If the plague of leprosy were healed in the leper, however this might be (for it was beyond man), it was required that he should be pronounced clean by the blood of a bird slain over running water sprinkled on him, and a living bird dipped in it let go into the open field. Thereon he that was to be cleansed had to wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe himself in water. Only so should he be clean. So it is here. The believer knows, feels, and owns his own nature corrupt, withered, and fallen, as grass under the blast of Jehovah, but has a new nature given which is as incorruptible as its divine seed by His word living and abiding for ever. On this he is called to act.
“Putting away therefore all malice and all guile and hypocrisies and envyings and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes long for the guileless intelligent milk that by it ye may grow unto salvation, if indeed ye tasted that the Lord is good” (vers. 1-3).
It is well that the English reader or any other unacquainted with the original should bear in mind the force of the opening word; which means an act done once for all, as the aorist implies, the tense of what may be called factness, not of gradual process. Again, it is not in the active but the middle voice, which in transitive verbs refers back the action to the agent, giving the emphasis variously according to each word. We may compare James 1:21: “Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, accept with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.” They are indeed exhortations of marked agreement, in substance of united practical aim, yet characteristic of each writer, and both of them distinct from the apostle Paul’s way of dealing with the great principle of the case in Christ’s death and our death with Him. They are equally given of God and equally needed by His children.
First, our apostle calls on the saints to have put away (if one may so phrase it) “all malice.” That the word, though sometimes meaning “wickedness” in general, here refers to that special root of evil is evident from the other forms of iniquity with which it is joined. It appropriately begins the list as the opposite of love, the fervent love, which he had been enjoining on them as became brethren. Every kind of malice is unworthy of those bow again, born of God Who is love; for it may hide its spirit of hatred, and assume many a disguise to accomplish its nefarious ends. What a complete contrast with Christ, and how close the resemblance to his enemy the devil, whose occupation is to tempt, and to persecute, as well as to accuse!
Next, “guile” follows with no less moral truth, and “all guile” because of its manifold aim, and the desire with which men shun its discovery. For however much addicted to deceive others, they are inwardly ashamed of a habit so base. “Guile” naturally succeeds “malice” in order to do the man deadly mischief, and withal escape detection. It is the reverse of that transparent truthfulness to which we are called as representing Him Who is the truth, just as Satan is a liar and its father.
This opens the way for “hypocrisies,” the pretences to be what we are not, and not to be what we are. Hypocrisy is opposed to sincerity, and is simply playing a part in that which is mere fable if it be not the most solemn of realities as well as the most precious. How awful to make the truth of God a game of man for a little while!
“Envyings” are the other side and in the next place. For as hypocrisy has its spring in claiming to have the good we lack, envy seeks to deny and defame the real good of others. God be praised that He fails not to work here and there in ways of love, devotedness, patient grace, zeal for the truth, delight in His glory, compassion for the wretched and the unworthy. There is ample scope for detraction among such as manifest no such qualities, and are vexed to find others credited with what is so excellent. Here the believer must beware lest he yield an ear to this evil spirit and get defiled by it.
Lastly, and fittingly therefore, comes the warning against “all evil speakings,” for what a variety of shapes this wears! And how readily it cheats many a one under the plea of care for the Lord’s honour and just censure of what is wrong? As “envyings” utterly misbecome those who are blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, so “all slanders” are a deep offence in His eyes and can but please the great adversary of souls. Let us set our face against both and avoid the very suspicion of either, but in fidelity to God.
Then we hear the positive exhortation: “as new-born babes long for the guileless (or, pure) intelligent milk, that by it ye may grow unto salvation.” No one can doubt that it is the milk of the word that nourishes the believer. It was the word of God whereby he was born again; it is the same word whereby he is fed. There is no contrast here as in 1 Cor. 3 and in Heb. 5 between milk for the immature and solid food for the adult, blame being put on those who did not profit by the word, rising from elements to higher truths. Here the Spirit of God dwells on the suitability of the food provided for the babe when born; and all are encouraged to desire earnestly the pure nourishment which God supplies so liberally. It is milk for the saint’s intelligence; as a mother’s breast yields nourishment to her babe physically, so God’s word is food to our spiritual understanding.
The general sense is quite plain. The only question is how to represent best the language of the apostle. That which in the A. V. is translated “of the word” occurs only in one other passage of the N.T., Rom. 12:1; and there it is rendered “reasonable,” as it is frequently employed by ordinary writers of the Greek tongue. “Intelligent” seems well to express its force in both texts, a better word than “rational.” Why Beza who held this as to the text in the Epistle to the Romans changed it to “sermonis” (of the word) here does not appear, as he regarded them both as alike in sense. The Peschito Syriac has here “of the word”; the Harclean Syr. “rational,” as both give “rational” in Rom. 12:1. But it is hard to understand on what principle it can bear both meanings together.12
This we may leave, as it is merely the delicate point of a rendering, where the substantial truth remains untouched. The call is of all moment. God puts the highest honour on His word, not only for its quickening power in the hand of His Spirit, but for the constant refreshment and strengthening of the new nature that He imparts.
To put baptism in place of the one, or the Lord’s Supper in place of the other, is a daring departure from what is here clearly revealed. The aim of those precious institutions is, one for initiatory confession, the other for the constant communion of the saints. But to turn baptism into the means of being born of God is to falsify the truth, to contradict scripture, and to efface the nature of Christianity. “Ye are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you,” says the Lord in John 15:3. “In Christ Jesus I begot you through the gospel,” says the apostle in 1 Cor. 4:15 — the same Epistle in which he thanks God that he baptised none of them save a few individuals! So James tells us (James 1:12) that the Father “of his own will begot us by the word of truth, that we should be a certain first-fruits of his creatures.” We have no earthly mother, more than the Lord had an earthly father save legally.
The sacramental system sins against the Trinity in usurping the divine prerogative. Nor does our apostle differ from the rest (1 Peter 3:20). Baptism signifies not life-giving but Christ’s death unto which we were baptised; and His death as not only salvation to those that believe, but the privilege of being identified with His death. Thus died we to sin and no longer live in it. Nor is it by the Eucharist, blessed as it is, that the new life is sustained but in Him Who died for us to Whom the Eucharist points. It is of Him coming down from heaven, the Incarnate Word, of Him dying and giving life to the world, and ascending where He was before, that John 6 speaks, in no way of His Supper. Peter does not go beyond salvation’s sign in baptism.
The teaching here is that as through the word of God, not baptism, we have been born again, so by it, not the Lord’s Supper, we “grow unto salvation.” To be born again on the one hand is as strictly individual as growth is. Each has to do with God directly in believing and profiting by His word, whoever or whatever may be the channel. Without faith neither can be; and the essence is that one receives the testimony immediately on God’s own word for one’s own soul. Hence “he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself”; whereas “he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the witness which God hath witnessed concerning His Son” (1 John 5:10). On the other hand in the Lord’s Supper it is a question of communion when individual want has been settled between the soul and God; and we are there together to enjoy His grace and presence. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not communion of the body of Christ? Because we, the many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor. 10:16, 17).
But a strange omission has prevailed since the Complutensian Edition and that of Erasmus, followed by Beza, Stephens, the Elzevirs, and Mill, to say nothing of others. Colinaeus (1534) is the only one of the early editors who adheres to the great body of the oldest and best MSS., versions, and Patristic quotations, and reads (
εἰς σωτηρίαν). It may have been dropped either as a supposed scholiastic addition or by those jealous of trenching on sovereign grace toward sinners. But here it is a question of saints growing in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ according to the terms of the Second Epistle (2 Peter 3:18). Certain it is that any difficulty, in receiving the words so fully attested, is solely due to ignorance of our apostle’s doctrine. For though he does speak of “salvation of souls” (1 Peter 1:9) as a present privilege, and symbolised in baptism (1 Peter 3:21), he still more frequently regards salvation as a complete whole for body as well as soul, and therefore to be revealed in the last time, even in the revelation of our Lord for whom we wait. Compare 1 Peter 1:5, 7, 13, 1 Peter 4:13.
Verse 3 furnishes a weighty proviso: “if indeed ye tasted that the Lord is good.” It is a reference evidently to Ps. 34 (33) 8 where there is a most touching call from the inspired writer that others might share his joy in Jehovah. “O taste and see that Jehovah is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Here it is to the Christian so much the sweeter, in that the apostle identifies the Lord Jesus with Jehovah, as it is the truth. To have proved it for and in our inmost soul is the condition of growth in the word; but it is a condition that is assuredly verified in all who believe on Him. Yes, they can and do say in their hearts, that the Lord is good. They have tasted it in the word all through.
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ begot us again unto a living hope according to His abundant mercy, through (not the incarnation, but) resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It was not, as the Jews expected, unto an inheritance of earthly glory, ease, and power superior to all disasters and adversaries, the kingdom as it is to be, but unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for those who are guarded by God’s power for salvation ready to be revealed. All intrinsically has been accomplished, at a last fit time, wherein they exult, for a little at present (if there is need) put to grief by varied trials to the proving of their faith. After mention of redemption by the Lamb’s blood and its practical end, the apostle refers to our being born again of incorruptible seed through God’s living and abiding word, and that new nature nourished on the guileless or pure milk of the word unto salvation. All is in contrast with the law at Sinai lightening against disobedience and transgression, but powerless to give either life or righteousness, the indispensable wants of sinful man. But grace has already supplied both abundantly in Christ, and hence, to the faith that receives Him for whom we wait, for salvation to the full, having tasted already how good He is, and so anticipated Psalms and Prophets that proclaim it for a future day.
