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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
1 Peter 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

25

Chapter 5

CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD: ITS CHARACTER AND DUTIES

1 Peter 1:22-25; 1 Peter 2:1-3

THAT holy lives have been lived in solitude none would venture to dispute, and that devout Christians have found strength for themselves and given examples to the world by withdrawal from the society of their fellows is attested more than once in the history of Christendom. But with lives of such isolation and seclusion the New Testament exhibits little sympathy. To whatever preparation the Christian is exhorted, it is never with a view to himself. Though not of the world, he is to be in the world, that men may profit by his example. The prayer of the Lord for His disciples ere he left them was, not that they might be taken out of the world, but protected from its evils.

Christ’s intention was to found a Church, a communion, a brotherhood, and all His language looks that way: "One is your Master, and all ye are brethren"; "So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." And of like character is the teaching of the Epistles: "Be kindly affectioned in love of the brethren"; [Romans 12:10] "Let brotherly love continue". [Hebrews 13:1] We are in no way surprised therefore when St. Peter turns from his exhortations to personal sobriety, obedience, and holiness, and addresses the converts on the application of these virtues, that through them they may bind in closer bonds the brotherhood of Christ: "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently." Obedience is the sole evidence by which the believer can show that God’s call has wrought in him effectually. His election is of the Father’s foreknowledge, his sanctification is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is the sprinkling of the blood of Christ which makes him fit for entry into the house of the Father. In the Christian, so called and so aided, there must be a surrender of himself to the guidance of that spirit which deigns to guide him. The law in his members must be mortified, and another and purer law accepted as the rule of his life. This law St. Peter calls "the truth because it has been made manifest in its perfection in the life of Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Of this example St. Paul testifies as the truth which is in Jesus." He therefore who would cherish the Christian hope will purify himself even as Christ is pure. The way and means unto such purification is obedience.

This first and most needful step the Apostle believes, from his knowledge of their lives, that these Asian converts have taken in earnest, and thus have attained to a love of their brethren which differs utterly from the love which the world exhibits, which is true, sincere, unfeigned. But the believer’s life is a life of constant progress. Daily advance is the evidence of vitality. All the language which Scripture applies to it proclaims this to be its character. It is called a walk, a race, a pilgrimage, a warfare. The Christian all his life through will find himself so far from what Christ intends to make him that he must ever be pressing forward. Hence, though they have attained to a stage of purification, have put off in some degree the old man, the Apostle’s exhortation is "Press forward"; "Love one another from the heart fervently." The English word describes a warmth and earnestness of love which is deep-seated and true, but the original expresses more than this, more of the sustained effort to which St. Peter is urging them. It points to incessant striving, to a constancy like that of the prayers of the Church for the Apostle himself when he was in prison, a prayer made unto God without ceasing. So steadfast must be the Christian love; and such love the purified, undistracted heart alone can manifest, a heart which has been released from the entanglements of earthly ambitions and strivings, whose affections are fully set on the things above.

Such souls must be filled with the Spirit; a steadfastness like this comes only of the new birth. And of this the converts are reminded in the words which follow: "having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God." It is true they are but at the outset of their Christian course: but if any man be in Christ, he is made a new creature. And in this connection the word of God might be taken in a twofold sense. First, the Word who was made flesh, in whom was light; and the light was the life of men. Through His resurrection God has begotten men again to a life which shall know no corruption. But the figure which the Apostle presently employs of the withering grass and the falling flower carries our mind rather to Christ’s explanation of His own parable. The seed is the word of God, which liveth and abideth. And throughout the New Testament the life-possessing and life-giving power of the Gospel is made everywhere conspicuous. When it was first proclaimed, we read again and again, "The word of God grew mightily and prevailed"; [Acts 12:24] and the figurative language used to describe its character shows how potent is its might. It is the sword of the Spirit; [Ephesians 6:16] "It is quick and powerful". [Hebrews 4:12] By it Christ foiled the tempter. It makes those strong in whom it abides. [1 John 2:14] It is free, and not bound. [2 Timothy 2:9] St. Paul calls it "the power of God unto salvation," [Romans 1:16] "the word of truth, the gospel of salvation" [Ephesians 1:13] and says, "It comes, not in word only, but in power". [1 Thessalonians 1:5] This is the incorruptible seed of which St Peter speaks. And his words force on our thoughts that for such a seed a fitting ground must be prepared, if the new life of which it is the source is to bear its due fruit. This preparation it is which the Apostle is anxious to enforce, the purifying and cleansing of the seed-plot of men’s hearts. They must not be hardened so as to forbid it access, and leave it for every chance enemy to trample on or carry away; they must not be choked with alien thoughts and purposes: the cares of life, the pleasures of the world. Such things perish in the using, and can have no affinity with the living and abiding word of God, which, even as He, is eternal and unchanging.

And herewith is bound up a very solemn thought. The word may be neglected, may be choked, in individual hearts; but still it liveth and abideth, and will appear to testify against the scorners: "He that rejecteth Me and receiveth not My words hath one that judgeth Him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of Myself". [John 12:48] But for those who accept the message of the word and live thereby St. Peter’s language is full of comfort, especially to those who are in like affliction with these Asian Christians. For them the acceptance of the faith of Jesus must have meant the rending asunder of earthly ties; the natural brotherhood would be theirs no longer. But they are enrolled in a new family-a family which cannot perish, whose seed is incorruptible, whose kinship shall stretch forward and be ever enlarging through all time and into eternity. For they, like the word by which they are begotten again, will live and abide for evermore.

