1 Peter 2:1-25

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“Therefore” (in view of having accepted the word of God and experienced being born anew), believers should rid themselves of “all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all defamation.” In the Greek text, the words for hypocrisy, envy, and defamation are plural, suggestive of the various manifestations of such. “All evil” includes all acts that are harmful to oneself or to others and are contrary to God’s revealed will. “All deceit” designates all crafty or underhanded practices, treachery, cunning, and attempts to take unfair advantage of others. A hypocrite is a person who plays a part, hiding his real intent or true identity as if wearing a mask. Expressed as a plural, hypocrisy would embrace all forms of dissembling, putting on a pretense, and hiding one’s real purpose or motivation. Envy, in its various manifestations, involves looking with displeasure at what others may have or what they are able to enjoy and wanting as one’s own that which one begrudges being the possession of others. Defamation, speaking evil of others, or slander stem from the same malicious disposition as envy. All these traits are contrary to the kind of love that should exist among children of God in their interactions with one another and with unbelievers. (2:1; see the Notes section.)

For believers to grow spiritually, they must free themselves from such corrupt behavior that contributes to disunity and conflict. Only when love and peace exist can there be progress in living the kind of life that should characterize God’s obedient children. With undesirable traits put away, believers should, “like newborn infants, long for the true [logikós], unadulterated [ádolos] milk that by it [they] might grow into salvation.” Not all believers in Asia Minor were new believers. So it does not appear that they are being addressed as newborn infants. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on their being like newborn infants who are eager for milk, the liquid nourishment that fully satisfies their need for food and is essential for their growth. (2:2)

Like such infants, believers should long for the “milk” or teaching that is required for spiritual well-being and development. The Greek words that describe this milk are logikós and ádolos. Logikós denotes that which is logical, rational, genuine, or true. Numerous translation render the word as “spiritual” (the opposite of literal). Ádolos signifies that which is without deceit, pure, or unadulterated. Earlier, in this letter, the evangel or good news about Christ was identified as the living and enduring word of God. (1:25) So it would seem that the “true, unadulterated milk” designates the trustworthy, pure teaching about Jesus Christ and what his Father has accomplished through him. The word or message from which believers should derive their spiritual sustenance would include everything that Jesus Christ revealed by his words and the example he set in doing his Father’s will. When believers continue to draw their nourishment from the glad tidings about Christ, centering their thoughts on his example and teaching and striving to imitate him, they will “grow into salvation,” that is, attain to the final deliverance from the distress they experience in the world and come to enjoy the total liberation from sin as part of God’s sinless family. (2:2; see the Notes section.)

The Greek word ei with which the sentence that began in verse 1 continues does not appear to have the usual meaning of “if.” This seems apparent from the word for “tasted,” which is the form of the Greek verb geúomai in the aorist tense and indicates a past event. So the preferable meaning for ei would appear to be “since” “for,” or “because.” It would be because of having “tasted” or experienced that the “Lord is kind” that believers should crave the “true, unadulterated milk.” Numerous translations convey this significance (“because you have already examined and seen how good the Lord is” [NCV]; “for surely you have tasted that the Lord is good” [REB]; “for you have tasted that the Lord is good” [NAB]). They had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as being kind. In expression of his love and compassion, he had surrendered his life for them. So they knew that he was kind and loving, displaying the spirit of a caring friend and not the harsh attitude of a superior. (2:3; Matthew 11:28-30; John 15:12-14; see the Notes section and Psalm 34:8 [33:9, LXX], where, with reference to God, the same thought about tasting is expressed.)

Unlike unbelievers who reject Jesus Christ, choosing to be far from him, believers would seek to continue to draw close to him. Believers would be coming to him, a “living stone, rejected by men, but chosen [and] precious to God.” They initially came to him upon accepting him as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and his sacrificial death for them. As believers, they continue to come to him, looking to him for his aid and guidance. He is a “living stone,” not a common stone that has no life-sustaining properties. The Lord Jesus Christ is like the rock from which the Israelites miraculously were provided with life-sustaining water during their time in the wilderness. From him, everything that is essential for eternal life, the life of an enduring relationship with him and his Father, is available. (2:4; Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11; John 4:14; 6:35-37; 7:37, 38; 1 Corinthians 10:4)

