Wherefore laying aside. Those who would wear the white robe of regeneration must lay aside the filthy garments (Zechariah 3:3) of the old carnal life. So St. Paul bids us put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:8, Colossians 3:10; comp. also Romans 13:14, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ." The metaphor would be more striking when, at baptism, the old dress was laid aside, and the white chrisom was put on. St. Paul connects the putting on of Christ with baptism in Galatians 3:27, and St. Peter, when speaking of baptism in 1 Peter 3:21, uses the substantive (ἀπόθεσις) corresponding to the word here rendered "laying aside" (ἀποθέμενοι). All malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings. The sins mentioned here are all offences against that "unfeigned love of the brethren" which formed the subject of St. Peter's exhortation in the latter part of 1 Peter 1:1-60. St. Augustine, quoted here by most commentators, says, "Malitia malo delectatur alieno; invidia bone cruciatur alieno; dolus duplicat; adulatio duplicat linguam; detrectatio vulnerat famam" (comp. Ephesians 4:22-49); the close resemblance between the two passages proves St. Peter's knowledge of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
As newborn babes. The words look back to 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:23. God begat them again; they were new-born babes in Christ, they must remember their regeneration. The rabbis used the same metaphor of their proselytes; but the apostle was doubtless thinking of the Savior's words. Desire the sincere milk of the Word. Desire, long for it eagerly (ἐπιποθήσατε), as babes long for milk, their proper food, the only food necessary for them. It seems that in the adjective λογικόν (paraphrased in the Authorized Version "of the Word," rendered "spiritual" or "reasonable" in the Revised Version) there must be a reference to the Word of God (λόγος Θεοῦ), mentioned in 1 Peter 1:23 as the instrument of regeneration, and called by our Lord (Matthew 4:4, from Deuteronomy 8:3) the food of man (but the Greek in Matthew is ῥῆμα, as in 1 Peter 1:25). The paraphrase of the Authorized Version gives the general meaning; but the adjective means literally, "reasonable" or "rational." The apostle is not thinking of natural milk, but of that nourishment which the Christian reason can regard as milk for the soul—spiritual food, pure and simple and nourishing, capable of supporting and strengthening those newborn babes who not long ago had been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the Word of God. The adjective occurs only in one other place of Holy Scripture—Romans 12:1, τὴν λογικὴν λατερείαν ὑμῶν, where it means the service of the sanctified reason as opposed to the mechanical observance of formal rites. It is explained by Chrysostom as ebony ἔχουσαν σωματικὸν οὐδὲν ταχὺ οὐδὲν αἰσθηνόν Thus it seems nearly to correspond with the use of the word πνευματικός, spiritual, by St. Peter in Romans 12:5 of this chapter, and by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:3, 1 Corinthians 10:4. St. Paul also speaks of milk as the proper food of babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:2; comp: also Hebrews 5:12), though the thought is somewhat different; for St. Peter's words do not convey any reproof for want of progress. This spiritual milk is ἄδολον, pure, unadulterated. That ye may grow thereby; literally, therein, in the use of it. All the most ancient manuscripts add the words, "unto salvation." The soul which feeds upon the pure milk of the Word groweth continually unto salvation.
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious; rather, if ye tasted. If ye once tasted the good Word of God (Hebrews 6:4, Hebrews 6:5), if ye tasted of the heavenly gift which comes through that Word (1 Peter 1:23), long after it that ye may g-row therein. The "if" does not imply doubt; the apostle supposes that they have once tasted, and urges them, on the ground of that first taste, to long for more. The first experiences of the Christian life stimulate God's people to further efforts. The words are a quotation from Psalms 34:8, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!" This makes it less probable that St. Peter is intentionally playing, as some have thought, on the similarity of the words χρηστός and Ξριστός. The confusion was common among the heathen; and Christian writers, as Tertullian, sometimes adopted it; Christus, they said, was chrestus, "Christ was good;" and Christians, followers of the good Master, followed after that which is good. But St. Peter is simply quoting the words of the psalm, and applying them to the metaphor of milk. It is possible that there may be an under-current of allusion to the Lord's teaching in John 6:1-43. The Lord himself is the Bread of life, the food of the soul. The epithet χρηστός is not infrequently used of food (see Luke 5:39).
To whom coming as unto a living stone. Omit the words, "as unto," which are not in the Greek, and weaken the sense. The participle is present; the Christian must be ever coming to Christ, riot only once for all, but always, every day. The ', living Stone" is Christ; the "Lord" of Psalms 34:8 is Jehovah. St. Peter passes from the figure of milk to that of a chief cornerstone. So St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-46., after saying that he had fed his Corinthian converts "with milk, and not with meat," passes first to the figure of laborers on the land, and then to that of builders upon the one foundation "which is Jesus Christ." This, like so many other coincidences, indicates St. Peter's knowledge of St. Paul's Epistles. St. Peter may have been thinking of his own name, the name which Christ gave him when Andrew brought him to the Lord; though the Greek word here is not πέτρα or πέτρος, but λίθος—not the solid native rock on which the temple is built, nor a piece of rock, an unhewn stone, but a stone shaped and wrought, chosen for a chief corner-stone. But the apostle does not mention himself; he omits all reference to his own position in the spiritual building; he wishes to direct his readers only to Christ. He is plainly referring to the Lord's own words in Matthew 21:42, where Christ applies to himself the language of Psalms 118:1-19, He described himself as a Stone; St. Peter adds the epithet "living" (λίθον ζῶντα). The figure of a stone is inadequate, all figures are inadequate, to represent heavenly mysteries. This stone is not, like the stones of earth, an inert mass; it is living, full of life; nay, it gives life, as well as strength and coherence, to the stones which are built upon it: for the Lord hath life in himself—he is risen from the dead, and is alive for evermore. Disallowed indeed of men. St. Peter slightly varies the quotation, and attributes to men in general the rejection ascribed in the psalm and in the Gospel to the "builders." "He was despised and rejected of men." In his speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:11), he had directly applied the prophecy to the chief priests. But chosen of God, and precious; rather, as the Revised Version, with God elect, precious, or perhaps better, honored; a reference to Isaiah 28:16. He was rejected of the builders, but chosen of God; despised of men, but with God held in honor. The adjective is not the same as that rendered "precious" in 1 Peter 1:19 : τίμος there marks the preciousness of the blood of Christ in itself; ἔντιμος here, the honor with which God "hath highly exalted him."
Ye also, as lively stones; rather, living stones. The word is the same as that used in 1 Peter 2:4. Christians are living stones in virtue of their union with the one living Stone: "Because I live, ye shall live also." Are built up a spiritual house; rather, be ye built up. The imperative rendering seems more suitable than the indicative, and the passive than the middle. The Christian comes; God builds him up on the one Foundation. The apostle says," Come to be built up; come that ye may be built up." The parallel passage in Jude 1:20, "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith," might seem to point to a reflexive rendering here; but the verb used by St. Jude is active, ἐποικοδομοῦντες. St. Jude is apparently thinking of the human side of the work, St. Peter of the Divine; in the deepest sense Christ is the Builder as well as the Foundation, as he himself said in words doubtless present to St. Peter's mind, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." That Church is the antitype of the ancient temple—a building not material, but spiritual, consisting, not of dead stones, but of sanctified souls, resting on no earthly foundation, but on that Rock which is Christ (comp. Ephesians 2:20-49; 1Co 3:2, 1 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 6:16). An holy priesthood; rather, for (literally, into) a holy priesthood. The figure again changes; the thought of the temple leads to that of the priesthood. The stones in the spiritual temple are living stones; they are also priests. According to the original ideal of the Hebrew theocracy, all Israelites were to be priests: "Ire shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). This ideal is fulfilled in the Christian Church; it is a holy priesthood. Here and in Jude 1:9 the Church collectively is called a priesthood; in the Book of the Revelation (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6) Christians individually are called priests, Bishop Lightfoot says, at the opening of his dissertation on the Christian ministry, "The kingdom of Christ has no sacred days or seasons, no special sanctuaries, because every time and every place alike are holy. Above all, it has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man." He continues, "This conception is strictly an ideal, which we must ever hold before our eyes… but which nevertheless cannot supersede the necessary wants of human society, and, if crudely and hastily applied, will lead only to signal failure. As appointed days and set places are indispensable to her efficiency, so also the Church could not fulfill the purposes for which she exists without rulers and teachers, without a ministry of reconciliation, in short, without an order of men who may in some sense be designated a priesthood." The whole Jewish Church was a kingdom of priests; yet there was an Aaronic priesthood. The Christian Church is a holy priesthood; yet there is an order of men who are appointed to exercise the functions of the ministry, and who, as representing the collective priesthood of the whole Church, may be truly called priests. To offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The priest must have somewhat to offer (Hebrews 8:3). The sacrifices of the ancient Law had found their fulfillment in the one all-sufficient Sacrifice, offered once for all by the great High Priest upon the altar of the cross. But there is still sacrifice in the Christian Church. That one Sacrifice is ever present in its atoning virtue and cleansing power; and through that one Sacrifice the priests of the spiritual temple offer up daily spiritual sacrifices—the sacrifice of prayer and praise (Hebrews 13:15), the sacrifice of alms and oblations (Hebrews 13:16), and that sacrifice without which prayer and praise and alms are vain oblations, the sacrifice of self (Romans 12:1). These spiritual sacrifices are offered up through Jesus Christ the great High Priest (Hebrews 13:15); they derive their value only from faith in his sacrifice of himself; they are efficacious through his perpetual mediation and intercession; through him alone they are acceptable to God. They are offered through him, and they are acceptable through him. The Greek words admit of either connection; and perhaps are intended to cover both relations.
Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture; literally, because it contains in Scripture. There is no article according to the best manuscripts; and the verb (περιέχει) is impersonal; it is similarly used in Josephus, 'Ant.,' 11.7. Compare the use of the substantive περιοχή in Acts 8:32. St. Peter proceeds to quote the prophecy (Isaiah 28:16) to which he has already referred. Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Cornerstone, elect, precious. The passage is taken from the Septuagint, with the emission of some words not important for the present purpose. St. Paul quotes the same prophecy still more freely (Romans 9:33). The rabbinical writers understand it of Hezekiah, but the earlier Jewish interpreters regarded it as Messianic. And he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. The Hebrew words literally mean "shall not be in haste;" the Septuagint appears to give the general meaning. He that believeth (the Hebrew word נימִאֱהֶ, means "to lean upon, to build upon," and so "to trust, to confide") shall not be flurried and excited with vain fears and trepidation; his mind is stayed on the Lord.
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious; rather, unto you therefore which believe is the honor. The apostle applies the last clause of the prophecy to his readers: they believe, they are built up by faith upon the chief Cornerstone; therefore the honor implied in the words of the prophet, "He that believeth on him shall not be confounded" is theirs. There may also be in the word τιμή, honor, an echo of the ἔντιμος ("precious," literally, "held in honor") of 1 Peter 2:6; and thus the further meaning may be implied, "The worth which the stone has it has for you who believe" (Wiesinger, quoted by Huther). But the first explanation is nearer to the Greek. But unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the Head of the corner; rather, as in the Revised Version, for such as disbelieve. St. Peter repeats the words of the hundred and eighteenth psalm, quoted by our Lord in Matthew 21:42, and by himself in Acts 4:11. The builders, the priests and teachers of the Jewish Church, rejected the living Stone; but it became, and indeed through that rejection, the Head of the corner. "He became obedient unto death .. therefore God also highly exalted him." If this psalm is post-Exilic, as most modern critics think, the cornerstone, in its first application, may be Israel regarded as a whole. The great builders, the rulers of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, had despised that stone; but it was chosen of God, and now it was set in Zion. It is possible, as Hengstenberg and Delitzsch suggest, that the building of the second temple may have recalled to the mind of the psalmist Isaiah's prophecy of the chief Corner-stone.
And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. St. Peter combines Isaiah 8:14 with his first quotations, as St. Paul also does (Ram. 9:33), both apostles quoting from the Hebrew, not from the Septuagint, which is quite different, inserting two negatives. The living Stone is not only made the Head of the corner to the confusion of the disobedient, but becomes also to their destruction a Stone of stumbling; they fall on that Stone, and are broken (Matthew 21:44). That Stone is a Rock (πέτρα), the Rock of Ages, the Rock on which the Church is built; but to the disobedient it is a Rock of offense (πέτρα σκανδάλου). Σκάνδαλον (in Attic Greek σκανδάληθρον) is properly the catch or spring of a trap, which makes animals fall into the trap; then a stumbling-block—anything which causes men to fall. We cannot fail to notice how St. Peter echoes the well-remembered words of our Lord, recorded in Matthew 16:18, Matthew 16:23. Peter was himself then a πέτρα σκανδάλου, a rock of offense. Even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient; literally, who being disobedient stumble at the Word—the relative referring back to "them which be disobedient" in Matthew 16:7. This seems better than (with Huther and others) to take τῷ λόγῳ with ἀπειθοῦντες, "who stumble, being disobedient to the Word." Ἀπειθοῦντες, literally," unbelieving," contains here, as frequently, the idea of disobedience, willful opposition. St. Peter seems to come very near to St. John's use of Λόγος for the personal Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. Whereunto also they were appointed. "Whereunto" (εἰς ὄ) cannot refer back to verse 5; God had appointed them to be built up in his spiritual house, but they were disobedient. It must refer either to ἀπειθοῦντες—sin is punished by sin; for sin in God's awful judgment hardens the heart; the disobedient are in danger of eternal sin (Mark 3:29, according to the two oldest manuscripts)—or, more probably, to προσκόπουσιν; it is God's ordinance that disobedience should end in stumbling; but that stumbling does not necessarily imply condemnation (see Romans 11:11). The word, the preaching of Christ crucified, was to the Jews a stumbling-block (1 Corinthians 1:23). But not all stumbled that they might fall. Nevertheless, perseverance in disobedience must end in everlasting death.
But ye are a chosen generation. The pronoun "ye" is emphatic. St. Peter is drawing a contrast between the disobedient and unbelieving Jews and Christian people whether Jews or Gentiles; he ascribes to Christians, in a series of phrases quoted from the Old Testament, the various privileges which had belonged to the children of Israel. The words, "a chosen generation" (γένος ἐκλεκτόν), are from Isaiah 43:20, Γένος μου τὸ ἐκλεκτόν. The Cornerstone is elect, precious; the living stones built thereupon are elect likewise. The whole Christian Church is addressed as an elect race, one race, because all its members are begotten again of the one Father. A royal priesthood. Instead of "holy," as in Isaiah 43:5, St. Peter has here the epithet "royal." He follows the Septuagint Version of Exodus 19:6; the Hebrew has "a kingdom of priests." The word "royal" may mean that God's elect shall sit with Christ in his throne, and reign with him (Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:10), and that in some sense they reign with him now over their lower nature, their desires and appetites; or, more probably, the priesthood of Christians is called "royal" because it belongs to the King—"a priesthood serving Jehovah the King, just as we speak of 'the royal household'" (Weiss, quoted by Huther). An holy nation. Also from Exodus 19:6. The Israelites were a holy nation as separated from the heathen and consecrated to God's service by circumcision. Christians of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, are one nation under one King, separated to his service, dedicated to him in holy baptism. A peculiar people. The Greek words. λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, represent the words, הלָּגֻסְ מעַ, of Deuteronomy 7:6, translated by the LXX. λαὸν περιούσιον, "a special people" (Authorized Version). St. Paul also has this translation in Titus 2:14. The Hebrew word הלָּגֻסְ in Malachi 3:17 is rendered by the LXX. εἰς περιποίησιν, by the Authorized Version "my jewels." The children of Israel are called הוָחֹיְ תלַּגֻסְ, as the peculium, the private, special, treasured possession of God. God says of them, in Isaiah 43:21, "This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise;" rendered by the LXX. Λαόν μου ὂν περιεποιησάμην τὰς ἀρετάς μου διηγεῖσθαι, God hath now chosen us Christians to be the Israel of God; the Christian Church is his peculium, his treasure, "a people for God's own possession" (Revised Version). The literal meaning of the Greek words used by St. Peter is "a people for acquisition," or "for keeping safe," the verb having the sense of "gaining, acquiring," and also that of "preserving, keeping for one's self" with his own blood"). That ye should show forth the praises of him. That ye should tell out, publish abroad. The verb is found nowhere else in the New Testament. The word translated "praises" (ἀρετάς, literally, "virtues"), so very common in classical writers, occurs in the New Testament only here, 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:5, and Philippians 4:8. Here St. Peter is quoting from the Septuagint Version of Isaiah 43:21 (the word is similarly used in Isaiah 42:12 and Isaiah 63:7). Perhaps the best rendering is that of the Revised Version, "excellencies." Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. He had chosen them before the foundation of the world; he called them when they received the gospel: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." He called them out of the darkness of ignorance and sin. The Gentiles walked in utter darkness, in less measure the Jews also. The light of his presence is marvelous, wonderful; those who walk in that light feel something of its irradiating glory.
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God. St. Peter quotes the prophecy of Hosea (Hosea 2:23), as St. Paul also does in Romans 9:25, Romans 9:26. And as St. Paul applies the prophet's words (said originally of the Jews) to the Christian Church, to those called "not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles," so apparently does St. Peter here. They were not a people; "Ne populus quidem," says Bengel, "nedum Dei populus." It is the calling of God which gives a unity to the Church gathered out of all races and all lands, and makes it the people of God. Which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. The aorist participle, ἐεληθέντες, implies that that mercy had been obtained at a definite time, at their conversion.
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims. St. Peter returns to practical topics: he begins his exhortation in the affectionate manner common in Holy Scripture. He calls his readers "strangers and pilgrims." The word here rendered "strangers" (πάροικοι) is equivalent to the classical μέτοικοι, and means "foreign set-tiers, dwellers in a strange land." The second word (παρεοίδημοι, translated "strangers" in 1 Peter 1:1-60.) means "visitors" who tarry for a time in a foreign country, not permanently settling in it. It does not contain the ideas associated with the modern use of "pilgrim;" though that word, derived kern the Latin peregrinus, originally meant no more than "sojourner." St. Peter is plainly using the words metaphorically his readers were citizens of the heavenly country; on earth they were sojourners. Both words occur in the Septuagint Version of Psalms 39:12 (Psalms 38:13 in the Greek), with the same metaphorical meaning. Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. Strangers and pilgrims should remember their distant home, and not follow the practices of the strange land in which they sojourn. The lusts of the flesh are all those desires which issue out of our corrupt nature (temp. Galatians 5:16-48). They "war against the soul." "Non mode impediunt," says Bengel, "sod oppugnant; grande verbum" (comp. Romans 7:23). St. Peter uses the word "soul" here for the whole spiritual nature of man, as in 1 Peter 1:9, 1 Peter 1:22.
Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles. If we read ἀπέχεσθαι, in 1 Peter 2:11 (some ancient manuscripts have ἀπέχεσθε), there is a slight irregularity in the construction, as the participle ἔνοντες is nominative; it gives more force and vividness to the sentence (comp. in the Greek, Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:16). The conversation (ἀναστροφή, mode of life or behavior) of the unconverted is described as "vain" in 1 Peter 1:18; the conversation of Christians must be seemly (καλή), exhibiting the beauty of holiness. The Churches to which St. Peter wrote were in Gentile countries; they must be careful, for the honor of their religion, to set a good example among the heathen—a warning, alas! too often neglected in modern as well as in ancient times. That, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers; literally, wherein, in the matter in which they speak, i.e. in reference to manner of life. Christians were commonly accused of "turning the world upside down;" of doing "contrary to the decrees of Caesar," as at Thessalonica (Acts 17:6, Acts 17:7); of being atheists and blasphemers of the popular idolatry, as at Ephesus (Acts 19:37). Suetonius calls them a "genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficse" ('Vit. Neron.,' 1 Peter 16.). Probably the grosser accusations of Thyestean banquets, etc., came later. They may by your good works, which they shall be hold, glorify God in the day of visitation. The word rendered, "which they shall be bold" (ἐποπτεύσαντες, or, according to some of the older manuscripts, ἐποπτεύοντες, beholding), occurs only here and in 1 Peter 3:2. It implies close attention; the Gentiles watched the conduct of the Christians, narrowly scrutinizing it to discover faults and inconsistencies. The use of the corresponding substantive, ἐπόπτης, in 2 Peter 1:16 is a coincidence to be noticed. It is not probable that there is any reference to the heathen use of the word in connection with the Eleusinian Mysteries. St. Peter hopes that this close observation of the lives of Christian people would lead the Gentiles to glorify God; he was thinking, perhaps, of our Lord's words in the sermon on the mount: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' Perhaps in the following clause also we may trace an echo of the Savior's words in Luke 19:44, "Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (ἐπισκοπῆς, as here). St. Peter hopes that the holy lives of Christians may be made the means of saving many Gentile souls in the time of visitation; that is, when God should visit the heathen with his converting grace, seeking to draw them to himself, whether by gracious chastisement or by the preaching of his servants. This seems more natural than to understand the words of God's visitation of the Christians in the persecutions which were impending; though it is true that many Gentiles were won to Christ by the calm and holy bearing of suffering Christians.
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man. The aorist passive (ὑποτάγητε) is used, as often, in a middle sense. The word for "ordinance" is κτίσις, which in classical Greek means "foundation," as of a city; but in the New Testament is used elsewhere only of the works of God, in the sense of "creation," or "a creature". Hence some, as De Wette, translate the words, "to every human creature," supporting their view by 1 Peter 5:5. But on the whole this seems unlikely; ἀνθρωπίνη κτίσις is a strange and awkward periphrasis for ἄνθρωπος. It is better to understand it as meaning a human creation or foundation. Certainly "there is no power but of God" (Romans 13:1); but the form which that power assumes is a human institution. St. Peter bids his readers to submit themselves to the de facto form of government. For the Lord's sake. Not from human motives, as fear of punishment; but for the Lord's sake, because "the powers that be are ordained of God," and in obeying them we obey the ordinance of God. Christians were commonly accused of insubordination, of doing "contrary to the decrees of Caesar" (Acts 17:7); they must show by their conduct that these accusations are false, that the progress of the gospel be not hindered. Whether it be to the king, as supreme. By "the king" is meant the Roman emperor, who was frequently so described in the Greek writers. Nero was emperor when St. Peter wrote. Christians were to obey even him, wicked tyrant as he was; for his power was given him from above, as the Lord himself had said of Pilate (John 19:11).
Or unto governors, as ante them that are sent by him; literally, through him. Some commentators, following Calvin, understand the pronoun of the Lord. Certainly, governors are sent through him; he "ordereth all things, both in heaven and earth." But it seems more natural in this place to refer the pronoun to the nearer substantive, the king; it was through the Roman emperor that the various governors, legates, etc., were sent from time to time (as the Greek present participle implies) to administer the provinces. For the punish-meat of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. Observe the close resemblance to Romans 13:3, Romans 13:4. St. Peter recognizes the Roman sense of justice which we see in men like Festus and Gallio. At first the Jews were the persecutors of the Christians; the Roman magistrates were their protectors. St. Peter wrote before the great outbreaks of Roman persecution; he was himself to suffer under that emperor whose authority he upheld.
For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. The Gentiles speak against the Christians as evil-doers; they are to put their accusers to silence by well-doing; this is to be their answer rather than indignant self-vindication. The Greek word rendered "put to silence" (φιμοῦν) means literally "to muzzle". The word for "ignorance" (ἀγνωσία) occurs, besides this passage, only in 1 Corinthians 15:34, where it evidently means "culpable, self-caused ignorance." The word for "foolish" (ἄφρων) is a strong one—it means "senseless". Here it has the article, "the foolish men," i.e. those "who speak against you as evil-doers."
As free. This verse is not to be taken with what follows, for it does not well cohere with the contents of 1 Peter 2:17; but either with 1 Peter 2:14 (1 Peter 2:15 being regarded as parenthetical) or with 1 Peter 2:15, notwithstanding the change of case in the original, which presents no real difficulty; the meaning being that Christian freedom must show itself, not in license, but in willing obedience to constituted authorities: "Not only for wrath, but for conscience' sake" (Romans 13:5). Those whom the truth makes free are free indeed, but true freedom implies submission to legitimate authority. And not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness; literally, not having your liberty as a cloak. The word rendered "cloak" (ἐπικάλυμμα) is used in the Septuagint (Exodus 26:14) for the covering of the tabernacle. The pretence of Christian liberty must not be made a covering, a concealment, of wickedness. But as the servants of God. The truest liberty is that of the servants of God; his service is perfect freedom (comp. Romans 6:16-45).
Honor all men. St. Peter illustrates the well-doing which he enjoins in 1 Peter 2:15, drawing out his general exhortation into four rules of conduct. First, he bids us give honor to all men. The Christians of Asia Minor saw heathenism and vice all around them; they heard of the abominable life of Nero and his courtiers at Rome. They were conscious of a great and elevating change which had passed over themselves; St. Peter has just been enumerating the dignities and privileges of the Christian life. But they must not be lifted up; they must despise no one, but honor in all men the handiwork of God, created after God's own image, though sadly marred and defaced by sin. Respect is due to all men, of course in varying degrees and to be shown in different ways; but in some sense it is due to all, to the humblest and even to the worst. The aorist imperative (τιμήσατε) seems to lay down this principle as a sharp, definite rule, to be accepted at once, and to be applied as need arises, according to the circumstances of each case. The three following imperatives are present; the duties which they prescribe are viewed as continuous, recognized elements in well-doing. There was something new and strange in the command to honor all men; it is expressed forcibly, once for all, by the aorist imperative. Love the brotherhood. The word ἀδελφότης, brotherhood, is peculiar to St. Peter; it stands for the aggregate of Christian brethren regarded as one body in Christ. The Lord bids us "love our enemies." St. Peter's rule does not weaken the force of the Savior's precept. But love must vary in depth and degree according to the varying relations of life; and the love which true Christians feel for the like-minded must be one of its strongest forms. Fear God. Honor the king. The holy fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God as the King of kings will lead us to give due honor to earthly princes, who rule by his controlling providence. It was especially necessary to urge the fear of God as a motive, when the king to be honored was such as Nero.
Servants. The word is not δοῦλοι, slaves,but οἰκέται, household servants, domestics. St. Peter may have used it as a less harsh term, in Christian kindliness and courtesy; or he may have chosen it purposely to include the large class of freedmen and other dependents who were to be found in the houses of the great. The frequent mention of slaves in the Epistles shows that many of the first Christians must have been in a condition of servitude. It was only natural that men should feel uneasy and irritable under the yoke of slavery as they came to learn the equality of all men in the sight of God, and to understand the blessed privileges and the high hopes of Christians. The apostles counseled submission and resignation to the will of God. Slavery was an unnatural institution; it must in time disappear under the softening influences of the gospel. But Christian slaves were to wait in faith and patience. The sacred writers use language of studied moderation, carefully avoiding any expressions which might be regarded as exciting to violence or revolutionary outbreaks. Be subject to your masters with all fear. The participle ὑποτασσόμενοι seems to look back to the imperative ὑποτάγητε in 1 Peter 2:13; the relation of slaves to their lords being one of the ordinances of man alluded to there (comp. Ephesians 6:5, where St. Paul bids slaves to be obedient to their masters "with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ"). The holy fear of God, by whose providence they were set in that lowly station, would involve the fear of failing in their duty to their masters. All fear; not only fear of punishment, but also fear of neglecting duty. Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. Servants must not make the character of their masters an excuse for disobedience; if their masters are froward (σκολιοί, literally, "crooked, perverse"), still they must be submissive to the wilt of God.
