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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
1 Peter 2

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Peter 2:1. Having put off. The noun connected with this verb is used by Peter in the caveat which he throws in on the subject of the antitypical relation of the waters of baptism to those of the flood, where he explains that what he has in view is ‘not the putting away of the filth of the flesh’ (1 Peter 3:21). The verb itself occurs both in the Pauline writings (Romans 13:12) and in others (Hebrews 12:1; James 1:21) with the figurative sense, taken from the act of putting off or laying aside clothes (cf. Acts 8:58), and is employed in Paul’s two great statements regarding the ‘putting off’ which is involved in the ‘putting on’ of the’ ‘new man’ (Ephesians 4:24-25; Colossians 3:8; Colossians 3:10). The vices to be renounced, therefore, are compared implicitly to a foul garment enwrapping the old man. They are the ‘Nessus shirt’ of corrupt habits which the new man tears off. This divestiture is represented here (the participle being in the simple past) as preparatory to, and the condition of, the fulfilment of the positive charge which follows.

therefore, i.e =having by help of the Word an undying life capable of an undecaying love, forswear everything hostile to the life, and by a right use of the Word foster it till it grows to the perfection of final salvation.

all (or, every kind of) malice. The noun (which in the Septuagint, e.g. Amos 3:6; Ecclesiastes 7:14; Ecclesiastes 12:1; and once in the N. T., Matthew 6:34, has also the objective sense of calamity or trouble) may mean either wickedness, viciousness, in general (as in 1 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Acts 8:22), or, in particular (as in Romans 1:29; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Titus 3:3; James 1:21), malevolence, the wish to injure. On the ground of its apparent import in 1 Peter 2:16, some give it the former sense here, in which case it would be the parent disposition, of which the things which follow are the issue. The latter sense, however, is favoured both by the repetition of the ‘all’ with the ‘guile’ (which would give us a second generalization), by the analogy of Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8, James 1:21, and by the relation of the whole sentence to the previous charge to brotherly love. The ‘wickedness’ which the R. V. places in the text, therefore, should go to the margin, and its marginal ‘malice’ should occupy the text.

and all guile, i.e every form of the disposition to reach selfish ends artfully or by deception. In 1 Peter 3:10 this is re-introduced in relation to speech, as that is dealt with in Psalms 33:13.

and hypocrisies and envies. The transition to the plural indicates perhaps that acts are now in view, the unlovely acts which arise in those dispositions of malice and guile. These ‘hypocrisies’ are in strong contrast to the love ‘unfeigned,’ literally ‘unhypocritical,’ in 1 Peter 1:22. The word (which is used in Galatians 2:13 with the softened sense of the dissimulation of Cephas and the Jews, which amounted to a ‘practical denial of their better insight’) covers here all the insincerities, the masked acts and concealments into which the heart full of malice and guile drives one in relation to his fellows. The ‘envies’ (the only vice in this list which is explicitly named in Paul’s enumeration of the ‘works of the flesh,’ Galatians 5:20-21) embrace all exhibitions of jealousy and grudging.

and all evil-speakings. The term is one of rare occurrence. The cognate verb, indeed, is found occasionally in the Classics, and there with the twofold sense of ‘babbling’ and ‘railing.’ But the noun itself is unknown to classical Greek, although it is found occasionally in the Septuagint (Wis_1:11 ),the Fathers (e.g. Clem. Rom. and Polycarp), and in one other passage of the N. T. (2 Corinthians 12:20). It means literally ‘speakings against,’ and will include all words of detraction, railing, defamation, and the like. The five evils mentioned here may be antithetical to either of two things,—the brotherly love formerly in view, or the character implied in the immediately succeeding designation, ‘new-born babes.’ The close connection between the two parts of the verse, and the introduction of vices like guile and hypocrisy, which are more directly opposed to simplicity and sincerity than is love, favour the latter word. In that case, the point would be the renunciation of everything alien to child-like candour, to the transparency and healthfulness of the child-like character. The former view is generally preferred, however, and is supported by the prevalent tone of the evils specified, as well as by the relation of dependency in which this charge stands to the former. It is doubtful whether much is intended by the particular order in which the things are given. It is supposed, e.g., that the malice comes first, as being ‘the main cause of dissensions,’ and that then we get naturally ‘guile the inward disease, hypocrisy its outward manifestation, and, as a result of the consciousness of evil, envy in its various forms, specially directed against those who have the peace in which the hypocrite knows that he is lacking, a feeling which sooner or later breaks out in calumnious aspersions’ (Canon Cook). But if any inner connection is to be traced at all, it is rather that the malice which purposes evil to a brother, is named first as at the root of all; that this carries with it the guile which schemes to accomplish the end; that the guile which secretly works by plot and artifice for the ends of self, reveals itself in the hypocrisies into which it is driven to deceive the eye; while the masked acts by which we painfully cover our assault upon a brother’s good, exasperate our envyings of his good, and these find vent in evil-speakings or overt attempts to talk him down.


Verse 2

1 Peter 2:2. as new-born babes. Of two words for child, one of which corresponds etymologically to our ‘infant,’ and means the child yet incapable of speech, and then more generally (as in Galatians 4:1) a minor, the other the child at the stage of birth; or at the tenderest age (cf. Luke 18:15; Acts 7:19), it is the latter that is used here, as it is also used of Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15), and of the infant Jesus (Luke 2:12; Luke 2:16). It is not used, however, in the metaphorical sense in which the babe (as designated by the other word) in knowledge is contrasted with him who is of full age (Hebrews 5:13), or the immature and carnal with the spiritual (1 Corinthians 3:1). It expresses a simple fact here, the recency of the Christian life in these converts, which is marked still more emphatically by the addition of the strong adjective (nowhere else used in the N. T.) ‘new-born.’ The contrast is not between Christians at different stages of Christian maturity, but between these converts as once they were and as now they have just come to be. And it is in this character (the ‘as’ here again being the note of quality or fact, not of comparison) that they are charged to long for the pure, rational milk. The verb (an intensive or compound form) means not merely ‘desire’ (as the E. V. renders it here, although elsewhere it deals better with its force, e.g. Romans 1:11, ‘long;’ 1 Thessalonians 3:6, ‘desire greatly,’ etc.), but ‘earnestly desire,’ or ‘long for,’ as with the keen and healthy appetite of the child, with whom it is so natural to turn to the ‘food convenient’ for it, that, as Bengel says, it is capable of nothing but this desire. It is difficult to convey the precise sense of the three words which follow. It is clear, however, that they describe the food for which these converts are to cultivate an appetite, and the E. V., though literally inexact, gives a sufficiently correct representation of their general import by its rendering ‘sincere milk of the word.’ The term ‘milk’ here does not mean the elementary doctrine which is suitable for babes in Christ in contrast with the ‘meat’ (1 Corinthians 3:3), or the ‘strong meat’ (Hebrews 5:12-14), which elsewhere is said to be for the full-grown. It is simply a figurative expression for the food which they must have, seeing that they are now in a new life. They themselves are not compared to babes, but said to be babes, as having been only recently ushered into the Christian life. And their food is not compared to milk, but said to be milk. But this is at once qualified by two adjectives which exhibit its nature. One of these is resolved into a noun, ‘of the word,’ by our E. V. and some other versions, as well as by Beza, Bengel, etc. This brings out the sense well enough, but is not itself a correct translation. What the food is which is indicated by the ‘milk,’ is not stated, but is left to be inferred from the context, which certainly points neither to the Eucharist, as some strangely imagine, nor even to Christ, as the Logos preached in the Word (so Weiss), but simply to the Word itself. And to make this plain, an adjective is attached which occurs often in the Classics, and in a variety of senses (e.g. belonging to speech, possessed of reason, logical, etc.), but in the N. T. is found only once again (Romans 12:1). In both its N. T. occurrences (and even in ecclesiastical Greek, the offering of the angels being described, e.g., in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, as a ‘rational and bloodless offering’) it seems to mean rational, or spiritual (though these English words poorly express the idea), as opposed to literal or ceremonial. In the Pauline passage it designates the new sacrificial service to which the Christian is pledged by Christ’s sacrifice, as one in which the mind is engaged, which cannot be discharged by the hand without the heart or as an opus operatum like the legal circumstantial service of the Jew. In the present passage it explains the ‘milk’ to be food for the soul, not for the body; spiritual milk for the spiritually new-born, not material milk as for the natural babe. But this is further defined by a second term, which signifies ‘guileless,’ and in which, therefore, there may be an echo of the ‘all guile’ of 1 Peter 2:1. Two shades of meaning, however, are possible. If the figure of the ‘milk’ is regarded as sunk in the idea of the Word to which it points, the term will be rendered ‘sincere’ (as in E. V. and the Geneva Version), or ‘without guile’ (as in Wycliffe), or ‘without deceit’ (as in Cranmer; Tyndale gives ‘without corruption’). The point then will be that the Word is pure, ‘uncrafty’ (as Jeremy Taylor puts it), incapable of deceiving or corrupting; with which may be compared the use of the cognate verb in 2 Corinthians 4:2, ‘handling the Word of God deceitfully. ‘If, as is more likely, the figure rules the term, it may be rendered unadulterate; free from any foreign element hurtful to the life; an analogy to which is found (see Lillie) in Shakespeare’s ‘the innocent milk in its most innocent mouth’ (Winter’s Tale, 1 Peter 3:2).

that ye may grow thereby. The best authorities add here the important words, unto salvation, which carry these converts in thought at once from their present infancy in grace on to what they are designed to be in the ultimate manifestation of the sons of God. The unflagging spiritual appetite or ‘longing’ which is spoken of is to be cherished with this in view as its most proper object,—their own growth from strength to strength, until they reach the measure of final redemption. This increase will be secured, and that goal reached, only ‘thereby,’ or rather, ‘therein;’ that is, so far as the Word is made the mental food in which their new life instinctively seeks its nourishment, and made this with that great object in view. Any other use of the Word of God comes short of a worthy use. ‘To desire it only for some present pleasure and delight that a man may find in it, is not the due use and end of it: that there is delight in it, may commend it to those who find it so, and so be a means to advance the end; but the end it is not. To seek no more but a present delight, that vanisheth but with the sound by the words that die in the air, is not to desire the Word as meat but as music’ (Leighton).


Verse 3

1 Peter 2:3. if indeed ye tasted that the Lord is good. A condition is added which represents the previous charge as one which is applicable indeed only to those who have a particular personal experience (expressed as tasting), but obviously applicable to such, and certain to recommend itself to them. The sentence puts the condition as one which may be held to be made good, = if, that is to say (and that I take for granted), ye tasted. The tense (a simple historical past, not ‘have tasted,’ as both A. V. and R. V. give it) describes the experience as one belonging definitely to the past, and points, therefore, to what they found the Lord to be when they first came to know Him. The adjective has not so specific a meaning (although it approaches that) as is implied in the ‘gracious’ by which both the A. V. and the R. V. render it. Neither has it here the sense of ‘sweet,’ as if the Lord Himself were viewed as the ‘rational unadulterate milk,’ and declared now to be as milk ‘sweet’ to the taste in the sense in which meats and drinks are pronounced ‘sweet’ or ‘good.’ It designates moral goodness under the twofold aspect of attractiveness and kindly disposition or active beneficence, as distinguished from other adjectives which describe goodness on the side of its sterling worth and its gentleness. The idea, therefore, is that if, as Peter assumed it to be the case, they had found Christ Himself to be good in their own first inward perception of what He was, they could not but hunger for that living Word of the Gospel by which they had received Him and life with Him, and make such use of it that their life should be a growing life and themselves children, dwelling in brotherly love, and advancing in meetness for the children’s inheritance. It is not necessary (with many interpreters) to limit this goodness of the Lord to the active beneficence of which the providing of this preached Word was the special proof. The source of the verse shows the sense to be more general. For Peter seems to have in mind here the 34th Psalm, one of the eight Psalms which are referred by their inscriptions to the painful period of David’s life during which he was a fugitive from Saul. The particular words which he reproduces are those in which the Psalmist calls on God’s saints to make proof for themselves of that kindness of Jehovah which throws the shield of angelic protection round them,—words on account of which the early Church made this Psalm its Communion Psalm (see Delitzsch in loc.). In order to adapt it to his present purpose, Peter makes certain changes on the sentence, dropping the imperative form, and giving the single term ‘taste’ instead of the two terms ‘taste’ and ‘see,’ by which the Psalm expresses the spiritual experience which leads to spiritual perception. And what is said of the Jehovah of the O. T., Peter applies thus to Christ without further qualification. If they had once tasted this goodness, they must have the appetite, and that would keep their life from being stunted. If they had once known what the Lord Himself is, they could not but long for that Word which is His preacher, that they might have an ever-deepening experience of His goodness.

1 Peter 2:4-6

It is supposed by some (Schott, etc.) that the previous section has already had in view the future of the Church, and not of the mere individual, its import being that by a right use of the Word the members of the Church should increase in love as a brotherhood, and the Church itself advance towards its glorious end. In that case, the verses which now follow would be a mere extension of the former paragraph. Up to this point, however, Peter has dealt rather with what concerns the individual believer’s own ripeness for the inheritance of the saints, and now he speaks of what relates to the realization of the idea of the collective body, the Church. With the change of view there comes a change of figure. The conception of a life growing passes over into that of a building increasing. At the same time the Word or Revelation, which is the means of the life with its growth, gives place to the Lord Himself, who is the foundation of the structure with its increase, and the idea of union with Christ Himself as the first and the last thing in the regenerate life, which was but dimly conveyed by the preceding statement, is now exhibited in all its breadth. The description which is now commenced of what believers are meant to be in their collective capacity as the Church of God, is continued for some time, and carried into the details of their relations to the ancient Church of God in Israel (1 Peter 2:7-10), to the world and civil society (11-17), and to various orders of life.