The ultimate rejection came when the leading men in the Jewish nation condemned him to death. To God, however, he is “chosen” and “precious.” His Father, according to his predetermined purpose, chose the Son to redeem humans from sin and condemnation and to reconcile them to himself. The Father revealed just how precious his Son is to him when he resurrected him and exalted him as King of kings and Lord of lords with all authority in heaven and on earth. (2:4)

Believers are at one with Jesus Christ and so are sharers in his life, for they enjoy a newness of life on account of their faith in him. As he is the “living stone,” they are “living stones” (forgiven of their sins and so having been liberated from the condemnation to which sin leads, namely, death). They are built on him, being aligned with him as the foundation stone, to form a “spiritual house,” to serve as a “holy priesthood.” In their priestly capacity, they offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Seemingly, the entire community of believers is being likened to a “house” or building, with all within this community being priests. The sacrifices they offer are “spiritual,” not like the animal and grain offerings that were then presented at the temple in Jerusalem. These spiritual sacrifices include prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and all the deeds that contribute to the physical and spiritual well-being of others and are an expression of love and concern for those in need. (2:5; Psalm 50:14; 107:22; 141:2; Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15, 16; see the Notes section.)

On the basis of their faith in Jesus Christ and his having died for them, believers are in an approved condition before his Father and so can present acceptable spiritual sacrifices to him. On their own merit, this would not be possible. It is only “through Jesus Christ” that their spiritual offerings become acceptable. (2:5)

The quotation from Isaiah 28:16 is an abbreviated version of the extant Septuagint text and supports that Jesus Christ is indeed the “stone.” This quotation is introduced with the words, “For it is found in scripture.” Then follows the quotation, “Look! I am laying in Zion a cornerstone, chosen, precious; and the one believing on it [the cornerstone] will not be put to shame.” God laid the cornerstone in Zion. He did so when sending his Son to the earth as the Messiah, Christ, or the Anointed One (the king who was promised to come), and Jesus Christ presented himself as king when he rode into Zion or Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. It was then that he could have been accepted by all as the precious cornerstone that was rightfully the object of faith, confidence, or trust. All who put their trust in Jesus Christ as the sure foundation for their entire life, looking to him for aid, guidance, and the sure fulfillment of their God-given hope, will never experience the shame or disappointment of those who find the object of their confidence to be undependable. In the Greek text, there are two different words for “not,” emphasizing that shame would by no means be something believers would experience because of having put their trust in Jesus Christ as the precious cornerstone. God chose his Son to be the dependable “stone,” the “cornerstone” occupying the foremost position in relation to all the other “stones” that would be brought into harmony with and conformity to him. Moreover, Jesus Christ is very precious to his Father, having proved himself flawless under the severest of tests. (2:6)

Believers are in full agreement with God’s evaluation of his Son. To all who put faith in Jesus Christ, he is “precious,” deserving to be accorded the highest honor for what he has done for them when surrendering his life. When the prominent ones in the Jewish nation refused to put faith in him and plotted to have him killed, they proved themselves to be the “builders” who rejected this stone (as expressed in Psalm 118:22 [117:22, LXX]). But their efforts did not prevent his Father from raising him from the dead and highly exalting him with all authority in heaven and on earth, making him the “head of the corner” or the most important stone (either the cornerstone or the head stone). (2:7)

To those who rejected Christ, treating him like a stone that was unfit for their purposes, he came to be (as indicated in Isaiah 8:14) a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense [or, ‘a rock that causes falling’].” He is like a rock or obstacle in the way of those who persist in unbelief, a rock they cannot avoid encountering, causing them to stumble or to fall to their injury. On account of their “being disobedient to the word,” or their refusing to accept the message about Christ, “they stumble,” their unbelief preventing them from being forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God as his beloved children. Deliberate persistence in unbelief would finally mean a fall resulting in perpetual ruin for them. (2:8)

The words “for which also they were put” are probably to be understood to mean that God established that, to all who would remain disobedient or refuse to believe, the “stone” would be one that causes stumbling or falling. Translators have variously rendered the concluding part of verse 8. “This is the fate appointed for them.” (REB) “They stumble because they do not obey what God says, which is what God planned to happen to them.” (NCV) “It was the fate in store for them.” (NJB) “Yes, they stumble at the Word of God for in their hearts they are unwilling to obey it — which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion.” (J. B. Phillips)

