This morning we begin a study of 1Peter (read 1:1a). Peter is the Peter who was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples—the Peter who was the first to realize that Jesus was the Messiah, who also misunderstood Jesus’ mission, who denied Jesus three times during his trial, etc. But Jesus forgave him and restored him and worked through even Peter’s failures to make him a key leader of the early Christian movement. Peter is in “Babylon” (5:13)—figurative for Rome, where he was arrested and crucified upside-down within a year or two after this letter.
Read 1:1b,2. The recipients were Christians in Turkey, to whom Peter had probably previously ministered. They were Gentiles (1:18), and are called “aliens” not because they were ethnic aliens, but because they were spiritual aliens (2:11). Persecution has spread to these churches—so Peter seeks to encourage them. Ever since, suffering Christians have found this letter profoundly encouraging.
How does Peter encourage us? By focusing our attention on God’s grace (“the overwhelming reality of what God has given us through Jesus Christ”1). This is implicit in his salutation (“Grace and peace be yours in abundance”)—God’s abundant grace will enable us to experience his abundant peace in the midst of suffering. It is explicit at the end of his letter (read 5:12). What we need most of all when we suffer is neither an exhortation to stoic machismo, nor mere sympathy—we need increased understanding of God’s grace, and deeper trust in it! So Peter opens his letter with a series of insights into God’s grace, and descriptions of how grace encourages us in our sufferings.
1:3-9 is the first of these insights(read). Peter doesn’t deny the reality of our sufferings or the grief caused by these sufferings (1:6)—but he speaks of being lifted up by joy in the midst of our sufferings (1:8). “Joy” is the delight Christians experience in trusting that we are loved by God. Sometimes this joy is very dramatic, bringing tears—like when a lover lets himself believe for the first time that his love is reciprocated. At other times it is more subtle, providing stability and security—like when a child rests in his parents’ love. Though we cannot see God, joy is ignited in our hearts by his Spirit when we trust the love he has given us through Jesus (Rom.15:13). We may not be able to put our joy into words (“inexpressible”)—but it is real and “heavier” than the weight of our sufferings (“full of glory”).
For Christians, joy in the midst of suffering is both a privilege and a responsibility. A privilege, because we don’t deserve it, but God showers it on us anyway. A responsibility, because it demonstrates to others that Jesus is real and attracts them to join us in believing in him (cf. 1Pet.3:15).
What has God given us in his love us that produces this kind of joy when we trust in it? Peter speaks here of two tremendous gifts. Let’s look closely at each of them...
God will grant us a glorious inheritance
Read 1:3-5. The main point here is that we who have entrusted ourselves to Jesus have been adopted as God’s children (“new birth”) and therefore made heirs (“inheritance”) of God’s kingdom.
In the Roman world, wealthy childless couples would adopt worthy young adults to be their children so they could pass their wealth on to them.2 But why would God adopt us? He isn’t childless, he isn’t going to die, and we are unworthy rebels who deserve God’s judgment! The only answer is “because of his great mercy” (1:3). So great is God’s mercy and love that he gave his perfect and only Son Jesus to die for our sins so that he could adopt us. He adopts us so that we can experience the “down-payment” of his love now, and so that he can pass on to us the privilege of enjoying his full love forever when Jesus returns (1:5). Such a love surpasses our understanding (1Jn. 3:1), and should blow our minds every time we think of it!
Inheritance rights were secure because they were protected by the power of Rome. Peter goes out of his way to emphasize that our inheritance is absolutely secure because it is protected by God’s power (1:5). It can never perish, spoil or fade (1:4) like all other inheritances, because God’s kingdom is eternal. No enemy can take our inheritance away from us, because God is infinitely stronger than any enemy. Even better, none of our sins can disqualify us from our inheritance, because it is based entirely on Jesus’ perfect and finished work for us, and not at all on our very imperfect work for God! Nothing could be more secure!
This is not wishful thinking—there is a solid basis for believing it. Peter says that our inheritance is “through (on the basis of) the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3). Our future destiny is rooted in an event that has already happened. Jesus has been raised bodily from the dead, an event to which Peter was an eye-witness, along with hundreds of others. (This is why many world-class historians argue that Jesus’ resurrection is the best-attested event in ancient history.) And Jesus promised that those who belong to him will share in his resurrection. Additionally (as Peter argues in 1:10-12), the Old Testament prophets promise this inheritance—and their prophetic track-record is impeccable (NEXT WEEK).
Can you see why Peter says that when we focus by faith on this “living hope,” we will have joy that outweighs the pain of our sufferings (1:8)? We can have joy in the painful present to the extent that we anticipate this positive future.
I don’t like Columbus winters (S.A.D.), and I have many stressful and painful things to endure this winter. So I sit under a sun-lamp, I get outside during the rare sunny times, I put summer pictures in my bedroom, I keep track of the 1.5 minutes/day increase of day-length, etc. In various ways, I practice the discipline of anticipation—anticipating the arrival of spring that will surely come. And as I do this, though winter remains painful, my heart is strengthened in the midst of winter.
