Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
II. THE IDENTITY OF CHRISTIANS 1:3-2:10
The essentially chiastic structure of thought in the letter, excluding the introduction and conclusion, can be visualized in the outline (above). The recurrence of the direct address "Beloved" in 1 Peter 2:11 and 1 Peter 4:12 divides this letter into three main parts.
"The theme of the first part is the identity of the people of God established on the basis of the great salvation Christ has accomplished (and is accomplishing) on their behalf. Their identity as a ’chosen’ people is affirmed programmatically in the address (1 Peter 1:1-2) and confirmed in the concluding pronouncements of 1 Peter 2:9-10 so as to form an inclusio. More broadly, there is an inclusion between the emphasis on the identity of Christians in the first section (1 Peter 1:1-12) and last section (1 Peter 2:1-10) of part one. In the first section, they are ’chosen’ as heirs of divine salvation, while in the last their election is confirmed by the metaphor of priesthood." [Note: Michaels, p. xxxiv.]
Peter began the body of this epistle by reminding his readers of their identity as Christians. He did this to enable them to rejoice in the midst of present suffering. They could do this since they would ultimately experience glorification. The tone of this entire epistle is warm, pastoral, and full of encouragement. In it Peter partially fulfilled Jesus’ instructions to him to "tend (shepherd) my [Jesus’] lambs . . . sheep" (John 21:15-17).
"Therefore" goes back to 1 Peter 1:3-12 as well as 1 Peter 1:22-25. To prepare for an exposition of the Christian’s calling, Peter urged his readers to take off all kinds of evil conduct like so many soiled garments (cf. Zechariah 3:1-5; Romans 1:29-30; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; James 1:21). The sins he mentioned are all incompatible with brotherly love (cf. 1 Peter 1:22). Malice (wickedness) and guile (deceit) are attitudes. The remaining three words describe specific actions. These are not "the grosser vices of paganism, but community-destroying vices that are often tolerated by the modern church." [Note: Davids, p. 80.]
"The early Christian practice of baptism by immersion entailed undressing completely; and we know that in the later liturgies the candidate’s removal of his clothes before descending naked to the pool and his putting on a new set on coming up formed an impressive ceremony and were interpreted as symbols of his abandonment of his past unworthy life and his adoption of a new life of innocence . . ." [Note: J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, pp. 83-84.]
Peter here called his readers to put into practice what they had professed in their baptism.
1. Listening to God 2:1-3
C. Our Priestly Calling 2:1-10
Peter continued his explanation of Christians’ duties as we endure trials and suffering joyfully. He called his readers to do certain things in the world of unbelievers, and he reminded them of certain realities in this pericope. He did so to motivate them to press on to finish God’s plan and purpose for them in the world now.
"The great doxology (1 Peter 1:3-12) begins with praise to God, who is the One who begot us again. All hortations that follow grow out of this our relation to God: 1) since he who begot us is holy, we, too, must be holy (1 Peter 1:13-16); 2) since he is our Judge and has ransomed us at so great a price, we must conduct ourselves with fear (1 Peter 1:17-21); 3) since we are begotten of the incorruptible seed of the Word we are brethren, and thus our relation to each other must be one of love, of children of the one Father (1 Peter 1:22-25). So Peter now proceeds to the next hortation: 4) since we have been begotten by means of the eternal Word we should long for the milk of the Word as our true and proper nourishment." [Note: Lenski, p. 76.]
In this pericope Peter used four different images to describe the Christian life. These are taking off habits like garments, growing like babies, being built up like a temple, and serving like priests.
Next he urged them to do something positive. Since they had experienced the new birth (1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:23), they should now do what babies do, not that they were new Christians necessarily. The milk of the Word is probably the milk that is the Word rather than the milk contained in the Word, namely, Christ, though either interpretation is possible. [Note: A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6:95.] "Long for" is a strong expression that we could paraphrase "develop an appetite for." This is the only imperative in the passage in the Greek text. God’s Word is spiritual food that all believers instinctively desire, but we must also cultivate a taste for it (cf. 2 Peter 3:18).
"It is sad when Christians have no appetite for God’s Word, but must be ’fed’ religious entertainment instead. As we grow, we discover that the Word is milk for babes, but also strong meat for the mature (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Hebrews 5:11-14). It is also bread (Matthew 4:4) and honey (Psalms 119:103)." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:400.]
Ask God to give you a greater appetite for His Word. God’s Word is pure in that it is free from deceit (cf. 1 Peter 1:22-25). "Salvation" here, as Peter used it previously, refers to the full extent of salvation that God desires every Christian to experience.
"The point of the figurative language is this: as a babe longs for nothing but its mother’s milk and will take nothing else, so every Christian should take no spiritual nourishment save the Word." [Note: Lenski, p. 78.]
