2:1 So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2:2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, 2:3 if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness.

Pure – ‘This food of the word is unadulterated (adolos). That is to say, there is not the slightest admixture of anything evil in it. Adolos is an almost technical word to describe corn that is entirely free from chaff or dust or useless or harmful matter. In all human wisdom there is some admixture of what is either useless or harmful; the word of God alone is altogether good.’ (DSB)

Spiritual – The word translated spiritual is ‘logikos‘, the adjective derived from ‘logos‘, word. The most natural meaning would then be ‘of the word’ (so AV). After all, Peter has just been speaking of the word of God which abides for ever, 1 Pet 1:23-25.

‘A proper diet for Christian growth eliminates the items in verse 1 and has a good appetite (crave) for pure milk as a baby does. Milk here does not stand in contrast to solid food (as it does in 1 Cor 3:2 and Heb 5:12) but includes all of the Word. ‘ (Ryrie)

Many people seem to expect the words of the Bible to hit them like a bolt of lightning each time they read or study it. Although this may happen from time to time, the word of God is more like food than a lightning strike. Its main effect is in building us up in strength and in resistance to disease. Look for the long-term, cumulative effects of regular, thoughtful Bible reading.

‘Let me advise you who aspire after a heavenly life, not to spend too much of your thoughts, your time, your zeal, or your speech, upon disputes that less concern your souls…I wish you were able to defend every truth of God, and to this end would read and study; but still I would have the chief truths to be chiefly studied…The least controverted points are usually most weighty, and of most necessary, frequent use to our souls.’ (Richard Baxter, The Saints Everlasting Rest, 313)

So that by it you may grow up in your salvation – or, rather, ‘into’ your salvation. ‘Peter uses the term salvation four times in his first epistle; (1 Pet 1:5,9-10 2:2) he refers to being saved three more times. (1 Pet 3:20-21 4:18) One of these references is to a present process of salvation, (1 Pet 3:21) and the rest refer to a future salvation. (except 1 Pet 3:20, which refers to Noah’s salvation) In 1 Peter salvation will not be revealed until the last time. (1 Pet 1:5) It comes after the end of the present process of suffering for Jesus. (1 Pet 4:19) Therefore it is something that one can grow up into (1 Pet 2:2; not “in” as NIV). In other words, Peter is relatively consistent in viewing salvation as something future.’ (HSB)

Tasted – Cf. Ps 63:5 Heb 6:5.

A Living Stone, a Chosen People

2:4 So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and priceless in God’s sight, 2:5 you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

In vv4-10 ‘we have one of the strongest expressions of the doctrine of the church, which brings out those points where evangelicals are often felt to be weak. This passage emphasizes: (1) When believers come to Christ, they are at the same time coming into the church; (2) the church has the character of a temple and must fulfill the functions of a temple; (3) the church stands in continuity with the people of God since the time God called Abraham and made him the father of many nations.’ (I.H. Marshall)

Christ is:-

1. the living stone, v4
2. the corner stone, v6
3. the rejected stone, v7
4. the stumbling stone, v8

Here is ‘a host of “Israel” terms [which] is applied to Peter’s congregations in Turkey, which included both Jews and Gentiles…Ezekiel’s vision of a new temple (Eze 40-48) is thus fulfilled not in some future literal temple in Jerusalem (as some believe) but in the church, where God’s presence is now focused, and his people offer sacrifices not of blood but of praise and obedient service.’ (Travis, p131)

A holy priesthood – cf. Heb 13:15-16.

Priesthood in the New Testament

Gk ‘hiereus‘; Lat ‘sacerdos‘.

‘This word is astonishingly absent as an order within the early church, in view of an abundance of priests Jewish and pagan in the world around. In connection with Christians it appears only four times in the New Testament, always referring to the whole redeemed people of God… (1 Pet 2:5-9; Rev 1:5-6; 5:9-10; 21:6) The theme of the priesthood of Christ is worked out in Hebrews but without any suggestion of an order of Christian priesthood. Its conclusion is that the self-sacrifice of Jesus has finally abolished all cultic sacrifice…The early Christians…were quite clear that whatever terms might be suitable to describe their ministry, the world of priesthood could not provide them’ (Melinsky, The Shape of the Ministry, 9)

