AJBT. 1 Peter 2:11-25. Citizens of Two Kingdoms

From: "Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <editor@biblicaltheology.com>
Subject: AJBT. 1 Peter 2:11-25. Citizens of Two Kingdoms
Date: September 22nd 2016

1 Peter 2:11-25. 
Citizens of Two Kingdoms

Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter.  All rights reserved.
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV

This world is not my home, I'm just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.


In the previous passage, Peter defined the character of the Christian as a royal priest, one who has close and immediate access to God without any form or need of mediation.  One who is a priest not only enjoys access to the LORD but also serves as the LORD’s intermediary to those who do not know Him.  This responsibility and task necessitates a change in personal character, one that is brought about in the life of a Christian through the power of the Holy Spirit as He communicates His purpose of grace and guides the believer in a lifestyle that is repentant of the sins that define and establish the previous life of darkness.

Peter continues as he describes some of the character change that takes place in the life of a believer when one submits to the LORD.

1 Peter 2:11.  Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

This verse starts the second part of this letter.  The first part was predominantly theological in nature.  The second part is predominantly ethical.  Paul does this  in his letter to the Romans at 12:1, and in his letter to the Ephesians at 4:1.  Ethical demands grow naturally out of doctrinal or theological truth.

Peter notes that as a “royal priesthood XE "priesthood" ” believers are strangers and sojourners in this world.  When one travels to a foreign land one retains an identity with his/her home nation, and will usually conduct themselves largely within the cultural mores from which they come, treating any cultural differences between their home and their place of visitation with deliberate note.  Though they may learn the language and culture in their newfound foreign land in an effort to establish relationship with the indigenous culture, the “home” of the heart almost always remains with their true citizenship.  The faithful Christian believer is a citizen of the Kingdom of God and comes fully under the authority of the LORD, and seeks to live a life that is consistent with His Word.  This is a culture of faith that is vastly different from that of this secular, pagan, and violent world.  Consequently, a Christian travels through this world like a stranger in a foreign land, with a sincere desire to remain loyal to the culture of their true home. 

Reminding his readers that he loves them, Peter uses a word that is translated, “beseech” (KJV).  This is a word that expresses an emphatic desire, as there would be few words that would express the importance of what Peter is about to say.  In today’s language we might say, “I am down on my knees begging you.”  Peter notes two characteristics that illustrate the relationship a faithful Christian should have with this pagan world.

Stranger.  Though we might think of a stranger as someone “strange,” the Greek term has no such negative connotation.  A stranger is simply one who is a citizen of a kingdom other than the one in which the observation is taking place.  When a Christian considers his/her relationship to this world, there are many worldly authorities that hold appropriate power, including family relationships, relationships with the government and law, its courts, etc.  The Christian is subject to those authorities just as if he/she were traveling in a foreign land and is subject to those foreign authorities.  However, the word also carries with it an implication that the individual retains the characteristics of his/her home nation.  There is a distinctiveness in their appearance and behavior that belies their home kingdom. 

The word also implies that the individual does not have an intimate knowledge of the land wherein he is traveling.  An intimate knowledge comes from completely immersing one’s self in the nature of the new land.  Christians are not to immerse themselves in this land of ungodly sin and violence.  It is appropriate that the Christian does not sample for themselves every nuance of sin in this world in order to understand it better.  Christians are called to a lifestyle that is consistent with the Word of God and with the agape love of the LORD. Those ungodly characteristics should not even be of interest to the faithful Christian as they represent sin that is to be completely avoided.  One can be a productive stranger in this world and still abstain from its ungodly nature.

Alien/Sojourner.  A sojourner is one who is traveling through a community with no intent upon staying permanently.  Though the individual may adapt to cultural differences in the host community, there is a deliberate intent upon returning to the home of origin.  When one approaches a relationship with a community with this intention, they are never completely at home, always looking forward to when they will be returning to their heart home. 

Peter sets the cultural boundaries around the community of faith as being similar to the boundaries around one who is visiting a foreign land.  Remembering the culture from which the person comes, one would not tend to significantly break the mores of the homeland that carries a higher personal authority in their lives.  When Peter illustrates the ungodly behaviors of this world, it is obvious that these behaviors are not to be found in the life of a person of faith.