Verse 4

1 Peter 2:4. To whom coming. The relative form of the sentence indicates its intimate connection with the previous section. The connection, however, is not between an exhortation and a statement of privilege appended in support of the exhortation, but between two exhortations which, while in themselves distinct, have a meeting-point in what is said of ‘the Lord.’ This verse, therefore, gives a further explanation of the primary condition of all growth, namely, union with this Lord Himself. They who have tasted that He is good have an irresistible attraction to Him, and it is by giving effect to this attraction that they grow. If the Church, too, is to increase into that which God means it to be, its members must not only feed upon the Word, but come constantly to Christ Himself. Though the verb by which this is expressed is the verb from which the word proselyte is derived, it is fanciful to suppose that Peter had in his mind anything relating to the modes of admission for Gentile converts into Judaism. Neither is he alluding specially to service. It is held, indeed (e.g. by Schott), that Christ being represented here not as the source of the individual believer’s life, but rather as the foundation of the structure which is being built up of many regenerate individuals, the ‘coming’ naturally refers neither to the first act of faith nor to the daily renewal of personal fellowship, but to the stated coming with all the powers of the regenerate life to Christ for purposes of service. The idea then would be that the giving of ourselves to Christ’s service in the great work of rearing the spiritual temple is to be made our recognised mode of conduct. But the construction of the verb (which is unusual here) points rather to something more than a simple approach to one—to a close approach or intimate association; while the present tense describes that as a habit. The idea, therefore, is simply this—that the upbuilding of the Church on Christ the foundation can be made good only in so far as we, the builders, are ourselves ever coming into close personal union with the same Christ. The verb selected for the expression of this union, meaning as it does to attach one closely to an object, is in perfect harmony with the figure under which both Christ and believers are represented here.

a living stone. The E. V. inserts as unto. The original, however, is bolder. It has no such note of comparison, but designates the Lord directly a living stone; in which phrase the main thing, too, is the noun stone, not the qualifying adjective living. Christ is spoken of under the figure of a stone simply because in relation to the House He is the foundation; as believers are termed stones, because in relation to the same House they are in one point of view the materials to be used in building, while in another they are the builders. The word for stone here is an entirely different word from the term which is identical with the personal name Peter, and this prevents us from supposing (with Bengel, Canon Farrar, etc.) that the apostle was thinking here of the new name (Peter = rock or stone) which he had himself received from Christ. He uses the term simply as a well-understood Old Testament title of Messiah, as he uses it again in his discourse after the healing of the cripple (Acts 4:11), and as Christ Himself employs it in order to point the application of the parable of the wicked husbandmen (Matthew 21:42). Peter, indeed, as some suppose, may have been that ‘one of His disciples’ who, as Jesus ‘went out of the temple,’ said unto him, ‘Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here,’ and who now pointed his readers to that Master Himself as the chief corner-stone of a more glorious temple slowly rising out of more imperishable material. The adjective ‘living’ is attached here, as it is also to the subsequent ‘stones,’ simply as a note of the figurative application of the noun. It does not refer to the Resurrection of Christ, neither does it express such ideas as that Christ became this ‘living foundation’ only through death, or that He lives to make others alive, or that ‘He penetrates and fills with His life the whole organism of believers, and causes it to grow’ (Fronmüller). Far less is the expression analogous to the phrase living rock, describing the stone in its natural state as distinguished from the stone broken and hewn.

rejected indeed of men, but with God chosen, honourable. There is no reference here to the Jews as distinguished from others. There is simply a broad contrast drawn between two kinds of treatment accorded to the ‘living stone,’ one on the side of men, and another on the side of God. It is much in Peter’s habit to draw such contrasts (cf. Acts 2:23-24; Acts 3:13-15; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30-31; Acts 10:39-40). Hence, too, instead of the ‘builders’ of Psalms 118:22, we get the more general phrase ‘men.’ The verb which the E. V., following Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan Version, translates ‘disallowed’ here (as it does again in 1 Peter 2:7, but nowhere else in the N. T.), conveys the stronger idea of rejection after trial, or on the ground of want of qualification. Here ‘reproved’ is given by Wycliffe, and ‘reprobated’ by the Rheims, and outside this Epistle the verb is invariably rendered ‘reject’ in the E. V. The value which the stone has in God’s sight is expressed by two adjectives, one of which describes it as ‘chosen’ or ‘elect’ (i.e chosen by God as qualified for His object); while the other describes it as consequently ‘honourable,’ or ‘in honour’ with Him as such (the term being somewhat different from the ‘precious’ in 1 Peter 1:19). Other epithets, which in Isaiah 28:16 are descriptive rather of what the stone is to be in the building than of what it is in God’s estimate, are omitted.


Verse 5

1 Peter 2:5. Be ye also as living stones built up. The verb admits of being construed either as indicative or as imperative. The former is preferred by the E. V., in which it follows Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Geneva. The same rendering is adopted by not a few of the best interpreters (Bengel, Wiesinger, Weiss, Hofmann, etc.), specially on the ground that what is stated in this verse and the following is a natural explanation of the practical effect to which that ‘goodness of the Lord’ which they had tasted (1 Peter 2:3) had served them for good, namely, in having actually made them, through attachment to Himself, parts of that spiritual edifice of which he is the foundation chosen of God. But the imperative is to be preferred (with Beza, de Wette, Luthardt, Huther, Schott, Alford, etc.), as most consistent with the use of the similar ‘be ye’ in 1 Peter 1:15, with the hortatory force which seems inherent in the participle ‘coming’ (1 Peter 2:4), and with Peter’s practice of introducing charges in the form of imperatives accompanied by participles expressing the conditions of their fulfilment (1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 1:17-18, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 2:1-2). The imperative, too, may be of the middle form = build yourselves up (Luther, Steiger, Plumptre), or better, of the passive form = be ye built up, as the E. V. gives in the margin, here following Wycliffe’s ‘be ye above bilded,’ and the ‘be ye also yourselves superedified’ of the Rheims. So Peter, as his wont is, charges them to do on their side what has been made both possible and a matter of duty by what has been done on God’s side. The foundation is laid by God, let them come, therefore, and be built upon it. And the character (such again is the force of the ‘as’) in which they are to do this is that of living stones.

a spiritual house. Though the noun means simply ‘house,’ and not ‘temple,’ and the adjective ‘spiritual’ is added simply to distinguish it from a material structure, it is no doubt the temple that Peter has in view. The phrase itself may be in apposition to the subject ‘ye’ (Hofmann, etc.), or (as most prefer) it may express the end contemplated in the being built. It may be that they are to be built up on the Foundation in the character of, or because they are, a spiritual house; or it may be rather that they are to be built up in order to make a spiritual house. At this point Peter introduces the idea which was so alien to the Jewish mind (cf. Mark 14:58; John 2:21), but by this time as familiar to him as it was to Paul (Ephesians 2:20-22, etc.), that the real temple of God was not the great House in Jerusalem, and that Christ’s flock, without distinction, too, of Jew and Gentile, was the true Israel, temple, and priesthood of God. It is possible, as Dean Plumptre and others believe, that in speaking of the Church in these terms, Peter recalled the great declaration made to him by Christ Himself, the full significance of which he had been slow enough to take in, on the subject of the Church, and the rock on which its Lord was to build it (Matthew 16:18). ‘This thought of a Divine temple consisting of living men, and of a comer-stone by whom and in whom they could alone cohere, may be traced throughout the whole Epistle. From first to last he seems to be telling them of a unity which existed for them, and which they might enjoy in spite of their dispersion, if only they would recognise the living ground of it, if only they would move round the true centre, and not try to exist as separate atoms apart from it’ (Maurice, Unity of New Testament, p. 336).

unto (or, with a view to) a holy priesthood. The evidence of the best authorities makes it necessary to insert the preposition ‘unto,’ which at first sight creates an awkward connection. The awkwardness, however, is only in appearance. It is the new reading that gives by far the deepest and most apposite sense here. It indicates a further end contemplated by the being built up in Christ. They are to be so built in order to make not only a spiritual house, but also a holy priesthood, and the spiritual house itself is to rise with a view to, or, so as also to become, the holy priesthood. As God’s people once were, the house and the priesthood were distinct; now they are one. ‘Under the Old Covenant Jehovah had His House, and His priests who served Him in His House; the Church fulfils both purposes under the New, being both His House and His holy priesthood’ (see Wiesinger and Fronmüller). The epithet ‘holy’ simply marks off the priesthood as consecrated according to the idea of a priesthood. The noun expressing the priesthood itself is one entirely strange to profane Greek, but found in the LXX., and once again in the N. T. (1 Peter 2:9 of this chapter). It denotes priests not in their individual capacity, but as a collective body or college. It by no means follows, however, that it implies the existence of different degrees of priesthood among Christians (Canon Mason), or that it bears upon ‘the office of a vicarious priesthood, representing and acting on behalf of the body corporate’ (Canon Cook). The one thing it affirms is that all Christians as such, and without distinction, constitute a priestly fraternity corresponding to the community of priests established under the Law, and realizing the complete idea of a priesthood which the former college, with its limitation in numbers, and its sharp separation from the people, and its ritual service, imperfectly and distantly exhibited. ‘The name priest,’ says John Owen, ‘is nowhere in Scripture attributed peculiarly and distinctly to the ministers of the Gospel as such; that which puts a difference between them and the rest of the people of God’s holiness seems to be a more direct participation of Christ’s prophetical, not sacerdotal, office. When Christ ascended on high, He gave some to be prophets, Ephesians 4:11; none, as we find, to be priests. Priests are a sort of church-officers whom Christ never appointed’ (see Dr. John Brown in loc.). In the next few verses, Peter lingers lovingly over this great principle of grace, the priesthood of all believers, the right of every soul to go direct to God with its sins, and receive for itself His forgiveness through Christ,—the principle which the early Church proclaimed (‘are not we who are laics also priests?’—Tertullian, de Exhort. Castitatis, chap, 7), which was lost in the theology and ecclesiasticism of the Mediaeval Church, although it lived in its hymnology, which finally revived in the Theses of Luther, and became the keynote of the Reformation.

to offer up spiritual sacrifices. If Christians are the spiritual house and the holy priesthood which make all necessity for a separate temple and a limited priesthood vanish, they must serve in priestly fashion Him whose house they make. Their service is to offer ‘sacrifices,’ and these, in conformity with the service itself, must be not material but ‘spiritual.’ In the O. T., sin and trespass offerings had to be offered first in order that access might be secured, and only after these, and in their train, came the sacrifices of consecration, praise, and thanksgiving. Under the N. T., access has been opened once for all by Christ’s sacrifice for sin, and the only sacrifices which this priesthood is called to offer, or is capable of offering, are of the latter order. They embrace first the consecration of our living, active selves, which is described as the presenting of ‘our bodies a living sacrifice’ (Romans 12:1); and then those offerings which are the expression of that consecrated life,—the sacrifices of our praise and thanksgiving (which are compared to the fruit of our lips, Hebrews 13:15; cf. also Psalms 50:23; Psalms 116:17; Hosea 14:3), of our prayers (which are likened to incense, Psalms 141:2), of beneficent deeds and charitable givings (Hebrews 13:16), of broken spirits and contrite hearts (Psalms 51:17), of obedience, the superiority of which to the sacrifices of the Law was declared so early as by Samuel to Agag (1 Samuel 15:22), and finally, if need be, of a spent life or martyr’s death, which Paul speaks of under the figure of the pouring out of the heathen libation, or the Jewish drink-offering, which accompanied the sacrifice (Philippians 2:17). The verb used here in the sense of ‘to offer,’ is the usual LXX. term for the offering of sacrifice, and means properly to ‘bring up to the altar.’ It occurs thrice in the N. T. with the literal sense of ‘carrying up,’ or ‘leading up’ (Matthew 18:1; Mark 9:2; and, in reference to the Ascension, Luke 24:51. It is never found in the sacrificial application either in the Pauline writings or in the Classics, but has that sense again in 1 Peter 2:24 of the present chapter, once in James (James 2:21), and thrice in Hebrews (Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 13:15).

acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. This clause may be attached to the verb, so that the sense will be=to offer up through Jesus Christ acceptable sacrifices to God. This connection has in its favour the analogy of Hebrews 13:15, and is urged on the ground that not only the acceptance of what is offered, but the very possibility of offering, is dependent on Christ; so Alford, de Wette, Weiss, etc. It is better, however, on the whole, to connect it closely with the noun, both on account of the immediate vicinity of the noun, and because without such an addition the acceptance of the N. T. sacrifices (as due directly and simply to Christ) is not distinguished from the acceptance of the O. T. sacrifices (as dependent on certain ritual observances). The meaning, therefore, seems to be (as Luther, Bengel, Wiesinger, Hofmann, Huther, etc., read it) = to offer up spiritual sacrifices which through Jesus Christ are acceptable to God. To Him to whom we owe our first consecration as priests to God, we owe also the continued acceptance of all that we offer in our priestly ministry.