It seems that it was Cyprian who began to make a connection between the Christian ministry and the OT priesthood. Augustine, however, refused to recognise such a connection

‘The priest, in the exercise of his ministry…represents Christ, who acts through him…It is this ability to represent Christ that St Paul considered as characteristic of his apostolic function.’ (Inter Insigniores, 1976)

‘The English Reformers were resolved, being consistent theologians, that their doctrines of justification and of the Lord’s Supper should be compatible with one another. They strenuously denied transubstantiation (“the change is not in the nature, but the dignity” – Latimer), the real presence of Christ in the elements (“his true body is truly present to them that truly receive him, but spiritually” – Cranmer), and the notion that the mass could be a propitiatory sacrifice (for then “doth this sacrament take upon it the office of Christ’s passion, whereby it might follow that Christ died in vain” – Ridley). They were also consistent (as we should be) in their vocabulary, believing that the presbyter is a minister serving a sacramental suppoer from a table, not a priest offering a sacrifice on an altar).’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 280)

2:6 For it says in scripture, “Look, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and priceless cornerstone, and whoever believes in him will never be put to shame.”
2:7 So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, 2:8 and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

God Is Sovereign Over our Destiny

‘The eternal destiny of all human beings is in the hands of God. The redeemed know that in some inexplicable way it is God who has planned and effectuated their salvation. (Eph 1:3-8,11-12) To God is due all the praise for the salvation of those who are redeemed. The status of the lost is more problematic, but no one, not even the unredeemed, are ultimately outside the will of God. (Pr 16:4 Rom 9:14-18 1 Pet 2:7-8) They are not forced to be lost, but choosing to reject God’s offer of mercy does not somehow free them from the control of God. Even their rejection has been included in the eternal plan of God. This is perhaps the worst part of it for them. In their attempt to be free from God by rejecting him, even if at the cost of their own souls, they find that there is no such thing. The net of God’s providence includes even the vain attempt to be outside the net.’ (EDBT)

2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 2:10 You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy.

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God – These designations allude to descriptions of Israel in Isa 43:20 and Exod 19:5–6.

The NT knows no distinction between clergy and laity.

You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people – An allusion to Hos 1:10f.  That passage is taken by some (e.g. Ryle, in Coming Events and Present Duties) to refer to the gathering and restoration of national Israel in the last days.  But Paul applies this to both Jews and Gentiles, Rom 9:24f, as does Peter here.

This passage, then, provides strong evidence for the notion that the church is the ‘new Israel’:-

McKnight (NIVAC): ‘There is no passage in the New Testament that more explicitly associates the Old Testament terms for Israel with the New Testament church than this one.’

Grudem (TNTC): ‘God’s chosen people are no longer said to be those physically descended from Abraham, for Christians are now the true “chosen race”.’

Some commentators imply that the church has replaced Israel in God’s purposes:-

Paul Achtemeier: ‘The twofold description of the new community (1 Pet 2:5; 2:9–10) shows by its language that the church has now taken over the role of Israel.’

Marshall: ‘It is impossible to avoid the impression that Peter deliberately says that the contemporary people of Israel are no longer God’s people, standing in community with his people in Old Testament times, but rather that the church is the true heir of Israel.’

The very idea of a theology of ‘replacement’ is, of course, anathema to those of a Zionist persuasion.  Such language is probably best avoided, lest it shed more heat than light on the debate.

That you may declare the praises of him – ‘The declaration of God’s praises includes both worship and evangelism, spreading the good news of God’s saving wonders to all peoples.’ (Schreiner)

‘God has made all things for his own glory. Prov 16:4. ‘The Lord has made all things for himself:’ that is, ‘for his glory.’ As a king has excise out of commodities, so God will have glory out of everything. He will have glory out of the wicked. If they will not give him glory, he will get glory upon them. Ex 14:17. ‘I will get me honour upon Pharaoh.’ But especially has he made the godly for his glory; they are the lively organs of his praise. Isa 43:21. ‘This people have I formed for myself, and they shall shew forth my praise.’ It is true, they cannot add to his glory, but they may exalt it; they cannot raise him in heaven, but they may raise him in the esteem of others here. God has adopted the saints into his family, and made them a royal priesthood, that they should show forth the praise of him who has called them. 1 Pet 2:9.’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)

