1 Peter 2:11
11As strangers, or sojourners. There are two parts to this exhortation, — that their souls were to be free within from wicked and vicious lusts; and also, that they were to live honestly among men, and by the example of a good life not only to confirm the godly, but also to gain over the unbelieving to God.
And first, to call them away from the indulgence of carnal lusts, he employs this argument, that they were sojourners and strangers. And he so calls them, not because they were banished from their country, and scattered into various lands, but because the children of God, wherever they may be, are only guests in this world. In the former sense, indeed, he called them sojourners at the beginning of the Epistle, as it appears from the context; but what he says here is common to them all. For the lusts of the flesh hold us entangled, when in our minds we dwell in the world, and think not that heaven is our country; but when we pass as strangers through this life, we are not in bondage to the flesh.
By the lusts or desires of the flesh he means not only those gross concupiscences which we have in common with animals, as the Sophists hold, but also all those sinful passions and affections of the soul, to which we are by nature guided and led. For it is certain that every thought of the flesh, that is, of unrenewed nature, is enmity against God. (Rom_8:7.)
Which war against the soul Here is another argument, that they could not comply with the desires of the flesh, except to their own ruin. For he refers not here to the contest described by Paul in Rom_7:14, and in Gal_5:17, as he makes the soul to be an antagonist to the flesh: but what he says here is, that the desires of the flesh, whenever the soul consents to them, lead to perdition. He proves our carelessness in this respect, that while we anxiously shun enemies from whom we apprehend danger to the body, we willingly allow enemies hurtful to the soul to destroy us; nay, we as it were stretch forth our neck to them.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
11. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims] This is manifestly the beginning of a fresh section of the Epistle. Somewhat after the manner of St Paul, the Apostle, alter having allowed his thoughts to travel through the mysteries of redemption, reaches, as it were, the highest region of the truth, and then pauses in the act of writing or dictating, and takes a fresh start. In doing so, however, he goes back to the opening words of the Epistle (see note on chap. 1:1). Those to whom he wrote were “strangers and pilgrims” (the English reader must remember that “pilgrim” is but another form of peregrinus), not only as belonging to the Jews of the dispersion, but as being, like the patriarchs of old (Heb_11:13), men who, in whatever country they might be, felt that their true home was elsewhere. In the LXX. version of Psa_39:12 we find both the words and the thoughts to which St Peter now gives utterance. It is obvious that the special local position of the disciples, though not, it may be, altogether excluded, is now thrown quite into the background.
abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul] The negative aspect of the Christian life is put forward first, as being prior, both in order of thought, and often in that of time, to its more positive development. The entreaty rests upon the character implied in the previous words. Travellers in a strange land, yet more in the land of enemies, do not care commonly to adopt all its customs. They retain their nationality. The exiles who hung their harps by the waters of Babylon did not forget Jerusalem, and would not profane its hymns by singing them at idol feasts (Psa_137:1-3). The citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem were in like manner to keep themselves from all that would render them unfit for their true home. The words “fleshly lusts” have, perhaps, a somewhat wider range than the English term suggests, and take in all desires that originate in man’s corrupt nature, as well as those directly connected with the appetites of the body: comp. St Paul’s list of the “works of the flesh” in Gal_5:19-21. In the description of these as “warring against the soul,” we have another striking coincidence of language with St James (4:1) and St Paul (Rom_7:23). “Soul” stands here, as in chap. 1:9, for the higher element of man’s nature which, in the more elaborate threefold division of man’s nature, adopted by St Paul in 1Th_5:23 and elsewhere, includes both “soul and spirit.”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
1 Peter 2:11
As heretofore he exhorted them to walk worthily of their calling, in contradistinction to their own former walk, so now he exhorts them to glorify God before unbelievers.
Dearly beloved — He gains their attention to his exhortation by assuring them of his love.
strangers and pilgrims — (1Pe_1:17). Sojourners, literally, settlers having a house in a city without being citizens in respect to the rights of citizenship; a picture of the Christian’s position on earth; and pilgrims, staying for a time in a foreign land. Flacius thus analyzes the exhortation: (1) Purify your souls (a) as strangers on earth who must not allow yourselves to be kept back by earthly lusts, and (b) because these lusts war against the soul’s salvation. (2) Walk piously among unbelievers (a) so that they may cease to calumniate Christians, and (b) may themselves be converted to Christ.
fleshly lusts — enumerated in Gal_5:19, etc. Not only the gross appetites which we have in common with the brutes, but all the thoughts of the unrenewed mind.
which — Greek, “the which,” that is, inasmuch as being such as “war.” etc. Not only do they impede, but they assail [Bengel].
the soul — that is, against the regenerated soul; such as were those now addressed. The regenerated soul is besieged by sinful lusts. Like Samson in the lap of Delilah, the believer, the moment that he gives way to fleshly lusts, has the locks of his strength shorn, and ceases to maintain that spiritual separation from the world and the flesh of which the Nazarite vow was the type.