The "milk" here is not elementary Christian teaching (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12-13), in contrast to "meat," but the spiritual food of all believers. [Note: Michaels, p. 89.]
Peter’s readers had already tasted God’s goodness in their new birth. Greater consumption of His Word would bring greater satisfaction as well as increased spiritual growth (cf. Psalms 34:8).
Not only is Jesus Christ the source of the believer’s spiritual sustenance, He is also our foundation. Peter not only changed his metaphor from growing to building, but he also changed it from an individual to a corporate focus. However, unlike a piece of rock, Jesus Christ is alive and able to impart strength to those who suffer for His sake. "Living stone" is an oxymoron, a figure of speech in which the writer joins contradictory or incongruous terms to make a point. The point here is that even though Jesus Christ is the church’s foundation, He is also alive today. Builders quarried and chiseled huge blocks of stone to support large buildings in the ancient Near East. Some of the Old Testament writers compared God to such a foundation (e.g., Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:30-31; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 18:31; Psalms 18:46; Psalms 62:2; Psalms 62:6; et al.; cf. Matthew 7:24-25; Matthew 16:18). Peter modified this figure and used it to describe Jesus Christ. [Note: See C. Norman Hillyer, "’Rock-Stone’ Imagery in I Peter," Tyndale Bulletin 22 (1971):58-81; and Frederic R. Howe, "Christ, the Building Stone, in Peter’s Theology," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:625 (January-March 2000):35-43.]
Here Peter began to give the basis on which the four preceding exhortations rest. These exhortations were: be holy (1 Peter 1:13-16), be fearing (1 Peter 1:17-21), be loving (1 Peter 1:22-25), and be consuming the Word (1 Peter 2:1-3). They grow out of our relationship to God who has begotten us.
The apostle referred to Psalms 118:22 that both Jesus and he had previously quoted to the Sanhedrin (Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11).
2. Growing in God 2:4-5
Peter saw the church as a living temple to which God was adding with the conversion of each new believer. Each Christian is one of the essential stones that enables the whole structure to fulfill its purpose (cf. Matthew 16:15-18). Later Peter would say his readers were also priests (1 Peter 2:9), but here the emphasis is on their being a building for priestly service, namely, a temple.
"This ’spiritual house’ includes believers in the five Roman provinces of 1 Peter 1:1 and shows clearly how Peter understood the metaphor of Christ in Matthew 16:18 to be not a local church, but the church general (the kingdom of Christ)." [Note: Robertson, 6:96.]
"I Peter never speaks of the Church as ekklesia, but uses metaphorical images of OT origin." [Note: Goppelt, p. 30.]
This verse helps us appreciate how much we need each other as Christians. God has a purpose for all of us to fulfill that we cannot fulfill individually. The Christian who is not working in relationship with other Christians as fellow stones, as well as with Jesus Christ as his or her foundation, cannot fulfill God’s complete purpose for him or her. While every Christian has an individual purpose, we also have a corporate purpose that we cannot fulfill unless we take our place in the community of Christians that is the church. Peter explained this purpose more fully below, but here he revealed that it involves worship and service (cf. Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16; Philippians 4:18).
Before going on, however, Peter elaborated on the foundation of this building, the church. "Zion" here refers to the heavenly Jerusalem, that larger eschatological entity of which the church will be a part (cf. Revelation 21:14). The "corner stone" refers to the main stone on which the building rests. It does not refer to a modern corner stone or to the last stone the mason put at the top of the building, the keystone (Isaiah 28:16; cf. Ephesians 2:20). In view of this, it seems that the rock (Gr. petra, a large stone) to which Jesus referred in Matthew 16:18 was not Peter (Gr. Petros, a small stone) but Himself. Jesus, not Peter, much less Judaism, is the foundation upon which God has promised to build the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11).
Isaiah promised that those who believe on the Stone will never (Gr. ou me, the strongest negative) be disappointed.
Peter clarified two relationships of the believer in these verses (4-6). He rests on Christ as a building rests on its foundation. Furthermore he relates to every other believer as the stones of a building under construction relate to one another. We need each other, should support each other, and should work together to build the church in the world.
3. Building on Christ 2:6-8
In contrast to believers, those who reject Jesus Christ as the foundation find Him to be a stone over which they trip and fall. He becomes the instrument of their destruction. The "builders" were Israel’s religious leaders (cf. Psalms 118:22). When they disobeyed Old Testament commands to accept their Messiah, they stumbled spiritually and would suffer destruction (Isaiah 8:14). This was true of Israel corporately, and it is true of every unbeliever individually.
