1 Peter 2

1 Peter 2  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The milk of the Word
Thus cleansed, therefore, and born of the Word, they were to put off all fraud, hypocrisy, envy, slander; and, as newborn babes, to seek for this milk of the understanding, in order to grow thereby (for the Word is the milk of the child, as it was the seed of its life); and we are to receive it as babes in all simplicity, if in truth we have felt that the Lord is good and full of grace. It is not Sinai (where the Lord God declared His law from the midst of the fire, so that they entreated not to hear His voice anymore), to which I am come, or from which the Lord is speaking. If I have tasted and understood that the Lord acts in grace, that He is love towards me, and that His Word is the expression of that grace, even as it communicates life, I shall desire to feed on this milk of the understanding, which the believer enjoys in proportion to his simplicity; that good Word which announces to me nothing but grace, and the God who I need as all grace, full of grace, acting in grace, as revealing Himself to me in this character-a character which He can never cease to maintain towards me, making me a partaker of His holiness.
The house of living stones built upon the Living Stone
I now know the Lord Himself: I have tasted that which He is. Moreover, this is still in contrast with the legal condition of the Jew, although it is the fulfillment of that which the Psalms and the prophets had declared (the resurrection having plainly revealed, in addition, a heavenly hope). It was they themselves who were now the spiritual house, the holy priesthood. They came to the Living Stone, rejected indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, and they were built up on Him as living stones. The Apostle delights in this word “living.” It was to him the Father had revealed that Jesus was the Son of the living God. No one else had then confessed Him as such, and the Lord told him that on this rock (that is, on the Person of the Son of God in power of life, manifested in the resurrection, which declared Him to be such) He would build His assembly. Peter, by his faith, participated in the nature of this living rock. Here then (ch. 2:5) he extends this character to all believers, and exhibits the holy house built on the Living Stone, which God Himself had laid as the chief cornerstone, elect and precious. Whosoever believed in Him should not be confounded.1
(1. In this passage, so to speak (as in this alone), Peter meets the doctrine of the assembly, and that under the character of a building, not of a body or a bride; that which Christ built, not what was united to Him. So Paul also presents it to us in Ephesians 2:20-2120And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: (Ephesians 2:20‑21). In this view, though going on on earth, it is Christ’s work and a continuing process; no human instrumentality is referred to: I will build, says Christ; it grows, says Paul; living stones come, says Peter. This must not be confounded with the building into which men may build wood and hay and stubble, as the same thing; though the outward thing which God set up good, left to man’s responsibility, as ever, was soon corrupted. Individuals are built up by grace, and it grows into a holy temple. All this refers to Matthew 16. The responsibility of human service in this respect is found in 1 Corinthians 3, and the assembly is there given in another point of view. The body is another thing altogether; the doctrine is taught in Ephesians 1-4, 1 Corinthians 12 and other passages.)
The preciousness of Christ to believers; the destiny of unbelief
Now, it was not only in the eyes of God that this stone was precious, but in the eyes of faith which-feeble as the possessors of it may be-sees as God sees. To unbelievers this stone was a stone of stumbling and of offense. They stumbled at the Word, being disobedient, to which also they were appointed. It does not say that they were appointed to sin nor to condemnation, but these unbelieving and disobedient sinners, the Jewish race-long rebellious and continually exalting themselves against God-were destined to find in the Lord of grace Himself a rock of offense; and to stumble and fall upon that which was to faith the precious stone of salvation. It was to this particular fall that their unbelief was destined.
Individual Jewish believers entering into heavenly blessing, though the nation’s rejection of Christ had lost the earthly promises
Believers, on the contrary, entered into the enjoyment of the promises made to Israel, and that in the most excellent way. Grace-and the very faithfulness of God-had brought the fulfillment of the promise in the Person of Jesus, the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to fulfill the promises made to the fathers. And, although the nation had rejected Him, God would not deprive of the blessings those who-in spite of all this difficulty to faith and to the heart-had submitted to the obedience of faith and attached themselves to Him who was the despised of the nation. They could not have the blessing of Israel with the nation on earth, because the nation had rejected Him; but they were brought fully into the relationship with God of a people accepted of Him. The heavenly character which the blessing now assumed did not destroy their acceptance according to the promise; only they entered into it according to grace. For the nation, as a nation, had lost it; not only long ago by disobedience, but now by rejecting Him who came in grace to impart to them the effect of the promise.