Glorify God by living a good life. ‘A bad life dishonours God. 1 Pet 2:9. ‘Ye are an holy nation, that ye should shew forth the praises of him that has called you.’ Rom 2:24. ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.’ Epiphanius says, ‘That the looseness of some Christians in his time made many of the heathens shun their company, and would not be drawn to hear their sermons.’ By our exact Bible-conversation we glorify God. Though the main work of religion lies in the heart, yet our light must so shine that others may behold it. The safety of a building is the foundation, but the glory of it is in the frontispiece; so the beauty of faith is in the conversation. When the saints, who are called jewels, cast a sparkling lustre of holiness in the eyes of the world, then they ‘walk as Christ walked.’ 1 Jn 2:6. When they live as if they had seen the Lord with bodily eyes, and been with him upon the mount, they adorn religion, and bring revenues of glory to the crown of heaven.’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)

Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light – See 1 Jn 2:8

2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 2:10 You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Here we have a major shift in focus. Up until now ‘the outside world has been mentioned secondarily as the source of tribulation, as the vehicle of an alien lifestyle and as the arena for making known the mighty deeds of God. His readers are regarded as those who have been lifted out of the world into a new community. But now what about this world outside? How are Christians to live in relation to it? What should their attitude be toward it?’ (I.H. Marshall) These questions will be answered in the remainder of the Epistle. The section from 2:11-3:12 will deal with the Christian’s conduct in the world. The passage from 3:13-5:11 will consider the various crises that the Christian has to face in the world, and in particular, suffering.

In 2:11-3:12 Peter is saying, in effect that although the world is a hostile and alien place as far as the Christian is concerned, nevertheless our behaviour in the world should be upright in every way, its quality a positive witness even to those without faith.

‘The section has a general introduction setting the pattern of Christian living negatively and positively (2:11-12). Then Peter writes specific teaching dealing with relationships with the state (2:13-17), relationships between slaves and their masters (2:18-20) followed by a more extended theological motivation (2:21-25) relationships between wives and husbands (3:1-7), and finally a general admonition to all Christians (3:8-12). The teaching falls into the kind of pattern which has come to be known as a Household Code. We can trace in various New Testament documents how Christians were taught to behave in their different social relationships. (Eph 5:21-6:9; Col 3:18-4:1; Tit 2:1-10) These relationships are largely those of the family: husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves also, more broadly, the relationships of citizens to their government and of the old and young. There were, of course, accepted social customs with regard to these relationships, and many of the teachings of Christian writers can also be found in non-Christian authors of the time. This is not surprising. Christians have no monopoly on good ethical teaching, and being a good Christian often includes acting according to the prevailing social standards. The only difference may sometimes be that Christians do so more conscientiously and consistently because they are concerned to keep standards, not just set them up.’ (I.H. Marshall)

There are clearly some challenges for the expositor who is seeking to apply Peter’s teaching to today’s situation. For example, although Peter writes about the relationship between slaves and masters, he does not deal directly with that between employees and employers. Another problem is that, like Paul, Peter does not seem to question the status quo. Should we infer, then, that Christians have nothing to say about social and political change, about changing and improving the world? How would Peter react to our concerns about the struggle for liberation and justice in today’s world?

Aliens – That is, ‘resident aliens’. ‘The phrase refers to the way in which a person may temporarily reside in a different country, as, for example, when diplomats are sent to a post for a couple of years in another part of the world. They do not take up permanent residence and change their citizenship; they remain loyal to their own country. Of course they will respect the customs of the country and abide by its laws, but they are not entitled, for example, to vote in its elections or to recognize its rulers as his rulers. They are not expected to accept its religion or its morality.’ (I.H. Marshall)

Aliens and strangers – The phrase comes originally from Gen 23:4; cf. Heb 11:13. ‘The compound phrase brings out the fact that Christians are in the world for only a temporary period and do not have the status of citizens. They are here today and gone tomorrow. They do not put down firm roots. They belong to another country.’ (I.H. Marshall)

Aliens and strangers in the world

Peter has just been reminding his readers of their lofty status, in order to prepare them for their lowly service.