For this is thankworthy; literally, this is grace (comp. Luke 6:32, Ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστί; "What thank have ye?" where the parallel passage in St. Matthew is Τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε; "What reward have ye?"). A comparison of these passages seems to show that χάρις and μισθός are used in a similar sense as expressive of God's condescending love. In his gracious tenderness he speaks of reward, though we deserve only punishment; he even speaks of thanks, though we deserve only condemnation. Other possible explanations are, "This is the work of God's grace;" or, "This is lovely;" or, "This is favor;" or "This implies" or "This causes favor with God." If a man for conscience toward God; literally, for conscience of God; that is, consciousness of God's presence, of his will, of our duties to him. This is better than to take the genitive as subjective, and to interpret, "because of the consciousness of God," because he sees and knows all that we do and say and think. Endure grief, suffering wrongfully; literally, griefs, λύπας (comp. λυπηθέντες, 1 Peter 1:6). St. Peter echoes our Lord's teaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:39).
For what glory is it? The word translated "glory" (κλέος), common in Greek poetry, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, first, "rumor, report;" then "fame, renown." If, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently; literally, if sinning and being buffeted. The word translated "buffeted" (κολαφιζόμενοι), used by St. Matthew and St. Mark in describing our Savior's sufferings, has a figurative meaning in 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 12:7. It is probably used literally here; blows were a common occurrence in the life of slaves. To be patient when suffering deserved punishment is often difficult, but it is no more than a simple duty; it would not be for the glory of religion. Christian slaves ought to do their duty to their masters, and not deserve punishment. But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently; literally, but if doing well, and suffering. The words "for it" are not in the Greek. This is acceptable with God. If we read "for" (τοῦτο γὰρ), with some of the best manuscripts, we must supply "there is glory" after the last clause. "It, doing well and suffering, ye take it patiently, there is glory (κλέος), for this is thank-worthy (χάρις) with God." Such conduct will bring honor to Christianity, for it is thankworthy even in the sight of God. When Christian men and women took cruel sufferings patiently and joyfully, as the apostles did (Acts 5:41; Acts 16:25), that was more than a mere recognized duty—that showed the power of Christian motives, that brought glory to Christianity, and was held to be thankworthy (such is God's gracious condescension) even in the sight of God. The word for "acceptable" here is that translated "thankworthy" in 2 Corinthians 12:19, where see note.
For even hereunto were ye called; that is, to do good and to suffer patiently. Omit "even," for which there is no authority. St. Peter is speaking of slaves, but what he says of slaves is true in some sense of all Christians (comp. Acts 14:22). Because Christ also suffered for us; rather, for you, with the oldest manuscripts. You do not suffer alone; Christ also suffered, and that for you slaves, on your behalf. "Christ himself," says Bengel, "was treated as a slave; he deigns to exhibit his own conduct as an example to slaves." Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. The oldest manuscripts have the second person here in both places. Leaving (ὑολιμπάνων), leaving behind; Bengel says, "in abitu ad pattern." The Greek for "example" is ὑπογραμμός—a word which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means a copy set by a writing or drawing master, which was to be exactly reproduced by his pupils (see 2 Macc. 2:28, in the Greek). The life of Christ is our model. In particular St. Peter urges us to imitate the Lord's patience in suffering undeserved afflictions. In the last clause the figure is changed to that of a guide along a difficult route, so difficult that those who follow must put their feet in his footprints. We should follow his steps, one by one, closely following him, as the word ἐπακολουθήσητε means.
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. St. Peter is quoting the Septuagint Version of Isaiah 53:9, almost exactly, the word ἁμαρτίαν, sin, being substituted for ἀνομίαν, lawlessness ("violence" in our version). We should notice that the Messiah, whose example is here set before Christian slaves, is called by the prophet "the Servant of Jehovah" (Isaiah Leviticus 13). Slaves were often tempted to deceit and guile; they must look to the Lord Jesus, and strive to copy his innocence and his truth. The verb εὑρίσκεσθαι, to be found, is sometimes said to be used, by a Hebraism, for the simple verb "to be." Winer says, "Between these two verbs, however, there is always this distinction, that, whilst εἶναι, indicates the quality of a thing in itself, εὑρίσκεσθαι indicates the quality in so far as it is discovered, detected, recognized, in the subject" ('Greek Grammar,' Isaiah 65:8).
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not (comp. Isaiah 53:7). The Lord again and again denounced the hypocrisy and unbelief of the Pharisees; he bade Caiaphas remember the coming judgment. But that was the language of prophetic warning, the sternness of love. He sets before them the impending punishment, that they may take heed in time and escape from the wrath to come. In the midst of his strongest invective against the sins and hollow unreality of Pharisaism there is an outburst of the deepest love, the tenderest concern (Matthew 23:27). But committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. The verb "committed" παρεδίδου) is without an object in the original. Most commentators supply "himself," or "his cause;" others, "his sufferings;" some, as Alford, "those who inflicted them." Perhaps the last explanation is the best: he left them to God, to God's mercy, if it might be; to his judgment, if it must be. There may be a reference to his prayer, "Father, forgive them." Compare by contrast the language of Jeremiah, speaking in the spirit of the Old Testament (Jeremiah 11:20 and Jeremiah 20:12). There is a curious reading, entirely without the authority of existing Greek manuscripts, represented by the Vulgate, Tradebat judicanti se injuste, as if the words were understood of the Lord's submitting himself "to one who judged unrighteously," that is, to Pilate.
Who his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree. St. Peter has thus far spoken of our Lord as our Example of patient endurance; but he seems to feel that, although this is the aspect of the Savior's sufferings most suitable to his present purpose, yet it is scarcely seemly to dwell upon that most momentous of all events, the death of Christ our Lord upon the cross, without mentioning its more solemn and awful import. A martyr may be an example of patient suffering; he cannot bear our sins. The apostle proceeds to unfold the contents of the ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν in 1 Peter 2:21. The Lord died for us: but what is the meaning of the preposition? Was it that his example might stimulate us to imitate his patience and his holy courage? This is a true view, but, taken alone, it would be utterly inadequate. The death of the Son of God had a far deeper significance. The ὑπέρ used here and elsewhere is explained by the more precise ἀντί of Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6, in which last passage both propositions are combined. The Lord died, not only in our behalf, but in our stead. He gave "his life a ransom for many;" "he is the Propitiation for our sins." St. Peter exhibits here, with all possible emphasis, this vicarious aspect of the Savior's death. "He bore our sins himself." The pronoun is strongly emphatic; he bore them, though they were not his own. They were our sins, but he bore them—he alone; none other could bear that awful burden. He bare (ἀνήνεγκεν). The apostle is evidently quoting Isaiah 53:12, where the Hebrew verb is אשָׂןָ, and the Septuagint Version is Καὶ αὐτὸς ἁμαρτίας πολλῶν ἀνήνεγκε; comp. Isaiah 53:4 and Isaiah 53:11 (in Isaiah 53:11 there is another Hebrew verb) of the same chapter. In the Old Testament "to bear sins" or "iniquity" means to suffer the punishment of sin, whether one's own sin or the sin of others (see Le Isaiah 5:1, Isaiah 5:17, and many similar passages). In the description of the ceremonial of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:1-3. it is said (Leviticus 16:22) that the scapegoat "shall bear upon him [the Hebrew is וילָעָ ריעִשָׂהַ אשָׂןָ; the Greek is λήψεται ὁ χίμαρος ἐφ ̓ ἑαυτῷ] all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited," where the scapegoat is represented as bearing the sins of the people and taking them away. Compare also the great saying of the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God. which taketh away the sin of the world!" where the Greek (ὁ αἴρων) may be rendered with equal exactness, "who beareth," or "who taketh away." The Lord took our sins away by taking them upon himself (comp. Matthew 8:17). As Aaron put the sins of the people upon the head of the scapegoat (Le Leviticus 16:21), and the goat was to bear them upon him unto a land not inhabited, so the Lord laid on the blessed Savior the iniquity of us all, and he bare our sins in his own body on to the tree, and, there dying in our stead, took them away. He bare them on himself, as the scapegoat bare upon him the iniquities of Israel. It was this burden of sin which made his sacred body sweat great drops of blood in his awful agony. He bare them on to the tree (ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον); he carried them thither, and there he expiated them (comp. Hebrews 9:28, "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many," where the same Greek word is used—ἀνενεγκεῖν). Another interpretation takes ἀναφέρειν in its sacrificial sense, as in Hebrews 7:27, and regards the cross as the altar: "He bore our sins on to the altar of the cross." The Lord is both Priest and Victim, and the verb is used in the sacred writings both of the priest who offers the sacrifice and of the sacrifice which bears or takes away sin. But the sacrifice which the Lord offered up was himself, not our sins; therefore it seems best to understand ἀναφέρειν here rather of victim than of priest, as in Hebrews 9:28 and the Greek Version of Isaiah 53:12. The thought of sacrifice was doubtless present to the apostle's mind, as it certainly was to the prophet's (see Isaiah 53:10 of Isaiah 53:1-23.). The word ξύλον is used for the cross twice in St. Peter's speeches in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39). It is also so used by St. Paul (Galatians 3:13). That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness. The Greek word ἀπογενόμενοι occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Bengel understands it differently. He says that as γενέσθαι τινός means "to become the slave of some one," so ἀπογενέσθαι may mean to cease to be a slave. But this would require the genitive, not the dative, ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις; and the ordinary translation is more suitable to the following context. The word is several times used in Herodotus in the sense of "having died;" more literally, "having ceased to be." The tense (aorist) seems to point to a definite time, as the time of baptism (comp. Romans 6:2, Romans 6:11; Galatians 2:19, Galatians 2:20). Righteousness here is simply the opposite of sin—obedience, submission to the will of God. Bengel says, "Justitia tota una est; peccatum multiplex." By whose stripes ye were healed. The apostle is quoting the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 53:5. The Greek μώλωψ means the mark or weal left on the flesh by a scourge (comp. Ecclesiasticus 28:17, Πληγὴ μάστιγος ποιεῖ μώλωπας). The slaves, whom the apostle is addressing, might perhaps not infrequently be subjected to the scourge; he bids them remember the more dreadful flagellation which the Lord endured. They were to learn patience of him, and to remember to their comfort that those stripes which he, the holy Son of God, condescended to suffer are to them that believe healing and salvation. Faith in the crucified Savior lifts the Christian out of the sickness of sin into the health of righteousness.
For ye were as sheep going astray; rather, with the best manuscripts, for ye were going astray like sheep. The apostle is probably still thinking of the great prophecy of Isaiah, and here almost reproduces the words of the sixth verse, "All we like sheep have gone astray." He who had been thrice charged to feed the sheep and the lambs of Christ would think also of the parable of the lost sheep, and of the people of Israel who were "as sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls; literally, but ye returned (the verb is aorist); that is, at the time of their conversion. The aorist passive, ἐπεστράφην, is so frequently used in a middle sense that the translation, "ye were converted," cannot be insisted on. Christ is the Shepherd of our souls. The quotation from Isaiah doubtless brought before St. Peter's thoughts the sweet and holy allegory of the good Shepherd, which he had heard from the Savior's lips (comp. also Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24; also Psalms 22:1-19.). The word "bishop" (ἐπίσκοπος) is used in a similar connection in Acts 20:28, "Take heed … to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (ἐπισκόπους);" comp. also Ezekiel 34:11, "I will both search my sheep, and seek them out," where the Greek word for "seek them out" is ἐπισκέψομαι. The Lord Jesus Christ is the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He is also the chief Bishop or Overseer of those souls which he has bought to be his own with his most precious blood.
1 Peter 2:1-60 - The regenerate life.
I. ITS GROWTH.
1. What must be shunned. St. Paul bids us work out our own salvation. The new birth is the beginning; that comes from God—from his free grace. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." But the new man must grow; and that growth is not spontaneous; it will not evolve itself without effort from the" incorruptible seed." Progress, growth in grace, requires earnest prayer, watchfulness, constant self-denial. St. Peter bids us "grow in grace" (2 Peter 3:18). We do not bid a plant to grow; we watch its growth, we assist it. But Holy Scripture bids the Christian grow; the commandment implies the power. Our Father doth not mock us with precepts which we cannot obey. And growth in free agents implies effort. They must avoid all pernicious influences, everything which might check the growth of the precious germ. Especially they must avoid all offences against the law of love; for love is the very pulse of the regenerate life; these who are born again of the incorruptible seed must love one another with a pure heart fervently. There can be no such things as malice and guile and envy in the heart wherein the holy seed abideth; for these things come of Satan; they have the taint of hell. Christians must not speak evil of one another; it is Satan who is the accuser of the brethren. Christians must be true and real. The Lord Jesus hates hypocrisy; he condemned it sternly in the Pharisees; it is more hateful still in those who are called by his holy Name. The Christian must lay aside all these evil things; he must strip them off. They are the garments of the old man; he must put on the new.
2. What must be desired. "The sincere milk of the Word," the spiritual nourishment of the soul. They who cherish malice and envy in their hearts have no appetite for the heavenly food. They who have not holy love within themselves cannot desire the Word of him who is Love. But all who answer to the apostle's description will long for it. Those to whom he wrote had not been Christians very tong; some of them probably only a very short time—they were new-born babes. But the true Christian will always regard himself as a mere child in Christ; he will feel what little progress he has made in spiritual growth; and, feeling this, he will long for spiritual nourishment. The Word of God is the food of the soul; it is the suitable food, the food divinely provided for the soul, as milk is for infants. It is pure, unadulterated. The soul that desires it will assimilate it, will grow by its nourishing influence unto salvation, unto the measure of the stature of Christ. The Christian will desire the Word, that he may grow, thereby; not simply for present pleasure and excitement, not simply for knowledge, or for facility in preaching and theological controversy; but above all things, that he may grow thereby. The Word of God is sweet to hear, knowledge is precious, religious eloquence is a great gift; but this pleasure and this knowledge are little worth in comparison with growth in holiness of heart and life. The Scriptures are able to make us wise; the wisdom which we should seek there is that wisdom which cometh from above, which is unto salvation.
3. What leads us to desire it. Experience, the taste of its sweetness. The psalmist says, "How sweet are thy words to my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" And in another psalm, which St. Peter quotes here, we are invited to taste and see that the Lord is good." His Word is sweet, but it derives its sweetness from him whose Word it is. We do not realize the sweetness of the Word of God till we have felt something of the sweetness of the Savior's presence. For he himself, who is in the highest sense the Word of God, is the true food of the soul. He bids us feed on him by faith; he giveth food and drink to the soul that hungereth and thirsteth after righteousness; and that food and drink, which is himself, he giveth in the blessed sacrament and in the daily life of faith to those who lift up their hearts to him with earnest longing and strong desire. Those who have known how gracious the Lord is will long more and more for increasing nearness unto him.
II. ITS CENTER, WHICH IS CHRIST; AND OUR RELATIONS TO HIM.
1. The Church is a spiritual temple, of which Christ is the chief Corner-stone. The whole universe is in a sense the temple of God: he fills it with his presence. The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him; he inhabiteth eternity. Yet he vouchsafed to manifest his presence in the ancient temple—it was" the habitation of his house, the place where his honor dwelt." But that temple was the figure of a holier temple. God is a Spirit; his temple in the highest sense must be a spiritual house. It is built up of living stones, Christian men and women, living with the life of Christ, who come, drawn by the attracting force of love (as, the fable said, the stones of Thebes were drawn by the lyre of Amphion) to the one living Stone which was once disallowed of men, but is chosen of God and precious, and range themselves, or rather are built up by the power of the Holy Spirit, as chosen stones upon the one Stone first chosen, which is at once the Foundation on which the building rests, and the chief Corner-stone that holds the walls together, so that the whole building fitly joined and Compacted in all its parts groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord. The whole building is a temple; so in a true sense is each living stone therein, for the bodies of Christians are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19); but in the fullest sense the whole Christian Church is the spiritual temple of God—it is a corporate unity, knit and framed together into one building by the chief Cornerstone, the principle of unity on which it rests, which binds its various parts into one whole. The closer Christians are bound by spiritual union with that one Corner-stone, the closer will they be bound together in the communion of saints, though they may be set as living stones in widely distant parts of the spiritual building. And God dwelleth in this temple, which is the holy Catholic Church, the whole congregation of Christian people throughout the world. He fills it, all and in every part, with his sacred presence. For this temple is very precious in his sight; each living stone is precious, and precious above all price is the chief Cornerstone which holds the whole together. "For this purpose chiefly did he make the world, that in it he might raise this spiritual building for himself to dwell in forever.… And from eternity he knew what the dimensions and frame and materials of it should be. The continuance of this present world, as now it is, is but for the service of this work, like the scaffolding about it; and therefore, when the spiritual building shall be fully completed, all the present frame of things in the world and in the Church itself shall be taken away, and appear no more" (Leighton).
2. The Church is a spiritual priesthood. As Christ is in a transcendent sense the Temple of God, and yet Christians individually and the Christian Church as a whole are temples also through his grace, so Christ himself is the one great High Priest; but though that high priesthood is his alone and incommunicable, yet his saints thank him because he has made the Christian Church to be a holy priesthood, and individual Christians to be priests unto God. Under the ancient Law the priests only entered into the temple, the high priest alone into the holy of holies, and that but once a year; but now the veil which hid the holiest place is rent in twain, and all true Christians may enter as priests into the immediate presence of God, "having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Hebrews 10:19). Through him (Ephesians 2:18) we have access to the Father, we come having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, having with us the blood of sprinkling, pleading the atoning power of the one great Sacrifice. For as the Lord Jesus is Temple and Priest, so is he also the one true Sacrifice. Yet we, if we are priests, must have something to offer: "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord?" St. Peter tells us that our offerings must be spiritual sacrifices. Such sacrifices are the prayers of the saints. "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as the incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Psalms 141:2). These prayers are presented before the throne in "golden vials full of odors" in the sacred imagery of the Revelation (Revelation 5:8). Prayer is a sacrifice when it issues from the heart, when its sweet odor is wafted upwards with the fire of holy love. And praise is a sacrifice: "Offer unto God thanksgiving;" "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me" (Psa 14:1-7 :23); but to be a sacrifice it must be that sweet and holy melody which the thankful heart singeth unto the Lord. Almsgiving, too, is a sacrifice (Hebrews 13:16), when the Christian offers willingly, out of a thankful heart, seeking not the praise of men, but only the glory of God. God accepts our poor gifts when they are brought to him in faith, as the Lord Jesus Christ accepted the two mites of the poor widow. But the chief sacrifice that we can offer is the sacrifice of ourselves. "My son, give me thy heart," is the Lord's requirement. If we give him that, we give him all: it is a poor gift, worthless in itself, but yet precious in his sight because he first loved us, made more precious still by the precious blood of Christ which was shed that these hearts of ours might be cleansed and purified for a holy offering. It is all he asks, and all we have to give; if we give it, we shall be all the richer, for he giveth in return the unspeakable Gift—the gift of himself, to abide forever in the heart that is given to him. "We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee." We offer these our offerings through Jesus Christ, (Hebrews 13:15), pleading his merits, his atonement; and through him they are acceptable unto God. In themselves they are very mean and imperfect; not without blemish, as an offering should be; defiled with lingering taints of selfishness and earthliness; but if they are offered through him, in the faith of him, they are acceptable. For the priests of the spiritual temple are also living stones in that temple, incorporated into the mystical body of Christ, and thus their spiritual sacrifices are consecrated by his one prevailing Sacrifice, and through that Sacrifice are acceptable unto God.
3. What Christ is to true Christians. The apostle confirms his teaching by an appeal to the prophets: "It is contained in the Scriptures," he says. Search the Scriptures; they testify of Christ; we shall find treasures there, if only we search. The evangelical prophet testified of Christ long before he came in the flesh; he spoke of him as the chief Cornerstone; he speaks in the Name of God, "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a Stone, a tried Stone, a precious Cornerstone, a sure Foundation." God the Father is the Master-builder; it was he who ]aid the Cornerstone: "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." It is laid in Zion, in the Church, to be its one Foundation, the Rock on which it is built, which gives it strength and solidity; its chief Corner-stone, which gives it unity, without which it would fall to pieces. And that chief Corner-stone is elect, chosen of God from all eternity, chosen in the eternal purpose of God the Father to be the Foundation of the Church. And it is precious exceedingly, held in high honor of God, worthy of his love, for it is faultless in beauty and in strength—a polished Cornerstone without flaw and without blemish. He that resteth on that Cornerstone, built up in faith upon it, shall not be put to shame. "For God hath laid this precious Stone in Zion for this very purpose that weary souls may rest upon it" (Leighton): and he that so resteth need not make haste; he need not run hither and thither for help, for his soul is established, his mind is stayed upon God. Nothing can shake him from that sure Foundation, while he rests on it in faith, "neither death, nor life… nor things present, nor things to come,… shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." "Such honor have all his saints." This honor is for them that believe; they have the honor, high above all other honor, of indissoluble union with Christ; they rest on him, they are his and he is theirs: "My beloved is mine, and I am his." They know the exceeding preciousness of that living Stone, for they feel its strong support beneath them; its preciousness is for them; for their sakes, for their salvation, God laid that elect, that precious Stone in Zion. How precious faith is (2 Peter 1:1)! it is faith that binds us firmly to that precious Cornerstone.
4. What he is to the disobedient; or to such as disbelieve (Revised Version); for, as Leighton says, unbelief itself is "the grand disobedience;" "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29). Unbelief lies at the root of all disobedience; all disobedience flows from it; he cannot be disobedient who realizes by faith the power, the love, the presence, of God. The builders were disobedient; the priests and scribes disallowed the stones which God had chosen. So, alas! now too often the great men of the world, the builders of its policy, "leave out Christ in their building;" and not only they, but sometimes "the pretended builders of the Church of God, though they use the name of Christ, and serve their turn with that, yet reject himself, and oppose the power of his spiritual kingdom. There may be wit and learning, and much knowledge of the Scriptures amongst those that are haters of the Lord Christ and of the power of godliness, and corrupters of the worship of God. It is the spirit of humility and obedience and saving faith that teaches men to esteem Christ, and to build upon him" (Leighton). But the unbelief and disobedience of men cannot turn aside the purpose of God; the living Stone that was once disallowed is become the Head of the corner. He is exalted high above all the power of the enemy. "The kings of the earth may set themselves, and the rulers may take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed.… But he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh,… he shall speak unto them in his wrath,… Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." He is the Head of the corner now," Head over all things to his Church." "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet;" then shall the King sit upon the throne of his glory, and they who have rejected him shall to their confusion see him raised "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." But he is to the disobedient not only the Head of the corner to their confusion, but also a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offence to their destruction. It is no light thing to reject the Son of God, to set the cross at naught, to despise the love of him who died upon the cross for us. Such sinners against their own souls must fall. He tasted death for every man; and to every man the death of the Son of God is full of momentous results—everlasting life to the believer, but to the willful and impenitent sinner what can it be save utter death? The living Stone is the Foundation, the Head of the corner; "this is the Lord's doing," and who can stand against the Lord? The Stone becomes a Stumbling-block to the disobedient; they fall upon it. One day it must fall on them, as in the vision of Nebuchadnezzar it fell on the great image which represented all the empires of the world. "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." For this is the Lord's appointment. That Stone must become a great mountain and fill the whole earth; and resistance to the decree of the Most High can only end in ruin and destruction; those who reject the living Stone must in the end be crushed beneath it.
5. What true Christians are to Christ.
(1) They are "a chosen generation," an elect race. As the Israelites were one race, descended from one ancestor, so Christian;, in virtue of their new birth, are the children of the heavenly Father, a regenerate race. And they are chosen, the elect people of God, chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world; a high and sacred dignity.
(2) "A royal priesthood." Not only a priesthood, as St. Peter had said in verse 5, but a royal priesthood. Royal, because the priests of the spiritual temple serve the King of kings; they are his attendants; they belong to "the household of God,"—the royal household of the great invisible King. And they reign upon the earth; for they have given their hearts to Christ to be his kingdom; and "this is the benefit of receiving the kingdom of Christ into a man's heart, that it makes him a king himself. All the subjects of Christ are kings, not only in regard of that pure crown of glory they hope for, and shall certainly attain; but in the present they have a kingdom which is the pledge of that other, overcoming the world, and Satan, and themselves, by the power of faith" (Leighton). The true Christian has a royal heart; he reigns with Christ the King over the passions, affections, and desires of his lower nature. The free Spirit of God dispenses to the contrite "the princely heart of innocence" ('Christian Year: Sixth Sunday after Trinity').
(3) "A holy nation." One nation, though living in different lands, under different forms of earthly government; but all citizens of the one heavenly country, all subjects of the one Almighty King. And holy, because they are his, separated to his service, bound by that dedication to follow after holiness of heart and life.
(4) "A peculiar people." The children of Israel were to be God's "peculiar treasure above all people" (Exodus 19:5). The Christian Church, the Israel of God, is his treasure now, his special possession. He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for them; and that Church, purchased at such a price, is very precious: "They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels;" or rather, as in the Revised Version, "in the day that I do make, even a peculiar treasure."
6. What is their bounden duty. All these high and holy dignities are theirs. The estate of Christians is very lofty; they are the children of the Most High, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. They should maintain a greatness of mind, a holiness of life suitable to their exalted station; they "should show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light." For they were once not a people; they had no center of unity, no part in the heavenly kingdom, no hope; for they had not obtained mercy. But now God hath called them, "Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah" (Hosea 2:2); they are his people; they have obtained mercy. "Ammi, my people." There is a treasure of holy meaning in that word. We are his; he cares for us; we belong to him. Then we must show forth his praises, and that not only with our lips, but in our lives. We must proclaim to others the blessedness of religion. He has called us out of the darkness of sin and ignorance into the light of his presence. That light is wonderful. Christians never cease to wonder at the glory and blessedness of that light which in times of near communion with God streams into their hearts. If they walk in that light, it must kindle a holy flame in their own souls; they must become a light also ("Ye are the light of the world," the Savior said to his chosen); they must let their light shine before men, that men may see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven.
1. "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Having once tasted, you will long for his presence, you will desire the heavenly food.
2. Seek to be built up in Christ; not loose stones lying round the one Cornerstone, but resting upon it, joined as living stones to the one Foundation.
3. Be faithful priests unto the Lord. Offer every day the daily sacrifice of prayer and praise; renew every day the sacrifice of self.
4. Consider the great dignity of Christians; be full of thankfulness; rejoice in the Lord; show forth his praises.
1 Peter 2:11-60 - Various exhortations.
I. TO PURITY OF LIFE.
1. The ground of the exhortation. St. Peter has been dwelling on the high dignities and privileges of the Christian life. They who are living stones in God's spiritual temple must remember their close union with Christ, the chief Corner-stone; they who belong to the holy, the royal priesthood must remember that "Holiness to the Lord" is the badge of those who are consecrated to his service (Exodus 28:36). The living stones in the spiritual temple are to become pillars in the heavenly temple (Revelation 3:12), the priests in that spiritual temple are to be priests of God and of his Christ in the glory of the Resurrection (Revelation 20:6). They must remember their high destiny. Here they are sojourners and strangers; they must not follow the example of those among whom their lot is cast during the time of their sojourning. Fleshly lusts are of the earth, earthy. "The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world." And God's people are not of the world; they are sojourners and strangers in it for a little time; they must not imitate its modes of thought and life; they must live as citizens of the heavenly country.
2. The necessity of the exhortation.
(1) For the salvation of the soul. Fleshly lusts are not only beneath the dignity of God's peculiar people; they are full of danger, for they war against the soul; they are, as it were, the dark hosts of the evil one sent to wage a deadly warfare against the souls of men. It is the soul against which they fight—the soul which was first breathed into man by God; the soul for which the Lord Jesus died. To lose one's soul is to lose one's all; no apparent gain can compensate for that tremendous loss.