Prior to reviewing Peter’s imperatives, it may be instructive to recall that the Bible is not a book of law to those who are faithful in the LORD.  The Bible contains law that exposes, convicts and condemns sin as it illuminates the lostness of those who reject faith in God.  However, once one turns to God in faith, the individual is no longer condemned by the law since Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for all of their sin.  The relationship of the scriptures to one who is faithful changes from a condemning book of law to an illustration of godly living as the content and nature of the law has moved from written pages into the heart and mind of the believer.  Consequently, when Peter (or any biblical author) writes about ethical issues he is presenting an illustration of what a godly life looks like and not setting down a set of rules or a new law.  

Abstain from fleshly passions.  The continuing verb tense of the word translated abstain means "keep on abstaining."  It is important to note the encouraging verb tense that implies his understanding that his readers are already abstaining from sin, and this tense tends to congratulate them on their success. 

When an individual is living a life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, one will be characterized by continual abstinence from passions of the flesh that are literally waging war against our souls.  Rather than being bound to the Law, the Christian is continually led of the Holy Spirit away from behaviors that are not appropriate for a person of faith, encompassing all behaviors including those that are not addressed in the Law.  Peter uses a catch-all phrase, “fleshly passions” to refer to those behaviors that are contradictory to godly living.  When a Christian engages in such sinful behaviors, an immediate conflict arises between the soul of the believer and the Holy Spirit that is contradicting the soul’s base desires. 

Fleshly passions are the natural fruit of a life that is not tempered by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Probably the first such passions that come to mind are sexual in nature.  However, fleshly passions can also include an excessive appetite of pride, egotism, narcissism, greed, or any other behavior that raises one’s desire to meet selfish needs over that of meeting the needs of others.

1 Peter 2:12.  Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Maintain sincere integrity.  Good conduct/conversation refers to a person's total way of life (as opposed to verbal interaction).  At the time of this writing, Christians were frequently being blamed for unexplained destructive natural or historical events.  For example, it was the burning of the city of Rome that precipitated the brutal Roman persecution of the Christian community that so characterizes that period of history.  Augustine reports a proverb of North Africa, "If there is no rain, tax it on the Christians." 

There is still no shortage of verbal or physical minimization of the faith community by the secular culture.  However, when an individual’s life is characterized by uncompromised honesty and integrity in a manner that is consistent with a godly testimony, the accusations fall without substance or the authority of truth.  The maintenance of that spirit of bigotry against people of faith will be exposed at the end of the age and those who have held to it will recognize, only too late, the error of their position and the consequence of their choices.

The life of a faithful believer is simply a continuing sequence of good works that are motivated by sincere, unconditional, agape love for others rather than motivated by any rule or law.  Critics may attempt to stereotype Christians, but a testimony of integrity belies those stereotypes through those works of the Spirit.

Peter sees two responses of the unbeliever to the observation of such godly integrity:  (1) Pagan observers will see the true nature of God through the example of the faithful Christian, and (2) pagan observers will have a context within which to respond to God through the Christian witness.  When a Christian is open to compromise and hypocrisy, failing to live a life of integrity, the lost and secular world will find no such image of Christ, and their criticism of Christianity is enabled.  Such hypocrisy is a reproach of the gospel and serves only the purpose of satan as he seeks to minimize the Christian witness.  However, a life of purity can influence others, and often in times of need those others may turn to the one they find they can trust, only to find the true One in which they can share their trust.


1 Peter 2:13.  Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority,

Though Peter describes the Christian life as that of an alien or sojourner in a foreign land, he also reminds us of the need to recognize and properly respond to the authorities in the community within which we live.  Peter again uses a very strong phrase that is rendered using a common Old English idiom, “for the LORD’s sake.”  The importance of Peter’s coming imperative cannot be understated since it bears upon the testimony of the LORD Himself in and around the community of believers.