Verse 6

1 Peter 2:6. Because it la also contained in Scripture (or, in a scripture). The passage in Peter’s mind is the section of Isaiah (Isaiah 28:16) in which the prophet’s stern declaration of the fate of Samaria and unsparing invective against the official classes of Judah break suddenly into ‘words full of gentle seriousness and hope’ (Ewald) addressed to the pious, and assuring them of the security which will ‘justify their faith, even as the permanence of the temple-building verifies the solidity of the foundation’ (Cheyne). The formula by which the passage is introduced (not ‘wherefore also,’ but, as the best authorities read, ‘because’) is the same as has been found twice already in similar connections (1 Peter 1:16; 1 Peter 1:24). It indicates that Peter is not making an express quotation in order to establish, by the authority of the Old Testament, what he has just stated, but is rather giving in familiar Old Testament terms which come naturally to his pen, a reason for the case being as he has stated it to be. This is confirmed by the indefinite and impersonal phrase, it is contained in Scripture, or, in a scripture (the reading ‘in the Scripture’ is doubtful), as well as by the fact that the words are given neither exactly as they stand in the Hebrew text nor exactly as the LXX. Version renders them, but (as is also the case with Paul’s use of them in Romans 9:33) with a number of significant variations. The point of the passage, therefore, seems to be this: the reason why they are to be built up into a spiritual house with the view to being a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices, lies in its having been God’s will, as that is expressed in Scripture, to make Christ the foundation of His Church with that object (cf. Hofmann, Schott, etc.).

Behold, I lay in Zion, So Paul, too (Romans 9:33), gives it, instead of Isaiah’s more explicit statement, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation (literally, I am He that hath founded), or, as the LXX. puts it, Behold, I lay to the foundations of Zion. The object that is thus laid is, according to Isaiah, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation. But instead of introducing the object simply as a stone, and then defining that by a series of compound epithets (which Ewald and Delitzsch agree in rendering rather, ‘a tried precious corner-stone of firmest foundation’), Peter names the object at once a chief corner-stone, and then defines it by two simple epithets, transforming Isaiah’s order, and omitting some of his terms. Paul, again (Romans 9:33), seems to take the object not from Isa. 18:16, but from Isaiah 8:14.

a chief corner-stone, elect (or, chosen), honourable. The corner-stone is that stone in the foundation on which the angle of the building rests, and which is all-important to the stability of the building and the coherence of its parts. There is no reference here, however, to the union effected through Christ between Jew and Gentile (as Luther supposes), far less to Christ as ‘the connecting link of the Old and New Testaments’ (Fronmüller).

and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. The Hebrew text gives simply, he that believeth, leaving the object unnamed. The phrase ‘on him’ (or, as it may also be, ‘on it’) which Peter introduces (as also does Paul, Romans 9:33) is found, however, in some MSS. of the LXX. The clause which appears at once in Peter, in Paul, and in the LXX. as ‘shall not be confounded’ (or rather, put to shame), stands in the Hebrew text as ‘shall not make haste,’ or ‘shall not flee in trepidation,’ i.e shall stand firm. The clause, therefore, is not a mere parallel to the previous ‘grow unto salvation,’ pointing to security in the final judgment (Schott), but gives a general assurance expressive of the confidence of those to whom the prophetic promise is fulfilled in Christ. The passage as it stands in Isaiah is set over against the Egyptian alliance which was sought at the time, and against the hurt and shame which are declared in the same connection (e.g. Isaiah 30:1-7) to be destined for those who lean on Egypt instead of Jehovah. If this was in Peter’s mind, the words would suggest the difference (confidence for the one, disappointment and shame to the other) between those who hold by Christ and those who cling to old national connections, and would appeal with peculiar force to those Christians who were in danger of yielding to the power of social surroundings in times of peril. In any case, the passage was admitted by the Rabbis to be of direct Messianic import. But whether the stone immediately in Isaiah’s view is to be identified with Jehovah Himself, with the Davidic King, with the theocracy, with the Temple, or with the promise made to David and his house (2 Samuel 7:12; 2 Samuel 7:16), in Peter it is Christ Himself who is that Son of David in whom the kingdom was to reach its final glory, and in whom that promise is fulfilled. In both connections faith is specified. But while in the prophet it is faith in the sense of confidence, or in the sense of belief in the future fulfilment of a promise, in the apostle it is faith in the sense of personal reliance on Him who was promised and had appeared. In both cases, too, an assurance is attached to the faith—in Isaiah, that the Israelite who remains faithful instead of seeking secretly to Egypt shall not need to flee: in Peter, that the Christian who relies on Christ shall not be put to real shame, however scornfully handled.—The best interpreters are practically at one in recognising the doctrinal bearings of this brief but important section. Peter here expresses what Bishop Lightfoot (Comm. on Philip, 1 Peter 1:17) holds Paul’s language also to express, ‘the fundamental idea of the Christian Church, in which a universal priesthood has supplanted the exclusive ministrations of a select tribe or class.’ Neander concludes that ‘when the apostles applied the Old Testament idea of priesthood to Christianity, this was done invariably for the simple purpose of showing that no such visible particular priesthood could find place in the new community.’ And Huther affirms the idea which is here expounded to be opposed’ not only to the catholic doctrine of a particular priesthood, but to all teaching with regard to the office of the administration of word and sacrament which in any way ascribes to its possessors an importance in the Church, resting on Divine mandate, and necessary for the communication of salvation (i.e priestly importance).’


Verse 7

1 Peter 2:7. For you, therefore, who believe is the honour. The statement of the dignity of the Christian standing is introduced in the form both of an inference from the revealed will of God as declared by the prophet, and a direct application of the Old Testament assurance to these New Testament believers. The phrase ‘who believe’ is put last in the original (=for you, therefore, is the honour, for you, I say, who believe), because it is only on the ground of their faith (which is given not as a condition here, but as a fact) that the assurance is applied to them. The pronoun ‘for you’ may mean either to your advantage, or to you belongs. The margin of the R. V., indeed, gives ‘in your sight.’ But that is to introduce the subjective estimates of believers where Peter deals with their objective privileges. The difficulty, however, is to catch the point of the noun which expresses the thing that thus belongs to them or is to their advantage. Not a few interpreters, including Luther, Calvin, and Erasmus, as well as the Versions of Tyndale, Cranmer, and Geneva, take Christ as the subject, and the noun as the predicate. The E. V. follows this, giving ‘he is precious’ in the text, and ‘he is an honour’ in the margin. This is opposed, however, both by the form of the Greek which marks out the noun as subject and not as predicate, and by the close connection with the immediately preceding sentence which is indicated by the reduplicating of the ‘who believe’ upon the previous ‘he that believeth.’ Most interpreters now agree that the subject of the sentence is not Christ Himself, but what is called (in reference, that is, to the dignity expressed in the former sentence) ‘the honour,’ i.e the honour already spoken of, and that the predicate is the ‘for you.’ This was also recognised, indeed, by Wycliffe and the Rheims Version. There is some difference, however, as to the precise reference of the noun. Some (Gerhard, Brückner, Weiss, Schott, Huther, etc.) take it to repeat in positive form what was implied in the negative clause, ‘shall not be put to shame.’ Others (Wiesinger, etc.) think it goes back to the definition of the Stone as ‘precious’ or ‘honourable’ (1 Peter 2:6), the sense being that the value which the Stone has in God’s sight is a value which it has for them who believe. This seems favoured by the rendering of the R. V., ‘for you . . . is the preciousness.’ Others (Alford, Fronmüller, Cook) combine these references, and this comes nearest the truth. The sentence takes up the whole idea, which has just been expressed, of an honour in which the foundation stands with God, and what that fact carries with it to believers. Mr. Humphry, therefore, rightly takes the full sense to amount to this, ‘For you who believe in Him, for your sakes, is this preciousness, this honour which He possesses; that so far from being “put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6), ye may partake in it, be yourselves precious in the sight of God’ (Comm. on Rev. Version, p. 440).—but for such as are disobedient. The reverse side of the prophetic assurance is now exhibited, and, as the omission of the article indicates, the persons are named now in a more general way, not as if definite individuals were in view, but so as to include all of a certain kind. The reading varies here between two participles, both of more positive import than the simple ‘unbelieving,’ and differing slightly from each other. They mean ‘disbelieving,’ or ‘refusing belief,’ and point, therefore, either to the state of disobedience which is the effect of unbelief (Alford), or (as the form which is on the whole better supported rather implies) to the mind that withstands evidence.

The stone which the builders rejected, this was made the head of the corner; instead of saying simply that shame, in place of honour, belongs to the disbelieving, Peter gives in the words of Scripture a less direct, but more terrible, statement of the lot of such. Two passages are cited. These are not run into one, however, as the A. V. suggests, but are given as two distinct quotations simply connected by ‘and,’ as the R. V. puts them. Portions of the sections from which these are taken are fused into one sentence in Romans 9:33. The first, which is given according to the LXX., is taken from Psalms 118:22. That Psalm is generally regarded as a post-Exilian composition, and its occasion has been variously identified with the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in the year of the Return, as recorded in Ezra 3:4 (so Ewald, etc.), with the laying of the foundation-stone of the Second Temple, as described in Ezra 3:8-13 (so Hengstenberg, etc.), with the consecration of the Temple, as related in Ezra 6:5-18 (Delitzsch, etc.), or with the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles which Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:13-18) reports to have taken place on the completion of the new Temple. In the Psalm, therefore, the Stone would be a figure of Israel itself, rejected by the powers of the world, but chosen by God for a position of unexampled honour. But the Messianic application of the passage has its ground in the fact that Christ Himself, and only Christ, was personally and truly that ‘Servant of Jehovah,’ that ‘first-born’ of God that Israel was called as a nation to be, and that the destiny which was so partially fulfilled by Israel was finally realized in Him, who was of the seed of Israel. So Christ uses the passage in direct reference to Himself (Matthew 21:42-44; Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17), as it is again applied directly to Him by Peter (Acts 4:11).


Verses 7-10

The central thing in the preceding paragraph was the Stone with the structure erected on it. The sudden transition from the figure of babes growing to that of stones built up, is by no means characteristic only of Peter. In Paul we have even bolder instances of apparent confusion of metaphors, as when in one breath he represents believers as at once walking, rooted, and built up in Christ (Colossians 2:6-7). This disregard of the ordinary congruities of figurative speech, however, is not due to mere rhetorical vehemence overleaping the accepted proprieties of style. It has its reason in the nature of the realities of grace, which language is strained to express, and in which things meet which are otherwise distinct. As Paul’s seeming mixture of the similes of walking, rooting, and building has its explanation in the spiritual fact that the union with Christ, which his phrase ‘in Christ’ denotes, is at once the sphere within which the life of the Christian moves, the soil in which it is rooted, and the foundation on which it stands; so Peter’s seeming confusion between growth and building is but a reflection of the fact that the edifice of which he speaks is a living one, which increases by the living process of growth. How much this injunction to be built up on Christ by coming ever to Him involved for these readers will be understood, however, only if it is remembered that to come to Christ in those days meant for the Jew expulsion from the Temple and the fellowship of the ancient Church of God, and for the Gentile the disruption of the bonds of national religion and ancestral social usage. It is not without reason, therefore, that at this point the writer pauses to exhibit the more than compensation for all such loss and dislocation to be found in the honour which accrues through that attachment to Christ which has been depicted as the coming of living stones to be built upon a living foundation. This he does in a remarkable series of descriptive terms transferred from the Old Testament Israel to the New.


Verse 8

1 Peter 2:8. and, A stone of stumbling and rook of offence. The second passage is taken from Isaiah 8:14, and is given according to the Hebrew, not according to the singularly divergent version of the LXX. What is said there of Jehovah of hosts, namely, that, while He is a sanctuary to those who sanctify Him, he will be a ‘Stone for sinking against, and a rock of stumbling’ to the mass of the faithless people of both kingdoms, is here affirmed of Christ. The terms, too, denote not what the disbelieving feel Christ to be (so Luther, etc.), or the offence which they take at Him, but what He in point of fact must prove objectively to them. Compare Simeon’s declaration of what the infant Saviour was destined to be (Luke 2:34-35).—A difficulty has been felt by not a few interpreters with the positive form in which Christ is here said to have been made what these prophetic statements represent Jehovah as certain to be to particular classes. But Peter says nothing more here than what Paul affirms when he speaks of the same persons being a ‘savour of life unto life,’ and a ‘savour of death unto death’ (2 Corinthians 2:16), and nothing beyond what had been expressed—still more strongly, indeed, and in terms of the same citation by his Lord Himself (Luke 20:17-18)—the truth that God’s grace is not a neutral gift, but becomes its opposite to its scorners. Special difficulty has been felt with the statement that Christ was made to the disbelieving head of the corner. It is proposed, therefore, to construe the sentence in an entirely novel way, namely, ‘He then who on the one hand is an Honour to the believing and to the disbelieving, on the other hand the Stone rejected of the builders, was made to the one class head of the corner, and to the other a stone of stumbling,’ etc. (Hofmann). Others explain it on the principle that a stone which is not recognised by the eye becomes an obstacle for the feet to strike against (Gerhard, Steiger, etc.). But the point may simply be that the Divine demonstration of Christ as made the very thing which they refused to admit in Him, itself puts the disbelieving to the shame against which the believing are declared to be secured. ‘God thus poured into their own bosom the contempt which they had poured upon His Son’ (Lillie).