In the same way, when we affirm our adoption and anticipate our inheritance, the Holy Spirit ignites joy in our hearts that sustains us and lifts us above the weight of our current sufferings. “Do I, as a Christian... (affirm) my own real identity? My own destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer... Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask (God) that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true.” Reading and reflecting on Rev. 21,22 is a good way to begin.
God is refining through our sufferings
1:6,7 speaks of another aspect of God’s grace that enables us to have joy in the midst of suffering (read). Peter likens our sufferings to the fire used by a goldsmith to purify his gold. A goldsmith begins with gold ore that is a mixture of pure gold and dross. By repeatedly putting the ore into fire, the dross is gradually burned off and the gold is gradually purified and he can see his reflection more and more clearly in the gold.
God is like the goldsmith—not that he causes specific sufferings in our lives, but that he is working skillfully (and mysteriously) through them to refine our faith so that the character of Jesus is increasingly reflected in us. This is for our good, because we were redeemed to become like Jesus. And it is so that God may attract others to Jesus through us as they see the integrity and love that comes from faith in him.
So we can rejoice in the midst of our sufferings, not only because we will soon receive our inheritance, but also because God is accomplishing something wonderful through them. Through this “fire” he reveals the dross in our faith—the false things we depend upon for our security and identity and significance. And through this “fire” burns away this dross and deepens our trust in him alone for these needs.
For example, I may think that I depend on God alone for my material security—but I may in fact be primarily dependent on my career and income. What reveals this dross and moves me to depend more deeply on God’s love? Often, it is the “fire” of job loss or reduced income or unexpected bills.
Or I may think that I depend on God alone for my self-worth—but I may in fact be primarily dependent on certain people’s approval and praise. What reveals this dross and moves me to depend more deeply on God’s love? Often, it is the “fire” of these people’s criticism or even their rejection.
Or I may think that I depend on God alone for my significance—but I may in fact be primarily dependent on getting people to respond to my attempts to influence them spiritually. What reveals this dross and moves me to depend more deeply on God’s love alone? Often, it is the “fire” of failure in our attempts at spiritually influence.
God knows the true state of our faith, and God in his wisdom is working through the “fire” of suffering to purify it more and more. He has staked his reputation on us (which I will never understand!), and he will work as a wise goldsmith to refine our faith.
“We should not be... too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Why, simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and is dealing with us accordingly. Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility, or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under specially difficult conditions. Perhaps he has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps he wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit... . Perhaps his purpose is to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with him; for it is often the case...that fellowship with (God) is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest. Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling.”3
Have you embraced God’s purpose for your life, or are you still trying to get God to fulfill your purpose? If you haven’t embraced his purpose for your life, his “fire” will seem cruel and this will only add to the pain to your sufferings. But if embrace his purpose and give yourself into his fashioning hands, his Spirit will ignite joy in your heart that outweighs the pain of the “fire!”
If you belong to Jesus Christ, God is in control over your sufferings. Nothing comes into your life without first passing through his wise and loving hands. It may appear that everything is out of control, and you are plummeting to earth without a parachute. It may feel like your adverse circumstances are undermining and destroying your faith. But God is your goldsmith, working carefully and perfectly through these distressing sufferings to burn away the dross and purify (and deepen) your faith so that the reflection of his Son is seen more and more clearly in and through you. Each and every suffering is part of this process, burning away more and more of your “false trusts” (which only deceive and corrupt), and making you more truly dependent on and confident in the God who loves you. This is true even when you can’t see at the time what dross he is burning away. Affirm this daily, give yourself to him and his purpose daily—and his Spirit will cause joy to ignite and flare up in your heart.
Through Jesus, God promises us a glorious inheritance and accomplishes something wonderful through our sufferings. Trusting in the God who promises these gifts will give you joy even in the midst of your sufferings. But trusting in God begins with the choice to personally receive his Son Jesus as your Savior (Jn.1:12). This is how you become God’s adopted child and heir. This is how you come under God’s wise “goldsmith” care. It starts with humbly asking Jesus to give you this “new birth.” Have you asked?
1 Edmund Clowney’s commentary on 1Peter
2 “In the ancient world, adoption was a practice ordinarily confined to the childless well-to-do. Its subjects... were not normally infants, as today, but young adults who had shown themselves fit and able to carry on a family name in a worthy way.” J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 215.
3 J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975), p.86.
1 Peter 2:1-25 . EXHORTATIONS.
To guileless feeding on the word by the sense of their privileges as new-born babes, living stones in the spiritual temple built on Christ the chief corner-stone, and royal priests, in contrast to their former state: also to abstinence from fleshly lusts, and to walk worthily in all relations of life, so that the world without which opposes them may be constrained to glorify God in seeing their good works. Christ, the grand pattern to follow in patience under suffering for well-doing.