(2) For the glory of God. If the inward life be pure, the outward life will be blameless. If fleshly lusts are indulged in the heart, they will appear somewhere or other in the life. The outward life cannot be uniformly fair and seemly unless the heart is pure. But the Christian must for the glory of God let his light shine before men. Unbelievers will narrowly scan the lives of Christians; they will watch for any little inconsistencies, and magnify them, and turn them to the dishonor of their religion. The Gentiles spoke against the Christians of the ancient Church; they caricatured their sacraments, their worship; they accused them of atheism, of exciting seditions. Still the lives of Christians are watched. Therefore they should have their "conversation honest," that is, their life should be fair and beautiful; and as the "beauty of a Christian's life consists in symmetry and conformity to the Word of God as its rule, he ought diligently to study that rule, and to square his ways by it; not to walk at random, but to apply this rule to every step at home and abroad, and to be as careful to keep the beauty of his ways unspotted, as those women are of their faces and attire who are most studious of comeliness" (Leighton). And their object in all this should be the greater glory of God. We are bidden not to seek the praise of men; we might take no heed to their blame, to calumny and misrepresentation, were it not that we must care for the souls of the slanderers, and for the glory of God. For those ends Christians must try to exhibit the beauty of holiness in their outward lives, that men may see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven. It is from him that all holiness comes; all spiritual beauty is his gift. Men will see it in the lives of true Christians; they will feel its reality, its true loveliness; they know that such beauty is not of the earth; they may by God's grace be led to recognize it as coming from God, and to glorify him by seeking themselves to imitate the holy lives of Christians, that they too, in the day of visitation, may be ready to attend the heavenly Bridegroom in the wedding garments of holiness.
II. TO OBEDIENCE TO CIVIL AUTHORITIES.
1. The extent of that obedience. "The powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1); "The Most High giveth the kingdoms of the earth to whom he will;" "By him kings reign, and princes decree justice." Therefore the Christian must be loyal to the government under which God's providence has placed him. One form of government may be better than another; but any regular government is better than anarchy. St. Paul bids us pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life." Government is from God; the form of it is determined, under God's overruling providence, by man. St. Peter bids us obey every ordinance of man, every human creation—all rulers, whether the sovereign or those who are set in authority under him; and that because orderly government is necessary for the well-being and the very existence of society, "for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well." On the whole, the strong rule of Rome had worked for the good of mankind, for the peace and order of that vast empire. Roman governors and officers, like Festus and Gallio and Claudius Lysias, had been on the side of right against the violence of Jewish mobs; even Felix and Pilate showed some traces of the Roman sense of justice. The reigning emperor, indeed, was a monster of vice; he had treated the Christians of Rome with atrocious cruelty; the persecution would soon spread into the provinces. But hitherto the Roman authorities had generally protected the infant Church. The institutions of civil government work for the good of society; Christians must be loyal and peaceable citizens.
2. The ground and limits of that obedience. It should be "for the Lord's sake." His providence has set us where we are; we must not rebel against his will. He ruleth all things both in heaven and in earth, and he will make all things work together for the eternal good of his chosen. It is enough for us; our duty is to say, "Thy will be done," and for his sake, in the consciousness that, in obeying those who are set over us, we are obeying the King of kings, to submit ourselves to every human ordinance. But that obedience is for his sake; therefore it cannot extend to unlawful commands. St. Peter himself had once said to the high priest, "We ought to obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29; comp. also Acts 4:19); and the time was coming when brave Christian men and women would have to choose between renouncing Christ and the death of martyrdom. The disobedience would be "for the Lord's sake." The higher duty would overrule the lower. To "fear God and to keep his commandments is the whole duty of man;" this highest rule will guide the Christian under ordinary circumstances to obey human law and government, sometimes under exceptional circumstances to obey God rather than man. As a rule, Christians must be subject to the higher powers. Indeed, they are free; Christ hath made them free from the yoke of bondage. But they are the servants of God; his will should be the law of their lives; and his will is that Christian liberty should be orderly and sober. The soul is free from the bondage of sin; the outward life should be regulated by obedience to authority and law; and that for the glory of God, that the well-ordered lives of Christian people may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
3. Four rules for the guidance of Christians in social life.
(1) "Honor all men." The apostle has just enjoined a dutiful submission to kings and magistrates. He extends his precept; all men are to be treated with honor. St. Paul had said, "Render therefore to all their dues;… honor to whom honor is due" (Romans 13:7). Though we owe not the same measure of honor to every one, yet in some sense honor is due to all men; for all men are God's creatures, made originally in the likeness of God. The Jews, Leighton reminds us, would not tread on any chance piece of paper, lest, they said, the name of God might be written on it. So the Christian may not despise any one, however base in his outward condition, in body, or in mind, or even however much fallen from God and goodness. The name of God may be written on that soul; low in all earthly things, it maybe high in grace; the Lord Jesus died for that poor fallen soul; it may be restored and won back and forgiven like the sinful woman who washed the Lord's feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. Therefore the Christian must treat all men with consideration and respect; scorn and contempt are utterly out of place in the disciples of the lowly Savior.
(2) "Love the brotherhood." Christians are not only brethren, but a brotherhood, one body in Christ; they are knit together by the one Spirit into one communion and fellowship; they must regard one another with fraternal affection. The nearer they draw to Christ, who loved them and gave himself for them, the more fully will they learn of him this high and holy lesson of Christian love.
(3) "Fear God." This great principle must guide the Christian in all the relations of life. "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." He who has the fear of God before his eyes will do his duty towards his neighbor; for to fear and to obey God, the preacher says, is "the whole of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13)—it covers the whole sphere of his life and conduct. Other rules are subordinate to this central rule. We must honor all men, because all men are the creatures of God; we must honor most those in whom the image of God is best reflected. We must love the brotherhood, but so that we love God first above all. We must honor the king, because all power is of God.
(4) "Honor the king." That king was Nero. It was bard to honor such a one, a monster stained with every infamy. But Christians were to see in him the representative of law and order, and they were to respect his authority while they could not but loathe his crimes.
1. Let us always remember that we are strangers here, and that the citizens of the heavenly country should he "not of the world."
2. The Christian must ever strive to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things, seeking always the glory of God.
3. He must yield a loyal obedience to human law for the Lord's sake.
4. The law of liberty is not license; Christian freedom is the service of God.
1 Peter 2:18-60 - Special address to servants.
I. THEIR DUTIES.
1. Submission to their masters. Religion touches every condition of life; none is left out. And none may make the circumstances of their life an excuse for neglecting religion. God set them where they are; their station, their circumstances, are such as he was pleased to appoint. He "will have all men to be saved;" therefore we may be sure all men may be saved, whatever may be their outward circumstances. It is for them to do their duty to God and to man in that station to which God has been pleased to call them. There are many compensations in life; riches have their cares; high rank has its responsibilities. Men must not fret and chafe against the toils and privations of their lot; they must do their duty in it, and they wilt find peace and inward satisfaction. "Brethren," says St. Paul, speaking to slaves (1 Corinthians 7:24), "let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." God has a message for servants. Their lot was very hard under the stern rule of slavery, when even men of wide views like Aristotle regarded slaves as "living tools." But Christian slaves were to take comfort; they were the Lord's freedmen (1 Corinthians 7:22); they were, equally with the highest in rank, living stones in the Lord's spiritual temple; they might gain for themselves a high place there by the quiet, faithful discharge of the humblest duties. Then let them serve their masters with all respect and reverence; and that, not simply out of gratitude, if they happened to have kind and indulgent masters, but out of submission to the holy will of God, whatever might be the character of those under whom they were placed. There is a lesson here for all who occupy subordinate positions of any sort—let them pay proper reverence and obedience to their superiors. It is their duty, not only to those superiors, but to God.
2. The motive of that submission. Consciousness of God. This high motive dignifies the humblest position in life, and makes the respect and submission which Christian servants yield to their masters, or Christians in any condition to their superiors, a beautiful and holy thing. They recognize the great truth of the presence of God; they try to live in the habitual consciousness of that presence; they try to think of God all the day long, in all the little details of their daily occupations, and to perform each duty, great or small, as unto the Lord. Thus Christians in the humblest positions may "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Titus 2:10). These words of St. Paul were spoken of Christian slaves. Slaves might adorn the Church of God, and bring honor to Christ. Through the grace of God, the last are often first, the lowest in this world highest in the kingdom of heaven.
3. The reward of that submission. It is thankworthy; it is acceptable with God. The master might be much beneath his slave; the superior may be much beneath his official inferiors in all that constitutes true greatness; it has often been so, it must be so sometimes still. The Christian, in whatsoever state he is, must be content; if he has to suffer wrong, injustice, cruelty, he must take it patiently. To submit to deserved punishment, to own our fault, and to accept the consequence, is hard to our proud, selfish nature; yet it is but a plain duty; it merits no praise. But when Christians submit to undeserved suffering; when in the ancient times they endured stripes and the prison and the death of martyrdom; when now Christian men, or women, or children endure persecution, sometimes very hard to bear, from those in various ways above them, or, it may be, from fellow-servants or school-fellows;—when they take it patiently in the consciousness of God's presence, this is the work of God's grace; this is lovely in the sight of God; and the Scripture saith in God's great condescension, this is thankworthy with God.
II. THE GREAT EXAMPLE.
1. Christians are called to imitate Christ. Christians are called to suffering; the cross is the badge of their profession; without the cross they cannot be disciples of the crucified Lord. This was the meaning of your calling, St. Peter says; you knew it when you became Christians; you must not forget it in the hour of trial. Christ suffered for you, yes, for you slaves; he left behind him, when he ascended into heaven, an example for you to imitate, a sketch for you to fill up in detail. Try by the grace of God the Holy Spirit to renew the likeness of God in your hearts; look to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Model; copy one by one the features of that Divine loveliness; fill up the portrait, little by little, touch by touch, looking with fixed attention on the great Original. And, to change the figure, follow him; he goeth before you. Climb the steep ascent of heaven, stepping in the very footprints of the Divine Guide. He will lead you safe. But there is only one way—the way which he trod himself, the royal way of the most holy cross.
2. The innocence of Christ. He did not sin, yet he suffered. We have sinned, yet we murmur under our chastisements. We fret and complain all the louder, if we think that our afflictions are not the direct result of sin; all the more if we think that they are wrongfully inflicted. We fancy that there are none so hardly dealt with, none so unjustly treated; we magnify our distress; we will not be comforted; we refuse to see any alleviation, any ray of light, any evidences of mercy. But we should think of our sins, our unworthiness, our need of chastisement for our profit in holiness. Above all, we should think of the innocent Savior. "He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." We have sinned in thought, word, and deed; let us not complain.
3. The patience of Christ. He was buffeted and spat upon and cruelly mocked, yet he opened not his mouth; he was scourged, he was nailed to the cross; he suffered through all those six hours the intensest agony; he threatened not, he did not call for the twelve legions of angels. He committed all, himself, his cause, his torturers, to him that judgeth righteously—he left it all to God. He is our high Example. We should learn of him; we should pray for those who despitefully use us: "Father, forgive them." Here is the Christian's comfort when he is unjustly treated. God judgeth righteously; he knoweth them that are his; he knows their prayers, their self-denials, their temptations. If the world judge them harshly, it matters little; God judgeth righteously; they leave all to him. And when men speak evil of them, when they impute unworthy motives and accuse them falsely, they think of Christ mocked, reviled, blasphemed, and try to learn of him meekness and patience.
4. How Christians are enabled to follow that example. Christ is our Example; but he is more—he is the Propitiation for our sins. It would be vain to set before us miserable sinners an example of perfect holiness, were it not that he bare our sins in his own body on to the tree. None other than the holy Son of God could bear that awful burden. The Lord "laid on him the iniquity of us all." He bare that tremendous load of human sin in his own body on to the tree, and there he took our sins away, dying, as he did, for all men, in our stead, suffering our punishment. Men think sin a light matter; true Christians know that it is a heavy burden, too heavy for them to bear. It was a heavy burden to Christ; it made him sweat those great drops of blood; it made him cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He only could bear that tremendous load. The Lord laid it on him; he took it on himself in his gracious mercy. He came to give his life a ransom for many; he was made sin for us, though he was without sin; the Lord made his soul an offering for sin. And the end of that stupendous sacrifice was that we, being dead to sin, should be enabled to copy that Divine Example, and should live unto righteousness. Such an event as the death of the Son of God must involve great and far-reaching consequences; it requires of us, for whom he died, not merely an outward change, not some slight improvement in our lives, but a death unto sin. When we look upon the cross, and think who it was that suffered there for us, we see the intense guilt of sin, we see the great love of God; and we draw from the death of Christ a hidden source of strength which helps us to crush sin out of our hearts, though the effort be like a death-struggle and the agony like a death-pang; for by his death he broke the power of Satan, giving himself in his deep holy love to suffer our punishment and to take away our sins. Therefore we must be unto sin as though we were not, as though we had departed, as though the sinful "I" was gone, and Christ was there instead: "Not I, but Christ;" "To me to live is Christ;" he who knows the meaning of those words is dying unto sin. As he dies unto sin, he lives unto righteousness; a new life dawns into his soul, new aspirations, new emotions. He is full of the energy of a vigorous life; but it is not the old life—that is gone; it is a new life which only they can know who die with Christ unto sin. It is his death which gives them life; his stripes heal their souls. They tortured and lacerated his holy body, but they heal the sickness of our souls; for it was for our sins that he submitted to that dreadful outrage. Each blow shows us the guilt and misery of sin; each drop of blood most precious cleanses the souls that turn to him in faith. He has borne our punishment, and we are free if we are his indeed, he abiding in us and we in him. Let us contemplate his sufferings with awe and reverence and gratitude, mourning for those sins of ours which added to his agony, killing them out of our hearts by the power of his death; thanking him in adoring love for his exceeding great love; bearing our little griefs patiently and cheerfully in the remembrance of his bitter cross and passion.
5. What they were; what they are now. "All we like sheep have gone astray." All have wandered from God, some in one direction, some in another, each turning to his own way. We flatter ourselves, in our folly, that we have not sinned like this or that neighbor. It may be so; his temptation was not our temptation; but our sin may be greater in the sight of God. All without exception have gone astray. But the Lord came in his mercy to seek and to save that which was lost. Happy those lost ones whom he has found, who, drawn by his grace, have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls! For he is the good Shepherd; he knows his sheep, and cares for them; and those sheep that have returned to him shall never perish, none can pluck them out of his hand. He is the Bishop, the Overseer, of our souls. He thinks of all our spiritual wants, our temptations, our distresses. He watches for our souls; he provides for our present necessities, for he feeds us with the sincere milk of the Word, with the bread of life; for our future welfare, for he is gone to prepare a place for us in heaven.
1. Christ took upon him the form of a servant; let Christians in humble positions be content.
2. Let them do their duty, taking slights and injustice patiently, as in the presence of God.
3. Let them fix their thoughts upon the great Example. He did no sin; yet he suffered; he reviled not again.
4. He is more than our Example; he is our Strength He bore our sins. He gave us power to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness. We can do all things (if we abide in him) through him that strengtheneth us.
HOMILIES BY A. MACLAREN
1 Peter 2:2 - Infant food.
There has just been a reference to regeneration as effected by the incorruptible seed of the Word. The metaphor is carried on in these words, which speak of the nourishment and growth of the regenerate. There does not, however, appear to be any limitation of the injunction of our text to Christians in an early stage. For all stages of the Christian life on earth the food which nourishes is the same. All should be growing, and the most mature is still, when his attainments are contrasted with what he wilt be in the future, and when the brief span of earthly life is measured against eternity, but as a new-born babe. So we have here the universal food; the appetite which all should cultivate; and the growth which all may attain.
I. THE TRUE FOOD OF THE CHRISTIAN SOUL IN ALL STAGES. It is impossible to preserve the force of the Greek in an English translation. The two adjectives which qualify "milk" are both ambiguous. That rendered "sincere" in the Authorized and "without guile" in the Revised Version is evidently suggested by the mention of guile in the previous verse, and may either mean "guileless" in the sense of having no by-ends to serve, or more probably "unadulterated." The other epithet may either mean "belonging to a word," or (as it means in Romans 12:1) "spiritual," that is, figurative, not material. The latter is no doubt its meaning here. But that spiritual, unadulterated milk is certainly the Word of God, and probably the expression was chosen because of the very ambiguity. At all events, Peter's thought is plainly that the Christian soul's true food is the Word, which is at once the instrument of regeneration and the support of life. Of course, he intends by "the Word" the truths which that Word brings to men. We are more accustomed to speak of Christ as being the Food of the soul. Is it possible that Peter here is speaking as his brother John would have spoken, and has floating before his mind in this context the thought of that Incarnate Word who liveth for ever, and in his holy humanity was without guile. This is improbable, and not necessary in order to give full force to the text. "The Word of the truth of the gospel" is the life of our souls, because it proclaims and brings to us Christ, who is truly their Life. The only way by which he can enter the soul to give and to sustain a better being is by means of the truth concerning him received and meditated on. Physiologists tell us that milk contains all the constituents needed for healthy life. The truth as it is in Jesus has no admixture of deleterious matters, is unspoiled by men's errors, and has in it all which the soul needs. As much cannot be said of any other "word."
II. THE APPETITE WHICH ALL CHRISTIANS SHOULD CULTIVATE. "Long for" is nearer the intensity of the original than "desire." There is no bodily craving more vehement and tyrannous than that of hunger. We all know how an infant cries for food. Such keenness of appetite ought to mark every Christian. But the very fact that this hunger has to be enjoined is a sad confession. "Infants do not need to be told to seek the mother's breast." But we, alas! have to acknowledge languid indifference and often positive distaste for the wholesome food which God gives. So this appetite has to be cultivated. And that it may, other appetites have to be restrained and starved. We are like children who eat sweetmeats, and so do not care for our meals. If we gorge ourselves on the sugared delights of earth, or on the rank "leeks and garlic" of Egypt, how can the manna but taste insipid to our palates! Therefore abstinence from these, and a tight hand on our desires and passions, are essential if we are to have any healthy hunger for wholesome food. Again, the appetite will in this case secure its being satisfied. This hunger is unlike all other hunger, in that it will certainly be filled. So the apostle does not even say drink, but he only says desire. For he knows that if there be the longing there will be the fruition, as certainly as the air flows into expanded lungs, or the sunshine into opened eyes. Other longings are often pain, and often vain. This is blessed in itself, and blessed in its sure fulfillment. He who can say, "I long for thy Word," will always be able to say," I did eat it, and it was the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Is this eager appetite for the Word of God the characteristic of our Christianity? Does the neglect of Scripture, the preference of almost any book to the Bible, which so many of us must confess, look like it? Does the utter disuse of meditation by such multitudes of professing Christians look like it? Can anybody suppose that people who scarcely ever occupy their minds with Divine truth, except when they languidly sit out a sermon, are thirsting for the pure milk of the Word?
III. THE GROWTH. "Unto salvation" is now usually admitted, as in the Revised Version, at the close of the verse. Of course, that word is here used, as it is in verse 9 of the previous chapter, for the complete deliverance from evil and investiture with good, which waits the believer in heaven. The whole Christian life on earth, then, is to be a continuous growth. Here we are all but as infants at the best, and we only come to maturity in another life. Salvation is the possession of "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." It is not, as some caricature the Christian doctrine, a mere escape from an outward hell, but is the attainment of the full height of manhood made God-like. That is the goal set before the Christian—an ever-progressive approximation to the unreachable God, an ever-increasing appropriation of infinite perfection into his indefinitely expanding being. And towards that endless growth and eternally increasing knowledge of and likeness to the revealed God in Christ, we may be steadily advancing here. If we will only use the amply adequate means provided for us, and let our souls feed on the Word of God, we shall grow as certainly as the child passes from infancy to boyhood and adolescence. But in order to feeding on that Word there must be rigid self-restraint, and many a struggle with lower appetites. Christian growth is no natural process. The painless, unconscious, spontaneous growth of the infant at the breast, or of the corn in the field, does not tell us all the facts. There are other symbols of Christian progress. It is a pilgrimage often to be trodden with bleeding feet. It is a building which does not "rise like an exhalation," but tasks strength and skill to lay its courses. It is a fight often desperate, always real, and in which that Word of God which is milk for the growing babe, is the sword for the warrior-hand. We have to fight that we may have room to grow; and of our conflict and of our growth the instrument is the Word of God - A.M.
We have here incidentally a plain proof that to Peter, Jesus Christ was Divine. He has just been quoting Old Testament words which speak of "the Lord" as "gracious," and he goes on, "to whom coming, as unto a living Stone." He therefore regards Christ as standing in the place of the Jehovah of the old covenant, and has neither scruple in asserting that he is the "gracious Lord" of the psalm, nor thought that he need pause to explain or vindicate the assumption. Obviously such a tone indicates that the truth of our Lord's Divinity was familiar to the recipients of the letter. We have here, in broad, general outline, the great office which Christ sustains; the highest gift which he bestows; and the condition on which we receive it from him.
I. CHRIST'S GREAT OFFICE—THE FOUNDATION-STONE FOR ALL MEN'S LIVES AND HOPES. In this metaphor many 01d Testament references unite. The Shepherd, the Stone of Israel had been celebrated in ancient poetry. Isaiah had spoken of the tried Foundation laid by God's own hard in Zion, which yet should be a Stone of stumbling to those who refused to build on it. A psalmist of a later period had sung amidst the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and the effort to rear again the temple, of the Stone rejected by the builders becoming the Head of the corner. A prophet of the same epoch had seen in vision the head-stone of the completed and transformed theocracy brought forth with triumphant acclaim. Daniel had prophesied of a Stone cut out without hands, which should crash among the kingdoms of the earth like a boulder hurled by an avalanche among peasants' cottages and gardens. And all these streams of prediction had been gathered into one, in the words which Peter so well remembered, with which, in those last days of hand-to-hand conflict, his Master had silenced his antagonists, and claimed to be at once the tried Foundation, and the ponderous Rock which, when it was set in motion, would grind opposition and opposers to powder. The echoes of these mighty words stand here, as they have been interpreted to the apostle by all that has passed since he first heard them. He understands now better than he did, even when he fronted the Sanhedrin with the bold proclamation, "This is the Stone which is set at naught of you builders." He has learned that his Lord is not merely meant to be the Foundation on which Israel may build, but that on which "strangers scattered abroad may be gathered into one." In all aspects and relations Jesus Christ is the Foundation-stone. The whole universe rests on him. He is "the Firstborn of every creature," the Agent of creation, the Mediator through whom all things came to be, and based upon whom the mighty whole of the material creation continues to exist. He is the Foundation of humanity, the Root from whom it springs, the Head in which it is gathered into one. He is the Foundation on which the individual soul must build all hope, joy, and goodness. He is the Foundation of the highest and purest form of social life, in which ultimately all others shall merge, and men be one in him. He is the Basis of all true thoughts of God, man, immortality, and duty. He is the Motive and Inspiration of the purest life. His Person, work, and teaching underlie all being, all peace, and all nobleness. He is the "living Stone," inasmuch as in him is essential life, and he ever lives to be the Source of life to all who build on him.
II. CHRIST'S GREAT GIFT, THAT OF ASSIMILATION TO HIMSELF. Coming to him, we become living stones. One can scarcely avoid seeing here some allusion to the apostle's own name, as if he would share whatever honor there was with all his brethren, and disown any special prerogative. "'Thou art Peter' was, indeed, said to me; but you are all living stones. 'On this rock' was, indeed, said to me; but Christ is the only Foundation." Peter's own understanding of these much-controverted words is no bad guide to their meaning. The image here but puts under one aspect the wide general principle that transformation into Christ's likeness is the great end of his work on us. Is he a Son? Through him we become sons. Is he "the Light of the world"? Illumined by him, we too become lights. Is he anointed with the Spirit? Through him we too receive that unction which invests us with his threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. We are one with him, and participate in his relation to God; we are one with him, and receive of his fullness, are clothed with his righteousness, and growingly conformed to his image. We are one with him, and shall be one in destiny. "As he is, so are we in this world." "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." And the deep truth which underlies all these representations is the actual communication of the life of Christ to us. That life rises up from the foundation through all the courses of the building. This truth is more obviously suggested by the kindred metaphors of the vine and the branches, and the head and members; but it is clearly intended here also, and is conveyed, though with some incongruity, by the expression, "living stones." The life which is in us is Christ's life. Therefore it unfolds itself in us in a form like his, and the vital contact with the living Stone makes us, too, living stones.
III. THE CONDITION OF ASSIMILATION. It is expressed in grand simplicity by that one pregnant phrase, "to whom coming." The original word implies, by the force of a compound, a very close approach. We must be so near him as to touch him, if his transforming power is to flow into our hearts. A hair's breadth of separation is enough to stop the passage of the electric current. The thinnest film of distance between the soul and Christ is thick enough to be an impenetrable barrier. There must be a real living contact if his life is to pour into my veins. And if we ask how this close approach is to be effected, our Lord's own words are the simplest answer, "He that cometh unto me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." We come in the act of faith. To trust him is to draw near to him. Faith is the approach of the soul to Christ, and we touch when, with the reliance of our whole nature, we grasp his cross, and him who died on it, as our only Foundation. But that act of faith must be continuous, if we are to draw life from him in an unbroken stream. The form of expression in the Greek shows that the "coming" is not an act done once for all, but one constantly repeated. The grace drawn from Christ in a moment of active faith cannot be stored up for use in a time when faith has fallen asleep. As soon as we cease to draw near to him, the flow stops. There must be a present faith for a present blessing. Let us, then, rely on no past acts of devout emotion, but hourly renew our conscious faith, and seek to nestle closer to his side, from whom all our life and all its hopes and joys, with all its goodness and power, proceed. So shall there rise up into us, from the living Root, the sap which shall produce in us flowers and abiding fruit. So shall there be one life in him and in us - A.M.
1 Peter 2:5 - Temple, priest, sacrifice.
Temple, priest, sacrifice—these three are the constituents of worship, as the world knew it before Christ. He is the reality, felt after by heathenism in its rites, shadowed by Judaism in its ceremonies. A universal want is unconsciously confessed by the former; a Divine satisfaction of it is prophesied by the latter. But not only does Christ in his own Person and work supply these three to men; he also makes those who come to him by faith all these in a real though derived and subordinate manner; they, too, become temple, priest, and sacrifice. Christianity lifts the externals of sacrificial religion into a higher sphere, and does away with the symbols, because it brings the realities. Whether the first readers of this letter were Jewish or Gentile Christians, they must have felt the bareness of their new worship as contrasted with the elaborate rituals of their former faiths, and have especially needed the insight into their real dignity which these words supply. Perhaps this age needs the lesson not less, though for different reasons. Let us simply look at these three aspects of the ideal Christian character.
I. CHRIST IS THE TRUE TEMPLE; WE BECOME A TEMPLE THROUGH HIM. The temple is the dwelling-place of Deity. The need for it arises from man's weakness, which cannot grasp the pure spirituality of the Divine nature, but has to aid its conceptions by localizing God, and still more from man's sin, which to his own consciousness has profaned the world, and cannot bear the thought of God's dwelling among the foulness of everyday abodes. Christ is all which temples shadowed. The temple was the dwelling-place of Deity, and in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. It was the place of meeting between God and man, and in him we draw near to the God who in him has drawn near to us. It was the place of sacrifice, and in his flesh the one propitiation has been offered for sin forever. It was the place of Divine manifestation, and in him the whole glory of the Divine nature has been flashed upon the world with a brightness before which the light that shone between the cherubim pales its fires. The burden of the context here is that by coming to Christ we become partakers of his life, and are therefore assimilated to him. So the whole aggregate of the scattered strangers to whom Peter writes, and all the solitary souls who, one by one, draw near to Jesus, are built up into one great temple, the true sanctuary, consisting of all redeemed humanity, in which God dwells. All Churches are but chapels in its side aisles. Its ample roof covers them all, and will shelter new forms of Christian fellowship as yet undreamed of. Through the ages it is being slowly builded, like some great cathedral unfinished for centuries, each of which has added something to the pile. And as the Church as a whole is the temple, so its members in detail are temples of God. By a real though mysterious indwelling, more real if one may say so, and less mysterious than that by which he inhabits eternity or dwells in the material universe, God comes and makes his abode in every believing soul. A Divine Spirit can fill and penetrate the human spirit, as the sunshine drenches and saturates some poor film of mist, till every particle is suffused with the fiery brightness. We are too apt to water down that most solemn and blessed truth of God's indwelling into the mere presence of an influence on our spirits. We need to rise to the height of the wonderful, awful, gladsome thought that God himself dwells in every soul that comes to Christ.