And confirming this lesson by the prophecy of Isaiah, [Isaiah 40:6-8] the Apostle thus links together the ancient Scriptures and the New Testament. But in so doing he shows by his language how he regards the latter as more excellent and a mighty advance upon the former. The margin of the Revised Version helpfully indicates the difference of the words. In Isaiah the teaching is styled a saying. It was the word whereby God, through some intermediary, made known his will to the children of men. But under the Gospel the word is that living, spiritual power which is used as synonymous with the Lord Himself. The word of good tidings has now been spoken unto men by a Son, the very image of the Divine substance, the effulgence of God’s glory, and now possesses a might quick even to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. This is verily the living word of God. [Hebrews 4:12]

And we of today can see what ground there was for the Apostle’s faith and for his teaching, how true the prophetic word has been found in the events of history. "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth: but the, word of the Lord abideth forever." When we cast our thoughts back to the time when St. Peter wrote, we see the converts who had accepted the word of God a mere handful of people amid the throngs of heathendom, the religion which they professed the scorn of all about them, to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness, and its preachers in the main a few poor, untrained, un-influential men, of no rank or conspicuous ability. On the other hand, worshipping crowds proclaimed the greatness of Diana of the Ephesians, and the power of the Roman Empire was at its height, or seemed so, with the whole of the civilized world owning its sway. And now that world’s wonder, the temple at Ephesus, is a pile of ruins, and over the Roman power such changes have passed that it has utterly faded out of existence; but the doctrines of the Galilean, who claimed to be the Incarnate Word of God, are daily extending their influence, proving their vitality to be Divine.

But though in his language he has seemed to mark the superiority of the Gospel message, the Apostle is deeply conscious that the office of the preacher has much, nay, its chief character, in common with that of the prophet. Hence he proceeds to call the Gospel message, now that it is left to the lips of Evangelists and Apostles to proclaim, a saying like that of Isaiah. In this way he links the New Testament to the Old, the prophet to the preacher. Both spake the same word of God; both were moved by the same spirit; both proclaimed the same deliverance, the one looking onward in hope to the coming Redeemer, the other proclaiming that the redemption had been accomplished. "This is the telling" (the saying) "of good tidings which was preached unto you." Here Peter seems to allude to a preaching earlier than his own, and to none can we attribute the evangelization of these parts of Asia with more probability than to St. Paul and his missionary colleagues. But there was no note of disagreement between these early ambassadors of Christ. They could all say of their work, "Whether it were I or they, so we preached, and so ye believed." Having spoken of the seed, the Apostle now turns to the seed plot which needs its special preparation. It must be cleared and broken up, or the seed, though scattered, will have small chance of roothold.

But here St. Peter recurs to his former metaphor. He has spoken [1 Peter 1:13] of the Christian’s equipment, how with girded loins he should prepare himself for the coming struggle. He now speaks of what he must lay aside. He has been purified, or made to long after purification, through his obedience to the truth, so that he can with earnest desire seek to make known his love to the brethren; and the word of God is powerful to overcome such dispositions as are destructive of brotherly love. Hence it is to no hopeless, unaided conflict that the Apostle urges his converts when he writes of their "putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings." It is a formidable list of evils, but St. Peter’s words treat them as forming no part of the true man. These are overgrowths, which can be stripped away, though the operation will many a time be painful enough; they have enveloped and enclosed the sinner, and cling close about him, but the sanctification of the Spirit can help him to be unclothed of them all. They are the forces which make for discord. The word of good tidings began with "peace on earth, good will towards men." Hence those who hearken to the message must put away everything contrary thereto. First in the Apostle’s enumeration stands a general term, wickedness, those which follow it being various forms of its development. We learn how utterly alien this wickedness is to the spirit of Christ when we notice the employment of the word to describe the sin of Simon: "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right before God". [Acts 8:22] Such a man had no comprehension of the source of the Apostolic powers; the sacred things of God were unknown to one who could treat such gifts as merchandise. And it is full of interest in the present connection to observe that what our English Version there renders "matter" is really, as the margin (R.V.) shows, "word." It was the word of God which was mighty in the first preachers, which was growing and prevailing as they testified unto Christ, and in this "word" a heart like Simon’s could have no share. He was no fit member of the fellowship of Christ. Guile was the sin of Jacob, a sin which brake the bond of brotherhood between him and Esau, and wrought so much misery in the whole of Jacob’s family history. Guile was not found in Nathanael. The searching eye of Jesus saw that the sin of the "supplanter" was not in him. Hence he is pointed out as an example of the true Israel, that which the race of Jacob was intended to become.

That hypocrisy is a foe to brotherhood our Lord makes evident as he reproaches the Pharisees for this sin. "I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, nor even as this publican," are words which could never rise to the lips of him whose heart was purified by the Spirit of God; and envy brings hatred in its train. It was by envy that Saul was incited to seek the death of David; it was from envy that Joseph’s brethren sold him into Egypt; through envy a greater than Joseph was sold to be crucified, [Matthew 27:18] and this sin led to war in heaven itself.

From evil-speaking these Asian converts themselves had to suffer, and would know by experience its mischievous effects. They were spoken against as evil-doers, as the Apostle notes twice over. [1 Peter 2:12] This evil adds cowardice to its other baneful qualities, for it takes advantage of the absence of him against whom it is directed, and is that vice which in 2 Corinthians 12:20 is described as backbiting, a rendering which the Revised Version leaves undisturbed, while those who indulge in it are called backbiters. [Romans 1:30] St. James has much to say in its dispraise: "Speak not one against another, brethren. He that speaketh against a brother or judgeth his brother speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law." [James 4:11] Such a one is intruding into the prerogative of God Himself, and passing sentence where he can have no sure knowledge of the acts which he judges. "Evil-speaking," says one of the Apostolic Fathers, "is a restless demon, never at peace. So speak no evil of any, nor take pleasure in listening thereto." By good works St. Peter instructs his converts to live down such cowardly slanders, that those who revile their good manner of life in Christ may be put to shame thereby. Purity will overcome iniquity, innocence gain the day against deceit.

But the transformation to which the Apostle exhorts them must be verily to become a new creation, and so he goes on to speak of their condition as one akin to that of newborn babes. These, by natural instincts, turn away from all that will hurt them, and seek only what can nourish and support. To such right inclinations, to such simplicity of desire, must the Christian be brought. He has been born again of the word of God. From this he is to seek his constant nurture, as instinctively as the babe turns to its mother’s breast. This is able to save the soul, [James 1:21] but it cannot be received unless the vices which war against it be put away, and a spirit of meekness take their place. They seek other and less pure food for their support.