Now we enter on privileges already conferred, represented by figures singularly interesting to the Jewish mind and its associations of honour and reverence. For, speaking of the Lord, the apostle says “Unto whom approaching, a living stone, by men indeed rejected but with God chosen, precious,13 yourselves also as living stones are being builded up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (vers. 4, 5).
However sure and enduring may be the counsels of grace, God allows no reasoning to weaken the need and the value and the duty of constant dependence on the Lord. So He Himself said, “Verily, verily, I say to you, Unless ye ate the flesh and drank the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in yourselves.” It is truly an act by faith once for all; but where real, a continual participation follows. Hence He adds, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath life eternal, and I will raise him up at the last day; for my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him.” It is not life eternal only, but communion as a constant thing: so the Christian abides in Christ and Christ abides in him. To pretend that once to have eaten and drank supersedes always eating and drinking proves its unreality, its selfishness also, and its contrariety to God.
So here it is said, “Unto whom approaching”: from the time of approach it is real and full of blessing. Assuredly a soul is not left free and assured, if one go back and walk no more with Him, as some of His disciples did, of whom John 6 tells us. Christ is the centre and touchstone and foundation of Christianity. Those who left Him were fruitless branches of the Vine. The apostle hoped better things and akin to salvation of those who abode (Heb. 6:9). The converse is written later that “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have abode with us, but that they might be made manifest that none are of us” (1 John 2:19).
Christ is then called “a living stone, rejected indeed by men but with God chosen, precious.” “Living” is a word near to Peter’s heart, since so he was enabled to confess Christ, “the Son of the living God,” and heard himself for it pronounced “blessed” by his Master. “The Christ” or Messiah was indeed truly given of God; but this truth does not raise above the earth over which He will reign from Zion His centre in Israel. When the Jews were denying Jesus, as they still do, to confess Him as the Messiah was to be born of God. But the Son of God, as revealed in the Gospel of John, is often far more; and “the Son of the living God” gives strong emphasis to our Lord as the conqueror of him that has the power of death. Hence the person of the Lord thus revealed is the rock on which He would build His church, now that the Jews, not the fickle crowd only but the chief priests and elders and scribes, were rejecting Him, and would consign Him even to the death of the cross.
The new building of God was to rise when the chosen nation publicly and finally, as far as their responsibility went, forfeited all for the time; a heavenly work and witness displaced the former earthly one. And the new one, here peculiarly called “My church,” He declares superior to “the gates of Hades,” which is more than death. As resurrection was to mark Him out Son of God in power, to begin the new as First-born, not of all creation only but from out of the dead, so was that which Christ builds beyond Satan’s power to destroy. Thus is its distinctness made plain and certain from that which man builds, which was to be corrupted and the object of divine judgment more irreparably than Israel, as shown through the N.T. from Matt. 13, 2 Thess. 2, 2 Peter and Jude to Rev. 17. For it is revealed that the apostasy shall come before the day of the Lord; and there is no restoration for Christendom, as there will be for Israel thenceforth and for ever.
Meanwhile if Israel do not yet own Him as their Shepherd and their Stone, this He is, and a Living Stone as the apostle of the circumcision here designates Him to those who come unto Him. Shall the unbelief of the mass of Jews make of none effect the faith of God? Far be it: the remnant who believe are all the more blessed. He, a living Stone, imparts His own virtue to those who come. Did men, did the builders in Jerusalem, vent their contemptuous rejection of Him Who came into the world, not to reign, but to bear witness to the truth, to bring God into it and to put sin out of it, and thus met hatred as none ever had, and on the cross wrought atonement? What was He ever, and then especially, with God? Was He not His choice One? His servant, whom He upholds, though forsaken even by God as none ever was, yet so He must be if made sin for us. Yes, He is Jehovah’s chosen, in whom His soul delights; and as He put His Spirit upon Him, so Jesus shall bring forth judgment to the nations; He shall not cry, nor lift up His voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench; He shall bring forth judgment in truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for His law (Isaiah 52). Here however it is by the way; for the Spirit of God is occupied with a very different servant, deaf and blind, ensnared by the idols of the heathen with all the ruinous consequences, instead of being true witnesses, like Him of His choice, Who becomes from Isa. 49 the great topic for His rejection with its blessed results; that in the end Israel may really become His servants to the joy and blessing of all the earth.
But the apostle writes in the gap of Christ’s rejection, before the day of blessing and glory dawns on Israel, the land, and all the nations; and he shows us Christ, dead, risen, and ascended, the object of God’s delight, and the hinge of all that is good for the believer now. He is a living Stone, rejected indeed by men, but with God chosen, prized. So he preached at Pentecost: Him given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye through hand of lawless men did crucify and slay, Whom God raised up. . . Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God made Him, this Jesus Whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ. And as Peter received a new name from the Rock which Christ alone was, so the saints who believe acquire a new nature from what He is, as he here tells us; “yourselves also as living stones are being builded up a spiritual house.”
In nature no object lies more obviously void of life than a stone. But this only makes the power of grace the more impressive. Even John the Baptist could tell the haughty Pharisees and Sadducees, who pleaded their descent from Abraham, that God was able of the stones to raise up children to Abraham. Here the apostle predicates of the believing remnant that they themselves as living stones were being builded up for God’s use and to His praise. But it was all through the One, even our Lord Jesus. He does not develop the unity of the Spirit like the apostle of the uncircumcision; but he not obscurely hints at the association of the saints. They are being formed into a spiritual house.
It was no longer a question of the mountain consecrated by Samaritan pride, nor yet of Jerusalem and the house where the Jews said one must worship if one worshipped at all. That hour in principle passed away with the cross of Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews demonstrated at a later day. The only temple God owns is the church as a whole, unless it be individually the temple of a Christian’s body; for the Holy Ghost by His indwelling so constitutes both (1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:19). Here the language is less full and precise. The general import sufficed for the purpose in hand. They composed, as being living stones, a spiritual house. Assuredly such and so near a relationship to God was a high honour put upon them even now when passing through the world; and we shall find that it entails corresponding duties on all so invested.
This he follows up by another title of honour and living nearness to God, “a holy priesthood.” Nor does the Holy Spirit now recognise any other priesthood as accredited by God. The entire Jewish religious system came to its end with Christ’s death: temple, sacrifice, rite, and priesthood. Heathenism was an imposture, Satan’s evil imitation or delusive substitute. Christ is not entered into holy places made with hand, answering to the true, but into heaven itself now to appear before the face of God for us. As He according to scripture is the sole and great High Priest, become higher than the heavens and seated on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, the sole priestly house (the same scripture acknowledges) consists of all the saints of God. They are alike washed, sanctified, justified. They had and have also access by faith into the favour of God “in which we stand.” In Christ Jesus they were become nigh by the blood of Christ. Whatever the distance between Jew and Gentile, and between God and both, we out of them both who believe have through Christ the access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Though nearness to God is the most precious and essential mark of a priest, the proof is not merely the principle furnished in the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Ephesians just referred to. In our text the apostle Peter explicitly characterises the Christians only as the “holy priesthood” which the N.T. owns. The apostle John speaks to the same effect in Rev. 1:6; and the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the fullest treatment of the necessity arising out of the priesthood changed in Christ, from first to last treats Christian brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, as the true and present analogue to the family of Aaron. Early in it we read that Christ is Son over God’s house; Whose house are we (Heb. 3:6). Later (Heb. 10:19) we read again, “Having therefore, brethren boldness to enter into the holy [places] by the blood of Jesus, a new and living way which he dedicated for us through the veil, that is his flesh, and [having] a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience and having our body washed with pure water.”
Here the privilege attributed to all saints is greater than any son of Aaron ever enjoyed, or even Aaron himself; for it applies to all times, and with a boldness he never knew. Faith is entitled thus to approach where Christ is now through the rent veil in virtue of His blood and the Spirit who makes its efficacy good to our conscience and heart, as our settled status. Hence as we read in our text “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” the functions are open to us and binding on us, far beyond using oxen, sheep, goats, cakes, or incense. And this we find confirmed in Heb. 13:15: Through Him therefore let us offer up sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, fruit of lips confessing to His name. The proof of our priestly place is remarkably complete. Hence it follows that the caste of a priesthood now on earth on behalf of the Christian saints, and separate from them, is an imposture not only unsupported by scripture, but wholly opposed to its plain and ample testimony. Nay more, it is subversive of the being and nature of the church, and incompatible even with the fundamental character of the gospel, and of christian standing.
The holy building, of which the apostle had just spoken, consists of living stones which derived so striking a peculiarity from the Living Stone. This, familiar in general to those who knew the Bible, he proceeds to base on a prophecy repeatedly cited in the N.T.
“Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a corner-stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him (or, it) shall in no way be shamed. To you therefore that believe [is] the preciousness; but to disobedient [ones] a stone which the builders rejected, this became head of corner, and stone of stumbling, and rock of offence; stumbling as they do at the word, being disobedient, unto which also they were appointed” (vers. 6-8).
Isaiah 28 turns from “the drunkards of Ephraim” and their judgment to the still more terrible stroke which must fall on the guilty “scornful” rulers in Jerusalem. For these, to escape the overflowing scourge of the king of the north, or the Assyrian, will have made a covenant with Death and with Sheol are at agreement. But lies shall prove no refuge, nor falsehood hide them. For Jehovah who is to rise up, after the fashion of the overwhelming victories He gave David of old, will do His strange work, only on an unexampled scale — a consummation and that determined upon the whole earth. Thus the wilful king within and his covenant shall come to nought with the apostates of the people; and no less the king of the north without and the multitude of the besieging foes, as Isa. 29 adds. But in the face of this unparalleled tribulation, of which all that has befallen the people is but an earnest, the prophet declares from the Lord Jehovah, that He lays in Zion for a foundation a Stone, a tried Stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. For that day will prove the downfall, final and irretrievable, of all the powers of the world, west or east, as well as of the unbelieving mass of the Jews, when the godly remnant that trust in Immanuel are for ever vindicated. Then shall He Whose name is Branch grow up from His own place, and He shall build the temple of Jehovah; even He shall build the temple of Jehovah; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne, which no Son of David ever was save in a small typical degree, but He who is also the Root of David.
Here it is not the temple of glory as by-and-by, but a spiritual house, and a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices during the day of Christ’s rejection by Israel. But do the believing Jews forfeit all because the mass reject Him? Far from it. They enter into the enjoyment of the promises, as far as these were compatible with the present ways of God; and if there be not the reception of all, God has provided some “better thing” for or respecting us, as another points out (Heb. 11:39-40). They have in measure the blessedness of believing without having seen, when the prophecy is, not merely applied, but fulfilled to the letter. The trust in Christ which refused idolatry, antichrist, and the seemingly overwhelming power of the world, will surely be blessed, though objects of mere mercy at the end, if they have not the power of faith breaking through every obstacle in peace as ought to be now through the word.
It is interesting to note that the apostle Paul, in Rom. 9:30-33, seizes this portion with the aim of explaining how Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, failed; while Gentiles, that did not pursue it, yet attained it. The latter believed, and thus gave glory to God; the former clung to works, though far from what the law demanded, and thus betrayed their own vain self-righteousness, as they also stumbled at the stumbling-stone, despising their own Messiah. For the law is not of faith, whereas the blessing is, and thus open to the Gentile that believes, not to the Jew that disbelieves.
Moreover the introduction of Zion is seen to have a notable meaning. For, as thus figuratively used, it expresses the mountain of God’s grace in contrast with Sinai, the mountain of the people’s responsibility under law, where all was failure, not because the law was not good, but because man is bad and so ruined that he cannot do without a Saviour. Zion appears after the utter breakdown of the kingdom under Saul, man’s choice; for it was only wrested from the Jebusites to be the city of David, God’s choice. But a greater than David is here, the Christ, Whom Jehovah lays as a cornerstone, elect, precious, beyond all comparison. Ho that believes on Him shall in no wise be put to shame; as all must be who trust in an arm of flesh, most of all those of Israel who despised Him to whom law and prophets ever pointed. For the world-kingdom Jehovah has anointed His King upon Zion, the hill of His holiness; and Christ, not now but in that day, will ask and have the nations for His inheritance, and the ends of the earth for His possession, breaking all that oppose with iron sceptre, as the vessels of a potter are dashed in pieces. “For Jehovah hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His dwelling: this is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” The key to all this, is that Zion will be the earthly seat of His anointed, His beloved Son.
But Zion and the earth vanish for the present as the centre and the sphere of the divine dealings. For the rejected Christ is in heaven at God’s right hand, angels and authorities and powers being subjected to him; and as He suffered for us in flesh, the Jews that believe are called to arm themselves with the same mind, no less than the Gentile saints and not to count as strange the fire-kindling among them that comes to them for trial, but, as we share in Christ’s sufferings, to rejoice that at the revelation of His glory also we may rejoice exultingly. Such is the genuine Christian lot for the present, put to grief by varied trials that the proof of our faith, more precious than gold that perishes though proved by fire, be found unto praise and glory and honour in that day.
Assuredly the precious value of Christ will be manifest then. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they understand. And nations shall come to Zion’s light and King, to the brightness of its rising. Yet how infinite the mercy now, that the chosen people’s ruin (not only under law but worse still in rejecting the Messiah and the gospel too) did not hinder the believing remnant from anticipating the blessing in its Christian form and fulness! All turns on Christ dead and risen and on high. “To you therefore that believe is the preciousness.” His rejection was the occasion of making good to God’s glory all that was promised, and a vast deal more which it was given to the apostle Paul to communicate. But even here how rich is the grace that is unfolded! If they could not but sorrow over their unbelieving brethren after the flesh, in what had grace come short to him that believed?
Now they understood the import of many a scripture hitherto obscure through unreadiness to think that the rulers and the people of the Jews could be so hard and dark and rebellious against Jehovah. Not only did they overlook the solemn warnings of His word in their hands or hearing, but they fulfilled the voices of the prophets by condemning His righteous servant, marked out by those divine oracles, and by wonders of divine power and goodness, only surpassed by His personal glory and by moral excellence on every side without a parallel.
Take a sample. Isa. 53 was no enigma to them any longer; on the contrary it afforded the most luminous explanation of what had come before them in facts as certain as important. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor lordliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their face; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our sicknesses and carried our sorrows: yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.”
Now the Jews are profoundly unbelieving, not only as all natural men but judicially blinded, because it was in the face of the fullest evidence and of long-suffering withal to the uttermost. But their self-judgment will come at length in the day of Messiah’s power and their national deliverance. Then shall they see and confess it all, as other scriptures attest; and they will understand that Jehovah wrought atonement for all their sins by what was their destructive and inexcusable sin. Into this work, already in itself accomplished, the believing remnant enters now in all its value, like ourselves from among the Gentiles. But as yet the mass are insensible. “To you therefore that believe is the preciousness, but to disobedient a stone which the builders rejected, this became head of corner, and stone of stumbling, and rock of offence.” How evident the solution of the riddle! and how could it be otherwise if Jesus be the Christ and Son of God? Ps. 118:22 and Isa. 8:14 are as clearly fulfilled as the fuller prediction. While we have to wait for the earthly triumph when Israel shall own it all, Jesus is made head of the corner in heaven, and those who now believe, Jews or Gentiles, enjoy the blessing by faith. This too has even now more excellence for the heart than the visible glory when it appears as it surely will, to say nothing of the heavenly glory which will also be displayed above the world in that day.
The present state of the Jews exactly answers to the dark background of the picture. And the words which follow are as solemn morally as they are sure in fact: “stumbling as they do at the word, being disobedient, unto which also they were appointed.” There is neither here nor anywhere else the dogmatic reprobation of the Calvinistic school; which has no more to justify it from scripture than the opposite error of the power for good of the Pelagians. All the evil is man’s; as the good is exclusively of God’s grace. He never made man to be a sinner, nor does He take pleasure in a sinner’s death, still less in his everlasting destruction. But He is supreme; and, bold as man may be in wilful disobedience, God’s will stands. He presents His grace and truth in Christ; and men stumble at the word which reveals Him. To this they were appointed, not to be disobedient, but, being so, to stumble in this way, which God had in His wisdom appointed as their trial. They refuse and contemn the word; which others, by grace self-judging and believing Him, receive to their salvation, peace, and joy. Compare Jude 4.
Nor is it only that Christians now are a spiritual house, a holy priesthood; and this not as a mere title, but they offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. They stand in the fullest contrast with such as stumble at the word, the disobedient. The roll of blessed privilege is unfolded here thus far.
“But ye [emphatically, are] a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set out the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness unto his marvellous light; who once [were] no people but now God’s people, the unpitied, but now pitied” (vers. 9, 10).
It is true that as “a holy priesthood,” the exercise of the heart by faith is toward the God who brought us to Himself by His grace in Christ, and could righteously bring us thus near by His blood. We hence approach within, and offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. What the sons of Aaron did in the sanctuary after a material sort, which derived all its value from being a shadow of Christ and His acceptance to God as a perfect and constant odour of rest, the saints are now exhorted to do. As the Epistle to the Hebrews expresses it, “By Him therefore let us offer sacrifice of praise continually to God, that is, fruit of lips confessing to His name.” Can any privilege be higher or more intimate than to be in His presence, walking in the light as He is, delivered from the egotism which breaks out into the variance of separate will, and cleansed by the blood which effaces every sin? to adore the Father, the only true God? to pour forth our thanksgivings for all the grace that has reached even to us? to praise Him, in spirit with all saints, for all that He is and has done, and given us to receive and know?
