The latter verses of chapter 1 have shown us that the new birth
which has taken place with each believer has a purifying effect,
therefore the first verse of chapter 2 takes it for granted that we lay
aside those ugly features which are the nature of the flesh in us. Of
the things specified, malice, envy and evil speakings specially concern
our relations with our fellows, and they are particularly mentioned
because Peter is now going to bring before us truth which shows us the
believer in intimate relation with all his fellow-believers as a stone
in a spiritual house, and as one of the priestly family. In such
connections, nothing will proceed rightly unless these evils are laid
It is not enough, however, to lay aside evil, we must go in for that
which is good. We must not merely put on good as an outward dress or
adornment, but imbibe it as spiritual food. There is "the sincere milk
of the Word" suitable for the new-born babe, and we are to earnestly
desire it. If we feed upon the Word we grow up. But even then we still
need the Word, for it is meat for those of full age as well as milk for
babes, as Hebrews 5: 12-14, tells us.
This furnishes us with a very clear answer to the oft-repeated
question- Why do some Christians make such good spiritual progress and
some hardly any at all? Because some feed heartily and regularly upon
pure, spiritual diet. They feast their souls upon the Word, whether as
milk or meat. Others feed upon it but little and are half-starved
spiritually. Others again, choke up their minds and hearts with light
and foolish reading. Some go in for sentimental love stories, slightly
flavoured with the gospel perhaps; such, naturally, do not progress
spiritually any more than a child would progress physically whose diet
consisted only of sweetmeats.
Others take up reading of a more intellectual sort but with a strain
of infidelity in it; and progress no better than would the child
brought up on solid food with small quantities of poison in it.
Food for our minds and hearts we must have. Let us see to it that it
is the Word on which we feed, seeing it is by the Word we have been
born again, if indeed, we have tasted the goodness of God-for all this
supposes that we are truly converted people, that we have really come
to the Lord.
And who and what is the Lord to whom we have come? He is the "Living
Stone." This is a remarkable title of our Lord. It sets Him forth as
the One in whom is life, who became Man, and who, by death and
resurrection, has become the Head and Foundation of this new structure
which God is building composed of men who live through Him and in Him.
He is the "chief corner stone, elect, precious" (verse 6), "the head of
the corner" (verse 7). The men who, as "living stones," have been built
into this "house" of a living sort, became such by coming to Christ,
the Living Stone.
Evidently, the Apostle Peter never forgot his first interview with
the Lord Jesus, as recorded in John 1, and in these verses we have a
definite allusion to it. John 1 introduces the Lord Jesus to us as the
Word, in whom was life, become flesh that as Man He might die as the
Lamb of God, and then in resurrection baptize with the Holy Ghost
(verses 1, 4, 14, 29, 33). Then Andrew brings his brother Simon to
Jesus, as the Christ. The Lord Jesus, knowing that which was before
Him, and conscious of all that He Himself was-whatever Simon might know
or not know Him to be-instantly assumed possession of him and changed
his name to Peter, which means "a stone." It was as though the Lord
said to him, "Coming to Me in faith you have become-even though your
faith is partial as yet and incomplete-of the same nature as Myself."
Neither did Peter forget the subsequent interview recorded in
Matthew 16. On this occasion Peter had confessed the Lord Jesus as the
Son of the Living God, which was virtually to confess Him as the Living
Stone. The Lord Jesus in reply reminded Simon that his real name now
was Peter-"a stone"-while He Himself was the Rock; and that Peter as a
stone was not to be left in isolation, but to be with the others
builded into the church or assembly which Christ called His own-"My
When the Lord Jesus spoke thus to Peter all was future, for He said,
"I will build."
Now Peter writes to others who also had come to Christ and thereby
become living stones, and he can speak of all as a present and existing
thing, though not an absolutely completed thing. He says in verse 5,
"Ye are built up"-or, "Ye are being built up a spiritual house." A
spiritual house they were, yet it was not a completed thing for other
living stones were continually being added.
Now a house exists for its occupant, and we are thus builded
together as a dwelling-place for GOD; not a material house of the sort
they had been accustomed to as Jews, but a
Moreover, where God dwells there He is to be praised and so, by His
work and ordering, we fill a further capacity as "an holy priesthood,
to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
These spiritual sacrifices are "of praise to God continually, that is,
the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name" (Heb. 13: 15).
