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Bible Commentaries

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

1 Peter 2

Verses 1-8

Christ the chief cornerstone

1 Peter 2:1-8

There is no subject more important than the nature and extent of the inward change that takes place when a man is savingly joined to Christ. Some think that this sanctification is God’s work and that man has nothing to do with it. They say that God saves us, sanctifies us, and works his will in us; and we need give no concern to the matter of holiness. Others think that the work of sanctification and personal holiness is man’s work entirely that God gives us the means and waits to see what we will make of ourselves.

Peter cuts both of these errors out by the roots. On the one hand he teaches that we are the elect of God, born of the Spirit, given a new nature, a new heart, a new direction, and indwelt by the Spirit of God. But on the other hand, this dramatic change is accomplished through knowledge and belief of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Mark 16:15-16). We are born again, but we are babes who must mature and grow. God has appointed means of growth the word, prayer, worship, fellowship, trials, personal determination and effort (2 Peter 1:5-8). ‘God worketh in you both to will and to do his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:12-13).

1 Peter 2:1. Peter exhorts us to lay aside (to be done with) these things that are disagreeable and contrary to spiritual life. Unfortunately, it is not a ‘once for all’ accomplishment but a continual effort of ‘laying aside’ the following:

1. Malice ill-will and ill-feeling toward others. Malice is born of self-love.

2. Guile or deceit. The word is used for all dishonest ways of gaining our goals. We must be men and women who speak the truth and who deal honestly with all men.

3. Hypocrisy. This is the opposite of sincerity. It is pretending to be what we aren’t and speaking with our lips what is not in our hearts.

4. Envy is the natural effect of malice and reveals the absence of love. Envy is the uneasiness a person feels in the happiness, prosperity, or success of another.

5. Evil speaking. When we think of evil speaking, we usually think of blasphemy or dirty words; but perhaps the worst and most damaging form of evil speaking is gossip, slander, and criticism of others. Whispering and fault-finding do not reveal a work of grace in the heart. The exhortation is to lay these sins aside.

1 Peter 2:2-3. ‘As new born babes.’ He takes for granted that we are born again and are little children in the family of God. Therefore, as a baby desires the breast, we should have the same hunger and thirst for the word of God that we may grow in grace, in love, in knowledge, in patience, in humility, and in faith. ‘Sincere’ milk is the pure, unmixed word of God. This is our real food not tradition nor man’s ideas and thoughts about the word, but the word of God itself.

1 Peter 2:3 is in reference to Psalms 34:8. If we have indeed tasted and know by our own experience that the Lord has been good and gracious to us in Christ, we will seek to lay aside these fleshly deeds that are dishonoring to him and uncharacteristic of his children; and we will feed on his word, which is our bread and meat. The new man lives on spiritual food. ‘The ear is the mouth of the mind.’

1 Peter 2:4. ‘To whom coming.’ Believing on Christ and living in Christ are not isolated acts of faith but a continuous coming to Christ, a continual exercise of faith in his love, his grace, his blood, and his intercession. We came to Christ and we continue to come to Christ, ‘looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.’

‘As unto a living stone.’ Peter is not the rock upon which the church is built, but Christ is that foundation stone (that stone that has life and gives life to the whole building). He was rejected and refused by religious leaders but chosen of the Father as Surety, Head of the church, Saviour of the body, and heir of all things.

1 Peter 2:5-6. Believers are stones found in the same quarry as all men, dug out by God’s grace, separated by God’s spirit, and given life by Christ. We are made a spiritual building and become the house of God (Hebrews 3:6). This is in distinction from the material tabernacle of old in which the presence of God dwelt in type. We are the tabernacle of God. We are a holy priesthood (like the priests of old) who offer sacrifices of faith, love, and praise, acceptable to God in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 2:6 is a quotation from Isaiah 28:14-16. These false religionists sought acceptance, deliverance, and protection from judgment and condemnation in form, ceremony, and works. They were not afraid, for they felt secure in their false refuges. But their refuge of lies shall be destroyed. However, we can have assurance and confidence if our refuge is Christ; for he is the stone (precious and sure) that God laid and tried. He who rests in Christ shall never be put to shame.