Believers, however, have come to enjoy unparalleled dignity. As a community, they are a “chosen race,” or the people whom God has chosen as his own. Believers constitute a “royal priesthood.” Their royal or kingly status may indicate that they would be sharing with Christ in his rule or that, by reason of their relationship with him as the King of kings, they are part of the royal family. Their whole life is one devoted to serving God and so the community of believers forms a priesthood. They are a “holy nation,” a people forgiven of their sins and purified on the basis of their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for them. Having been bought with Jesus’ precious blood, they are his Father’s property and, for this reason, may be called “people for [his] possession.” Believers are uniquely God’s own people. (2:9)

The honorable status that has been granted them as an expression of God’s unmerited favor is one of service. Believers are to “proclaim the virtues [or, ‘wonderful acts’] of the one who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Their responsibility is to make known to others all that God has done and has proved himself to be, particularly in connection with his Son. (2:9)

Before coming to be believers, they had been in darkness, without enlightenment and the light of God’s favor. They were dead in sins and, like persons groping in the dark, lacked dependable guidance and reliable aid. Upon putting faith in Jesus Christ, they came to enjoy God’s marvelous light. No longer were they in a helpless state and ignorant of God’s ways. Their life came to have purpose as his beloved children, forgiven of their sins and enjoying a newness of life (comparable to being raised from the dead). They ceased to be part of a world that found itself in darkness under the dominion of the powers of darkness and with no hope of liberation from this bondage. (2:9)

The contrast to their past condition is apparently drawn from the prophetic words of Hosea (1:6, 9; 2:1, 23, LXX), “Once [you were] not a people, but now [you are] God’s people; [you were] not granted mercy, but now [you] have been granted mercy.” At the time of their being in a state of alienation from God, they were not his people. Nor were they then recipients of his mercy. Upon becoming believers, they were shown unparalleled compassion, being forgiven of their sins and coming to enjoy God’s loving care, guidance, and aid. (2:10)

Peter addressed believers as “beloved ones,” for they were fellow children of God. He admonished them as “strangers and resident aliens” to abstain from “fleshly desires.” They found themselves in the position of strangers and resident aliens among the masses who lived their lives out of harmony with God’s ways. Although believers had been forgiven of their sins and enjoyed an approved standing with God, they were not liberated from their sinful human nature that gave rise to desires which were contrary to a life as his obedient children. Their fleshly desires were comparable to an army that warred “against the soul,” trying to get control of the soul or the entire person and exerting intense pressure to be satisfied. With the aid of and their active cooperation with God’s spirit, believers could resist succumbing to these fleshly desires. (2:11)

As strangers and resident aliens among the nations, believers needed to conduct themselves in a good or exemplary manner. They were often the object of misrepresentation or unfavorable talk because of standing out as different from the people among whom they lived. Their good works, which included rendering compassionate aid to needy ones, and their praiseworthy conduct as honest, reliable, truthful, and caring persons would serve to counteract the misrepresentations of those who maligned them as evildoers. When seeing their good works, persons who had misrepresented believers could come to recognize that they had been wrong when they spoke against them and might be motivated to become believers. This could result in such former detractors being among those who would “glorify God in the day of visitation.” To “glorify God” would mean to praise him for who he is and for everything that he has done. The “day of visitation” designates the future time when God would judge, doing so by means of his Son. (2:12; Acts 17:30, 31)

Each of the various governing authorities existing in society is a “human creation.” Believers should be showing proper regard for the humanly created positions ruling authorities occupy, submitting to persons who exercised authority over them. Believers should not be a disruptive element in the existing social order that contributes to a measure of stability in the world. Their submission to governing authorities is “because of the Lord,” or out of regard for the Lord Jesus Christ whom they want to represent in the best way possible. If they rebelled against duly constituted authority or conducted themselves in violent or disrespectful ways, they would bring reproach on the Son of God and his Father. In the Greco-Roman world, the king or emperor as sovereign occupied the supreme position. (2:13)

To administer affairs in the empire, the emperor appointed governors and sent them to the various regions under his dominion. As his representatives, governors could inflict punishment on wrongdoers and could praise, commend, or honor persons who merited such for doing what was considered to be good or laudable. (2:14)

God’s will for believers is that they be submissive to the authorities over them and maintain exemplary conduct. Their doing what is good can serve to silence the misrepresentations of senseless people who, in their ignorance, malign them. The respectful and laudable conduct of believers would expose the slanderous talk as being false. (2:15)

Believers are free, having been liberated from enslavement to sin and the condemnatory judgment it merits. The marvelous freedom they enjoy as God’s approved children, however, is not to be abused and used as a cover for badness. Instead, proper use of freedom requires conduct that is consistent with their being “slaves of God,” fully submitting themselves to his will and conforming to his upright ways. (2:16; see the Notes section.)