1. laying aside--once for all: so the Greek aorist expresses as a garment put off. The exhortation applies to Christians alone, for in none else is the new nature existing which, as "the inward man" ( Ephesians 3:16 ) can cast off the old as an outward thing, so that the Christian, through the continual renewal of his inward man, can also exhibit himself externally as a new man. But to unbelievers the demand is addressed, that inwardly, in regard to the nous (mind), they must become changed, meta-noeisthai (re-pent) [STEIGER]. The "therefore" resumes the exhortation begun in 1 Peter 1:22 . Seeing that ye are born again of an incorruptible seed, be not again entangled in evil, which "has no substantial being, but is an acting in contrariety to the being formed in us" [THEOPHYLACT]. "Malice," &c., are utterly inconsistent with the "love of the brethren," unto which ye have "purified your souls" ( 1 Peter 1:22 ). The vices here are those which offend against the BROTHERLY LOVE inculcated above. Each succeeding one springs out of that which immediately precedes, so as to form a genealogy of the sins against love. Out of malice springs guile; out of guile, hypocrises (pretending to be what we are not, and not showing what we really are; the opposite of "love unfeigned," and "without dissimulation"); out of hypocrisies, envies of those to whom we think ourselves obliged to play the hypocrite; out of envies, evil-speaking, malicious, envious detraction of others. Guile is the permanent disposition; hypocrisies the acts flowing from it. The guileless knows no envy. Compare 1 Peter 2:2 , "sincere," Greek, "guileless." "Malice delights in another's hurt; envy pines at another's good; guile imparts duplicity to the heart; hypocrisy (flattery) imparts duplicity to the tongue; evil-speakings wound the character of another" [AUGUSTINE].
2. new-born babes--altogether without "guile" ( 1 Peter 2:1 ). As long as we are here we are "babes," in a specially tender relation to God ( Isaiah 40:11 ). The childlike spirit is indispensable if we would enter heaven. "Milk" is here not elementary truths in contradistinction to more advanced Christian truths, as in 1 Corinthians 3:2 , Hebrews 5:12Hebrews 5:13 ; but in contrast to "guile, hypocrisies," &c. ( 1 Peter 2:1 ); the simplicity of Christian doctrine in general to the childlike spirit. The same "word of grace" which is the instrument in regeneration, is the instrument also of building up. "The mother of the child is also its natural nurse" [STEIGER]. The babe, instead of chemically analyzing, instinctively desires and feeds on the milk; so our part is not self-sufficient rationalizing and questioning, but simply receiving the truth in the love of it ( Matthew 11:25 ).
desire--Greek, "have a yearning desire for," or "longing after," a natural impulse to the regenerate, "for as no one needs to teach new-born babes what food to take, knowing instinctively that a table is provided for them in their mother's breast," so the believer of himself thirsts after the word of God ( Psalms 119:1-176 ). Compare TATIUS' language as to Achilles.
sincere--Greek, "guileless." Compare 1 Peter 2:1 , "laying aside guile." IRENÆUS says of heretics. They mix chalk with the milk. The article, "the," implies that besides the well-known pure milk, the Gospel, there is no other pure, unadulterated doctrine; it alone can make us guileless ( 1 Peter 2:1 ).
of the word--Not as ALFORD, "spiritual," nor "reasonable," as English Version in Romans 12:1 . The Greek "logos" in Scripture is not used of the reason, or mind, but of the WORD; the preceding context requires that "the word" should be meant here; the adjective "logikos" follows the meaning of the noun logos, "word." James 1:21 , "Lay apart all filthiness . . . and receive with meekness the engrafted WORD," is exactly parallel, and confirms English Version here.
grow--The oldest manuscripts and versions read, "grow unto salvation." Being BORN again unto salvation, we are also to grow unto salvation. The end to which growth leads is perfected salvation. "Growth is the measure of the fulness of that, not only rescue from destruction, but positive blessedness, which is implied in salvation" [ALFORD].
thereby--Greek, "in it"; fed on it; in its strength ( Acts 11:14 ). "The word is to be desired with appetite as the cause of life, to be swallowed in the hearing, to be chewed as cud is by rumination with the understanding, and to be digested by faith" [TERTULLIAN].
3. Peter alludes to Psalms 34:8 . The first "tastes" of God's goodness are afterwards followed by fuller and happier experiences. A taste whets the appetite [BENGEL].
gracious--Greek, "good," benignant, kind; as God is revealed to us in Christ, "the Lord" ( 1 Peter 2:4 ), we who are born again ought so to be good and kind to the brethren ( 1 Peter 1:22 ). "Whosoever has not tasted the word to him it is not sweet it has not reached the heart; but to them who have experienced it, who with the heart believe, 'Christ has been sent for me and is become my own: my miseries are His, and His life mine,' it tastes sweet" [LUTHER].
