1 Peter 2
Pulpit Commentary
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
Verse 1. - Wherefore laying aside. Those who would wear the white robe of regeneration must lay aside the filthy garments (Zechariah 3:3) of the old carnal life. So St. Paul bids us put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22, 24; Colossians 3:8, 10; comp. also Romans 13:14, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ." The metaphor would be more striking when, at baptism, the old dress was laid aside, and the white chrisom was put on. St. Paul connects the putting on of Christ with baptism in Galatians 3:27, and St. Peter, when speaking of baptism in 1 Peter 3:21, uses the substantive (ἀπόθεσις) corresponding to the word here rendered "laying aside" (ἀποθέμενοι). All malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings. The sins mentioned here are all offences against that "unfeigned love of the brethren" which formed the subject of St. Peter's exhortation in the latter part of 1 Peter 1. St. Augustine, quoted here by most commentators, says, "Malitia malo delectatur alieno; invidia bone cruciatur alieno; dolus duplicat; adulatio duplicat linguam; detrectatio vulnerat famam" (comp. Ephesians 4:22-31); the close resemblance between the two passages proves St. Peter's knowledge of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Verse 2. - As newborn babes. The words look back to 1 Peter 1:3, 23. God begat them again; they were new-born babes in Christ, they must remember their regeneration. The rabbis used the same metaphor of their proselytes; but the apostle was doubtless thinking of the Savior's words (Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14, 15). Desire the sincere milk of the Word. Desire, long for it eagerly (ἐπιποθήσατε), as babes long for milk, their proper food, the only food necessary for them. It seems that in the adjective λογικόν (paraphrased in the Authorized Version "of the Word," rendered "spiritual" or "reasonable" in the Revised Version) there must be a reference to the Word of God (λόγος Θεοῦ), mentioned in 1 Peter 1:23 as the instrument of regeneration, and called by our Lord (Matthew 4:4, from Deuteronomy 8:3) the food of man (but the Greek in Matthew is ῤῆμα, as in 1 Peter 1:25). The paraphrase of the Authorized Version gives the general meaning; but the adjective means literally, "reasonable" or "rational." The apostle is not thinking of natural milk, but of that nourishment which the Christian reason can regard as milk for the soul - spiritual food, pure and simple and nourishing, capable of supporting and strengthening those newborn babes who not long ago had been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the Word of God. The adjective occurs only in one other place of Holy Scripture (possibly St. Peter may have read it there) - Romans 12:1, τὴν λογικὴν λατερείαν ὑμῶν, where it means the service of the sanctified reason as opposed to the mechanical observance of formal rites. It is explained by Chrysostom as ebony ἔχουσαν σωματικὸν οὐδὲν ταχὺ οὐδὲν αἰσθηνπ´ν Thus it seems nearly to correspond with the use of the word πνευματικός, spiritual, by St. Peter in ver. 5 of this chapter, and by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:3, 4. St. Paul also speaks of milk as the proper food of babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:2; comp: also Hebrews 5:12), though the thought is somewhat different; for St. Peter's words do not convey any reproof for want of progress. This spiritual milk is ἄδολον, pure, unadulterated (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2). That ye may grow thereby; literally, therein, in the use of it. All the most ancient manuscripts add the words, "unto salvation." The soul which feeds upon the pure milk of the Word groweth continually unto salvation.
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Verse 3. - If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious; rather, if ye tasted. If ye once tasted the good Word of God (Hebrews 6:4, 5), if ye tasted of the heavenly gift which comes through that Word (1 Peter 1:23), long after it that ye may g-row therein. The "if" does not imply doubt; the apostle supposes that they have once tasted, and urges them, on the ground of that first taste, to long for more. The first experiences of the Christian life stimulate God's people to further efforts. The words are a quotation from Psalm 34:8, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!" This makes it less probable that St. Peter is intentionally playing, as some have thought, on the similarity of the words χρηστός and Ξριστός. The confusion was common among the heathen; and Christian writers, as Tertullian, sometimes adopted it; Christus, they said, was chrestus, "Christ was good;" and Christians, followers of the good Master, followed after that which is good. But St. Peter is simply quoting the words of the psalm, and applying them to the metaphor of milk. It is possible that there may be an under-current of allusion to the Lord's teaching in John 6. The Lord himself is the Bread of life, the food of the soul. The epithet χρηστός is not infrequently used of food (see Luke 5:39).