The titles and privileges bestowed on the believing remnant; Messiah’s obedience the foundation of their blessing
The Apostle, therefore, applies the character of “holy nation” to the elect remnant, investing them in the main with the titles bestowed in Exodus 19 on condition of obedience, but here in connection with the Messiah, their enjoyment of these titles being founded on His obedience and rights acquired by their faith in Him.
But, the privileges of the believing remnant being founded on the Messiah, the Apostle goes further, and applies to them the declarations of Hosea, which relate to Israel and Judah when reestablished in the fullness of blessing in the last days, enjoying those relationships with God into which grace will bring them at that time.
“Ye are,” he says, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a purchased people.” These are almost the words of Exodus 19. He goes on: “Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; who formerly had not obtained mercy, but have now obtained it.” These are the words of Hosea 2. This sets before us, in the most interesting way, the principle on which the blessing is founded. In Exodus the people were to have this blessing if they exactly obeyed the voice of God. But Israel had not obeyed, had been rebellious and stiff-necked, had gone after strange gods, and rejected the testimony of the Spirit; yet, after their unfaithfulness, God Himself has laid in Zion a Stone, a chief cornerstone, and whosoever believed in Him should not be confounded. It is grace that, when Israel had failed in every respect, and on the ground of obedience had lost everything, God should bestow on them by Jesus, through grace, that which was promised them at first on condition of obedience. In this way all was secured to them.
Judgment executed, God returns to His irrevocable purposes of grace
The question of obedience was settled-on Israel’s disobedience-by grace, and by the obedience of Christ, the foundation laid by God in Zion. But this principle of grace abounding over sin-by which is shown the inability of disobedience to frustrate the purposes of God, for this grace came after the completion of disobedience-this principle, so glorious and so comforting to the convinced sinner, is confirmed in a striking way by the quotation from Hosea. In this passage from the prophet, Israel is presented, not merely as guilty, but as having already undergone judgment. God had declared that He would no more have mercy (with regard to His patience toward the ten tribes); and that Israel was no longer His people (in His judgment on unfaithful Judah). But afterwards, when the judgment had been executed, He returns to His irrevocable purposes of grace, and allures Israel as a forsaken wife, and gives her the valley of Achor-the valley of trouble, in which Achan was stoned, the first judgment on unfaithful Israel after their entrance into the promised land-for a door of hope. For judgment is changed into grace, and God begins all afresh upon a new principle. It was as though Israel had again come up out of Egypt, but upon an entirely new principle. He betroths her to Him forever, in righteousness, in judgment, in grace, in mercy, and all is blessing. Then He calls her “Ruhamah,” “the object of mercy”; and “Ammi,” “my people.”
These, then, are the expressions which the Apostle uses, applying them to the remnant who believed in Jesus, the stumbling-stone to the nation, but the chief cornerstone from God to the believer. Thus the condition is taken away, and instead of a condition we have blessing after disobedience, and after judgment the full and assured grace of God, founded (in its application to believers) on the Person, the obedience and the work of Christ.
The valley of trouble becoming the door of hope
It is affecting to see the expression of this grace in the term “Achor.” It was the first judgment on Israel in the land of promise for having profaned themselves with the forbidden thing. And there it is that hope is given; so entirely true is it that grace triumphs over justice. And it is this which has taken place in the most excellent way in Christ. The very judgment of God becomes in Him the door of hope, the guilt and the judgment having alike passed away forever.
The double priesthood: (1) the “holy priesthood” of Aaron
Two parts of the Christian life-so far as it is the manifestation of spiritual power-result from this, in the double priesthood; of which the one answers to the present position of Christ on high, and the other anticipatively to the manifestation of His glory on earth-the priesthoods of Aaron and of Melchisedec. For He is now within the veil according to the type of Aaron; hereafter He will be a priest on His throne-it will be the public manifestation of His glory on earth. Thus, the saints exercise “a holy priesthood” (vs. 5) to offer up spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Sweet privilege of the Christian, thus brought as near as possible to God! He offers-sure of being accepted, for it is by Jesus that he offers them-his sacrifices to God.