Every true believer is a living stone in the house, and a priest as belonging to this holy priesthood.
Had we approached one of the sons of Aaron and asked him how he
became a priest, he would doubtless have told us that it was, firstly,
by his birth; and that, secondly, being born of the priestly family, he
was put into the priest's office by the washing of water, the
sprinkling with blood, and the anointing with oil, as ordered in Exodus
29. We, too, are priests by birth. Being born of God, we are priests of
God. We, too, have had the washing of water by the Word (1 Peter 1: 22,
23). We have been redeemed by blood, the precious blood of Christ (1
Peter 1: 19), and we have received the Spirit, who was typified of the
oil; though that particular feature is not brought before us in the
passage we are considering. We have come to Christ (1 Peter 2: 4), and
thus we are priests, just as Aaron's sons were priests as having come
to Aaron, and being thus associated with him in the priest's office.
Every believer today is then a priest. But we must remember that it
is one thing to be a priest, another to really enter into and exercise
our priestly functions. The first exercise of our priesthood is
Godward, in the offering up of the sacrifice of praise. This is
"acceptable to God by Jesus Christ," for He is the Great High Priest,
as the Epistle to the Hebrews makes so manifest. All that we offer we
offer by Him; and this of course accounts for its acceptability to God,
since He is the chosen One and precious in God's sight, as the sixth
It must never be forgotten, however, that He is not elect and
precious, nor is He the acceptable One, in man's esteem. The very
reverse, He is disallowed and rejected. The fact is that man has become
a disobedient creature as verse 7 reminds us. Instead of falling in
with God's plans, he wishes to push ahead with plans of his own.
Instead of being content with God's building and with being called to
have a part in it as a living stone, man wishes to create a building on
his own account-a building which shall conform to his own fallen ideas
and result in his own glory. When the Lord Jesus appeared, men
attempted to work Him into their building and failed. Had He consented
to fall in with man's ideas it would have been otherwise. They would
have been delighted if so great an One as He had been a supporter of,
or even a developer of, Roman government, or Greek philosophy, or
Jewish religion. Coming as He did, on God's behalf, He exposed their
folly and fitted in with none of their notions. He was, as it were, a
stone of such peculiar formation that there was not a single niche in
the imposing temple of man's fame where He fitted in. Hence He became
"the stone which the builders disallowed," and "a stone of stumbling
and a rock of offence" to the proud men who rejected Him, whilst being
elevated of God into the headstone of the corner in the divine building.
Consequently, we who are priests of God in association with Him are
no more of man's building, of man's world-system, than He is, though we
have another priestly function which has direct reference to the world
through which we pass. We are "a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a
holy nation, a people for a possession"-as verse 9 has been rendered.
We are those whom God has chosen out and separated to Himself. In the
coming age the kingly character of our priesthood will be more manifest
than it is at present, but now we are commissioned to show forth the
praises, the virtue or excellences, of God in this disobedient world.
This is our priestly function manward.
In the coming age the saints are going to judge the world, as 1
Corinthians 6: 2 tells us. As kingly priests we shall then be
commissioned to dispense His judgment. We are kingly priests today, but
commissioned to dispense His excellent righteousness expressed in
grace, to set forth His character as light and love. This, of course,
we do even more by what we
are than by what we
say. It is the character and spirit and attitude of the royal priest that counts for so much.
Do some feel inclined to declare this an impossible task? Nay, not
impossible! Difficult perhaps, because not natural to us as men in the
flesh, though natural enough to the born-again, redeemed,
Spirit-indwelt priesthood to which we belong.
because we ourselves have been the subjects of the grace that we are
now to "show forth" to others. We have been called "out of darkness
into His marvellous light."
Can you not imagine one of the converted Jews to whom Peter wrote,
crying out at this point-"Darkness! But, Peter, you forget, we were
never benighted heathen as were others"? And we, who were brought up in
conditions controlled-by an enlightened and christianized civilization,
might say the same. "I know it," the Apostle would have replied, "but
your Judaism was darkness, for all that." God was not fully revealed,
it was not "in the light" (1 John 1: 7), if Judaism be considered in
its original purity. When it was corrupted into a mass of traditions
and observances by the Pharisees it was darkness indeed.