II. CHRIST IS THE TRUE PRIEST; WE ARE PRIESTS THROUGH HIM. The priest, like the temple, has his origin in man's consciousness of unworthiness to draw near to his God. Therefore he takes one of his tribe, and sets him apart to stand between him and his deity. The priest has to represent man to God and God to man. His chief function is sacrifice, and, in addition to it, he has to be intercessor and mediator—to bring the messages of the god to his worshippers, to represent the worshippers before their god. Jesus is all this in himself, by no external appointment, "not by the law of a carnal commandment, but by the power of an endless life." He is all this in solitary incommunicable manner. He, and none but he, brings God to men, and none but God. He alone is, in real essential unity, man's Representative and Intercessor. He alone offers the sacrifice for the world. He stands the sole Priest, his office unique, his Person sole and supreme, having and tolerating no companions in his solemn entrance within the veil, and having neither beginning of days nor end of life. There is but one Priest in the Church. There are no priests in the Church. All are priests in the Church.
III. CHRIST OFFERS AND IS THE ONE SACRIFICE; WE BECOME ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES THROUGH HIM. There are two elements in the idea of sacrifice—surrender and expiation. The great work of Jesus Christ embraces both. "Not my will, but thine," is the inmost meaning of his whole life. He offered himself in the perfect, untrodden, joyful surrender of his will to the Father. That sinless Being, perpetually yielding itself in meek obedience, undisturbed by self-will, and spotless in its purity, attains the highest form of surrender, and stands alone as, in that aspect, the fulfillment of the ideal of sacrifice. All the life, which was thus perfect surrender to the Father's will, was also expiation. Himself bare our sins in his lowliness and sorrows, in the sympathy which wrung his heart. But the consecrating oil flows from him to us, and we too, by derivation from him, become priests to God. His hand laid on us sets us apart for sacred functions which are not all unlike his own, but are their consequence and carrying out. We too have to represent God to men, because Christ has given God to us. We have to move among our fellows, showing to them something of the splendor of the Divine love, the reflection of which in us some weak eyes may bear which would be dazzled by the direct beams. We have to intercede for men with God, and are invested with the solemn privilege carrying with it a heavy responsibility of free access to the secret place of the Most High, and of prayer that prevails with him, as well as in the awful solitude when he experienced the utmost penalty of the sin which he had never committed, in the consciousness of separation from God, which is eternal death, and in the physical death which is but the pictured shadow of that awful reality. His sacrifice, as surrender, stands alone in degree, as being absolute and stainless. His sacrifice, as expiation, stands alone in kind, incapable of repetition or imitation, and, blessed be God, needing none. But if we have come to him and partaken of his life, we shall, in the measure of our participation, become sacrifices too—not indeed expiatory, but eucharistic. For, touched by his love, and possessing his Spirit, we shall joyfully give up ourselves. Our true sacrifice is the surrender of our wills to the Divine will. We have to lay ourselves upon the altar which sanctifies and glorifies giver and gift; so shall we receive back again a better sell, ennobled and purified. Life should be one long sacrifice, being all lived with continual reference to him, and continual suppression of self. By him, too, we should offer the sacrifice of praise continually, and present the "much incense" of prayer. By him, too, we are to bring the sacrifices of doing good and imparting, with which God is well pleased. And by him we may at last offer the libation of pouring out our souls unto death, and complete the sacrifices of a life of faith by a death of submission. The dignities and prerogatives of the Christian life, expressed in the grand truths that we are temples and priests, are granted to us, not for honor, but for service. We are temples and priests that we may be sacrifices. All lofty gifts are ours with a view to this highest end, that we may yield ourselves wholly to God, and, losing ourselves in utter surrender, may have our poor sacrifice accepted through him who alone has offered the one perfect sacrifice for sins for evermore - A.M.
1 Peter 2:7 - THE TWO VERSIONS.
The Authorized Version's rendering of these words has been felt by many devout souls to contain a truth which their deepest experience joyfully confirmed. The true meaning is no less great and beautiful. Literally, they read, "Unto you who believe is [or, 'belongs'] the preciousness." What preciousness? The definite article points us back to the attribute of the "Cornerstone" in the previous verse. It is "elect, precious." Peter's thought, then, is that all in Christ which makes him precious belongs or passes on to us by faith. That is a profound thought put in very simple and homely words. Faith makes us owners of all Christ's infinite worth.
I. THE TRANSFERENCE TO US OF THE PRECIOUSNESS OF THE FOUNDATION'. There are two possible meanings of this phrase, and probably both are included in the apostle's thought. It may either be that the qualities which make Christ precious pass over to us and become our qualities and character, or that the qualities which make Christ precious become available for our benefit. The first of these thoughts is in accordance with the immediate context, for we find the same idea expressed in several aspects in 1 Peter 2:5, where the living Stone is said to make those who come to him also living stones, and Christians are represented as being like their Lord, living temples, consecrated priests, and acceptable sacrifices. The idea that vital union with Christ brings about a communication of qualities from him to his followers, as if the virtue of the Foundation rose through all the building, is surely taught in a hundred places in Scripture, and is the very climax of the gospel. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. He that is grafted into the true Olive Tree partakes of its root and fatness. We share our Lord's life; and his character shall growingly become ours. Whatever makes him precious in the sight of God we may partake of, and so be accepted in the Beloved, and be found in him, not having our own righteousness, but clothed with his. We may hope for progressive assimilation to his character, which will not cease till entire conformity has been realized, and we have absorbed all the preciousness of his infinitely worthy and spotlessly pure nature. Water stands at the same level in two communicating vessels, and if our hearts are open to the influx of Christ's life, the flow will not cease till all his is ours, and his fullness has filled our emptiness. Looking at the other aspect of the thought, it implies that the preciousness of the Foundation is available for us rather than communicated to us. The "therefore" of our text suggests that it is substantially equivalent in meaning to the closing words of the previous verse, "He that believeth on him shall not be confounded." So that part of the meaning, at all events, is the security of building on that Foundation. The preciousness of a foundation is its solidity and power to bear the superincumbent pressure without yielding. That steadfast capacity to sustain all our weight if we build ourselves on him is available to behest and bless us. Therefore we need not fear that our Foundation will settle or give. We need not fear to pile upon it all the pressure of our cares and sorrows, or to rear on it a fabric of our hopes and security, it will stand. Those who have reared their lives on other foundations will stand aghast when they feel them crumbling away in some hour of supreme need. They will have to flee with the haste of despair from the falling ruins. But if we have built on Christ, we shall have no need for haste, and no pale confusion need ever blanch our cheeks. The steadfastness of the Foundation will avail to make us builded upon it steadfast too, and, if we believe, all its preciousness will be ours and for us.
II. HOW THIS PRECIOUSNESS BECOMES OURS. The order of the sentence in the original puts emphasis on "who believe." The purpose of the clause is to mark the persons to whom alone the preciousness belongs, in sharp and solemn contrast with another class, to whom none of the saving, but only the destructive, powers which lie in the Foundation pass over. The worth of Christ is ours on one condition, but that condition is inexorable; faith, simple trust, which takes him for what he is and rests the whole being on Jesus as incarnate Son of God, Sacrifice for my sin as for all men's, Inspirer of all my goodness, Pattern, Friend, my Life, my All in all,—is the simple, sole, and indispensable condition of receiving his blessings and being enriched by his preciousness. There is nothing arbitrary in such a condition. It arises necessarily from the very nature of the case. How can Christ's sacrifice benefit me if I do not believe in it? What possible connection can be established between him and me, except through my trust in him? Faith is but stretching out the hard to grasp his extended hand. How can he hold me up, or give me the blessings of which his hands are full, if mine hang listless by my side, or are resolutely clenched behind my back? Faith is the opening of the heart for the inflow of his gifts. How can the sunshine enter the house if doors are barred and windows shuttered? Faith is but the channel through which his grace pours. How can it enter if there be no channel? Faith is the sole condition. Let us learn, then, how much and how little it takes to put us in possession of the preciousness of Christ. How much? Nothing less than the surrender of our hearts to him in entire self-distrust and abasement, and in absolute reliance on his all-sufficiency for our every need. How little? No external connection with Churches or Church ordinances; no efforts of ours after self-improvement nor fragmentary and partial goodness; but simply trust in the Christ whom the gospel reveals. That faith must be a continually active faith. It is "you who believe," not "you who believed," to whom the preciousness belongs. The transference is continual if the faith be continual. Every interruption of the latter causes a cessation in the former, and is marked by breaks like those on a telegraphic ribbon where the contact was suspended. Builders put a film of pitch between the foundations and the upper courses to keep the damp from rising. How often Christians put a film of impenetrable unbelief between Christ and themselves, so that his grace cannot rise in their hearts!
III. THE GRIM ALTERNATIVE. If the condition of possession be as the apostle declares it, then the absence of the condition means non-possession. The freeness and. simplicity of the gospel of salvation by faith has necessarily a dark under side, and the more clearly and joyfully the one is preached the more clearly and solemnly should the other be. Therefore Peter's message would not be complete without the awful "but" which follows. Christ is something to every man to whom he is preached, and does something to him. Mark how significantly the following clause varies the statement of the condition, substituting "disobedient" as the antithesis of "believing," thereby teaching us that unbelief is disobedience, being an act of the rebel will, and that disobedience is unbelief. But observe, too, that while faith is the condition of all reception of Christ's blessings, unbelief does not so isolate from him as that he is nothing to the man. Unbelief, like some malignant alchemy, perverts all Christ's preciousness to harm and loss, as some plants elaborate poison in their tissues from sunshine and sweet dews. One thing or other that great Savior must be to us all. We cannot stand wholly unaffected by him. We cannot make ourselves as if we had never heard of him. There is a solemn alternative offered to each of us—"either… or." Either our life is being received or being rejected—our death. There will come to us from him either the gracious influences which save, or the terrible ones which destroy. He is either the merciful Fire which cleanses and transforms, or the awful Fire which consumes. Faith builds on him as the Foundation, and is secure. Unbelief pulls down that Rock of offence on its own head, and is ground to powder by the fall - A.M.
1 Peter 2:9 - What the Church is for.
"This people have I formed for myself," says the Divine voice through the Prophet Isaiah; "they shall show forth my praise." The Revised Version gives the latter clause as the purpose of the former, "that they might set forth," thus showing still more distinctly a verbal correspondence with the text, which is evidently quoted from the prophet. The apostle's mind is full of the Old Testament representations of the sacred office and dignity of Israel as a royal priesthood and God's chosen possession, and he transfers the whole without hesitation to the Christian Church, which he, like all the New Testament writers, regards as the heir of Israel's forfeited position. The remarkable word rendered "praise" in the Authorized Version makes the quotation from Isaiah unmistakable, as it is found in the Septuagint rendering of the verse, from which the apostle is quoting. It literally means "virtues," or, if that word is felt to be inappropriate to the Divine nature, the translation of the Revised Version, "excellencies," may be adopted. In either case the meaning is that the great end of the Church's existence is to manifest the glories of the Divine character, and so to praise him. We praise God best when we set forth what he is. The act of praise follows on the exhibition of the Object of praise.
I. WE HAVE HERE A REMARKABLE VIEW OR THE GREAT PURPOSE OF GOD IN HIS HIGHEST WORKING. The manifestation of his own character that his creatures may see it and magnify him, is his end, so far as we can speak of God as having ends which he reaches by his acts. Self-manifestation to creatures who can somewhat feel the infinite beauty and bow adoring and blessed Before it, is his supreme purpose in all his acts. Such an end alone is fully congruous with anal worthy of God. For this end creation came into being, that it might be a mirror of God, and eyes were made that in the mirror they might behold him and rejoice in the vision. Every creature has this for its highest end, to glorify God, because that was God's end in its creation. Of creatures man is the highest revelation of the Divine character; and among men, man redeemed is the highest. This great thought as to God's supreme end being the manifestation of himself has often been stated so as to repel, and to make God almighty selfishness. "For a man to seek his own glory is not glory," and the same thing is true about some forms into which this truth has been thrown. But rightly understood, it is but another way of saying, "God is love." For the impulse and need to impart one's self is the very life of love, and he seeks in all his acts to reveal himself, because, being love, he delights to give himself to his creatures, and because their highest blessedness and their eternal life stand in the knowledge of his Name.
II. WE HAVE, SECOND, AN IMPRESSIVE THOUGHT AS TO THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS GREAT PURPOSE IS EFFECTED. It is largely entrusted to the members of the Christian Church, who are, as George Herbert says of mankind as a whole, "the secretaries of his praise." And there are three ways in which they are and should be so.
1. The very existence of the Church proclaims God's excellences. Its founding, in the one wondrous act of Christ's death, proclaims his wisdom, power, and love, all in superlative degree. All his character shines forth there with brightness before which the revelation of him in creation pales and dwindles, and is as a nebula to a sun. Its preservation, notwithstanding the imperfections and sins of its members and the opposition of its enemies, shows forth his guarding and sustaining power no less than his long-suffering. If the Church had less than almightiness to preserve it, the faults of Christians would have destroyed it long ago, and would have provoked him to destroy it if he bad not been infinite in patience. The great evidence of Christianity is Christ, and the second is the Church.
2. The characters of Christian men reclaim God's excellences. They are "called out of darkness," as the text says, "into his marvelous light," That implies, as part of its meaning, that Christian men do in some measure enter into and walk in that light in which he is. The process of conversion is their passage from the darkness of self, which is ignorance, and sin, and sadness, into the possession, in part at least, of his light, which brings knowledge and goodness and joy. The black thunder-clouds are borne into the sunlight, which pours on their ebon masses and touches them into luster or thins them away. Thus we may and should become means of making God visible and lovely to dim eyes which could not bear to look on his brightness except as reflected in the mirror of our characters. All the beauty of self-sacrifice which has ever irradiated a saint, all the heroism of the martyr, all the wisdom and eloquence of the teachers, all the prudence of the leaders, all the charity and benevolence, are but the reflex of his excellences. All these, which gleam so brightly in the dark world, are but diamond dust, microscopic fragments, as it were, from the solid rock of his infinite perfection. They tell of him, as the stream of its source. How profound the depth, how wide the expanse, how pellucid the waters of that great lake which pours through the ages that broad stream of human goodness that flows between the banks of the Christian Church!
3. We should proclaim God's excellences by direct works, as occasion serves. Every Christian is bound both to witness for God by a life made fair by communion with him, and by speech, when 'speech may be used. It is not enough to show forth his Name in our lives, for sometimes life needs a commentary, and a Christian will often have to avow the principles which guide his actions, in plain words, if the actions are to be intelligible or he to be faithful. Common honesty requires it. Loyalty to our Lord requires it. Ordinary humanity requires it. God has entrusted all Christian men with the treasure of his love in Christ, not that they may themselves be enriched only, but also that by them it may be ministered to others; and the dumb Christian who has never opened his mouth to press the gospel on others incurs a worse "curse" than that which falls on him who "withholdeth bread" from starving lips. Alas! for the many professing Christians who do their best to thwart the Divine purpose in their conversion by cowardly indolent silence! Their duty cannot be delegated, their responsibility cannot be evaded, nor the punishment which comes in their feeble hold of the concealed truth eluded.
III. WE HAVE HERE, TOO, AN EXHIBITION OF SOME OF THE MOTIVES IMPELLING THE DISCHARGE OF THIS DUTY. The greatness of the blessing is suggested by the emphatic words which describe God as calling us out of darkness into his marvelous light. His love and his power have summoned us into light which is his own, thus giving us to participate in the very element of his own being, and which is marvelous, as being bestowed by processes beyond nature which may well call forth wonder, and as in its own luster so far transcending all other light. A gift so wondrous is meant to call forth gratitude, and that gratitude should express itself in a continual offering up of self to manifest God's glory. Thankfulness, then, to him who has called us is the first motive to which the apostle appeals. It is a poor gratitude which never mentions the name of its benefactor. Dumb thankfulness is no thankfulness. If his praises die on our lips, gratitude must be dead in our hearts. A second motive is a sense of responsibility arising from possession of the gift. If we have the light, and are walking in it, how can we bear to know that there are poor souls stumbling in the dark! Put the candle in your window. It may light home some lost wanderer on the dreary moor. A third motive arises from the consideration of God's purpose to which we have already referred. Surely his purpose should be our aim. Our own happiness or salvation is not all God's meaning in his mercy towards us.
"Heaven cloth with us, as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves."
We have received Christ that we may impart Christ. "God hath shined in our hearts, that we might give to others the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Let us see to it that we fulfill that Divine purpose. Let us not be silent recipients of his grace, like the sand that sucks up the rain and bears no flowers; but let us give back in praise and witness what his mercy gives to us - A.M.
1 Peter 2:21 - Christ Passion our peace and pattern.
Christianity brings its highest principles to bear on the lowliest duties. If it did not regulate these, what would there be for it to regulate? Life is made up of a great many little things and a very few great ones. The clock only strikes twelve twice in the twenty-four hours. The apostle is engaged in exhorting a handful of Christian slaves to patience and submission, and he points to the solemn mystery of the cross, and bids them look to it amid their squalid miseries, and take pattern from the infinite meekness and unmurmuring submission seen there. The supreme truth of revelation is fitly used for so lowly a purpose. Further, note how here the two views of Christ's work which have been often held apart, and even made antagonistic, are united—suffering for us, and example to us.
I. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST OUR GAIN. It is interesting to notice the change in the apostle's insight into the meaning of Christ's sufferings. At first, it was he especially to whom they were a stumbling-block. The very intensity of his belief that his Master was "the Christ, the Son of the living God," made him recoil from the thought of his violent death as an inconceivable contradiction. "Be it far from thee, Lord. This shall not be unto thee!" expressed with characteristic vehemence at once his blindness and his love. Even after the Resurrection, Peter's earlier preaching, as recorded in the Acts, does not go beyond putting in contrast the two things—the death as man's crime, the rising again as God's seal. He does not seem, in these first days of transition, to have reached the harmonizing thought of the purpose of the sufferings. But in this Epistle these sufferings have become the very keystone of the arch. The references to them are continual. The whole fabric of his theological and moral teaching is built on them. The black thunder-cloud has been discerned to be the source of all-refreshing rains and the cause of fruitfulness, and the inexplicable anomaly has been unfolded as the deepest truth on which faith and hope and soul-transforming love, the mother of all practical obedience, may fasten and feed. The one thought which has thus illuminated the darkness is the recognition of Christ's sufferings as for us. The world has admitted that the Sufferer had no sin of his own. Unless we see in them suffering on behalf of others, his life becomes the great indictment of God's providence. Only when we see that he was wounded for our transgressions do we understand the mystery of the cross. The text does not define the manner in which these sufferings work on our behalf. "For us" is not necessarily "instead of us." But there can be no doubt as to what that manner was in the view of the apostle. "His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," says the context. His death was a sacrifice; by the sprinkling of his blood we are hallowed. No other view does justice to the plain import of these and other passages than that which takes Christ's sufferings to be substitutionary in their character and propitiatory in their operation, and therefore to be for our advantage. Note, too, that the apostle dwells on the sufferings, the actual mental and physical pain, and not only on the that of death. The loving memory of the eye-witness of his Lord's Passion retains each incident of the slow torture, the buffeting, the mocking, the livid weals of the cruel scourge, the fainting form bearing the heavy cross, and the unmoved meekness in it all. Sensuous representations of Christ's sufferings have often been carried too far, but surely there is a danger of going to the other extreme; and every Christian life needs for its vigor a believing and realizing contemplation of the sufferings of Christ endured for and instead of us.
II. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST OUR PATTERN. We are familiar with the idea that our Lord's life is our pattern. But here we have his Passion presented not only for our faith, but for our imitation.
1. Note the special force of the two metaphors here. "Example" is only used here in the New Testament. It means a copy of writing set to a scholar to be traced over by his unaccustomed hand. Think of the clear firm characters below, and the wavering clumsy ones scrawled over them. How the figure speaks of careful observance of the example, of laborious effort after reproducing it, and of the hope of constant gradual improvement! The view of the whole Christian life which is involved in the figure is that in it all we are like schoolboys writing our copybooks, which have to be examined by the Master one day. What we have written, we have written. Let us live as remembering that we have to take up our books to the Master's desk when school is ever! The other metaphor is remarkable on Peter's lips. Did he remember how rashly he had asked, "Why cannot I follow thee now?" and the last solemn command by the fire of coals on the lake-side? The word employed has the force of "follow closely." We are to take Christ for our Guide, as men walking across a glacier might do by their guide, stepping in the prints of his footsteps, and keeping very near him.
2. Notice the solemn thought that Christ's sufferings can be imitated by us. They stand alone in their bearing on man's salvation, and in certain respects, in their severity and awfulness. We have but, at the most, to go a little way down the awful descent which he traveled to its depths, to drink a little of the cup which he drained to its dregs, t,, stand on the edge or' the storm through the worst of which he passed. But yet the same spirit and temper may be ours. Not the mocking but the meekness, not the scourging but the submission, not the dread desertion by the Father's love but the Son's cry to the Father, may be copied by each of us in our lighter griefs. Complete surrender to the will of God and meek endurance of the enmity of men are to be our patterns. The highest ideal of human character is the Christ who, when he was reviled, reviled not again. How utterly opposed to it are the so-called virtues of high-spirited resistance, and the whole practice of most of us in regard to slights, insults, and injuries! We call ourselves Christians, and say that we take Christ for our Example: do we ever remember that his cross is not only the ground of all our peace and hope, but the law of our lives? or bethink ourselves that whatever more "being made conformable to his death" may mean, it means that "when we do well and suffer for it, we take it patiently," and let no anger, or revenge, or bitterness to our worst enemy ever ruffle the clear waters of our hearts?
III. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST OUR POWER. The world has plenty of examples. Men do not go wrong for want of patterns. The worst man knows more of goodness than the best man does. Models make us neither willing nor able to copy them. What is the use of a headline in a copy, be it ever so beautifully written, if the scholar has no will to imitate it, has a lame hand, and a bad pen with no ink in it? We want something more than examples if we whose disease is that we know the good and choose the evil are ever to be better. So all types of Christianity which merely take Christ as an Example fail to get his example imitated. We must begin with "Christ suffered for us" if we are to live like Christ. Only when I look to his cross as the great act of his love, by which he gave himself wholly for me and bore the burden of my sin, do I receive the power to follow him and live as he lived. That death, if I look to it with faith, opens the deepest springs of love in my heart, which make obedience to and imitation of him necessary and delightful. It joins me to him in a union so close that in him I am crucified to the world, and a new life, the life of Christ himself, is implanted within me. It brings to me a new power of holiness in the Spirit which he gives. Unless the sufferings of Christ are to us the propitiation for our sins, they will never be to us the pattern for our lives. Unless they are the pattern for our lives, it is vain to fancy that they are the propitiation for our sins. What God has joined together let not man put asunder. "Christ has suffered for us"—there is the whole gospel; "leaving us an example"—there is the whole Law - A.M.
1 Peter 2:25 - The Shepherd and Bishop of souls.
This letter is addressed to scattered strangers. But though locally separated, over wide lands, a handful here, a single soul there, they were in spirit united, and, seen truly, were a flock gathered round the one Shepherd. Long ago Peter had heard the great words, "Other sheep I have… them also I must bring,… and there shall be one flock, and one Shepherd." And in these Gentile Christians, thinly sown over the Asiatic peninsula, he sees the beginning of their fulfillment. They had been wandering sheep. They are now a flock; for the real dividing influence is sin, which drives us apart into the awful solitude of a self-absorbed life, and the real uniting power is Christ, in their common relation to whom men the most widely apart in place, race, condition, or culture, are brought into close union with each other. There is one flock because the sheep cluster round the one Shepherd. These two expressions—"Shepherd" and "Bishop" of souls—cover very much the same ground, but they set forth our Lord's relation under somewhat different aspects, each blessed, and suggesting different phases of encouragement and exhortation.
I. THE SHEPHERD OF SOULS. It is needless to trace this metaphor through the Old Testament, where it is employed to express the relation of Jehovah to Israel. The most familiar of all the psalms shows us a single devout soul appropriating the whole rest and blessedness of the thought for the nourishment of the individual life of trust. Isaiah's great prophecy of the Servant of the Lord proclaims the coming of Jehovah to feed his flock like a Shepherd. Ezekiel brings out more plainly still that not only Jehovah, but Jehovah's "servant David," is to be the Shepherd in a golden future. Zechariah's mysterious words add dark shades to the picture, and set forth Jehovah's Shepherd as smitten by Jehovah's appointment. And all these foreshadowings are interpreted and the scattered beams focused in the words which were as vivid in Peter's memory as when first spoken, and far better understood than then: "I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep." It is remarkable that, with all this prophecy and teaching from our Lord himself, this text and one verse in Hebrews are the only places where the name is applied to him in the New Testament, especially when we remember how early and how universally the figure came to be employed in the succeeding periods. What aspects of our Lord's relation to us does it present? The ancient application of the metaphor, not only in Israel, but in other lands, was to kings and rulers; but we cannot confine the meaning thus. The twenty-third psalm and the tenth chapter of John give far deeper and tenderer thoughts than rule. There are mainly three ideas expressed.
1. The first is guidance. The shepherd leads. "When he puts forth his sheep he goeth before them." And under that thought is included all the shaping of outward life, for Christ is the Lord of providence, and the hands that were pierced for us hold the helm of the universe. But our text does not add, "of souls," without a deep meaning. It would have us see the operation of our Shepherd's care, not only nor chiefly in outward life. And therefore we must think of his guidance as mainly his leading of our souls in paths of righteousness, and "showing us that which is good." His recorded example, the touch of his hand on our wills, the sweet constraint of his love, the wisdom which directs breathed into the soul which lives in fellowship with him, and has silenced the loud voice of self that his voice may be heard,—these are the Shepherd's guidance of the sheep. His sceptre is a simple shepherd's staff. He says," Come, follow me;" and his sheep walk not in darkness, but have the light of life.
2. The second thought is guardianship. David learned to trust his Shepherd's care over him in dangers by meditating on his own hazarding his life against the "lion and the bear." Our Shepherd gives his life to drag us from the mouth of the lion. Body and soul are under his care. Himself may sometimes strike a straying sheep with his merciful rod, but he will let no foe touch us, and our sorrows are tokens of his care, not of their power. If we keep within hearing of his voice, sin, which is our only real enemy, will not harm us. Our docile submission is the correlative of his guidance, and our trust should answer to his defense. If he guard, let us press close to the shelter of his presence, and ever look for the benediction of his eye.
3. The third thought is provision. He will not lead where we must starve, but even in the most unpromising situations will show his flock some scattered blades of grass which they may crop. "Their pastures shall be in all high places, the very bareness of the mountain-tops yielding food. He himself is the Pasture as well as the Shepherd of the soul, and ever gives himself to satisfy the hunger of the human heart, which needs a changeless and perfect love, a personal truth, an all-commanding will to feed upon, else it aches with hunger. And for outward wants these too he remembers, and on the lowliest shore will kindle a fire of coals, and himself prepare food for his servants. So let us wait on the Shepherd of our souls, assured that his sheep never 'look up, and are not fed.'"
