearing sin, is often used in the Old Testament. It signifies sometimes the making atonement for sin, Leviticus 10:17; sometimes the suffering punishment for sin, Leviticus 22:9; Ezekiel 18:20; and sometimes the carrying away sin from the sight of God; as the scape-goat is said to do, Leviticus 16:22. The apostle uses here the first person, our sins, to show that Christ bare the sins of believers, in every age and country; and to make us sensible how extensive the operation of his death is in procuring pardon for sinners.” That we, being dead to sins — Or, as ταις αμαρτιαις απογενομενοι is more literally rendered, freed from sins

That is, from the guilt and power; from which, without an atonement, it was impossible we should be delivered. By whose stripes ye were healed — Of your spiritual disorders: evils infinitely greater than any which the cruelty of the severest masters can bring upon you. See on Isaiah 53:5. “By changing his discourse from the first to the second person, the apostle addressed those slaves who might be beaten unmercifully by cruel masters; because, of all the considerations by which they could be animated to patience, the most powerful was, to put them in mind of the painful stripes with which Christ was beaten, when he was scourged by Pilate’s order, (Matthew 27:26,) and to tell them, that with these stripes the wounds in their souls, occasioned by sin, were healed; wounds far more painful and deadly than those inflicted on them by their froward masters.” For ye were as sheep going astray — From their pastures, their shepherd, and his flock, and exposed to want and the danger of being lost in the wilderness, or destroyed by wild beasts; ye were wandering out of the way of truth and duty, of safety, holiness, and happiness, into the by-paths of error and sin, of guilt and misery — paths leading to certain destruction. But are now returned — Through the influence of divine grace; unto the Shepherd — The great Shepherd of the sheep, brought again from the dead, through the blood of the everlasting covenant; and Bishop — the kind Observer, Inspector, and Overseer; of your souls — Who has graciously received you under his pastoral care, and will maintain that inspection over you which shall be your best security against returning to those fatal wanderings. “Though in this passage the apostle addressed his discourse immediately to servants or slaves, yet, by giving titles to Christ which marked his relation to men of all ranks and conditions, he hath intimated that his exhortation to suffer unmerited evils patiently, is intended for all who profess the gospel.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-peter-2.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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