Christ is the ground and substance of it all, and hence without cloud or change, and the Holy Spirit given, that a divine power and character might be in vessels though still earthly. This is a wondrous assimilation to the everlasting worship which shall be in heaven and throughout eternity; but we own it now and are invited to it now, not as a title merely but as a joyful occupation, especially as gathered to His name. It will be perfectly without alloy in the day of glory to which we look on; but it does become us to abound in it here, seeing that the light and the love and the known accomplishment of that work which secures the blessedness of all to God’s glory are already ours, and Christ is revealed to us in that glory as the fullest witness and pledge that it is ours.
Never should we confound worship with the ministry of the word. Precious as this is, it is but the means of conveying to us the truth, which received by the Spirit fits us for the praise and adoration of our God. It is rather the service of the Levite than the approach and the offering of the priest. But no communication of blessing from God to our faith, however essential as the basis, has the same nature, character, and effect as worship; for this is the return of the heart, when made free of His presence and strengthened by His Spirit, to present our thanksgivings and praises in the communion of all saints, acceptable to God through the Saviour.
Yet it is not all. The believers are also viewed on another side. They, and they only, are “a chosen race,” at the very time when the elect nation had proved itself more than ever guilty to its own ruin. Now to a remnant of the Jews is this word primarily addressed; not as if it were not true of all who believe, but that those might be comforted who were saved from that perverse generation, over which a fresh judgment was suspended, about to scatter them once more, and more than ever. If Israel’s place was for the time forfeited, the believing remnant get the blessing and are pronounced “a chosen race.” The distinction in Christianity acquired a higher character and more personal.
Nest, they were “a royal priesthood” (which the Aaronic was not), but rather after the pattern of Melchizedek in its display of the blessing. In the day that is coming He will exercise that priesthood, sitting as Priest upon His throne, instead of bearing us up as He now does within the veil. Meanwhile those who are His are even now said to be a royal priesthood to manifest His praises before the day of His power. It is not of course preaching the gospel to the lost that they might be saved, but telling out His virtues or excellencies, as our testimony to Him who alone is worthy and exalted of God in the highest.
Then again they are “a holy nation,” when the nation, who ought to have been so, stood with the stamp on it of evil to the uttermost, not of idolatry alone but of disdaining the Holy One of God, the Messiah. Had they not cried in their blind and mad hatred, His blood be on us and on our children? The remnant, on the contrary, who owned Him and were washed from their sins in His blood, were now “a holy nation” accepted in His name.
Finally they were “a people for a possession.” If God was morally bound to discard at length the people who were always resisting the Holy Spirit, as their fathers had done, those of them who believed on Christ became “a people for a possession.” They were the more dear, because their faith broke through the manifold hindrances by which unbelief, pride, and judicial darkness encompassed the Jewish nation. Few as they were, compared with the mass hurrying on to destruction, they were “a people for a possession” to God, that they “might tell out the excellencies of him that called them out of darkness unto his marvellous light.”
Such is the Christian position here below. By-and-by Israel shall have the place in power and glory before all the nations, where the blind people see and the deaf people hear in the rejected Messiah the Lord Jehovah, the only Saviour. Then will it be plain that “this people have I found for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” And men shall know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides Him, who is Jehovah, and none else; and the heavens from above and the skies shall pour down righteousness, and the earth shall open and bring forth salvation, and righteousness shall spring up together. But even now, while the rejected Christ sits on the Father’s throne, and the Spirit is sent forth to glorify Him after a spiritual sort in a world of darkness and rebellion against God, those who confess Christ are to tell out His excellencies. And well they may: seeing that He called them out of darkness unto His marvellous light. If these should hold their peace, as He said, the stones would immediately cry out. They were once as dark as any. So were all who now believe, darkness itself as the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, but now light in the Lord. And truly the light is wonderful unto which He called us, Himself the genuine light which never deceives nor grows dim. Though it has not yet arisen to shine on Zion, as it will surely come, it has shone in our hearts who believe, the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now it is only from heaven and for heaven, as we wait for Him. But He will return and appear in manifest and indisputable light for Zion and repentant Israel; and the earth, which darkness still covers, shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah and of His glory as the waters cover the sea.
Meanwhile those He called out of the Jews are consoled by the assurance that in Christ all that can be theirs, consistently with walking now by faith and not by sight, is their assured portion. The failure of the ground (their own obedience), taken in Ex. 19:5, 6, Ex. 24:3-7, does not compromise those who believe. Christ suffering for their disobedience established what could not fall. Their faith rests on Him, not on themselves; whosoever believeth on Him shall not be confounded; and they did believe on Him who secures all for the weakest that is His. Hence they anticipate Hosea 2:23 before it can be verified to Israel, as ver. 10 clearly proves. They are warranted to appropriate now the prophet’s words. It is due to Christ whom God delights to honour. But it is full of interest and instruction to apprehend that Paul, writing to both Jews and Gentiles that believed, quotes Hosea 1:10 no less than 2:23; whereas Peter, writing to the believing Jews of the dispersion, does not go beyond the latter. Each inspired writer was perfectly guided of God for the divine aim in view. This Wiesinger totally failed to discern, and Alford, who endorses his error, confuses the two truths, and thus destroys a distinction of all moment for spiritual intelligence. The once “no people” were now God’s people; the unpitied as to their settled state, which the perfect implies, were now pitied. How truly great His mercy now! And it is good and wholesome for the soul to feel habitually that it needs nothing less in the day of temptation in the wilderness. So the apostle Paul reminds the believing Hebrews in the close of 1 Peter 4. Indeed it is what the priesthood of Jesus constantly implies. All saints should cherish His sympathy and God’s mercy throughout our earthly path.
The exhortation at the beginning of the chapter is founded on being born again of incorruptible seed through God’s living and abiding word. Therefore were they, and all other Christians of course, to lay aside all malice and all guile and their accompaniments or effects, and to desire earnestly the pure milk of the word, that thereby they might grow to the salvation of glory ready to be revealed. Here it is another exhortation no less general and necessary, based on those high privileges of priesthood, holy and kingly, which distinguish the Christian already, though to be displayed in glory by-and-by, as declared in Rev. 1, 4, 5, 20. What Israel lost in rejecting the Christ was theirs, only in a more eminent degree and with even a far higher sphere in God’s sovereign grace. This leads the apostle to press corresponding probity.
“Beloved, I exhort [you]14 as strangers and sojourners to abstain* from the fleshly lusts such as15 war against the soul, having your behaviour comely among the Gentiles; that in what they speak against you as evil-doers, they, as observing,16 may from your comely works glorify God in [the] day of visitation” (vers. 11,12).
For the first time the apostle addresses these saints as “beloved,” for there is no ground for adding “clearly” though it be common enough with the A.V. It should be here, as the word is rendered in 1 Peter 4:12; and in the Second Epistle, 2 Peter 1:17, 2 Peter 3:1, 8, 14, 15, 17. The endearing term is as appropriate to this entreaty against carnal desires, as farther on against quailing under fiery trial. On either side danger lay; and the respective exhortations came from his heart to theirs.
But he appeals to them also as “strangers (or, pilgrims) and sojourners,” not in the more literal sense of 1 Peter 1:1, but in the deeper and more spiritual view of 1 Peter 1:17. If grace called them to heaven, what had they to do with the objects and pursuits and interests of the earth? They were waiting for the revelation of the Lord Jesus in glory, called to be holy in all manner of behaviour, as is He who called them, and while free to invoke Him as Father who judges impartially according to the work of each, bound to pass their time of pilgrimage in fear, yet in a fear not of distrust but of confidence; for it is based on the conscious knowledge of divine grace in their redemption at infinite cost and worth. Here he had been telling them of their invaluable nearness and dignity before God when Israel for the present had manifestly lost all. It was their blessing as Christians, not their calamity as Jews, which called them to walk through the wilderness world as pilgrims and sojourners. These too give the greater force to their present estate of strangers, that they abstain from fleshly desires such as war against the soul. Even what is lawful must be used with measure in God’s sight.
How striking is the different way in which grace uses spiritual privilege as here, and the sanctioned principle, as well as ambition, of the world-church! Babylon is now clothed in purple and scarlet, bedecked with gold and precious stones and pearls, with a gold cup in her hand full of abominations and the unclean things of her fornication, mystery written on her forehead, and withal drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. Present exaltation on earth, universal power and visible glory, the grossest idolatry, the most wanton and corrupt betrayal of holy separateness to Christ, and the murderous hatred of God’s saints and of the witnesses of Jesus: such are her horrible, indelible, and unmistakable features to all taught of God.
What a contrast was even the first hankering after outward honour and authority with our Lord’s warning to the twelve! “Ye know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not thus shall it be among you; but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever would become first among you shall be your bondman; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25-28). From the beginning of His ministry our Lord had laid down for such as heard Him that they are to love their enemies, to do good to those that hate them, to bless those that curse them, to pray for those that despitefully use them. So teaches Peter in this very Epistle, and so he lived: blessed, if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, and if we share in Christ’s suffering, we rejoice now, that in the revelation of His glory also we may rejoice with exultation. The Catholic system, long before the world-dominion of Popery prevailed, was but the mystery of lawlessness developed; flesh rampant in and after the world to Satan’s delight, as far from Christ known by the Holy Spirit as a theatre or circus is from heaven. But greater abominations than these were to come, till the signal and final judgment which slumbers not, when strong is the Lord God who will then surely judge Babylon for ever.