Jesus Christ was the stone that would have completed Israel had Israel’s leaders accepted Him as their Messiah, Israel’s keystone. Instead, the Israelites cast the stone aside by rejecting their Messiah. God then proceeded to make this stone the foundation of a new edifice that He would build, namely, the church. Israel’s rejected keystone has become the church’s foundation stone.
Election results in the salvation of some (1 Peter 1:2), but it also means destruction for others (1 Peter 2:8).
"In the immediate context it is not so much a question of how Christian believers perceive Christ as of how God (in contrast to ’people generally’) perceives him, and of how God consequently vindicates both Christ and his followers." [Note: Michaels, p. 104.]
To what does God appoint those who stumbled, unbelief or the stumbling that results from unbelief? In the Greek text the antecedent of "to this" (eis ho) is the main verb "stumble" (proskoptousi), as it is in the English text. "Are disobedient" (apeithountes) is a participle that is subordinate to the main verb. Therefore we would expect "to this" to refer to the main verb "stumble" rather than to the subordinate participle "are disobedient." God appoints those who stumble to stumble because they do not believe. Their disobedience is not what God has ordained, but the penalty of their disobedience is (cf. Acts 2:23; Romans 11:8; Romans 11:11; Romans 11:30-32). [Note: Bigg, p. 133.]
The doctrine of "double predestination" is that God foreordains some people to damnation just as He foreordains some to salvation. This has seemed to some Bible students to be the logical conclusion we should draw because of what Scripture says about the election of believers (e.g., Romans 9; Ephesians 1). However this is not a scriptural revelation. The Bible always places the responsibility for the destiny of the lost on them for not believing rather than on God for foreordaining (e.g., John 1:12; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47; Romans 1-3).
". . . the point of 1 Peter 2:6-8 is to demonstrate the honored status believers have because of their relationship with Christ." [Note: Fanning, pp. 453-54.]
All the figures of the church that Peter chose here originally referred to Israel. However with Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:7) God created a new body of people through whom He now seeks to accomplish the same purposes He sought to achieve through Israel but by different means. This verse, which at first might seem to equate the church and Israel, on careful examination shows as many differences between these groups as similarities. [Note: See John W. Pryor, "First Peter and the New Covenant," Reformed Theological Review 45:1&2 (January-April & May-August 1986):1-3, 44-50, for an example of how covenant theologians, who believe the church replaces Israel in God’s program, interpret this and other passages dealing with Peter’s perception of the identity of his readers.]
"But this does not mean that the church is Israel or even that the church replaces Israel in the plan of God. Romans 11 should help us guard against that misinterpretation. . . . The functions that Israel was called into existence to perform in its day of grace the church now performs in a similar way. In the future, according to Paul, God will once again use Israel to bless the world (cf. Romans 11:13-16; Romans 11:23-24)." [Note: Blum, p. 231.]
Israel was a physical race of people, the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The church is a spiritual race, the members of which share the common characteristic of faith in Christ and are both Jews and Gentiles racially. Christians are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. We are not Abraham’s literal descendants, unless we are ethnic Jews, but are his children in the sense that we believe God’s promises as he did.
God’s purpose for Israel was that she be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6) who would stand between God and the rest of humanity representing people before God. However, God withdrew this blessing from the whole nation because of the Israelites’ apostasy with the golden calf and gave it to the faithful tribe of Levi instead (Numbers 3:12-13; Numbers 3:45; Numbers 8:14; cf. Exodus 13:2; Exodus 32:25-29). In contrast, every individual Christian is a priest before God. [Note: See John E. Johnson, "The Old Testament Offices as Paradigm for Pastoral Identity," Bibliotheca Sacra 152:606 (April-June 1995):182-200.] We function as priests to the extent that we worship, intercede, and minister (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6). There is no separate priestly class in the church as there was in Israel. [Note: See W. H. Griffith Thomas, "Is the New Testament Minister a Priest?" Bibliotheca Sacra 136:541 (January-March 1979):65-73.]
"Whatever its precise background, the vision of 1 Peter is that the Gentiles to whom it is written have become, by virtue of their redemption in Christ, a new priesthood in the world, analogous to the ancient priesthood that was the people of Israel. Consequently they share with the Jews the precarious status of ’aliens and strangers’ in the Roman world." [Note: Michaels, p. liv.]
"When I was a pastor, I preached a message entitled, ’You Are a Catholic Priest.’ The word catholic means ’general,’ of course. In that sense every believer is a catholic priest, and all have access to God." [Note: McGee, 5:692.]