4. coming--drawing near (same Greek as here, Hebrews 10:22 ) by faith continually; present tense: not having come once for all at conversion.
stone--Peter (that is, a stone, named so by Christ) desires that all similarly should be living stones BUILT ON CHRIST, THE TRUE FOUNDATION-STONE; compare his speech in Acts 4:11 . An undesigned coincidence and mark of genuineness. The Spirit foreseeing the Romanist perversion of Matthew 16:18 (compare Matthew 16:16 , "Son of the LIVING God," which coincides with his language here, "the LIVING stone"), presciently makes Peter himself to refuse it. He herein confirms Paul's teaching. Omit the as unto of English Version. Christ is positively termed the "living stone"; living, as having life in Himself from the beginning, and as raised from the dead to live evermore ( Revelation 1:18 ) after His rejection by men, and so the source of life to us. Like no earthly rock, He lives and gives life. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:4 , and the type, Exodus 17:6 , Numbers 20:11 .
disallowed--rejected, reprobated; referred to also by Christ Himself: also by Paul; compare the kindred prophecies, Isaiah 8:14 , Luke 2:34 .
chosen of God--literally, "with (or 'in the presence and judgment of') God elect," or, "chosen out" ( 1 Peter 2:6 ). Many are alienated from the Gospel, because it is not everywhere in favor, but is on the contrary rejected by most men. Peter answers that, though rejected by men, Christ is peculiarly the stone of salvation honored by God, first so designated by Jacob in his deathbed prophecy.
5. Ye also, as lively stones--partaking of the name and life which is in "THE LIVING STONE" ( 1 Peter 2:4 , 1 Corinthians 3:11 ). Many names which belong to Christ in the singular are assigned to Christians in the plural. He is "THE SON," "High Priest," "King," "Lamb"; they, "sons," "priests," "kings," "sheep," "lambs." So the Shulamite called from Solomon [BENGEL].
are built up--Greek, "are being built up," as in Ephesians 2:22 . Not as ALFORD, "Be ye built up." Peter grounds his exhortations, 1 Peter 2:21 Peter 2:11 , &c., on their conscious sense of their high privileges as living stones in the course of being built up into a spiritual house (that is, "the habitation of the Spirit").
priesthood--Christians are both the spiritual temple and the priests of the temple. There are two Greek words for "temple"; hieron (the sacred place), the whole building, including.the courts wherein the sacrifice was killed; and naos (the dwelling, namely, of God), the inner shrine wherein God peculiarly manifested Himself, and where, in the holiest place, the blood of the slain sacrifice was presented before Him. All believers alike, and not merely ministers, are now the dwelling of God (and are called the "naos," Greek, not the hieron) and priests unto God ( Revelation 1:6 ). The minister is not, like the Jewish priest (Greek, "hiercus"), admitted nearer to God than the people, but merely for order's sake leads the spiritual services of the people. Priest is the abbreviation of presbyter in the Church of England Prayer Book, not corresponding to the Aaronic priest (hiereus, who offered literal sacrifices). Christ is the only literal hiereus-priest in the New Testament through whom alone we may always draw near to God. Compare 1 Peter 2:9 , "a royal priesthood," that is, a body of priest-kings, such as was Melchisedec. The Spirit never, in New Testament, gives the name hiereus, or sacerdotal priest, to ministers of the Gospel.
holy--consecrated to God.
spiritual sacrifices--not the literal one of the mass, as the Romish self-styled disciples of Peter teach. Compare Isaiah 56:7 , which compare with "acceptable to God" here; Psalms 4:5 , 50:14 , Psalms 51:17Psalms 51:19 , Hosea 14:2 , Philippians 4:18 . "Among spiritual sacrifices the first place belongs to the general oblation of ourselves. For never can we offer anything to God until we have offered ourselves ( 2 Corinthians 8:5 ) in sacrifice to Him. There follow afterwards prayers, giving of thanks, alms deeds, and all exercises of piety" [CALVIN]. Christian houses of worship are never called temples because the temple was a place for sacrifice, which has no place in the Christian dispensation; the Christian temple is the congregation of spiritual worshippers. The synagogue (where reading of Scripture and prayer constituted the worship) was the model of the Christian house of worship (compare Note,Greek, "synagogue"; Acts 15:21 ). Our sacrifices are those of prayer, praise, and self-denying services in the cause of Christ ( 1 Peter 2:9 , end).
by Jesus Christ--as our mediating High Priest before God. Connect these words with "offer up." Christ is both precious Himself and makes us accepted [BENGEL]. As the temple, so also the priesthood, is built on Christ ( 1 Peter 2:41 Peter 2:5 ) [BEZA]. Imperfect as are our services, we are not with unbelieving timidity, which is close akin to refined self-righteousness, to doubt their acceptance THROUGH CHRIST. After extolling the dignity of Christians he goes back to CHRIST as the sole source of it.
6. Wherefore also--The oldest manuscripts read, "Because that." The statement above is so "because it is contained in Scripture."
Behold--calling attention to the glorious announcement of His eternal counsel.
elect--so also believers ( 1 Peter 2:9 , "chosen," Greek, "elect generation").
precious--in Hebrew,Isaiah 28:16 , "a corner-stone of preciousness." 1 Peter 2:7 , Christ is said to be, to believers, "precious," Greek, "preciousness."
confounded--same Greek as in Romans 9:33 (Peter here as elsewhere confirming Paul's teaching. Romans 10:11 ), "ashamed." In Isaiah 28:16 , "make haste," that is, flee in sudden panic, covered with the shame of confounded hopes.