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
Verse 4. - To whom coming as unto a living stone. Omit the words, "as unto," which are not in the Greek, and weaken the sense. The participle is present; the Christian must be ever coming to Christ, riot only once for all, but always, every day. The ', living Stone" is Christ; the "Lord" of Psalm 34:8 is Jehovah. St. Peter passes from the figure of milk to that of a chief cornerstone. So St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, after saying that he had fed his Corinthian converts "with milk, and not with meat," passes first to the figure of laborers on the land, and then to that of builders upon the one foundation "which is Jesus Christ." This, like so many other coincidences, indicates St. Peter's knowledge of St. Paul's Epistles. St. Peter may have been thinking of his own name, the name which Christ gave him when Andrew brought him to the Lord; though the Greek word here is not πέτρα or πέτρος, but λίθος ( νοτ the solid native rock on which the temple is built, nor a piece of rock, an unhewn stone, but a stone shaped and wrought, chosen for a chief corner-stone. But the apostle does not mention himself; he omits all reference to his own position in the spiritual building; he wishes to direct his readers only to Christ. He is plainly referring to the Lord's own words in Matthew 21:42, where Christ applies to himself the language of Psalm 118, He described himself as a Stone; St. Peter adds the epithet "living" (λίθον ζῶντα). The figure of a stone is inadequate, all figures are inadequate, to represent heavenly mysteries. This stone is not, like the stones of earth, an inert mass; it is living, full of life; nay, it gives life, as well as strength and coherence, to the stones which are built upon it: for the Lord hath life in himself - he is risen from the dead, and is alive for evermore. Disallowed indeed of men. St. Peter slightly varies the quotation, and attributes to men in general the rejection ascribed in the psalm and in the Gospel to the "builders." "He was despised and rejected of men." In his speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:11), he had directly applied the prophecy to the chief priests. But chosen of God, and precious; rather, as the Revised Version, with God elect, precious, or perhaps better, honored; a reference to Isaiah 28:16. He was rejected of the builders, but chosen of God; despised of men, but with God held in honor. The adjective is not the same as that rendered "precious" in 1 Peter 1:19: τίμος there marks the preciousness of the blood of Christ in itself; ἔντιμος here, the honor with which God "hath highly exalted him."
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Verse 5. - Ye also, as lively stones; rather, living stones. The word is the same as that used in ver. 4. Christians are living stones in virtue of their union with the one living Stone: "Because I live, ye shall live also." Are built up a spiritual house; rather, be ye built up. The imperative rendering seems more suitable than the indicative, and the passive than the middle. The Christian comes; God builds him up on the one Foundation. The apostle says," Come to be built up; come that ye may be built up." The parallel passage in Jude 1:20, "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith," might seem to point to a reflexive rendering here; but the verb used by St. Jude is active, ἐποικοδομοῦντες. St. Jude is apparently thinking of the human side of the work, St. Peter of the Divine; in the deepest sense Christ is the Builder as well as the Foundation, as he himself said in words doubtless present to St. Peter's mind, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." That Church is the antitype of the ancient temple - a building not material, but spiritual, consisting, not of dead stones, but of sanctified souls, resting on no earthly foundation, but on that Rock which is Christ (comp. Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Corinthians 3:2, 17; 2 Corinthians 6:16). An holy priesthood; rather, for (literally, into) a holy priesthood. The figure again changes; the thought of the temple leads to that of the priesthood. The stones in the spiritual temple are living stones; they are also priests. According to the original ideal of the Hebrew theocracy, all Israelites were to be priests: "Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). This ideal is fulfilled in the Christian Church; it is a holy priesthood. Here and in ver. 9 the Church collectively is called a priesthood; in the Book of the Revelation (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6) Christians individually are called priests, Bishop Lightfoot says, at the opening of his dissertation on the Christian ministry, "The kingdom of Christ has no sacred days or seasons, no special sanctuaries, because every time and every place alike are holy. Above all, it has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man." He continues, "This conception is strictly an ideal, which we must ever hold before our eyes... but which nevertheless cannot supersede the necessary wants of human society, and, if crudely and hastily applied, will lead only to signal failure. As appointed days and set places are indispensable to her efficiency, so also the Church could not fulfill the purposes for which she exists without rulers and teachers, without a ministry of reconciliation, in short, without an order of men who may in some sense be designated a priesthood." The whole Jewish Church was a kingdom of priests; yet there was an Aaronic priesthood. The Christian Church is a holy priesthood; yet there is an order of men who are appointed to exercise the functions of the ministry, and who, as representing the collective priesthood of the whole Church, may be truly called priests. To offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The priest must have somewhat to offer (Hebrews 8:3). The sacrifices of the ancient Law had found their fulfillment in the one all-sufficient Sacrifice, offered once for all by the great High Priest upon the altar of the cross. But there is still sacrifice in the Christian Church. That one Sacrifice is ever present in its atoning virtue and cleansing power; and through that one Sacrifice the priests of the spiritual temple offer up daily spiritual sacrifices - the sacrifice of prayer and praise (Hebrews 13:15), the sacrifice of alms and oblations (Hebrews 13:16), and that sacrifice without which prayer and praise and alms are vain oblations, the sacrifice of self (Romans 12:1). These spiritual sacrifices are offered up through Jesus Christ the great High Priest (Hebrews 13:15); they derive their value only from faith in his sacrifice of himself; they are efficacious through his perpetual mediation and intercession; through him alone they are acceptable to God. They are offered through him, and they are acceptable through him. The Greek words admit of either connection; and perhaps are intended to cover both relations.