Christians are to long for the spiritual milk which is without guile. This food for babes in Christ is the word, which is taken by the Spirit and offered a nurture for the soul. But there must be a longing for, a readiness to accept, what is offered. For the spiritual appeals to the reason of man, and though offered, is not forced on him. The Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. And the purification, the clearing off and putting away corrupt dispositions, about which the Apostle speaks so earnestly, applies an eye-salve to the inward vision which helps us to see things in their true light, and so to long for what is really profitable food without guile, which does not disappoint the hope of those that seek it. "That ye may grow thereby unto salvation." It is called the word of salvation. "To you," says St. Paul to the men of Antioch, [Acts 13:26] is the word of this salvation sent forth; and through it is proclaimed the remission of sins. The healthy condition of the life of the soul is evidenced by these two signs: longing for proper food and growth by partaking thereof. For there is no standing still in spiritual life, any more than in the natural life.

Where there is no growth, decay has already set in; if there be no waxing of the powers, they have already begun to wane. To the natural human growth there must needs come this waning; the body will decay: but the spiritual increase can continue, must continue, until the stature of the fullness of Christ be attained, till we come to be made like unto Him when we see Him as He is. Watch, then, strive and pray for growth, "if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." The true food once found and appreciated, the joy of this support will be such that no other will ever be desired. Hence St. Peter adopts, or rather adapts, the words of the Psalmist [Psalms 34:9] who tells of the blessedness of trusting in the Lord. The angels of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and setteth them free. This is the initial stage: the deliverance from the power of evil. Then come the desire and longing for the true strength. "O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the man that findeth refuge in Him." The joy of such a refuge can come even to those who are suffering after the fashion of the Asian converts. But the Psalmist’s words are full of teaching. God’s training is empirical. Spiritual experience comes before spiritual knowledge. Well does St. Bernard say of this lesson, though his words pass the power of translation, "Unless you have tasted you will not see. The food is the hidden manna; it is the new name which no one knows but he who receives it. It is not external training, but the unction of the Spirit, which teaches; it is not knowledge (scientia) which grasps the truth, but the conscience (conscientia) which attests it."


Verses 4-10

Chapter 6

THE PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS

1 Peter 2:4-10

LEAVING the exhortation to individual duties, the Apostle turns now to describe the Christian society in relation to its Divine Founder, and tells both of the privileges possessed by believers, and of the services which they ought to render. He employs for illustration a figure very common in Holy Scripture, and compares the faithful to stones in the structure of some noble edifice, built upon a sure foundation. Such language on his lips must have had a deep significance. He was the rock-man; his name Peter was bestowed by Christ in recognition of his grand confession: and Jesus had consecrated the simile which the Apostle uses by His own words. "Upon this rock I will build My Church" [Matthew 16:18] words which were daily finding a blessed fulfillment in the growth of these Asian Churches.

A rock is no unusual figure in the Old Testament to represent God’s faithfulness, and its use is specially frequent in Isaiah and the Psalms. "In the Lord Jehovah is an everlasting rock," [Isaiah 26:4] says the prophet; again he calls God "the rock of Israel"; [Isaiah 30:29] while the prayers of the Psalmist are full of the same thought concerning the Divine might and protection: "Be Thou my strong rock and my fortress" [Psalms 31:2] "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I"; [Psalms 61:2] "O God, my rock and my Redeemer". [Psalms 19:14]

But the language of the New Testament goes farther than that of the Old. Strength, protection, permanence-these were attributes of the rock of which Isaiah spake and David sang. The life-possessing and life-imparting virtue of the Spirit of Christ is a part of the glad tidings of the Gospel. Through Him were light and immortality brought to light. The rock which lives is found in Jesus Christ. In Him is life without measure, ready to be imparted to all who seek to be built up in Him.

"Unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious." By purification of thought, and act, and word, that childlike frame has been sought after which fits them to draw near; and they come with full assurance. Jesus they know as the Crucified, as the Lord who came to His own, and they received Him not. Generations of preparation had not made Jewry ready for her King’s coming, had failed to impress the people with the signs of His advent; and so they disowned Him, and cried, "We have no king but Caesar." But the converts know Jesus also as Him who was raised from the dead and exalted to glory. This honor He hath "with God." No other than He could bring salvation. Therefore has he received a name that is above every name. And "with God" here signifies that heavenly exaltation and glory. The sense is as when Jesus testifies, "I speak what I have seen with My Father" [John 8:38] -that is, in heaven- or when He prays, "Glorify me, O Father, with Thine own self". [John 17:5] From this excellent glory He sends down His Spirit, and gives to His people a share of that life which has been made manifest in Him. Their part is but to come, to seek, and every one that seeketh is sure to find. "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house." Not because they are living men does the Apostle speak of them as living stones. They may be full of the vigor of natural life, yet have no part in Christ. The life which joins men to Him comes by the new birth. And the union of believers with Christ makes itself patent by a daily progress. He is a living stone; they are to be made more and more like Him by a constant drawing near, a constant drinking in from His fullness of the life which is the light of men. In this light new graces grow within them; old sins are cast aside. By this preparation, this shaping of the living stones, the Spirit fits Christians for their place in the Spiritual building, unites them with one another and with Christ, fashions out of them a true communion of saints-saints, who, that they may advance in saintliness, have duties to perform both directly to God and for His sake to the world around. By diligence therein the upbuilding goes daily forward.

First, they are "to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." From the day when God revealed His will on Sinai, such has been the ideal set before His chosen servants. "Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" [Exodus 19:6] stands in the preface of the Divinely given law. And God changes not. Hence the praise of the Lamb’s finished work when He has purchased unto God men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation is sung before the throne in the self-same strain: "Thou madest them to be unto God a kingdom and priests". [Revelation 5:10] Under the early dispensation God was leading men up from material sacrifices to pay unto Him true spiritual worship. The Psalmist has learnt the lesson when he pleads, "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in me" [Psalms 4:6] and Hosea’s sense of what was well-pleasing to God is made clear in his exhortation. "Take with you words and return unto the Lord; say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good, so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips". [Hosea 14:3] The Apostle to the Romans is hardly more explicit than this when he urges, "present your bodies a living sacrifice," [Romans 12:1] or to the Hebrews, "Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name". [Hebrews 13:15]

But the Apostles could add to the exhortations of the prophets and psalmists a ground of blessed assurance, could promise how these living sacrifices, these offerings of praise, had gained a certainty of acceptance through Jesus Christ: "Through Him we have boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him"; [Ephesians 3:12] and in another place, "Having Him as a great priest over the house of God," that spiritual house into which believers are builded, "let us draw near with a true heart, in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water". [Hebrews 10:22] Thus do believers become priests unto God, in every place lifting up holy hands in prayer, prayer which is made acceptable through their great High-priest.