7. Application of the Scripture just quoted first to the believer, then to the unbeliever. On the opposite effects of the same Gospel on different classes, compare John 9:39 , 2 Corinthians 2:152 Corinthians 2:16 .
precious--Greek, "THE preciousness" ( 1 Peter 2:6 ). To you believers belongs the preciousness of Christ just mentioned.
disobedient--to the faith, and so disobedient in practice.
the stone which . . . head of . . . corner--( Psalms 118:22 ). Those who rejected the STONE were all the while in spite of themselves unconsciously contributing to its becoming Head of the corner. The same magnet has two poles, the one repulsive, the other attractive; so the Gospel has opposite effects on believers and unbelievers respectively.
8. stone of stumbling, &c.--quoted from Isaiah 8:14 . Not merely they stumbled, in that their prejudices were offended; but their stumbling implies the judicial punishment of their reception of Messiah; they hurt themselves in stumbling over the corner-stone, as "stumble" means in Jeremiah 13:16 , Daniel 11:19 .
at the word--rather, join "being disobedient to the word"; so 1 Peter 3:1 , 4:17 .
whereunto--to penal stumbling; to the judicial punishment of their unbelief. See above.
also--an additional thought; God's ordination; not that God ordains or appoints them to sin, but they are given up to "the fruit of their own ways" according to the eternal counsel of God. The moral ordering of the world is altogether of God. God appoints the ungodly to be given up unto sin, and a reprobate mind, and its necessary penalty. "Were appointed," Greek, "set," answers to "I lay," Greek, "set," 1 Peter 2:6 . God, in the active, is said to appoint Christ and the elect (directly). Unbelievers, in the passive, are said to be appointed (God acting less directly in the appointment of the sinner's awful course) [BENGEL]. God ordains the wicked to punishment, not to crime [J. CAPPEL]. "Appointed" or "set" (not here "FORE-ordained") refers, not to the eternal counsel so directly, as to the penal justice of God. Through the same Christ whom sinners rejected, they shall be rejected; unlike believers, they are by God appointed unto wrath as FITTED for it. The lost shall lay all the blame of their ruin on their own sinful perversity, not on God's decree; the saved shall ascribe all the merit of their salvation to God's electing love and grace.
9. Contrast in the privileges and destinies of believers. Compare the similar contrast with the preceding context.
chosen--"elect" of God, even as Christ your Lord is.
generation--implying the unity of spiritual origin and kindred of believers as a class distinct from the world.
royal--kingly. Believers, like Christ, the antitypical Melchisedec, are at once kings and priests. Israel, in a spiritual sense, was designed to be the same among the nations of the earth. The full realization on earth of this, both to the literal and the spiritual Israel, is as yet future.
holy nation--antitypical to Israel.
peculiar people--literally, "a people for an acquisition," that is, whom God chose to be peculiarly His:Acts 20:28 , "purchased," literally, "acquired." God's "peculiar treasure" above others.
show forth--publish abroad. Not their own praises but His. They have no reason to magnify themselves above others for once they had been in the same darkness, and only through God's grace had been brought to the light which they must henceforth show forth to others.
praises--Greek, "virtues," "excellencies": His glory, mercy ( 1 Peter 2:10 ), goodness (Greek,1 Peter 2:3 , Numbers 14:17Numbers 14:18 , Isaiah 63:7 ). The same term is applied to believers, 2 Peter 1:5 .
of him who hath called you--( 2 Peter 1:3 ).
out of darkness--of heathen and even Jewish ignorance, sin, and misery, and so out of the dominion of the prince of darkness.
marvellous--Peter still has in mind Psalms 118:23 .
light--It is called "His," that is, God's. Only the (spiritual) light is created by God, not darkness. In Isaiah 45:7 , it is physical darkness and evil, not moral, that God is said to create, the punishment of sin, not sin itself. Peter, with characteristic boldness, brands as darkness what all the world calls light; reason, without the Holy Spirit, in spite of its vaunted power, is spiritual darkness. "It cannot apprehend what faith is: there it is stark blind; it gropes as one that is without eyesight, stumbling from one thing to another, and knows not what it does" [LUTHER].
10. Adapted from Hosea 1:9Hosea 1:10 , 2:23 . Peter plainly confirms Paul, who quotes the passage as implying the call of the Gentiles to become spiritually that which Israel had been literally, "the people of God." Primarily, the prophecy refers to literal Israel, hereafter to be fully that which in their best days they were only partially, God's people.
not obtained mercy--literally, "who were men not compassionated." Implying that it was God's pure mercy, not their merits, which made the blessed change in their state; a thought which ought to kindle their lively gratitude, to be shown with their life, as well as their lips.
11. As heretofore he exhorted them to walk worthily of their calling, in contradistinction to their own former walk, so now he exhorts them to glorify God before unbelievers.