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
Verse 6. - Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture; literally, because it contains in Scripture. There is no article according to the best manuscripts; and the verb (περιέχει) is impersonal; it is similarly used in Josephus, 'Ant.,' 11:07. Compare the use of the substantive περιοχή in Acts 8:32. St. Peter proceeds to quote the prophecy (Isaiah 28:16) to which he has already referred. Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Cornerstone, elect, precious. The passage is taken from the Septuagint, with the emission of some words not important for the present purpose. St. Paul quotes the same prophecy still more freely (Romans 9:33). The rabbinical writers understand it of Hezekiah, but the earlier Jewish interpreters regarded it as Messianic. And he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. The Hebrew words literally mean "shall not be in haste;" the Septuagint appears to give the general meaning. He that believeth (the Hebrew word הֶךאמִין, means "to lean upon, to build upon," and so "to trust, to confide") shall not be flurried and excited with vain fears and trepidation; his mind is stayed on the Lord.
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
Verse 7. - Unto you therefore which believe he is precious; rather, unto you therefore which believe is the honor. The apostle applies the last clause of the prophecy to his readers: they believe, they are built up by faith upon the chief Cornerstone; therefore the honor implied in the words of the prophet, "He that believeth on him shall not be confounded" is theirs. There may also be in the word τιμή, honor, an echo of the ἔντιμος ("precious," literally, "held in honor") of ver. 6; and thus the further meaning may be implied, "The worth which the stone has it has for you who believe" (Wiesinger, quoted by Huther). But the first explanation is nearer to the Greek. But unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the Head of the corner; rather, as in the Revised Version, for such as disbelieve. St. Peter repeats the words of the hundred and eighteenth psalm, quoted by our Lord in Matthew 21:42, and by himself in Acts 4:11. The builders, the priests and teachers of the Jewish Church, rejected the living Stone; but it became, and indeed through that rejection, the Head of the corner. "He became obedient unto death ... therefore God also highly exalted him." If this psalm is post-Exilic, as most modern critics think, the cornerstone, in its first application, may be Israel regarded as a whole. The great builders, the rulers of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, had despised that stone; but it was chosen of God, and now it was set in Zion. It is possible, as Hengstenberg and Delitzsch suggest, that the building of the second temple may have recalled to the mind of the psalmist Isaiah's prophecy of the chief Corner-stone.
And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
Verse 8. - And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. St. Peter combines Isaiah 8:14 with his first quotations, as St. Paul also does (Ram. 9:33), both apostles quoting from the Hebrew, not from the Septuagint, which is quite different, inserting two negatives. The living Stone is not only made the Head of the corner to the confusion of the disobedient, but becomes also to their destruction a Stone of stumbling; they fall on that Stone, and are broken (Matthew 21:44). That Stone is a Rock (πέτρα), the Rock of Ages, the Rock on which the Church is built; but to the disobedient it is a Rock of offense (πέτρα σκανδάλου). Σκάνδαλον (in Attic Greek σκανδάληθρον) is properly the catch or spring of a trap, which makes animals fall into the trap; then a stumbling-block - anything which causes men to fall. We cannot fail to notice how St. Peter echoes the well-remembered words of our Lord, recorded in Matthew 16:18, 23. Peter was himself then a πέτρα σκανδάλου, a rock of offense. Even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient; literally, who being disobedient stumble at the Word - the relative referring back to "them which be disobedient" in ver. 7. This seems better than (with Huther and others) to take τῷ λόγῳ with ἀπειθοῦντες, "who stumble, being disobedient to the Word." Ἀπειθοῦντες, literally," unbelieving," contains here, as frequently, the idea of disobedience, willful opposition. St. Peter seems to come very near to St. John's use of Λόγος for the personal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. Whereunto also they were appointed. "Whereunto" (εἰς ὄ) cannot refer back to ver. 5; God had appointed them to be built up in his spiritual house, but they were disobedient. It must refer either to ἀπειθοῦντες - sin is punished by sin; for sin in God's awful judgment hardens the heart; the disobedient are in danger of eternal sin (Mark 3:29, according to the two oldest manuscripts) - or, more probably, to προσκόπουσιν; it is God's ordinance that disobedience should end in stumbling; but that stumbling does not necessarily imply condemnation (see Romans 11:11). The word, the preaching of Christ crucified, was to the Jews a stumbling-block (1 Corinthians 1:23). But not all stumbled that they might fall. Nevertheless, perseverance in disobedience must end in everlasting death.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