II. CHRIST THE BISHOP OF OUR SOULS. Undoubtedly the allusion here is to the bishop or elder of the early Church, with distinct reference to the etymological meaning of the word as well as to the functions of the officer. Looking to the later development of these, and to the associations which they have connected with the word, the marginal rendering of the Revised Version ("overseer") is perhaps better than "bishop." How closely the two ideas of "shepherd" and Church "overseer" are connected is clear from Paul's address to the elders at Ephesus (Acts 20:1-44.), and from the exhortations in this Epistle (1 Peter 5:1, 1 Peter 5:7) to the elders to feed the flock, as well as from the universal use of "pastor" as a synonym. What aspects of Christ's relation are thus presented?
1. We have the great truth that he is himself the Source from which all Church officers draw at once their authority and their faculty. He gives all gifts to men, and sets them in his Church. If they forget that, and use their offices for themselves, or fancy that they originate the gifts which they but receive, they are usurpers. From him are they all. To him should they all live and serve. There is but one Authority and one Teacher in the Church; the rest are delegates. There is but one Fountain; the others are cisterns. "One is your Master, and all ye are brethren."
2. The original meaning of the word is "overseer," and that suggests the vigilant inspection which he exercises over his Church. The good Shepherd knows each sheep by name, and his watchful eye is on every one of the flock. The title is the condensation into one word of the solemn clause in the apocalyptic vision of the Christ in the midst of the golden lamps, which tells how "his eyes were as a flame of fire," and of the sevenfold "I know thy works," which heralds each message to the Churches. The thought has many sides, according to the spiritual condition of each. To Ephesus which has left its first love, to Sardis ready to die, to Laodicea sinking from lukewarmness to ice, it comes monitory, rebuking and putting to shame, though even in these the clear eye sees for the most part something to commend. To Smyrna, threatened with persecution and martyrdom, it brings courage and the assurance of a crown of life. To Philadelphia, which has kept his Word, it seals the joy of his approbation, which is reward indeed. So to us all, the thought that we walk ever in the light of his countenance and are searched by the flame of those eyes may be a gladness, as bringing the assurance of his perfect knowledge who loves as he knows, and is guided by it in all his care for us and gifts to us. "Search me, O Lord, and know my heart."
3. The thought that Christ discharges for each soul an office of which the elders' in the Church is a shadow, may also be suggested. He teaches and he rules. All authority over and all illumination in our souls are his. And that not merely through men, nor only by the influence of his past life and death as recorded, but by a present and continual operation on our spirits. We have not only a Christ who lived and died, and so declared the Father, but a Christ who lives, and from his throne in the heavens is still declaring him to all listening loving hearts. The present activity of Christ is plainly implied here. Nor have we to think of him as only helping and teaching the collective body, but single souls. He is not here spoken of as the Shepherd of the flock and the Overseer of the Church, blessed as that truth is; but he is held forth as Shepherd and Bishop of each unit in the Church, for he sustains these relations to the individual, and will draw near to each of us, solitary and small, if we will only believe that by his stripes we are healed, and, conquered by his dying love, turn from our wanderings and couch trustful at his feet - A.M.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Peter 2:4-60 - The spiritual temple, priesthood, and sacrifices.
A Jew, writing to Jews, very naturally made use of language and of metaphors based upon the usages and practices of the Jewish religion. Peter knew well that the temple offices and observances, the building and its purposes, to which he here referred, had all their meaning in their relation to the Savior in whom he and his fellow-Christians believed, in their relation to the gospel which he preached.
I. CHRISTIANS ARE THE MATERIAL OF THE TRUE AND SPIRITUAL TEMPLE.
1. They are built in and upon the divinely chosen Cornerstone—Christ himself. Cephas, Peter, "the rock," thus witnesses to the Rock of Ages, whose perfect qualifications to occupy this position were well known to the apostle who enjoyed his intimacy and friendship. His nature, his character, his mediatorial work, all concurred to fit our Lord to be the Support, the uniting and central Force, of the spiritual edifice. None other could have constituted the living unity; none other could have served as the Cornerstone, and at the same time the Foundation-stone, of the new humanity.
2. They are individually living stones; in this differing from the fair and costly masonry employed in the temple at Jerusalem. An intimation this of the dignity of each Christian's vocation, who has his own place to fill, his own work to do, in the spiritual sanctuary; and at the same time a summons to that life, that conscious and voluntary fulfillment of service, which distinguishes the living from the lifeless material.
3. They constitute in concert the "spiritual house," which is the glory of the "new dispensation;" the idea of which is in the mind of the Divine Architect, and which is gradually being brought to realization and perfection under his superintendence, and through the concurrence of those who can only very partially comprehend the bearing of their life upon the glorious whole which is in due time to be consummated. The whole edifice is based by faith upon Christ; the several stones are cemented by mutual love.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE TRUE AND SPIRITUAL TEMPLE.
1. This is asserted of the whole body of the faithful. There are indeed special ministries in the Church—bishops, presbyters, deacons, etc.; but there is one general ministry to which all Christians are called, and that is the priesthood.
2. The character of this priesthood is stamped as "holy." From the Book of Leviticus and other parts of the Old Testament we learn what were the marks of the Hebrew priesthood—their descent, their equipment, their qualifications, their office. But the one all-pervading idea in these regulations was the inculcation of "holiness unto the Lord." Under the new covenant the holiness prescribed is holiness of spirit and of life; not merely purity of vesture, separateness of function, etc.
3. The office of this priesthood is specified: spiritual sacrifices are to be offered. What these are is not here specified, but other passages of New Testament Scripture leave us in no doubt upon this; the Christian sacrifices are comprehended under these two headings—obedience and praise.
4. The acceptance of such service is assured through the intercession of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Thus the apostle, at the expense of combining metaphors scarcely consistent, sets forth more fully the dignity and the duty, the fellowship and the happiness, belonging to all those who are faithful and consecrated members of the living Church of Christ - J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:4 - Elect and precious.
Our Lord Jesus was both despised and rejected by men. But theirs was the judgment of the fallible and the conduct of the sinful. Very different was the esteem in which our Savior was held by the Divine Father, and by those whom the Father enlightened to discern as he himself discerned. In the view of the Eternal, who "judgeth righteously," Christ was and is "elect and precious."
I. DECLARATIONS OF THIS ESTIMATION OF CHRIST.
1. Prophetical declarations, such as these: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand;" "I have set my King upon my holy hill;" and, "Behold my Servant whom I uphold, mine Elect in whom my soul delighteth."
2. Evangelical. The Lord Jesus was conscious of the Father's favor; he declared that "the Father loveth the Son," and desires "that all men should honor the Son." The forerunner received the witness concerning Jesus: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The multitude were present when the voice came from heaven testifying from the Father: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."
3. Apostolical. When the inspired and commissioned preachers of the gospel proclaimed Christ, they represented him as "approved of God," who had raised and exalted him, and had "set him at his own right hand." In the Epistles, as for example in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the approval and favor of the Father are mentioned with the view of inspiring a just conception of the dignity of the Divine Son.
II. GROUNDS OF THIS ESTIMATION OF CHRIST.
1. His Divine Sonship.
2. His sympathy with the Father's purposes of redemption.
3. His constant and perfect obedience to the Father's will.
4. His devotion to the Father's glory.
III. PROOFS OF THIS ESTIMATION OF CHRIST. These are in some instances intelligible to reason, but in other instances they are only to be apprehended by faith.
1. This accounts for the appointment of Jesus as the Founder and Head of the Church.
2. And for the supernatural indwelling of Christ by his Spirit in his Church.
3. And for the assurance that the kingdom of Christ, in contrast to all others, shall be universal and everlasting.
4. And also for the appointment of Christ as the one great Judge of all mankind.
IV. PRACTICAL INFERENCES FROM THIS ESTIMATION OF CHRIST. It is not a matter of doctrine only. All hearers of the gospel and all sincere and faithful Christians have reason to rejoice that their Savior Jesus is "elect and precious."
1. There is on this account hope for the future of humanity. If God the Father sets such honor upon Christ, there is encouragement to believe that Christ's work shall not fail.
2. There is for each friend and follower of the Savior a sure prospect of individual salvation. God, who loves and honors the Shepherd, will not suffer the sheep of his flock, for whom he died, to suffer death and destruction. Their security, dignity, and happiness are assured. They are chosen in the Chosen; they are precious for the sake of the Precious.
3. Most obvious are the sin and the peril of those who despise and reject the Elect and Chosen One, the Honored of God himself. If Christ be what he is here declared to be, how clear and cogent is the statement of inspiration, "Neither is there salvation in any other!"—J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:13-60 - The Christian citizen.
The religion of the Lord Jesus entered practically into all the relations and interests of human life. The condition of the world, politically regarded, when the Roman empire exercised universal sway, was indeed very different from that which obtains at the present time. But the principles inculcated in the first century of our era are adapted to guide and govern the conduct of Christ's people through all time.
I. THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
1. Regarded in itself, it is a human institution, but it is nevertheless ordained by God. In this respect it is in the same case as the family. To believe in a Divine Ruler and a divinely appointed order, is to accept the state and its ordinances as appointed by the wisdom of God himself.
2. The Christian recognizes the Divine principle of government as personified in civil rulers. These are supreme-as kings; or persons commissioned, and exercising delegated power, as governors.
3. The Christian perceives the necessity of those functions which rulers are bound to discharge. There is no government worthy of the name which does not punish evil-doers, and protect, favor, and praise those who do well.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S DUTY TOWARDS CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
1. Generally speaking, that duty is submission, loyalty, and cheerful obedience. When laws are promulgated, the Christian respects and observes them; when taxes are levied, the Christian pays them; when service is required, the Christian renders it.
2. He acknowledges that this course of conduct is supported alike by the example and by the teaching of Christ.
3. Yet this obedience is within certain limits, and is subject to certain reservations. No man is under obligation to obey an ordinance of the civil power which is contradictory to the express and unmistakable law of God. And when the ruler himself is disloyal, and violates the constitution to which ruler and subject alike are subject, there are cases in which even resistance is allowable, if not binding.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S MOTIVES TO OBEY THE CIVIL GOVERNMENT. He does not act simply in his own interest, to avoid penalties, to secure place.
1. He obeys for the Lord's sake, i.e. with a Christian aim before him.
2. He obeys because such is the will of God himself.
3. He obeys in order to remove hindrances from the way of the progress of Christianity among men. Scandals are avoided, prejudices are overcome, good will is conciliated; and the path is made clear for the progress of the gospel. Loyalty to the state and to the sovereign is loyalty to Christ, to God - J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:16 - True freedom.
The change was great which even an enlightened and pious Jew passed through when he received Jesus as the Messiah. Finding in Christian doctrine and privilege the substance of which he had so long been conversant with the shadow, his mind expanded and his best feelings were touched with a brightness of joy and hope. The moral horizon widened around him. Human life must have seemed a grander and more glorious thing. Much more must this have been the case with a heathen, who, if sincere, had been encompassed with the chains of a ceremonial religion. Both to the Jewish and the Gentile convert the predominant experience in Christian faith and fellowship must have been an experience of liberty. It was a justly founded delight which they thus came to share. Yet it was not without its dangers, as the Apostle Peter well knew. Hence his admonition to his readers to take and practically to adopt a fair and balanced view of the new liberty upon which they had entered.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S SPIRITUAL FREEDOM.
1. He enjoys freedom in relation to God. Apart from the great redemption, man is, as sinful, exposed to the Divine displeasure and righteous condemnation. From this he is delivered, i.e. set free; and that by an act of God's own clemency and interposition.
2. He is emancipated from the slavery to which sin formerly subjected him. The Scriptures everywhere represent the service of sin as serfdom, not as honorable and worthy of such a being as man. And experience shows that this view is just, that the servant of sin is the slave of sin. Now, from this bondage Christ liberates his people. Sin has not dominion over them. No created power could effect this great enfranchisement; it is the work of the Divine Savior clothed with the omnipotence of Heaven.
3. He is also freed from subjection to the authority of man. As the soul recognizes the right of Deity, the power claimed by humanity recedes and diminishes. Another and a higher standard than human authority claims profoundest reverence; and, where there is a conflict, the Christian spirit realizes freedom from the created yoke.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S RENUNCIATION OF THE COUNTERFEIT OF LIBERTY. No doubt many, under the guise of Christianity, have adopted antinomian principles; it was so in apostolic days; it is so now. Against this error Peter faithfully warns those lately emancipated from bondage to sin and death. We are warned in this language:
(1) that it is possible for men nominally Christian to be in bondage in respects in which they ought to be free; and
(2) to be exercising freedom where they ought to submit to restraint. The history of Christendom assures us that there is a tendency, on the part of those who realize their new and sacred privileges, to despise the safe way of scrupulous and watchful obedience. And on the other hand, it is found that traditional chains are retained and cherished which should be cast off with indignation and hatred.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S SPIRITUAL BONDAGE. All the while that he is free, the Christian is the true servant and bondman of the Lord Christ. Of this service it may be said that it is:
1. Voluntary, because adopted and accepted deliberately, upon a consideration of the claims of Christ, and the true duty and interest of his emancipated ones.
2. Practical, being the service not only of the heart, but of the bodily nature and outward life.
3. Honorable. In the slavery of sin is disgrace; but to serve Christ is higher honor than for a minister of state to serve a good and mighty king, than for a pupil to serve a master of power and genius.
4. Happy and advantageous. The Christian does not serve for the sake of the reward; but he does not serve without a reward. Christ has it in his power to recompense, and he exercises this power for the benefit of his faithful adherents and friends. There is no joy like that of serving Christ, and no recompense such as that which he does and will confer. In a word, it is the experience of the Christian that true service and true liberty are united in his life, and in his life alone - J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:17 - Honor all men.
The common tendency of mankind is towards rendering honor to the great, those possessing political power, those endowed with signal gifts of body or mind, those possessed of vast wealth. Much of baseness in human character, of meanness in human conduct, may be attributed to this tendency. Christianity sets itself to oppose this current of opinion and action, as is most remarkably proved by this inspired admonition, "Honor all men."
I. THE GROUNDS UPON WHICH HUMANITY IS TO BE HONORED.
1. Natural grounds. All men are creatures of God's almighty power. Not only so; all are made in the image of God, however that image has been defiled and partially effaced by sin. Hence the capacity for great things, for a holy and self-denying life, for fellowship with God.
2. Supernatural grounds. The revelation of God's love and pity is for the benefit of mankind at large. God is "the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe." Christ died for all, and, as the Son of man, partook the common nature, lived the common life, died the death which is the common lot, that he might "draw all men unto himself." The provision of the gospel, the grace of the Holy Spirit, are for all, irrespective of nation, of rank, of any adventitious distinction. How, then, can the Christian do other than honor those for whom God himself, the Fountain of all honor, has done so great things?
II. THE WAYS IN WHICH HUMANITY IS TO BE HONORED.
1. By a watchful cherishing of a spirit respectful and considerate, and by the avoidance of a contemptuous disposition.
2. By a sympathetic demeanor towards fellow-Christians, whatever their position in society.
3. By efforts for the enlightenment and evangelization of men of every nation and every condition in life - J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:18-60 - Servitude and subjection.
Writing to slaves, Peter, like Paul who was himself a Roman citizen and a Christian freeman—exhorts to patient endurance of the ills and wrongs too often inflicted by irresponsible power upon the unprotected and despised. Beside the specially Christian motives to which the apostle here appealed, he knew that there were other and more obvious motives. There was necessity. The power lay with the master, and the bondslave must needs submit. There was expediency. Resistance and rebellion on the part of the slave would only bring upon him punishment and increase of suffering. But Paul relies upon the distinctively Christian motives to produce patience and submission.
I. CHRIST'S OWN EXAMPLE OF PATIENT ENDURANCE OF WRONG. Our Savior, though sinless, suffered the contradiction and the contumely, the agonies and the death, inflicted by unjust and unfeeling men. And he did this without even reviling his enemies. The apostle, in 1 Peter 2:21-60, paints in impressive colors the figure of the meek and much-enduring Redeemer, and holds up this incomparable figure for the admiration and imitation of the Redeemer's followers and friends.
II. CHRIST'S EXPRESS COMMAND THAT HIS PEOPLE SHOULD REFRAIN FROM RETALIATION. His precepts, preserved in the sermon on the mount, expressly forbade revenge, and inculcated brotherly kindness, and, more than this, the return of good for evil. And when Jesus himself was seized by the agents of those who plotted against his life, he forbade his friends to draw the sword in his defense.
III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF ENJOYING A HIGHER, A SPIRITUAL, LIBERTY. The meanest bondman who found Christ found freedom. He may have been treated with contempt and even harshness and cruelty; but he knew within himself that he was the Lord's freedman. He could endure bondage to an earthly master, for Christ had set him free from sin and spiritual slavery and death. Carrying this conviction in his breast, he could joyfully endure insults, injustice, and ill treatment.
IV. THE HOPE AND PROSPECT OF LIBERATION. His view might be gloomy as far as the earthly horizon extended. But he looked forward to "death, which sets the captive free." He was the free citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, and his prospect in the life to come was bright. A Stoic slave, like Epictetus, was conscious of possessing, in the power of suicide, the means of freeing himself from a yoke which became insupportable. But this power extended only to release; the Christian bondman, forbidden self-destruction, had before him a brighter hope—a hope not only of release, but of liberty and glory.
V. THE DESIRE TO PRODUCE AN IMPRESSION FAVORABLE TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. Submission was not only "thankworthy," and "acceptable with God;" it might well prove profitable to fellow-men. When masters met, not with a sullen acquiescence, not with a surly defiance, not with a stolid insensibility, but with uncomplaining, cheerful obedience, a favorable impression was produced upon their minds. They could not but inquire into the cause which produced fruit so unusual and so admirable. And they could not but, in many instances, examine into the religion which introduced into human society an element so new, so impressive, and so beneficial - J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:21-60 - The purpose of the sufferings of the Savior.
One thing must be observed and admired in the religious life and the religious teaching of the inspired apostles—everything they did and everything they said led their minds to the Lord Jesus. If Christ be the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, this is not to be wondered at. He is not only the central figure of human history; he is at the core of each Christian's heart, at the spring of each Christian's life. The Christianity which is apart from men's thinking and duty and interest has no likeness to the Christianity of the apostles. Every subject they treated was, in their view, related to the Lord Jesus. Especially did they look at every relationship of society, and every duty of man, in the light of Christ's Deity, Christ's humanity, Christ's cross! It was natural to them to think thus. Their hearts were full of Christ, and whatever path of inquiry, instruction, or action they took, it was sure to lead them to him. And this was not vain enthusiasm; it was most reasonable and right. We, too, cannot see things as they are in God's sight, we cannot act as he would have us, unless we connect all our experience and all our duty with him who has brought God to us, who has brought us to God. Peter was a very practical man. When he wrote his Epistle, he wrote it to actual living men and women. God be praised that we are taught our doctrines, not in theological treatises, but in letters which were the outpouring of soul to soul. Certain superfine religionists think the real occupations and relations of life as something quite beneath their notice. So did not the apostle. For instance, he knew that some of the Christian people who would read his letter were slaves; and accordingly he wrote to them as to slaves. There is no doubt that Christianity introduced among mankind principles which first ameliorated, and then abolished, slavery. But Peter had to deal with facts as they were. Christianity was to help men, not only to rise above slavery, but—whilst slavery still endured as an institution—to make the best of it. So Peter told these slaves that there was a work for them to do, a witness for them to offer, whilst they were still slaves. He bade them remember how their Master Christ, who was at the same time their Redeemer, had borne himself amidst injustice, false accusation, contumely, and suffering. And he brought to bear the willing sacrifice of Christ for them upon their hearts, as a Divine motive to endurance and patience. They were not so ill treated as their great Savior had been; and, whilst he was perfectly innocent and good, they were not free from human infirmities. It was certainly their duty to display the spirit of their Lord, to do what he had done, to endure as he had endured. Thus they should honor him. Thus they should be in the way of reaping some wholesome fruit of blessing for themselves. Thus they should win others to the faith which none could help admiring. And thus they should secure for themselves a sure recompense of reward.
I. LOOK AT THE FACT OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING. That the Founder of our religion should suffer is itself an astonishing and instructive fact. Buffering and shame, sub—mission to violence and cruelty,—these are not usually associated with power and victory. Yet the Author of the religion which has the greatest influence over mankind, and is molding the history of the world, was pre-eminently a Sufferer. We believe that this was foretold. It cannot be questioned that the first Christian preachers and writer's proclaimed, without any reserve, the humiliation and the woe of their great Lord. They even gloried in the cross. Peter was, perhaps better than any man, able to witness to the sufferings and to the demeanor of Jesus Christ. He was "with him in the garden;" and although he fell asleep, yet, on waking, he saw on his Master's brow the "bloody sweat," and read upon his Master's features the agony of soul through which he had passed, with no human sympathy, with none to share his awful watch. Peter was there when Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss, and beheld the meekness with which he yielded himself into the hands of his foes. It was Peter who drew the sword in defense of his Master, and who heard that Master's rebuke, and his language of pathetic resignation, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" The same Peter followed Jesus into the judgment-hall, and saw the Lord whom he loved bound and reviled, and witnessed his meekness under insult and injustice. Upon himself Jesus had turned the glance of affectionate reproach, which smote him to the heart, and opened the fountain of his tears. It was Peter who entered the empty grave of the risen Immanuel. It was Peter who, when forgiven his faithlessness and fear, was assured by the Lord of a share in the humiliation and agony of the cross. Who, then, so fit as Simon Peter—both by his opportunities of observing the Lord's sorrow and anguish, and by his warm and tender love for Christ—to speak of the Redeemer's woes, and to testify of his bearing and his spirit, when he "endured the contradiction of sinners against himself"? The witness of this companion and friend of Christ Jesus is that he suffered. That our Lord endured weariness, hunger, and thirst; that acutest pain was suffered by him in the closing hours of his life;—this the whole record abundantly proves. And his mental sufferings were made evident by the tears he shed, the sighs he heaved, the groans and cries he uttered. His soul was "exceeding sorrowful;" it was "troubled." Keenly susceptible to human emotions, he was distressed at his rejection by his countrymen, at his desertion by his friends, at his betrayal by one disciple, his denial by another. A yet further and a more mysterious woe was that which he endured when he bare the burden of the sins and sorrows of mankind, and "tasted death for every man." As the Son of man, the Head and Representative of the race whose nature he assumed, Christ Jesus shared our lot in more than all its grief and anguish. Great stress is laid upon the fact that Jesus was reviled. It was woe enough, so it might be thought, to suffer in our stead; but what shall be said of the endurance of the taunts and mockery of those for whom he came to die, whom he came to save? This was the bitterest earthly ingredient in the bitter cup which Jesus drank. Now, all these sufferings were undeserved. The apostle observes upon Christ's innocence. He "did no sin." With a reference to Isaiah's prediction, he boldly proclaims his Master's guilelessness. Whatever afflictions befall us in this life, candor constrains us to admit that we deserve all, and more than all, that we endure. If they are punishment, the strokes inflicted are lighter than the guilt they chasten. But nothing of this kind can be said of our Savior's pains. tits very enemies could substantiate no charge against him, and in this their testimony supports the assertions of his friends. And Paul says, "He knew no sin." "In him is no sin," says John. And Peter's witness is in the text, "He did no sin." To complete the picture, we must observe the demeanor of our Savior when enduring these afflictions. Men too often complain and murmur, whilst some rebel against the trials appointed for them. No one here is perfected in patience. But we are well reminded of the meekness and the patience of Christ. He endured more than we are ever called upon to suffer, yet he uttered no word of impatience. He endured his sufferings at the hands of injustice, and was cruelly and unpardonably wronged; yet he had only submission—no resentment—to return to his injurers, and a prayer to offer for their forgiveness. "He was reviled, but he reviled not again." The impenitent malefactor by his side joined in the jeers of the rulers and the people around the cross. But Jesus held his peace. When his sufferings were acute, he gave way to no impulse of revenge against his persecutors. Although he might have come down from the cross, or have summoned legions of angels to his rescue, "he threatened not." He was content that the will of God should be done. Men might judge unjustly. God is he who judgeth righteously. To him, accordingly, the Lord Jesus committed all—himself and his cause. What a picture is this of superhuman self-forgetfulness and self-sacrifice! As we contemplate the sinless Sufferer, first in the garden, then before his judges, and finally upon the cross, we are constrained to acknowledge with the centurion, "Certainly this was a righteous man! Truly this was the Son of God!" The scene surpasses all that man has invented. The character exhibited is one beyond the attainment of human virtue. We cannot wonder that the name of Jesus has become, and must ever remain, the symbol of love and meekness, patience and long-suffering, submission and self-restraint and self-denial.
II. The apostle, however, does more than state a fact—HE EXHIBITS THE PURPOSE for which our Savior thus suffered. It was "for us"—for our advantage, on our behalf. It was certainly not for his own sake. Jesus neither deserved to suffer, for he was faultless, blameless; nor did he stand in need, as we do, of the discipline of affliction, for there was no dross to purge away, and no gain could accrue to the pure gold by its being cast into the furnace. The end for which our blessed Redeemer consented to endure the humiliations of his life and the agonies of his death was no personal end; he suffered "for our sake." There were two distinct and yet closely related purposes which the Savior had before him in his sufferings. Both are stated in this passage very explicitly. There are some minds that look only at the one of these purposes; there are different minds that regard only the other. But the sober and attentive student of Scripture cannot fail to recognize the necessity of both, and their harmony with each other. Christ's endurance of sufferings, being exemplary, furnishes us with the model of our patience and submission; and the same endurance of sufferings, being sacrificial and substitutionary, supply us with ore' highest motive. That Christ is an Example for our imitation is not only taught in Scripture; it is a truth seized upon by every Christian whose Christianity is not merely nominal—who is by the Holy Spirit awakened to spiritual life. When he said, "Learn of me," "Follow me," Jesus sanctioned this view of the religious endeavor and prayerful aim of his disciples. And the apostles frequently admonish their converts to imitate the conduct, to share and display the spirit, of the Divine Leader and Lord. His obedience to the Father, his holy life, his benevolent disposition, his self-denying labors, are all put before us as a model which we are to study and to copy. In this passage the especial point selected for imitation is the meekness and long-suffering of our Lord. This is represented as a "copy" which he has left behind, that we may place it before our eyes, and try to produce a good, correct, well-studied imitation of it. We are told to follow in his steps; he is the Guide, to whom we entrust our way, in whose wisdom we have confidence; where he treads it is for us to follow, placing our feet in the footmarks he has left behind him. By these two simple and beautiful figures it is shown how we should lay to heart the perfect example of our Lord, and seek to make it ours. Human examples are so faulty, and human characters, even when noble, so lacking in sympathy, that hero-worship (as it has been called) is a very perilous proceeding. The young are more likely to emulate the questionable side of a great man's character, if that side be dazzling. Thankful should we be that our Creator, who has implanted within us the principle of imitation, has made provision for calling out that principle, and giving it full scope. The imitation of Christ is the lifelong practice and discipline of every pupil and learner in the spiritual school of God. The Divine Spirit must be the Teacher, revealing and applying the lesson to the scholar's heart, firing that heart with a holy ambition to be conformed to the sacred likeness of the Lord. But this is no such easy matter. Our gracious God and Father, who knows our nature perfectly, knows that it would be vain to set before men a perfect example of holiness and of patience, and then bid them and leave them to aspire to conformity thereto. Hence the further purpose of the Savior's sufferings. We are happily familiar with the great and precious truth, so strikingly exhibited in the twenty-fourth verse, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." When Christ suffered as he did, it was not simply as an illustration of the grace of patience. It was both to secure to us the pardon of our sins, and to provide us with a motive of holiness, in the experience of his sacrificial grace. Without himself becoming a sinner, he nevertheless took the sinner's place, entered into the case of the sinner, and took upon him the sinner's burden, dying the death of the cross—appropriate, indeed, to the sinner, but only appropriate to the holy Christ as the sinner's Representative and Savior. By "bearing our sins" we are to understand a sacrificial, and therefore a redemptive, act. Whilst many popular teachers are insisting that sin can never be forgiven, and that every man must bear to the uttermost the consequences of his sins, the gospel comes with the good news of the remission of sins, and the favor of God for those who receive the Christ as their Mediator and Redeemer, in humility faith, and penitence.