1 Peter 2:11
Dearly beloved, I beseech you strangers and pilgrims – On the word rendered “strangers,” (παροίκους paroikous,) see the notes at Eph_2:19, where it is rendered “foreigners.” It means, properly, one dwelling near, neighboring; then a by-dweller, a sojourner, one without the rights of citizenship, as distinguished from a citizen; and it means here that Christians are not properly citizens of this world, but that their citizenship is in heaven, and that they are here mere sojourners. Compare the notes at Phi_3:20, “For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven.” On the word rendered “pilgrims,” (παρεπιδήμους parepidēmous,) see the 1Pe_1:1 note; Heb_11:13 note. A pilgrim, properly, is one who travels to a distance from his own country to visit a holy place, or to pay his devotion to some holy object; then a traveler, a wanderer. The meaning here is, that Christians have no permanent home on earth; their citizenship is not here; they are mere sojourners, and they are passing on to their eternal home in the heavens. They should, therefore, act as become such persons; as sojourners and travelers do. They should not:
(a) regard the earth as their home.
(b) They should not seek to acquire permanent possessions here, as if they were to remain here, but should act as travelers do, who merely seek a temporary lodging, without expecting permanently to reside in a place.
(c) They should not allow any such attachments to be formed, or arrangements to be made, as to impede their journey to their final home, as pilgrims seek only a temporary lodging, and steadily pursue their journey.
(d) Even while engaged here in the necessary callings of life – their studies, their farming, their merchandise – their thoughts and affections should be on other things. One in a strange land thinks much of his country and home; a pilgrim, much of the land to which he goes; and even while his time and attention may be necessarily occupied by the arrangements needful for the journey, his thoughts and affections will be far away.
(e) We should not encumber ourselves with much of this world’s goods. Many professed Christians get so many worldly things around them, that it is impossible for them to make a journey to heaven. They burden themselves as no traveler would, and they make no progress. A traveler takes along as few things as possible; and a staff is often all that a pilgrim has. We make the most rapid progress in our journey to our final home when we are least encumbered with the things of this world.
Abstain from fleshly lusts – Such desires and passions as the carnal appetites prompt to. See the notes at Gal_5:19-21. A sojourner in a land, or a pilgrim, does not give himself up to the indulgence of sensual appetites, or to the soft pleasures of the soul. All these would hinder his progress, and turn him off from his great design. Compare Rom_13:4; Gal_5:24; 2Ti_2:22; Tit_2:12; 1Pe_1:14.
Which war against the soul – Compare the notes at Rom_8:12-13. The meaning is, that indulgence in these things makes war against the nobler faculties of the soul; against the conscience, the understanding, the memory, the judgment, the exercise of a pure imagination. Compare the notes at Gal_5:17. There is not a faculty of the mind, however brilliant in itself, which will not be ultimately ruined by indulgence in the carnal propensities of our nature. The effect of intemperance on the noble faculties of the soul is well known; and alas, there are too many instances in which the light of genius, in those endowed with splendid gifts, at the bar, in the pulpit, and in the senate, is extinguished by it, to need a particular description. But there is one vice preeminently, which prevails all over the pagan world, (Compare the notes at Rom_1:27-29) and extensively in Christian lands, which more than all others, blunts the moral sense, pollutes the memory, defiles the imagination, hardens the heart. and sends a withering influence through all the faculties of the soul.
1 Peter 2:12
12Your conversation The second part of the exhortation is, that they were to conduct themselves honestly towards men. What, indeed, precedes this in order is, that their minds should be cleansed before God; but a regard should also be had to men, lest we should become a hindrance to them. And he expressly says among the Gentiles; for the Jews were not only hated everywhere, but were also almost abhorred. The more carefully, therefore, ought they to have labored to wipe off the odium and infamy attached to their name by a holy life and a well-regulated conduct. For that admonition of Paul ought to be attended to, “To give no occasion to those who seek occasion.” Therefore the evil speakings and the wicked insinuations of the ungodly ought to stimulate us to lead an upright life; for it is no time for living listlessly and securely, when they sharply watch us in order to find out whatever we do amiss.
That they —may glorify God He intimates that we ought thus to strive, not for our own sake, that men may think and speak well of us; but that we may glorify God, as Christ also teaches us. And Peter shews how this would be effected, even that the unbelieving, led by our good works, would become obedient to God, and thus by their own conversion give glory to him; for this he intimates by the words, in the day of visitation. I know that some refer this to the last coming of Christ; but I take it otherwise, even that God employs the holy and honest life of his people, as a preparation, to bring back the wandering to the right way. For it is the beginning of our conversion, when God is pleased to look on us with a paternal eye; but when his face is turned away from us, we perish. Hence the day of visitation may justly be said to be the time when he invites us to himself.
Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
12. having your conversation honest among the Gentiles] On “conversation,” see note on chap. 1:15. There is perhaps no better equivalent for the Greek word than “honest;” but it carries with it the thought of a nobler, more honourable, form of goodness than the English adjective. The special stress laid on the conduct of the disciples “among the Gentiles” confirms the view taken throughout these notes that the Epistle is addressed mainly to those of the Asiatic Churches who were by birth or adoption of “the Circumcision.”
that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers] It is not without significance that St Peter uses the same word as had been used by the chief priests of our Lord (Joh_18:30). This Epistle (here, and ver. 14, 3:16, 4:15) is the only book in the New Testament, with the exception of the passage just referred to, in which the word occurs. The words indicate the growth of a widespread feeling of dislike shewing itself in calumny. So in Act_28:22 the disciples of Christ are described as “a sect everywhere spoken against.” The chief charge at this time was probably that of “turning the world upside down” (Act_17:6), i.e. of revolutionary tendencies, and this view is confirmed by the stress laid on obedience to all constituted authority in the next verse. With this were probably connected, as the sequel shews (verse 18, chap. 3:1), the accusations of introducing discord into families, setting slaves against their masters, wives against their husbands. The more monstrous calumnies of worshipping an ass’s head, of Thyesteian banquets of human flesh, and orgies of foulest license, were probably of later date.
they may by your good works, which they shall behold] The verb which St Peter uses is an unusual one, occurring in the New Testament only here and in chap. 3:2. The use of the cognate noun in the “eye-witnesses” of 2Pe_1:16 may be noted as a coincidence pointing to identity of authorship. The history of the word as applied originally to those who were initiated in the third or highest order of the Eleusinian mysteries is not without interest. If we can suppose the Apostle to have become acquainted with that use of it, or even with the meaning derived from the use, we can imagine him choosing the word rather than the simple verb for “seeing” to express the thought that the disciples were as a “spectacle” (1Co_4:9; Heb_10:33) to the world around them, and that those who belonged to that world were looking on with a searching and unfriendly gaze.
glorify God in the day of visitation] The usage of the Old Testament leaves it open whether the day in which God visits men is one of outward blessings as in Job_10:12, Luk_1:43, or of chastisement as in Isa_10:3. The sense in which the term is used by St Peter was probably determined by our Lord’s use of “the time of thy visitation” in Luk_19:44. There it is manifestly applied to the “accepted time,” the season in which God was visiting His people, it might be by chastisements, as well as by the call to repentance and the offer of forgiveness. And this, we can scarcely doubt, is its meaning here also. There is a singular width of charity in St Peter’s language. He anticipates “a day of visitation,” a time of calamities, earthquakes, pestilences, famines, wars and rumours of wars, such as his Lord had foretold (Mat_24:6, Mat_24:7), but his hope is not that the slanderers may then be put to shame and perish, but that they may then “glorify God” by seeing how in the midst of all chaos and disorder, the disciples of Christ were distinguished by works that were nobly good, by calmness, obedience, charity.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
1 Peter 2:12
conversation — “behavior”; “conduct.” There are two things in which “strangers and pilgrims” ought to bear themselves well: (1) the conversation or conduct, as subjects (1Pe_2:13), servants (1Pe_2:18), wives (1Pe_3:1), husbands (1Pe_3:7), all persons under all circumstances (1Pe_2:8); (2) confession of the faith (1Pe_3:15, 1Pe_3:16). Each of the two is derived from the will of God. Our conversation should correspond to our Savior’s condition; this is in heaven, so ought that to be.
honest — honorable, becoming, proper (1Pe_3:16). Contrast “vain conversation,” 1Pe_1:18. A good walk does not make us pious, but we must first be pious and believe before we attempt to lead a good course. Faith first receives from God, then love gives to our neighbor [Luther].
whereas they speak against you — now (1Pe_2:15), that they may, nevertheless, at some time or other hereafter glorify God. The Greek may be rendered, “Wherein they speak against you … that (herein) they may, by your good works, which on a closer inspection they shall behold, glorify God.” The very works “which on more careful consideration, must move the heathen to praise God, are at first the object of hatred and raillery” [Steiger].
evildoers — Because as Christians they could not conform to heathenish customs, they were accused of disobedience to all legal authority; in order to rebut this charge, they are told to submit to every ordinance of man (not sinful in itself).
by — owing to.
they shall behold — Greek, “they shall be eye-witnesses of”; “shall behold on close inspection”; as opposed to their “ignorance” (1Pe_2:15) of the true character of Christians and Christianity, by judging on mere hearsay. The same Greek verb occurs in a similar sense in 1Pe_3:2. “Other men narrowly look at (so the Greek implies) the actions of the righteous” [Bengel]. Tertullian contrasts the early Christians and the heathen: these delighted in the bloody gladiatorial spectacles of the amphitheater, whereas a Christian was excommunicated if he went to it at all. No Christian was found in prison for crime, but only for the faith. The heathen excluded slaves from some of their religious services, whereas Christians had some of their presbyters of the class of slaves. Slavery silently and gradually disappeared by the power of the Christian law of love, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” When the pagans deserted their nearest relatives in a plague, Christians ministered to the sick and dying. When the Gentiles left their dead unburied after a battle and cast their wounded into the streets, the disciples hastened to relieve the suffering.
glorify — forming a high estimate of the God whom Christians worship, from the exemplary conduct of Christians themselves. We must do good, not with a view to our own glory, but to the glory of God.
the day of visitation — of God’s grace; when God shall visit them in mercy.