Much of the Christian faith is characterized by submission.  First, if Jesus is LORD, then the Christian is fully submitted to Him, obeying Him through a sensitivity to the Word and to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  The word that is rendered submission is to voluntarily give control of one’s self to another for the benefit of both. 

Having been reminded of the necessity of submission to the LORD, Peter calls for that same submission to the authorities that have been instituted among men.  We may find this call to good nationalistic citizenship to be contradictory to citizenship in the Kingdom of God, but such a conclusion, though logical, is neither spiritual or biblical.  Those who reject worldly government for the sake of the kingdom of God are rejecting God’s Word, His Sovereignty, and His Lordship.  They are also rejecting God’s call to missionary service in the strange land as they choose to separate themselves from an appropriate position of influence in the world culture.

Paul also expressed this identical imperative in his letter to the Romans.  One who stands in rebellion to man’s instituted authority severs his communicable relationship with that authority and abdicates any ability to serve that community as God’s priest.  Such rebellious behavior damages the testimony of integrity that Peter has just mentioned, and is an embarrassment to God’s kingdom work as He seeks to redeem all people, including the governmental authorities.

1 Peter 2:14.  or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

Peter personifies that secular authority at both the top and bottom levels of government, identifying the king who technically controls the entire realm, down to the governors who execute the king's rules and laws in the local communities.  Peter states that these authorities are ultimately placed into society by the LORD to provide order in our society that would be completely chaotic and corrupt without it. 

How do you reconcile this concept when applied to corrupt governments that abuse their subjects?  It is not surprising that a world that follows pagan and secular culture would be characterized by injustice.  Neither Peter or Paul advocate supporting the injustices of secular or pagan government.  “Government is a human institution and must never be given what belongs to God. Ultimate loyalty is not the government's to demand. When it goes beyond its limits, requiring of its citizens that which properly belongs to God, it must be resisted no matter what the cost.”  Peter and Paul simply state that Christians are to submit to their authority.  The alternative to government is anarchy, and Christians who resist the government would be seen as anarchists, contrary to the witness they are to present.

We also see both Paul and Peter’s call to submission is based upon the God-given intent that the government would serve to punish injustice and to reward justice.  God holds all people responsible for their choices, so even those in government who use their positions to promote injustice will ultimately face God’s justice where they will be judged fairly, firmly, and appropriately.  Much of the content of the Revelation of John contains illustrations of the execution of God’s final justice upon ungodly world leadership.

Christians can certainly work within the common laws to promote godly government.  In democracies, Christians can run for government positions, vote for candidates that more closely stand on godly intent, communicate justice, and expose injustice.

1 Peter 2:15   For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Be good citizens.  Why should faithful Christians submit to these governments and governors?  Peter first states that this is God’s will.  As much as we may generate logical arguments to support our opposition to governments and governors, those arguments certainly find application in our seeking to change the course of corrupt government, but cannot be used to advocate rebellion.  Nobody has been placed in a position to argue with God’s will.  The faithful are to find God’s will and submit to it, so the submission to government and governors is not up for argument.

Peter places this statement about God’s will in the center of the imperative and the results.  Looking back, the faithful are to be submissive to the government and governor; looking forward this serves as a positive testimony to those who need to learn of God’s grace.  It is also God’s will that the faithful would be characterized by good works.  Rebellion against the government and governors would not be an example of good works.  Submission to them identifies the faithful as good citizens rather than anarchists, opening the door of communication with other citizens. 

How does one, therefore, relate to the society that is submitted to worldly government?  A faithful believer who applies agape love liberally towards all others will be rich in spiritual fruit that cannot be so easily criticized.  Peter referred to the lost in that society as ignorant and foolish.  We must understand that their ignorance and foolishness is within the context of the nature of their (lack of) relationship with God’s Word and the LORD’s purpose for their lives.  They are simply ignorant of the gospel of Jesus Christ and do not know of His grace, nor the benefits of it.  They are foolish in regard to their abject rejection of God’s offer of grace.  They are not ignorant or foolish of the things of this world and they can use our conflict with those things as fodder for criticism.  Hence, our relationship with society is to serve as God’s missionaries on a purpose of grace and peace rather than as incendiary anarchists who strive to bring quite the opposite to society.