Verse 9. - But ye are a chosen generation. The pronoun "ye" is emphatic. St. Peter is drawing a contrast between the disobedient and unbelieving Jews and Christian people whether Jews or Gentiles; he ascribes to Christians, in a series of phrases quoted from the Old Testament, the various privileges which had belonged to the children of Israel. The words, "a chosen generation" (γένος ἐκλεκτόν), are from Isaiah 43:20, Γένος μου τὸ ἐκλεκτόν. The Cornerstone is elect, precious; the living stones built thereupon are elect likewise. The whole Christian Church is addressed as an elect race, one race, because all its members are begotten again of the one Father. A royal priesthood. Instead of "holy," as in ver. 5, St. Peter has here the epithet "royal." He follows the Septuagint Version of Exodus 19:6; the Hebrew has "a kingdom of priests." The word "royal" may mean that God's elect shall sit with Christ in his throne, and reign with him (Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:10), and that in some sense they reign with him now over their lower nature, their desires and appetites; or, more probably, the priesthood of Christians is called "royal" because it belongs to the King - "a priesthood serving Jehovah the King, just as we speak of 'the royal household'" (Weiss, quoted by Huther). An holy nation. Also from Exodus 19:6. The Israelites were a holy nation as separated from the heathen and consecrated to God's service by circumcision. Christians of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, are one nation under one King, separated to his service, dedicated to him in holy baptism. A peculiar people. The Greek words. λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, represent the words, עַם סְגֻלָּה, of Deuteronomy 7:6, translated by the LXX. λαὸν περιούσιον, "a special people" (Authorized Version). St. Paul also has this translation in Titus 2:14. The Hebrew word סְגֻלָּה in Malachi 3:17 is rendered by the LXX. εἰς περιποίησιν, by the Authorized Version "my jewels." The children of Israel are called סְגֻלַּת יְחוָה, as the peculium, the private, special, treasured possession of God. God says of them, in Isaiah 43:21, "This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise;" rendered by the LXX. Λαόν μου ο}ν περιεποιησάμην τὰς ἀρετάς μου διηγεῖσθαι, God hath now chosen us Christians to be the Israel of God; the Christian Church is his peeulium, his treasure, "a people for God's own possession" (Revised Version). The literal meaning of the Greek words used by St. Peter is "a people for acquisition," or "for keeping safe," the verb having the sense of "gaining, acquiring," and also that of "preserving, keeping for one's self" (comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:9; also Acts 20:28, "The Church of God, which he purchased (η}ν περιεποιήσατο) with his own blood"). That ye should show forth the praises of him. That ye should tell out, publish abroad. The verb is found nowhere else in the New Testament. The word translated "praises" (ἀρετάς, literally, "virtues"), so very common in classical writers, occurs in the New Testament only here, 2 Peter 1:3, 5, and Philippians 4:8. Here St. Peter is quoting from the Septuagint Version of Isaiah 43:21 (the word is similarly used in Isaiah 42:12 and Isaiah 63:7). Perhaps the best rendering is that of the Revised Version, "excellencies." Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. He had chosen them before the foundation of the world; he called them when they received the gospel: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." He called them out of the darkness of ignorance and sin. The Gentiles walked in utter darkness, in less measure the Jews also. The light of his presence is marvelous, wonderful; those who walk in that light feel something of its irradiating glory.
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Verse 10. - Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God. St. Peter quotes the prophecy of Hosea (Hosea 2:23), as St. Paul also does in Romans 9:25, 26. And as St. Paul applies the prophet's words (said originally of the Jews) to the Christian Church, to those called "not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles," so apparently does St. Peter here. They were not a people; "Ne populus quidem," says Bengel, "nedum Dei populus." It is the calling of God which gives a unity to the Church gathered out of all races and all lands, and makes it the people of God. Which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. The aorist participle, ἐεληθέντες, implies that that mercy had been obtained at a definite time, at their conversion.
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
Verse 11. - Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims. St. Peter returns to practical topics: he begins his exhortation in the affectionate manner common in Holy Scripture. He calls his readers "strangers and pilgrims." The word here rendered "strangers" (πάροικοι) is equivalent to the classical μέτοικοι, and means "foreign set-tiers, dwellers in a strange land." The second word (παρεοίδημοι, translated "strangers" in 1 Peter 1.) means "visitors" who tarry for a time in a foreign country, not permanently settling in it. It does not contain the ideas associated with the modern use of "pilgrim;" though that word, derived kern the Latin peregrinus, originally meant no more than "sojourner." St. Peter is plainly using the words metaphorically his readers were citizens of the heavenly country; on earth they were sojourners. Both words occur in the Septuagint Version of Psalm 39:12 (38:13 in the Greek), with the same metaphorical meaning. Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. Strangers and pilgrims should remember their distant home, and not follow the practices of the strange land in which they sojourn. The lusts of the flesh are all those desires which issue out of our corrupt nature (temp. Galatians 5:16-21). They "war against the soul." "Non mode impediunt," says Bengel, "sod oppugnant; grande verbum" (comp. Romans 7:23). St. Peter uses the word "soul" here for the whole spiritual nature of man, as in 1 Peter 1:9, 22.
Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Verse 12. - Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles. If we read ἀπέχεσθαι, in ver. 11 (some ancient manuscripts have ἀπέχεσθε), there is a slight irregularity in the construction, as the participle ἔνοντες is nominative; it gives more force and vividness to the sentence (comp. in the Greek, Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:16). The conversation (ἀναστροφή, mode of life or behavior) of the unconverted is described as "vain" in 1 Peter 1:18; the conversation of Christians must be seemly (καλή), exhibiting the beauty of holiness. The Churches to which St. Peter wrote were in Gentile countries; they must be careful, for the honor of their religion, to set a good example among the heathen - a warning, alas! too often neglected in modern as well as in ancient times. That, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers; literally, wherein, in the matter in which they speak, i.e. in reference to manner of life. Christians were commonly accused of "turning the world upside down;" of doing "contrary to the decrees of Caesar," as at Thessalonica (Acts 17:6, 7); of being atheists and blasphemers of the popular idolatry, as at Ephesus (Acts 19:37). Suetonius calls them a "genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficse" ('Vit. Neron.,' 1 Peter 16.). Probably the grosser accusations of Thyestean banquets, etc., came later. They may by your good works, which they shall be hold, glorify God in the day of visitation. The word rendered, "which they shall be bold" (ἐποπτεύσαντες, or, according to some of the older manuscripts, ἐποπτεύοντες, beholding), occurs only here and in 1 Peter 3:2. It implies close attention; the Gentiles watched the conduct of the Christians, narrowly scrutinizing it to discover faults and inconsistencies. The use of the corresponding substantive, ἐπόπτης, in 2 Peter 1:16 is a coincidence to be noticed. It is not probable that there is any reference to the heathen use of the word in connection with the Eleusinian Mysteries. St. Peter hopes that this close observation of the lives of Christian people would lead the Gentiles to glorify God; he was thinking, perhaps, of our Lord's words in the sermon on the mount: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' Perhaps in the following clause also we may trace an echo of the Savior's words in Luke 19:44, "Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (ἐπισκοπῆς, as here). St. Peter hopes that the holy lives of Christians may be made the means of saving many Gentile souls in the time of visitation; that is, when God should visit the heathen with his converting grace, seeking to draw them to himself, whether by gracious chastisement or by the preaching of his servants. This seems more natural than to understand the words of God's visitation of the Christians in the persecutions which were impending; though it is true that many Gentiles were won to Christ by the calm and holy bearing of suffering Christians.
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
Verse 13. - Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man. The aorist passive (ὑποτάγητε) is used, as often, in a middle sense. The word for "ordinance" is κτίσις, which in classical Greek means "foundation," as of a city; but in the New Testament is used elsewhere only of the works of God, in the sense of "creation," or "a creature" (see Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23, etc.). Hence some, as De Wette, translate the words, "to every human creature," supporting their view by 1 Peter 5:5. But on the whole this seems unlikely; ἀνθρωπίνη κτίσις is a strange and awkward periphrasis for ἄνθρωπος. It is better to understand it as meaning a human creation or foundation. Certainly "there is no power but of God" (Romans 13:1); but the form which that power assumes is a human institution. St. Peter bids his readers to submit themselves to the de facto form of government. For the Lord's sake. Not from human motives, as fear of punishment; but for the Lord's sake, because "the powers that be are ordained of God," and in obeying them we obey the ordinance of God. Christians were commonly accused of insubordination, of doing "contrary to the decrees of Caesar" (Acts 17:7); they must show by their conduct that these accusations are false, that the progress of the gospel be not hindered. Whether it be to the king, as supreme. By "the king" is meant the Roman emperor, who was frequently so described in the Greek writers. Nero was emperor when St. Peter wrote. Christians were to obey even him, wicked tyrant as he was; for his power was given him from above, as the Lord himself had said of Pilate (John 19:11).
Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
Verse 14. - Or unto governors, as ante them that are sent by him; literally, through him. Some commentators, following Calvin, understand the pronoun of the Lord. Certainly, governors are sent through him; he "ordereth all things, both in heaven and earth." But it seems more natural in this place to refer the pronoun to the nearer substantive, the king; it was through the Roman emperor that the various governors, legates, etc., were sent from time to time (as the Greek present participle implies) to administer the provinces. For the punish-meat of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. Observe the close resemblance to Romans 13:3, 4. St. Peter recognizes the Roman sense of justice which we see in men like Festus and Gallio. At first the Jews were the persecutors of the Christians; the Roman magistrates were their protectors. St. Peter wrote before the great outbreaks of Roman persecution; he was himself to suffer under that emperor whose authority he upheld.
For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
Verse 15. - For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. The Gentiles speak against the Christians as evil-doers; they are to put their accusers to silence by well-doing; this is to be their answer rather than indignant self-vindication. The Greek word rendered "put to silence" (φιμοῦν) means literally "to muzzle" (comp. Matthew 22:12; Mark 4:39; 1 Corinthians 9:10). The word for "ignorance" (ἀγνωσία) occurs, besides this passage, only in 1 Corinthians 15:34, where it evidently means "culpable, self-caused ignorance." The word for "foolish" (ἄφρων) is a strong one - it means "senseless" (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:36). Here it has the article, "the foolish men," i.e. those "who speak against you as evil-doers."
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
Verse 16. - As free. This verse is not to be taken with what follows, for it does not well cohere with the contents of ver. 17; but either with ver. 14 (Ver. 15 being regarded as parenthetical) or with ver. 15, notwithstanding the change of case in the original, which presents no real difficulty; the meaning being that Christian freedom must show itself, not in license, but in willing obedience to constituted authorities: "Not only for wrath, but for conscience' sake" (Romans 13:5). Those whom the truth makes free are free indeed, but true freedom implies submission to legitimate authority. And not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness; literally, not having your liberty as a cloak. The word rendered "cloak" (ἐπικάλυμμα) is used in the Septuagint (Exodus 26:14) for the covering of the tabernacle. The pretence of Christian liberty must not be made a covering, a concealment, of wickedness. But as the servants of God. The truest liberty is that of the servants of God; his service is perfect freedom (comp. Romans 6:16-23).