We are ‘aliens and strangers in the world’

  1. This was always true of men and women of God.  Abraham – Gen 23:4; Heb 11:13.
  2. This was also true of Jesus, Mt 8:20
  3. This world is not our home, Heb 13:14
  4. We should not allow this world to set our standards of behaviour, Rom 12:2

Sinful desires, which war against your soul – we once belonged to the world, in which we now find ourselves as aliens and strangers. There is always a temptation to go back to the old ways and attitudes. But these are sworn enemies of our new nature. It is a similar situation to that of a highly skilled footballer, whose tendency to alcoholism threatens to ruin his career.

The word ‘war’ was often used of a miltary campaign. It conjurs up many images of spiritual warfare, Eph 6:10ff. For the idea of sinful desires waging war on the soul, cf. Jas 4:1. ‘Temptation is a siege, Satan is the enemy without the walls, labouring to force an entrance; natural corruptions are the traitors within, that hold correspondence with the enemy without, and open the gate of the soul to receive him.’ (Flavel)

‘Sin remains in the regenerate. It ought not to. But it does. We are born again, we are Christians and yet sin rages within us. Our lives fall short of their potential. Our lives are not straight. They are transgressive and anomalous. There can be no bigger mistake than to forget this power and force and prevalence of sin in our lives. Indeed, we must build our whole spiritual strategy on this fact. We must remember that because there is sin in us we are spiritually inflammable. One thought from Hell, one suggestion, one opportunity to sin, can set our whole lives ablaze. That means that, as Christians, we have to live far from the boundary. We cannot live at the outer limits of the permitted. So often, we do just that. We ask, How far can I go? and we forget that the limits of the legal may not be the limits of our own tolerance of temptation. We must learn to draw the boundary, not at the point of illegality but at the point of our own temptability. Indwelling sin is not an abstract thing. It is intensely personal. The Christian, despite being in Christ, indwelt by his Spirit, born again and so splendidly resourced, is still so temptable!’ (McLeod, A Faith to Live By)

‘Recently a huge tree in Colorado fell to the ground with a resounding crash after having stood majestically on a hill for more than 400 years. A mere sapling when Columbus landed in San Salvador, over the centuries it had been struck by lightning 14 times, braved great windstorms, and even defied an earthquake. In the end, however, it was killed by some little beetles. Boring under the bark, they chewed away its mighty fibers until one day that lordly king of the forest came thundering down. So, too, apparently insignificant sins often make substantial inroads into our spiritual lives, and if left unchecked may cause our downfall. The idle word spoken, the prayer time omitted, and the occasional fleshly pleasure indulged-these things “spoil” the vineyard much more than we realize. If Satan gets an entering wedge on inconsistency, the leverage he then exerts is greatly increased.’ Cf. 2 Pet 2:18-22.

Have you no desire to see others converted by the gospel? Would you steal to heaven alone, and carry none of your neighbors with you? Now, how will you win them into a good opinion of the gospel, but by such an amiable life as may commend it to their consciences? It was a charge long ago laid upon Christianity that it was better known in leaves of books than in the lives of Christians; hence it is that many are hardened in their wickedness and prejudice against the gospel.

Gurnall

Live such good lives among the pagans – (Gk. ‘ethnos‘, lit. ‘Gentiles’). One is reminded of the saying, ‘I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.’ But Peter will not allow this: he will move straight from this general statement to some awkward particulars. ‘Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special regard to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.’ (Augustine of Hippo) Cf. Mt 5:16 1 Tim 6:18 Heb 10:24.

‘The effect of the Christian life lived out in difficult situations is often quite dramatic and forceful in its impact on the non-Christian. An article that appeared in Christianity Today (June 21, 1974), was about Christians in the Soviet Union. A former criminal, Kozlov, later a church leader, wrote of life in a Soviet prison:

“Among the general despair, while prisoners like myself were cursing ourselves, the camp, the authorities; while we opened up our veins or our stomachs, or hanged ourselves; the Christians (often with sentences of 20 to 25 years) did not despair. One could see Christ reflected in their faces. Their pure, upright life, deep faith and devotion to God, their gentleness and their wonderful manliness became a shining example of real life for thousands.”‘ Cf. Mt 5:14-16; Eph 5:8; Php 1:28-30; 2:15.