According to the mind of Christ the high privileges of faith were but to strengthen the believer’s delight in God and vigilance as “strangers and sojourners” in holding aloof from the fleshly lusts such as war against the soul. It is not now the unamiable and bitter feelings of fallen man, as in ver. 1, but the self-indulgent and licentious. How often through lack of prayer and watchfulness fleshly lusts spring from sincere esteem and pure affection unawares gliding into carnality; as the Galatians’ fall from grace was from going on to perfect in flesh what they had begun in Spirit! How readily little fond familiarities follow by degrees, in the intimacy of Christian love ripening into unhallowed freedom, if not the worst evil. So might lust take other direction and form, as covetousness or any other indulgence alien from Christ. These fleshly desires, many of which men praise as doing well to self, war against the soul and are an abomination in God’s sight. How contrary to the new and eternal life we have in Christ, and inconsistent with God’s wonderful light in which we walk! How mischievous and debasing to the Christian! They grieve the Holy Spirit, dishonour Christ, and fight against the soul.
Hence the call is to have their behaviour comely (
καλὴν) among the Gentiles. For there were these Christian Jews interspersed. Though the spring of conduct is the faith that looks to and calls on the Father, it is also an obligation to win the unbelieving and unfriendly by practical consistency with Christ, without affording occasion to those that seek it. For men of the world suspect the motives and the ways of the faithful, yet have a strong if not intelligent sense of their responsibilities, and are ever on the watch for their halting and failure. Therefore is the apostle earnest in urging “that in what they speak against you as evil-doers, they, as observing, may from your comely works glorify God in the day of visitation.”
It was an early and common reproach among the Gentiles that Christians must be atheists, because they turned from idols; and no image of gold, silver, stone, or wood, nor picture of man’s device, met the eye of man in their assemblies. The Jews well knew that this was just because a living and true God had won them from such vanities to serve Him. But bitterly jealous were they themselves that Christians did not become proselytes of the law, instead of believing in His risen Son, Jesus the Deliverer, and waiting for His coming again from the heavens; and still more furious were they, that any of the stock of Abraham should have the same faith and hope as the uncircumcised.
Among Greeks and Romans again the service of the state was a cherished object: and he who did not take his share of its burdens or value its ambitions had no end of contempt. To have here no abiding city but to seek the coming one, to declare that the Christian commonwealth is in the heavens from which also we await the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, seemed to both Jew and Greek rank folly and odious in itself.
Love too, as the bond of perfectness, laid them open to the shameless suspicion of ill-wishers, who put an evil construction on the new brotherhood which astonished the world, embracing women emancipated by the faith of Christ from being the mere drudges and playthings of the other sex, and now in a near and common relationship where Jew or Greek cannot be, bond or free, male and female; “for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is easy to understand what men think and say of what is only known to and by faith, opening the door, as they in their ignorance of grace and truth judge it must, to indiscriminate licence and uncleanness. But the apostle exhorts that, from observing the comely works of those addressed, even such as spoke against them as evil-doers might rise above their prejudices and glorify God in the day of visitation.
The apostle put no commendation of themselves before them. Christ bade them beware of such praises as dangerous. But He did more to the like effect as here in Matt. 5:16: Let your light (i.e. in confessing Christ) thus shine before men, so that they may see your comely works and glorify your Father that is in the heavens. Our apostle adds “in the day of visitation;” but hardly in the sense of being visited with the same light and grace which Christians knew, still less of a day when the Gentiles should have a clearer preaching of the gospel than then. It appears rather to look on to a day when God shall judge the secrets of men, when the Lord shall come who will also both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then shall each have the praise from God.
Having begun with self-judgment as to the inner springs in order to a comely behaviour before others, ready as they are to think and speak ill of Christian men, he now turns to various external relations and exhorts us to the conduct that becomes us in them.
“Be subject17 to every human institution for the Lord’s sake; whether to a king as supreme, or to rulers as being sent through him, for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to those that do well. Because so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye put to silence the ignorance of senseless men; as free, and not having liberty as a cloak of malice, but as God’s bondmen. Honour all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king” (vers. 18-17).
The Jews found it a hard task morally, and in particular when entrusted with the then only revelation from God, to live in submission to the powers that be; idolatrous as these were and given up to a reprobate mind. The mass never accepted the Gentile yoke as the divine chastening of their own wickedness and departure from the God Who deigned to make them His people. And as their pride was irritated by the gospel which, on their rejection of the Messiah, God was now sending out to the nations no less than to themselves in His free and indiscriminate grace, their rebellious spirit also was growing till it drew down on them the days of vengeance in war, and desolation, as Dan. 9:26 predicted, as well as the Lord Himself (Matt. 21:38-41, Matt. 22:7, and Luke 21:20-24), in the last clearly distinguishing the Roman siege under Titus from the far more solemn events about to be in the consummation of the age (Luke 21:25-27, as still more fully given in Matt. 24:15-31, and Mark 13:14-27).
It was therefore of moment to exhort the Christian confessors from among the dispersed Jews to whom the apostle writes, that they should in their humble loyalty please God and be gracious, instead of contrary, to all men. Notwithstanding that Israel was a wreck, and Judah so more than ever in God’s sight because of adding the Lord’s ignominious rejection to their old iniquity, the remnant that believed in Him not only received spiritually what the nation sought after the flesh, but enjoyed new blessings in Christ beyond all that saints possessed of old. Prophets had it even revealed to them, that not to themselves, but to the remnant that believed after Christ’s sufferings and glorification, they were ministering those things which were announced to them through those that evangelised them in virtue of the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven.
In such a case therefore consciousness of such rich and unmerited blessing softens the heart before God, and opens and swells its new affections toward man. For as another apostle wrote, “the arms of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful according to God to overthrow of strongholds, overthrowing reasonings and every high thing that lifteth up itself against the knowledge of God, and leading captive every thought into the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Thus, on the one side as God’s children, and knowing their redemption by Christ’s precious blood, while on the other strangers and sojourners instead of being at home on the earth, it was all the more beseeming, simple, and easy that they should be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake.
The church is a divine institution, not a human one, and every Christian is a living part or member, whatever his place. And God set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers. After that we are told of another and inferior class, powers, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues. Sign-gifts passed away, and such of the great gifts for edification as laid the foundation. But God is faithful, whatever the changes through man’s unfaithfulness; nor can Christ’s love to His body cease in active and effectual care, till we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at a full grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
But here the call is external even to submit to every human institution; for they might assume different shapes, all involving trial to the Christian. But as the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Rome (Rom. 13:1), where these were chiefly Gentiles, and a cruel and unscrupulous and depraved emperor reigned, “Let every soul be subject to the authorities that are above [him]. For there is no authority except from God, and those that be are set up by God.” Here it is not the secret providence that comes before us, but the manifest fact. In both the duty is to subject oneself; and here “for the Lord’s sake” as there for conscience. A republic had its claim no less than royalty. The only relation revealed as to the believer is subjection without one word here or anywhere else in the N.T. for exercising authority in the present evil age. The grace of Christ is the pattern for every Christian; and “for the Lord’s sake” does not import His relation to the human creation, though He is indeed Lord of all, but His appeal to the saints themselves, that they obey Him in submission to the powers of the world.
But the Spirit distinguishes, while He enjoins subjection to all: “whether to king as supreme, or to rulers as being sent through him, for vengeance on evil-doers and praise to those that do well.” “Sent through him” refers to royal authority as superior. Had the reference intended been to God, the phrase (I believe) would have been
ὑπὸ, “by,” and not the intermediate word
διὰ, “through.” All may see the incongruity which the mistake would involve of predicating divine mission, not of the king but only of delegated governors.
The aim of government expressed in the latter part of ver. 14 is quite clear. It is to punish evildoers, and to encourage those that do well. The broad obligation was enjoined on Noah after the deluge. We hear of neither king nor magistrate in the ante-diluvian world. People imagine and reason in an abstract way about Adam’s day; but the case of Cain left unpunished in Jehovah’s hands indicates how matters then lay. “At the hand of man, at the hand of each one’s brother, will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God he hath made man” (Gen. 9:5, 6) first laid the primary basis of human government as it is. Life belonged to God, who thus communicated the principle to Noah. Henceforward man was responsible as God’s servant to execute wrath, and even to blood if blood were shed; for he must not bear the sword in vain. It was the beginning of dispensations, neither the Adamic state being one, nor the new heavens and earth in the absolute sense during the ever-running ages. Nor was it long before Nimrod, the rebel of the Cushite line, availed himself of the dispersion to usurp despotic power of his own will; and the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
With the government of the world those who are Christ’s have nothing directly to do. They are expressly not of the world as He was not (John 17:14, 16), who refused even to arbitrate when one sought His informal intervention; He would be no judge or divider of inheritance (Luke 12:13, 14). “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my officials fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.” He was come into the world to bear witness to the truth; and such is the mission of the Christian. The age to come will behold Him and them reigning over the earth when evil shall be infallibly judged and iniquity hide its head. It is now the time to suffer with Him, looking then to be glorified. Therefore should we meanwhile be the more zealous to submit ourselves to every human creation (as it is literally), and not only to a king as super-eminent but to governors as sent from time to time through him for righteous dealing with evil-doers and for praise of ouch as do well. Our proper interests are on high; but that is our duty for the Lord’s sake.
