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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

1 Peter 2

Verses 1-25

Chapter Two - A New Nation

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:1-10).

Just as Israel, who went down into Egypt as a family of seventy souls, emerged from that land of bondage a new nation, under the divine leadership, so now believers in Christ, having been born of God, are constituted a new nation, whose citizenship is in heaven; and who, though living in this world, are not of it, nor to be fashioned according to it. Their habits and motives are of an altogether different order to what once characterized them as walking according to the flesh.

It was this that was symbolically emphasized in the imperative command to put away all leaven out of their houses and to eat only unleavened bread with the bitter herbs and the lamb that had been roasted with fire. We are told in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 to “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” This is that of which Peter exhorts as this new section opens.

One of our hymns says:

“Lord, since we sing as pilgrims,

Oh, give us pilgrim ways; Low thoughts of self, befitting

Proclaimers of Thy praise. Oh, make us each more holy,

In spirit pure and meek, More like to heavenly citizens

As more of heaven we speak.”

Even so are we admonished to lay “aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings.” What a clearing out of the old corrupt leaven is suggested here! How tightly these things cling to us even after we have been saved! With what readiness do we yield to the dictates of the old nature, giving way to unholy feelings, engendering evil humors, and forgetting we are to speak evil of no man. A thorough searching of our hearts for leaven such as these words describe, and burning it in the fire of self-judgment is most important as we begin the heavenward journey.

In order to obtain strength for the way we need nourishment, and that of a divine order. So, just as newborn babes desire milk we should thirst for the genuine milk of the Word, the revealed truth of God that, feeding upon it, we may grow unto salvation, as the Revised Version adds; not in order to obtain salvation in the sense of deliverance from the guilt of sin, but that salvation which means complete conformity to Christ to which we shall never attain until we see Him as He is. In the meantime, the more we meditate upon the Word the more like Christ we shall become, provided of course we have tasted already that the Lord is gracious. If we do not yet know Him we have not taken the first step in the pilgrim way.

Peter’s two Letters were based upon two great events in his life, two high and precious experiences which he was never able to forget. The First Epistle links definitely with that confession of Christ as the Son of the living God which Peter made in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus declared, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (a stone), and upon this Rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18).

The Second Epistle is linked just as definitely with the glorious vision on the mount of transfiguration, as we shall see when we come to consider it.

Whatever man may think, and however theologians may wrangle about the meaning of the Lord’s words to Peter regarding the Rock on which the Church is built, there can be no room for doubt as to how Peter himself understood them. He writes, “To whom (referring to the Lord of whose grace he had just spoken) coming, as unto a living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.” The house is the Church. The Rock upon which it is built is Christ Himself, the Living Stone. Every believer is also a living stone (made such by grace), builded upon Christ and cemented to his fellow-members by the Holy Spirit. So, too, teaches the Apostle Paul in the closing verses of Ephesians 2:0.

“View the vast building; see it rise.

The work how great; the plan how wise!

Nor can that faith be overthrown

Which rests upon the Living Stone.”

But not only are believers viewed as stones builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit, we are also “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” How different this from Rome’s claim to have authority to appoint a special priesthood who offer material sacrifices as they present a wafer before God and pretend it is changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, and is again immolated on their altars as a perpetual sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. The blasphemy of it all chills one’s blood even as we pen the words!

In Israel of old there were three special groups: the priesthood, the Levites, and the warriors. In the Church, or assembly of God, all are priests, to go unto God as worshipers; all are Levites, to serve their brethren in holy things; all are soldiers, to fight the good fight of faith. There is no separate priesthood now, no clerical order recognized by God as distinct from and with authority over those who are content to be called and call themselves mere laymen, or the laity.

All believers are a holy priesthood, as we learn in verse 9 (1 Peter 2:9), a royal priesthood also. We offer up the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15). This was the real sacrifice, even in the days of types and shadows (Jeremiah 33:11).

Reverting to the Rock foundation Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16 where of old God declared, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Corner Stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.” He who in God’s eyes is the infinitely precious One is the Elect Stone, the Head of the corner and the solid Rock upon which the spiritual edifice is builded. To those who believe in Him, He is indeed, not only precious, but also the preciousness; but unto the disobedient He is the rejected Stone whom God nevertheless has made Head of the corner (Psalms 118:22). Disowned by Israel and crucified, God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to this high place. But despite all the many witnesses to His resurrection there are myriads who refuse to believe. They stumble at the Word because of their disobedience, and to this they are appointed. Do not misunderstand; they were not appointed, or predestined, to be disobedient. God does not so deal with any man. The supralapsarian theologians dishonor His name while imagining they are defending His right when they so teach. But when men are determined to go on in the path of disobedience, God gives them up to strong delusion, thus appointing them to stumble. Believers are a chosen generation, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; they constitute a royal priesthood who, like Melchizedek, go out from the presence of God to bless mankind, and magnify the name of the Most High God; they are a holy nation, thus taking the place of that polluted nation which God has, for the time being, disowned. This new nation of pilgrims is now His peculiar people-that is, a people for His own possession, whose high calling it is to show forth His praises who has called them out of the darkness of nature, of sin, and of unbelief, into the marvelous light and liberty of the gospel.