Peter does not advocate that submission to the government necessarily includes agreeing with it or taking part in ungodly practices that are advocated by the authorities.  Resistance to the evils of government authorities can and will bring conflict into the life of a believer, and may result in persecution.  W  e may note that virtually all of the early Christians experienced some persecution at the hands of a government that demanded Emperor worship, a demand that the Christians simply could not obey.  However, they did not rise up in revolt against the Emperor; they simply experienced the penalties for breaking the royal laws.

1 Peter 2:16   Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

Live as Free People.  Freedom in Christ and freedom from the Jewish Law was held mistakenly by some believers to mean that they were given civil and moral license to do as they pleased.  This antinomian (opposed to law) approach was a popular Greek philosophy, and resulted in moral chaos and anarchy, quite the opposite of Peter’s imperatives.  Freedom in Christ is not freedom from civil law, nor is it any form of advocacy for spiritual anarchy.  The word, “live” is a form of the word rendered “submit,” implying that Christians are to submit to authority as free people.  Consequently, freedom in Christ is not freedom from submission to government and governors.  Freedom in Christ is freedom from the law of sin and death.  Christians are freed from anxious guilt over the past and hopeless dread of the future, a dread that is motivated by the continuing struggle with sin.  Under grace, Christians were freed from the petty legalism that characterized first-century Jewish piety.  Likewise, Christians are freed from petty legalism as they seek obedience to God in every facet of daily life. 

The word rendered cover-up is a verb, not a noun, and should be understood as such.  Freedom is not a license to do evil, but rather a license to do good.  Those who would use their freedom for evil are demonstrating that they are still under bondage to sin.  Rather than bondage to sin or to the depravity of this world, Christians are bond-servants of the LORD.  Since those who lead this world’s governments are accountable to God, it is God who is the ultimate authority for the Christian, also.  Christians are free servants, free to serve God without the shackles of guilt, legalism, and worldly influence.  If the faithful allow guilt, legalism or worldly influence to shackle their freedom they do so by their own choice.  This is not consistent with the blessing of peace and joy that God desire for His people.

1 Peter 2:17.  Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Be Committed Citizens.  Here Peter defines in four imperatives the proper relationships we should maintain as members of this world community. 

First, the faithful are to give proper respect to all people.  When one relates to others with agape love, the unconditional nature of that love dictates that there are no boundaries outside of that love.  Consequently, proper respect is shown by the application of that love for all people without any regard to their status as secular, pagan, lost, saved, or any measure of the identification or behavior of man.  As a prideful and judgmental people it is easy for us to fall into sin by failing to honor others because of our judgments concerning the sin that is evident in their lives.  One may be reminded of how the writer of the gospel of John describes Jesus’ honoring a woman who was caught in adultery as she was being faced by her accusers. Jesus did not despise her by calling her names, or even by accusing her of her sin.  Jesus showed a love for her that was entirely separated from the sinful acts that characterized her lifestyle.  Showing her love, He gave her the opportunity to repent.

When we free ourselves of the self-appointed position of judge, we find that we are free to love all people without regard to their sin.  God is the one and only true judge and He is capable of dispensing His judgment within the context of His purpose and His grace, a grace that we will find difficult to share when we treat others with prideful judgment. 

Peter also reminds the faithful to apply that agape love within the brotherhood of believers.  The implication is that, through this love, there is a bond between believers that is different from that among non-believers.  Though we hold agape love for all others, the lost share no such love with believers.  Like two burning logs that are place side-by-side, two believers who share agape love have a shared power that does not exist in the lost world.  Christians need this sharing of agape love, finding in it a strength and encouragement that the world cannot provide, nor does it understand.