1 Peter 2:13
13Submit yourselves He now comes to particular exhortations: and as obedience with regard to magistrates is a part of honest or good conversation, he draws this inference as to their duty, “Submit yourselves,” or, Be ye subject; for by refusing the yoke of government, they would have given to the Gentiles no small occasion for reproaching them. And, indeed, the Jews were especially hated and counted infamous for this reason, because they were regarded on account of their perverseness as ungovernable. And as the commotions which they raised up in the provinces, were causes of great calamities, so that every one of a quiet and peaceable disposition dreaded them as the plague, — this was the reason that induced Peter to speak so strongly on subjection. Besides, many thought the gospel was a proclamation of such liberty, that every one might deem himself as free from servitude. It seemed an unworthy thing that God’s children should be servants, and that the heirs of the world should not have a free possession, no, not even of their own bodies. Then there was another trial, — All the magistrates were Christ’s adversaries; and they used their own authority, so that no representation of God, which secures the chief reverence, appeared in them. We now perceive the design of Peter: he exhorted the Jews, especially for these reasons, to shew respect to the civil power.
To every ordinance of man Some render the words, “to every creature;” and from a rendering so obscure and ambiguous, much labor has been taken to elicit some meaning. But I have no doubt but that Peter meant to point out the distinct manner in which God governs mankind: for the verb κτίζειν in Greek, from which κτίσις comes, means to form and to construct a building. Suitable, then, is the word “ordination;” by which Peter reminds us, that God the maker of the world has not left the human race in a state of confusion, that they might live after the manner of beasts, but as it were in a building regularly formed, and divided into several compartments. And it is called a human ordination, not because it has been invented by man, but because a mode of living, well arranged and duly ordered, is peculiar to men.
Whether it be to the king So he calls Caesar, as I think, whose empire extended over all those countries mentioned at the beginning of the Epistle. For though “king” was a name extremely hated by the Romans, yet it was in use among the Greeks. They, indeed, often called him autocrat, (αὐτοκράτορα) but sometimes he was also called by them king, (βασιλεὺς.) But as he subjoins a reason, that he ought to be obeyed because he excelled, or was eminent or supreme, there is no comparison made between Caesar and other magistrates. He held, indeed, the supreme power; but that eminence which Peter extols, is common to all who exercise public authority. And so Paul, in Rom_13:1, extends it to all magistrates. Now the meaning is, that obedience is due to all who rule, because they have been raised to that honor not by chance, but by God’s providence. For many are wont to inquire too scrupulously by what right power has been attained; but we ought to be satisfied with this alone, that power is possessed and exercised. And so Paul cuts off the handle of useless objections when he declares that there is no power but from God. And for this reason it is that Scripture so often says, that it is God who girds kings with a sword, who raises them on high, who transfers kingdoms as he pleases.
As Peter referred especially to the Roman Emperor, it was necessary to add this admonition; for it is certain that the Romans through unjust means rather than in a legitimate way penetrated into Asia and subdued these countries. Besides, the Caesars, who then reigned, had possessed themselves of the monarchy by tyrannical force. Hence Peter as it were forbids these things to be controverted, for he shews that subjects ought to obey their rulers without hesitation, because they are not made eminent, unless elevated by God’s hand.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
13. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man] The precept, like those of Rom_13:1-7, points to this as the line of action which the circumstances of the time made most important, in order that the character of Christ’s disciples might be vindicated against the widely-spread suspicion that they were elements of disorder. The word for “ordinance,” usually translated “creature,” may possibly have that sense here. So taken, the counsel would stand parallel to the “honour all men” of ver. 17, to the “be ye subject one to another” of ch. 5:5, and would express the thought that the Christian was to act and speak as a “servus servorum,” submitting himself, as far as God’s law would allow, even to the meanest. Against this view, however, it may be urged that “every human creature” would be a somewhat awkward periphrasis for “all men,” and that the subdivision that follows points to something more specific. On the whole, therefore, there seems sufficient reason for accepting the English Version, and taking the word in the sense which it will well bear of “ordinance,” or better, perhaps, institution. The obedience which is thus enjoined is to be rendered not through fear of punishment but “for the Lord’s sake,” partly as remembering His example (vv. 21, 22), partly in zeal for the honour of His name, lest that also be “blasphemed among the Gentiles” (Rom_2:24).
whether it be to the king, as supreme] The adjective is the same as in the “higher powers” of Rom_13:1. The “king” is of course the Emperor Nero, the Greek language not supplying a word with the full significance of the Roman Imperator. So we have prayers for “kings,” obviously including the Emperor, in 1Ti_2:2. The “Governors” include the Pro-consuls or Pro-praetors of Roman provinces, and all officials such as the town-clerk of Ephesus, the Asiarchs, and other municipal authorities. (Act_19:31, Act_19:35, Act_19:38.)