The need for God’s people to resist the sinful pressures of the cultures that surround them is repeatedly taught in both Testaments, Lev 18:1-5; Mt 5:13-16; Lk 22:24-26; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Eph 4:17-24.

This was the plea of Richard Baxter: ‘Oh brethren, what abundance of good works are before us, and how few of them do we undertake to do. I know the world expects more of us than we do ourselves, but if we cannot answer the expectations of the unreasonable, let us do what we can to answer the expectations of God, of our own consciences, and of all just men. For it is the will of God that with well-doing we should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.’ (The Reformed Pastor) Cf. Mt 5:16 Tit 3:8.

‘The standard of practical holy living has been so low among Christians that very often the person who tries to practice spiritual disciplines in everyday life is looked upon with disapproval by a large portion of the Church. And for the most part, the followers of Jesus Christ are satisfied with a life so conformed to the world, and so like it in almost every respect, that to a casual observer, there is no difference between the Christian and the pagan.’ (Hannah Whitall Smith). Cf. 2 Kings 17:15; Tit 2:12; Jas 4:4.

They may see your good deeds and glorify God – we are under the constant scrutiny of the world. Do we, by our behaviour, bring credit or discredit on the kingdom of God? Do we give them reason to believe, or to disbelieve, the gospel? Someone complained to a Christian, ‘What you do shouts so loud that I cannot hear what you are saying.’

The day he visits us – Possibly, the Day of Judgement, cf. Isa 10:3; Jer 10:15; 46:21; Ho 9:7; Mic 7:4; Lk 19:44. However, as Grudem points out, Scripture also talks about God visiting to deliver or bless, (Ge 50:24-25; Ex 13:19; Isa 23:17) and the phrase here lacks the definite article, indicating that a specific day (of judgement) is not exclusively in mind. So, perhaps Peter is referring generally to any time that God visits, either to bless or to judge.

Submission to Authorities

2:13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme 2:14 or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good. 2:15 For God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 2:16 Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves. 2:17 Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Submit yourselves – This introduces a leading concept in this central, practical section of the letter. Modern thinking is almost completely out of tune with Peter’s teaching at this point. We value personal freedom, assertion of rights, and so on. But Peter says that submission to once another for the Lord’s sake should characterise our behaviour whether in the context of citizenship (2:11-17), work (2:18-25), marriage (3:1-7), or the local church (3:8-12). An underlying thought is that each of these is an institution ordained by God, and he therefore has the right to tell us how they should work. Each is worthy of high honour, even though it may function in a very corrupt way.

Just-war theory was developed by Augustine, who wrote: ‘But those wars also are just, without doubt, which are ordained by God himself, in whom is no iniquity, and who knows every man’s merits.’ Just-war thinking looks to texts such as Rom 13:7 1 Pet 2:13-17 to support the involvement and co-operation of the Christian citizen in the civil, political and military affairs of his or her own government. Love for one’s neighbours does not exclude the possibility of a government enforcing Jesus himself affirmed the OT idea of retribution, Mt 5:17-26 7:13-23.

Love the brotherhood of believers – ‘The saints are the walking pictures of God. If God be our Father, we shall love to see his picture of holiness in believers; shall pity them for their infirmities, but love them for their graces; we shall prize their company above others. Ps 119:63. It may justly be suspected that God is not Father of those who love not his children. Though they retain the communion of saints in their creed, they banish the communion of saints out of their company.’ (Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer)

Submission to Authorities

2:13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme 2:14 or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good. 2:15 For God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 2:16 Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves. 2:17 Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.

This section (2:18-25) deals with relationships between Christian slaves and their masters. In reading this passage, we should bear in mind that there is both discontinuity and continuity between the social situation in Peter’s day and that of our own. The situation is different in that slavery no longer exists in our own society. And yet Peter’s teaching has a great deal to say about employer/employee relations today.

Slaves – Domestic servants often found in Greek and Roman households. In a sense, neither the word ‘slave’ nor the word ‘servant’ carries quite the right meaning. The first conjures up images of the terrible degradation of slaves associated with the American South a century or two ago. The second does not do justice to the degree of ownership, control, and sometimes abuse that people were subjected to in ancient times.