What does it mean to fear God?  Though the government and governors are in positions of authority, the ultimate authority over all is held by God.  To fear God in the biblical sense is to hold Him in awe and reverence.  Giving priority to a genuine reverence for God in one's daily living is the foundation upon which a godly life, a life that seeks obedience to the purposes of God in our lives, is built.  Such a priority also becomes the foundation for all other significant knowledge.  If we seriously take the intent of the first and second of the Ten Commandments, we can come away with an appropriate fear of God.  The first Commandment states the uncompromised first priority that God is to have in our lives.  Anything that we place as a priority higher than God becomes our idol or god, whether it be our family, our church, our possessions, ourselves, or anything else that draws our focus away from Him.  When our relationship with God is truly the first priority in our lives, our desire for obedience to His Word will lead us to draw closer to Him and His purpose for our lives so that we can relate to Him and to others with the agape love that He intends.

The fourth exhortation is to Honor the Emperor.  The same word form is used in the first exhortation:  to show proper respect.  Whether a prince or a pauper, each deserves the same respect or honor.  Again, this can be difficult when we allow our desire to judge others overpower our calling to love others.

What do we do when the "emperor" or government behaves in a manner that is clearly outside of God’s will?  (1)  We must first ascertain if we are in a position to judge, or in a position to even respond.  Often we are powerless to anything more than simply pray for our leaders and those who are affected by their policies.  (2)  If we are in a position to respond, any response must be made with God’s wisdom, and a sensitivity to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  However, even when disagreeing with the government, we must maintain the solid, respectful demeanor demanded of us by God.  To compromise would be no more than giving into the fleshly desires to destroy that with which we disagree and lift ourselves up.  A good example of submission under an ungodly government is found in the book of Daniel when the prophet refused to worship the king.  Rather than stir up rebellion, he submitted to the king’s punishment, allowing God to demonstrate His own authority.

1 Peter 2:18.  Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

Be Diligent Workers, Even Under Stress.  Next, Peter directed his citizenship concern to the area of what would now apply as employee-employer relationships.  People became slaves by being kidnapped, captured in wars, by being born into a slave household, or by deliberately placing one’s self into another’s employment to receive something, such as to pay a debt.  One should not use the American slavery of the 16th-19th centuries in order to understand the Greco-Roman institution.  The two cultures have very little similarity.  Ancient slaves were often educated better than their masters and often received great respect.  American slavery was largely biased by racial and cultural bigotry, where no such bias would typically exist in the Greco-Roman world. 

Slavery was such an integral part of ancient near-eastern culture that there is no criticism or condemnation of the institution by any of the New Testament writers, though there is no form of commendation for it either.  Slavery is simply approached as an existing secular civilian institution that is to be interacted with in a godly manner.  Even when Paul wrote to Philemon to take back the slave Onesimus as a Christian brother, he does not appeal for his freedom.  The New Testament writers opposed rebellion against existing institutions, since such rebellion is contrary to the testimony of love and grace.  What would have happened if the budding Christian movement rose up against the practice of slavery?  Such an act would be futile, and distract the Christian community from the tasks and responsibilities of their royal priesthood XE "priesthood" .  Furthermore, rebellion against the government would only bring upon themselves far greater persecution and violence.  Christian influence over political agendas over the years is not particularly positive.  Though there was a lot of pressure from the Christian community to end American slavery, much pain and suffering has also been promulgated by the church and church-driven governments over the years.  Many of the leaders of 18th ,19th, and 20th southern American churches were leaders in the advocacy of slave trade, and in white-supremacy groups following the civil war. Christians are to serve as “salt and light,” an influence in our culture for positive change, but an influence that does not compromise God’s purpose of grace.

Some estimates are that there were 60 million slaves in the ancient near east.  Usually, slaves were initially assigned menial tasks of hard manual labor.  However, after time they worked as doctors, teachers, musicians, actors, secretaries, stewards, etc.  The former slaves were douloi, the latter oiketai.  Neither of these slavery groups enjoyed any civil rights; they could not marry or vote.  In verse 16 Peter uses the term douloi.  In verse 18 he uses the word oiketai.

Just as Christians are called upon to be submissive to the existing governmental authorities, Christian slaves are to be submissive to their owners.  This form of submission, a rendering of hypotassomenoi, is the same form used to describe submission between husband and wife, a voluntary, respectful, and purposeful submission among equals for the benefit of both.  One is expected to work for the master, even if that master is evil.  That, however, is not a command to do evil work.