God redeemed Israel at the Exodus and adopted that nation at Mt. Sinai as one that would be different from all others throughout history (Exodus 19:6). God wanted Israel to be a beacon to the nations holding the light of God’s revelation up for all to see, similar to the Statue of Liberty (Isaiah 42:6). He did not tell all the Israelites to take this light to those in darkness, but to live before others in the Promised Land. He would attract others to them and to Himself, as He did the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10) and Naaman (2 Kings 5). However, Israel failed. She preferred to be a nation like all the other nations (1 Samuel 8:5). Now God has made the church the bearer of His light. God has not told us to be a localized demonstration, as Israel was, but to be aggressive missionaries going to the ends of the earth. God wanted Israel to stay in her land. He wants us to go into all the world with the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).
God wanted to dwell among the Israelites and to make them His own unique possession by residing among them (Exodus 19:5). He did this in the tabernacle and the temple until the apostasy of the Israelites made continuation of this intimacy impossible. Then the presence of God departed from His people (cf. Ezekiel 10). In the church God does not just dwell among us, but He resides in every individual Christian (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). He has promised never to leave us (Matthew 28:20).
The church is what it is so that it can do what God has called it to do. Essentially the church’s purpose is the same as Israel’s. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; et al.) clarifies the methods God wants us to use. These methods differ from those He specified for Israel, but the church’s vocation is really the same as Israel’s. It is to be the instrument through which the light of God reaches individuals who still sit in spiritual darkness. It is a fallacy, however, to say that the church is simply the continuation or replacement of Israel in the New Testament, as most covenant theologians do. [Note: For further information on the subject of the church’s distinctiveness, see Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp. 22-47; idem, Dispensationalism, pp. 23-43; or Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, pp. 205-12.] Most theologians agree that the most basic difference between dispensational theology and covenant theology is that dispensationalists believe that the church is distinct from Israel whereas covenant theologians believe that the church is the continuation and replacement of Israel, the so-called "new Israel."
"In the ancient world it was not unusual for the king to have his own group of priests." [Note: Davids, p. 92.]
4. Summary affirmation of our identity 2:9-10
Peter proceeded to clarify the nature of the church and in doing so explained the duty of Christians in the world, particularly suffering Christians.
Peter highlighted the differences involved in our high calling by contrasting what his readers were and had before conversion with what they were and had after conversion. The church is not the only people of God in history. Nevertheless it is the people of God in the present age because of Israel’s rejection of the Corner Stone (cf. Romans 9-11).
"The evidence from the use of the Old Testament in 1 Peter 2:6-10 suggests that the Old Testament imagery used to describe the church in 1 Peter 2:9-10 does not present the church as a new Israel replacing ethnic Israel in God’s program. Instead, Old Testament Israel was a pattern of the church’s relationship with God as his chosen people. Therefore Peter uses various aspects of the salvation, spiritual life, and service of Israel in its relationship with Yahweh to teach his recipients the greater salvation, spiritual life, and service they enjoy in Christ. In his use of the three people of God citations in 1 Peter 2:9-10, the apostle is teaching that there are aspects of the nation of Israel’s experience as the people of God that are also true of the New Testament church. These elements of continuity include the election, redemption, holy standards, priestly ministry, and honor of the people of God. This continuity is the basis for the application of the title people of God to the church in 1 Peter 2:1-10.
"The escalation or advancement of meaning in Peter’s application of these passages to his recipients emphasizes the distinction between Israel and the church. Israel is a nation, and the national, political, and geographic applications to Israel in the Old Testament contexts are not applied to the church, the spiritual house, of 1 Peter. Furthermore, the initial application of these passages to the church by typological-prophetic hermeneutics does not negate the future fulfillment of the national, political, and geographic promises, as well as the spiritual ones, made to Israel in these Old Testament contexts." [Note: W. Edward Glenny, "The Israelite Imagery of 1 Peter 2," in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, pp. 186-87.]
Christians, generally speaking, do not understand or appreciate God’s purpose for the church that Peter presented so clearly here. Consequently many Christians lack purpose in their lives. Evidence of this includes self-centered living, unwillingness to sacrifice, worldly goals, and preoccupation with material things. Before Christians will respond to exhortations to live holy lives they need to understand the reasons it is important to live holy lives. This purpose is something many preachers and teachers assume, but we need to affirm and assert it much more in our day.
"Peter concludes the first major section of his epistle (1 Peter 1:3 to 1 Peter 2:10) by drawing the lines for a confrontation. Two groups are differentiated-’unbelievers’ and ’you who believe’-on the basis of their contrasting responses to Jesus Christ, the ’choice and precious Stone’ (1 Peter 2:6). The former are on their way to ’stumbling’ and shame, the latter to ’honor’ and vindication. The theological contrast between these two groups, with its consequent social tensions, will absorb Peter’s interest through the remainder of his epistle." [Note: Michaels, p. 113.]