All was darkness for us whether we were called out of Judaism or
heathenism, or a nominal and corrupted Christianity, and now we are in
a light which is marvellous; we are the people of God, having obtained
Marvellous light! Is this how we feel about it? The world
plunges on, deeper and ever deeper into its darkness and unbelief. Its
learned scientists and philosophers fill the air with triumphant
shoutings as to their investigations and their discoveries. Yet really
they are as men who clutch at elusive shadows while their science is an
enshrouding mist. Their discoveries enable them to do lots of clever
and curious things in the world, but not a ray of light shines in them
as to things beyond the grave. And here are we, put in the light of God
fully revealed in Christ, in the light of His grace, His purposes, His
glory. Are we studying these things, so as to become even more and more
enlightened, and consequently, luminous ourselves?
On a cloudless night at the season of full moon we get the benefit
of our satellite shining in the light of the sun. How marvellous must
be the sunlight that can make a dark body shine so brightly! Well, the
world is still in the dark, for its back is turned towards God. We are
in the light of His truth and grace,-the light of the knowledge of
Himself. How marvellous that light is may be discerned in the fact that
it can make dark and unattractive people, like to ourselves, show forth
His excellences and reflect Himself.
Oh! to be more fully in the unclouded brightness of God's MARVELLOUS LIGHT.
At 1 Peter 2: 11 the apostle Peter turns the "marvellous light" of
God upon the daily lives of the holy and royal priests to whom he
writes, addressing them as "strangers and pilgrims."
They were, of course, strangers in the lands of their dispersion, as
the first verse of the Epistle told us, but this is not what is alluded
Every Christian is a stranger and pilgrim, and we
need not be surprised at this, since by the very fact that we are
brought into such near and honoured relationship with God there must be
a corresponding severance from the world. The world is entirely
antagonistic to God and we cannot hold with both at the same time. It
must be one or the other. For us it is relationship and communion with
God, and hence strangership and pilgrimage in the world. The world
itself began with Cain, who was "a fugitive and a vagabond" (Gen. 4:
12). We may summarize the matter thus:-
A fugitive is a man who has fled from home. A vagabond is a man who
has no home. A stranger is a man who is absent from home. A pilgrim is
a man who is on his way to home.
The actual presence of God is the true home of our souls and we are
disconnected from the world' system so as to be strangers in it, though
left in it for a time to show forth the excellencies of God. Still, we
do not wander aimlessly for we are pilgrims also, and this means that
we have an objective before us-a fixed point of destiny to which we
wend our way.
The world is consumed with fleshly "lusts" or "desires," and
consequently, given over to the gratification of those desires. The
Christian has other desires of a spiritual sort which proceed not from
the flesh at all, and the only way to foster these is to abstain from
the desires of the flesh. This is a very personal matter.
Verse 12 deals with our lives in relation to others. The Gentiles
were naturally very critical of these Jewish sojourners in their midst
and disposed to speak against them. When any of them became Christians
the Gentiles were more likely than ever to denounce them, as witness
the way in which a Christian today gets denounced if he gives the world
the smallest occasion for it. Therefore, their whole manner of life was
to be right and honest. The Jew, with his notoriously strong instincts
in the matter of profit-making may have particularly needed this
exhortation, but who of us does not need it at all? If we maintain
righteousness, ultimately our very antagonists will glorify God. They
may do so in a way that will ensure their own blessing. They will
certainly do so when God visits them in judgment.
Verses 13 to 17, inclusive, work this exhortation out for us, in its
details. These dispersed Christian Jews might very possibly be inclined
to resent many of the Gentile authorities who were over them, whether
kings or governors, and also the many ordinances and laws and
regulations that had been instituted, so many of them very different to
what had been given of God through Moses, to which they and their
forefathers had been accustomed. Still, they were to submit.