who stumble, disobeying the word. This is not an independent sentence, whether it be construed as=‘They who stumble are disobedient,’ etc., or as=‘These stumble,’ etc., or (with Hofmann on the uncertain analogy of the use of the relative as an exclamation in Matthew 26:30) as=‘As for those who stumble ... to what a fate were they appointed!’ It continues the previous statement, and that, too, not as appending a reason for it (so apparently the R. V., ‘for they stumble’), but in the simple form of an explanations= ‘that is to say, to those who stumble,’ or, as the A. V. puts it, ‘even to them which stumble.’ The Vulgate and the other English Versions, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Cranmer, the Geneva, the Rheims, as also the A. V. and the older commentators, such as Erasmus, Luther, etc., agree in making the ‘word’ dependent on the ‘stumble.’ Most now, however, following the Syriac, Bengel, etc., rightly connect the ‘word’ with the ‘disobeying,’ both because the ‘stumble’ has been already sufficiently defined, and because the participle otherwise would be a pointless addition. The stumbling (again in the objective sense) and the disobedience are related to each other as simultaneous things, or as cause and effect. Christ is what He is declared to be to a certain class, when or because they disobey the Word. He is made a stone of stumbling only to those who, by rejecting that Word, in point of fact turn God’s grace in Christ to their own hurt.

whereunto also they were appointed. A solemn expression of the truth that not only is it so, but it cannot be otherwise. The apparent severity of the statement has been so acutely felt, that a variety of expedients have been attempted with a view to change or mitigate it. Three classes of interpretations have to be noticed. There are those entirely unreasonable interpretations which refuse to see that Peter has God in view as the Author of the ‘appointment,’ and add to the verb ‘were appointed’ some such explanation as ‘by Jewish prejudice’ (Hottinger), ‘by Satan’ (Aretius), or ‘by Old Testament prophecy’ (Mason). There are those, again, which endeavour to make the clause a single sentence with the preceding. This is the case with Erasmus, Luther, etc., and also with several of our older English Versions. Thus Tyndale gives ‘believe not that wherein they were set,’ the Rhemish ‘neither do believe wherein also they are put,’ and so substantially ‘also Wycliffe and Cranmer. But the Genevan has ‘unto the which thing also they were ordained.’ There are also those (and this third class embraces the great majority) which recognise a distinct assertion of a Divine ordinance. This is undoubtedly the only valid exegesis. It is impossible to adjust the terms to any less positive idea. The opening words cannot be softened into ‘on account of which,’ but denote the destiny or end which is set for the disobedient. The verb means here, as repeatedly elsewhere, ordain, constitute, appoint, and the ‘also’ has its ascensive force, indicating that there is something deeper even than observed fact to be said upon the subject. The precise thing to which the disobedient are said to be ordained, however, is differently conceived. Some construe the sentence as = to which disobedience also they were appointed (Calvin preferentially, Beza, etc.); some as = to which stumbling, etc. (Grotius, Bengel, Steiger, Huther, Weiss, etc.); and some, again, as = to which disobedience and stumbling, etc. (de Wette, Wiesinger, Leighton, Hofmann, Lillie, etc.). Of these three constructions the second is the simplest and most contextual. For the main subject of the section has been neither the genesis of faith and unbelief, nor their moral merit and demerit, but the positive honour which is destined for the believer, and the positive shame or stumbling which is destined for the unbeliever. It is to be observed, too, that the verb introduced here is not the term which bears the technical sense of foreordaining, but one which (with a single doubtful exception in 1 Thessalonians 5:9) is always used in the New Testament of things done in time (cf. John 15:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). There is, therefore, no affirmation here of a predestination of some to unbelief. Whatever ordination is asserted, is, as Wetstein briefly puts it, an ordination ‘not that they shall sin, but that, if sinning, they shall be punished.’ Just as it is said in 1 Peter 2:6, ‘Behold, I lay (or, set) in Zion a chief corner-stone,’ so it is said here (for the verbs are the same) that they ‘were appointed (or, set).’ In the one case it is what God has actually done in making Christ what He is to the Church; in the other it is what He has done in so relating disobedience and stumbling that the latter is the result of the former. The historical relation established between these two things has its ground in the eternal purpose of God, and the New Testament does not shrink from carrying back (and in the least qualified terms, cf. Romans 9:21, etc.) the gravest moral facts of history to the Divine mind. At present, however, Peter speaks directly not of the foreordaining counsel of God, but of the fact that things are so ordered in time, that unbelief carries in its train the turning to men’s own hurt of that grace of God in Christ which brings honour to the believer. Weiss, therefore, deals more fairly than most with the exegesis of the passage, when he says that it ‘does not speak of the foreordination of individuals to unbelief, or to exclusion from the kingdom of God; it states that in accordance with a Divine arrangement the disobedient are appointed to stumbling, i.e, however, not to going astray morally, but to destruction’ (Bib. Theol. i. p. 208, Eng. Trans.). This Divine order or determination of things, however, which links together subjective aversion to truth and objective penalty, is a mystery to which, not less than to that of the Divine foreordination, Leighton’s words apply: ‘Here it were easier to lead you into a deep than to lead you forth again. I will rather stand on the shore and silently admire, than enter into it.’


Verse 9

1 Peter 2:9. But ye are an elect race. From these thoughts of terror Peter returns to the brighter side of the compensation which the believer has for temporal loss and trial, and instances in a single breath four great titles of Christian honour. These express the incomparable superiority of the life of faith over the life of disobedience; for the emphatic ‘but ye’ contrasts the readers not with the Old Testament Church, but with those just described as destined to stumble. They exhibit the Christian life, therefore, in antithesis to a life rooted in mere nature and nationality. They recall at the same time the fact that these scattered sojourners are, according to the New Testament standard, that very Church of God which national Israel was meant to be according to the Old Testament standard. It is more than doubtful whether, in the use of the successive terms race, nation, people (which are simply taken from the LXX.), Peter had in view any such distinctions as those between people as of like descent, people as of like customs, and people as an organized body (Steiger). But all four terms point to the fact that believers are not a mere aggregate of individuals, but form a unity, and, indeed, the only unity worthy of the name. So they are designated, first of all, in words suggested probably by Isaiah 43:20, a race (not merely a generation, as the A. V. here, and only here, renders the term), a body with community of life and descent; and elect in so far as they were made this by God’s choosing and separating them out of the world.

a royal priesthood. This second title is taken from the description of Israel in Exodus 19:6, and is of somewhat uncertain import. It is variously taken to be equivalent to ‘kings and priests’ (Lillie, on analogy of Revelation 1:6), ‘a magnificent priesthood’ (Aretius), ‘a priesthood exercising kingly rule over the world’ (Wiesinger), ‘a priesthood serving a king’ (Weiss), ‘a priesthood belonging to a king and in his service’ (Huther), ‘a priesthood of kingly honour’ (Hofmann), ‘a kingdom of priests’ (Schott). The form of the adjective used here (and probably nowhere else in the New Testament) means, however, belonging to a king, or worthy of a king, and never ‘consisting of kings,’ or ‘having kingly rule.’ The phrase itself, too, represents a Hebrew phrase which is understood, indeed, by the Syriac Version, the Targums, the Septuagint, and a few commentators, such as Keil, to denote a kingship of priests, or a body of priests with kingly honour, but is held by most to mean a kingdom consisting of priests, a community ruled by a king, and dedicated to His service, and having the priestly right of access to Him (see Dillmann on Exodus 19:6). Hence the import of the title as applied by Peter depends on the question whether he uses it in the proper sense of the Greek terms, or in the sense of the original Hebrew as inexactly rendered by the LXX. In the latter case, it will mean ‘a kingdom indeed, but one of priests.’ In favour of this it is urged that it retains the analogy of the other titles, each of which names some purely natural or national community, and qualifies it by a distinctive epithet. They are named, that is to say, a race, but are distinguished from others as elect, a nation but a holy one, a people but a peculiar one, and, in the same way, a kingdom but one of priestly order and membership. In the former case, the idea will be simply that of a priesthood ‘belonging to a king,’ or ‘of kingly honour.’

a holy nation, i.e a common wealth consecrated to God,—a title taken again from Exodus 19:6, and in the same connection as there.

a people for possession, i.e a people whom God has taken for His own. The A. V., following Tyndale, the Genevan Version, and the Bishops’ Bible, and induced probably by the Vulgate’s rendering, gives ‘peculiar’ (as also in Titus 2:14),—a word which, having lost its etymological sense, is now an inappropriate rendering. Wycliffe gives ‘a people of purchasing;’ Cranmer, ‘a people which are won; the Rhemish, ‘a people of purchase.’ The noun occurs again in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (A. V. ‘to obtain’), 2 Thessalonians 2:14 (A. V. ‘the obtaining’), Ephesians 1:14 (A. V. ‘purchased possession’), and Hebrews 10:39 (A. V. ‘saving’). The cognate verb is translated purchase (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:13). The noun may have either the active sense of acquiring, acquisition, or the passive sense of the thing acquired. It is wrongly taken in the former sense here, however (Schott, e.g., makes it = a people yet to be acquired), because Peter deals not with what God is to make His people in the future, but with what He has made them now. The phrase reproduces, with some change in the form, the idea expressed in Isaiah 43:21, as well as in Exodus 19:5. The Hebrew term used in the latter passage occurs again in such passages as Deuteronomy 7:6 (A. V. ‘a special people’). Deuteronomy 14:2, Deuteronomy 26:18; Psalms 135:4 (A. V. ‘peculiar treasure’); Malachi 3:17 (A. V. ‘jewels’). It denotes property,—not, however, mere property as such, but precious property, or rather perhaps property belonging specially and individually to one. Here, therefore, it is sufficiently well rendered by the R. V., ‘a people for God’s own possession.’ that ye should show forth, or rather, as the verb implies (which occurs nowhere else in the N. T.), that ye should tell out. So Wycliffe gives ‘tell’ and the Rhemish ‘declare,’ while Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan have ‘show.’

the excellences. The Greek word is the familiar term for virtues, and so it is rendered here by the margin of the A. V., as well as by Wycliffe, Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan, and the Rhemish. It is used, however, by the LXX. as equivalent to the Heb. term for praise or praises. So it occurs in the passage (Isaiah 43:21) which Peter has in mind here; and as the prophet speaks there of the people whom Jehovah had formed for Himself as having a vocation to relate how He had glorified Himself in them (see Delitzsch, in loc.), it is reasonable to suppose that the term here denotes not the words of praise, but (as it is used also by Philo) the things which evoke praise, the excellences of God, whether in the sense of the excellent deeds of His grace (so Schott, as most nearly expressing the idea in Isaiah), or His excellent attributes manifested in these deeds (Huther and most). It is with this object that they are made what they are. If they are what these titles indicate, it is not with a view to their own glorification, but to qualify them and put them under obligation to publish these excellences of God to others. This ‘showing forth’ may apply, as it is largely taken, to the duty of glorifying God by the fruits of a new life. But, as the verb is used regularly of verbal declaration, and as the LXX. rendering of Isaiah’s phrase (Isaiah 43:21) has a similar force, what is intended rather is that the N. T. Israel is set to continue the prophetic vocation of the O. T. Israel, and is made what it is in order to proclaim Christ to those outside, as its predecessor was made God’s people in order to be His preacher to the nations.

of him who called you, that is, as formerly, God, not Christ out of darkness into his marvellous light. It is to make too little of the term ‘light’ to say that it refers simply to the Christian life. It is to make too much of it, however, to say that it points to God’s own presence or Being as that to which they are called. God is light, but He is also in the light (1 John 1:5; 1 John 1:7). The familiar figures point here simply to two contrasted spheres of existence, to one as that of heathen ignorance and hopelessness, to another as that of holiness and serenity. This latter is ‘His light,’ the sphere of existence which belongs to God, the new kingdom which also is ‘marvellous’ (perhaps Psalms 118:23 is still in Peter’s thoughts) to eyes opened to see it, as is to ‘idle orbs’ the sight ‘of sun, or moon, or star throughout the year, or man, or woman’ (Milton).


Verse 10

1 Peter 2:10. Who once were no people, but are now God’s people. A solemn and summary conclusion, sketching in two bold strokes the vast contrast between their present and their past. The contrast is drawn in order that in the recollection of their past they may find an incentive to adhere at any cost to their prophetic vocation of telling forth to others the excellences of God. Once they were not only not Gods people, but ‘no people.’ National connection they might have had, but the unity that makes a people worthy of the name of a people they had not. Their lack of relation to God involved lack of that relation to each other which merges differences of race, speech, worship, custom, opinion. Now they are not only a people, with the bonds of a true people’s union, but God’s people, owned of Him and administered by Him.

who once had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. If they were in time past no people, the reason lay here, that God’s mercy had not brought them into relation to Himself. Two participles briefly express this, and they vary in tense. The former is the perfect, as referring to a state in which they had long continued previously. The latter is the historical past, as referring to a definite act of God which changed the state. Once they had been in the condition of persons not compassionated; now they are persons once for all compassionated of God. The verse is a free adaptation of the prophetic passage (Hosea 2:23), in which Jehovah, reversing the ominous names, Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi, given in the first chapter (1 Peter 2:6; 1 Peter 2:9), says of Israel, ‘I will compassion Uncompassionated, and to Not-my-people I will say My-people, and he will say My God!’ Peter’s reproduction is of the most general kind, omitting the characteristic notes which apply specially to a people who had once been God’s people, and had lapsed in order to be restored. Though in Hosea, therefore, the words are spoken of Israel, it does not follow that they must refer to Jews here, Paul applies them to Gentiles (Romans 9:25), and that Peter’s view-point is the same appears from the form which he has given to the contrast, which is too absolute to suit those who, while originally God’s people, had ceased to be true to that vocation, and had lost on that account God’s favour. (See also the Introduction.)