In time past, as Hosea predicted (Hosea 2:23) they were not a people; now they are recognized by God as His own. They who were once Lo-ruhamah (“not having obtained mercy”) now have obtained mercy through faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again: when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judged 1 righteously: who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:11-25).

The Spirit of God now gives us important details concerning what should characterize the pilgrim band as they travel on through the wilderness of this world to the Canaan rest that awaits them when they reach the end of the way. Let us notice carefully each verse:

Verse 11 (1 Peter 2:11) ”As strangers and pilgrims.” Notice the order. Men often reverse it. But no one is really a pilgrim in this Biblical sense who has not first become a stranger in this world. As such, he is to be careful to avoid contamination with the evil that is all about him. He is to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” Just as Amalek came out and fought against Israel (Exodus 17:8), so these carnal desires would tend to turn the believer aside from the path of devotion to Christ, and so hinder his progress as he journeys on toward that which God has prepared for him (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Verse 12 (1 Peter 2:12) “They may by your good works … glorify God.” Just as Daniel’s enemies had to confess they could find nothing against him (Daniel 6:4-5) except “concerning the law of his God,” which was contrary to their accepted heathen practices, so consistent believers shut the mouths of those who would deride and vilify them, making these very foes of the truth bear testimony to the consistency of their lives.

Verse 13 (1 Peter 2:13) “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” As loyal subjects of the State, Christians are to be obedient to the laws passed, even though they may feel that in some instances they are unnecessarily arbitrary and even actually unjust. By their submission they honor Him whom they recognize as their Lord and Saviour. Whatever form of government may prevail, so long as it is recognized as the constituted authority of the country, we are to be in subjection, whether to a king or by whatever name the supreme executive is known.

Verse 14 (1 Peter 2:14) “Unto governors … for the punishment of evildoers.” Human government has been established by God that evil may be checked and righteousness encouraged. The fact that some rulers act contrary to the divine ideal does not absolve the believer from obedience to the powers that be. All human government manifests imperfection, but without its restraints society would be shipwrecked and anarchy would prevail. In principle, all constituted authority is intended to prevent crime and encourage honesty and good living.

Verse 15 (1 Peter 2:15) “With well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Nothing is a better answer to false and malignant accusations than a godly, upright life, against which no charges can be brought truthfully. Samuel is a good example of this (1 Samuel 12:3-4). There have not been wanting evilly-disposed men in all ages, who have sought to impugn the motives and malign the conduct of God-fearing people. The best answer to all this is a blameless life, and this involves obedience to law.

Verse 16 (1 Peter 2:16) “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness.” Christians have been called unto liberty (Galatians 5:13), but this must never be confounded with license to obey the dictates of the flesh. He who makes of his Christian profession a cloak to cover unrighteous behavior is a hypocrite who dishonors the worthy name of the One he professes to serve. Note the vivid contrast here. Those who, through grace, are free from the slavery of sin and free from the principle of legality in Christian service are nevertheless the bondmen of God, purchased with the precious blood of Christ, and so responsible to render glad, loving obedience to His Word. They are not to make their liberty an excuse for fleshly license.

Verse 17 (1 Peter 2:17) There are four admonitions in this verse. The third really covers all the rest. He who fears-that is, stands in awe of-God will not dishonor any man, and will love his brethren, and give due recognition to constituted authority. “Honor all men.” No man is to be despised. All are among those for whom Christ died. “Love the brotherhood.” This refers, not to the world in general, but to those who have been saved out of the world -those born again into the family of God. “Fear God.” Reverence Him whom we now know, not only as Creator, but also as Redeemer. “Honor the king.” Show due respect to the head of the government as one set by God in that very place, who is therefore accountable to God for the right exercise of the authority committed to him.