1 Peter 2:19.  For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.

Under what situation is suffering honorable to God? 

(1) When that suffering is unjust, and

(2) when the sufferer is enduring the pain because of obedience to God. 

The Greek word rendered “commendable” is charis XE "charis" , often rendered “grace.”  When one endures undeserved pain for the benefit of someone else we may be reminded of what Christ did for us.  When we exhibit grace for one another we are demonstrating a Christian maturity that comes only from the Holy Spirit.  Consequently, the model shown for the responsibility of slaves towards their masters is appropriate for all similar relationships such as employer – employee, or any other that involves one individual holding civil authority over another.  This is also consistent with Peter’s previous admonition to show appropriate respect for the government authorities.

1 Peter 2:20.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

Peter implies that there is a reward given when grace is demonstrated towards the persecutor.  However, this grace is merited only when the one so persecuted has done no wrong.  If one is treated brutally for wrongdoing, amartanontes, purposely missing the mark, that treatment, though it is possibly harsh, is consistent with the model of civil authority.  Both Peter and Paul teach that government is responsible before God to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil. 

However, when one endures suffering at the hands of the authorities for doing that which is a right and proper expression of faith, agathopotountes, and maintains uncompromised obedience to God, one will experience God’s blessing of grace.

3.  Follow the Example of Christ.

1 Peter 2:21.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Peter advocated dealing with conflict through passive non-resistance, finding the supreme example of this in the life of Christ during His week of passion. “Jesus suffered in the flesh as a man just as the Gospels portray him (4:1; 3:18). He died sinless though he lived on the earth as a man (1:19; 2:22). In his suffering he remained passive and threatened no harm to anyone even though he was innocent (2:22, 23). Instead he trusted himself to God and his care (2:23).”

Christians are called by the LORD to walk through the experiences of this world as Jesus walked, imitating His life and responses.  Just as Jesus was appointed to maintain obedience as He suffered at the hands of evil men, those who place their faith and trust in Him are expected to do the same. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that "when God calls a man, he bids him come and die."  Christians today face the same evil world that Jesus and the first-century church were immersed in, and are subject to similar circumstances of suffering when they stand for truth in a world that despises it.  Peter literally states that the faithful have been “called to suffering.”  The point is that Jesus “suffered, passionately, for us and we are called upon to suffer, passionately, for others.”  When Peter is referring to suffering he is speaking of that “suffering which Christians undergo precisely because they are Christians. It speaks of the suffering of the members of the church, the people of God, the household of God. Its focus is on the special trials which Christians must encounter in a hostile situation.”

Jesus serves as an example of how to relate, one to another, and to do so within the context of civil law.  Included in this context is Jesus’ persecution and suffering at the hands of those in civil authority, whether the Jewish religious leaders, or the Romans.  Though Jesus was treated with overwhelming injustice, his treatment was in accordance with then-current civil law.  Jesus was characterized by passive non-resistance and forgiveness rather than civil disobedience and violence.  A slave may naturally desire to rise up against his owner, particularly if that owner is brutal or the slave is subject to injustice.  Jesus saw both injustice and brutality, yet He maintained the character of His identity as YAHWEH in the flesh. 

The word for example, in this case is the Greek, hupogrammon, a written document that a teacher will assign a student to copy as an exercise in learning how to read and write.  The word denotes “a model to be copied by the novice. The term, literally an "underwriting," could refer to a writing or drawing which was placed under another sheet to be retraced on the upper sheet by the pupil. More probably the reference is to the "copy-head" which the teacher placed at the top of the page, to be reproduced by the student.”  The idea is that the student will copy exactly what he/she sees, imitating the original a suitable number of times so that the student will learn to write clearly without it. 