Verse 11

1 Peter 2:11. Beloved, I beseech you as strangers and sojourners. The injunction is given in terms of tender urgency. The opening designation occurs no less than eight times in the Epistles of Peter, and in every case except the present the A. V. translates it simply ‘beloved,’ not ‘dearly beloved.’ Paul has a peculiar fondness for it (cf. Romans 12:1 ); 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 12:19; Philippians 2:12; Philippians 4:1 ). Here, as also at 1 Peter 4:12, the direct and appealing address marks a turning-point in the Epistle. The verb, too, embraces at least the two ideas of beseeching and exhorting and is variously rendered in different connections by the A. V. call for (Acts 28:20, etc.), entreat (Luke 15:28, etc.), beseech (Matthew 8:5, etc.), desire (Matt 28:32, etc.), pray (Matthew 18:32, etc.), exhort (1 Peter 5:1-2), comfort (Matthew 2:18, etc.). They are appealed to in the character of strangers and sojourners; of which terms the latter is the one used in the first designation of the readers (see note on 1 Peter 1:1, and compare specially Psalms 39:12), and conveys a somewhat different idea from the ‘pilgrims’ of the A. V., while the former denotes properly residents without the rights of natives. They have manifestly the metaphorical sense here, applicable to all believers as citizens of heaven. It is doubtful whether any distinction between them is intended here, although Bengel discovers a certain climax in them, Christians being described by the first as distant from their own house, and by the second as distant even from their own country. Former exhortations were grounded on their being ‘children of obedience’ (1 Peter 1:14); these which follow are grounded on their being children whose home is not where temptation works.

to abstain from fleshly (or, the fleshly) lusts. The ‘lusts’ are, as in 1 Peter 1:14, not merely the fetid sensualities which had attained such monstrous strength in the heathenism of the time (though these may well have been particularly in view), but all inordinate passions and desires, all that would come within Paul’s enumeration of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), or John’s description (1 John 2:16) of ‘the world’s accursed trinity’ (Leighton). They are called fleshly (cf. Paul’s’ worldly lusts,’ Titus 2:12, and ‘lusts of the flesh and of the mind,’ Ephesians 2:3), as being rooted in, and affected by the quality of, the ‘flesh’ or nature of man, both physical and psychical, as now depraved. When Paul (Romans 7:14) speaks of himself as ‘carnal,’ he uses a still stronger form of the adjective, one denoting the personality as more than of the quality of the flesh,—as having the ‘flesh’ for the substantial element of its being.

which war against the soul. The ‘which’ might be rendered ‘as they.’ Peter, as the particular pronoun indicates, does not signalize certain lusts, namely, those which war against the soul, but takes fleshly lusts as a whole, and describes them as being all of a quality hostile to the soul, and this quality in them he makes a reason for abstaining from them. They may work ‘in our members’ (Romans 7:5), consume our strength, and injure us in our interests, but the ‘soul,’ the very centre of the personal life, is the object of their assault. The verb is nowhere used again by Peter in this figurative sense of carrying on a warfare (not merely = besieging), but has a similar sense in 2 Corinthians 10:3; 1 Timothy 1:18; James 4:1.


Verse 11-12

The mode of address indicates a distinct point of transition in the Epistle. The writer has dealt so far with what holds good absolutely of Christian privilege and Christian responsibility. He begins now to enforce what Christians are concerned to be and to do in certain particular circumstances and connections. And before proceeding to specify their obligations in society and in the various relations of life, he sets before them, in the form of an affectionate personal appeal, the attitude which they ought to maintain generally in presence of the impure and hostile surroundings of heathenism. The kind of life which they are sedulously to cultivate in presence alike of the temptations and of the misrepresentations to which they are exposed from their Gentile associates is stated both on its negative side and on its positive. It is recommended, too, by considerations drawn from their own position, from the injuriousness of the things to which they are tempted, and from their vocation to glorify God.


Verse 12

1 Peter 2:12. Having your manner of life among the Gentiles seemly. The negative abstention from impurities is now defined as involving a positive purity. The life of self restraint in the heart of corrupting heathen associations is to be a life so honest, or rather (with Wycliffe and the Rhemish) so good, so fair and honourable, that even the Gentiles may confess its attractiveness

that, wherein they speak against you as evildoers, they may by reason of your good works, witnessing (these as they do) glorify God. Their outer life, with all that in their behaviour which is open to the observation and judgment of others, is now specially dealt with, and they are counselled to make that a spectacle of good works which even prejudiced and hostile eyes shall be unable to contest. With this ‘speak against you ‘compare the ‘as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against’ (Acts 18:22). The ‘that’ expresses the object which is to be aimed at in keeping this seemliness of conduct. The A. V. (with Beza, the Bishops’ Bible, etc.) wrongly renders ‘whereas.’ Equally wrong is the ‘while’ or the ‘since’ of others. The word means ‘wherein’ (as A. V. in margin), or ‘in the thing in which,’ and the idea is that in the very matter in which they now find ground for speaking ill of you, they may yet find ground for the reverse. This matter, which is to be turned from a ground of accusation to a ground of honourable recognition, or (as it is here put) a ground of glorifying God, need not be identified particularly with the ‘good works’ (Steiger), their ‘whole tenor of life’ (de Wette), their Christian profession generally (Hofmann, Huther), or their abstinence from fleshly lusts. It points to whatever part of their Christian practice their Gentile neighbours seized as the occasion of slander. The term translated ‘witnessing’ (which is used in classical Greek as the technical term for admission into the third and highest grade of the Eleusinian mysteries) occurs again in the New Testament only in 1 Peter 3:2, and in the nominal form in 2 Peter 1:16 (‘eye-witnesses’ of His majesty). It expresses here keen personal observation. The name applied to these believers, ‘evil-doers,’ is of importance. It is that which is also given to Christ Himself by the chief priests (John 18:30), and outside Peter’s Epistles it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in that instance. Neander (History of the Planting of Christianity, 2 p. 374, Bohn) is of opinion that the ‘Christians were now persecuted as Christians, and according to those popular opinions of which Nero took advantage were looked upon and treated as “ evil-doers” . . . malefici. Whether the name will bear the sense of state criminals here, however, is doubtful. The accusations thrown out against them as practising murder, magical arts, infanticide, cannibalism, and gross immorality belong to the later periods of which we read in the Apologists (e.g. Justin Martyr’s Apol. i., Tertullian’s Apol xvi.), and in writers of the age of Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 1 Peter 4:7, 1 Peter 5:1), and Augustine (De Civit. Dei, xviii. 53). At an earlier date we have the famous letter of the philosopher Pliny to the Emperor Trajan, in which he reports upon his examination of the followers of Christ in the very territories here addressed by Peter, admitting that nothing had been discovered in them worthy of death, but charging them with a stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy which he deemed worthy of punishment. Earlier still, we gather from the Roman historians Suetonius (Nero, ch. 16) and Tacitus (Annals, xv. 44) how they were spoken against as men of a ‘new and malignant superstition,’ as ‘hateful for their enormities,’ as ‘convicted of hating the human race.’ And it is easy to see how at the very earliest period to which this Epistle may be referred, and before the state had directed its attention to them, their abstention from such familiar pleasures as the public spectacles, their non-observance of many heathen customs, their gatherings for fellowship and worship, would expose them to popular odium and to the misrepresentation of their pagan neighbours. Peter’s exhortation is not to isolate themselves, but to be careful of their behaviour in the sight of the heathen till they found a ‘silent witness and ally’ (Lillie) in the hearts of their calumniators themselves. It is generally recognised that Peter has in mind here his Lord’s words upon the Mount (Matthew 5:16).

in the day of visitation. Definition of the time when the heathen will glorify the God whom they at present discredit in dishonouring His servants. What is this day? Some take it to be the day of judicial inquisition, the time when these Christians would have to stand examination at the hands of heathen officials (CEcum., Bengel at first, etc.). It is, however, manifestly God’s day, and not man’s, that is in view. Is it, then, His day of mercy, or His day of judgment? The word (either as noun or as verb) occurs not unfrequently of gracious visitation (e.g. the LXX. rendering of Genesis 20:1; Exodus 3:16; Exodus 4:31; 1 Samuel 2:21; Job 7:18; and in the New Testament, Luke 1:68; Luke 1:78; Acts 15:14). It is applied also to God’s visitations in chastening or punishment (Jeremiah 9:24-25; Jeremiah 44:13; Jeremiah 46:25; Jeremiah 9:9; Psalms 59:6; Exodus 20:5). Hence a variety of interpretations. Some think the day is meant when the Christians themselves shall have to bear God’s chastenings in the form of the persecution which even now overhung them, and when their patience shall turn out (as we know indeed from history it not seldom did turn in such cases) to the conversion of their adversaries. Others hold the reference to be to the temporal calamities by which God now sifts and judges the heathen, or to the final adjustments of the Last day. On the analogy of 1Cor. 5:20, it is also affirmed that what is in view is the practical, though unwitting, confession of God’s glory which will be recognised at the last judgment in the fact that the goodness of the Christian life was the true cause of heathen slanders (Schott). It is most in harmony, however, with the context, with the analogy of Matthew 5:16, and especially with the declaration of James in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:14), to interpret it (with Hofmann, Huther, and the great majority of exegetes both ancient and modern) of the day (the day which had already dawned indeed) when God should bring His grace to these Gentiles, and lead them to recognize in the pure and unworldly lives of the subjects of their present calumnies a witness to the fact that ‘God was in them of a truth.’


Verse 13

1 Peter 2:13. Submit yourselves. The verb has this middle sense here rather than the purely passive force of ‘be subjected,’ or (as the R.V. puts it) ‘be subject.’

to every human institution. The noun is variously rendered in our A. V. creation (Mark 10:16; Mark 13:19; Romans 1:20; Romans 8:22; 2 Peter 3:4; Revelation 3:14), creature (Mark 16:15; Romans 1:25; Romans 8:19-21; Romans 8:39; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 4:13), building (Hebrews 9:11), and ordinance (only here). In the New Testament it appears to denote the act of creation (Romans 1:20), anything created, the creature (Romans 1:25; Romans 8:39; Hebrews 4:13, etc.), the complex of created things, the creation (Mark 10:6; Mark 10:13; Mark 10:19; 2 Peter 3:4, etc.), mankind as a whole (Mark 16:15, etc.), nature as distinguished from man (Romans 8:19-21); while it is also used metaphorically of the ‘new creature.’ Hence some (e.g. de Wette, Erasmus, etc.) take the sense here to be = to every human creature; which manifestly would mean too much. In classical Greek the term, however, means the act of setting up, founding, or instituting something, and here, therefore, it is generally taken to mean something that is established, an institution or ordinance. It is not to be limited, however, to magistracy only, or to persons in authority, or to magisterial laws (Luther), but is to be taken in the absolute sense, embracing under it all the different forms, kingship, magistracy, and the rest, which follow. It is described as ‘human,’ not exactly in the sense of being founded on the necessities of human society (Lillie), or as dealing only with things pertaining to man in contrast with other institutions which deal with things ‘pertaining to God;’ but either (as most interpret it) in the sense of being established by man, or (with Hofmann, and now Huther, etc.) in the sense of applying to man, ordering man’s social and political life and relations. The latter view is favoured both by the fact that the cognate verb (the proper force of which reappears in this exceptional use of the noun) seems never to be used in the New Testament of merely human agency, and by the consideration that subjection to every ordinance which man himself may set up seems too wide a charge.

for the Lord’s sake. The spirit which should animate us in practising such submission is thus solemnly added. And that is the spirit which recognises something Divine in human institutions (as Wiesinger perhaps rather vaguely puts it), or better, the spirit of consideration for Christ, who would be dishonoured by the opposite (Hofmann), or more simply, the thought that Christ wills it so. This pregnant statement of motive, therefore, elevates incalculably the duty itself. It implies that our submission will come short of its standard if the duty is viewed as a merely secular thing, or if the Divine purpose in civil institutions and Christ’s interest in them are not acknowledged. It shows, too, that the very thing which might seem to weaken the sense of ordinary civil and political obligation, namely the peculiar duty of loyalty to Christ as Head, makes such obligation a more sacred and binding one to the Christian.

whether to the king as sovereign. Peter passes now from institutions in the abstract to their concrete representation in persons. The subjection which is inculcated to the former is inculcated to the latter, and in both cases with equal lack of qualification. He does not pause to pronounce on different kinds of government, constitutional, despotic, or other, or to adjust his statement of the duty in relation to the different characters of administrations and administrators. He takes the things and the persons as they then were, and, on high spiritual grounds, recommends an inoffensive and respectful attitude towards them. While he speaks of them with the same breadth of spirit as Paul (e.g. in Romans 13:1-7), his standpoint is not quite the same. He does not deal with them here as Paul does there, in respect of what they are as powers ‘ordained of God,’ but simply in respect of this duty of submission. Hence he can speak absolutely. For the duty of submission must stand even when positive obedience cannot be rendered, and when (as in his own case, Acts 3:19, Acts 5:28-32, Acts 5:40-42) the mistake or abuse of ‘the powers that be’ forces us to say, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ Peter’s statement is something essentially different from any so-called doctrine of ‘Divine right’ or ‘passive obedience.’ Writing as he is to Roman provinces, he signalizes first of all the Roman Emperor. To him submission is due on the broad ground of his sovereignty; for no comparison is meant here between him and other rulers, such as the ‘supreme’ of the A. V. may suggest He is designated by a title (occurring also in Matthew 10:18; Matthew 14:9; John 19:15; 1 Timothy 2:2, etc.) which would be appropriate enough on the lips of non-Romans, as the Greek language had no term exactly equivalent to the Latin word for Emperor, or in subject territories, but not in Rome itself. Horace (Carm. iv. 14) might name the Emperor Augustus lord of the world, but not ‘king’! The title, though it continued to be applied to priests in the religious phraseology of Rome, ceased to be given to the head of the Roman state from the time of Tarquin’s expulsion (Cic. Rep, 2, 20, 53), and the odium which clung to it all through the Republic followed it into the imperial times. Speaking of the so-called ‘royal laws’ of the later empire, Gibbon (Decline and Fall, ch. xliv.) says ‘the word (lex regia) was still more recent than the thing. The slaves of Commodus or Caracalla would have started at the name of royalty.’


