Notes on 1 Peter 2:1-17

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

1Pe 2:1, KJV 1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

Compare these sins with the lists of similar evils in Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and other Scriptures. Paul had also exhorted the Ephesians to watch their talk in Eph. 5:3-5. Even Christians can fall into these sins, but we can be delivered from them by the power of the Lord!

2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord (is) gracious.

Infants can’t handle much in the way of nourishment except mother’s milk. Logically, as the child grows older, he or she can and should handle other foods. In the same way, new believers need to grow slowly but steadily in their new faith. Peter had no doubt seen this multiple times, at Pentecost and other times when large numbers of people became believers in Jesus, leaving their old faith behind.

Paul had already written to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3) that he had to feed them with milk and not meat (solid food) even though the Corinthians had been believers for several years. Milk alone is the right thing for newborn infants, but milk alone doesn’t provide all the nourishment a mature person needs. Further, Peter may be using a figure of speech: a newborn couldn’t possibly feed himself or herself; but as the child grows, he or she also learns how to handle foods personally.

4 To whom coming, (as unto) a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, (and) precious,

This may refer to Christ being a living stone, compared to the idols of wood and stone, which people had worshiped for hundreds of years, at least. The idols were carved out of dead stone, but Christ is alive! Peter may also be referring to temples, again built of stone, but Christ is greater than any temple!

5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

“Lively” means “living”. Instead of a single temple, such as the one in Jerusalem, every believer is a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19)! And instead of only one tribe (Levi) and only one family (Aaron and his sons), every believer is a priest.

“Spiritual” sacrifices may be another allusion to Romans 12:1-2.

6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

This is a direct reference to Isaiah 28:16.

7 Unto you therefore which believe (he is) precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

This verse refers to Psalm 118:22. Paul had also mentioned that Christ is the chief corner stone in Ephesians 2:20.

8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, (even to them) which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

Peter makes reference here to Isaiah 8:14.

9 But ye (are) a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past (were) not a people, but (are) now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Note the contrasts between the readers (those who had believed) and the non-believers, called “disobedient” in verse 7. Peter reminds the readers (primarily Jewish-background believers, perhaps) of God’s words to the nation of Israel when they had camped at Mt. Sinai. ”Holy nation” comes from Exodus 19:5. John would later write in Revelation 1:7 that our Lord has made us “kings and priests unto God and His Father”!

“Not a people” and “not obtained mercy”, and the changes, are echoes from the Book of Hosea, chapter 1. The names of two of his wife’s children (the text does not say Hosea was the father) mean “no mercy” and “not my people”. The story of Hosea’s marriage to a woman who forsook him—but eventually he bought her when she was put up for sale—is one of the most unusual in all the Bible.

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech (you) as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

Peter introduces a new section beginning here. He’s speaking to believers who apparently were struggling with “fleshly lusts”.

12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by (your) good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

“Conversation” here means way of living. Peter may have had only limited interaction with Gentiles, by this stage, except for the encounter with Cornelius and his household in Acts 10—and then Peter was criticized for eating with Gentiles!

It is not clear what Peter meant by “day of visitation”.

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

This couldn’t have been easy for anyone, especially the Jews, who seemed to never be in approval of being subject to any other power. The Book of Judges records several times where Israel was conquered (due to their sins against God) and eventually cried to God for deliverance. One wonders why it took them so long to begin crying out, or whether they began soon after being conquered and kept on seeking deliverance until God granted it.
Peter first mentions “the king”, in this case the Roman emperor, who some think was Nero at this time. Even though the Jews, and later the Christians, enjoyed tolerance, more or less, they had begun to be persecuted—and yet, here is the command to be subject to the king. Compare this with Romans 13.

14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

Some of the “governors” in the times of the Gospels and apostolic times included Cyrenius, governor of “Syria” when our Lord was born (see Luke 2); Pontius Pilate (!), Felix, and Porcius Festus, and the unnamed governor in Damascus who tried to capture Saul. Peter knew of Pilate, personally, when Pilate condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion! Even so, Paul gave proper respect to Felix at the first trial in Caesarea (Acts 24).

15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

Here is one of the places where “the will of God” is defined. Peter now encourages the believers to keep on “well doing: to counter the “ignorance of foolish men”. Given that Peter was an apostle to the Jews, and that there were still many Jewish background believers in Asia Minor, there was already an ignorance of Jewish life and way of doing things; no doubt even more so when both Jew and Gentile became believers in Jesus. A changed life generally brings either questions or condemnation—sometimes both—but most of it seems to be based on a genuine ignorance of what “being a Christian” truly meant.

16 As free, and not using (your) liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

This may mean that the believers were free from the Law of Moses (especially true for Jewish background believers) or to enjoy the benefits of Roman citizenship. Peter himself seems never to have obtained Roman citizenship, but by the new birth he was and is a citizen of the Kingdom of God!

With freedom comes responsibility, especially so in view of the freedom one finds in Christ. Peter warns the believers to never use their liberty in a bad way, but in a way that brings honor to God.

17 Honour all (men). Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

These are four of the most difficult commands to follow in all Scripture. Yet, these are among the most necessary. All people are worthy of honor. The brotherhood is probably a reference to the groups of believers located here and there in Asia Minor during that time, and in each of the provinces listed in chapter 1. “Fear God” is an obvious command to not necessarily quake in terror or dread of God, but rather to have a reverential spirit before Him.

Peter then repeats an injunction to honor the king, after stating in verse 13 to submit to the king.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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