The Greek word for steps could also be translated footprints, bringing to mind one placing footprints in the snow and another following behind by stepping into those same prints to avoid getting cold, wet feet, (a common practice in the snowy northern winters.)  Peter clearly indicates that the faithful are to pattern themselves after Christ, to follow in His steps.  Many testimonies have been stated, and many books written to help the faithful understand what it means when one asks, “What would Jesus do?” with an intent on following the model of Jesus.    Some notable examples include Charles M. Sheldon's “In His Steps,” and Thomas a' Kempis’  "The Imitation of Christ."   

1 Peter 2:22   "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."

The imperative to endure injustice while committing no sin can be a tall order.  In the next four verses Peter makes use of five quotes from Isaiah, Chapter 53 that both describe the Messiah and provide an example of the character of Christ that the faithful are to follow: a fundamental character of personal integrity that precludes any form of rebellion.  The word for sin, hamartia, refers to missing the mark.  A good illustration can be found in the game of darts.  When it is one’s intent to throw the dart into the center of the target, the “bull’s-eye,” chances are good that the dart will not land on its intended target.  There will be a distribution of error that is determined by the thrower’s skill, by distractions, or any other impeding events.  Increasing skill and focus can serve to narrow that distribution of error, but the bull’s eye always remains an allusive target.  To miss the mark in life is to sin, and the further our behavior is from the intended target, the greater is our sin.  Christian maturity and focus on the lead of the Holy Spirit can serve to narrow the distribution of our error.  Christ never missed the mark.  His love for his persecutors overwhelmed His personal need for justice.

We may never learn to respond to the stressors of this world with perfect accuracy, but we certainly can narrow the distribution of error as the personal importance of the circumstance becomes overwhelmed with the love of Jesus.

No guile (2:1) or deceit was ever spoken by him.  When subject to external stress, it may be very easy for us to work our way out of it using a form of deception that could extricate us from the situation by either rationalizing away the significance of the event or our part in it.  It is often possible to avoid conflict using an out-and-out lie that will deceive the persecutor.  One can often avoid taking responsibility for a personal transgression this way.  There are many different situations where a lie can serve to deflect undesired circumstances.  How many lies did Jesus use?  The scripture simply states, “none.”  How many “little white lies” did Jesus use?  The scripture simply states, “none.”  Christians are great at rationalizing ‘Little white lies,” rather than exercising a dependence upon the Holy Spirit for His wisdom in dealing with stressful circumstances.  The example of Jesus simple:  He never uttered untruth in any form.  This is the example Christians are to follow without compromise.

1 Peter 2:23   When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Furthermore, Jesus gave an example of patient courage and endurance under heavy stress.  How do we typically respond to heavy stress?  It is probably an axiom that we tend to respond with anger, bitterness, guilt, blame, and to seek some form of retaliation.  One way to handle these stresses, therefore, is to ask yourself, "How would Christ handle this situation"?  When we realize we do not have the strength or wisdom to handle problems in such a manner, we can lean on Him, turning the situation over to Him.  In doing so we can look beyond the local situation and place things in the proper perspective and priority.  The first step is trusting in God.

1 Peter 2:24.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Christ's Wounds Heal You.  Peter does not elaborate on a fully developed doctrine of the atonement.  However, any atonement doctrine must include this fact:  Christ went to the cross, not because of His sins, but because of our sins, doing so to pay the ultimate penalty of death for those who place their faith and trust in God.  Some would take the word “healed” out of context to argue that Jesus died on the cross so that the faithful would receive physical healing, rejecting its true purpose.  All healing is a gift and ordination of God, whether from the smallest scratch to the most grievous of illnesses and diseases, and for that healing we are thankful.  However, to use this scripture as a defense to guarantee physical healing is to take it wholly out of its context.  There is no reference to physical healing in this passage, though the entire passage refers to atonement for our sins. “By Christ's stripes the wounds that sin had inflicted on their souls "were headed" (ιάθητε), not merely "will be healed." The forgiveness of their sins in regeneration brought about their experience of imparted spiritual wholeness.”

The word “bore” refers to the carrying of a sacrifice to the altar, and the form of the verb implies that it is done once.  Jesus brought his own body to be sacrificed.  To "die to sins” means to be separated from them, and consequently freed from their bondage.  Only this way can we live a life of righteousness.