1 Peter 2:7-8. Unto you who have seen your guilt, who have seen your inability, who have seen your need of the Saviour, who have seen his grace and power to save, and who have received him as Prophet, Priest, and King, he is precious! He is precious in his person, in his sacrifice, in his offices, and in every way!

But to the unpersuaded and the unbelieving, the very stone which they rejected and refused has become the main cornerstone by the decree and act of God. Therefore, instead of being to them their foundation and refuge, he is a stone which causes them to stumble and is an offense to them (1 Corinthians 1:23; Romans 9:32-33; Matthew 26:31-33). They stumble at his birth and parentage, at his outward poverty, at his friends, at his doctrine, at his death. ‘Whereunto they were appointed.’ The scripture says that Pharaoh hardened his heart, but it also says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart! The scripture says that wicked men crucified Christ, but it says they did what God determined before to be done. We can say that stumbling and destruction is the appointed end of all who reject Christ, the cornerstone (Matthew 21:44); or we can say that those who willingly refuse Christ and stumble at his gospel of grace and substitution were vessels of wrath from the beginning (Romans 9:22-23); and we would be right on both counts.

Verses 9-16

Free men servants of God

1 Peter 2:9-16

1 Peter 2:9. ‘Ye are a chosen generation.’ The Father chose us out of every nation of his own sovereign will and pleasure (not because of our faith, holiness, or works) to grace here and glory hereafter (Ephesians 1:3-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

‘A royal priesthood’ (A kingdom of priests, Revelation 5:9-10). We are kings to wear royal apparel (the robe of Christ’s righteousness) and to reign with Christ forever. We are priests anointed by the Holy Spirit and allowed to draw nigh to God and offer up by Christ our spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise.

‘A holy nation.’ As Israel was separated from other nations and called the people of God, so we are true Israel, a special and holy nation (Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:28-29).

‘A peculiar people,’ or better, a special people to whom God bears a special love, favors with special blessings, and takes special care of (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

‘That you should show the praise of him who called you.’ Two important things are implied here.

1. We are saved to the praise of his glory and forever will be trophies of his grace so that all the universe might praise God for his mercy and grace (Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 2:4-7).

2. We are responsible to show by our lives, our words, and our deeds the praises of our merciful God (Psalms 150:6). Let others see our godliness and glorify your Father.

1 Peter 2:10. From eternity past, we have always been the people of God, given to Christ, represented by Christ as our Surety, and in his covenant of grace. But before Christ was revealed to our hearts and we were born of his spirit, we were not his willing people, not his servants or sons, but children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:1-4). We knew nothing of his mercy, but now we have obtained or received mercy!

1 Peter 2:11. Peter called them ‘dearly beloved’ to express his great love for them and to show that what he is about to teach comes from a sincere affection for them and a desire for their good. He calls them ‘strangers and pilgrims’ because they are strangers in an unfriendly world, they are different from the people about them, and they are bound for a better country.

‘Abstain from fleshly lusts.’ Every believer is still a human living in a natural body and subject to desires of the flesh and the body. Peter did not expect us to be totally free from these motions of sin; but he tells us to abstain from them, to suppress them, and refuse to give in to them; for they are enemies to spiritual peace, comfort, and growth. These cannot destroy the soul but can cause us much discomfort and unrest. Some of these fleshly lusts are pride, anger, jealousy, covetousness, envy, gossip, murmuring, and intemperance in all things.

1 Peter 2:12. ‘Conduct yourselves before your family, your fellow-workers, your neighbors, and your friends in an honest, righteous, and loving manner so that even though they speak of you as fanatics, radicals, hypocrites, etc., yet when real trial and examination is put upon you, when God visits you and them with affliction and trouble, they must admit that you are different, that you have something they do not have. Sometimes God visits us in prosperity, sometimes in disappointment, sometimes in joy, sometimes in sorrow. How you conduct yourselves under different tests will determine whether those who observe you glorify God or laugh at your profession’ (2 Samuel 12:14).

1 Peter 2:13-14. The Christian is to obey all of the laws of the land. We are to live in our community, state, and nation as good and obedient citizens; for civil government and rulers are ordained of God for our good and for our peace. We are to submit to high authority and to inferior men of authority (Romans 13:1-8).