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Verse 17. - Honor all men. St. Peter illustrates the well-doing which he enjoins in ver. 15, drawing out his general exhortation into four rules of conduct. First, he bids us give honor to all men. The Christians of Asia Minor saw heathenism and vice all around them; they heard of the abominable life of Nero and his courtiers at Rome. They were conscious of a great and elevating change which had passed over themselves; St. Peter has just been enumerating the dignities and privileges of the Christian life. But they must not be lifted up; they must despise no one, but honor in all men the handiwork of God, created after God's own image, though sadly marred and defaced by sin. Respect is due to all men, of course in varying degrees and to be shown in different ways; but in some sense it is due to all, to the humblest and even to the worst. The aorist imperative (τιμήσατε) seems to lay down this principle as a sharp, definite rule, to be accepted at once, and to be applied as need arises, according to the circumstances of each case. The three following imperatives are present; the duties which they prescribe are viewed as continuous, recognized elements in well-doing. There was something new and strange in the command to honor all men; it is expressed forcibly, once for all, by the aorist imperative. Love the brotherhood. The word ἀδελφότης, brotherhood, is peculiar to St. Peter; it stands for the aggregate of Christian brethren regarded as one body in Christ. The Lord bids us "love our enemies." St. Peter's rule does not weaken the force of the Savior's precept. But love must vary in depth and degree according to the varying relations of life; and the love which true Christians feel for the like-minded must be one of its strongest forms. Fear God. Honor the king. The holy fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God as the King of kings will lead us to give due honor to earthly princes, who rule by his controlling providence. It was especially necessary to urge the fear of God as a motive, when the king to be honored was such as Nero.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
Verse 18. - Servants. The word is not δοῦλοι, slaves,but οἰκέται, household servants, domestics. St. Peter may have used it as a less harsh term, in Christian kindliness and courtesy; or he may have chosen it purposely to include the large class of freedmen and other dependents who were to be found in the houses of the great. The frequent mention of slaves in the Epistles shows that many of the first Christians must have been in a condition of servitude (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1, 2, etc.). It was only natural that men should feel uneasy and irritable under the yoke of slavery as they came to learn the equality of all men in the sight of God, and to understand the blessed privileges and the high hopes of Christians. The apostles counseled submission and resignation to the will of God. Slavery was an unnatural institution; it must in time disappear under the softening influences of the gospel. But Christian slaves were to wait in faith and patience. The sacred writers use language of studied moderation, carefully avoiding any expressions which might be regarded as exciting to violence or revolutionary outbreaks. Be subject to your masters with all fear. The participle ὑποτασσόμενοι seems to look back to the imperative ὑποτάγητε in ver. 13; the relation of slaves to their lords being one of the ordinances of man alluded to there (comp. Ephesians 6:5, where St. Paul bids slaves to be obedient to their masters "with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ"). The holy fear of God, by whose providence they were set in that lowly station, would involve the fear of failing in their duty to their masters. All fear; not only fear of punishment, but also fear of neglecting duty. Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. Servants must not make the character of their masters an excuse for disobedience; if their masters are froward (σκολιοί, literally, "crooked, perverse"), still they must be submissive to the wilt of God.
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
Verse 19. - For this is thankworthy; literally, this is grace (comp. Luke 6:32, Ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστί; "What thank have ye?" where the parallel passage in St. Matthew is Τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε; "What reward have ye?"). A comparison of these passages seems to show that χάρις and μισθός are used in a similar sense as expressive of God's condescending love. In his gracious tenderness he speaks of reward, though we deserve only punishment; he even speaks of thanks, though we deserve only condemnation. Other possible explanations are, "This is the work of God's grace;" or, "This is lovely;" or, "This is favor;" or "This implies" or "This causes favor with God." If a man for conscience toward God; literally, for conscience of God; that is, consciousness of God's presence, of his will, of our duties to him. This is better than to take the genitive as subjective, and to interpret, "because of the consciousness of God," because he sees and knows all that we do and say and think (comp. 1 Corinthians 8:7, where "conscience of the idol" seems to mean a belief or half-belief in the real existence of the god supposed to be represented by the idol). Endure grief, suffering wrongfully; literally, griefs, λύπας (comp. λυπηθέντες, 1 Peter 1:6). St. Peter echoes our Lord's teaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:39).