Dearly beloved--He gains their attention to his exhortation by assuring them of his love.
strangers and pilgrims--( 1 Peter 1:17 ). Sojourners, literally, settlers having a house in a city without being citizens in respect to the rights of citizenship; a picture of the Christian's position on earth; and pilgrims, staying for a time in a foreign land. FLACIUS thus analyzes the exhortation: (1) Purify your souls (a) as strangers on earth who must not allow yourselves to be kept back by earthly lusts, and (b) because these lusts war against the soul's salvation. (2) Walk piously among unbelievers (a) so that they may cease to calumniate Christians, and (b) may themselves be converted to Christ.
fleshly lusts--enumerated in Galatians 5:19 , &c. Not only the gross appetites which we have in common with the brutes, but all the thoughts of the unrenewed mind.
which--Greek, "the which," that is, inasmuch as being such as "war." &c. Not only do they impede, but they assail [BENGEL].
the soul--that is, against the regenerated soul; such as were those now addressed. The regenerated soul is besieged by sinful lusts. Like Samson in the lap of Delilah, the believer, the moment that he gives way to fleshly lusts, has the locks of his strength shorn, and ceases to maintain that spiritual separation from the world and the flesh of which the Nazarite vow was the type.
12. conversation--"behavior"; "conduct." There are two things in which "strangers and pilgrims" ought to bear themselves well: (1) the conversation or conduct, as subjects ( 1 Peter 2:13 ), servants ( 1 Peter 2:18 ), wives ( 1 Peter 3:1 ), husbands ( 1 Peter 3:7 ), all persons under all circumstances ( 1 Peter 2:8 ); (2) confession of the faith ( 1 Peter 3:151 Peter 3:16 ). Each of the two is derived from the will of God. Our conversation should correspond to our Saviour's condition; this is in heaven, so ought that to be.
honest--honorable, becoming, proper ( 1 Peter 3:16 ). Contrast "vain conversation," 1 Peter 1:18 . A good walk does not make us pious, but we must first be pious and believe before we attempt to lead a good course. Faith first receives from God, then love gives to our neighbor [LUTHER].
whereas they speak against you--now ( 1 Peter 2:15 ), that they may, nevertheless, at some time or other hereafter glorify God. The Greek may be rendered, "Wherein they speak against you . . . that (herein) they may, by your good works, which on a closer inspection they shall behold, glorify God." The very works "which on more careful consideration, must move the heathen to praise God, are at first the object of hatred and raillery" [STEIGER].
evildoers--Because as Christians they could not conform to heathenish customs, they were accused of disobedience to all legal authority; in order to rebut this charge, they are told to submit to every ordinance of man (not sinful in itself).
they shall behold--Greek, "they shall be eye-witnesses of"; "shall behold on close inspection"; as opposed to their "ignorance" ( 1 Peter 2:15 ) of the true character of Christians and Christianity, by judging on mere hearsay. The same Greek verb occurs in a similar sense in 1 Peter 3:2 . "Other men narrowly look at (so the Greek implies) the actions of the righteous" [BENGEL]. TERTULLIAN contrasts the early Christians and the heathen: these delighted in the bloody gladiatorial spectacles of the amphitheater, whereas a Christian was excommunicated if he went to it at all. No Christian was found in prison for crime, but only for the faith. The heathen excluded slaves from some of their religious services, whereas Christians had some of their presbyters of the class of slaves. Slavery silently and gradually disappeared by the power of the Christian law of love, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." When the pagans deserted their nearest relatives in a plague, Christians ministered to the sick and dying. When the Gentiles left their dead unburied after a battle and cast their wounded into the streets, the disciples hastened to relieve the suffering.
glorify--forming a high estimate of the God whom Christians worship, from the exemplary conduct of Christians themselves. We must do good, not with a view to our own glory, but to the glory of God.
the day of visitation--of God's grace; when God shall visit them in mercy.
13. every ordinance of man--"every human institution" [ALFORD], literally, "every human creation." For though of divine appointment, yet in the mode of nomination and in the exercise of their authority, earthly governors are but human institutions, being of men, and in relation to men. The apostle speaks as one raised above all human things. But lest they should think themselves so ennobled by faith as to be raised above subordination to human authorities, he tells them to submit themselves for the sake of Christ, who desires you to be subject, and who once was subject to earthly rulers Himself, though having all things subject to Him, and whose honor is at stake in you as His earthly representatives. Compare Romans 13:5 , "Be subject for conscience' sake."
king--The Roman emperor was "supreme" in the Roman provinces to which this Epistle was addressed. The Jewish zealots refused obedience. The distinction between "the king as supreme" and "governors sent by him" implies that "if the king command one thing, and the subordinate magistrate another, we ought rather to obey the superior" [AUGUSTINE in GROTIUS]. Scripture prescribes nothing upon the form of government, but simply subjects Christians to that everywhere subsisting, without entering into the question of the right of the rulers (thus the Roman emperors had by force seized supreme authority, and Rome had, by unjustifiable means, made herself mistress of Asia), because the de facto governors have not been made by chance, but by the providence of God.