III. The apostle traces THE OPERATION OF THIS DIVINE PRINCIPLE. It is not enough to tell that Jesus died, and died for us sinners. We need to show what is the result of Christ's sacrifice—that is, upon the heart and life of Christians. For whilst it has a relation to God and his government, it has also a relation—and one naturally more comprehensible by us—to our own moral life and conduct. "That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." Now, you need not to be told that these poor Galatian and Cappadocian bondmen must have been, before their conversion, in a position very unfavorable for the formation of a just and pure character, for living a blameless and benevolent life. They must have been alive to sin and dead to righteousness, No power but that of the cross could be "the power of God unto salvation" to such men. And in this they were representatives of mankind. The gospel of Christ both kills and makes alive. It slays the principle of sin; it quickens the principle of obedience to God. Those who are pardoned and justified by the grace of God, and through faith in that Christ who "loved us, and gave himself for us," are brought under the power of new and spiritual motives—the motives of gratitude, devotion, and love. Righteousness thus becomes the atmosphere the Christian breathes, the element in which he lives. It is for Christ's sake that he aspires to participation in Christ's character. And by fellowship with Christ he grows into what his Lord would have him be. The two motives thus coalesce. Believing in Jesus, the Christian comes to live, as a ransomed being, a life of devotion to his Redeemer and Liberator. Honoring Jesus, pondering his character, studying his will, he is "changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Thus is verified the exquisite and figurative language of Peter, "By whose stripes ye were healed." He walked in darkness, that you might walk in the light. He was vanquished, that yon might conquer. He suffered and stooped, that you might reign. He tasted the gall and the wormwood of the crucified, that you might drink the wine of the kingdom and share the banquet of the blessed. He entered the prison-house, that you might go forth into glorious liberty. He died, that you might live. He gave himself up to the blows and stripes of the smiter that your wounds might be healed, that you might come to spiritual strength and soundness. Christian people! the practical lesson of the text is plain for you to read. Whether by persecution, or by opposition and enmity, or by misunderstanding or calumny, you must needs have something to bear in this world of probation and discipline. Remember what this Apostle Peter says, "This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." "If when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called." When distressed by the treatment you receive from wicked, unjust, or unreasonable men, forget not this. Then is the time to prove the reality of your religious principles. Flee to the mediation and sympathy of Christ. Ponder the example, and cultivate the spirit of Christ. Act as a friend, slave, of Christ. Revile not again. Commit yourselves to him that judgeth righteously. Fret not yourselves because of evil-doers. Trust in the Lord. He shall bring out your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Hearers of the gospel! the principles of life now unfolded must appear to you the noblest, the purest, and the best in the universe of God. Yet, as sinners, you have not acted under the influence of those principles. Understand that you are in need of the blessings of that redemption which Jesus wrought, in order that you may die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. It is good- news for you that Christ died for you, that the past of sin and anger and hatred may be slain, and that yours may be the new creation, which is the incorruptible seed of the new, spiritual, and endless life - J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:25 - The strayed sheep recovered.
For the inspired apostle, and for every Christian teacher, no duty or relation of life is too low to be considered; and at the same time, no motive is too high to be urged. Peter is urging bondservants to submission and patience. Their character and conduct were not beneath his regard. In order to influence them aright, he reminds them of the spirit and the example of Christ himself, and exhorts them, remembering their indebtedness to his humility and self-denial, to imitate his conduct.
I. A PICTURE OF THE FLOCK.
1. What were those for whom the good Shepherd suffered and died? They were strayed sheep, who had wandered from the pastures of obedience in different directions, but all into positions of danger and beyond power of return.
2. What are they now that God's mercy has in Christ followed and found them? They have returned from their wanderings, and have re-entered the enclosure of safety; they are enjoying the favor of the Shepherd, the abundance of the pasture, the security of the fold. How true was this of Peter himself, of those to whom he wrote, of every Church gathered, whether from Judaism or from heathenism, to the love and care and fellowship of Christ!
II. A PICTURE OF THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF THE FLOCK.
1. He is represented as seeking and recovering the lost. Thus early Christian art delighted to depict him—as on the walls of the catacombs. Christ not only pitied the lost sheep, he actively interposed on their behalf, to save them from destruction. In carrying out his purpose of mercy he suffered on their behalf and in their stead; he laid down his life for his sheep.
2. He is represented as the Overseer of those whom he has recovered. As such, he controls and governs them; he guides them into green pastures and paths of righteousness; he supplies their wants from the abundance of his bounty; he delivers and protects them from all their foes - J.R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. NEW
1 Peter 2:1-60 - The possession of Christian life summoning to spiritual growth.
The argument so far is as follows: Redemption; this issuing on holiness; that leading to the fear that they should prove to be without redemption; that fear being excited, the test of love is suggested. They are regarded as bearing that test, and proving their possession of life. The next idea is obviously that of growth.
I. WE HAVE HERE THE IDEA OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
1. That implies life. Only living things can grow. Peter can speak of growth because he calls them "new-born babes." Spiritual life is not a mere change or reformation, but an entirely new principle of being. Not only is that implied in such words as, "Ye must be born again;" "If any man be in Christ Jesus, it is a new creation;" "You hath he quickened who were dead;" but entire arguments are based on the use of those words in this sense. It is as impossible for the natural heart, which is enmity against God, to bear fruit to God, as for grapes to grow on thorns; for Divine fruit there must be a Divine nature. This is implanted by the Holy Spirit through the Divine Word. The cry, "Father, Father? is the birth-cry of a new life; from that moment we are of God's family.
2. Also that this life is immature. That truth is helpful to those who have followed the apostle so far, to their discouragement, and are inclined to say, "If holiness is the proof of salvation, and holiness is measured by Christian love, and I have so little of this, is it possible that I am a Christian at all?" These words, however, assume that there may be life without perfection. We are all born babes, and have to reach a full-grown manhood stage by stage. Only Adam came from God's hand perfect. "A babe" is equivalent to weakness, helplessness, ignorance, rudimentariness. Who could guess what a babe could become, or see in the new-born child of God the perfected spirit bowing in the eternal glory before his throne?
3. Also that it is natural for the life to progress. It never occurs to us to wonder if a child will grow; we know it will unless it dies. Disease may retard growth, only death can permanently stop it till maturity is reached. Growth is part of life; naturally, silently, steadily, the babe increases in stature and strength. Then, since spirituality is a life, it only needs that we fulfill the ordinary conditions of life to ensure that it advances from strength to strength. Growth is spontaneous; no man by anxious thought can add to his stature one cubit; give it but the right conditions, and life cannot help growing. Moreover, growth should naturally affect all parts of our spiritual nature, as of our physical; it is only by disuse that some faculties advance alone—faith, or hope, or patience, etc. There is provision in what we are for growth up to him who is the Head "in all things."
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS SECURED. IS not this simpler—not easier, but simpler—more reasonable and possible than many suppose? How do we treat a babe that it may grow? let us treat the spiritual babe-life in the same way.
1. There must be the avoidance of' what is antagonistic to life. "Laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings." These are but a selection of the evils that are hurtful to the Divine nature; they are probably mentioned here rather than others, because, judging from the frequent exhortations in the Epistle to love, to subjection to one another, etc., they represent a class of sins to which these Christians were specially prone; these were the sins which most easily beset them. As in homes where there are children, there are many devices to keep them from harm, so the spiritual life of the young believer must be jealously guarded from what would check its progress.
2. And there must be the partaking of suitable food. "Desire the sincere [pure, unadulterated] milk of the Word." It is the invariable teaching of Scripture that Christian growth depends on the proper use of the Word of God (Psalms 1:2, Psalms 1:3; Psalms 37:31; John 6:63; John 17:17; Acts 20:32; 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:17). Christ is the food of the soul, but he is imparted through his Word. The Word of God has for its substance God the Word. Spiritual feebleness is probably spiritual starvation.
III. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THE SOUL IS PERSUADED TO USE THESE MEANS. "If so be ye have tasted," etc., that is, seek this spiritual growth:
1. Because your experience of Divine grace has been only a taste of what is possible. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son. Think what that involves of character and blessedness; and of this most of us have as yet had only a taste! But that taste makes us long for more.
2. Because, also, by growth you prove your reception of Divine grace. "If so be." Then is there doubt about it? Let spiritual growth destroy that doubt. Growth is a sure proof of life. A deeper sense of sin; a more earnest desire for holiness; a greater joy in God, his presence, service, will;—are the clear proof that we have tasted of Divine grace. But if there be no growth, if the means of grace are no more useful to us than rain is to a rock, Divine life within us is not yet - C.N.
1 Peter 2:4-60 - Christian life crowned with wonderful honor.
This is the last paragraph of the doctrinal section of the Epistle. (Peter's doctrinal teaching covers much less ground than that of Paul, and confines itself here to personal Christian life.) The key-words of the argument so far (see preceding homilies) have been "redemption," "holiness," "fear," "love," "growth," each of which comes in natural sequence. Now, what remains to be said may be gathered up in the word "honor." The central statement of this paragraph is in 1 Peter 2:7, "Unto you therefore who believe [is] the preciousness." But "preciousness" does not harmonize with the tenor of the passage. And as the Greek word equally means "honor," and is often so rendered ("No man taketh this honor unto himself;" "Hath not the potter power to make one vessel unto honor?" "Hold such in reputation [i.e. 'honor'] because," etc.), we so read it here. The apostle contrasts their position in Christ, first with theirs who reject him, and then with their own former position out of him, both of these being positions of shame, the contrast to which is honor. Shame out of Christ, honor in Christ—that is the idea: "Unto you who believe there is honor."
I. CONSIDER THE HIGH HONOR OR THE PEOPLE OF GOD. Not unnatural for this to be emphasized to the "sojourners of the dispersion," who were exposed to suffering and shame for the gospel. There are many illustrations in the Acts of the bitterness of the unbelieving Jews to their Christian brethren; from the Gentle world, moreover, the first mutterings of Nero's persecution of the Church were beginning to be heard. The Epistle contains several references to a condition of reproach (verses 12, 15, 19-23; 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 4:13-60). Peter, therefore, reminds them that, though scorned by men, they are crowned with great honor by God. And mark how he illustrates that. As a Jew, writing mainly to Jews, he fixes on what was most honored in Judaism—the temple with its priesthood and sacrifices. Then he turns to their Scriptures, and shows that God's Elect One, who should come, and who would be despised of the people, would be for a Foundation-stone of a spiritual temple, on and into which all who believe should be built; the honor of the Jewish temple was to pass over to the Christian Church. For instance:
1. The Church is God's chosen dwelling-place. Of the temple it was said, "This is my rest forever. Here will I dwell, for I have desired it." The symbol of his presence was there. But of the Church founded on Jesus, he said, "Ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you;" "Where two or three are gathered together," etc. God's dwelling! the place of his most glorious manifestation! Elsewhere we see him as Creator, Sovereign, Judge; here he is at home.
2. The Church is God's peculiar possession. Over the portal of the temple the eye instinctively reads the unwritten inscription, "Holiness unto the Lord." "My Father's house," said Jesus. But so the Church: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a people peculiarly his own." The Church is his as nothing else is—his peculiar treasure; the object of his delight, thought, care, on which he lavishes himself so that it shows forth, as the text says, "the excellences of God."
3. The Church is God's means of making himself known to the world. Like the temple, the depository of sacred truth and influence, which therefrom are to stream into the world's darkness like the light of day. Ye Christians are "the light of the world." Think what a Church is in a city—that to which the weary, the tempted, the dark, the sorrowful, come for healing; to which, through the weekly toil, tired hearts look with longing, and in which men with all their wants find God. Such a sanctuary is the Church of Christ, the world's one temple, through which alone can flow from God the healing for its woes. The Church is the fulfillment of the ancient predictions of the temple that should rise on Zion in the latter days, to which all nations should flow, and from which all should be blessed. Well may Peter write to the Church, "Unto you who believe there is honor."
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS HONOR BECOMES THEIRS. "Unto whom, coming as unto a living Stone, ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house "—the Church a fabric of "living" souls.
1. By coming to Christ as a Foundation. Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Christ answered, "Upon this rock will I build my Church." Rome speaks of Peter as the foundation of the Church, but this same Peter speaks of Christ. The Church, thus, are all those who have come to Christ as God's Foundation-stone. And what is that but to come to Christ, to build on him—all our hopes on Jesus, Sacrifice, Revealer of the Father, Intercessor, Lord; not on personal experiences, etc., but on him?
2. That is coming to Christ as the Foundation of a holy temple. For many build on him who do not build to this end. Just to rest on Christ as an insurance against penalty, or to satisfy conscience whilst still belonging to the world, is not to be of the Church; for that we must so build on him as to become part of that spiritual house in which God lives, and walks, and reveals himself, and works.
3. And this coming to Christ as a Foundation of a holy temple, of which all his people form a part. Not to be isolated stones, but to be firmly knit together with the whole. Only thus is the idea of the temple fulfilled. God requires "the building up of the body of Christ, till we all attain unto the unity of the faith. unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ from whom the whole body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love."
III. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THIS HONOR AND THEIR FORMER SHAME. The apostle heightens the honor of the Church by reminding them of their once different position, of theirs who still have no part in him. This gives a rare impulse to joy, gratitude, and service. "Unto you who believe there is honor, but for such as disbelieve, the Stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the chief of the corner [not 'head,' as though topstone, but foundation-stone], and a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence; for they stumble at the Word, being disbelieving [same word as verse 7], whereunto also they were appointed"—appointed not to disbelief, but to find him a Stone of stumbling and Rock of offence if they refused to believe. Hurt, maiming, destruction, are the appointed consequences of rejecting Christ, as salvation is for those who believe on him. Brethren, build on Christ, Peter seems to say, "Remember what you were, what you have escaped, and what you are - C.N."
The doctrinal part of the Epistle is now followed by a series of practical exhortations on the working out of the redemption of which it has spoken. And the apostle here begins these as close as can be to the man's own self; he has to speak abort right citizenship, and neighborliness, etc.; but before he comes to these he starts with the man's own self. "Fleshly lusts;" not to be understood of desires for physical gratification only. "Fleshly" is, in Scripture, the opposite of "spiritual." "Works of the flesh" are the antithesis of" works of the Spirit." "Now the works of the flesh are these," etc., and the list includes "idolatry, hatred, wrath, strife, envyings"—not physical qualities at all. So the expression refers to all desires that are wrong. "Having your conversation honest"—" Having your behavior seemly" (Revised Version). "The day of visitation." Any crisis in which God draws near to a man with a view to his redemption, and which results in grace or judgment—the apostle thinks here of that. So the idea of the paragraph is, "You Christians, so regulate your desires that your life will be becoming, and thus the heathen around you, prejudiced against Christ, will be prepared to receive the gospel when it is urged upon them." This is a timely subject when the Church wonders at the little power of the gospel, and seeks new means to "evangelize the masses." Gospel-preaching must be supported by gospel-living. Next to the inborn ungodliness of the natural heart, the great hindrance to Christ's kingdom is the Church's own ungodliness.
I. THE DEMAND FOR A BECOMING LIFE ON THE PART OF THE CHURCH. There is a certain behavior which becomes God's people, if only because they are closely observed by the ungodly; the world has a standard of character it expects the Church to reach. We may discourage ourselves by overestimating that standard (probably they do not look for perfection), but we must beware lest we underrate it. What is this character? (Let us remember that it is character; that they care nothing for creed, nor for habits of devotion, nor for our statements as to religious experience, but demand a certain life from the people of God, and watch for it as with an eagle's glance.)
1. It must be an exemplification of righteousness. Straightforward, above-board, strictly upright action, come what may—nothing less becomes the children of the Holy One. Social and commercial morality are not enough. Christian morality, which the world has a right to expect in us, is action from right principle at any cost.
2. It must be an exhibition of peace. The Christian says, "God loves and cares for me; he is my Father; for me he laid down his life; to me he has given all blessing in his Son; and I trust him." Then the world looks in him for that rest of soul which writes itself on the face, silences impatient utterance, and restrains the hasty deed. Nothing less becomes such profession.
3. It must be animated by kind consideration for others. Even righteousness will not satisfy the world; there must be also love. Less cannot become those who have his Spirit of whom it is said, "And God is Love." On the top of the pillars of uprightness there must be the lily work of love; yea, those pillars, hard and cold, must be wreathed from base to capital with love's sweet flowers and fruit, or onlookers will refuse to believe they are pillars of God's temple.
II. THE REASON FOR THIS DEMAND. Three powerful reasons are suggested here.
1. The Christian is essentially different from the world. "Strangers [in another place translated 'foreigners'] and pilgrims." "Ye are not of the world;" "Ye are come to the heavenly Jerusalem;" citizens of another country, subjects of another King, passing through this world to that to which the Heaven-born nature aspires. We are more than others (we are born again); we have more than others (the all-sufficient grace of the Spirit); we owe more than others (redeemed with the precious blood of Christ); then we ought to be more than others.
2. The world regards the Christian with some prejudice. "They speak against you as evil-doers.' The history of the period confirms that; Christian writings of the second century constantly refute false charges of the immorality of Christianity. These false charges are likely to be perpetual; for "if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub," etc., then so much the more reason for becoming conduct on our park We cannot reason, but we can live down, this prejudice. Each line of life is credited with certain evils; by living above those evils the Christian must roll this prejudice against Christianity away.
3. The influence of Christian character on the world is incalculable. "By your good works which they shall behold, they may glorify God in the day of visitation." An unspeakably solemn word. It implies that, when they are visited by God's mercy, their acceptance of that mercy depends largely on the previous influence of the lives of God's people. Before Lazarus could come forth from his grave at Christ's word, men must roll away the stone. So the stone of prejudice against Christ. By unbecoming conduct we may harden men in sin and unbelief; by becoming conduct we may prepare the way of the Lord.
III. THE MEANS OF FULFILLING THIS DEMAND. "Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."
1. Becoming character begins with the heart. "Out of the heart are the issues of life." Only that can come from us which is first put in us. Christian lives are not produced by laying aside this blemish or taking up that excellence, but by prolonged and secret heart-work. "As a man's heart is, so is he."
2. This heart-work requires abstinence from whatever wars against the soul. Not necessarily bad things, but anything that militates against spiritual life. Every wish must be crucified which may be a hindrance to me or to others.
3. This abstinence comes from a remembrance of our obligation to God. Some trees only lose their leaves when new ones come and push them off; thus only by the incoming of new desires and affections do we lose the old ones. The eleventh verse follows the ninth and tenth verses. Abstinence from evil desires follows as a matter of course a remembrance of what God has done for us, and an appropriation of the sublime blessings it gives - C.N.
1 Peter 2:13-60 - The Christian duty to the state.
We might regard 1 Peter 2:11 and 1 Peter 2:12 as the text of which the rest of the Epistle is the sermon. The apostle first writes at length on their possession of personal redemption, and then says, "Now for the life that becomes it." And he begins with that citizenship which becomes the Christian. Very striking is it that the heavenly and the earthly citizenship should be brought here into such close connection; it is when the apostle has the highest conception of our relation to the spiritual kingdom (as in 1Pe 2:9, 1 Peter 2:10.) that he proceeds to speak of the lofty position we are to take as citizens of earth. Probably there was special reason for emphasis on this; he was writing to Jews, who had rather lax ideas of their obligations to human institutions in the Gentile world, and were charged by the empire with being "bad subjects;" that, for example, was the ostensible reason for the persecution by Nero. The subject is timely. Christians are often in doubt as to the Dart they should take in public affairs. Here we have Divine teaching respecting this.
I. THE DUTY OF CHRISTIAN CITIZENSHIP, "Submit yourselves to every human institution… whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well "—that includes all human institutions for the well-being of the nation at large, whether in the wider circle of imperial, or the narrower circle of local, matters, and, says the apostle, "Submit yourselves to that."
1. What, then, is the submission which the Christian owes to the state? The only submission possible to those to whom Peter wrote was that of tribute and obedience; under the despotic policy of the empire they could do no more; they had no power to ameliorate the laws nor to choose their rulers. With us it is not so. If we only pay the taxes and obey the authorities, we do not submit ourselves. "Submit yourselves unto God" means "give yourselves." So read the word "submit" here. The Christian is bound to give not only his substance and doings to these, but himself. As Christians, nothing ought to be alien to us which concerns the world our Lord loved and died for.
2. What are the limits of this submission? We must read this with the limitation everywhere implied. "Fearing God" comes before "honoring the king." Peter was himself an illustration of that, when he told the rulers "We must obey God rather than man." But the text refers to submission of ourselves; we must do that as far as we are to do all else that is right—that is, as far as our opportunities and talents permit. Opportunity and talent are the limit of duty. Health, home-claims, higher claims, natural aptitude, etc., these show us where and how far we may go. God's barriers are always plain to him who fears God.
3. What, then, is the objection to this submission? We are told that Christians are citizens of another world, and should have no part in this. But it is mean to get all the good out of the world we can, and refuse to do it all the good we can. We are told that Christ lived in the midst of political corruption, and did not raise his voice against it. But he was ever propagating those principles which undermine corruption, and his healing miracles show that his heart was set on ameliorating physical woe. We are told that we should come out of the world, and be separate. But that cannot mean that the Christian—the Christian physician, say—is to refuse to help the world. If the world chooses to help me to do a good work, I know no command which, because of their co-operation, bids me stand aloof.
II. THE LOFTY PRINCIPLES ON WHICH THIS DUTY IS TO BE FULFILLED. What is wanted is, not so much that Christians should take these things up, as that they should do so from sacred conviction, and "as becomes the gospel of Christ."
1. This must be done "for the Lord's sake." "The earth is the Lord's… the world and they that dwell therein." How much does he care for men, who for them became incarnate, and endured the death of the cross! Then everything that tends to their development and enfranchisement is dear to him.
2. This must be done that "with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." If the world come to regard Christianity as having to do mostly with beliefs and emotions, they will look upon it as unreal and worthless. It is not by fighting "more or less extinct Satans" that we secure the world's respect for Christ, but by earnestly grappling, for his sake, with the real evils of the day.
3. This must be done "as servants of God." This duty is not without peril to personal spiritual life; it often calls the Christian to associate with those who have no fear of God, and work accordingly, and exposes him to the danger of falling to their level. The political atmosphere is often morally deadening Our safety is in going into this deliberately as God's servants, to do his will, and that at any cost, wearing heaven's livery, and making heavenly influences tell upon our fellows.
III. THE DIVINE WARNING AGAINST THE DANGER IN THE FULFILLMENT OF THIS DUTY. "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of evil [κακία, equivalent to 'evil of any kind']." The Christian public man needs anxiously to look beneath his activity, and see if any evil thing is concealed and fostered there.
1. There is the evil of self-seeking. Of doing this unconsciously, not for Christ, but for personal ends.
2. And there is the evil of love of the world. Public life has a terrible tendency to foster a spirit of worldliness, and to counteract this we need plenty of heart and closet work. There is no peril in this if we put "fear of God ' before the "honor of the king"—if, whilst we "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," we "render to God the things that are God's;" if, whilst submitting ourselves "to every human institution," etc., we maintain the lofty feeling and character of "the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the people peculiarly God's own."—C.N.
1 Peter 2:18-60 - Servants urged to patient endurance of undeserved suffering.
Having dealt with the character becoming the Christian citizen, he passes to that becoming the Christian servant. Probably the Churches addressed were composed largely of that class, who, however, were scarcely above the rank of slaves; and these are here called mainly to endurance because, probably, they were exposed to considerable oppression. Paul gives a more complete teaching on the duty of the Christian servant. Peter here contemplates him rather as a sufferer—from overwork, unreasonable demands, the jealousy of fellow-servants, misrepresentation, cruelty; and he says in effect, "As to work, your master's treatment of you is to make no difference to your fidelity;" as to suffering, 'this is thankworthy,'" etc. This passage is characteristic of Peter. Compare what he records in his own Gospel (Mark 14:53-41). Are not both these events hidden beneath the text? The events of that solemn night when he heard Jesus say, "I have given you an example," were burned into his memory. Uppermost in his thought of Jesus would be that of patient endurance, as when he answered the high priest nothing, and his servant's denial by a look.
I. THE PERSONS ADDRESSED. "Servants." That is:
1. In lowly life there may be the working out of noblest principles. Remember that the apostle has taken 1 Peter 2:12 for his text in this second section of the Epistle. What more could the cultured and influential do than he there requires, but which he urges here on slaves? At any rate, it ranks high in Christian service. The greatest principles of grace can be exemplified in the humblest position. As the Son of God was in the Babe of Bethlehem as truly as he is on the eternal throne, the love of God may inspire us, the will of God be done by us, and the glory of God secured by us, in the humblest ranks and tasks as in the highest.
2. Where no great deed is apparent, there may be the greatest victories. These servants were not called to prominent places in Church life, nor to activity in public events, nor to anything the world counts great, but to patient endurance. Yet is anything harder, and therefore, greater? It requires greater force of Christian character to suffer than to act; many eyes are fixed on action, in suffering we are cast almost wholly on the unseen. Was not Christ's power in his sufferings? Not before his miracles, but before his cross, the world bows with awe. Just as his own nine beatitudes reach their highest point in "Blessed are ye when men shall revile," etc. Let the sufferer, him with few talents, him who is oppressed, know that in enduring well he may rank with Jesus Christ's nobility.
3. Untoward circumstances may be used to the highest results. It seems a misfortune to be oppressed, but these verses show how much is possible by endurance. Then we can exemplify Divine grace, "for this is grace, if a man for," etc.; we can constrain others to "glorify God in the day of visitation;" we can in this important point follow Christ; and we can secure much of that personal godliness which was the end for which he died—"that we might live unto righteousness." There is no abiding satisfaction without travail of soul; life's storms may cast up rare treasure to our feet.
II. THE DUTY ENFORCED. Patient endurance of undeserved suffering.
1. Notice that the endurance must be undeserved. Scripture consolations are often taken by sufferers who have no right to them. Much of our suffering is deserved—e.g., bad treatment from others, which is often due to our moral unloveliness. The apostle, however, thinks of that which is unmerited—suffering, e.g., for right doing. There is a mystery in this, but it is something that Scripture recognizes this, yea, even says it is this "whereunto ye are called."
2. This endurance is due to a consciousness of God. "This is grace, if a man for conscience toward God," etc. All endurance is not Christian. We may endure because we are not sensitive, or because we are stoical. That is not the endurance that needs Christianity for its existence, or that is followed by Christian blessing. Aim at the endurance which is only possible through taking God into account: "God is in my trouble, and God is with me in my trouble." "He endured as seeing him who is invisible."
3. This is the endurance which is fulfilled after the manner of Christ. It is possible to endure, but with impatience and repining. Christian endurance is of a higher order; it is like Christ's, who had no unkind feeling for his persecutors. At the feast they said he had a devil, but, nothing daunted, he stood and cried, "If any man thirst," etc.; he rejected the suggestion to call down fire on the inhospitable village; he called Judas in the moment of his treason, "Friend;" he healed Malchus's ear who was binding him; he forgave Peter's denial; he prayed for his murderers. We are here summoned to endurance like that (1 Peter 2:22, 1 Peter 2:23).
III. THE MOTIVES APPLIED. How can we rise to endurance like this? Three motives are suggested here.
1. This patient endurance is pleasing to God. "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable [literally, 'grace'] with God." He regards it as grace, or, if you will, as thanks. It is the utterance of the submissive spirit which says, "Not my will, but thine be done." It is wonderful that we can give pleasure to God; yet every token of loving, trustful, obedient submission must please the Father. Think of him saying, "For my Name's sake thou hast borne," etc.