1 Peter 2:13
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man – Greek, “to every creation of man,” (ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει anthrōpinē ktisei The meaning is, to every institution or appointment of man; to wit, of those who are in authority, or who are appointed to administer government. The laws, institutes, and appointments of such a government may be spoken of as the creation of man; that is, as what man makes. Of course, what is here said must be understood with the limitation everywhere implied, that what is ordained by those in authority is not contrary to the law of God. See the notes at Act_4:19. On the general duty here enjoined of subjection to civil authority, see the notes at Rom_13:1-7.
For the Lord’s sake – Because he has required it, and has entrusted this power to civil rulers. See the notes at Rom_13:5. Compare the notes at Eph_6:7.
Whether it be to the king – It has been commonly supposed that there is reference here to the Roman emperor, who might be called king, because in him the supreme power resided. The common title of the Roman sovereign was, as used by the Greek writers, ᾀυτοκράτωρ autokratōr, and among the Romans themselves, “imperator,” (emperor;) but the title king was also given to the sovereign. Joh_19:15, “we have no king but Cesar.” Act_17:7, “and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” Peter undoubtedly had particular reference to the Roman emperors, but he uses a general term, which would be applicable to all in whom the supreme power resided, and the injunction here would require submission to such authority, by whatever name it might be called. The meaning is, that we are to be subject to that authority whether exercised by the sovereign in person, or by those who are appointed by him.
As supreme – Not supreme in the sense of being superior to God, or not being subject to him, but in the sense of being over all subordinate officers.
1 Peter 2:14
14Or unto governors, or, Whether to presidents. He designates every kind of magistrates, as though he had said, that there is no kind of government to which we ought not to submit. He confirms this by saying that they are God’s ministers; for they who apply him to the king, are greatly mistaken. There is then a common reason, which extols the authority of all magistrates, that they rule by the command of God, and are sent by him. It hence follows (as Paul also teaches us) that they resist God, who do not obediently submit to a power ordained by him.
For the punishment This is the second reason why it behoves us reverently to regard and to respect civil authority, and that is, because it has been appointed by the Lord for the common good of mankind; for we must be extremely barbarous and brutal, if the public good is not regarded by us. This, then, in short, is what Peter means, that since God keeps the world in order by the ministry of magistrates, all they who despise their authority are enemies to mankind.
Now he assumes these two things, which belong, as Plato says, to a commonwealth, that is, reward to the good and punishment to the wicked; for, in ancient times, not only punishment was allotted to evil-doers, but also rewards to the doers of good. But though it often happens that honors are not rightly distributed, nor rewards given to the deserving, yet it is an honor, not to be despised, that the good are at the least under the care and protection of magistrates, that they are not exposed to the violence and injuries of the ungodly, that they live more quietly under laws and better retain their reputation, than if every one, unrestrained, lived as he pleased. In short, it is a singular blessing of God, that the wicked are not allowed to do what they like.
It may, however, be objected here and said, that kings and magistrates often abuse their power, and exercise tyrannical cruelty rather than justice. Such were almost all the magistrates, when this Epistle was written. To this I answer, that tyrants and those like them, do not produce such effects by their abuse, but that the ordinance of God ever remains in force, as the institution of marriage is not subverted though the wife and the husband were to act in a way not becoming them. However, therefore, men may go astray, yet the end fixed by God cannot be changed.
Were any one again to object and say, that we ought not to obey princes who, as far as they can, pervert the holy ordinance of God, and thus become savage wild beasts, while magistrates ought to bear the image of God. My reply is this, that government established by God ought to be so highly valued by us, as to honor even tyrants when in power. There is yet another reply still more evident, — that there has never been a tyranny, (nor can one be imagined,) however cruel and unbridled, in which some portion of equity has not appeared; and further, some kind of government, however deformed and corrupt it may be, is still better and more beneficial than anarchy.
1 Peter 2:14
Or unto governors – Subordinate officers, appointed by the chief magistrate, over provinces. Perhaps Roman proconsuls are here particularly intended.
As unto them that are sent by him – By the king, or the Roman emperor. They represent the supreme power.
For the punishment of evil doers – One of the leading ends of government. “The Roman governors had the power of life and death in such conquered provinces as those mentioned in 1Pe_1:1“ – Doddridge. Ulpian, the celebrated Roman lawyer, who flourished two hundred years after Christ, thus describes the power of the governors of the Roman provinces: “It is the duty of a good and vigilant president to see to it that his province be peaceable and quiet. And that he ought to make diligent search after sacrilegious persons, robbers, man-stealers, and thieves, and to punish everyone according to their guilt.” Again, “They who govern whole provinces, have the power of sending to the mines.” And again,” The presidents of provinces have the highest authority, next to the emperor.” Peter has described the office of the Roman governors in language nearly resembling that of Ulpian. See Lardner’s Credibility, (Works, i. 77, edit. 8vo., Lond. 1829)
And for the praise of them that do well – Praise here stands opposed to punishment, and means commendation, applause, reward. That is, it is a part of their business to reward in a suitable manner those who are upright and virtuous as citizens. This would be by protecting their persons and property; by defending their rights, and, perhaps, by admitting those to share the honors and emoluments of office who showed that they were worthy to be trusted. It is as important a part of the functions of magistracy to protect the innocent, as it is to punish the wicked.