Government, they had to recognize, was a divine institution. Hence they
and we are to be subject for the Lord's sake. The Christian is of
course, free for he stands in the liberty of Christ. Still, he must not
use his freedom as "a cloke of malice"-in any way to vent his spleen
upon others-but he must regard it as liberty to serve God, and the
service of God demands the subjection to rulers which is here laid
The matter is tersely summed up in verse 17, and we find what
becomes "the servants of God." As to all men-honour. As to the
i.e., all believers-love. As to God-fear. As to
the king, the representative of all human authority-honour. Carrying
out this we do the will of God and silence foolish adversaries.
Having thus exhorted all Christians to submission, the apostle
specially addresses servants in verse 18. The word used means not
exactly "slaves" but "household servants." These, too, are to be
subject to authority and specially to the masters whom they serve.
These masters may be often men of the world and ill-tempered. The
servant may consequently often have to suffer wrongfully. There is no
credit to the Christian if, suffering for wrong doing, he takes it
patiently. Such is the divine way of thinking, though nowadays people
even Christians-are very intolerant of a small rebuke for their faults.
What does please God is to take patiently suffering which is endured
for doing well and acting with "conscience toward God." Nothing is
harder to us naturally than this. How indignant we feel when our
well-doing only serves to bring trouble upon us!
What will help us in this? Two things. Firstly, the example of Christ. Secondly, His atoning sacrifice and its results.
Verses 21 to 23 give us the first. No one ever did well like the
Lord Jesus. No one ever was so misjudged, reviled and persecuted as He.
Moreover, He did no sin, no guile was ever in His mouth. There was
nothing in Him or His life to justify the smallest slur being cast upon
Him. Yet no one suffered as He, and no one ever took the suffering with
such meekness and perfection. He fulfilled the word of Isaiah 53, "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 openeth not His mouth." In all this He was an example
for us, for we are called to His path, and to follow His steps. The
consideration of Christ in all the glory of His perfection cannot fail
to have its effect on us, conforming our thoughts and ways to His. If
called upon to suffer we, too, shall commit ourselves to Him that
judges righteously, instead of attempting to avenge ourselves.
Yet even so, we are not as He was, for we have sins and He had none.
We needed, therefore, the atoning sacrifice of which verse 24 speaks.
He who did no sin "bare our sins in His own body on the tree." This is
something altogether beyond us. We cannot follow in His steps here.
Every part of this wonderful verse deserves our most careful attention.
His own self became the Sin-bearer, and no other. He
bare our sins. Isaiah
53 had said He should bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, but it
also predicted that He should be "wounded for our transgressions" and
"bruised for our iniquities," and be striker for "the transgression of
My people," and His soul be made "an offering for sin." These sins were
ours, for the verse definitely speaks of the work of Christ,
not in its Godward aspect as propitiating Him, but in its believer-ward
aspect as bearing his sins-
his sins, and not the sins of everybody.
Moreover, He bore our sins
in His own body. He was
definitely our Substitute. We had sinned in our bodies, and having
become a true Man, apart from sin, He bore our sins in His holy body as
a sacrifice for sin. This He accomplished
on the tree, for it
was exclusively in His death that atonement was effected. He did not
bear our sins during His life, but in His death, and we are healed by
His stripes as Isaiah 53 had also declared.
But then He bore our sins and delivered us from the stripes that our
sins deserted, not in order that we should go on in our sins, but
rather that we should henceforward be dead to the old life of worldly
corruption and the sins which it entailed, and now live unto practical
righteousness. Our sins have been atoned for and dismissed as to their
judicial sentence, in order that we should be delivered from the
practice of them and from their power.
This verse may be helpfully compared with the truth set forth in Romans 6. There
sin is in question-sin as a tyrant and a master-here
we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. Here we are to
be dead to sins and live unto righteousness. In both cases the cross of
Christ is that from which all flows, but Romans 6 is the believer
taking up the reckoning of faith in his experience. Here it is the
practical result which follows. The consistent believer becomes as a
dead man to all the sins that formerly pleased him, and he lives now
for the will of God which is practical righteousness. And this because
of the fact that the One who died for him as the Lamb of sacrifice now
lives as the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul. We were indeed "as sheep
going astray"-a last reference to Isaiah 53-but now we have a living
Shepherd to lead us in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.