"Beloved, I [or we] urge you" frequently marks off a new section of an epistle, as it does here (Romans 12:1; Romans 15:30; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:10 b; 1 Peter 5:14; Hebrews 13:22; cf. Hebrews 4:12; Hebrews 5:1). "I urge you" typically introduces exhortations. Again Peter reminded his audience of their identity so they would respond naturally and appropriately (cf. 1 Peter 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:17).
Aliens have no rights in the land where they live. Strangers are only temporary residents (cf. 1 Peter 1:17; Genesis 23:4; Psalms 39:12; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 13:14). Peter reminded his readers that, "This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through." Note the dual hendiadys that form an inclusio for 1 Peter 2:11-25: "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 2:11) and "Shepherd and Guardian" (1 Peter 2:25). A hendiadys is a figure of speech in which the writer expresses one complex idea by joining two substantives with "and." Here the meanings are "strangers who are aliens" and "the Shepherd who guards."
"Peter’s purpose is not to define his readers’ actual legal or social status in the Roman Empire . . . but simply to further his standing analogy between them and the Jewish people (cf. Hebrews 11:13 . . .)." [Note: Ibid., p. 116.]
In view of our status we should refuse the appeal of our desire to indulge in things that are contrary to God’s will for us. "Fleshly lusts" are selfish natural appetites that appeal to our sinful nature (cf. 1 John 2:16). We experience temptation to satisfy bodily desires in ways contrary to God’s will.
"The knowledge that they do not belong does not lead to withdrawal, but to their taking their standards of behavior, not from the culture in which they live, but from their ’home’ culture of heaven, so that their life always fits the place they are headed to, rather than their temporary lodging in this world." [Note: Davids, p. 95.]
Peter spoke of the soul as the whole person (cf. 1 Peter 1:9; 1 Peter 2:25; James 1:21; et al.). When we yield to the desires of the flesh that God’s Word condemns, we become double-minded, somewhat schizophrenic. This Peter aptly described as war in the soul. The antagonists are the lusts or will of the flesh and the will of God (cf. Galatians 5:17).
III. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CHRISTIAN INDIVIDUALLY 2:11-4:11
Since Christians have a particular vocation in the world, certain conduct was essential for Peter’s suffering readers.
"The address, ’Dear friends, I appeal to you,’ in 1 Peter 2:11 marks a shift from the identity of God’s people to their consequent responsibility in a hostile world. If 1 Peter 1:3 to 1 Peter 2:10 expanded on their identity as ’chosen people’ (cf. 1 Peter 1:2), the reference to them as ’aliens and strangers’ in 1 Peter 2:11 serves as a reminder that they are at the same time ’living as strangers’ (again cf. 1 Peter 1:2) in contemporary society." [Note: Ibid., p. xxxv.]
A. Our Mission in the World 2:11-12
Peter explained what Christian conduct should be negatively (1 Peter 2:11) and positively (1 Peter 2:12). Then he expounded more specifically what it should be positively in 1 Peter 2:13 to 1 Peter 4:11.
Peace in the inner man is necessary for excellent behavior before others. Part of the suffering Peter’s original readers were experiencing was due evidently to slander from unbelieving Gentile pagans. They appear to have been accusing them unjustly of doing evil. This has led some commentators to conclude that Peter wrote this epistle after A.D. 64 when Nero began an official persecution of Christians allegedly for burning Rome. I think this conclusion is reasonable.
Peter urged his readers to give their critics no cause for justifiable slander. If they obeyed, their accusers would have to glorify God by giving a good testimony concerning the lives of the believers when they stood before God. The "day of visitation" is probably a reference to the day God will visit unbelievers and judge them (i.e., the great white throne judgment). This seems more likely than that it is the day when God will visit Christians (i.e., the Rapture). The writers of Scripture do not refer to Christians’ departure from this world as an occasion when unbelievers will glorify God. However when unbelievers bow before God they will glorify Him (e.g., Philippians 2:10-11). For the original readers this would have applied to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. [Note: J. Dwight Pentecost, "The Apostles’ Use of Jesus’ Predictions of Judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, p. 141.]
"This brief section sketches Peter’s ’battle plan’ for the inevitable confrontation between Christians and Roman society. . . .
"The conflict in society is won not by aggressive behavior but by ’good conduct’ or ’good works’ yet to be defined. Peter’s vision is that the exemplary behavior of Christians will change the minds of their accusers and in effect ’overcome evil with good,’ . . ." [Note: Michaels, p. 120.]
B. Respect for Others 2:13-3:12
This section of the letter clarifies what it means to function obediently as God’s people in a hostile world. It contains one of the tables of household duties in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:13 to 1 Peter 3:7; cf. Ephesians 5:21 to Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1). Luther referred to these sections as Haustafeln, and some scholars still use this technical term when referring to these lists. However, this one begins with instructions regarding the Christian’s relationship to the state, which is similar to Romans 13:1-7. It is particularly our duties in view of suffering for our faith that concerned Peter, as is clear from his choice of material.