14. governors--subordinate to the emperor, "sent," or delegated by Cæsar to preside over the provinces.
for the punishment--No tyranny ever has been so unprincipled as that some appearance of equity was not maintained in it; however corrupt a government be, God never suffers it to be so much so as not to be better than anarchy [CALVIN]. Although bad kings often oppress the good, yet that is scarcely ever done by public authority (and it is of what is done by public authority that Peter speaks), save under the mask of right. Tyranny harasses many, but anarchy overwhelms the whole state [HORNEIUS]. The only justifiable exception is in cases where obedience to the earthly king plainly involves disobedience to the express command of the King of kings.
praise of them that do well--Every government recognizes the excellence of truly Christian subjects. Thus PLINY, in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, acknowledges, "I have found in them nothing else save a perverse and extravagant superstition." The recognition in the long run mitigates persecution ( 1 Peter 3:13 ).
15. Ground of his directing them to submit themselves ( 1 Peter 2:13 ).
put to silence--literally, "to muzzle," "to stop the mouth."
ignorance--spiritual not having "the knowledge of God," and therefore ignorant of the children of God, and misconstruing their acts; influenced by mere appearances, and ever ready to open their mouths, rather than their eyes and ears. Their ignorance should move the believer's pity, not his anger. They judge of things which they are incapable of judging through unbelief (compare 1 Peter 2:12 ). Maintain such a walk that they shall have no charge against you, except touching your faith; and so their minds shall be favorably disposed towards Christianity.
16. As free--as "the Lord's freemen," connected with 1 Peter 2:15 , doing well as being free. "Well-doing" ( 1 Peter 2:15 ) is the natural fruit of being freemen of Christ, made free by "the truth" from the bondage of sin. Duty is enforced on us to guard against licentiousness, but the way in which it is to be fulfilled, is by love and the holy instincts of Christian liberty. We are given principles, not details.
not using--Greek, "not as having your liberty for a veil (cloak) of badness, but as the servants of God," and therefore bound to submit to every ordinance of man ( 1 Peter 2:13 ) which is of God's appointment.
17. Honour all men--according to whatever honor is due in each case. Equals have a respect due to them. Christ has dignified our humanity by assuming it; therefore we should not dishonor, but be considerate to and honor our common humanity, even in the very humblest. The first "honor" is in the Greek aorist imperative, implying, "In every case render promptly every man's due" [ALFORD]. The second is in the present tense, implying, Habitually and continually honor the king. Thus the first is the general precept; the three following are its three great divisions.
Love--present: Habitually love with the special and congenial affection that you ought to feel to brethren, besides the general love to all men.
Fear God . . . the king--The king is to be honored; but God alone, in the highest sense, feared.
18. Servants--Greek, "household servants": not here the Greek for "slaves." Probably including freedmen still remaining in their master's house. Masters were not commonly Christians: he therefore mentions only the duties of the servants. These were then often persecuted by their unbelieving masters. Peter's special object seems to be to teach them submission, whatever the character of the masters might be. Paul not having this as his prominent design, includes masters in his monitions.
be subject--Greek, "being subject": the participle expresses a particular instance of the general exhortation to good conduct, 1 Peter 2:111 Peter 2:12 , of which the first particular precept is given 1 Peter 2:13 , "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." The general exhortation is taken up again in 1 Peter 2:16 ; and so the participle 1 Peter 2:18 , "being subject," is joined to the hortatory imperatives going before, namely, "abstain," "submit yourselves." "honor all men."
all--all possible: under all circumstances, such as are presently detailed.
fear--the awe of one subject: God, however, is the ultimate object of the "fear": fear "for the Lord's sake" ( 1 Peter 2:13 ), not merely slavish fear of masters.
gentle--indulgent towards errors: considerate: yielding, not exacting all which justice might demand.
froward--perverse: harsh. Those bound to obey must not make the disposition and behavior of the superior the measure of the fulfilment of their obligations.
19. Reason for subjection even to froward masters.
thankworthy--( Luke 6:33 ). A course out of the common, and especially praiseworthy in the eyes of God: not as Rome interprets, earning merit, and so a work of supererogation (compare 1 Peter 2:20 ).
for conscience toward God--literally, "consciousness of God": from a conscientious regard to God, more than to men.
endure--Greek, "patiently bear up under": as a superimposed burden [ALFORD].
20. what--Greek, "what kind of."
glory--what peculiar merit.
buffeted--the punishment of slaves, and suddenly inflicted [BENGEL].
this is--Some oldest manuscripts read, "for." Then the translation is, "But if when . . . ye take it patiently (it is a glory), for this is acceptable."
acceptable--Greek, "thankworthy," as in 1 Peter 2:19 .