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
Verse 20. - For what glory is it? The word translated "glory" (κλέος), common in Greek poetry, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, first, "rumor, report;" then "fame, renown." If, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently; literally, if sinning and being buffeted. The word translated "buffeted" (κολαφιζόμενοι), used by St. Matthew and St. Mark in describing our Savior's sufferings, has a figurative meaning in 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 12:7. It is probably used literally here; blows were a common occurrence in the life of slaves. To be patient when suffering deserved punishment is often difficult, but it is no more than a simple duty; it would not be for the glory of religion. Christian slaves ought to do their duty to their masters, and not deserve punishment. But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently; literally, but if doing well, and suffering. The words "for it" are not in the Greek. This is acceptable with God. If we read "for" (τοῦτο γὰρ), with some of the best manuscripts, we must supply "there is glory" after the last clause. "It, doing well and suffering, ye take it patiently, there is glory (κλέος), for this is thank-worthy (χάρις) with God." Such conduct will bring honor to Christianity, for it is thankworthy even in the sight of God. When Christian men and women took cruel sufferings patiently and joyfully, as the apostles did (Acts 5:41; Acts 16:25), that was more than a mere recognized duty - that showed the power of Christian motives, that brought glory to Christianity, and was held to be thankworthy (such is God's gracious condescension) even in the sight of God. The word for "acceptable" here is that translated "thankworthy" in ver. 19, where see note.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Verse 21. - For even hereunto were ye called; that is, to do good and to suffer patiently (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:3). Omit "even," for which there is no authority. St. Peter is speaking of slaves, but what he says of slaves is true in some sense of all Christians (comp. Acts 14:22). Because Christ also suffered for us; rather, for you, with the oldest manuscripts. You do not suffer alone; Christ also suffered, and that for you slaves, on your behalf. "Christ himself," says Bengel, "was treated as a slave; he deigns to exhibit his own conduct as an example to slaves." Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. The oldest manuscripts have the second person here in both places. Leaving (ὑολιμπάνων), leaving behind; Bengel says, "in abitu ad pattern." The Greek for "example" is ὑπογραμμός ( α word which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means a copy set by a writing or drawing master, which was to be exactly reproduced by his pupils (see 2 Macc. 2:28, in the Greek). The life of Christ is our model. In particular St. Peter urges us to imitate the Lord's patience in suffering undeserved afflictions. In the last clause the figure is changed to that of a guide along a difficult route, so difficult that those who follow must put their feet in his footprints. We should follow his steps, one by one, closely following him, as the word ἐπακολουθήσητε means (comp. Mark 16:20; 1 Timothy 5:10, 24).
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Verse 22. - Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. St. Peter is quoting the Septuagint Version of Isaiah 53:9, almost exactly, the word ἁμαρτίαν, sin, being substituted for ἀνομίαν, lawlessness ("violence" in our version). We should notice that the Messiah, whose example is here set before Christian slaves, is called by the prophet "the Servant of Jehovah" (Isaiah lit. 13). Slaves were often tempted to deceit and guile; they must look to the Lord Jesus, and strive to copy his innocence and his truth. The verb εὑρίσκεσθαι, to be found, is sometimes said to be used, by a Hebraism, for the simple verb "to be." Winer says, "Between these two verbs, however, there is always this distinction, that, whilst εϊναι, indicates the quality of a thing in itself, εὑρίσκεσθαι indicates the quality in so far as it is discovered, detected, recognized, in the subject" ('Greek Grammar,' 65:8).
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
Verse 23. - Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not (comp. Isaiah 53:7). The Lord again and again denounced the hypocrisy and unbelief of the Pharisees; he bade Caiaphas remember the coming judgment. But that was the language of prophetic warning, the sternness of love. He sets before them the impending punishment, that they may take heed in time and escape from the wrath to come. In the midst of his strongest invective against the sins and hollow unreality of Pharisaism there is an outburst of the deepest love, the tenderest concern (Matthew 23:27). But committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. The verb "committed" παρεδίδου) is without an object in the original. Most commentators supply "himself," or "his cause;" others, "his sufferings;" some, as Alford, "those who inflicted them." Perhaps the last explanation is the best: he left them to God, to God's mercy, if it might be; to his judgment, if it must be. There may be a reference to his prayer, "Father, forgive them." Compare by contrast the language of Jeremiah, speaking in the spirit of the Old Testament (Jeremiah 11:20 and Jeremiah 20:12). There is a curious reading, entirely without the authority of existing Greek manuscripts, represented by the Vulgate, Tradebat judicanti se injuste, as if the words were understood of the Lord's submitting himself "to one who judged unrighteously," that is, to Pilate.