What is righteousness?  Certainly we all miss the mark, and without Jesus’ act of grace on the Cross of Calvary we would be without hope.  Note Peter refers to a call to “live for righteousness,” not righteousness itself.  Our righteousness only comes through Jesus, and for our lives to be characterized as righteous we must be truly seeking to do the will of God as we following our understanding of that will to the best of our ability.  There is simply no excuse for unrighteous living.  There is no excuse for treating others in any other manner than in the love and grace that Jesus showed.  The life of a Christian is to be characterized by love and grace for others, just as Jesus’ life is so characterized. 

The word “wounds” refers to the damage done to the skin by a lash.  Here Peter graphically reminds us of the severity of Jesus' beating, and relates the quote from Isaiah, "By his stripes we are healed."   Jesus, the Messiah, the LORD, YAHWEH in the flesh submitted Himself to evil men who had no true power over Him at all, and suffered real and severe wounds, suffering even unto death so that we might be forgiven, and that we would be empowered through the Holy Spirit to live lives of grace.

1 Peter 2:25   For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Christ is your Shepherd.  Two titles for Christ are given here, Shepherd and Guardian.  Biblical references to Jesus as The Shepherd are frequent.  The work for Guardian or Overseer is episkopon, referring to an elder who has a leadership role in a community.  This is the only verse in the New Testament that uses this word.  It is comforting to know that as we go through this life we have one who serves as our Shepherd and as our Elder who has the power and wisdom to make a true difference in our lives.

Verses 21-25 are very similar to Isaiah's description of the suffering servant, consistent with the Septuagint, a Greek paraphrase of the Old Testament from which Peter drew his Old Testament quotes. Jesus identified with the servant concept of the Messiah.  As we are to become the image of Christ, we are also to live lives of servanthood:  Christians are to serve others rather than seek to be served by others.  The Shepherd ministers to the needs of the flock, and likewise, as servants, Christians are called to minister to each other’s needs in the same manner:  in love and in grace, without any mixture of condemnation, judgment, or criticism.  This can be a tough order to follow when we are so easily distracted by our pride and the self-centered demands we place on one another.  However, as we grow and mature in Christian maturity our lives should be more and more characterized by grace, and less characterized by self-will.  Jesus is the model, and He is the model that we strive for.

Brumley, Alfred  E., “This World is Not My Home,” © 1965. Alfred E. Brumley & Sons.


Romans 13:1, ff.

Valentine, Foy. An historical view of Christians and citizenship. Baptist History and Heritage, 9 no 3 Jul 1974, p 170.

1 Peter 3:17, e.g.

John 8:3.

Proverbs 1:7.

Daniel, Chapter 6.

Schreiner, p. 135.

Philemon 17.

2 Peter 2:9, ff.

Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-25, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, Titus 2:9-10, e.g.

Ephesians 5:20, ff.

Hall, Randy.  For to this you have been called: the cross and suffering in 1 Peter.  Restoration Quarterly, 19 no 3 1976, p 141.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship, trans. by R. H. Fuller.  New York: The Macmillan Company, 1961, p. 73.

Burtness, James H.  Sharing the suffering of God in the life of the world: from text to sermon on 1 Peter 2:21.  Interpretation, 23 no 3 Jul 1969, p 283.

Filson, Floyd Vivian.  Partakers with Christ: suffering in First Peter.  Interpretation, 9 no 4 Oct 1955, p 400-412.

Hiebert, D Edmond.  Selected studies from 1 Peter: pt 1, Following Christ's example: an exposition of 1 Peter 2:21-25.  Bibliotheca sacra, 139 no 553 Jan - Mar 1982, p 35.

Green, Gene L.  The use of the Old Testament for Christian ethics in 1 Peter.  Tyndale Bulletin, 41 no 2 Nov 1990, p 283.

Ibid. Hiebert, p 42.

Ps 23, John 10:11-16, 27-30, e.g.

Isaiah 53.

Luke 4:16-27.


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Written each week by our publisher and editor, John W. (Jack) Carter, these are original, researched, commentaries that may be used for individual study or small-group discussion.
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