This part of the Christian life is the first, the most excellent, the most vital, the source of the other (which is its expression here below); the most excellent, because, in its exercise, we are in immediate connection with the divine object of our affections. These spiritual sacrifices are the reflex, by the action of the Holy Spirit, of the grace which we enjoy; that which the heart returns to God, moved by the excellent gifts of which we are the object, and by the love which has given them. The heart (by the power of the Holy Spirit) reflects all that has been revealed to it in grace, worshipping the Author and Giver of all according to the knowledge we have of Himself through this means; the fruits of the heavenly Canaan in which we participate presented as an offering to God; the entrance of the soul into the presence of God to praise and adore Him.
This is the holy priesthood, according to the analogy of the priesthood of Aaron, and of the temple at Jerusalem which God inhabited as His house.
The double priesthood: (2) the “royal priesthood” of Melchisedec
The second priesthood of which the Apostle speaks is to show forth the virtues of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Its description is taken, as we have seen, from Exodus 19. It is a chosen generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. I only allude to the Melchisedec priesthood to show the character of a royal priesthood. Priests, among the Jews, drew near to God. God had formed the people for Himself: they were to show forth all His virtues, His praises. Christ will do this perfectly in the day of His glory. The Christian is called to do it now in this world. He is to reproduce Christ in this world. It is the second part of his life.
It will be noticed that the first chapter of this epistle presents the Christian as animated by hope, but under trial-the precious trial of faith. The second chapter presents him in his privileges, as of a holy and royal priesthood, by means of faith.
Exhortations to the Christian as a pilgrim on earth to follow the path of faithfulness to God
After this (ch. 2:11), the Apostle begins his exhortations. Whatever may be the privileges of the Christian, in his position as such, he is always viewed as a pilgrim on the earth; and, as we have seen, the constant government of God is the object which presents itself to the mind of the Apostle. But he warns them first, with regard to that which is inward, against those sources from which the corruptions spring, that (in the scene of this government) would dishonor the name of God and even bring in judgment.
Their conversation was to be honest among the Gentiles. Christians bore the name of God. The mind of men, hostile to His name, sought to bring disgrace upon it, by attributing to Christians the evil conduct which they themselves followed without remorse, while at the same time complaining (ch. 4:4) that they would not go with them in the same excesses and disorder. The Christian had only to follow the path of faithfulness to God. In the day when God would visit men, these calumniators, with their will broken and their pride subdued by the visitation of God, should be brought to confess-by means of the good works which, in spite of their calumnies, had always reached their consciences-that God had acted in these Christians, that He had been present among them.
The Christian’s path in a world where God permits His own to suffer for righteousness’ sake or for Christ’s name
After this general exhortation, brief but important to believers, the Apostle takes up the relative walk of Christians in a world where, on the one hand, God watches over all, yet where He permits His own to suffer, whether for righteousness’ sake or for the name of Christ, but where they ought never to suffer for having done wrong. The path, then, of the Christian is marked out. He is subject for the Lord’s sake to human ordinances or institutions. He gives honor to all men, and to each in his place, so that no one shall have any reproach to bring against him. He is submissive to his masters, even if they are bad men, and yields to their ill-treatment. Were he subject only to the good and gentle, a worldly slave would do as much; but if, having done well, he suffers and bears it patiently, this is acceptable to God, this is grace. It was thus that Christ acted, and to this we are called. Christ suffered in this way and never replied by reproaches or threats to those who molested Him, but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously. To Him we belong. He has suffered for our sins, in order that, having been delivered from them, we should live to God. These Christians from among the Jews had been as sheep going astray;1 they were now brought back to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls. But how entirely these exhortations show that the Christian is one who is not of this world, but has his own path through it: yet this path was the way of peace in it!
(1. An allusion, I suppose, to the last verse of Psalm 119. The Apostle constantly puts the Christian Jews on the ground of the blessed remnant, only making it a soul salvation.)