It was only from oral teaching that these Asian Christians knew of those lessons which we now can quote as the earliest messages to the Church of Christ. The Scripture was to them as yet the Scripture of the Old Testament, and to this St. Peter points them for the confirmation which it supplies. And his quotation is worthy of notice both for its manner and its matter: "Because it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on Him shall not be put to shame." The passage is from Isaiah; [Isaiah 28:16] but a comparison with that verse shows us that the Apostle has not quoted all the words of the prophet, and that what he has given corresponds much more closely with the Greek of the Septuagint than with the Hebrew. The latter concludes, "He that believeth shall not make haste," and contains some words not represented in the version of the Seventy. The variations which St. Peter accepts are such as to assure us that for him (and the same is true for the rest of the Apostles) the purport, the spiritual lessons, of the word were all which he counted essential. Neither Christ Himself nor His Apostles adhere in quotation to precise verbal exactness. They felt that there lay behind the older record so many deep meanings for which the fathers of old were not prepared, but which Gospel light made clear. To somewhat of this fuller sense the translators of the Septuagint seem to have been guided. They lived nearer to the rising of the daystar. Through their labors God was in part preparing the world for the message of Christ. The words which Isaiah was guided to use express the confidence of a believer who was looking onward to God’s promise as in the future: "He shall not make haste." He knows that the purpose of God will be brought to pass; that, as the prophet elsewhere says, "The Lord will hasten it in its time." [Isaiah 60:22] Man is not to step in, Jacob-like, to anticipate the Divine working.

But "shall not be ashamed" was a form of the promise more suited to the days of St. Peter and these infant Churches. For the name of Christ was in many ways made a reproach; and only men of faith, like Moses and the heroes celebrated with him in Hebrews 11:1-40, could count that reproach greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Other and weaker hearts needed encouragement, needed to be pointed to the privileges and glories which are the inheritance of the followers of Jesus. And in this spirit he applies the prophetic words, "For you therefore which believe is the preciousness." Faith makes real all the offers of the Gospel. It opens heaven, as to the vision of St. Stephen, so that while they are still here believers behold the glory of God to which Christ has been exalted, are assured of the victory which has been won for them, and that in His strength they may conquer also. Thus they receive continually the earnest of those precious and exceeding great promises [2 Peter 1:4] whereby they become partakers of the Divine nature.

But all men have not faith. The Bible tells us this on every page. God knows what is in man, and in His revelation He has set forth not only invitations and blessings, but warnings and penalties. Life and good, death and evil-these have been continually proclaimed as linked together by God’s law, but ever with the exhortation, "Choose life." Of such warning messages St. Peter gives examples from prophecy and psalm: "But for such as disbelieve, the stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner," [Psalms 118:22] "and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense"; [Isaiah 8:14] "for they stumble at the word, being disobedient." Here the Apostle touches the root of the evil. The test of faith is obedience. It was so in Eden; it must be ever so. But now, as then, the tempter comes with his insidious questionings, "Hath God said?" and sowing doubts, he goes his way, leaving them to work; and work they do. Now it is the truth, now the wisdom, of the command, that men stumble at. But in each case they disobey. Those leave it unobserved; these despise and set it at naught. And the penalty is sure. For mark the twofold aspect of God’s dealing which is set forth in the passages chosen by St. Peter to enforce his lesson. Spite of man’s disobedience, God’s purpose is not thwarted. The stone which He laid in Zion has been made the head of the corner. Though rejected by some builders it has lost none of its preciousness, none of its strength. Those who draw near unto it find life thereby; are made fit for their places in the Divine building, in the kingdom of the Lord’s house which He will most surely establish as the latter days draw on. But they who disobey are overthrown. The despised stone, which is the sure word of God, rises up in men’s self-chosen path, and makes them fall, and at the last, if they persist in despising it, will appear for their condemnation. "Whereunto also they were appointed." The Apostle has in mind the words of Isaiah, how the prophet, in that place from which he has just quoted, declares that many shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. This is the lot of the disobedient. These penalties dog that sin. It is the unvarying law of God. The Bible teaches this from first to last, by precepts as well as by examples. The disobedient must stumble. But the Bible does not teach that any were appointed unto disobedience. Such fatalist lessons are alien to God’s infinite love. The two ways are set before all men. God tries us thus because He has gifted us above the rest of creation, that we may render Him a willing service. But neither prophet nor Apostle teaches that to stumble is to be finally cast away. Both picture God’s mercy in as large terms as those in which St. Paul speaks of the Jews: "Did God cast off His people? God forbid…They, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again". [Romans 11:1-36]

A hardening in part hath befallen Israel, and to the Church of Christ there is offered the blessedness which aforetime was to be the portion of the chosen people. But the offer is made on like terms of obedient service, and involves large duties. St. Peter marks the likeness of the two offers by choosing the words of the Old Testament to describe the Christian calling, with its privileges and its duties. Believers in Christ are a peculiar treasure unto God from among all people, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation, even as was said to Israel [Exodus 19:5-6] when they came out of Egypt and received the Law from Sinai. But among the dispersion, for whom he writes, there were those who had been heathens, as well as the converts from Judaism. That he may show them also to be embraced in the new covenant, and their calling contemplated under the old, the Apostle points to another of God’s promises, where Hosea [Hosea 1:10-11; Hosea 2:1-23] tells of the grace that was ready to be shed forth on them which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God, which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Thus all, Jew and Gentile, are to be made one holy fellowship, one people for God’s own possession.