1 Peter 2:15
15For so is the will of God He returns to his former doctrine, lest an occasion should be given to the unbelieving to speak evil, though he expresses less than what he had said before; for he says only that the mouths of the foolish ought to be stopped. The phrase which he adopts, “to stop up ignorance,” though it may seem harsh on account of its novelty, does not yet obscure the sense. For he not only calls the unbelieving foolish, but also points out the reason why they slandered, even because they were ignorant of God. But inasmuch as he makes the unbelieving to be without understanding and reason, we hence conclude, that a right understanding cannot exist without the knowledge of God. How much soever, then, the unbelieving may boast of their own acuteness, and may seem to themselves to be wise and prudent, yet the Spirit of God charges them with folly, in order that we may know that, apart from God, we cannot be really wise, as without him there is nothing perfect.
But he prescribes the way in which the evil-speaking of the unbelieving is to be restrained, even by well-doing, or, by doing good. In this expression he includes all the duties of humanity and kindness which we ought to perform towards our neighbors. And in these is included obedience to magistrates, without which concord among men cannot be cultivated. Were any one to object and say, that the faithful can never be so careful to do good, but that they will be evil-spoken of by the unbelieving: to this the obvious answer is, that the Apostle here does not in any degree exempt them from calumnies and reproaches; but he means that no occasion of slandering ought to be given to the unbelieving, however much they may desire it. And lest any one should further object and say, that the unbelieving are by no means worthy of so much regard that God’s children should form their life to please them, Peter expressly reminds us that we are bound by God’s command to shut up their mouths.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
15. For so is the will of God] Better, for thus it is the will of God. This was to be the chief, if not the only, apologia of Christians to the charges brought against them. They were accused of being evil-doers. They were to be conspicuous for well-doing. In the Greek for “put to silence” we have the word used in Mat_22:12, Mat_22:34, Mar_1:25, Mar_4:39, the primary meaning of which was “to enforce silence by a gag or muzzle.” The word “ignorance,” used elsewhere in the New Testament only in 1Co_15:34, implies something more than a mere ignorance of facts. One might almost describe it as a settled incapacity for knowing and judging rightly. The “foolish men” are the accusers and slanderers of ver. 12 rather than the official authorities of vv. 13, 14.
1 Peter 2:15
For so is the will of God – That is, it is in accordance with the divine will that in this way you should put them to silence.
That with well doing – By a life of uprightness and benevolence.
Ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – See the notes at Tit_2:8. The reference here is to men who brought charges against Christians, by accusing them of being inimical to the government, or insubordinate, or guilty of crimes. Such charges, it is well known, were often brought against them by their enemies in the early ages of Christianity. Peter says they were brought by foolish men, perhaps using the word foolish in the sense of evil-disposed, or wicked, as it is often used in the Bible. Yet, though there might be malice at the bottom, the charges were really based on ignorance. They were not thoroughly acquainted with the principles of the Christian religion; and the way to meet those charges was to act in every way as became good citizens, and so as “to live them down.” One of the best ways of meeting the accusations of our enemies is to lead a life of strict integrity. It is not easy for the wicked to reply to this argument.
1 Peter 2:16
16As free This is said by way of anticipation, that he might obviate those things which are usually objected to with regard to the liberty of God’s children. For as men are naturally ingenious in laying hold on what may be for their advantage, many, at the commencement of the Gospel, thought themselves free to live only for themselves. This doting opinion, then, is what Peter corrects; and he briefly shews how much the liberty of Christians differed from unbridled licentiousness. And, in the first place, he denies that there is any veil or pretext for wickedness, by which he intimates, that there is no liberty given us to hurt our neighbors, or to do any harm to others. True liberty, then, is that which harms or injures no one. To confirm this, he declares that those are free who serve God. It is obvious, hence, to conclude, that we obtain liberty, in order that we may more promptly and more readily render obedience to God; for it is no other than a freedom from sin; and dominion is taken away from sin, that men may become obedient to righteousness.
In short, it is a free servitude, and a serving freedom. For as we ought to be the servants of God, that we may enjoy this benefit, so moderation is required in the use of it. In this way, indeed, our consciences become free; but this prevents us not to serve God, who requires us also to be subject to men.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
16. as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke] The English text gives the impression that the word “free” is closely connected with the preceding verse. In the Greek, however, the adjective is in the nominative and cannot be in apposition with the preceding participle for “well-doing” which is in the accusative case. We are led therefore to connect it with what follows. “As being free … honour all men …” The fact that men had been made free with the freedom which Christ had given (comp. Joh_8:32, Joh_8:36, Gal_5:1) brought with it an obligation to use the freedom rightly. If under the pretence that they were asserting their Christian freedom, they were rude, over-bearing, insolent, regardless of the conventional courtesies of life, what was this but to make their liberty a cloke (the word is the same as that used in the LXX. of Exo_26:14 for the “covering” of the Tabernacle) for baseness? The word just given answers better to the comprehensive meaning of the Greek word than the more specific “maliciousness.” In Gal_5:13, 2Pe_2:19 we find indications that the warning was but too much needed.