The Christian’s relationship to the state and to state officials is quite clear (cf. Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 3:1-2). We are to submit to the authority of government rulers by obeying them. We should do this not because these individuals are personally worthy of our submission necessarily, but because by submitting to them we honor God by obeying His Word (cf. Matthew 22:21). [Note: Bigg, p. 139.] Peter reminded his readers that government has a valid and necessary God-appointed purpose. The presence of political corruption should not blind us to the legitimate role of government that God has ordained. [Note: See W. Robert Cook, "Biblical Light on the Christian’s Civil Responsibility," Bibliotheca Sacra 127:505 (January-March 1970):44-57.]
Peter believed that there was a proper place for civil disobedience, however (cf. Acts 4:19-20). It is when the laws of human government make it illegal to obey God. In such a case we should obey God rather than man. However we should also realize that in disobeying the law we will probably have to bear the consequences of disobeying. The consequences may involve a fine, imprisonment, or even death. [Note: See Charles C. Ryrie, "The Christian and Civil Disobedience," Bibliotheca Sacra 127:506 (April-June 1970):153-62.]
"Ever since Christianity was first preached the Christian citizen has been a puzzle both to himself and to his rulers. By the elementary necessities of his creed he has been a man living in two worlds. In one he has been a member of a national community, in the other of a community ’taken out of the nations.’ In one he has been bound to obey and enforce the laws of his State, in the other to measure his conduct by standards not recognized by those laws and often inconsistent with them. This dualism has been made tolerable only by the prospect of a reconciliation. That prospect is, again, an elementary necessity of the Christian creed. Somehow, somewhere, the conflict of loyalties will end. The kingdom of this world will pass; the Kingdom of God will be established." [Note: Lord Percy Eustace, John Knox, pp. 73-74. Cf. John A. Witmer, "The Man with Two Countries," Bibliotheca Sacra 133:532 (October-December 1976):338-49.]
Some Christians have taken the position that believers are free to disobey their governments if the government permits conduct that is contrary to God’s will. [Note: E.g., Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, pp. 134-37.] Consequently some Christians feel justified in bombing abortion clinics, for example. However cases of apostolic civil disobedience recorded in Scripture involved situations in which believers had to disobey God’s will. Christians should practice civil disobedience only when the government requires its citizens to disobey God, not when it only permits them to disobey Him. Currently the United States government permits abortion, for example, but it does not require it.
". . . the principle of the redeemed Christian life must not be self-assertion or mutual exploitation, but the voluntary subordination of oneself to others (cf. Rom. xii. 10; Eph. 1 Peter 2:21; Phil. ii. 3 f.)." [Note: Kelly, pp. 108-9.]
1. Respect for everyone 2:13-17
Peter continued to give directions concerning how the Christian should conduct himself or herself when dealing with the state since his readers faced suffering from this source.
In the context Peter meant that by obeying the law we can obviate unnecessary and illegitimate criticism. Jesus did this by faithfully paying his taxes (Matthew 17:24-27; Matthew 22:21). Note that Jesus also told His disciples to pay their taxes even though Rome used their tax money for purposes contrary to God’s will. Paul taught that Christians should pay their taxes, too (Romans 13:6-7). Peter had learned that physical retaliation was not best since he had tried to defend Jesus by attacking the high priest’s servant in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:50-54; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50-51; John 18:10-11).
Christians are free in the sense of being under no obligations to God to gain His acceptance. He has accepted us because of what Jesus Christ did for us. Also we are free from the tyranny of Satan. We are no longer his slaves. We should not use this freedom to sin but to refrain from sinning.
"Liberty misused is like a mighty river flooding its banks and bringing terrible destruction upon all in its path. Liberty used as service is like a mighty river flowing within its banks bringing life and refreshment to all who drink of its waters." [Note: Cedar, p. 146.]
These four injunctions summarize our social obligations. The first two and the last two are pairs. We should respect everyone, but we should love fellow believers. God deserves fear whereas the emperor is worthy of respect. These two pairs connect with Jesus’ teachings that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27; Luke 6:35) and render to Caesar what is his and to God what is His (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25). [Note: Michaels, p. 123.]
All people are worthy of honor if for no other reason than because they reflect the image of God. Our primary responsibility to other Christians is to show them love (cf. 1 Peter 1:22; John 13:35). Our primary responsibility to God is to show Him fear (reverence, cf. 1 Peter 1:17). Peter added a final word about the king. He probably did so because his readers found it especially difficult to honor the Roman emperor, who was evidently Nero when Peter wrote this epistle (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-2).