And this kingdom of God’s priests has its duty to the world as well as unto God. Israel in time past was chosen to be God’s witness to the rest of mankind, so that when men saw that no nation had God so nigh unto them as Jehovah was whenever Israel called upon Him, that no nation had statutes and judgments so righteous as all the Law which had been given from Sinai, they might be constrained to say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people," and might themselves be won to the service of a God so present and so holy. And now each member of the Christian body, while offering himself a living sacrifice to God, while delighting to do His will, while treasuring His law, is to exercise himself in wider duties, that God’s glory may be displayed unto all men. One of the psalmists, whose words have been in part referred to Christ Himself, testifies how this priesthood for mankind should be fulfilled: "I have published righteousness in the great congregation; lo, I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, Thou knowest. I have not hid Thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy loving-kindness and Thy truth from the great congregation." [Psalms 40:9-10] These were the excellences which the Psalmist had found in God’s service, and his heart ran over with desire to impart the knowledge unto others. With juster reason shall Christ’s servants be prompted to a like evangel. They cannot hold their peace, specially while they consider how great blessings those lose who as yet own no allegiance to their Master.

"That ye may show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." This theme fills the rest of the letter. The Apostle teaches that in every condition this duty has its place and its opportunities. Subjects may fulfill it, as they yield obedience to their rulers, servants in the midst of service to their masters, wives and husbands in their family life, each individual in the society where his lot is cast, and specially those who preside over the Christian congregations. Wherever the goodness of God’s mercy has been tasted, there should be hearts full of thanksgiving, voices tuned to the praise of Him who has done great things for them. Lives led with this aim will make men to be truly what God designs: a holy nation; a kingdom of priests. And ever as men walk thus will the kingdom for which we daily pray be brought nearer.

The opportunities for winning men to Christ differ in modern times from those which were open to the earliest Christian converts; but there is still no lack of adversaries, no lack of those by whom the hope of the believer is deemed unreasonable: and now, as then, the good works which the opponents behold in Christian lives will have their efficacy. These cannot forever be spoken against. A good manner of life in Christ shall, through His grace, finally put the gainsayers to shame. They shall learn, and gain blessing with the lesson, that the stone which they have so long been rejecting has been set up by God to be the foundation of His Church, the head stone of the corner, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.


Verses 11-17

Chapter 7

CHRISTIANS AS PILGRIMS IN THE WORLD

1 Peter 2:11-17

THE Apostle opens his exhortations with a word eminently Christian: "Beloved." It is a word whose history makes us alive to and thankful for the Septuagint Version. Without that translation there would have been no channel through which the religious ideas of Judaism could have been conveyed to the minds of the Western peoples. There are several Greek words which signify "to love," but bound up with every one of them some sense which renders it ill-fitted to describe true Christian love and still less suited for expressing the love of God to man. The word in the text has been fashioned to tell of that love which St. Paul describes in his "more excellent way". [1 Corinthians 13:1-13] In classic speech it implies more of the outward exhibition of welcome, than of deep affection.

But the translators of the Septuagint have taken it specially for themselves, and use it first to express the love of Abraham for Isaac; [Genesis 22:2] and, thus consecrating and elevating it, they have brought it at length to great dignity, for they employ it to signify the love of the Lord for His people, and the highest love of man to God: "The Lord preserveth all them that love Him"; [Psalms 145:20] "The Lord loveth the righteous". [Psalms 146:8] So in the New Testament it can be used of the "well-beloved" Son Himself. With such an expression of their union to each other in the Lord does St. Peter preface his admonitions. They are counsels of love.

"I beseech you, as sojourners and pilgrims." The Christian looks for a life eternal. In comparison thereof the best things of this time are of little account, while the evil of the world renders it no safe resting-place. It is but as a lodging for a brief night, and at dawn the traveler sets forward for his true home. Hence the argument of the Apostolic entreaty. You have no long time to stay, and none to waste; your motto is ever "Onward! I beseech you to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul," Of the perils of life’s journey the Psalmist gives us a telling sketch in the first verse of Psalms 50:1-23; and if we may accept the words as the outcome of David’s experience, they teach us the subtlety of these lusts of the flesh, as they war against the soul. They had led David to adultery and murder. The first stage of the course through which they carry you is described as walking by the counsel of the ungodly. It is not being of their number, but only being ready to accept their advice; and though the course has begun, it is still possible for him who walks to turn round and to turn back. The next step shows captivation. The man stands in the way of sinners, not afraid of his company now, though they have a taint of positive guilt instead of the negative character of ungodliness. But the war against the soul goes on; and the captive at the next stage sinks down willingly, is pleased with his chains, sits in the seat of the scorners, as ready now as they, to make a mock at sin. With good reason does St. Peter use most solemn words of entreaty. The peril at all times is great. The flesh warreth against the spirit. We cannot do the things that we would. But for these men the danger was extreme. Some of them had lived in surroundings where such sins were counted a part of religious duty; had the support of long prescription; were sanctioned and indulged in by those of the convert’s own blood.