Verse 18 (1 Peter 2:18) Servants are exhorted to obedience to their own masters, and that “not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” It is easy to obey a master who is kindly disposed and considerate. But the grace of God is seen in yielding obedience to those who are harsh and needlessly severe. This verse has added force when we remember that in Peter’s day servants were generally slaves. The consistent behavior of Christians in bondage was used of God to lead many of their masters to Christ. Self-vindication is ever to be avoided on the part of the follower of Christ. He is called to imitate his master, who endured uncomplainingly the false accusation of sinners and lived His pure and holy life as under the eye of the Father, content to leave it with Him to justify Him in due time (Isaiah 50:5-8). The believer is to be subject to the laws of the land wherein he dwells, and to be a loyal citizen and an obedient servant in his particular calling. Thus by his good behavior he will show the falsity of the charges of malicious men, who would seek to make him out a menace to the State and an enemy of mankind. The early Christians were often so charged, but their consistent lives silenced their accusers.

Verse 19 (1 Peter 2:19) “This is thankworthy.” The real theme of Peter’s first Letter is the grace of God as manifested to and in the saints (1 Peter 5:12). The word rendered “thankworthy” here is really “grace.” It is grace active in the life, enabling one to bear up under false accusations and to suffer in silence when conscious of one’s own integrity.

Verse 20 (1 Peter 2:20) “If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, … this is acceptable with God.” Anyone can endure reproof when he knows it is deserved. It takes grace to enable one to accept undeserved blame without complaining; but to God it is acceptable, or well-pleasing, for this is to follow Christ’s blessed example. “It is hard to be blamed for what you did not do!” So said a troubled young Christian lately. But in this portion of God’s Word we are bidden to take our blessed, adorable Lord Himself as our example in this as in all else. He was falsely accused and bitterly persecuted for wrongs He had never done. As He left everything in the Father’s hands, so should we. Nature will rebel when we have to say, as He did, “They laid to My charge things that I knew not” (Psalms 35:11). But grace will enable us to triumph and to rejoice when men speak evil of us and persecute us (Matthew 5:11). If we endure patiently, as seeing Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27), we shall be vindicated in His own way and time, and reward will be sure at His judgment-seat (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Verse 21 (1 Peter 2:21) “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example.” He has trodden the path ahead of us. We are called to follow His steps. The word here rendered “example” suggests a top line in a child’s copybook. We are to reproduce Christ in our lives.

Verse 22 (1 Peter 2:22) “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” He was pure outwardly and inwardly, God’s unblemished, spotless Lamb; therefore a suitable sacrifice on behalf of sinners, as He would not have been had He Himself been in any way denied.

Verse 23 (1 Peter 2:23) “When He was reviled, reviled not again.” Jesus endured patiently all the shame and indignities to which wicked men subjected Him. Their evil accusations brought no answers from His holy lips. He left it to the Father to vindicate Him, in His own good time.

Verse 24 (1 Peter 2:24) “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” We dislike being blamed for other people’s faults, but He took all our sins upon Himself-bore all the judgment due to us-and so we are healed by His stripes, as depicted in Isaiah 53:5-6. Shall we then live in the sins for which He died? Rather, let us live now “unto righteousness” that He may be glorified in us.

Verse 25 (1 Peter 2:25) “The Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Once we were all like straying sheep, but through the grace of God we have been brought to know Christ. He is now our Shepherd, feeding and sustaining us, and our Bishop, or Overseer, guiding and directing us as we pursue our onward way through the wilderness of this world.

Having been saved by Him whom the world rejected, His pilgrim people have no reason to expect better treatment from that world than what was meted out to their Lord. When incarnate Love was here on earth, few received Him and many rejected Him. His followers need not be surprised therefore if their testimony is spurned by the majority and accepted by the minority. The Christian is not to think it strange that he, and that for which he stands, is not highly esteemed by the world. He is here as a light to shine for Christ in a dark scene. When Jesus our Lord returns He will estimate aright all His people have done and suffered for His sake, and He will reward accordingly. In the meantime it is better far to have the approval of the Lord than the approbation of the world which crucified Him.

We may epitomize the conduct which is inculcated in this section of the Epistle as follows:

Strangers And Pilgrims

Purity of life (1 Peter 2:11).

Honesty in word and deed (1 Peter 2:12).

Subjection to law (1 Peter 2:13-15).

Walking in liberty, not license (1 Peter 2:16).

Reverence for God and consideration for men (1 Peter 2:17).

Obedience to masters (1 Peter 2:18).

Enduring grief (1 Peter 2:19).

Patient under false accusations (1 Peter 2:20).

Following Christ’s footsteps (1 Peter 2:21-23).

Dead to sins and living unto righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).

Owning Christ’s authority, and under His care (1 Peter 2:25).

These are the characteristics of the new life which we who are saved have received by our second birth.

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Peter 2". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.