A weighty reason follows. “Because so is the will of God (and are we not sanctified unto obedience — obedience of Jesus?), that by well-doing ye put to silence (lit. muzzle) the ignorance of senseless men; as free and not having liberty as a cloak of malice, but as God’s bondmen.” How sound, wholesome, unselfish, and godly! The true and comely answer to the spiteful hatred of the world is a godly course of living. For men as such, not some only but all, are senseless if they know not God, and therefore find their malignant pleasure in imputing their own evils to His children. This habitual well-doing is not to give up the liberty wherewith Christ set us free, but as we live by the Spirit, also to walk by it, instead of wearing the liberty as a cloak of malice, which enemies pretended. It is our happiness and cherished duty to carry ourselves as God’s bondmen: such we really are; and we kind it the perfect law of liberty, as it flows from our new nature.
The paragraph ends with a pointed and pregnant conclusion: — “Honour all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king.” The form of the first honouring is not the same as the last expression of the act: done when called for, not the habitual doing it. The Christian should not fail to remember that man was made as none other in the image of God. He alas! when fallen is prone to forget what rebukes his manifold inconsistencies.
Loving the brotherhood is a constant duty; but the love takes a shape according to their state. No Christian is called to love carnality or worldliness; nor yet a schismatic way, nor the heretical or sectarian, but to turn away from the one, and to have no more to do with the other after a first and second admonition, however once perhaps honoured in God’s service. Love would take pains with those guilty of lesser faults, admonishing the unruly, comforting the faint-hearted, sustaining the weak, and patient toward all. It is the very reverse of either self-seeking or indifference, of independency in any shape.
Then how necessary to cultivate habitually the fear of God! There is nothing right where this fails. The holy fear of God shuts out every dishonouring fear of man, and all tormenting fear of God. We know His majesty, His holiness, and His righteous character; and we know also that He loves us beyond a father’s love, with the perfection of the Son’s Father. May we all deepen in our fear of Him!
There remain the words, “honour the king.” This too is continuous. Whatever may be his personal character, he represents God in the things of earth. The Christian, if true to his calling on high, has nothing to blind his eyes; for he seeks no personal interests, favour, or honour, nor consequently has he to feel the disappointments of such as live for present things. He can therefore in simplicity and godly sincerity honour the king for his office as of God in His providence (for it is ignorance to speak here of His grace), and this a. his habit with supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings, not only for all, but in particular for kings and all that are in high place, that we may live a tranquil and quiet life. Our sufferings, sorrows, and conflicts come because we have Christ our life in the world which led of Satan crucified Him; and because we have to do with men bearing the Lord’s name who seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ. The world’s false glory, the flesh’s selfishness and self-will, and Satan’s antagonism to Christ and the truth must make it a question habitually of overcoming by faith in subjection of heart to God.
The exhortation is next addressed to domestics (
οἰκέται), instead of continuing the unrestricted appeal of verses 11-17. The apostle begins with those, and doss not follow up to their masters as in the Pauline Epistles; and then he writes to the wives and the husbands, without specifying either the children or the fathers. But it may also be noticed that the “domestics” here exhorted are a milder name if not a wider class, not necessarily “bondmen” as in the letters to Ephesus and Colosse. At least they were in contrast with the
οἰκότριφ or born slave. One can understand hired servants of Jewish origin among Jews.
“Household servants, be in subjection with all fear to your masters (
δεσπόταις), not only to the good and gentle, but also to the crooked. For this [is] grace if for conscience toward God one endureth griefs, suffering unjustly. For what glory [is it] if when ye sin and are buffeted ye shall endure? but if when ye do well (
ἀγαθοποι.) and suffer ye shall endure, this [is] grace with God” (vers. 18-20).
One of the hateful and fatal plague-spots of Romanism is the so called church’s interdiction of God’s word, save according to its own will. None but Satan gave such an authority. But Protestantism never rose in this to the truth; for, in opposing Popish arrogance, it fell into the snare of claiming man’s right to the Bible; which easily led on to the wicked principles of the French revolution, socialism, and other like iniquities. The Christian knows it as his real privilege and solemn obligation to assert God’s right to address His word to His children now, as of old to Israel, not forgetting man universally in the Old T. as well as in the New. And this it is which constitutes the apostate guilt of the miscalled Higher Criticism, which is but a euphemism for base infidelity, however many amiable and would-be reverent persons are thereby ensnared in both Nationalism and Dissent as well as Popery. What a contrast with the world is God’s communication first to the domestics whose lot among Greeks and Romans was hard indeed! The slaves at any rate were no more than living tools or possessions; and their numbers were immense, public as well as private.
With these home-menials as a class the apostle begins. As he had exhorted all in view of public authority, here he presses like subjection in the house. The domestics are enjoined to be subject with fear on every side to their lords; they were Christians, and bound to serve many a master where the danger of provocation was extreme. They needed therefore to walk in all awe. For according to Christ their godly subjection was due not only to the good and gentle, but to the crooked or perverse which last naturally abounded.
Where was any so noble a principle, morally speaking, found among men? We see in the O.T. how selfish were the ways of the Jewish chief men toward their own brethren after the flesh. What a conflict, and what humiliation to such as Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the governor! Of heathen heartlessness and cruelty we need not speak, even among the civilised Greeks and especially the Romans who had to face reprisals and rebellions and serious wars through their barbarity. It is Christ seen by faith as we perceive in the context that follows, which explains the elevation of heart which is here counted on by the apostle. They were to serve the Lord Christ in the spirit not of mere self-abnegation but of grace. No matter how worthless their masters might be, grace raises the soul above the most morose, and enables it to obey and suffer even in face of shameless wrong.
For as the apostle explains, this is “grace,” in contrast with the natural bias toward the legal claim, if for conscience toward God one endure griefs, suffering unjustly. The A.V. renders it “acceptable,” and this is a fair sense in this place, and capable of defence. But it appears to me simpler and more forcible to adhere to the ordinary meaning, bearing in mind of course that it is not grace as in God which is in question, but the answer to it in those who believe. They were in this and in their measure imitators of God as beloved children, and walking in love as Christ loved them.
An effort has been made to translate the word “thankworthy” here as in Luke 6:32-34. But this seems short-sighted, because there is no
ὑμῖν (to you) here as there, which makes a sensible difference. We can readily perceive the propriety of “thanks to you,” where “grace to you” could not stand. Here in the first case it is used absolutely; and in the second it has the very different adjunct
παρὰ τῶ θεῶ (with God), who delights to find in His child what reflects Himself.
The apostle carries his argument yet more deeply in ver. 20. “For what glory is it, if when ye sin and are buffeted ye shall endure (or, bear it)?” This no person can fairly affirm. One bears the burden of admitted fault. It is only natural in such circumstances. “But if, when ye do good and suffer, ye shall endure (or, bear it), this is grace with God.” Is it not supernatural? Yet it is what the Lord looks for, not only in the mature and better instructed of His saints, but in the most down-trodden menials who call upon His name. For God despises none, and has called by His grace the foolish things of the world that He may put to shame the wise; and chosen the weak things of the world that He may put to shame the strong things; and the base things of the world, and the despised did God choose, that He might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should boast before God. A house-servant if a Christian was exhorted, instead of resenting injustice to follow Christ in His path of suffering love. Impossible so to do unless abiding in Him; but he that says he abides in Him ought, just as He walked, so to walk himself.
The place of suffering is enforced for the Christian, to the special comfort of Christian servants, by that of Christ Himself, as we next hear.
“For to this were ye called; because Christ also suffered for you,18 leaving you19 a model that ye should follow up his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who when reviled did not again revile, when suffering did not threaten, but gave over to him that judgeth righteously” (vers. 21-23).
The world’s relations to the saints, whether servants or not, is made unequivocally plain. So it was even for the apostles. “I have given them thy word, and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14) “If the world hateth you, ye know it hath hated me before [it hated] you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own, but I chose you out of the world: therefore the world hateth you. No bondman is above his Lord: if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also (John 15:18-20).” If it be trying as it surely is, how great is the moral honour of such association with Christ! “For to this were ye called.” God allowed, overruled, and used it for the good of His children here below.
Earlier still, and more widely, had the Lord made known His will, God’s will. “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, help those that curse you, pray for those that use you despitefully. To him that smiteth you on the cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh thy cloak forbid not thy coat also. To every one that asketh of thee give; and from him that taketh away thy things ask them not back; and as ye wish that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them that love you, what thank (grace) have ye? Or even sinners love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do you good, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. And if ye lend [to them] from whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners that they may receive back as much. But love your enemies and do good, hoping for nothing back; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of [the] Highest; for he is kind to the thankless and wicked. Be ye therefore merciful even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-36).