Yet the Apostle does not counsel the new-made Christians to run away from this battle. They owe a duty to those who are out of the way, and must not shrink from it, be it ever so painful: "having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles." Their lives are to be led in the sight of their fellowmen, to be so led as to have the approval of a clear conscience, and to be void of offence in the eyes of others. This outward seemliness is what Christian love exhibits as a testimony to Christ’s, grace and an attraction unto the world, making known unto all men the unsearchable riches of Christ: "that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." The seemly conduct of believers must be continuous, or it will fail of its effect. It is not one display of Christian conduct, nor occasional spasmodic manifestations thereof, which will win men to love the way of Christ. And this is the result without which Christ’s people are not to rest satisfied. The evil reports of the adversaries are ill-grounded, but they do not think so; and the only means of removing their perverse view is by a continuous revelation of the excellence of Christ’s service. They may rail, but we must bless; they may persecute: we must not retaliate, but returning good always for their evil, make them see at length that this way which they are attacking has a character and a power to which they have been strangers. This enlightenment is implied in the word "behold": "They behold your good works." It denotes initiation into a mystery. And to unbelievers Christ’s religion must be a mystery. The clearing of the vision leads them up to faith. The word in every place where it occurs in the New Testament is St. Peter’s own, and he employs it once [2 Peter 1:16] to describe the vision, the insight, into the glory of Christ, which he and his fellows gained at the Transfiguration. Such a sight removes all questionings, and constrains the enlightened soul to join in the exclamation, "Lord, it is good for us to be here." The victory for Christ is to be won on the very ground where the opposition was made. In the very matter over which the enemy reviled, there shall they praise God for that which they erewhile maligned. This it is which constitutes their day of visitation. Some have thought the visitation intended was to be one of punishment for obstinate withstanding of the truth, but it surely harmonizes better with the glory of God that the dispensation should be one of instruction and light. We seem to have a notable example of what is meant in the history of St. Paul. He in all earnestness persecuted the Way unto the death. The day of visitation came to him, a day which, while darkening the bodily vision, gave a clearness to the soul. The persecutor became the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the world bore him witness that now he preached the faith of which he had once made havoc. [Galatians 1:23] This was God’s own conquest, but in the same manner will believers be helped to win their victory. They are to aim at nothing less, never to rest content till the accusers of their good deeds are brought to glory in the performance of the same. So was Justin Martyr won to the side of Christianity: "When I heard the Christians accused and saw them fearless of death and of everything else that is counted fearful, I was sure they could not be living in wickedness and in the love of pleasures" (2 Apol. 12.). Well-doing shall not fail of its reward. Men will testify, as of Isaac of old, "We saw plainly that the Lord was with thee, and we said, Let there now be an oath betwixt us". [Genesis 26:28]

The Apostle now turns to one illustration of Christian behavior wherein the converts might be tempted to think themselves absolved from some portion of their duty. They were living under heathen rulers. Did their freedom in Christ release them from obligations to the civil powers? The question was sure to arise. St. Peter supplies both a rule and a reason: "Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake." Christians, just as other men, hold their place in the commonweal. All that the state requires citizens to do in aid of good government, order, the support of institutions and the like, will fall upon them, as upon others. Whether the demands made upon them in this wise be always for ends of which they would approve; they are not to discuss so long as their rulers provide duly for the social order and welfare. This is the apostolic rule. The reason is men are to submit thus for the Lord’s sake. The powers that be are ordained of God, and He would have obedience yielded to them. The Bible knows nothing about forms of government; these are to be ordered as men at various times and under various conditions deem most helpful. But the Bible doctrine is that God uses all powers of the world for His own purposes and to work out His will. Of Pharaoh, who had deliberately despised God’s messages through Moses, the Divine voice declared that he would long ago have been cut off from the earth, but was made to stand that he might show God’s power, and that His name might be declared throughout all the earth; [Exodus 9:15-16] and of the Assyrian at a later day [Isaiah 10:10; Isaiah 10:12] God tells how he was used as the rod of the Divine anger, hut that the fruit of his stout heart and the glory of his high looks would surely be punished. God employs for His ends instruments with which He is not always well pleased. These can inflict His penalties, yea, even may be made to advance His glory. Pilate was assured by Christ Himself that the power which he was about to exercise was only by Divine permission: "Thou wouldest have no power against Me except it were given thee from above"; [John 19:11] and St. Paul enforces obedience to authorities equally with St. Peter: "He that resisteth the power withstandeth the ordinance of God." [Romans 13:2] Be subject, therefore, "whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise for them that do well." The order under which these converts were living was superintended by some officer appointed by the Roman emperor, and to this the form of the Apostle’s words applies. The king is the Caesar; the governor is the procurator or subordinate official by whom the imperial power was represented in the provinces. When St. Peter wrote, Nero ruled in Rome, and was represented abroad by ministers often of a like character.

How extreme must after this be the case of those who would claim freedom to resist the rulers under whom they live. God has allowed them to stand, He is using them for His own purposes, they may be the ministers of His vengeance, and to Him alone does vengeance belong, He intends them also to recognize the merit of the doers of good. It may be that they do not fulfill God’s intent in either wise, yet while He suffers them to keep their power the Christian’s duty is obedience to every civil enactment, for anarchy would be a curse both to him and to others, bringing in its train more hurt than help. When Christians shall be found among those who abide by the law of the lands wherein they dwell, even should their faith not be accepted by their rulers, their good citizenship will hardly fail to disarm hatred and abate persecution. And so they are to range themselves ever on the side of order. "For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." For this end believers are to abide in the world, that through them the world may be renewed. The opponents of their faith suffer, says the Apostle, from lack of knowledge. As he says in another place, "they rail in matters whereof they are ignorant." [2 Peter 2:12] Had men known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; and did they know, they would not persecute His followers. But knowledge will not come without a preacher. Such preachers of the excellence of their faith shall the law-abiding Christians in each community be made. They shall publish the lessons of their own experience; they shall win favor by their example. The world will recognize that these men have a secret which others do not possess, will find that they yield obedience to earthly rulers because they are above all things servants of God. It was through convicting them of their ignorance that Jesus put the Sadducees to silence. "Ye do err," was His argument, "not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." [Matthew 22:34] And when men are made sensible of such ignorance, they are silenced forever. [1 Corinthians 15:34] This word "silenced" is very expressive both in the Gospel and here. It implies that a bridle or muzzle is put upon the mouth of ignorance, so that it may either be guided into a better way, or, if not so, be checked from doing harm. For some there are who not only will be ignorant, but foolish also, whom no teaching will profit. But even these will in the end be silenced. So, as says the brother Apostle, "be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." [Romans 12:21]

The first part of the Apostle’s exhortation in our verse had in view, it may be more especially the Gentile converts. Their past life had been one of evil-doing in the sight of God; those whom they had left, and who were most likely to be their adversaries, were still walking in the same ways, and were to be won over and conquered for Christ. He now turns more directly to those who had been Jews. These were no longer bound to the observance of the ceremonial law, and we know from the New Testament as well as from Church history that with this release there were exhibited in the lives of many such excesses as made them a disgrace to the Christian name. We find much about these in the Second Epistle. St. Peter would not keep the Jewish converts under the burden of the Law, but he warns them against their besetting danger: "as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God." There were bad Jews, even as there have been bad Christians. These would welcome a rule which set them at liberty from the Mosaic observances, to which their adherence aforetime had been in outward seeming rather than in earnest zeal. To these St. Peter preaches that to lay aside Judaism is not to embrace Christianity. The Leader of the new faith had ever taught a different lesson. He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it, and to set forth God’s will in a nobler aspect. Those who would follow Him must take up the cross. His service is a yoke which restrains from all evil. Those who come to Christ come as bondservants of God, free only because they are bound to the observance of the noblest law. They must lay aside the flesh, with its affections and lusts, and not vindicate their freedom by using it as an occasion to riot and self-indulgence.