2. This patient endurance is following Christ. "Leaving us an example." There is much comfort in knowing we put our feet into his footprints, and that he knows what we suffer, since he has experienced it first. It is much to have indications that we are on the right track. "If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me;" "If ye were of the world, the world would love its own, but," etc. But best of all, to follow him is to ensure his presence. His servants serve at his side, as Peter did. To follow is to follow him close. "To go forth without the camp, bearing his reproach," is to go forth "to him."
3. This patient endurance is a working out of redemption. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being," etc. Since Christ by his sacrifice has freed us from sifts condemnation that we might become righteous, it becomes us to welcome anything by which that righteousness may be attained. If for our righteousness he would endure the cross, we may not shrink from the discipline of his love to that end - C.N.
HOMILIES BY U.R. THOMAS
1 Peter 2:1-60 - Spiritual childhood.
In this "therefore" (Revised Version) our apostle gathers up the argument, perhaps, of all the preceding part of the letter, certainly of the passage immediately preceding this; viz. if we as Christians have begun to live this higher life, how will its early stage manifest himself? So we naturally note—
I. SOME OF THE SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL CHILDHOOD. One of the signs that Christian men and women are, what Peter had heard the Lord say they ought to be, like little children—growing children—is in what they lack. This whole group of evils are most unchildlike evils. "Putting away" implies that they had been wrapped in them, swaddled as it were in them. "Wickedness," or malice. Perhaps the wider meaning of wickedness is intended here. Leighton says, "All is one garment, or parts of one, for sometimes some are mentioned, and sometimes others." "Guile," "hypocrisies" the first being the spirit of deceit, the second the acting a part as on a stage. "Envies;" "evil-speakings." Here again the first describes the malign spirit, the second the speech that spirit inspires.
II. THE CHIEF NOURISHMENT OF SPIRITUAL CHILDHOOD. "Spiritual milk." Milk is a good standard of all food; it contains all the constituents of food. So does the Word of God contain all elements of spiritual nutrition. "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Similarly, there is a natural aliment, and there is a spiritual aliment. "Without guile;" that food is to be simple, unadulterated. Milk when impure is a terrible source of disease; so the Word of God, when mixed with error, works deadly mischief. "Long for;" have a keen appetite for the Word of God, not for the sugar-plums of sentiment or the stimulants of sensationalism, but the milk of the Word. A true appetite is at once a sign of health and a means to health.
III. THE TRUE DEVELOPMENT OF SPIRITUAL CHILDHOOD. "Grow." The bud that does not become a flower is a failure. So the Christian that does not grow is a failure. Piety is the art of right growing. "Unto salvation." That is the ideal—not mere rescue from guilt, but attainment of holiness; not mere emancipation, but citizenship. "If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." This implies that the Christian character is developed, even in its early stages, from a solid experience. Only tasted, but surely tasted. Luther puts it well for us: "To them who with the heart believe the word, 'Christ has been sent for me and is become mine own; my miseries are his; his life is mine,'—that word is sweet."—U.R.T.
1 Peter 2:4-60 - The soul-temple, and soul-service.
The critic may read these verses and simply complain that he finds here a confusion of metaphors—that Christian souls are here described as builders and a building. But in truth these figures illustrate two sides of one great fact, namely, that the worth of life, whether it be life in its progress or in its result, depends upon its relationship to Christ.
I. THE BUILDER A TYPE OF MAN. Paul in detail uses the same figure as Peter, and doubtless Peter learned its use as he listened to his Lord's parable of the mere hearer and doer. These verses remind us:
1. That every man is incessantly building. He is placing stone on stone, layer on layer, in the structure of his character.
2. That character (the thing he is building) has at once an outward aspect and an inward relation. In the first, i.e. his reputation, it is a monument; in the second, i.e. actual character, it is a habitation.
3. Man builds well or ill as he regards or disregards the Divine Architect. "Coming to," i.e. having close, constant contact with "a living Stone," i.e. Christ, who is a Foundation that is more than the stone on which all rests; he is the Foundation out of which life proceeds, and the Corner-stone by which that life is held together and manifested.
II. THE TEMPLE A TYPE OF THE CHRISTIAN MAN. He is a structure as well as a builder. And what a structure! All characters are structures—some are markets, some but pigsties; the Christly are temples. He is a temple:
(1) on the right Foundation;
(2) with glory of completeness;
(3) destined to permanence;
(4) and this strength and beauty not according to man's standard, but God's.
III. THE PRIESTHOOD IS ALSO A TYPE OF CHRISTIAN MEN. Here is further change of figure; but the truth taught is the same. Is he builder? he must build according to God's plan. Is he temple? he must be dedicated by God's presence. Is he worshipper? he must be utterly consecrated to God's service. All Christians are part of the temple; all Christians are part of the priesthood. For all we turn to Christ for Model, Motive, and Merit - U.R.T.
To the apostle's vision the Church was a whole. Its unity did not depend upon geography, or upon chronology, but on character, temper, spirit.
I. The glory of the Christian commonwealth in ITS CHARACTERISTICS. "An elect race;" "a race," i.e. descendants from one stock and kindred one to another. "Elect;" that is, at once choice and chosen. Chosen to be blessed, and to be made a blessing. "A royal priesthood." A kingdom of priests. "Thou hast made us kings and priests." What is the true conception of a king or of a priest? One who lives for others; the king, if you will, in open field; the priest in sacred retirement. We are both. "A holy nation;" i.e. consecrated to religion. Rome may be a martial nation, Greece a cultured nation, Babylon a commercial nation. Israel was nothing if not religious. The Christian commonwealth is to be the Israel of today. "A people for God's own possession," or for special reservation. "Peculiar," a word used to describe the earnings of the slave in his overtime—his "very own." We are the "very own" of God. "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem," etc.; "bought with blood."
II. The glory of the Christian commonwealth in ITS MISSION. "That ye may," etc. This throws us back on the word "elect." We are chosen for this purpose. "Ye may show forth;" tell out to those without what has taken place within. "The excellences of him"—virtues, glories, of God. What a boundless theme! "Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." God's call, by his Spirit, through his Word, through the conscience, through the ministry, through the sacraments, through providential events, reaches all of us. But "the called" usually denotes those who have responded to the call. The call is from "darkness," i.e. ignorance, error, misery, sin, helplessness, to "light," truth, joy, purity, activity; from the sepulcher to the garden, from the dungeon to the temple, from midnight to noon.
III. These glories of the Christian commonwealth ARE IN STRIKING CONTRAST WITH THE FAST HISTORY OF ITS MEMBERS. "Which in time past." The reference is doubtless
(1) to quicken humility;
(2) to kindle gratitude;
(3) to awaken watchfulness.
"Were no people;" isolated, each self-centered; a chaos, not a commonwealth. "But are now the people of God;" not merely a commonwealth, but a sacred commonwealth, a theocracy. "Which had not obtained mercy," etc.; had not realized it as their own. Pity is care for the weak. Compassion is care lot the suffering. Mercy is care for the undeserving. And it is mercy that has met the Christian man, and made him what he is - U.R.T.
What is meant here by "fleshly lusts"? Not alone the desires and appetites that are gratified 'through the flesh—" sensuality," as we sometimes say. No; for three reasons.
1. The flesh in itself is neither good nor bad; it has no moral qualities.
2. The category of evils here enumerated includes envying, pride, heresies.
3. The "flesh" is used figuratively, and is a symbol of the old and lower nature of man. The phrase points to the disorganized, disproportioned, disordered desires of man, and so includes intemperance, gluttony, voluptuousness, bad temper, false ambitions, covetousness, all of which are included in the accursed trinity of St. John, "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the vain-glory of life." We are here taught that—
I. INDULGENCE IN THESE DISORDERLY PASSIONS IS BECOMING NEITHER TO OUR PRESENT CONDITION NOR TO OUR DESTINY. We are "sojourners;" foreigners, not staying here. But more, we are "pilgrims," bent on a higher destination. "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest."
II. THE INFLUENCE OF THESE DISORDERLY PASSIONS IS HOSTILE TO OUR OWN INWARD LIFE. "Which war against the soul;" war against all the garrison and inmates of the soul—against reason, defying and dishonoring it; against memory, burdening and crushing it; against hope, darkening it and turning it into terror; against imagination, polluting and degrading it; against conscience, cutting and maiming, though they cannot kill it; against the affections, ravaging and spoiling them; in a word, against "the soul."
III. FREEDOM FROM THESE DISORDERLY PASSIONS, BESIDES DELIVERING FROM INTERNAL STRIFE, WILL MAKE OUR OUTWARD LIFE A SOCIAL BLESSING. Four facts are here suggested on this point.
1. Outward life scrutinized. They "behold" it.
2. Outward life readily calumniated. "They speak evil of you." Slanders brought against early Christians were many, foul, and baseless. It was a king who said, "It is kingly to do good, and to be evil spoken of is kingly." Paul, James, Peter, and our Lord teach that to do good and be evil spoken of was the lot of a Christian.
3. Outward life should be beautiful. "Good works;" i.e. beautiful works. No scenery can be or should be so fascinating, so awe-inspiring, as the scenery of souls. They may show forth most of the beauties of holiness, the beauty of God.
4. Such outward life leads to God being glorified. "They may glorify God." Many a man has found some noble or gracious life of kinsman, or of friend, or of hero to be "the gate Beautiful," by which he has gone into the temple of the fellowship and service of God - U.R.T.
This passage teaches—
I. THE NECESSITY OF LOYALTY. In our present condition there must be the ruled and rulers. It may be well to seek a change of rulers; it certainly is often well to seek a change of laws; but while rulers, whether "kings or governors," are for "vengeance on evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well," it is the duty of the true citizen to be loyal.
II. THE FREQUENT CHARGE OF DISLOYALTY BROUGHT BY THE FOOLISH AGAINST REFORMERS. Such men as St. Paul was addressing were, as Christians are, of necessity, reformers. There was all the more need that they should, by fitting loyalty, put to shame the ignorance of foolish men who calumniated them. Even their very freedom, as being under a higher than mere human law, might seem to be used as "a cloak of wickedness." Therefore they were to be the very bondservants of God.
III. LOYALTY IS INCOMPLETE UNLESS IT INCLUDES HONOR FOR ALL MEN, LOVE FOR THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD, AS WELL AS OBEDIENCE TO THE RULER. The true loyalist is no recluse, but a philanthropist and a Church-member.
IV. THE SUFFICIENT AND ABIDING MOTIVE FOR SUCH LOYALTY IS DIVINE. "For the Lord's sake."—U.R.T.
1 Peter 2:18-60 - The Christian as a servant.
As the sun extracts no sweeter odors than when its rays fall on the tiny lily of the valley or the modest violet, so the truth of Christ never fills the air with more fragrance than when, as here, it is addressed to men and women of lowly station and occupation—to "bondmen."
I. THE DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN AS A SERVANT. "Be in subjection." Obedience is the essential virtue of servitude. Fulfill commands. Discharge tasks. "With all fear." Not terror, but proper awe. The craven is not the product of Christianity, but the respectful man is. Widen the application to all employed. How this teaching oils the wheels of the social machine!
II. THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN AS A SUFFERING SERVANT. There is no one-sided view of social duty here. It is implied:
1. Difficulties often arise from the character of employers. There is an exquisite ideal for masters here—"good and gentle. But many a servant "endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully." Some masters are "froward," i.e. like a crooked stick you do not know how to hold. Some are rough. Their servants are buffeted—tongue, fist, temper, strike.
2. Such difficulties, when rightly met, bring honor and Divine praise. This leads to—
III. THE DIGNITY OF THE CHRISTIAN AS A SUFFERING SERVANT.
1. Dignity, inasmuch as a suffering servant may resemble the blessed Savior. Follow his steps who was
(1) perfect, yet wronged;
(2) reviled, yet unreviling;
(3) suffering, yet not vindictive.
2. Dignity, because inasmuch as for our salvation our Lord became a suffering Servant. Burdened, we are relieved by him; dead, we are quickened by him; diseased, we are healed by him; wandering, we are restored by him; and that by his being burdened and dying - U.R.T.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
1 Peter 2:1-60 - Newborn babes and the higher Israel.
I. NEWBORN BABES.
1. Duty conditioning appetite for the Ignorant. "Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings." This duty is connected with the foregoing ("therefore"), as coming under it. As the regenerate, we are to put away all dispositions and manifestations that offend against good brotherhood. We are to put away first, as being the radical vice, all malice (as we should read, with the old translation), i.e. the desire to hurt, from the slightest beginnings up to the most deadly passion. We are also to put away all guile, i.e. want of openness, of straightforwardness, also in the whole compass of the idea. With all guile we are to put away its manifestations in hypocrisies, i.e. all attempts to personate, especially to make ourselves appear better than we really are. We are also to put away envies, i.e. pinings on account of the good estate of others. Finally, we are to put away manifestations of envy in all evil-speakings, i.e. attempts to injure the good name of others. From the way in which this duty is brought in, it is evident that it has a bearing on what follows, which is probably this—that unbrotherliness is a bar to our life being properly sustained.
2. Appetite for the Word. "As newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation." The apostle seizes upon the fact of his readers having been lately regenerated, and calls them "newborn babes" in relation to God. Babes have suitable nourishment provided for them in their mother's milk; as (whether lately or long ago regenerated) we have suitable nourishment provided for us in what in the spiritual sphere is milk, viz. the Word (without any reference to the distinction of weaker or stronger in it). [Babes] save a pure provision ("without guile" is another unhappy change); so what is provided for us in the Word is pure as mother's milk. Babes have a strong natural craving for milk; so we are to have a strong craving for the Word. Babes are constituted with a strong craving for milk, that their growth may go forward; so we are to have a strong craving for the Word, that our higher development may go forward, which is to issue in salvation (both the elimination of all evil elements and the acquisition of all good elements). From the connection the teaching is that we are thus to see to our individual development for the sake of the society to which we belong. We owe it to Christians collectively that we grow individually.
3. Appetite for the Word encouraged. "If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." The language is based on Psalms 34:8. It is to be observed that "the Lord" of the psalmist is here taken to be Christ (as appears from the following verse). There is kindness displayed in the nourishment that is provided for babes; so there is the kindness of Christ displayed in what is provided for us in the Word. As the Word, or Divine Revealer, Christ is also the Divine Nourisher. Christians are those who know this, not merely by report, but by experience. They have "tasted that the Lord is gracious." And Peter goes upon the supposition that those who have tasted once will desire to taste again, and will not be easily satisfied.
II. THE HIGHER ISRAEL.
1. Characterization under temple imagery in relation to Christ.
(1) Way in which we are related to Christ. "Unto whom coming." With this there is transition to new imagery. The language is general; yet it was frequently associated with the going up of worshippers to the temple. We are to make our approach to Christ for union to him and communion with him; and our approach to him is to be habitual, that with stronger union there may be closer communion.
(2) Representation that is given of Christ. "A living Stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious." This is a very striking though homely image applied to the most wonderful event or series of events in history. Let us call up the scene from which the language is taken. A building is being erected amid dust and rubbish and confused noises. The builders are ever wanting stones for each new place as it arises in the building, and search about among what are laid down for them. One stone they all pass by because of some defect or blemish that it has in their eyes. You can see, from the way in which they treat it, that it is not deemed worthy to have even an obscure place in the building. But the architect comes and sees to this stone, which was to have no place, being put into the place of honor. It becomes, as we shall see afterwards from its designation, the most important stone in the building. Now, the great archetypal building which is being erected—that of which every building, common or sacred, is a type, that of which the Jewish temple was in a special manner a type—is the Church. The Jewish rulers were employed by God in carrying out his purposes of love and mercy toward the race. They were the builders, having subordinately the selecting and preparing of the stones and the putting them into their places. In this first introduction of the imagery they are not directly referred to; it is simply men that are mentioned. But in accordance with Psalms 118:22, afterwards quoted, we must think of men representatively, i.e. in the builders. Christ was a living Stone, i.e. he was absolutely in living significance all that a stone can be in a building. He came before the eyes of the builders with extraordinary claims, with most exalted ideas, with a most wonderful manifestation of love. He was as a stone laid down for them, and they could not but pass some judgment upon him. What they did (and not merely in their own name, but as representing men) was to reject him even to crucifying him. We see him the "despised and rejected of men" in being a Stone rejected of the builders. He was to be of no use in the Church or theocracy with which these had to do. Ay, they thought that they were relegating him in God's name to a different fate altogether. But what was despised among men was highly esteemed with God. So in striking contrast with the human judgment, it is said here—" with God elect; precious," i.e. he was the great Object of electing love, and had all the qualities on which the Divine approbation could rest. And God, having allowed men to go so far, takes things out of their hands, and, in accordance with his ancient design as to the ordering of things in his Church, instates Christ in the place of highest honor and serviceableness, making him, as we are now to see, the Stone in which we are built up.
(3) What we are in relation to Christ. "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Very beautiful is the way in which we are called "living stones" along with Christ. We also are living stones, only with this difference, that we derive all our living consequence in the building from Christ. A stone, according to the general idea, is not meant to be by itself; it is meant to be placed along with others in a building. So we rise to the idea of our being as living stones built up a spiritual house. Ancient Israel had a temple; the heightening consideration is that we as Christians are the temple. Whereas also material elements (such as in the Jewish temple) can only in a very restricted way be used for the glorifying of God, there is far greater freedom and capability when we come to the spiritual elements that exist in the Church. "To the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). But that is not all; for ancient Israel the complete conception was broken up. They had a temple, and they had also, distinct from it, a priesthood. The heightening consideration is that we combine the two ideas. We are the temple and the priesthood in one. The Jewish priests had a sacred character. "Once a priest, always a priest." They could not take to trading; God's service required their undivided attention. So even in trading we are to have a sacred character, abjuring self and referring all to God. Our feet are always to be found in the path of God's commandments—which cover things both temporal and spiritual. The Jewish priests offered up fruits, animals; the heightening consideration is that we offer up spiritual sacrifices. These are only acceptable to God through Jesus Christ; and therefore we require to remember that his sacrifice comes first. After it, founded upon it, and deriving all their virtue from it, come our sacrifices, which are distinctively eucharistic, i.e. they are forms of giving thanks. They are this even when we begin, as we must do, by offering up ourselves. Gratitude, especially for what has been done for us in redemption, prompts us first to offer up ourselves, and then ourselves in good thoughts, in earnest prayers, in loving deeds.
2. Scriptural foundation for the characterization. "Because it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Corner-stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame." This is a free quotation from Isaiah 28:16. Attention is called to the declaration of the eternal counsel. It is "the Lord God" who says, "I lay;" but there is not excluded laying by human agents. From the temple in Zion we are to pass in thought to the Church. The chief corner-stone is the most important stone in the building, both combining as being in the corner, and supporting as being the foundation-stone; such is Christ to the Church, with the epithets formerly applied to him. The prophet goes beyond this to the consequence of believing. As it stands in the prophecy, the language is, "He that believeth shall not make haste," i.e. shall go on his way calmly. As altered here, it is, "He that believeth on him [Christ as the Stone] shall not be put to shame." Believing, in builders' language, is taking Christ as the Foundation. If Christ is the Foundation, it must be designed that stones should be laid upon him or in relation to him. That is the design of any foundation—the design, then, of Christ as the Foundation. If we are laid upon Christ as the Foundation, we shall never be put to shame; i.e. shall never have the shame connected with the foundation proving insufficient.
3. Consequence of believing. "For you therefore which believe is the preciousness." It is better to translate, "is the honor." This is the positive side of the conception that we have just noticed. Laid upon Christ as the "chief Cornerstone, elect, precious," there is the corresponding honor; i.e. the honor of having a definite, abiding place in the building, with a share in the glory that is communicated to it by Christ.
4. Consequence of not believing. "But for such as disbelieve, The Stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner; and, A Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence; for they stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." The statement of consequence is preceded by a statement of wonderful fact from Psalms 118:22, which by our Lord himself, and by Peter in his speech before the Sanhedrin, is connected with the action of the Jewish rulers. The blindness of the builders. The position which these Jewish rulers occupied was a very honorable one. They were appointed to build. It is of the greatest importance that those who lead the thought or action in any way should be really builders, clearly and boldly grasping the principles, and earnestly and vigorously carrying forward the work. It is an incalculable evil when any take advantage of their gifts or position to promulgate opinions which are fitted to sap the foundations—to do the work of him who has been a destroyer from the beginning. There are some, not only in other countries, but in this country, who do not see that it is necessary to build. They are levelers, not builders. They would pull down, not merely the wrongs of past centuries, but the rights of all centuries; not merely church establishments, but the Church itself; not merely human speculations, but the everlasting truths of the Bible. It is a gigantic mistake. A nation's greatness will soon be shown to be hollow, if there is no building up in family piety; no just and generous dealing, as between all classes, and toward other nations. A sad havoc some of our destructives would make, if there were not some honorable public men, and many who are quietly building away in their own homes and in their own neighborhoods, as they see to be right before God. But those Jewish rulers were further appointed to build up the Church. They had to deliberate and to devise regarding all that greatly pertained to the ecclesiastical life of the nation. And the honorableness of their position at that time appears in this, that they might have had the placing of Christ in the building. It was something more honorable than had fallen to Moses, who merely introduced the types of Christ. It fell to them, as the representatives of the Church at the time, to single out and introduce Christ himself. But there, also, lay their great responsibility. They might do a great service, putting Christ into the place intended for him; or they might do a great disservice, setting him aside, and putting him in a false light before the nation—who were appointed to lead when the times were becoming full of most profound interest. It depended on how they used their responsibility. It unhappily turned out in the latter way. Their crime is represented as a refusing of him whom God meant to be chief Cornerstone. What made their conduct so criminal was that they acted against the light. True, there were others who rose up about that time claiming to be the Messiah. But they were there, as the appointed, trained representatives of the nation, to sift the evidence. And the damaging circumstance was that they had evidence more than enough, as full as the conditions allowed, presented to them by Christ; and yet they rejected him. He had a wonder-working power greater than was possessed by their great ancestor Moses—which was a clear mark of God on him. And as remarkable as his forth-putting of power was his range of knowledge, extending beyond earth to the things which he had seen with the Father—which was another mark of God. And then the whole tone of his life was in keeping, and fitted to remove all honest doubt. But these builders were blind. They could not distinguish Messiah-ship when they saw it. They would not even give him credit for ordinary goodness. They could have got as much from the old as would have enabled them to slide easily into the new. Had they truly appreciated the types, they would have known the Antitype. Had they been apt students of prophecy, they would have known him to whom prophecy bears witness. But they had not even the right Old Testament point of view. They were falsely conservative. They had substituted authorized lint outward and temporary forms and ceremonies for the living, eternal ideas, and rabbinical traditions for the decisive words of inspiration. And their conservatism would have been most destructive. If they had got their way, they would have kept Christ from having his proper place or any place in the building. And thus there would have been no salvation for man, but black, terrible destruction. No temple would have risen up in this world, each stone a saved soul. That would have been the consequence of the conservatism of those Jewish leaders. What they thought was building up, and keeping to the truth, and resisting innovation, would have been in its results the pulling down of all to the depths of ruin. So blind were these builders. They are not the only destroyers who would raze to the foundation; but those also are making work for destruction who build narrowly, who do not take the breadth of the Word of God for themselves, nor will allow it for others. Had these Jewish builders been loyal to the truth, reverencing the old which had fairly stood the test, and welcoming also the new which seemed to premise larger development, they would not have made the mistake which they did. Had they even had some spiritual affinity to the Messiah, they would have been carried out beyond their narrowness. Israelites indeed, in whom there was no guile, they would have been carried on from a glorious living past to a more glorious and widening, living future. But this is their condemnation, that light came into the world; and they loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Let us beware of self-deception. These rulers thought they were doing God service in what they did to Christ. If they could so far deceive themselves who occupied so prominent a position in the Church, have we not reason to be on our guard? The builders as overruled by the great Architect. It has always been matter for surprise, how bad men get into power. Job makes it matter of complaint in his day, that the earth was given over into the hand of the wicked. There are some who go great lengths in sin without having much in their power. But when men get a long line, as it were, and go the whole length of it, cruelly trampling on the most sacred rights and tenderest feelings of their fellow-men, the evil seems so great as to call loudly for Divine interference. Think of Nero, for his amusement setting fire to Rome, and then, to screen himself, glutting his soul with the slaughter of God's saints. But never did God allow men to go such lengths, while sitting by and refusing to interfere, as when he allowed those builders to refuse him on whom the whole building up of a Church in this world depended. Never was human liberty brought into such antagonism to the Divine sovereignty. Those who were in power at the time, finding Christ troublesome, were permitted to crucify him. They laid his dead body in a tomb, and rolled a stone against the mouth of it, and sealed the stone, and set a watch, and thought they had done with him. It would have been a sad thing if their conduct had prevented the building up of a Church in the world. That, we know, could never be. This may be put on the ground of the Divine purpose. Christ was the living Stone, elect. He was linked to the Divine purpose, the great object of the Divine election. And we are accustomed to think that the purposes of God must travel on securely through all to their accomplishment. In the place that God intended for Christ must he unfailingly be. But deeper than the purpose itself is the ground of the purpose in the character of God, and the fitness of the Stone for the place. Divine love struggled for gratification in the building of us up out of the ruins of sin; that was the deepest ground of the purpose. It must, however, have been forever pent up, if no path had been found for its egress. But when God really formed the purpose, he must have seen his way to the desired end all clear. To begin to build without knowing how to finish is foolishness, with which only man is chargeable. "Every house is builded by some man; he who built all things is God." He must have had the conception of this universe in his mind before he brought forth those worlds and this earth of ours in all their wonderful order; he had the conception beforehand of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:40), and also of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-13). So when the great Architect had planned the Church from all eternity, and had for ages been making preparations for it, and directing stones to be put into it, he must have known how the Foundation-stone was to be laid. Christ was a fitting Stone for the place. He was not chosen blindly without regard to qualifications. He was not only elect, but also a tried Stone; and, what is the same idea, precious, proved to be precious by trial. One great strain there was that made trial of him, occasioned by our sin; but he stood the test, he was shown to be a precious Stone, sufficient for the purpose of God, and so he was put into the foundation-place. Those builders had not the placing of him there. He was a Stone refused, disallowed by them. But God was independent of them, and got others more humble than they, but more in sympathy with the purpose, to do what they should have done. Ay, even they were taken up into the purpose as unconscious, involuntary instruments. For it was in the very refusing of him in his death that he became chief Cornerstone. They were thus doing what they did not intend to do. And he rose triumphant out of their hands when they thought they had effectually secured him in the tomb. Let us admire the placing of Christ as chief Cornerstone. "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." The Lord had his purpose of mercy to men and of honor to Christ carried out notwithstanding the criminal conduct of the builders. And in the history of these latter times the same triumph will be repeated. All schemes that leave out Christ will prove abortive, and those that build by them will be left behind an advancing tide of Christianity. And at last it will be shown, by a clear and abundant induction of facts, that Christ is the only Stone in whom men can be built up into a glorious temple of God. What, then, is the consequence to them that disbelieve, i.e. refuse to believe? The Stone so honored of God becomes, in the language of another prophecy (Isaiah 8:14)," a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offense;" i.e., in accordance with our Lord's comment on Psalms 118:22 (Matthew 21:44), on which they are broken. They who disbelieve are broken in their spiritual nature; that is their shame. The Foundation-stone which is honor to believers, becomes to them the stone of punishment, the stone of vengeance. They are broken, as if you took a pillar of the temple, and broke it into a thousand pieces. They thus stumble to their hurt and shame, because they disbelieve the Word (as we should translate), i.e. refuse to believe what God says about the Stone. It is God's appointment that they who thus disbelieve should in their fall be broken.