Verses 13-17

The relative duties of Christians are now taken up as essentially concerned in that self-restraint and seemliness of conduct which was to be the best refutation of mischievous misrepresentation, and the best victory over adversaries. Civil and political relations are handled first of all as those which most expose Christians to the misjudgment of the heathen, and as containing secret elements of temptation to Christians themselves. The primary duty of submission is largely dealt with, and with good reason. The revolutionary aims of men who were ‘turning the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6) seems to have been among the earliest imputations thrown out against the adherents of the new faith. The spirit of resistance to the Roman power fried the breasts of the Jews of these times, and it was easy to identify the new sect with the old. There was much, too, in the characteristic beliefs of the Christians, their absolute loyalty to Christ the King, their faith in the equality of men, in a liberty with which Christ had made them free, in the approaching end of things, and the like, that might all too readily provoke in themselves a false attitude to the powers that were. ‘Submission, therefore, was at this time a primary duty of all who wished to win over the heathen, and to save the Church from being overwhelmed in some burst of indignation” which would be justified even to reasonable and tolerant Pagans as a political necessity’ (Farrar, Early Days of Christianity, i. 162).


Verse 14

1 Peter 2:14. or to governors, i.e administrators of provinces, procurators, propraetors, proconsuls, as also Asiarchs and other officials. Wycliffe renders it ‘dukes;’ Tyndale, Cranmer, the Genevan and the Rhemish, ‘rulers.’

as sent through him, that is, through the king; not, as some (including even Calvin) strangely imagine, through the Lord,—a reference precluded not only by the parallelism with ‘as supreme,’ but also by the choice of the peculiar preposition ‘through.’ These governors should have our submission, because they are the king’s delegates.

for punishment of evil-doors and for commendation of well-doers. The object, with a view to which they are sent with their delegated powers, is itself a reason for yielding them respect and subjection. They are meant to be on the side of order and right, and therefore on the side of God. The idea of their office is the repression (the word is a very strong one = vengeance, as Wycliffe puts it; it is rendered ‘revenge’ in the Rhemish Version) of the evil, and the protection and praise, i.e the honourable recognition of the good (this last term, literally = well-doers, occurring only here in the New Testament). Peter says nothing of the questions which may be forced upon the Christian when the idea of the office is perverted, or when the governor sinks the office in his person and personal ends. Neither does he suggest that the duty of submission extends the length of abstention from the use of ordinary civil rights in withstanding the unjust action of rulers. Paul made the most of his rights as a Roman citizen, and carried his appeal from governor to Caesar (Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 25:11). He speaks, nevertheless, of the heathen magistrate as the ‘minister of God,’ and of the duty of being ‘subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake’ (Romans 13:5). The rule that injures is to be obeyed until it can be amended. The rule that offends morality and conscience is not to be obeyed; yet its penalties are to be submitted to.


Verse 15

1 Peter 2:15. for so is the will of God, i.e the will of God is to the following effect (cf. Matthew 1:18, where the same word is rendered ‘on this wise ‘), namely, that by well doing ye silence the ignorance of the foolish men. The ‘well-doing,’ which might mean doing deeds of kindness or mercy (Mark 3:4; Acts 14:17), has here the more general sense of rectitude or dutifulness of conduct. The verb ‘silence’ means literally to muzzle, and might be rendered ‘gag.’ But it has the secondary sense in its other New Testament occurrences, with the single exception of the two passages (1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Timothy 5:18) in which the Old Testament prohibition of the muzzling of ‘the ox that treadeth out the corn’ is quoted; and, therefore, that sense should be retained here. Those other occurrences are all of picturesque interest—viz., Matthew 22:12; Matthew 22:34, in reference to the speechlessness of the man without the wedding garment, and the silencing of the Sadducees; Mark 1:25, Luke 4:35, of Christ’s word to the unclean spirit, ‘Hold thy peace;’ Mark 4:39, of Christ’s word to the raging sea, ‘Be still.’ The noun used for ‘ignorance here conveys the idea (which it also has in its only other New Testament occurrence, 1 Corinthians 15:34, and not unfrequently in the Classics) of wilful, habitual ignorance. There is a similar ethical sense in the ‘foolish,’ which here (as in Luke 11:40; Luke 12:20) has the idea of culpable senselessness, which appears in such Old Testament passages as Psalms 14:1-2, and which is expressed by a different adjective in Romans 1:21. Peter’s phrase, too, may mean not merely ‘of foolish men’ generally (as the A. V. and R. V. both put it), but of ‘the foolish men, with particular reference to those already mentioned as ‘speaking against them as evil-doers.’ The fact, therefore, that it was God’s purpose to make the good lives of His servants a means of silencing the oppositions of their enemies, was a further reason for proving themselves loyal citizens and submissive subjects.


Verse 16

1 Peter 2:16. as free, and not as having your freedom for a covering of wickedness, but as bond servants of God. Liberty is apt to degenerate into licence. Milton speaks of those who

‘Bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,

And still revolt when truth would set them free;

Licence they mean when they cry liberty.’

The man possessed by the new sense of freedom in Christ might think it strange to be the servant of men, and of such men as heathen rulers were. Peter guards his readers against this secret danger of making their liberty in Christ a plea for insubordination in the State, and presents it both as a reason for order and subjection, and as the spirit in which these duties should be rendered. Because they were free they were to be submissive; for (the ‘and’ introduces an explanation of the ‘free’) their freedom was not to be used as a means for concealing or palliating wickedness, and they themselves, while free, were also God’s bond-servants and under obligation to fulfil His will. ‘The freedom of Christians is a bond freedom, because they have been set free in order to be bond-servants to God; and a free bondage, because they obey God and Magistrate not of constraint, but spontaneously’ (Gerhard). The ‘cloke’ of the A. V. is apt to mislead. The Greek term simply means a ‘covering,’ and is used in the Old Testament to denote the covering of badgers’ skins upon the tabernacle (Exodus 26:14). It has no reference (as Beza strangely supposes) to the cap put on by manumitted slaves. Neither does it mean ‘cloak,’ except in the figurative sense of something that hides the true character of conduct. The English Versions mostly give ‘malice’ or ‘maliciousness’ as the rendering of the other noun,—in this following, and perhaps misunderstanding, the Vulgate. The Bishops’ Bible, however, gives ‘naughtiness,’ and, though the word has also the more specific sense, and not a few interpreters prefer it here, this more general meaning of ‘wickedness,’ ‘evil conduct,’ is more in harmony with the context. (See also on 1 Peter 2:1; and for the idea as a whole, compare 2 Peter 2:19; Galatians 5:13; as also 1 Corinthians 8:10; Romans 14:13.)—The connection of this 16th verse is uncertain. Our view of its application will be modified according as we relate it to what precedes or to what follows. Some take it as an introduction to 1 Peter 2:17, and as stating, therefore, that Christian freedom means the giving of their dues to all the four subjects distinguished there (Steiger, Lachmann, Plumptre, etc.). But it is not easy to see how the statement of 1 Peter 2:16 bears particularly on such a precept as the third in 1 Peter 2:17, ‘Fear God.’ Others connect it with 1 Peter 2:15; in which case its import is that the ‘well-doing’ by which adversaries are to be silenced must be in the exercise of a liberty implying freedom from deceit, and rejoicing in service (so Tyndale, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Hofmann, Wiesinger, Alford, etc.). A third connection is also proposed (by Chrysostom, Bengel, Schott, Huther, etc.), namely, with 1 Peter 2:13; in which case it becomes a definition of the general injunction, ‘Submit yourselves,’ which rules the whole section. This last is on the whole the best, as giving the principle that the submission which was enjoined in all these civil and political relations was to be rendered not in an abject spirit, or with concealed motives, but in consistency with a liberty in Christ which was also free subjection to God’s will and entire loyalty to His service.


Verse 17

1 Peter 2:17. Honour all men. A group of four precepts now follows, which Leighton compares to ‘a constellation of very bright stars near together.’ They are remarkable for the clear-cut form of expression in which they are cast, and for their absolute tone. Each is perfectly intelligible in itself. But it is not easy to discover the relation, if any, in which they stand to each other, and the reason for their introduction at this particular point. The first deals with what is due to men as such. For the ‘all men’ is not to be limited to ‘all to whom honour is due’ (Bengel), nor to all governors such as those already mentioned. Apart from all questions of station or even quality, and besides what we owe them in the distinctive relations of brotherhood and magistracy, all men are to receive our honour. By this is meant not exactly the ‘submission’ previously enjoined, nor even the somewhat conditioned esteem which Huther (with Weiss, Wiesinger, Schott, etc.) calls ‘recognising the worth which any one possesses, and acting on that recognition,’ but, more broadly still, the practical acknowledgment of the dignity of man as such, and of his natural claims upon our consideration and respect. It is the recognition of what all men are as bearers of the Divine image, ‘the idea of a dignity belonging to man as man,’ which, as Neander says, ‘was unknown to the times preceding Christianity’ (see also Dr. John Brown in loc.).

love the brotherhood. The followers of Christ were distinguished by Himself from the mass of men as brethren (Matthew 23:8), and that name they seem to have adopted naturally as their own earliest designation. The ‘brethren’ in their social or corporate capacity are the ‘brotherhood,’ and to this fellowship we owe the deeper debt of personal affection. The precept has been given already in rich detail (1 Peter 1:22). It is re-introduced here, however, in an entirely new connection.

fear God. With this compare Christ’s own words in Luke 12:4-5, and see also note on 1 Peter 1:17. The reverential awe which is due from the subject to supreme authority, and from the child to supreme perfection, which makes it to the one a dread and to the other a pain to offend, is what is to be rendered (cf. for its New Testament position, Heb. 13:28; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 2:12, etc.) to Him who is the Maker of all men, the Father of the brotherhood, the King of kings.

honour the king. That is, in the practical form of fealty, and, where that is impossible, in submission. The two latter precepts occur together, and in the same order, in Proverbs 24:21.—Are these four precepts so many pearls unstrung? Or are they a connected series, in which the one limits or defines the other? By some they are regarded as four particulars in which the previous ‘well-doing’ (1 Peter 2:15) is to be exhibited. In this case, too, a climax is usually discovered in the first three, while the fourth is taken to be a return to the relation which suggested the general statement of’ well-doing’ (Huther, etc.). Others think the first a general statement, of which the three following are applications (Alford, etc.). But this can scarcely suit the third at least. Others consider them to cover the two great departments of life, the civil and the religious, and to show how duty in the former is limited or defined by duty in the latter (Schott). If any inherent connection is to be found at all, it is in this last direction that it is to be sought. The closing precept indicates that Peter has still in view the civil and political duties. The verse, therefore, is introduced perhaps as a final qualification or explanation of his statement of these duties. It is appended as a safeguard against the supposition that such ‘submission’ to rulers must interfere with other obligations. The general principle of giving to all their dues, he means, is unaffected by what has been said. Honour to men as such, and the deeper sentiment of love to the brotherhood, reverence to God and honour to the king, are in no manner of conflict. The one is not to be rendered at the cost of the other.—The last three precepts are expressed in the present tense, as dealing with habitual modes of conduct. The first precept is given in a tense which does not express habit or continuance. The difference is explained by some (e.g. Alford) as due to the fact that the honour which is to be rendered to all men is presented here as a due which is to be given promptly and at once to each as occasion arises.