“License they mean when they cry liberty” was as true in the Apostolic age as it has been in later times.
as the servants of God] St Peter, like St Paul, brings together the two contrasts as expressing one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life. There is a service even in slavery, which is not only compatible with freedom, but is absolutely its condition. Comp. Rom_6:16-18, 1Co_7:22, 1Co_7:23.
As free. This verse is not to be taken with what follows, for it does not well cohere with the contents of 1Pe_2:17; but either with 1Pe_2:14 (1Pe_2:15 being regarded as parenthetical) or with 1Pe_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” (Rom_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 (Exo_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. Rom_6:16-23).
1 Peter 2:16
As free – That is, they were to consider themselves as freemen, as having a right to liberty. The Jews boasted much of their freedom, and regarded it as a birthright privilege that they were free, Joh_8:33. They never willingly acknowledged their subjection to any other power, but claimed it as an elementary idea of their civil constitution that God only was their Sovereign. They were indeed conquered by the Romans, and paid tribute, but they did it because they were compelled to do it, and it was even a question much debated among them whether they should do it or not Mat_22:17. Josephus has often referred to the fact that the Jews rebelled against the Romans under the plea that they were a free people, and that they were subject only to God. This idea of essential freedom the Jews had when they became Christians, and everything in Christianity tended to inspire them with the love of liberty.
They who were converted to the Christian faith, whether from among the Jews or the Gentiles, were made to feel that they were the children of God; that his law was the supreme rule of their lives; that in the ultimate resort they were subject to him alone; that they were redeemed, and that, therefore, the yoke of bondage could not be properly imposed on them; that God “had made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth,” Act_17:26; and that, therefore, they were on a level before him. The meaning here is, that they were not to consider themselves as slaves, or to act as slaves. In their subjection to civil authority they were not to forget that they were freemen in the highest sense, and that liberty was an invaluable blessing. They had been made free by the Son of God, Joh_8:32, Joh_8:36. They were free from sin and condemnation. They acknowledged Christ as their supreme Head, and the whole spirit and tendency of his religion prompted to the exercise of freedom.
They were not to submit to the chains of slavery; not to allow their consciences to be bound, or their essential liberty to be interfered with; nor in their subjection to the civil magistrate were they ever to regard themselves otherwise than as freemen. As a matter of fact, Christianity has always been the friend and promoter of liberty. Its influence emancipated the slaves throughout the Roman Empire; and all the civil freedom which we enjoy, and which there is in the world, can be traced to the influence of the Christian religion. To spread the gospel in its purity everywhere would be to break every yoke of oppression and bondage, and to make people everywhere free. It is the essential right of every man who is a Christian to be a freeman – to be free to worship God; to read the Bible; to enjoy the avails of his own labor; to train up his children in the way in which he shall deem best; to form his own plans of life, and to pursue his own ends, provided only that he does not interfere with the equal rights of others – and every system which prevents this, whether it be that of civil government, of ecclesiastical law, or of domestic slavery, is contrary to the religion of the Saviour.
And not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness – Margin, as in Greek, “having.” Not making your freedom a mere pretext under which to practice all kinds of evil. The word rendered “maliciousness” – κακία kakia – means more than our word maliciousness does; for it denotes evil of any kind, or all kinds. The word maliciousness refers rather to enmity of heart, ill-will, an intention to injure. The apostle has reference to an abuse of freedom, which has often occurred. The pretence of these who have acted in this manner has been, that the freedom of the gospel implied deliverance from all kinds of restraint; that they were under no yoke, and bound by no laws; that, being the children of God, they had a right to all kinds of enjoyment and indulgence; that even the moral law ceased to bind them, and that they had a right to make the most of liberty in all respects. Hence, they have given themselves up to all sorts of sensual indulgence, claiming exemption from the restraints of morality as well as of civil law, and sinking into the deepest abyss of vice. Not a few have done this who have professed to be Christians; and, occasionally, a fanatical sect now appears who make the freedom which they say Christianity confers, a pretext for indulgence in the most base and degrading vices. The apostles saw this tendency in human nature, and in nothing are they more careful than to guard against this abuse.
But as the servants of God – Not free from all restraint; not at liberty to indulge in all things, but bound to serve God in the faithful obedience of his laws. Thus bound to obey and serve him, they could not be at liberty to indulge in those things which would be in violation of his laws, and which would dishonor him. See this sentiment explained in the notes at 1Co_7:22; 1Co_9:21.
1 Peter 2:17
This is a summary of what is gone before; for he intimates that God is not feared, nor their just right rendered to men, except civil order prevails among us, and magistrates retain their authority. That he bids honor to be rendered to all, I explain thus, that none are to be neglected; for it is a general precept, which refers to the social intercourse of men. The word honor has a wide meaning in Hebrew, and we know that the apostles, though they wrote in Greek, followed the meaning of words in the former language. Therefore, this word conveys no other idea to me, than that a regard ought to be had for all, since we ought to cultivate, as far as we can, peace and friendship with all; there is, indeed, nothing more adverse to concord than contempt.