It is Christ practically, and the manifestation of the Father’s character reproduced in His children. Nothing less palpable or more absurd than to expect such a character in fallen man as such, that is, in the world; nothing less is what the Lord looks for from those that are His. Who is sufficient for these things? Our sufficiency is from God. Do not doubt Him, nor allow to unbelief that these are bygone things. They become and bind the Christian at all times. And so we read here, “because Christ also suffered for you.” Was this to dispense with our suffering? On the contrary He suffered for you, “leaving you a model, (or, copy) that ye should follow up his steps.”
The saint needs an object from God to form our souls and fashion our ways. And He sets before us Christ. What or who can compare with Him? Flaws were in the best of saints at their best, think of Peter, Paul, John. Christ “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” Christ “when reviled did not revile again; when suffering, did not threaten, but gave over to him that judgeth righteously.” Who among his most bitter foes that sought every occasion ever convicted Him of sin? He always did the things that pleased His Father, and never once did any will but His, the lowliest of men, yet above the highest. For there is nothing so lowly as obedience; nor is there any thing so pure and morally elevating as ever obeying God. He and He only was “His righteous servant,” He absolutely and perfectly.
It has not been shown as far as I am aware that the word pared. admits of the reflexive sense, good as it would seem in itself, that is, of meaning “gave himself over.” Hence various modes of supplying the ellipse have been proposed. But why should it not be rendered, though a little rugged, as it seems used, absolutely? So we find in Mark 4:29, where there seems no need of rendering, “is brought forth” or “provided.” Why not “should permit”? See Pind. P. v. 4; and Demosth. 1394. 23 even for the aorist; which A. Buttmann oddly denies. The present, etc. are common as in Herod. vii. 15; Xen. Anab. vi. 4, 34; Isocr. 106 C.; Polyb. xxii. 24, 9, as given by Liddell and Scott.
At this point the apostle turns from the more general reference to the Lord’s sufferings for us, the peerless example of unrepining love and unswerving yet patient righteousness in a world of evil, to that which stands alone from all before and after in the expiation of our sins, here expressed in terms of extreme simplicity. In atonement Christ had no companions and no followers.
“Who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed (ver. 24).
Both our text and the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 9:28) make certain the strict sacrificial sense of
ἀνήνεγκεν (“bore”) when connected with the object, “our sins.”20 So joined, this is the simple and sole sense of the word. Such too is the regular, if not invariable, employment by the LXX, as any scholar may satisfy himself. The notion of a pregnant sense “bringing up to,” and “bearing on” the tree, equivalent to the altar, is as certainly a mistake as any thing can be. For to express the former, the usage is
προσάγειν, as opposed to
ἀναφέρειν. Thus we read in Lev. 1:2, 3, 5 (as in the corresponding cases), with the distinct term
ἐπιτιθέναι which answers to the latter in 9. The same fact occurs in Lev. 2:1 compared with 2, as in 16
ἀνοίσει is given, the exact term instead of its substitute. Compare also Lev. 3:1 with 5; 6, 7, 9 with 11, and 12 with 16. The Hebrew is always exact, and does not warrant the weak confusion of the LXX. in 14. The due distinction reappears in Lev. 4:1 contrasted with 10, though the high priest himself was in question; and so for the whole congregation, 14 with 19; again the ruler, 23 with 26; and one of the people, the simple
οἴσει being used in this case, and the proper
ἀνοίσει in the other. In the intermediate mixture of sin and guilt, as well as the full guilt-offering, there is at least no violation of the usage, though other terms displace the latter; and so it might be shown from Genesis to Ezekiel that
ἀνήνεγκεν (“bore”) expresses the final sacrificial act, and not the preparatory “bringing up” which also some have sought to attach to it. This, as we have seen, has its own distinct and appropriate expression.
Our apostle and the still greater one to the Gentiles cite Isa. 53:12; which stamps these words of the Septuagint with divine authority. Heb. 9:28 has the deeper use of exhibiting in the same verse the exact distinctiveness of the two words (
ἀναφέρειν), which many scholars have confounded, and incomparably more who were far from being scholars. In the Epistle to the Hebrews is no wavering, as in the Septuagint though generally correct. Both terms are used with strict accuracy, as for instance Heb. 7:27 for the closing act, and 9:14 for what preceded it. Heb. 11:17 beautifully shows the proper word21 in the great trial of Abraham’s faith, and with the added exactitude of the perfect and imperfect tenses, of which none perhaps but the inspiring Spirit would have thought, but which when revealed is appreciated by every Christian who understands it.
Does it surprise any reader that so plain a point should be proved so elaborately? Look at the margin of the A.V. and especially of the Revisers. And who does not know the bitter zeal of too many in our own day to found, on the gross ignorance of that mistranslation, the dangerous misconception of Christ’s work involved in Christ’s bearing “our sins in His body to the tree?” To translate competently one must know a great deal more than a grammar and a dictionary; one needs to consider the varied usages of the language as modified by its application, and especially the scope and requirement of the context. Who but a tyro could write, “It is the same word that in the verse before us is rendered on, that in the following verse is rendered to, ‘Ye are returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls?’ This, then, we apprehend, is the apostle’s statement, ‘He himself bare our sins in his own body to the tree.’“22The blunder led him and many another to the utterly false doctrine, that Christ “as really, though not so obviously, bare our sins when he lay a helpless infant, in the manger in Bethlehem, as when he hung, an agonised man, on the accursed tree.”
O foolish theologians, who bewitched you? One may not expect all to read the Greek Testament with intelligent and reverent care, especially if persons doubt that “every scripture is inspired of God.” A single word of the text before us upsets bushels of essays, sermons, and expositions. The dark and perilous hypothesis would require the imperfect tense to give continuity of bearing our sins, which men have imagined and reasoned on. It is the aorist, on the contrary, which above all shuts out relative duration, continuity, repetition, or action commenced and not accomplished. Here it is a simple fact of the deepest moment for God and man, for time and eternity.
The hypothesis is incompatible, not merely with the word used by the Holy Spirit here and everywhere else, but with the broadest and most solemn facts which the most unlettered of believers, taught of God, receive with awe and adoring gratitude. What meant that supernatural darkness which in the hours of broad daylight wrapped up the cross from a certain point? What the cry of Him who had ever, in the fullest enjoyment of love, said “Father,” but now “My God, my God, why didst thou forsake me?” Had He not, when His baptism might have raised a question, received the testimony of the Father’s absolute complacency in Christ as His beloved Son? How strange bearing up our sins in His body to the tree! Undoubtedly Christ did never so profoundly glorify God; but His bruising, His stripes, His being made sin and curse, were they all while He was enjoying His Father’s love? His suffering for our guilt, and God’s face shining at the same time! If He had been all His life bearing our sins, He must all His life have been abandoned by God who cannot look on sin with the least allowance. But no: Isa 53:6 attests that Jehovah laid our iniquity on His Anointed when He hung on the tree: nothing more characteristic of the atonement, or more opposed to the perfectly enjoyed communion of His life.
Christ’s work on the cross, then, is here before us, the answer of divine grace to man’s need and danger, and the base of divine righteousness; but this last was left for another, Paul, to treat formally and fully. The practical aim was that which fell to the fervour of Peter, “that, being dead to sins, we should live to righteousness.” Both apostles delighted in these wondrous antitheses which gave glory to God and to the Lord Jesus, His Son.
ἀπογενόμενοι, “being dead,” is so uncommon in the N. T. that this is its only occurrence. It occurs in the best classic authors, and answers to our “deceased,” rather than the ordinary word for “dead.” This the apostle Paul used for the privilege into which the Christian is let in order to know his deliverance from sin, as distinguished from the remission of his sins. The further privilege he treats from Romans 5:12 to the end of Romans 8. It is too often confounded with what goes before, though it is clearly a grave question of the Christian’s state which arises generally for the soul when he knows his sins forgiven. But our apostle speaks of “having died to sins,” which is quite another thing from Paul’s doctrine. It is simple and practical (having done with sins), as was his province generally. It is true that the word sometimes means “having taken no part in,” and “being absent or aloof from”; but the context even of a correct writer always suffices to fix what is intended, Here it proves that death spiritually is meant, because it is that we may live to righteousness. No other sense would apply here. It never implies “being freed from,” as some have said.
The apostle adds a gracious encouragement as the result already achieved by Christ and given to the believer, for which he borrows the language of Isaiah, in the same chapter but a different verse, yet as exclusively descriptive of Christ’s expiatory sufferings: “by whose stripes ye were healed.” Strange paradox, but no less blessedly true! It is literally the weal or rising left by the lash which many a slave knew well. How comforting to the Christian, slave or not, who rests with assurance, not on the puerile use made of Pilate’s unprincipled indignity (whatever general custom might be pleaded in excuse) to the Lord of glory, but to that which God wrought for the ungodly through the ignominious but glorious death of His Son!
The need for the healing given to believers here recurs: — “For ye were23 going astray as sheep, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (ver. 25).
The description admirably suits those who from among the Jews repented and believed the gospel It is substantially true of sinners like ourselves from among the nations. For as the Good Shepherd said, Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall be one flock, one Shepherd. Such were the means which sovereign grace employed and made effectual for gathering to Christ.