Verse 18

1 Peter 2:18. Servants, submit yourselves to your matters. The term for ‘servants’ here is different from the one by which Paul so frequently expresses the idea of the bond-servant. It occurs only thrice again in the N. T., once in Paul’s writings (Romans 14:4), and twice in Luke’s (Gospel, Luke 16:13; Acts 10:7). It means, literally, ‘one belonging to one’s house,’ ‘a domestic,’ and in Acts 10:7 it is translated by our A. V. ‘household servant.’ In the best period of classical literature (e.g. Herod, viii. 106; Soph. Trach. 894), as also at least occasionally in the Apocrypha (Sir_4:30; Sir_6:11), it is applied not unfrequently to all the inmates of one’s house, or to the ‘family’ in the present sense. Hence some suppose that in the present passage it includes all domestics, bond and free. Others (Steiger, etc.) think it is selected in order to cover the class of freedmen who contributed largely to the earliest converts. But as the more usual sense of the word is that of ‘slave,’ as it has that meaning in such passages of the LXX. and the Apocrypha as Exodus 21:27, Proverbs 17:2, Sir_10:25, and as that idea is certainly most germane to the context here, it is generally taken to denote bond-servants in the present passage. Peter selects it probably with a conciliatory purpose, as a more courteous term than the common one. It presents the slave in closer relation to the family, and so conveys a softened view of his position. The phrase ‘submit yourselves,’ or ‘make yourselves subject,’ is really in the participle form, ‘submitting yourselves,’ and is connected, therefore, either with the ‘honour all men’ of 1 Peter 2:17 (Alford, de Wette, etc.), with the general injunction of 1 Peter 2:11-12, or, most naturally, with the ‘submit yourselves’ of 1 Peter 2:13. The slave’s duty is thus given as an integral section of the great law of subjection to ‘every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.’ The word used for ‘masters’ conveys the idea of absolute power. It is used in the present application elsewhere only in the Pastoral Epistles (see refs.). It repeatedly occurs as a Divine title, ‘Lord’ (Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4; Revelation 6:10).

in all fear. Statement of the spirit or temper in which the subjection is to be made good. Is the ‘fear’ which is here intended fear towards God or towards man? On the ground that Peter afterwards (1 Peter 3:6; 1 Peter 3:14) warns against the fear of man, that Paul (Colossians 3:22) appends the definition ‘fearing the Lord’ to similar counsels to servants, and that the term occurs at times without any explanatory addition in the sense of religious fear (1 Peter 1:17), some good interpreters (Weiss, Dr. John Brown, etc.) take the idea here to be = give this submission in a pious spirit, in reverential awe of God. But the next clause seems to define the fear here under the other aspect, as the feeling proper to the position of subjection, even under trying circumstances. It means, therefore, careful solicitude to give faithful service, ‘shrinking from transgressing the master’s will’ (Huther). This is confirmed by the use of the stronger phrase, ‘with fear and trembling,’ in the Pauline parallel (Ephesians 6:5), which (as also in 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:15, and even Philippians 2:15) appears to express the broad idea of watchful, nervous anxiety to do what is right.

not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. The ‘fear’ has been put absolutely, ‘all fear,’ as extending to everything which can make demands upon the servant’s loyalty and patience. The same is now required in reference to cases where it is subjected to the most painful strain. It is not to be affected by the harshness of the yoke, but is due equally to two very different types of master. The one type is described by two adjectives, which are represented fairly well by the ‘good and gentle’ of the A. V. The second of these, however, means more than simply ‘gentle.’ Adjective and noun are of somewhat limited occurrence in the N. T., and are variously rendered by our A. V., e.g. gentleness, gentle, here and in 2 Corinthians 10:1; Titus 3:2; James 3:17; clemency, Acts 24:4; moderation, Philippians 4:5; patient, 1 Timothy 3:3. It expresses the disposition which lets equity temper justice, is careful not to press rights of law to the extreme of moral wrongs, and shrinks from rigorously exacting under all circumstances its legal due. It might be rendered ‘considerate,’ or ‘forbearing.’ Wycliffe gives mild; Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan, courteous; the Rhemish, modest. The other type is described by an adjective, which means literally crooked, twisting (in which sense it is applied, e.g., to the river Maeander in Apoll. Rhod. 4, 1541), and then ethically what is not straightforward. Besides the present passage, it occurs only thrice in the N. T.,—in Luke 3:5; Philippians 2:15 (in which cases the A. V. gives crooked); and Acts 2:40 (where the A. V. has untoward). So here it means not exactly capricious (as Luther puts it) or wayward (the Rhemish), or even froward (as both the A. V. and the R. V. give it after Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan), but ‘harsh’ or ‘perverse,’ the disposition that lacks the reasonable and considerate, and makes a tortuous use of the lawful. In ecclesiastical Greek it is used to denote the Evil One.


Verses 18-25

The household is next dealt with as an institution obviously included under the ‘every ordinance of man’ (1 Peter 2:13). And in the house the duty of servants is first declared. The bond-servant formed an extremely numerous class both in Greek and in Roman society. Rich citizens possessed slaves sometimes by the thousand. Pliny tells us, for example, of a single proprietor, Claudius Isidorus, leaving by will upwards of four thousand slaves (Nat. Hist, xxxiii. 47). They occupied a position of the most miserable helplessness. Of himself the slave had nothing, and was nothing. In the eye of the law he had no rights. Varro, ‘the most learned of the Romans,’ in a treatise written only between thirty and forty years before the Christian era, gives a classification of ‘implements,’ and first among these appears the slave (De Re Rustica, i. 17). Aristotle defines the slave as a ‘live chattel’ (Pol. i. 4). In his case there could be no such thing as relationships. Not till Constantine’s time did the law begin to recognise marriage and family rights among this class. His master’s power over him was absolute. No punishment—the scourge, mutilation, crucifixion, exposure to wild beasts—was too much for him. Not till Hadrian’s time was the power of life and death taken from the master. Though there is ample reason to believe that often personal kindliness secured for the slave what the law denied him, history has many a page dark with the record of the cruel woes and tragic wrongs of the slave. It is no wonder, therefore, that when Christianity entered with its Gospel of freedom and its abolition of all distinctions between bond and free in Christ, and made numerous converts, as we know it did, from this class, questions both grave and numerous arose as to the relation of the Christianized slave to the heat hen master and the heathen law. Hence the distinct place given to the slave in Peter’s counsels. Hence, too, the large space given by Paul to the slave’s matters, not only in the Epistle to Philemon, but in important sections of other Epistles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:20-24; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:11; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10) addressed to very different parties.


Verse 19

1 Peter 2:19. For this is acceptable. The ‘this’ refers to the case immediately to be stated. The Greek for ‘acceptable’ here is the usual word for ‘grace.’ Hence some take the sense to be=it is a work of grace, or a gift of grace (Steiger, Schott); others, =it is a sign of grace, a proof that you are Christians indeed (Wiesinger); others, = it conciliates or wins grace for you; Roman Catholic theologians using it in support of their theory of works of supererogation. In the present passage, however, it is evidently used in the non-theological sense. We have to choose, therefore, between three ideas, that of gracious or attractive (as in Luke 4:22; Colossians 4:6), that of favour, i.e securing favour with one (so Huther), or that of thankworthy, as the A. V. puts it, or better, ‘acceptable,’ as the R. V. gives it in harmony with the repetition of the word in the end of 1 Peter 2:20. Though the second of these can plead the analogy of the O. T. phrase, ‘find favour, or grace with one’ (Genesis 6:8; Genesis 18:3; Genesis 30:27, etc.), and its N. T. application (Luke 1:30; Luke 2:52; Acts 2:47), the third is on the whole the best, as most accordant with both the idea and the terms of Christ’s own declaration in Luke 6:32, which Peter seems here to have in mind. For the present, too, the statement is given generally, such endurance being presented as a thing acceptable in itself, and the person (whether God or the master) being left unnamed.

if on account of (his) consciousness of God one endureth pains while suffering wrongfully. Endurance, therefore, is not of itself a ‘thankworthy’ thing. In the case of any one, slave or other, it is so only if it is endurance of wrong, and only if it is animated by one’s sense of his relation to God, not if it is due to prudential considerations or of the nature of a sullen, stoical accommodation to the inevitable. The motive which gives nobility to endurance is put in the foreground. By this ‘consciousness of God’ is meant neither exactly the ‘conscience toward God’ of the A. V. and R. V., nor ‘conscientiousness before God,’ far less’ the consciousness which God has of us’ (as some strangely put it), but that consciousness which we have of God, which at once inspires the sense of duty and elevates the idea of duty. Though the Greek word is always translated ‘conscience’ in the A. V., it cannot be said ever to have in the Bible precisely the sense which is attached to it in modern philosophical systems. Neither can it be said to convey even in the Pauline writings quite the same idea as in the language of the Stoics, although it is possible that Paul may have been familiar with the ethical phraseology of that school (see Lightfoot’s Essay on St. Paul and Seneca in his Comm. on Philippians). Not unfrequently, however, it covers much the same conception as the ‘conscience’ of our current popular speech. The idea at its root is knowledge,—knowledge specially of the moral quality of our own acts. It is the ‘understanding applied to the distinction of good and evil, as reason is the same applied to the distinction of truth and falsehood’ (see Godet on Romans 2:15). Though it occurs often in the writings of Paul, repeatedly in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and thrice in Peter (here and 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 3:21), it is never found in the Gospels, except in the dubious section John 8:9. The Old Testament expressed a similar idea by a different term, namely the ‘heart.’ Hence this word occurs only once in the LXX., viz. in Ecclesiastes 10:20, and there it has a sense only approaching that of the moral consciousness, namely, that of the ‘quiet inner region of one’s thoughts.’ As this is put emphatically first, another quality of acceptable endurance is equally emphasized by the ‘wrongfully’ (the only instance of the adverb in the N. T.) which closes the sentence. The ‘grief’’ of the A. V. should be griefs, grievances, or pains. It carries us back to the ‘pained’ of 1 Peter 1:6, and points to objective external inflictions. It is the phrase used in Isaiah 53:4. The verb ‘endure’ here (which occurs only twice again in the N. T., 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 3:11) means to bear up against, and expresses perhaps the effort required to withstand the natural impulse to rise against injustice.


Verse 20

1 Peter 2:20. For what glory is it (or, what kind of glory is it). This particular term for ‘glory,’ with the general sense of credit, though of very frequent use in the Classics, occurs only this once in the N. T.

if, when ye do wrong and are buffeted, ye shall take it patiently. Peter has more in view here than the criminal’s stolid endurance of a punishment which he cannot escape (so de Wette). He means that even patient endurance, if it is the endurance of what is deserved, can bring no credit to one. It is the simple discharge of a duty that is matter of course (Matthew 5:47). The ‘ye shall take it patiently,’ therefore, of the A. V. and R. V. correctly conveys the idea. The two phrases, ‘do wrong’ and ‘are buffeted,’ express things in the relation of cause and effect. The latter verb is peculiar to the N. T. and ecclesiastical Greek. It is not found even in the LXX. It is peculiarly apt here, where the treatment of slaves is in question. It refers literally to blows with the hand, ‘the punishment, and a prompt one, inflicted upon slaves’ (Bengel).

but if, when ye do well and suffer, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. The A. V., along with various other Versions, erroneously drops the future, ‘shall take it,’ here. The ‘well-doing’ intended here seems to be the patient, dutiful behaviour of the slave, although the verb properly expresses the doing of good to one, or benefiting one. Some editors insert ‘for’ before ‘this is acceptable;’ in which case we should have to fill up the statement thus: ‘This is truly a credit to you, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.’—As the ruthless system of slavery reacted upon ancient society in forms so terrible that it became a proverb with the Romans, ‘As many slaves, so many enemies,’ so the risk of a fatal breach between Christianized slaves and heathen masters was one of the gravest perils which had to be faced. The new faith excited so many questions in the slave’s breast, questions as to his personal rights and dignity, the extent to which he was called to be a sufferer of wrong, the possibility of serving such masters with a pure conscience, questions fitted to excite the revolutionary spirit, that his case was the case in which it was at once least easy and most necessary to plant deep the conviction of the paramount Christian obligation of submission for the Lord’s sake. Hence Peter cannot yet quit this matter, but will carry it up to still higher reasons, to those found in the idea of the Christian calling and in Christ’s own example. He gives no hint that the slave should break with his bondage. Neither does he give him over to political impotence or social helplessness. He sets before him principles on which he is to quit himself like a Christian, abiding in his calling, principles which also were to work like solvents on the system itself, and gradually to secure its extinction without revolution. ‘Nothing indeed marks the Divine character of the Gospel more than its perfect freedom from any appeal to the spirit of political revolution. The Founder of Christianity and His apostles were surrounded by everything which could tempt human reformers to enter on revolutionary courses. . . . Nevertheless our Lord and His apostles said not a word against the powers and institutions of that evil world. Their attitude towards them all was that of deep spiritual hostility, and of entire political submission’ (see Gold win Smith, Does the Bible sanction American Slavery, p. 55,—a brief but invaluable discussion).


Verse 21

1 Peter 2:21. For unto this were ye called. Patient endurance of undeserved suffering should be deemed no strange thing (cf. 1 Peter 4:12). Painful as it was, it was involved in their Christian vocation. In being called by God to the grace of Christ, they were called to take up His cross (Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24, etc.). The fact appeals with special force to slaves; for He Himself ‘took upon Him the form of a servant’ (Philippians 2:7). For the turn of expression here, cf. Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:14. The A. V. needlessly inserts even, as Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Bishops’ Bible introduce a verily which is not in the text.

because Christ also suffered for you. The best authorities give the second person here instead of the ‘for us’ of the Received Text. The phrase means here, too, not ‘in your stead,’ but ‘in your behalf,’ or ‘for your good.’ The idea is that the servant cannot expect to be greater than the Master. They do not stand alone in suffering. They are only called to endure as Christ endured. He suffered, and that, too, not on His own account, but in their cause and for their benefit.

to you leaving behind (Him) an example. The pronoun (which again should be ‘you’ not ‘us’) is put with a strange prominence first, taking up the immediately preceding ‘for you,’ and applying the fact most emphatically to these bond-servants. The ‘leaving behind is expressed by a verb which is found nowhere else in the N. T., but which occurs in reference to death in the apocryphal Book of Judith (Jdt_8:7). The idea of an example is conveyed by a term, of which this is the one N. T. instance, and which denotes properly the sketch given to students of art to copy, or trace over and fill in, or the head-lines containing the letters of the alphabet, which were set for children who were learning writing. The idea of an example is expressed by different terms in John 13:15 (where it = sign, or pattern), and 2 Thessalonians 3:9 (where it = type; cf. also 1 Corinthians 10:11). The object of this bequest is next stated,

in order that ye might follow; or, follow closely, as the verb strictly means, which occurs again in Mark 16:20; 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Timothy 5:24 (in this last verse pointing to the closeness with which some men’s sins pursue them to judgment).

his steps, or footprints. Compare also Romans 4:12, 2 Corinthians 12:18, the only other occurrences in the N. T. The change of figure from a teacher setting a copy to be imitated, to a guide making a track to be intently kept by those coming after him, is to be noticed. Huther calls attention to the fact that, except in 1 John 2:6 (where the idea is more general), it is with particular reference to ‘His self-abasement in suffering and death’ that the N. T. presents Christ as an example, e.g. John 13:15; John 15:12; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 12:2; 1 John 3:16.