What he adds respecting the love of brethren is special, as contrasted with the first clause; for he speaks of that particular love which we are bidden to have towards the household of faith, because we are connected with them by a closer relationship. And so Peter did not omit this connection; but yet he reminds us, that though brethren are to be specially regarded, yet this ought not to prevent our love from being extended to the whole human race. The word fraternity, or brotherhood, I take collectively for brethren.
Fear God I have already said that all these clauses are applied by Peter to the subject he was treating. For he means, that honor paid to kings proceeds from the fear of God and the love of man; and that, therefore, it ought to be connected with them, as though he had said, “Whosoever fears God, loves his brethren and the whole human race as he ought, and will also give honor to kings.” But, at the same time, he expressly mentions the king, because that form of government was more than any other disliked; and under it other forms are included.
Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
17. Honour all men] The universality of the precept is not to be narrowed by any arbitrary restriction of its range to those to whom honour was due. St Peter had been taught of God “not to call any man common or unclean” (Act_10:28). The fact that there were in every man traces of the image of God after which he had been created, and infinite undeveloped capacities which might issue in the restoration of that image to its original brightness, was in itself a reason for treating all, even the vilest and most degraded, with some measure of respect. It is obvious that the command is perfectly consistent with shewing degrees of honour according to the variations in men’s character and position. It would almost seem as if the Apostle chose the most terse and epigrammatic form for these great laws of conduct that their very brevity might impress them indelibly on the minds of his readers.
Love the brotherhood] In the Greek, as in the English, the abstract noun is used to express the collective unity made up of many individuals. Within the Christian society in which all were brothers, as being children of the same Father, there might well be a warmer feeling of affection than that which was felt for those who were outside it. If St Peter’s rule seems at first somewhat narrower than that of Mat_5:44 (“Love your enemies”), it may be remembered that the special love of the brethren does not shut out other forms and degrees of love, and that our Lord’s words are therefore left in all their full force of obligation.
Fear God. Honour the king] The king, as before, is the Emperor. The two verbs seem deliberately chosen to express the feelings of man’s conduct in regard to divine and human authority. They are to fear God with the holy reverential awe of sons, with that fear which is “the beginning of wisdom” (Psa_111:10, Pro_1:7). They are not to fear man more than God, however great may be the authority with which he is invested. St Paul’s conduct before the high-priest, Felix, Festus and Agrippa (Acts 23-26.) may be noted as a practical illustration of St Peter’s precept. We may, perhaps, trace in the juxtaposition of the two precepts a reproduction of the teaching of Pro_24:21.
1 Peter 2:17
Honor all men – That is, show them the respect which is due to them according to their personal worth, and to the rank and office which they sustain. See the notes at Rom_13:7.
Love the brotherhood – The whole fraternity of Christians, regarded as a band of brothers. The word used here occurs only in this place and in 1Pe_5:9, where it is rendered “brethren.” The idea expressed here occurs often in the New Testament. See the notes at Joh_13:34-35.
Fear God – A duty everywhere enjoined in the Bible, as one of the first duties of religion. Compare Lev_25:17; Psa_24:7; Psa_25:14; Pro_1:7; Pro_3:13; Pro_9:10; Pro_23:17; See the Rom_3:18 note; 2Co_7:1 note. The word fear, when used to express our duty to God, means that we are to reverence and honor him. Religion, in one aspect, is described as the fear of God; in another, as the love of God; in another, as submission to his will, etc. A holy veneration or fear is always an elementary principle of religion. It is the fear, not so much of punishment as of his disapprobation; not so much the dread of suffering as the dread of doing wrong.
Honor the king – Referring here primarily to the Roman sovereign, but implying that we are always to respect those who have the rule over us. See the notes at Rom_13:1-7. The doctrine taught in these verses Rom_13:13-14 is, that we are faithfully to perform all the relative duties of life. There are duties which we owe to ourselves, which are of importance in their place, and which we are by no means at liberty to neglect. But we also owe duties to our fellow-men, to our Christian brethren, and to those who have the rule over us; and religion, while it is honored by our faithful performance of our duty to ourselves, is more openly honored by our performance of our duties to those to whom we sustain important relations in life. Many of the duties which we owe to ourselves are, from the nature of the case, hidden from public observation. All that pertains to the examination of the heart; to our private devotions; to the subjugation of our evil passions; to our individual communion with God, must be concealed from public view. Not so, however, with those duties which pertain to others. In respect to them, we are open to public view. The eye of the world is upon us. The judgment of the world in regard to us is made up from their observation of the manner in which we perform them. If religion fails there, they judge that it fails altogether; and however devout we may be in private, if it is not seen by the world that our religion leads to the faithful performance of the duties which we owe in the various relations of life, it will be regarded as of little value.