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
Verse 24. - Who his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree. St. Peter has thus far spoken of our Lord as our Example of patient endurance; but he seems to feel that, although this is the aspect of the Savior's sufferings most suitable to his present purpose, yet it is scarcely seemly to dwell upon that most momentous of all events, the death of Christ our Lord upon the cross, without mentioning its more solemn and awful import. A martyr may be an example of patient suffering; he cannot bear our sins. The apostle proceeds to unfold the contents of the ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν in ver. 21. The Lord died for us: but what is the meaning of the preposition? Was it that his example might stimulate us to imitate his patience and his holy courage? This is a true view, but, taken alone, it would be utterly inadequate. The death of the Son of God had a far deeper significance. The ὑπέρ used here and elsewhere is explained by the more precise ἀντί of Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6, in which last passage both propositions are combined. The Lord died, not only in our behalf, but in our stead. He gave "his life a ransom for many;" "he is the Propitiation for our sins." St. Peter exhibits here, with all possible emphasis, this vicarious aspect of the Savior's death. "He bore our sins himself." The pronoun is strongly emphatic; he bore them, though they were not his own. They were our sins, but he bore them - he alone; none other could bear that awful burden. He bare (ἀνήνεγκεν). The apostle is evidently quoting Isaiah 53:12, where the Hebrew verb is ?and the Septuagint Version is Καὶ αὐτὸς ἁμαρτίας πολλῶν ἀνήνεγκε; comp. vers. 4 and 11 (in ver. 11 there is another Hebrew verb) of the same chapter. In the Old Testament "to bear sins" or "iniquity" means to suffer the punishment of sin, whether one's own sin or the sin of others (see Leviticus 5:1, 17, and many similar passages). In the description of the ceremonial of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. it is said (Ver. 22) that the scapegoat "shall bear upon him [the Hebrew is ; the Greek is λήψεται ὁ χίμαρος ἐφ ἑαυτῷ] all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited," where the scapegoat is represented as bearing the sins of the people and taking them away. Compare also the great saying of the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God. which taketh away the sin of the world!" where the Greek (ὁ αἴρων) may be rendered with equal exactness, "who beareth," or "who taketh away." The Lord took our sins away by taking them upon himself (comp. Matthew 8:17). As Aaron put the sins of the people upon the head of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:21), and the goat was to bear them upon him unto a land not inhabited, so the Lord laid on the blessed Savior the iniquity of us all, and he bare our sins in his own body on to the tree, and, there dying in our stead, took them away. He bare them on himself, as the scapegoat bare upon him the iniquities of Israel. It was this burden of sin which made his sacred body sweat great drops of blood in his awful agony. He bare them on to the tree (ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον); he carried them thither, and there he expiated them (comp. Hebrews 9:28, "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many," where the same Greek word is used - ἀνενεγκεῖν). Another interpretation takes ἀναφέρειν in its sacrificial sense, as in Hebrews 7:27, and regards the cross as the altar: "He bore our sins on to the altar of the cross." The Lord is both Priest and Victim, and the verb is used in the sacred writings both of the priest who offers the sacrifice and of the sacrifice which bears or takes away sin. But the sacrifice which the Lord offered up was himself, not our sins; therefore it seems best to understand ἀναφέρειν here rather of victim than of priest, as in Hebrews 9:28 and the Greek Version of Isaiah 53:12. The thought of sacrifice was doubtless present to the apostle's mind, as it certainly was to the prophet's (see ver. 10 of Isaiah 53.). The word ξύλον is used for the cross twice in St. Peter's speeches in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39). It is also so used by St. Paul (Galatians 3:13). That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness. The Greek word ἀπογενόμενοι occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Bengel understands it differently. He says that as γενέσθαι τινός means "to become the slave of some one," so ἀπογενέσθαι may mean to cease to be a slave. But this would require the genitive, not the dative, ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις; and the ordinary translation is more suitable to the following context. The word is several times used in Herodotus in the sense of "having died;" more literally, "having ceased to be." The tense (aorist) seems to point to a definite time, as the time of baptism (comp. Romans 6:2, 11; Galatians 2:19, 20). Righteousness here is simply the opposite of sin - obedience, submission to the will of God. Bengel says, "Justitia tota una est; peccatum multiplex." By whose stripes ye were healed. The apostle is quoting the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 53:5. The Greek μώλωψ means the mark or weal left on the flesh by a scourge (comp. Ecclus. 28:17, Πληγὴ μάστιγος ποιεῖ μώλωπας). The slaves, whom the apostle is addressing, might perhaps not infrequently be subjected to the scourge; he bids them remember the more dreadful flagellation which the Lord endured. They were to learn patience of him, and to remember to their comfort that those stripes which he, the holy Son of God, condescended to suffer are to them that believe healing and salvation. Faith in the crucified Savior lifts the Christian out of the sickness of sin into the health of righteousness.
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Verse 25. - For ye were as sheep going astray; rather, with the best manuscripts, for ye were going astray like sheep. The apostle is probably still thinking of the great prophecy of Isaiah, and here almost reproduces the words of the sixth verse, "All we like sheep have gone astray." He who had been thrice charged to feed the sheep and the lambs of Christ would think also of the parable of the lost sheep, and of the people of Israel who were "as sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls; literally, but ye returned (the verb is aorist); that is, at the time of their conversion. The aorist passive, ἐπεστράφην, is so frequently used in a middle sense that the translation, "ye were converted," cannot be insisted on (comp. Mark 5:30; Matthew 9:22; Matthew 10:13). Christ is the Shepherd of our souls. The quotation from Isaiah doubtless brought before St. Peter's thoughts the sweet and holy allegory of the good Shepherd, which he had heard from the Savior's lips (comp. also Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24; also Psalm 22.). The word "bishop" (ἐπίσκοπος) is used in a similar connection in Acts 20:28, "Take heed... to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (ἐπισκόπους);" comp. also Ezekiel 34:11, "I will both search my sheep, and seek them out," where the Greek word for "seek them out" is ἐπισκέψομαι. The Lord Jesus Christ is the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He is also the chief Bishop or Overseer of those souls which he has bought to be his own with his most precious blood.

Pulpit Commentary


1 Peter 1
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