‘The conditions of slaves in the ancient world varied enormously. The situation presupposed here is largely that of domestic slaves working in large houses, estates and farms. But there were also large numbers of public slaves, and, in Asia Minor, some large temple estates whose workers were more like serfs. People were enslaved for various reasons: being the children of slaves, being prisoners of war or falling into debt. Their conditions of service also varied. The general tendency in New Testament times was toward improving the lot of slaves. Manumission was possible if a slave could raise sufficient money from his earnings to secure redemption or could make a contract to continue to serve his former master as a free person. Nevertheless, slaves had no legal position, and a recalcitrant slave was very much at the mercy of his owner. Appalling riots among the vast armies of slaves who worked on gigantic farms in Italy were put down with immense cruelty. Unlike Paul, who taught mainly slaves with Christian masters, Peter is concerned here with slaves working in the homes of pagan masters.’ (IVP)

Submit – The same word is used in v13 and in 3:1). ‘The word has the literal meaning of stationing oneself beneath someone else, and so regarding the other person as superior to oneself (as in Php 2:3). Both Jesus (Jn 18:22-23) and Paul (Ac 25:10-11) show us that this does not mean that Christians are to be doormats; they may stand up for their legal rights.’ (NBC) This teaching is particularly important, given that Christian slaves will realise that they are equal to their masters before God. But they are to be respectful and obedience, whether their masters’ behaviour warrants it or not.

Respect – The word is phobos. Some think that the fear of the Lord is in mind here. However, the word has a variety of shades of meaning, and human respect can be one of these, cf. 3:2.

Commendable – The word is charis (grace).

Unjust suffering – Cf. Lk 6:32-35. ‘Such treatment offers a golden opportunity to show the uniqueness of Christian service…If the Christian responds in kind – good for good, evil for evil – he becomes merely a victim when he is treated unjustly. In burning resentment he seeks an opportunity to repay the evil. But if he bears the evil patiently he has broken the chain of bondage in the power of the Lord. He shows his confidence in God’s justice.; he need not avenge himself. He also sho his service is not really forced by voluntary. He is willing to serve his master for the Lord’s sake, even to honour him for the Lord’s sake. His master cannot enslave him, for he is Christ’s slave; he cannot humiliate him, for he has humbled himself in willing subjection’ (Clowney)

The possibility that slaves could suffer unjustly at the hands of their masters contrasts with the teaching of, say, Aristotle, who held that one could not treat slaves unjustly since they were, in effect, chattels and not persons.

Conscious of God – The word usually means ‘conscience’ (1 Pet 3:16); but ‘conscious of God’ and ‘conscience towards God’ mean substantially the same thing.

‘We are called to suffering. ‘If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called.'(1) Peter was writing when Nero’s hostility to Christians was growing and the storm clouds of persecution were gathering ominously on the horizon. At any moment the storm might break. How then should Christians react if they suffered unjustly? Peter’s answer was straightforward. They were called to follow Christ’s example of non-retaliation. It comes as a shock to many people that unjust suffering is an unavoidable part of the Christian calling. But Jesus himself warned us of it. ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. …If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also, Jn 15:18,20.’ (John Stott, The Contemporary Christian)

2:21 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 2:22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 2:23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly.

In citing the example of Christ, Peter is not only providing a rationale for the behaviour of slaves towards masters who abuse them, but also a rationale for the whole of Christian behaviour. Indeed, Peter will speak of Christ not only as an example of meekness in suffering, but as a unique sin-bearer (and, of course, in the respect, we cannot possibly follow his example). In the words of Denney, ‘It is as though the apostle could not turn his eyes to the cross for a moment without being fascinated and held by it. He saw more in it habitually, and he saw far more in it now than was needed to point his exhortation to the wronged slaves. It is not their interest in it, as the supreme example of suffering innocence and patience, but the interest of all sinners in it as the only source of redemption by which he is ultimately inspired.’

To this you were called – harking back to the dignity of the Christian calling, 2:9. But Peter tells them that they have been called to follow the example of Christ, and to suffer as he suffered.

The Christian response to suffering is not the same as stoic resignation. It is our calling, not our fate. Not all kinds of suffering are in view here. There is a suffering because of sin, 2:20; 3:17. But there is also a righteous suffering for Christ’s sake. This has the effect of purifying us, 1:7; 4:12. In this suffering we follow the example of Christ, who suffered innocently, for the sake of God and for the salvation of others. We suffer for his sake, and for the sake of winning others to him, 3:1f; 4:13-16.