"Peter called believers to a different spirit, a spirit of deference-even while experiencing undeserved persecution. The word ’deference’ conveys the idea of thoughtful consideration of another individual’s desires or feelings or the courteous, respectful, or ingratiating regard for another’s wishes. . . .
"’Deference’ refers to a proper attitude that results in behavior characterized by respect." [Note: James R. Slaughter, "The Importance of Literary Argument for Understanding 1 Peter," Bibliotheca Sacra 152:605 (January-March 1995):77, 78.]
Respect is not the same as honor. We may not respect someone, but we can and should still honor him or her. For example, I have a friend whose father was an alcoholic. My friend did not respect his father who was frequently drunk, often humiliated his wife and children, and failed to provide for his family adequately. Nevertheless my friend honored his father because he was his father. He demonstrated honor by taking him home when his father could not get home by himself. He sometimes had to defend him from people who would have taken advantage of him when he was drunk.
Similarly we may not be able to respect certain government officials because of their personal behavior or beliefs. Still we can and should honor them because they occupy an office that places them in a position of authority over us. We honor them because they occupy the office; we do not just honor the office. Peter commanded us to honor the king and all who are in authority over us, not just the offices they occupy. We may not respect someone, but we can and should honor them by treating them with respect. Respecting people and treating them with respect are two different things. Feeling respect for someone is different than showing respect for someone. Honoring others is our responsibility; earning our respect is theirs. This is especially difficult when those in authority are persecuting us.
In Peter’s culture the servant was the person who faced the most difficulty in relating to the person over him or her in authority. Masters traditionally enjoyed great power over their slaves. The Greek word translated "servants" (oikelai) means domestic servants, but in that society those people were slaves in that they had some limitations on their personal freedom. In our culture Peter’s directions apply to how we behave in relation to those directly over us in society (employers, bosses, administrators, teachers, et al.). [Note: For a different view, see William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, p. 36. See Wayne Grudem, "Should We Move Beyond the New Testament to a Better Ethic?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47:2 (June 2004):299-346, for a thorough and devastating, I believe, critique of Webb’s book.]
Again Peter commanded an attitude of respectful submission (cf. 1 Peter 2:13). The master’s personal character or conduct is not the reason for this behavior. We are to respond this way regardless of his or her actions (cf. Ephesians 6:5-8).
2. Slaves’ respect for their masters 2:18-25
Peter proceeded to address the situation of Christians working under the authority of others.
"The unusual fact, unnoticed by most Bible readers, is that he [Peter], along with Paul (1 Corinthians 7:21; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:9-10) and later Christian writers (Did. 4:11; Barn. 19:7), addresses slaves at all, for Jewish and Stoic duty codes (which in many respects this code in 1 Peter, as well as those in Ephesians and Colossians, resembles) put no such moral demands on slaves, only on masters.
"The reason for this difference between 1 Peter and other moral codes of his time is simple. For society at large slaves were not full persons and thus did not have moral responsibility. For the church slaves were full and equal persons, and thus quite appropriately addressed as such. The church never addressed the institution of slavery in society, for it was outside its province-society in that day did not claim to be representative, and certainly not representative of Christians, concepts that arrived with the Enlightenment-but it did address the situation in the church, where no social distinctions were to be allowed, for all were brothers and sisters (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11; Philemon 1:16), however shocking that was to society at large." [Note: Davids, pp. 105-6.]
Peter evidently addressed servants but not masters because he addressed a social situation in which some of his readers were household servants but few, if any, were masters. [Note: Michaels, p. 122.]
The reason we should behave this way is that this behavior is God’s will (cf. 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 2:17). The fact that this is how God wants us to behave is sufficient reason for compliance. Our conscious commitment to God should move us to do what is right resulting in a clear conscience. Probably many of Peter’s readers were suffering because of the persecution of their masters (1 Peter 1:6-7). The translators of the word "favor" in this verse and the next in the NASB (Gr. charis) usually rendered it "grace." In this context it means what counts with God, what pleases Him, rather than what He gives. [Note: Michaels, p. 139.]
However, Peter hastened to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable suffering. He did not want his readers to rest comfortably if they were suffering for their own sins. Nevertheless if they were suffering for their testimony, or without having provoked antagonism by improper behavior, they could rest confidently because God approved their conduct even if other people did not. What God rewards is endurance in His will (cf. James 1:4).
"Although 1 Peter 2:20 has domestic servants particularly in mind, neither it nor anything that follows is limited to them. Their experience, whether actual or hypothetical, becomes a paradigm for the experience of all Christians everywhere in the empire. The position of a household slave was tenuous, subject to the character and moods of the owner. Despite the justice of the state, the position of Christians in the empire was also tenuous, subject to differing local conditions and sudden changes in the public mood." [Note: Ibid., p. 135.]