21. Christ's example a proof that patient endurance under undeserved sufferings is acceptable with God.
hereunto--to the patient endurance of unmerited suffering ( 1 Peter 3:9 ). Christ is an example to servants, even as He was once in "the form of a servant."
called--with a heavenly calling, though slaves.
for us--His dying for us is the highest exemplification of "doing well" ( 1 Peter 2:20 ). Ye must patiently suffer, being innocent, as Christ also innocently suffered (not for Himself, but for us). The oldest manuscripts for "us . . . us," read, "you . . . for you." Christ's sufferings, while they are for an example, were also primarily sufferings "for us," a consideration which imposes an everlasting obligation on us to please Him.
leaving--behind: so the Greek: on His departure to the Father, to His glory.
an example--Greek, "a copy," literally, "a writing copy" set by masters for their pupils. Christ's precepts and sermons were the transcript of His life. Peter graphically sets before servants those features especially suited to their case.
follow--close upon: so the Greek.
his steps--footsteps, namely, of His patience combined with innocence.
22. Illustrating Christ's well-doing ( 1 Peter 2:20 ) though suffering.
did--Greek aorist. "Never in a single instance did" [ALFORD]. Quoted from Isaiah 53:9 , end, Septuagint.
neither--nor yet: not even [ALFORD]. Sinlessness as to the mouth is a mark of perfection. Guile is a common fault of servants. "If any boast of his innocency, Christ surely did not suffer as an evildoer" [CALVIN], yet He took it patiently ( 1 Peter 2:20 ). On Christ's sinlessness, compare 2 Corinthians 5:21 , Hebrews 7:26 .
23. Servants are apt to "answer again" ( Titus 2:9 ). Threats of divine judgment against oppressors are often used by those who have no other arms, as for instance, slaves. Christ, who as Lord could have threatened with truth, never did so.
committed himself--or His cause, as man in His suffering. Compare the type, Jeremiah 11:20 . In this Peter seems to have before his mind Isaiah 53:8 . Compare Romans 12:19 , on our corresponding duty. Leave your case in His hands, not desiring to make Him executioner of your revenge, but rather praying for enemies. God's righteous judgment gives tranquillity and consolation to the oppressed.
24. his own self--there being none other but Himself who could have done it. His voluntary undertaking of the work of redemption is implied. The Greek puts in antithetical juxtaposition, OUR, and His OWN SELF, to mark the idea of His substitution for us. His "well-doing" in His sufferings is set forth here as an example to servants and to us all ( 1 Peter 2:20 ).
bare--to sacrifice: carried and offered up: a sacrificial term. Isaiah 53:11Isaiah 53:12 , "He bare the sin of many": where the idea of bearing on Himself is the prominent one; here the offering in sacrifice is combined with that idea. So the same Greek means in 1 Peter 2:5 .
our sins--In offering or presenting in sacrifice (as the Greek for "bare" implies) His body, Christ offered in it the guilt of our sins upon the cross, as upon the altar of God, that it might be expiated in Him, and so taken away from us. Compare Isaiah 53:10 , "Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin." Peter thus means by "bare" what the Syriac takes two words to express, to bear and to offer: (1) He hath borne our sins laid upon Him [namely, their guilt, curse, and punishment]; (2) He hath so borne them that He offered them along with Himself on the altar. He refers to the animals upon which sins were first laid, and which were then offered thus laden [VITRINGA]. Sin or guilt among the Semitic nations is considered as a burden lying heavily upon the sinner [GESENIUS].
on the tree--the cross, the proper place for One on whom the curse was laid: this curse stuck to Him until it was legally (through His death as the guilt-bearer) destroyed in His body: thus the handwriting of the bond against us is cancelled by His death.
that we being dead to sins--the effect of His death to "sin" in the aggregate, and to all particular "sins," namely, that we should be as entirely delivered from them, as a slave that is dead is delivered from service to his master. This is our spiritful standing through faith by virtue of Christ's death: our actual mortification of particular sins is in proportion to the degree of our effectually being made conformable to His death. "That we should die to the sins whose collected guilt Christ carried away in His death, and so LIVE TO THE RIGHTEOUSNESS (compare Isaiah 53:11 . 'My righteous servant shall justify many'), the gracious relation to God which He has brought in" [STEIGER].
by whose stripes--Greek, "stripe."
ye were healed--a paradox, yet true. "Ye servants (compare 'buffeted,' 'the tree,' 1 Peter 2:201 Peter 2:24 ) often bear the strife; but it is not more than your Lord Himself bore; learn from Him patience in wrongful sufferings.
25. ( Isaiah 53:6 .)
For--Assigning their natural need of healing ( 1 Peter 2:24 ).
now--Now that the atonement for all has been made, the foundation is laid for individual conversion: so "ye are returned," or "have become converted to," &c.
Shepherd and Bishop--The designation of the pastors and elders of the Church belongs in its fullest sense to the great Head of the Church, "the good Shepherd." As the "bishop" oversees (as the Greek term means), so "the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous" ( 1 Peter 3:12 ). He gives us His spirit and feeds and guides us by His word. "Shepherd," Hebrew, "Parnas," is often applied to kings, and enters into the composition of names, as "Pharnabazus."