5. Further characterization under Old Testament designations in relation to God.
(1) God's elect. "But ye are an elect race." This is after Isaiah 43:20. We are not to lay stress upon ancient Israel being of one stone (race), but upon their Divine election, as being the reason of their existence. We owe our existence as the successors of Israel to the fact that we have been chosen by God out of the world.
(2) God's ministers. "A royal priesthood." This is after Exodus 19:6, where the expression is "kingdom of priests." This language, applied to ancient Israel, pointed to all being priests (in token of which the heads of families acted personally as priests in the yearly offering up of the Paschal lamb); it also pointed to their being priests under a great King. The idea was only fully exhibited in the separate yet representative priestly class. They, in a special manner, acted as priests, and had a royal character as belonging to the royal household. This full idea is taken up by us as Christians. We have sacred offices to perform, and we have the honor which comes from our being even here in the "King's palace."
(3) God's saints. "A holy nation." This is also after Exodus 19:6. The leading word is here again the second in the original—holy. "This had to be filled and coined afresh with a new meaning, and thus is one of the words wherein the radical influence, the transforming and newly fashioning power, of revealed religion is most clearly shown" (Cromer). As to the Homeric age, Nagelsbach says, "Holiness, as a constituent element of the Divine viewed in itself, or only perceived in the intercourse of the gods among themselves, is never mentioned. Never is there a title given to the godhead indicating a consciousness similar to that in which the Bible speaks of the true God." According to the conception of ancient Israel, we are to be a community permeated with Bible ideas of God's holiness, and conformed to it in our customs.
(4) God's possession. His right in us. "A people for God's own possession." The idea is contained in Exodus 19:5, "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." The language is after Isaiah 43:21 (following, or race-elect). We are already acquired by God; only not fully redeemed (Ephesians 1:14). In so far as the thought of peculiarity is to be associated with the language, it is to be referred to God's right in us, which is peculiar in being supreme. What his right in us involves. "That ye may show forth the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." It involves that we have been redeemed. We became the objects of an effectual and glorious calling. We were at the pole of darkness—away from God in the darkness and chili of our own thoughts. We are now at the opposite pole of light—near to God in the marvelous light and exhilaration of what he is and what he thinks especially about us in redemption. It involves that, as redeemed by God, we show forth his praises, or excellences. Steiger is wrong in saying that the object of this is the conversion of those who still disbelieve. The thought is rather of what has been gained by God. Having effected for us a change of state, the thought of which is oppressive in its vastness, he has gained this, that we show forth his excellences; i.e. as our tribute to God, we tell on, from the depths of our heart the excellences which he has displayed in our blessed experience. Huther remarks that the word is for the most part employed without definite application to telling abroad what happens indoors. Doxology comes in similarly in Ephesians 1:14. Heightening of doxology. "Which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." This is after Hosea 2:23. The words here, as in Romans 9:25, seem to be applied to the calling of the heathen. Before their conversion they had no true corporate life. Rome could not give them that; they were no people. Now they were the people of God, with a unity of life in Christ, and inheriting all the titles and privileges of ancient Israel. They had a special call, then, to tell out the excellences of God. What were they to tell out? His excellent power, his excellent wisdom, his excellent righteousness. Yes, these, but especially his excellent mercy. Once not in the possession of mercy, that condition was now ended. By circumstances over which they had no control, the gospel had been brought to them in their heathen state. The message of Divine love had touched their hearts. By God's mercy they were numbered among his people—pardoned and cleansed. Well, then, did it become them to pay their highest tribute of praise to the excellence of that mercy that had found them in their forlorn heathenism. And have we not all reason to praise the mercy that has ordered our circumstances, that has broken down the hardness of our hearts, that has admitted us to glorious privileges?—R.F.
I. ASPECT UNDER WHICH THEY ARE ADDRESSED. "Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims." There is here a well-marked transition to a new section. It is introduced by a word which gives an earnest, affectionate tone to his exhortation. He addresses them under the aspect of " sojourners and pilgrims." The language is based on Psalms 39:12, "For I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were," where, in the Greek translation, the same two words are used as here. The two words strengthen the idea; there is very little difference in sense. The first word points to our not being at home; the second wind points to our not being among our own people. We are not at home on earth where there is so much evil, where especially we have not the immediate presence of our Father. To this is added that we do not live among our own people; for, though we have our own circle, yet the men of the world are as those that speak a strange language and do not follow our customs.
II. DUTY PRESENTED.
(1) Form. "To abstain from fleshly lusts." We are not to understand "fleshly" in the narrow sense, but as including all the desires of sinful human nature. The context suggests lusts that have to do with insubordination; and there are not excluded drunkenness, gluttony, and what is called lust. They agree in being irregular; they are the desires belonging to our nature going beyond the order appointed for them. The call is to abstain from them. This is a Christian word with a wider range than is sometimes given to it in the present day. It defines the movement we have to make against our lusts.
(2) Reason. "Which war against the soul." There is reason for our moving against fleshly lusts in this, that they move against us. They are not only antagonistic, but are actively aggressive. They move against us in our highest nature, viz. the soul—that by which we are capable of a higher destiny than is to be got on earth. As sojourners and pilgrims, we are looking forward to "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven;" we must not, by giving ourselves into the power of lusts, unfit ourselves for our noble destiny. "Abstain" is the word for those who would have their souls saved.
(1) Form. "Having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles." The whole of Christian duty is not contained in the word "abstain." There must be, on the positive side, the having our behavior seemly. The usual translation of the word is "beautiful," "fair." Where strictness is often repellent; there must be what is attractive about our conduct, especially if we take into account those who are yet unfriendly to Christianity.
(2) Christian motive. "That wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." There is often a very loose way of classifying men. The Christians were classed with evildoers. Those who had the highest conception of God were spoken against as atheists, simply because they rejected the objects of heathen worship. Those who were called by their religion to live most holy lives were spoken against as anarchists, and even as introducing abominations, the only foundation for it being that they had necessarily to put themselves in opposition to many heathen ways. How, then, were they to act before the heathen? They were to see well to the seemliness of their behavior. Peter might have urged that they were to do this, that they might not come into collision with heathen authorities. He goes a point beyond that, and urges that by good works (beautiful works, being the same word that is translated "seemly") they were to aim at the conversion of the heathen. We can understand, from what follows, that he had in his mind exemplariness in the different relations of life, and not returning evil for evil; but we can also think of the deeds for which Tertullian praises the Christians. "When the pagans deserted their nearest relatives in a plague, Christians ministered to the sick and dying. When the pagans left their dead unburied after a battle, and cast their wounded into the streets, the Christians hastened to relieve the suffering," By such fair deeds as these they could hope to break down prejudice. The heathen beholding them might be led to change their mind about them as irreligious in their faith and life, might be led to think favorably of their God, and thus to be converted to Christianity. Such a result would be glorifying to God, and it was only in keeping with his procedure. It was a day of visitation from God (in the coming of the missionaries) that accounted for their deliverance from heathenism; what was to hinder a similar day of visitation in the conversion even of their defamers?—R.F.
1 Peter 2:13-60 - Relation of Christians to civil authorities.
I. CATEGORY UNDER WHICH THE DUTY IN THE RELATION COMES. "Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." There are various ordinances of man; i.e. Divine appointments for human relations which are subject to human molding. With reference to every such ordinance our duty is subjections, i.e. deference, even when we cannot give our approval. We are to be subject to the ordinance for the Lord's sake. There is here the Pauline thought that it is Christ who is represented in the position of authority, and we are to be subject to those in authority for the sake of him whose representatives they are. There is thus the placing of society, not only on a religious, but on a distinctively Christian basis. "The relation of superiority and subordination which permeates the whole of human society, and excludes all abstract liberty and equality,—this pervading relation of contrast, tending nevertheless to unity between authority and liberty, authority and obedience, authority and filial piety—in its original source, in its inmost foundation, and in its actual essence, is not of man, cannot be deduced from the right of the stronger or the more able, nor from the common consent, but rests on God's will and appointment, and is subject to his guidance. This implies that, in honoring his parents and obeying the laws, one obeys not only man, but also God. It implies that, whilst superiors and subordinates are mutually bound to each other, both are engaged to a higher third party, whose servants they both are, whose laws they must both obey, and to whom both must render an account. It implies, in one word, that the whole order of human society in its ultimate resort rests on the Divine will as its foundation" (Martensen).
II. PARTICULAR DUTY OF SUBJECTION TO CIVIL AUTHORITIES. "Whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him." There is here specified the ordinance of civil government. It is viewed concretely in the persons in whom it has reality. The highest authority is vested in the king; he is represented as sending governors, i.e. giving authority to magistrates under him. There is no determination here of the best form of civil government; that is left to human molding. The duty of being subject is not made dependent on the government under which we are placed being the best, nor is it made dependent on legitimacy; we have simply to do with the government in fact, and its acting head as representing to us, however imperfectly in the civil sphere, the government of Christ. Our subjection takes the form of obeying the laws, paying taxes, lending our influence on the side of authority. What we render to our civil rulers should be all the more satisfactory that we render it to them for the sake of that Lord in whose Name we regard them as acting.
III. JUSTIFICATION OF THE ORDINANCE OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT. "For vengeance on evildoers and for praise to them that do well." This language is connected with the under-magistrates, but with them as sent by the supreme magistrate. It therefore puts before us the idea of civil government. It is the employment of force, but for moral ends. It is for vengeance on evildoers; i.e. it sets itself to repress evil-doing (such as it takes notice of by proportionate punishments. It is also for praise to them that do well; i.e. it sets itself to encourage law-keeping and industrial enterprise by adequate protection to life and property. This is no human conception; it is the bodying forth (however imperfectly) of the Divine love for order, for settled institutions. "God is not the Author of confusion, but of order, and as in all the Churches of the saints," so also in the states great and small.
IV. MOTIVE INFLUENCING SUBJECTION. "For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." It is implied that there was an impression abroad that the Christians were evildoers, or elements of disorder in the state. That impression was not founded on fact; the apostle sets it down to the ignorance of foolish men, i.e. their self-caused inability in their ignorance to understand the Christian position (rather than to malice). It was not the quiet voice of wisdom, but rather the loud voice of foolishness. The Christians were really the greatest friends of order, and it was not only their interest but their recognized duty to occupy no doubtful position toward the Roman state. It was a direction to ancient Israel in captivity in Babylon, "Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." Paul gives directions even to give thanks for kings and for all that are in authority. So it is here declared to be not good policy, but the will of God (which should have the highest power to influence), that by well-doing, i.e. specially by the greatest exemplariness in keeping the laws, they should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
V. PRINCIPLE CONDITIONING LIBERTY. "As free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God." We should rather read "malice" and "servants." It is against good interpretation to bring in here Christian freedom in general. We are free specially in relation to the state. We are free to obey, or not to obey, the laws of the land. We are free to aspire after better conditions for the state. But we are not to allow our freedom to degenerate into license. We are not to use it as a pretext for gratifying our private revenge. We are not to use it as a cloak underneath which we strike at established authority. How, then, are we to find the right course? It is by this consideration, that we are servants of God, and bound by his laws. And if the laws of the land require what his laws forbid, or forbid what his laws require, our duty is to refuse obedience to them. We have an example of the latter in the refusal of the apostles to cease teaching in the name of Christ. When brought before the authorities for breaking the laws, they said, "We ought to obey God rather than man." They were willing to take the consequences, but they would not cease preaching Christ. However much we are in love with order, are willing to be subject to the ordinance for the Lord's sake, there is limitation. If a government were to seek to impose on us a form of religion of which in our conscience we did not approve, our choice would lie between suffering and exercising such power as we had. And if we as citizens had the power we believe that it would only be according to the mind of God that we should use it to overthrow the tyranny—the higher consideration in this, as in many cases, overruling the lower.
VI. SURROUNDINGS OF THE DUTY OF SUBJECTION.
1. All men. "Honor all men." We must understand the worst of men as included. The ground of the honor is the worth which essentially belongs to humanity by its Divine constitution. We are made in the image of God, made to think of God and to do the will of God, made for God and immortality. The form in which Kant puts it is the following: "No man can be employed, neither by others nor by himself, as a mere instrument, but is always to be regarded as an end. And as he cannot dispose of himself for any price (which would be subversive of his own self-reverence), neither is he at liberty to derogate from the equally necessary self-reverence of others as men; i.e. he is obliged practically to recognize the dignity of every other man's humanity, and so stands under a duty based on that reverential observance which is necessarily to be demonstrated towards every other person." Besides this essential worth, there is superadded worth in the fact of the Incarnation. "The religion of Christ is a testimony to the worth of man in the sight of God, to the importance of human nature, to the infinite purposes for which we were framed. God is there set forth as sending to the succor of the human family his Beloved Son, the bright image and representation of his own perfections; and sending him, not simply to roll away a burden of pain and punishment, but to create man after the Divine image, to purify the soul from every stain, to commute to it power over evil, to open before it immortality as its aim and destination. And these blessings it proffers, not to the few, not to the educated, not to the eminent, but to all human beings, to the poorest and the most fallen. Honor, then, man from the beginning to the end of his earthly course. Honor the child. Welcome into being the infant, with a feeling of its mysterious grandeur, with the feeling that an immortal existence has begun, that a spirit has been kindled which is never to be quenched. Honor the child. On this principle all good education rests. Never shall we learn to train up the child till we take it in our arms, as Jesus did, and feel distinctly that ' of such is the kingdom of heaven.' Honor the poor. This sentiment of respect is essential to improving the connection between the more and the less prosperous conditions of society. Till Christianity shall have breathed into us this spirit of respect for our nature, wherever it is found, we shall not know how to raise the fallen. Perhaps none of us have yet heard or can comprehend the tone of voice in which a man thoroughly impressed with this sentiment would speak to a fellow-creature" (Channing). This duty is fittingly made the basis; for when we have learned to honor all men for the worth of their nature, we shall come more readily to being subject to what God has appointed for man—including civil government.
2. The brotherhood. "Love the brotherhood." We are to understand all that truly belong to the Christian circle. We are to love men beyond the brotherhood, but compassionately with a view to their being brought within the brotherhood. It is only within the brotherhood that we can get outlet for our brotherly feelings, because it is there only that there is community of life, that there are excellences on which we can rest with complacency. "In its true idea, or regarded as the union of those who partake in the spirit of Jesus Christ, I revere it as the noblest of all associations. Our common social unions are poor by its side. In the world we form ties of interest, pleasure, and ambition. We come together as creatures of time and sense for transient amusement or display. In the Church we meet as God's children; we recognize in ourselves something higher than animal and worldly life. We come, that holy feelings may spread from heart to heart. The Church, in its true idea, is a retreat from the world. We meet in it that by union with the holy we may get strength to withstand our common intercourse with the impure. We meet to adore God, to open our souls to his Spirit, and, by recognition of the common Father, to forget all distinctions among ourselves. This spiritual union with the holy is to survive all ties; the union of the virtuous friends of God is as eternal as virtue; and this union is the essence of the true Church." Let us, then, value the brotherhood as meeting the social side of our spiritual life; let our love go out towards all who have the reality of life in Christ, however much they may differ from us; let our love go out towards them even in proportion to the depth of their life; let us rejoice in the progress they are making; let us seek also the better realization of the brotherhood, including many conquests for it from the world. Stress was to be laid on this in connection with subjection to civil authorities; for if the brotherhood was dear to them as Zion of old to the captives (Psalms 137:1-19.), great care was to be taken that there was no unnecessary collision with these authorities.
3. God. "Fear God." This is the feeling of reverence which we are to entertain towards God as infinitely exalted above us. We are to fear God because of the far-reaching power, wisdom, even goodness, which he has displayed in his works. Even in the contemplation of a little flower, Linnaeus said, "God eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, I saw him as he was passing by from behind, and I was amazed." We are to fear him because he gave us being, because he has bound us by natural law, because he has especially bound us as free responsible beings by moral law. We are to fear him who is the absolutely holy Lawgiver, and especially when he commands from Calvary. It is evident that this fear to God has to do with subjection to civil authorities. It will keep us from over-estimating the ruler, as though his word were simply to be obeyed, his example to be followed. We have first to inquire whether no injury is done thereby to Divine law. It will keep us, on the other hand, from under-estimating the ruler. As placed over us under God, he has (with the necessary reservation that has been pointed to) a right to our obedience.
4. The king. "Honor the king." We may esteem the king because of his personal excellence, and we may be attached to his rule because of the advantages connected with it; but we honor him because of the office which he holds. Without this feeling animating us, we cannot give subjection so as to enjoy the approval of our God - R.F.
1 Peter 2:18-60 - Subjection of servants to their masters.
I. THE GENERAL NATURE OF THE SUBJECTION TO MASTERS. "Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear." The word for "servants" here is more courteous than in Ephesians and Colossians. It is literally "domestics," and includes free servants and bondservants. From the strain of the exhortation it would seem that the latter are principally addressed. It belongs to the present constitution of things (and for ends of training) that some are in the position of requiring service, others are in the position of rendering service. It is proper that the will of the former should regulate the service, that the will of the latter should be subjected in the service. This is the Divine foundation on which mastership and servitude rest. The feeling proper to servants in the relation is fear. Paul uses stronger language when he says, "with fear and trembling" (Ephesians 6:5). Peter strengthens, too, but it is not by an additional substantive, but by an adjective, "with all fear." That cannot mean "all that fear can be," but rather" all that fear should be in the relation." There is fear in the sense of reverence to be shown towards the regulator of service (not diminishing or exaggerating what there is in that); and this will be accompanied by another fear, viz. anxious solicitude about coming up to all that is due in the service. There is a higher setting of the duty, which is not to be left out of view. There is fear in the sense of reverence to be shown towards him who (to our greater freedom and comfort in service) is over the earthly regulator of service; and this will be accompanied by another fearing, anxious solicitude about coming up to all the Divine requirements in the service. In this there is the condemnation of bad compliance, i.e. doing what is wrong because the master requires it. According to Roman jurists, such bad compliance was the duty of freedmen, the necessity of slaves. We can understand that Peter intended to guard against bad compliance when he does not state the duty of subjection absolutely, but with modification.
II. SUBJECTION EVEN TO MASTERS THAT ARE FROWARD. "Not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward." We cannot but admire the great sobriety that there is in apostolic teaching. There are masters that are good, i.e. amiable, and that are also gentle, i.e. showing their amiability in exacting nothing but what is reasonable. In the case of such masters there can be no question of the obligation of service. Unless the servant is ill-grained, the service is rendered freely and without any sense of burdensomeness. But what about masters that are froward, or awry, i.e. ill-dispositioned, and that show their ill disposition by making unreasonable demands of their servants, and (when they can do it with impunity) abusing them? Is there any obligation of service there? "Yes," say the apostles, with the sobriety characteristic of them, "the obligation remains, and remains the same."
III. CONSIDERATION DRAWN FROM THE PRAISEWORTHY CHARACTER OF SUBJECTION
TO MASTERS THAT ARE FROWARD. "For this is acceptable, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." It was the slave especially that suffered wrongfully. There was a great wrong in his being a slave, and there were many wrongs connected with his state of slavery. He was at the mercy of his owner; if he did not get justice, he had no redress. Was his position, then, unendurable? By no means; the apostle contrives even to throw a halo around it. He does so by bringing God into the question. If a man has the consciousness of God, i.e. of him as recognizing not only his rights of humanity but also his sonship in Christ; of him also as able to right all matters between him and his master, and to see to all fidelity receiving its reward at last; of him especially as appointing griefs for his earthly lot;—then he can endure those griefs, whatever they are. And if he thus encourages himself in endurance, then there is that which is acceptable. It is difficult to catch the precise shade of meaning. One way of it is "there is grace." But we must not run into the Roman Catholic error of supererogatory merit, which can be communicated to others. Another way of it is "there is loveliness." That readily passes into the meaning "there is that which, coming out into beauty, calls for praise." This meaning seems to be caught up in the following word, "glory." In enduring griefs from a bad master there is something like martyrdom. But let a man be on his guard here. If he commits a fault and is buffeted (receives a blow) for it, and takes this patiently, there is no halo attaching to that. It is when a man does well in the matter of service, and suffers for it, and then takes it patiently, that he has praise in the highest sphere, viz. praise with God for conduct that rises into loveliness.
IV. CONSIDERATION DRAWN FROM THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST.
1. Their exemplary character.
(1) Reason for their being presented as an example. "For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps." Servants were called to endure suffering. When they were called to be Christians like others, they were called to the proper bearing of all hardships appointed for them. There was One whose example was to be studied by them. It will not be thought that Christ is unworthy of imitation. It may, however, be thought that he is too great for imitation—that he is only for admiration. The word translated "example" suggests a great picture left us in the life of Christ: how are we to copy it line for line? Christ is also put before us here as Leader of the way: how are we to follow him step for step? The solution of this is that his example is singularly imitable, that he is a Leader whom it is singularly easy to follow. There is a vulgar greatness which is full of self-importance, which is imprisoned in private interests, which multiplies distinctions. But true greatness is forgetful of self, covets nothing which it cannot communicate, goes down in hope of raising up. We are told here that Christ suffered as well as the slaves. We are told also that he suffered for the slaves (the meaning of which is afterwards brought out). He thus, on the one hand, brought excellence near to us; we do not think of his teaching theoretically as from a chair of learning. On the other hand, by the great advantage conferred on us, he obtained the right to be our Example, power over us to make us follow him.
(2) The innocence of Christ in his sufferings. "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." Did slaves suffer innocently? Christ suffered innocently too. It is to be noted that the idea of sinlessness entered into the Old Testament conception of the Messiah. The language here, with a slight exception, is taken from the Septuagint Version of Isaiah 53:9, "He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth." The Servant of God (in this a pattern to servants) did no sin, i.e. brought no suffering upon himself by his own faults. This sinlessness extended to faultlessness in speech, especially to freedom from a common fault in slaves connected with the frequent use of force. Guile was not found in his mouth, i.e. there never passed from him, even inadvertently, an expression that was fitted to convey a false impression (with the escaping of suffering or anything else as his end). For completeness we must give this sinlessness a positive aspect, He did always what the truth required in act, and spoke always what the truth required in speech. What we have here in a general statement is given in detail in the portraiture of Christ in the Gospels. It is interesting to notice the impression produced on the apostles by what they saw. "The idea of sinlessness was by no means so common an idea that all that was necessary to lead men like the apostles to apply it to Christ was an accident or some insufficient occasion. Quite the contrary: this idea was never thought of, nor had it ever entered into the heart of man to conceive it, until it appeared, not as an idea merely, but as a reality, in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Even now to believe in the realizing of the idea of sinlessness in an individual is not so very easy a thing for human nature in its present state. Men are not in general much addicted to the weakness of believing too easily in the existence of purity of heart and true greatness; it is a fact that they are only too prone to doubt them when they really exist. It appears as something marvelous and extraordinary in the extreme, that once, and only once, in the world's history (and that, too, in a time of great moral degradation) the impression could be produced upon the minds of a number of men, that a character was unfolding itself before their very eyes, of perfect purity and sinless holiness, and that the consequence of its manifestation was to produce in them a faith for which they lived and in which they died. But once does this fact occur in the history of mankind" (Ullmann).
(3) The patience of Christ in his sufferings. "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." There is here an echo of Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." When he was reviled, i.e. was injured in what was said against him, he reviled not again; i.e. did not resent the injury by any injurious word in return. When he suffered, i.e. was injured in what was done to him, he threatened not; i.e. though conscious of power, he was not provoked by the injury to exercise his power, or even to threaten the exercise of it, against his enemies. The words have special but not exclusive reference to the judgment-scene followed by the crucifixion-scene. When reviled as a sabbath-breaker, he calmly answered that his Father worked on the sabbath day as well as himself. When reviled as casting out devils by the prince of the devils, he met the wicked suggestion by calmly showing how Satan could not cast out Satan. When reviled as a blasphemer, he simply vindicated himself by pointing to his works. When he was brought before the Sanhedrin on charges which were clearly unfounded and prompted by malice, he was silent under them; and it was only when he was appealed to by oath that he lifted his eyes to his judges, and said, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." When, again, he was brought before Pilate on a charge of sedition which his judge knew to be unfounded and malicious, he maintained the same silent demeanor; and it was only when he was appealed to that he fearlessly asserted his claim of Kingship. He silently submitted to the rudest mockings, to the most cruel scourgings. He silently carried his cross, and when, nailed to it, he looked round on his murderers, the prayer which rose to his lips was, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." He was able to endure all this unjust treatment without being hurried into a wrong, word, without any disturbing influence on his mind, because he committed himself to him that judgeth righteously, i.e. in the consciousness of his rectitude he left himself and all his interests to him whose judgment was different from and of a higher order than the judgment of the Sanhedrin and the judgment of the Roman governor. And what a powerful argument (how touching, too, to be brought in for the sake of the slaves!) to induce them to bear patiently all their wrongs which, however great, were small in comparison with the wrongs which were heaped on Christ!
2. Their vicarious character.
(1) Punishment for our sins. "Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree." The language is still suggested by Isaiah 53:1-23. "Tree" is the word which Peter uses in his sermons for the cross. The simple statement here is that Christ carried the burden of sins. An expansion of it is that he carried the burden of sins to whom they did not belong. A further expansion of it is that he carried the burden of our sins in his body, i.e. on the ground of human nature in its completeness (body as well as soul). The statement fully expanded is that he carried the burden of our sins in his body on to the tree, i.e. to the place where death was inflicted on him for them. He carried the burden of the Divine displeasure against our sins so as to carry them away into forgetfulness.
(2) Salvation intended by them. "That we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness." This death unto sins is death not merely unto their condemnation, but unto their power. The life unto righteousness is life not merely in the possession of the favor of God, but in the possession of power to do the will of God. In the state in which Christ found us it was natural for us to seek to revenge ourselves for injuries. In the state which Christ intends for us it becomes natural for us to be placable, to be silent under injuries, and to seek by our gentleness to overcome the evil that is manifested against us. And that is part, only part, of the Divine life which Christ died to secure for us.
(3) Salvation experienced through them.
(a) Restoration to health. "By whose stripes ye were healed." The language is from Isaiah 53:5. Having changed to "we" in the previous parts of this verse, he now returns to "ye." It is implied that in their former state they were sick. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." There was an irregular action of their powers, with languor, feverishness, loss of appetite, and other distressing symptoms. But the time came when healing was experienced, giving the powers their regular action and bringing back tone, endurance, keenness, and all healthful symptoms. The remarkable thing is that the healing is ascribed to the Savior's stripes. The word is literally weal (in the singular number), i.e. the mark of a stripe. It is a word with which slaves were familiar, as they were also with buffeting formerly used (to which, as well as to stripes, Christ was subjected). Weal is taken here as the symbol of Christ's atoning death; and the slaves are told, in a way that was fitted to go home to them in the remembrance of bitter experiences, that from the mark of the lash on our Lord healing had gone forth on them.
(b) Return to the fold. "For ye were going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." The language is based on Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray," the metaphor being abruptly changed, as in Isaiah. In their former state they were like sheep without any one to care for them, or keep his eye on them. Sheep, left to themselves, wander from the fold. So we, left to ourselves, wander from God who is our Home, our Fold, where we have shelter and abundance. They were now in the happy condition of having a Shepherd and Bishop for their souls. The words refer to Christ. The first points rather to the actual bestowal of care; the second points rather to observation that leads to care being bestowed. Christ leads us to rich thoughts; and he does not lead us to rich thoughts without keenly observing our condition. If we would have this Shepherd and Bishop for our souls, we must, like those whom Peter addresses, be turned toward him. The words would seem to indicate the action that is needed on our part. We have nothing to do but to turn ourselves toward Christ. We are to turn ourselves from our sins which have been atoned for, and no longer constitute a hindrance; and we are to turn ourselves toward Christ to have his affection in the form of care and oversight, with which our souls can lack nothing - R.F.