Part of the Christian’s calling (1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 2:9) includes suffering (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus Christ suffered for His righteous conduct at the hands of sinners (cf. Matthew 26:67; Mark 14:65). We too can expect that our righteous behavior will draw the same response from the ungodly of our day (Matthew 11:29; Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:27; Acts 14:22).
Whereas Jesus’ atonement set an example for us, it accomplished much more than that. Peter cited only His example here in view of his purpose, which was to encourage his readers to endure suffering with the proper spirit. They also needed to remember that their experience duplicated that of Jesus. They were like children who place foot after foot in the prints of their elder brother who walks before them in the snow (cf. Romans 4:12; 2 Corinthians 12:18). The Greek word translated "example" (hypogrammon) refers to a writing or drawing that someone placed under another sheet of paper so he or she could trace on the upper sheet. [Note: See Robertson, 6:104-5, for other extrabiblical examples.] In the next few verses Peter expounded on Jesus’ example at length.
"These verses [21-25] contain the fullest elaboration of the example of Jesus Christ for believers in the New Testament." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, "Following Christ’s Example: An Exposition of 1 Peter 2:21-25," Bibliotheca Sacra 139:553 (January-March 1982):32.]
"Nothing seems more unworthy and therefore less tolerable, than undeservedly to suffer; but when we turn our eyes to the Son of God, this bitterness is mitigated; for who would refuse to follow him going before us?" [Note: John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, p. 89.]
Peter applied this prophecy to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:9).
"The OT statement is applied to Christ to indicate that in his total conduct, especially in his words, he followed God’s will." [Note: Goppelt, p. 210.]
This is quite a statement. Peter had lived with Jesus for more than three years and had observed Him closely, yet he could say that Jesus never sinned.
The absence of deceitful speech would have been ". . . particularly applicable to slaves in the empire, where glib, deceitful speech was one of their notorious characteristics, adroit evasions and excuses being often their sole means of self-protection." [Note: James Moffatt, "The General Epistles, James, Peter, and Judas," in The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, p. 127.]
Peter referred specifically to Jesus’ sufferings when He was on trial and during His crucifixion. Certainly Peter’s readers could find a strong example to follow there. "Revile" means to heap abuse on someone. Often our threats are empty; we cannot follow through with them. However, Jesus could have followed through. Instead He trusted God to deal with His persecutors justly, as we should.
"Peter’s picture of what Jesus did not do seems clearly molded by his memory of the messianic picture in Isaiah 53:6-7. Yet rather than quoting this passage, he gives his own confirmatory witness, thereby underlining the veracity of the prophetic portrayal." [Note: Hiebert, "Following Christ’s . . .," p. 37.]
Jesus’ sufferings reached their climax on the cross. Peter taught that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and laid down His life as payment for those sins (i.e., penal substitution; cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). He viewed Jesus’ cross as an altar on which a sacrifice was placed. [Note: Bigg, p. 147.]
We could translate the second part of this verse as follows: ". . . that, having broken with our sins, we might live for righteousness." Jesus Christ’s death separated our sins from us. Consequently we can now live unto righteousness rather than unto sin (cf. Romans 6:1-11).
"The idea is that, Christ having died for sins, and to sin, as our proxy or substitute, our consequent standing before God is that of those who have no more connection with our old sins, or with the life of sinning." [Note: Alan M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter, p. 121.]
Some writers have cited the third part of this verse to support the non-biblical doctrine that Jesus by His death made healing from any physical ailment something that every Christian can claim in this life. This is the belief that there is "healing in the atonement." The context of Isaiah 53, as well as the past tense "were healed" here, implies spiritual healing from the fatal effects of sin rather than healing from present physical afflictions. Peter used healing as a metaphor for spiritual conversion, as Isaiah did (cf. Mark 2:17; Luke 4:23). "Wounds" refers to the bruising and swelling left by a blow that a fist or whip delivered.
"The expression is highly paradoxical because stripes, which make bloody welts and lay even the flesh bare, are said to have wrought healing." [Note: Lenski, p. 124.]
Undoubtedly some of Peter’s original readers had received wounds in a similar fashion or were in danger of receiving them.
Peter concluded his citation of Jesus’ example (1 Peter 2:21-24). He reminded his readers that they too, as the sheep Isaiah referred to in the passage he just cited, had once wandered from God. Nevertheless now they had returned to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill the function of a shepherd by guarding their souls from hostile adversaries. Their enemies might assail their bodies, but the Lord would preserve their souls (whole persons) safe (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26