Verse 22

1 Peter 2:22. who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Of all the apostles, Peter, with the single exception of John, had known the Christ of history most intimately, and had seen Him in the circumstances, both public and private, most certain to betray the sinfulness of common human nature, had such been latent in Him. Peter had felt, too, not less strongly than others, how the type of holiness which Christ taught conflicted with his own traditional Jewish notion of a holiness bound up with the rigid observance of Sabbath laws and ceremonial rules of life. But with what quiet strength of fixed conviction does he proclaim Christ’s blamelessness! Nor can Peter’s confession of that sinlessness, as he lingers over it in this section, be said to come behind either Paul’s ‘who knew no sin’ (2 Corinthians 5:21), or John’s ‘in Him is no sin’ (1 John 3:5). It is the affirmation of a freedom not only from open but also from hidden sin, a sinlessness not in deed only, but also in word, and indeed (as the ‘guile’ implies, on which see also at 1 Peter 2:1) in thought. The language, as Bengel suggests, is peculiarly pertinent to the case of slaves with their strong temptations to practise deception. The choice of the verb ‘was found’ or ‘was discovered’ (see also on 1 Peter 1:7) is in harmony with the idea of a sinlessness which had stood the test of suspicious sifting and scrutiny. The statement is given, too, with the direct and positive force of simple historical tenses, which may imply (as Alford puts it) that in no instance did He ever do the wrong deed, or say the guileful word. All this, however, is in the form not of words of Peter’s own, but of a reproduction (taken exactly from the LXX., only that ‘sin’ appears here, while ‘iniquity’ or ‘lawlessness’ appears there) of the great prophetic picture of Jehovah’s servant in Isaiah (Isaiah 53:9).


Verse 23

1 Peter 2:23. who, when reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not. Peter continues to speak partly under the influence of Isaiah’s description (Isaiah 53:7 seems clearly in his mind, although he no longer reproduces the very words), and partly under that of personal recollection of what he had seen in Christ. The tenses change now from the simple historical past to imperfects expressive of sustained action. Most interpreters notice the climax from the reviling, or injury by word, to the more positive suffering, and from the abstinence from returning reviling in kind (the verb ‘reviled not again’ is another word peculiar to Peter) to abstinence even from threats of retaliation where actual retaliation was impossible. The sentence, therefore, exhibits Christ’s example in suffering in its quality of silence and patience, as the former verse dealt with the quality of innocence.

but left it to him that judgeth righteously. The Rhemish Version, following the singular reading of the Vulgate, renders ‘to him that judgeth him unjustly,’ as if Pilate were the judge in view. Here, as in 1 Peter 1:17, God the Father’s prerogative ‘of judgment’ is introduced. There the impartial righteousness of His judgment was a reason for a walk in godly fear. Here it is the ground of assurance for the innocent sufferer. What is it, however, that Christ is said to have committed to this Righteous Judge? Many interpreters (e.g. Winer, de Wette, etc.) and Versions (including Wycliffe, the Rhemish, and both the A. V. and the R. V. in the text) supply himself as the object of the committal. This however, is to give the active verb a reflexive force; of which there is no example in the case of this verb, Mark 4:24, which is appealed to, not being really in point. Hence others make it = committed his judgment, or his cause (so Gerhard, Calvin, Beza, the Syriac, Tyndale, and the margin of both the A. V. and the R. V.), or his punishment (the Genevan), or his vengeance (Cranmer). The unnamed object, however, should naturally be supplied from the things dealt with in the immediate context. These are clearly the wrongs patiently endured by Christ. With Luther, therefore, etc., we may best render it indefinitely ‘left it,’ understanding the ‘it’ to refer to the subjection to reviling and suffering just mentioned. This is better than (with Alford) to make it = committed His revilers and injurers; although we might thus secure an allusion to Christ’s prayer in behalf of His enemies (Luke 23:34).


Verse 24

1 Peter 2:24. who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, or, as in margin of the R. V., carried up . . . to the tree. From Christ’s fellowship with us in suffering, and from His innocence and patience as a Sufferer, we are now led up to the crowning glory of the example which He has left of an endurance not for wrong-doing, but for well-doing. What He endured was not only without personal cause or personal demerit on His own side, but in the cause and for the demerit of others. The vicariousness of His sufferings adds to His example a power and grandeur higher still than it receives from the qualities already instanced in it. So far, therefore, as vicarious suffering is a possibility to us, this new statement applies to the example which we are to study in Christ. It is clear, however, that in taking up here the idea of suffering ‘in your behalf with which he had started, and showing what that involved, Peter speedily carries us beyond the idea of example, and into a region in which Christ stands alone as a Sufferer. He places us now before the Cross itself, and in words each of which is of utmost value, touches upon the great mystery of the relation in which Christ’s sufferings stand to our sins. The phrase ‘to the tree’ points us at once to the climax of His vicarious suffering, His death upon the Cross. In designating the Cross ‘the tree,’ Peter is supposed by some (e.g. Bengel) to have selected a term which would appeal with peculiar force to slaves, their class being familiar with punishment by the tree in various forms, the cross, the fork, etc. Peter, however, uses the same term in Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39, where there is no such reference to slaves. So here he adopts it simply as it had been suggested by such Old Testament passages as Deuteronomy 21:22. It is probable, too, that he has in view those ideas of criminality and shame, and the position of one under the curse of the law, with which the word is associated in the Old Testament passage. The same great Passional of Isaiah (specially Isaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:11-12) is also manifestly in Peter’s mind, some of its characteristic terms, as rendered by the LXX., reappearing here. No interpretation, therefore, can be just which fails to be in harmony with the prophetic basis of the statement. How, then, is the central phrase ‘bare our sins’ to be understood? The verb occurs indeed in the New Testament (see also on 1 Peter 2:7) in the simple sense of carrying up, or bringing up, as e.g. of Christ bringing Peter and James and John up to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), of Christ being carried up into heaven (Luke 24:51), etc. It has also the sense, frequent enough in the Classics, of sustaining. Here, however, its accessories shut us up to a choice between two technical meanings, namely, that of offering up, and that of bearing punishment. Hence some (including the great name of Luther) take the sense to be ‘made an offering of our sins on the tree,’ or ‘brought our sins as an offering to the tree.’ In favour of this, it may be urged that the same verb has already been used in this sense in 1 Peter 2:5 (as it is again in Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 13:15; cf. also James 2:21), and that there is a distinct analogy in the Old Testament formula used of the priest offering on, or bringing offerings to, the altar (Leviticus 14:20; 2 Chronicles 24:16). But there are fatal objections to this view, as e.g. the unexampled conception of the sins being themselves the offering; the equally unexampled description of the Cross as an altar (notwithstanding Hebrews 13:10); the fact that it was not upon but before the altar that sacrificial victims under the Old Testament were put to death; and the difference thus created between Peter’s use and Isaiah’s use of the same terms. The other sense, viz. that of bearing the consequences, or paying the penalty, of sin, is supported by the weightiest considerations, as e.g. the fact that the verb in question is one of those by which the Greek Version represents the Hebrew verb, which (when it has ‘sin’ or ‘iniquity’ as its object) means to bear punishment for sin (whether one’s own or that of others) in numerous passages both of the Pentateuch and the prophets (e.g. Leviticus 19:17; Leviticus 20:19; Leviticus 24:15; Numbers 5:31; Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:5; Ezekiel 14:10; Ezekiel 16:58; Ezekiel 23:35); the New Testament analogy in Hebrews 9:28; the harmony with what is said of the Servant of Jehovah in Isaiah 53. The addition in His body brings out the fact that this endurance of the punishment of our sins was discharged by Him, not remotely as was the case with the Israelite under the Law who brought a victim distinct from himself, but directly in His own person. The phrase to (or, on to, not on) the tree is not inconsistent with this meaning. It gives the whole sentence the force of a picture representing Christ with our sins upon Him, and carrying them with Him on to the final act of penal endurance on the Cross. The statement, therefore, is more than a figure for securing the forgiveness of sin, and means more than bearing sin sympathetically, burdening one’s heart with the sense of sin, or destroying the power of sin in us. It involves the two ideas of sacrifice and substitution; the latter having additional point given it by the ‘Himself’ (or, as our E. V. puts it, ‘His own self’), which is set both emphatically first and in antithetical relation to ‘our sins.’ It can scarcely mean less than what Weiss recognises when he says: ‘It is plain, therefore, that in consequence of Isa. iii, Peter regards this sin-bearing of Christ in behalf of sinners as the means whereby sin has been removed from them, and by which, therefore, the stain of guilt has been effaced’ (Bib. Theol. i. p. 233, Eng. Trans.). It gives no theory, however, of how this sin-bearing carried such efficacy with it.

in order that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness. The ransom, from the necessity of ourselves bearing the consequences, or legal liabilities of our sins, however, is not an end to itself. It is done with a view to the killing of the practical power of sin in us, and to our leading a new life. A death unto the sins which He bore is given here as the position into which we were brought once for all by Christ’s great act of sin-bearing. Hence the use of the historical past ‘having died.’ The idea of this death, though it is expressed by a term not found elsewhere in the New Testament (which some wrongly render ‘being removed away from’), is the same as the Pauline idea (Romans 6:2; Romans 6:11). And through this death comes the new life which is dedicated to the service of ‘righteousness;’ which term has here, of course, not the theological sense of justification or a justified state, which some still give it, but the ethical sense which it has, e.g., in Romans 6:16; Romans 6:18-19, etc.

by whose braise ye were healed. The word rendered both by the A. V. and by the R. V. ‘stripes,’ occurs only this once in the New Testament. In the original it is a collective singular, and means properly a weal, the bruise left by blows or by the scourge. Hence it is thought that Peter uses it with reference to the slaves punishment. He takes it, however, simply from Isaiah 53:5, adopting what applies properly only to the effects of one kind of punishment as a vivid figure of Christ’s sufferings as a whole, and passing at the same time naturally from the ‘we’ and ‘our’ to the direct personal address ‘ye,’ which so distinguishes the Epistle. Bengel calls this ‘a paradoxical expression of the apostle.’ It gives the double paradox of grace—healed with a stripe, and healed with what is laid upon another than the patient himself. The moral sickness of sin is translated into the health of righteousness by the pain of the Sinless.


Verse 25

1 Peter 2:25. For ye were going astray as sheep. Continuing Isaiah’s strain, Peter adds a reason for what he has just said of a restoration to righteousness, or soundness of life. The figure passes from that of sickness into that of error. As the better-sustained reading gives the participle in the masculine (not in the neuter, as if qualifying the ‘sheep’), it is necessary to put the comparison otherwise than it is given in the A. V. The readers are compared simply to sheep, not to wandering sheep. That is to say, they are said themselves to have been once wanderers, and in that state of estrangement from God to have been like sheep,—helpless, foolish, and heedless. Thus the figure stands in Isaiah 53:6, and so here it connects itself at once with the subsequent idea of returning to a Head. The use of the sheep as a figure of man in his natural alienation from God is one of the commonest in the Old Testament (e.g. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Psalms 119:176; Ezekiel 34:5; Ezekiel 34:11). So in the New Testament (Matthew 18:12-13; Luke 15:4, etc.); although it is used also as a figure of docility, etc. (John 10:4-5, etc.).

But ye turned yourselves now. On the ground of such instances as Matthew 9:22; Matthew 10:13, Mark 5:30; Mark 8:33, John 12:40; John 21:20, it seems necessary to give the verb the middle sense here, although it might seem more in harmony with the context to render it ‘are returned,’ so as to bring out more clearly what had been done for them. It is in the past, too, as referring to the definite act of turning, once accomplished. He to whom they turned is Christ (not God here), who is designated both the Shepherd of their souls and the Overseer of their souls. The title ‘Shepherd,’ indeed, is used of God in the Old Testament (Psalms 23:1; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-12; Ezekiel 34:16). But it is also applied to Messiah there (Ezekiel 34:24), while in the New Testament it is not only claimed for Himself by Christ (John 10:11), but is given to Him again by Peter (1 Peter 5:4). The use of the title ‘Bishop,’ or, as it simply means ‘Overseer’ or ‘Guardian,’ may be due to the fact that, like ‘Shepherd,’ it was a name given to the ‘presidents of the churches, who were, so to speak, the representatives of the One Shepherd and Bishop, the Head of the whole Church’ (Huther), or, as others suggest, it may have risen from such Old Testament usages as the ascription to the Lord God (in Ezekiel 34:11-12) of the action of ‘seeking out’ the sheep; which action is expressed by the verb cognate to the title. The two designations are closely akin. The early Greeks spoke of their princes as shepherds of the people, transferring the name not from the pastoral function of feeding the flock, but rather from that of tending, protecting, and directing it. In the New Testament, too, the ‘pastors’ in Paul’s enumeration of functionaries in the Church (Ephesians 4:11) are ‘shepherds,’ and the cognate verb which our A. V. renders ‘feed’ in such passages as John 21:16, Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2, has the wider sense of ‘shepherding’ or ‘tending.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-peter-2.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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