An example – The word indicates a pattern, such as might be traced by a child.

You should follow in his steps – Peter had followed the Master through the hills of Galilee and across fields of corn. He had avoided, though, following Jesus on the procession that led to Calvary. Now he calls all Christians to accompany him in following Christ every step of the way.

The Significance of Jesus’ Suffering

‘To the surprise of some commentators Peter does not summarize the historical facts surrounding the death of Jesus, which would depict him as an example of patient suffering. These were readily remembered by eyewitnesses like himself and recorded in the Gospels. Instead Peter prefers to describe the sufferings of Jesus in terms drawn from the portrait of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh in Isaiah 53. As such he is not concerned simply to present the facts of Jesus’ suffering but rather to explain its theological significance: Jesus suffers as the Servant of Yahweh and fulfills his destiny to bear the sins of others and so bring them to God.’ (I.H. Marshall)

Peter describes the sufferings of Christ, then, in terms drawn from Isa 53. It is, perhaps, no co-incidence that Peter, having addressed household servants, v18, holds Christ up as the suffering servant whom they should seek to emulate. Christ’s sufferings were:-

innocent non-retaliative (i.e., meek) trusting vicarious atoning sanctifying

‘He committed no sin’ – The uniqueness of Christ is seen, not only in the things which he did do, but also in the things which he did not do:-

  1. He never withdrew or modified anything he said. He who was the Truth, always spoke the truth.
  2. He never confessed any sin. The best and holiest of men and women have been the first to acknowledge their sin and failure. But not Jesus. His life stood up to the closest of scrutiny.
  3. He never apologised for anything that he said or did. And this, even though the ability to say, “I’m sorry” is, in the rest of us, a sign of both humility and maturity. The simple”] explanation is that jesus performed no action, spoke no words, that required apology.
  4. He never attempted to justify ambiguous conduct. His delay in responding to the appeal of the two sisters when Lazarus fell ill was open to misunderstanding, but he was content to leave the unfolding of his Father’s plan to vindicate his actions.

(after J.O. Sanders)

‘No New Testament writer has a problem with submission, for it is what Jesus practiced.’ (HSB)

When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate – Mt 27:12-14 demonstrates our Lord’s silent submission when he was insulted.

He entrusted himself to him who judges justly – As Grudem notes, Peter does not commend here either a cathartic outburst of anger or a repression of it, but a commital of the situation into God’s hands. God can be relied upon to vindicate us in the end.

2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. 2:25 For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Christ has been presented as our example. But he is more than that: he is our sin-bearer. ‘This was his business, not only to rectify sinful man by his example, but to redeem him by his blood’ (Leighton)

He himself bore our sins – ‘When we look upon sin through Satan’s spectacles, and the cloud of our own passions and carnal affections, we make nothing of it; but in the agonies of Christ, and the sorrows and sufferings of his cross, we see the odiousness of it, that it may become more hateful to us. No less remedy would serve the turn than the agonies, bloodshed, and accursed death of the Son of God, to procure the pardon and destruction of sin. By this sin-offering and ransom for souls we may see what sin is.… We make light of sin, but Christ found it not so light a matter to expiate it.’ (Manton)

The tree – as one accursed of God, cf. Deut 21:22-23.

So that we might die to sins and live for righteousness – or, ‘that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness’ (ASV). Peter had begun this section by speaking to slaves; now he includes all believers, including himself (‘we’).

By his wounds you have been healed – Peter was well-acquainted with Jesus’ miraculous healing ministry.  But the context here decisively shows that he is thinking of that healing which consists of forgiveness of sins, peace with God, enablement to suffer persecution, and empowerment to live righteously before God.

As Lightner says: ‘Even though Peter does not claim to be quoting Isaiah, there is surely an obvious similarity and relationship between 1 Peter 2:24 and Isaiah 53:5. In both instances the central idea is spiritual healing which is related to Christ’s death and not the physical healing which He performed in His holy life.’ (The Death Christ Died, p20)

The Shepherd and Overseer of your souls – Christ is the example not only of servant-suffering, but of servant-ministry.

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