Few indeed are the Epistles which do not present our previously lost condition. Rom. 1 in its latter half is an awful but exact picture of the Gentile world under Greek letters and Roman polity. The heathen remains, in poets, in dramatic and other classic writings, demonstrate it in its actual and unconscious vileness, which the apostle but touches with a holy hand. Rom. 3 brings the moral ruin home to the Jews from their own law, psalms, and prophets: that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world become, as it was, under judgment to God. And hence, as man universally had no righteousness for God, the absolute need of God’s righteousness for man if any were to be saved. The redemption that is in Christ Jesus by grace laid the ground for this justifying righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, as it is written, toward all, and upon all those that believe. For there is no difference: all sinned; and God is showing His righteousness at the present time of the gospel, that He should be just Himself and justify him that has faith in Jesus.
In 1 Cor. 1 Jewish pretension to signs of power and Greek to wisdom are alike crushed by Christ crucified; who is to those called, both Jews and Greeks, God’s power and God’s wisdom. Man as he is cannot inherit God’s kingdom. The Corinthians ought to have been the last to forget their shameless depravity. And these things, sad to name, were some of the saints, as the apostle reminded them; but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in (or, by) the Spirit of our God. 2 Cor. 5 might furnish a bright testimony of the same grace to the morally dead and the unreconciled; and other apostolical writings are full of like mercy to sinners. But those records suffice to prove the activity of divine love in Christ toward a guilty world. The sad fact is as true of Gentiles as the Lord told the Jews, “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life” (John 5:40). All the evil is on man’s side; the goodness is wholly with God, as the Lord Jesus fully shows. “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
The straying sheep returned unto the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls. They were His, the Father’s gift to Him. The Son loved them and proved His love to them at all cost to Himself; and the Father loved them as He loved the Son: a love beyond the creature’s conception, yet assured by Him who is the Truth.
They did well to return to Him whose love is beyond al] other love. Glory will prove and display it before the wondering world, as the Lord told them (John 17:22, 23); and the apostle attests it also for that day as a matter of retributive righteousness (2 Thess. 1:10). But His love is as fully set on them and made known to them now for the joy of faith and the strengthening of their souls; only unbelief can doubt it, a great dishonour to Him and loss to us. O what a Shepherd and Overseer is Jesus!
Who can measure the descent, if the sheep are content to return, not to the divine Shepherd Whose the sheep are, but to the church even were it ever so true according to God’s word, to articles or symbols however sound, or to pious devices to fan the embers of faith and love in their souls? No, we have Him given us of our God and Father, Who once died for our sins, and is now alive again to tend and watch over our souls in His undying love, with all authority given to Him in heaven and upon earth; that we may please Him in a world of darkness, as He always did the things that were pleasing to the Father. Nor does He for a moment fail if the sheep should fail, as they will surely do if they be not dependent and obedient. Yet all are sanctified by the Spirit unto His obedience, not to a Jew’s obedience under law, but to that of Jesus, conscious of the Father’s love. For this is our portion. Yet if negligent or worse, let us not doubt His grace, but humble our hearts and sit in self-judgment on ourselves. “He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
The Jews were taught of old to regard their kings as “shepherds”; but for the most part these were ungodly and selfish, as the prophet Ezekiel describes their sordid ways. “Woe to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed; ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up the broken, nor have ye brought again that which was driven away, nor have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered without a shepherd; and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill; yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek.”
Therefore were the shepherds to hear the word of Jehovah, Who is against the shepherds and will require His flock at their hands. He Himself will both search and seek out His sheep, deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day, gather them from the countries, bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, where they shall lie in a good fold and feed in a good pasture. More than all, He will set up over them one shepherd who shall feed them, His servant David, Who is not less Jehovah than Himself.
But the believing remnant to whom the apostle had not to wait for that day; they were, as is said in Eph. 1:12, pre-hopers in Christ; they not only anticipate the repentance of the latter of the latter day, but enter into better blessings during the day of Israel’s eclipse, when God has raised the rejected Christ out of the dead and given Him glory above, that their faith and hope might be in God. And if there be not yet visible power and glory, they find all the more touchingly their blessing in Him by whose stripes they were healed, whose grace in receiving them without one word of reproach made them judge their blind folly in going astray, and cleave with purpose of heart to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls.
12 It is very conceivable that the Spirit of God may have warranted the sense “of the word” among the Christians; for in the nature of things this meaning could not have existed among heathen Greeks; yet if required, it is formed quite legitimately. In this way it would well apply to both passages; and I am disposed to believe it.
13 One might have rendered
ἔντιμον prized, or held in honour, to distinguish it from
τίμιον, but for
τιμὴ in ver. 7 which inclines me to “precious.”
14 It is not that “you” (
ὑμᾶς) is expressed, as Lachmann ventured to do on the erroneous impression that the Rescript of Paris so roads, It is implied at most. But that MS. and many more, uncial and cursive do read the verb in the imperative.
15 Here it is not
αἵτινες as I attempt to express.
16 Not the aor. part. as in many good MSS., but the present.
17 The great uncials, with some cursives and ancient versions, do not read
οὖν, “therefore.” The connection with the foregoing is quite indirect The verb is not only reflexive, but aorist; and so the meaning is, Be ye those who once for all submitted yourselves.
18 There is the too usual discrepancy of copies and critics. Carelessness may have misled some of the scribes, or perhaps the assumption of mistakes which they claim to correct. Erasmus erred in giving “us” twice in ver. 21,the Complutensian ed. also in “us” and you, Colinaeus following the former, Stephens the latter. Beza and Elzevirs were right and chose the text as translated above; so did Bengel, Griesbach, Lachmann, Alford, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, but not Matthaei or Scholz nor even Tischendorf till his eighth or last edition. Indeed the great MSS. ( A B C), not a few cursives, the ancient versions though not the Peschito, the Memph., or the edited Vulg. against the best copies, give here the true text. Even the unlearned Christian may be assured that this best agrees with the clauses succeeding, and that “us” would clash. Yet scholars who trust overmuch the more ancient copies or the more modern should nave their zeal tempered by the fact that the false reading
ἀπέθανεν, “died,” is read instead of
ἔπαθεν, “suffered,” by the Sinaitic (), as well as by many cursives in the same verse; and the same false reading recurs in 3:18 supported by A C., at least a dozen cursives and almost all the old versions, though the context requires the ordinary reading supported by BKLP, and the mass of cursives. Here Tischendorf right at first, got wrong at last.
20 Thus with “spiritual sacrifices” “offer” is right, as in ver. 5 of this chapter and in Heb. 13:15. So it is with “Himself” in Heb. 7 as well as with “sacrifices” in the same vers. 27. With other objects, it is rendered “carry, bring, or lead up;” and it may elsewhere mean to bear or undergo.
21 It may interest the Hebraist to note that it is not the technical term referred to which God used in addressing Abraham in Gen 22:2. The LXX. therefore may have gone here beyond the word. Yet James (2:21) when he uses the figure “on the altar” says
ἀνενέγκασ. But fine as much is in their rendering of Isa. 53. (especially so long before the Advent, and revealing a portion so foreign to Jewish expectation), there are evident flaws. For who can defend
μεμαλάκισται in ver. 5? Even if it could express adequately the Hebrew for “bruised,” the perf. is quite out of place. It ordinarily would mean “is” or “has been reduced to effeminacy.” Even “the chastisement of our peace was upon him” is not cited here, but the last clause only. But the 9th verse is not well rendered still less the 10th and 11th save the last clause. It is the 12th however which the N. T. cites for the atonement; and there the Hebrew verb is nasa, not yisbol. These verbs for “bore” occur in reverse order in ver. 4, where we have the invaluable light of the Spirit through Matthew (Matt. 8:17), who applies the quotation, not to His expiatory sufferings as in vers. 5, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 12, but to the depth of the sympathy which characterised His spirit whilst acting in divine power toward the sick and suffering in Israel. With this does not agree the rendering of the Septuagint. Hence the Evangelist was led to a more correct rendering; for it is about griefs or sicknesses, not “sins” directly nor “selves” vaguely as the object. And this is the more important, because of the tendency to distract the attention of the faithful from apprehending the immense theme of Christ’s moral glory, through fixing it only on what immediately ministers to peace for souls not well grounded in it. Another evil consequence is that making all the entrance of Christ’s spirit to be only into what atones for the sinner not only detracts from Him much else to His praise, but it causes the testimony to the work of redemption virtually to lose its distinctiveness, and the word of God its definiteness. Thus the unwise effort to concentrate all on atonement cannot but enfeeble its own proper character and defeat itself.
22 John Brown, D.D., on 1 Peter (i. 453, Sec. Ed. 1849).
23 The famous Vatican MS. (1209) omits strangely the opening words, but is joined by A, 5, 40, and some good Latin copies in reading
πλανώμενοι as represented here; not “as sheep going astray” as in most, and the Text. Rec. In the LXX. of Ps. 119:176, and of Isa. 53:6, it is the aorist expressive of the fact. Here the present participle looks at the habit rather than the fact.