In their interactions with others, believers were to honor all persons, according them the dignity and respect that is owing to members of the human family. For the “brotherhood,” the community of fellow children of God, they were to show love, the deep affection that exists in caring families. In keeping with his high station, the king or emperor had the right to be honored. When showing honor to him, believers would have done so in harmony with their superior obligation to God and Christ. (2:17)

The Greek word oikétes designates a house slave or a personal servant in the household. Believers who were such slaves were to be submissive to their masters “in all fear,” meaning with due apprehension of not wanting to displease them. It would have been easier for house servants to subject themselves to good and kindly, forbearing, humane, or reasonable masters. They were, however, also to submit themselves to the authority of masters who were harsh, unfair, or unscrupulous, patiently enduring mistreatment without lashing out and continuing to fulfill their duties conscientiously. (2:18)

Harsh masters might have made demands with which believing slaves would not have been able to comply with a good conscience. Their refusal to engage in dishonest or corrupt activity for their masters may have led to suffering for them. In that case, they could have drawn comfort from the fact that their enduring unjust suffering because of wanting to preserve a good conscience before God would be divinely favored. (2:19; see the Notes section.)

The answer to the rhetorical question is that there would be no merit in a servant’s enduring a beating for wrongdoing. But if believers suffered when doing what is good or right and endured the mistreatment in a noble manner, God would regard this with favor. (2:20; see the Notes section.)

“For to this you were called,” that is, called to a life of patiently enduring suffering for doing what is right, or of acting according to a godly conscience. Translators have variously rendered the introductory words. (2:21) “It is your vocation.” (REB) “After all, God chose you to suffer.” (CEV) “Indeed this is part of your calling.” (J. B. Phillips) “This is what you were called to do.” (NCV)

That the calling or invitation to be God’s approved people included having to endure suffering for doing what is right can be seen from what happened to Jesus Christ. He suffered mistreatment and, ultimately, an agonizing death by crucifixion, leaving believers an example of faithful endurance. As his disciples, they are to follow in his footsteps. (2:21; see the Notes section.)

Jesus Christ had done nothing to deserve being hit with fists, slapped, spit on, scourged, and subjected to a painful execution by crucifixion. He had remained without sin and no deceitful word ever came from his mouth. (2:22; compare Isaiah 53:9.)

When he was abused or slandered as one who was in league with the demons and as an imposter, a lawbreaker, and a blasphemer, he did not retaliate and revile those who insulted him. He did not threaten those who made him suffer but entrusted himself “to the one who judges righteously” or justly. He did not seek to avenge himself but confidently looked to his Father, the Supreme Judge, to right all matters. (2:23)

Jesus Christ took upon himself the full consequences for human sin so as to die for sinners, though he himself was without sin. In his own body, he bore our sins “on the timber [xylon].” The Greek term xylon basically means “wood” or “tree,” and refers to the implement on which the Son of God was crucified. Nailed to the timber, he bore the burden of our sins, making forgiveness possible on the basis of faith in the atoning value of his sacrificial death for us. Therefore, believers should no longer be living a life of sin but should “live to righteousness,” conducting themselves uprightly or in a manner that is consistent with their having been forgiven of their sins and having become members of God’s beloved family. (2:24)

By the “wound” (probably meaning the entire crucifixion process) inflicted on Jesus Christ, healing came to the believers. The healing that those addressed in Peter’s letter and all other believers experienced was a healing from the deadly sickness of human sinfulness, for they ceased to be at enmity with God as condemned sinners. (2:24)