And the Apostle binds together all his teaching in four closing precepts: "Honor all men; Love the brotherhood; Fear God; Honor the king." All men, without distinction, are to be honored, because in all there remains the image of God. It may be defaced, blurred exceedingly. The more needful is it to deal considerately with such, that we may help to restore what has been marred. Those who are our brethren in Christ, the brotherhood, we shall own with affection, seeking to be of one heart and one soul with them, because they belong to Christ. For them we shall have, if we be true to our faith, that mighty love which passeth in excellence both faith and hope. But the exhortation of St. Peter speaks in this wise: Ye who hold your brethren in Christ unspeakably dear, do not allow that love to suffice, to swallow up all regard for other men. They also need your thoughts, your help. The heathen, the unbelievers-these have the strongest possible claim, even their great need. And so with the other pair of precepts. Ye who fear God, which is your foremost duty, do not let that fear lessen your willingness to do honor to your earthly rulers. The feelings toward God and the king differ in character and in degree, but both have their place in proper share in the heart of the true servant of Christ.


Verses 18-25

Chapter 8

CHRISTIAN SERVICE

1 Peter 2:18-25

THE Gospel history shows very clearly that during our Lord’s lifetime His followers were drawn largely from the ranks of the poor. It was fitting that He who had been proclaimed in prophecy as "the servant of the Lord" should enter the world in humble estate; and, from the lowly position of the Virgin Mother and her husband, the life of Jesus for thirty years must have been spent in comparative poverty and amid poor surroundings. The major part of His chosen disciples were fisher-folk and such-like. And though we read of the wife of Herod’s steward among the women who ministered unto Him, and of the richer Joseph of Arimathaea as a secret disciple, these are marked exceptions. To the poor His Gospel was preached, and among the poor it first made its way. The question of the chief priests, "Hath any of the rulers believed on Him, or of the Pharisees?" [John 7:48] tells its own tale, as does also the significant record, "The common people heard Him gladly". [Mark 12:37]

It need not therefore much surprise us if St. Peter, now that he begins to classify his counsels, addresses himself first to "household servants": "Servants, be in subjection to your masters, with all fear." We have, however, to bear in mind, as we consider the Apostle’s exhortation, that most of those whom he addresses were slaves. They had no power of withdrawing themselves, though their service should prove burdensome and grievous. St. Paul, in writing to the same class, nearly always employs the word which means "bondservants." Yet his counsel agrees with St. Peter’s. Thus he exhorts that their service be "with fear and trembling"; [Ephesians 6:5] in Colossians 3:22, "Obey in all things them that are your masters." And to Timothy and Titus it is given as a part of their charge to "exhort servants to be in subjection to their own masters and to be well-pleasing to them in all things". [1 Timothy 6:1, Titus 2:9]

When St. Peter and St. Paul wrote, this slave population was everywhere very numerous. Gibbon calculates that in the reign of Claudius the slaves were at least equal in number to the free inhabitants of the Roman world; Robertson places the estimate much higher. These formed, then, a very large share of the public to which the first preachers had to appeal, and we can understand the importance to the Christian cause of the behavior of these humble, but doubtless most numerous, members of the society. Their lives would be a daily sermon in the houses of their masters. Hence the very earnest exhortations addressed to them that by their conduct they should adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things; that they should count their masters worthy of all honor; that the name of God and of the doctrine be not blasphemed; that they should be in subjection with all fear. Everything in the New Testament concerning slaves goes to show that they were a most important factor in the early Christian societies.

Men wonder nowadays that there is so little said by any of the Apostles about freeing slaves from their bondage. The best men in those times and long before appear to have regarded slavery as one of the institutions with which they were bound to rest content. It flourished everywhere; it was countenanced in the Scriptures of the older dispensation. Eleazar was Abraham’s slave, and the Law in many passages contemplates-the possession by Israelites of persons who were bought with their money. Hence we find no remonstrance against slave-holding in the New Testament writings, only advice to those who were in such bondage to cultivate a spirit which would render it less galling and to strive that by their behavior the cause of Christ might be advanced. St. Paul represents the ideas of his age when, writing to the Corinthians, he says, "Wast thou called being a bondservant? Care not for it; but if thou canst be made free, use it rather". [1 Corinthians 7:21] Freedom was worth having, but any heroic effort to get rid of the yoke is not encouraged in the Epistles. Yet it must have been a lot which called for the exercise of much moral strength to make it bearable. Even from the house of the Christian Philemon the slave Onesimus found cause to run away. But St. Paul in his letter admits no right on the slave’s part to take this course. With the Apostle there is no question that the first duty is to go back to his master. All that he urges is that the common profession of Christianity by slave and master ought to, and doubtless would, alleviate the conditions of servitude. There were in Christianity, as time has shown, germs which would fructify, a spirit which some day would strike off the chains of slaves. But the vision of such a time had not dawned either for St. Paul or St. Peter. Christ has overcome the world in many other matters beside slavery. It is only that Christians are so tardy in awaking to the fullness of His lessons.

So in apostolic days the rights and claims of slave-masters were looked upon as indisputable. Be subject, "not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward." There is to be no resistance, no lapse in duty. About service rendered to good masters there might be little apprehension, but even here St. Paul finds occasion for warning. "They that have believing masters," he says, "let them not despise them because they are brethren." [1 Timothy 6:2] Christian freedom was not without its dangers in many forms, especially to minds wherein liberty was a strange idea. But froward masters are to be faithfully served likewise, and care is to be taken withal to remove every occasion for their frowardness. The apostolic lesson is to make suffering endurable, noble, acceptable to God, by seeing that it be always undeserved. How strange a doctrine his in the eyes of the world! The rule of purely human conduct would be just the opposite. If wrong be undeserved, rebel at once. Christianity supplies a motive for the contrary course: "conscience toward God." The world’s spirit is not His spirit, and to have praise with Him should be the Christian’s single aim. Men can at times be patient when rebuke is deserved, but the world sees that that deserves no credit. "What thank have ye?" they cry. But they give no praise for the bearing of unmerited rebuke.