1 Peter 2:15. By doing good works, by living honest lives, by a right attitude toward leaders and those in authority, we will take away from the enemies of God one of their chief weapons a critical tongue! Your godly lives will silence the ignorant charges and ill-informed criticisms of foolish people.

1 Peter 2:16. We are free men and women free from the curse and penalty of the law. We have freedom of access to God, but we are not free to sin; we are not free to live in contempt of laws that are binding on all men (God’s laws and man’s laws that are in accord with God’s law). We are not free to despise government and authority. We show ourselves to be the true servants of God by a holy and honest life.

Verses 17-25

Honor to whom honor is due

1 Peter 2:17-25

1 Peter 2:17. ‘Honor all men’ to whom honor is due, according to office, position, rank, authority, or circumstance, whether believers or unbelievers.

Husbands and wives are to honor and respect one another. Children are to honor, respect, and obey parents. Teachers and school officials are to be honored and held in great esteem. Pastors and elders are worthy of honor and respect. Government officials and all who are vested with civil authority are to be honored (Romans 13:1-8).

‘Love the brotherhood.’ This is special, family love for all believers who are of the same body, spirit, and faith. We are taught of our Lord to hate no one, but to love all people and especially those of the faith of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:9).

‘Fear God.’ This is not a slavish fear of wrath, judgment, and punishment, but a reverent and holy respect and awe before the living God. God is greatly to be feared, worshipped, and praised (Proverbs 9:10; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:17).

‘Honor the king.’ The king or president of a nation holds a high office and represents authority. That office and authority are to be respected and honored regardless of who the man may be. We salute and speak respectfully not so much of the man as the office or authority he represents. It is a sad commentary on our times when people speak disrespectfully and joke carelessly about leaders and officials, especially of the highest office of the land.

1 Peter 2:18. The unbelieving Jews had a notion that because they were the seed of Abraham, they ought not to be the servants of any. Some of the believers in Christ thought that they should not have to be subject to unbelieving masters since Christ was their master. They also had the idea that they should not have to serve and be obedient to believing masters since they were equally brothers in the Lord. Peter says that a workman, servant, or hired man is to be subject to, obey, and serve the person in authority with fear, respect, and loyalty whether he is a brother or an unbeliever. Faith does not do away with authority, a chain of command, and dedicated service (Ephesians 6:5-7).

1 Peter 2:19-20. If a believer is a good and obedient wife, child, servant, or subject and suffers persecution, endures grief, and is mistreated, his conduct and attitude are well-pleasing to God. However, if one is rebellious, lazy, and disloyal and suffers the consequences, there is no glory nor honor if he endures it patiently. We must not call it bearing our cross and suffering for Christ when our difficulties are brought upon us because of our own evil attitude and behavior (Matthew 5:11-12).

1 Peter 2:21. You were called to obedience, godliness, good works, and to bear whatever affliction, trial, and suffering that may result from a godly conversation (John 16:33; Philippians 1:29). If we must bear reproach and suffering in the pursuit of a true Christian conduct, then this is all part of our calling (2 Timothy 3:10-12).

1 Peter 2:22-23. Christ is our example! He committed no sin. He was in the world and did no sin. There was no guile, deceit, lies, or exaggeration in his mouth; yet he suffered. When men reviled him (calling him a devil, a wine-bibber, a friend of sinners), he did not revile them in return. When he suffered, he did not make them suffer in return nor did he threaten them with vengeance, but rather prayed for them. He committed his cause to the Father; he left his case with the Judge of all men, who will do right. This is our example! We may be misunderstood, ridiculed, and persecuted; but we are not to employ these same methods in our treatment of our enemies, but are to love and pray for them, leaving our cause in the hands of our Father! (Deuteronomy 32:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:15.)

1 Peter 2:24-25. Christ bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might be Justified, pardoned, and redeemed before God and that we, being dead to this world, should live righteously and godly. We were as sheep going astray, walking our own way; but by his grace and mercy, we have come back to our Shepherd and Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We live not to please ourselves but to please him who redeemed us! ( Rom 6:10-12 ; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.)

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Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 2013.