Formerly, believers had been like sheep that had gone astray. Without an approved relationship with God, they did not have his aid and guidance. So, like lost sheep, they found themselves in a pitiable and helpless state, pursuing a course in life that seemed hopeless and often proved to be injurious. Because of what Jesus Christ did in sacrificing his life for the human family, all who put faith in him ceased to be like straying sheep. They have been reconciled to God and have come under his loving care and protection. So they have returned to God, “the shepherd and guardian of [their] souls.” In this case, “soul” can mean either the whole person or the individual’s life. “Now you have returned to the one who is your shepherd and protector.” (CEV) Doch jetzt seid ihr zu dem zurückgekehrt, der als euer Hirte und Beschützer über euch [footnote, über eure Seelen; über euer Leben] wacht. But now you have returned to him who watches over you [footnote, over your souls; over your life] as your shepherd and protector. (German, Neue Genfer Übersetzung) Like a shepherd, God will not fail to look after the interests of his sheep, his people, and will safeguard them. Moreover, believers have the care and help of his Son, the “chief shepherd.” (2:25; 5:4)

Notes:

In fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, the word for “envies” (phthónous), in verse 1, is “murders” (phonous). The omission of the second letter theta (th) appears to be a copyist’s error.

The word logikós is derived from lógos, meaning “word.” On this basis, a number of translations read “milk of the word.” (Darby, NASB, NKJV) The inclusion of the words “into salvation” (in verse 2) has the best manuscript support. There are, however, numerous manuscripts that omit these words.

In verse 3 of fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, a corrector changed ei (“if”) to eíper, meaning “if indeed,” and so is more emphatic than ei. This reading is also found in numerous other manuscripts.

Certain translations, in verse 3, render the Greek word ei as “if” (“if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” [NRSV]; “at any rate if you have tasted that the Lord is good” [NJB]; “so you will, if you have already tasted the goodness of the Lord” [J. B. Phillips]). Rendering ei as “if” can either mean that one’s having tasted the kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ is a condition for growing to salvation or that this is a condition for having a longing for the “true, unadulterated milk.”

In verse 5, the inclusion of the word eis, meaning “into,” before “holy priesthood” has the support of the oldest extant manuscripts. Many other manuscripts omit eis. This may have been an intentional omission to indicate that believers are already a holy priesthood and are not in the process of becoming such (being built up into a holy priesthood).

A number of manuscripts (in verse 16) read “friends of God,” not “slaves of God.”

Verse 19 could be literally rendered, “For this [is] favor, if someone because of conscience of God endures pains, suffering unjustly.” After “favor” (cháris), a number of manuscripts add pará to theó, which may be translated “in the sight of God” and would indicate that a slave’s enduring unjust treatment in a manner that honored God would gain his favorable recognition. The manuscript reading that is best supported, however, does not include this addition. A number of translations, therefore, represent the individual’s being able to endure unjust treatment as the “grace” or “favor” or as an evidence thereof. “It is a sign of grace if, because God is in his thoughts, someone endures the pain of undeserved suffering.” (REB) “For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace.” (NAB)

Also in verse 19, the more difficult reading “through [that is, ‘because of’] conscience of God” (diá syneídesin theoú) has good manuscript support. Certain manuscripts read “good conscience” (instead of “conscience of God”), “good conscience of God” (syneídesin agathén theoú) or “conscience of [the] good God” (syneídesin theoú agathén).

The expression “conscience of God” likely applies to the individual’s preserving a good conscience before God. “A man does something valuable when he endures pain, as in the sight of God, though he knows he is suffering unjustly.” (J. B. Phillips) “God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him.” (CEV) A number of translations paraphrase the verse to refer to being conscious or aware of God or to having him in one’s thoughts. “You see, there is merit if, in awareness of God, you put up with the pains of undeserved punishment.” (NJB) “A person might have to suffer even when it is unfair, but if he thinks of God and stands the pain, God is pleased.” (NCV) “For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.” (NRSV)

In verse 20, there is no verb linked to “favor” or “grace,” and the context does not establish a definitive meaning for the wording of the Greek text (toutó cháris pará theó), which could be rendered, “this favor — in the sight of God.” Translations convey varying meanings (“this is a grace before God” [NAB]; “that is a sign of grace in the sight of God” [REB]; “God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him” (CEV); “you have God’s approval” [NRSV]; “then God is pleased” [NCV]; “you are doing something worthwhile in God’s sight” [J. B. Phillips]).

The best-supported reading in verse 21 is “for you; to you” (“Christ suffered for you; to you he left an example”). Other manuscripts say “for you; to us,” “for us; to you,” or “for us; “to us.”