The world counts such conduct weakness, and is still far from comprehending the Divineness of the virtue of yielding patiently to wrong. God has long been teaching the lesson, but it has been slowly learnt. He chose the milder, timid Jacob rather than the fiery Esau. Both had faults in multitude. With the world Esau is oft the favorite. At a later day he stamps with approval the noble mercy of David in sparing Saul, while round Daniel and his companions in Babylon there gathers something of a halo of New Testament sanctity by reason of the noble confession which they made under persecution. These are chapters in the Divine lesson-book. Such lives marked stages in the preparation for the Servant of the Lord. Men, if they would have hearkened, were being trained to estimate such a character at God’s value. Now Christ’s example is before us, and we are bidden to follow it.

"For hereunto were ye called." Strange invitation to be dictated by love, a call to suffering! And yet the Master at first promises nothing else to His followers: "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me". [Matthew 16:24] And what can a Christian wish for but to be like Christ? And the very reason given ought to make us love the cross. We are called unto suffering because Jesus suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. He has trodden the hard road, the winepress of the wrath of God, alone and for men. At this point the Apostle begins to apply to Christ Isaiah’s description of the suffering "Servant of the Lord," "who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth". [Isaiah 53:1-12] But soon the memory of the scenes he had witnessed is present with him; and his words, though holding to the spirit of Isaiah’s picture, become a description of what he himself had seen and heard when Jesus was taken and crucified: "Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." How the brief words sum up and recall the dark history-Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod; the mockery, the scourging, the railing crowd, the dying Jesus, and the parting prayer, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."

So far the Apostle speaks of the example of Christ, which, though far above and beyond us, we are exhorted and called on to follow. And there are many who will go with him thus far who value our Lord’s work only for its lofty example. Indeed, it is characteristic of those who deny the mediatorial office of Christ to be loudest in magnifying the grandeur of His character. To His good works, His love for men, His spotless life, His noble lessons, they accord untiring praise, as though thereby they would atone for denying Him that office which is more glorious still. But St. Peter stops at no such half-way house. He knows in whom he has believed, knows Him for the Son of the living God, a Teacher with whom were the words of eternal life. So in pregnant words he sets forth the doctrine of the Atonement as the end of Christ’s suffering: "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness." He bare our sins. The words tell of something beyond our powers to comprehend; but some light is shed on them by a kindred passage, [Matthew 8:17] where the Evangelist applies to the work of Jesus those other words from Isaiah 53:1-12, "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses." The narrative in the Gospel has just recorded how Jesus wrought many miracles. First, a leper was healed, then the centurion’s servant, next Simon’s wife’s mother, and afterwards many sick and demoniacs beside. There is no record here of the effect produced on Jesus Himself by these exhibitions of miraculous power, but from other passages in the Gospels we do find that He was conscious in Himself of a demand on His power when such cures were wrought. Thus we are told, at the cure of the woman with the issue, that Jesus perceived in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth; [Mark 5:30] and again when many were cured, that "power came forth from Him and healed them." [Luke 6:19] Of the woman Jesus says expressly, "Thy faith hath made thee whole"; and the manifestation of eagerness to touch Jesus is a sign of the faith of the others whom the Divine power blessed with health.

The Bible recognizes everywhere the analogy between sin and sickness. May we not trace some analogy between the Lord’s works of healing and that mightier deliverance from sin won by Christ upon the cross, an analogy which may help, if but a little, to give meaning to the bearing by Christ of human sins? A power went forth when the sick were healed; and through that imparted power they were restored to health, faith being the pathway which brought the Divine virtue to their aid. Thus Jesus bore their diseases and took them away. Look through this figure on the work of our redemption. Christ has borne the burden of sin. He has died for sin that men may die from sin, that sin may be slain in us, the fell disease healed by the power of His suffering. We cannot comprehend what was done for the’ sick when Christ was on earth, nor what is wrought for sinners by His grace in heaven. Those alone who reap the blessing know its certainty; and they can but say, as the blind man whose sight was restored, "One thing I know: that, whereas I was blind, now I see". [John 9:25]

To this teaching, that Christ’s suffering wrought man’s rescue, St. Peter adds emphasis by another quotation from that chapter of Isaiah which he has so much in mind: "by whose stripes ye were healed." Christ was stricken, and God grants to His sufferings a power to heal the souls of those whom He loves because they strive to love Him. Healing through wounds! Soundness through that which speaks only of injury! Mysterious dispensation! But long ago it had been foreshadowed, and shown also how little connection there was to be, except through faith, between the remedy and the disease. Those who were bitten of the serpents in the wilderness gazed on the brazen serpent, and were healed. In the dead brass was no virtue, but God was pleased to make of it a speaking sacrament; so has it pleased Him to give healing of sins to those who by faith appropriate the sacrifice on Calvary. Christ has claimed the type for Himself: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself". [John 12:32]

And now, as is so often his wont, St. Peter varies the figure. The wounded sinner finding cure becomes the wandering sheep that has been brought back into the fold: "for ye were going astray like sheep, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." But the message, the teaching, the love, is all the same. He who before was the great Exemplar, whose footsteps we should follow, is now the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, who goes before His sheep. This Shepherd has been a Sufferer, too. He has given Himself up as prey to the wolves that His flock might be saved. Now, with a voice of love, He calls His sheep by name; and hearing, they follow Him.

But He is more than this. Brought within the fold, the sheep still need His care; and it is freely given. He is the Bishop, the Overseer, the Watchman for His people’s safety, who, having gathered them within the ‘fold, tends them with constant watchfulness. The figure passes over thus into the reality in the Apostle’s closing words. The cure which the great Healer desires to accomplish is in the souls of men. For them His care is bestowed, first to bring them safe out of the way of evil, then forever to keep them under the sheltering care of His abundant love.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/1-peter-2.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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