1 Peter 2

1 The knowledge and acceptance of this Gospel requires a response. Specifically listed here are behaviors affecting our relationships with other people, whether they are Christians or not. These bad behaviors are to be "laid aside" as one would take off a garment, and never put back on again. Since Christians are to be truthful and loving, we cannot be hateful or deceitful.

Malice is harboring ill will for certain people, including the participation in any kind of evil directed towards harming them. As Christians, we are to instead hope for their betterment. We must not seek to ruin others with lies, or even speak unkindly about others. A Christian should refrain from being jealous of others or desiring to have any good thing that another has accomplished or received at that person's expense. We have to avoid being resentful when someone else receives something we want for ourselves, whether or not we have tried to attain it. If one is to avoid hypocrisy, he must be honest about himself - whether it is good or bad. Christians want to do what is right, but often come up short because we are, after all, still affected and influenced by this sinful world even after we accept Christ. We know that we cannot hide what we do from God, and it does little good to deny or justify bad behavior to others who have found out things we do not want others to know about us. It does not help anyone to pretend to be pious or loving. Everyone wants to be known for these qualities, but if such a reputation turns out to be false, it is generally worse for the person and their witness than it would have been to admit the faults in the first place.

2 These bad behaviors are to be replaced with a longing for God's word. The analogy is drawn between believers and babies. The growing child craves milk instinctively because their little bodies need nourishment to grow. The word of God is similarly like food for the spirit, which we must have to grow in Christ's likeness. If a Christian tries to do without God's instruction, he becomes spiritually malnourished.
3 Once the Christian has "tasted" the goodness of God, he should then naturally desire to know more about Him and His gracious love.
4 Peter likens Jesus to a stone - one that is suitable to build one's life upon (Isa 28:16). Jesus is precious to the Father as His Son, but He is also valuable because He made it possible for people, who are also of great worth to God, to enter the eternal kingdom. Those who reject God's plan reject Jesus, but those who believe are in a continual process of coming to Him, recognizing that God has chosen His Son as the only way of salvation (Psa 118:22). Christians can approach Jesus because He is a living stone that one can have a relationship with, not a dead religion of mere rules and regulations.

In Mat 16:18 there is the appearance that Jesus says that His Church will be built on Peter, but here is a clear indication that Peter understood that the Church is built on Christ, not on himself or his work.

5 Peter extends the analogy to Christians. Our "Living Stone" gives life to other "stones," which are being used to build a "house" for God (Eph 2:19-22). This temple is not made of wood, stone, gems, and precious metals, but of living people - far more valuable and durable materials (1 Cor 3:16-17). Each Christian is like a priest, but we do not make sacrifices of sheep and goats as the Old Testament priests did (Rev 5:9-10). Instead, we give up our sinful way of life without God and live in obedience to Him (Rom 12:1-2). The New Testament priesthood is not limited to a small number of people because each of us has direct access to God (Heb 10:15-25). We give up our self-worship and instead offer up praises to Him and do good things for others (Heb 13:15-16).
6 This is a quote from Isa 28:16 as found in the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. The phrase "shall not make haste" has been translated a variety of ways, apparently being an idiom: "will not be disappointed" (NAS), "never be put to shame" (NIV), "not be confounded" (KJV), etc. Barnes suggests that the phrase refers to a Christian not being agitated, afraid, or held in contempt.
7 Those who hear and believe are honored, but not everyone who listens to the Gospel will put their faith in it. This prophecy, found in Psa 118:22, was experienced by Jesus firsthand. He was rejected by the majority of the religious rulers of His day, despite the fact that He was their God incarnate. These leaders should have been the one aiding in the construction of the Church, but instead they tried to destroy their Messiah. However, Jesus rose from the dead and became the Savior for any Jew or Gentile who would trust in Him. Furthermore, He is the most important component of God's spiritual Temple because it is Him alone who holds the building up, being that through Him alone does anyone find forgiveness and salvation.
8 Peter then quotes Isa 8:14. To the Christian, Jesus is the rock on which we build our lives, but to those who do not believe He seems rather to be a problem, and they become trapped in their fate by unbelief.

The "stumbling block" here refers to those objections that people raise to believing and obeying Jesus and His Gospel. To the Jews, Jesus' teachings about faith were difficult to accept because they had been raised with the idea that strict adherence to the Law of Moses would qualify them for heaven. Jesus demonstrated by example that no one did or could obey the Law perfectly. He also demonstrated through the very words they claimed to follow that faith in the sacrifice of the Messiah leading to a good relationship with God was the only way to be clean in His eyes. God had forbidden human sacrifice, so it was incomprehensible how sacrificing Jesus would be far superior to other forms of sacrifice. Many Jews would not accept God's plan to make Gentiles equal heirs of heaven through faith, even though it is very clearly stated in Scripture. The Jews expected the Messiah to free them from Roman rule, not sin. The Jews were also offended that Jesus appeared so human, and would not accept the idea that their Messiah would die, albeit temporarily.

The Gentiles had other issues. They were particularly offended at the idea that there is only one God. Even among monotheistic religions, the idea that the God of Israel is the one true God is offensive. Even the Jews are offended when Christians claim that both groups worship the same God. Some religions think it is abhorrent to that God would have a Son in human flesh, while other still think it is absurd to think that the God of the universe could inhabit a human body. In atheistic circles, it is offensive to believe in any supernatural being. To humanists, the idea of sin, guilt, and accountability in spiritual matters is rejected. The list goes on with various people finding excuses in their own mind for rejecting God and His Messiah, Jesus. It all comes down to people wanting to live their own way rather than acknowledge or obey God.

The word "offense" in most modern translations is actually a Greek word referring to a trap. People are doomed when they are conceived, but faith in Jesus reverses that fate. Thus, if one rejects the Gospel during his lifetime, the "trap" is sprung, and he will forever be entrapped in hell and separated from the love of God.

Some have interpreted this verse as referring to the Calvinistic doctrine of election - that God chooses who will believe. However, the context of the passage and many other teachings in the Bible indicate that one chooses to believe in Him or not, and is held ultimately responsible for that decision. It is also clear that even after salvation, a person must make choices every day about how to behave based on his faith. There are only rare instances where God "forces" people to act in particular ways.

9 In contrast to the unbelieving, those who do believe are chosen to be part of the family of God. The title of "chosen people" referred only to Israel (Deu 10:15), but Jesus made it possible for people everywhere to become part of His Kingdom. The word translated as "race" (NAS), "people" (NIV), or "generation" (KJV) is a word denoting a familial relationship. Genetically, we are all related to Adam, but spiritually, we become related to God through faith. As such, we are to display an unconditional love towards one another that is noticeably different from the rest of the world (John 13:34-35).

In the spiritual sense, Christendom is a nation. We are all subject to God as our King, and we all have a common purpose to know Him. We have a code of conduct, and are to be self-policing. In fact, we do consider ourselves God's possessions because He purchased us at great cost with His Son's blood, and we recognize God as Creator of the universe, and the giver of every good gift - spiritual or physical.

In Israel, only one of the twelve tribes served as priests, but in God's Kingdom, we are all appointed to do so. As priests, we each have direct access to God, and minister to one another and the world around us. This specifically includes spiritual instruction, but also entails action as we "practice what we preach." The "royal" descriptor is a reminder that we are related to the King of the universe. Jesus serves as both King and High Priest. We are likewise charged to be leaders and ministers, while at the same time being submissive to God and one another.

God never intended Christians to be a recluse or occulted group. We are to be public about our faith and invite others in. We are to proclaim God's greatness and how He saved us. One of the goals of this is to have other people come to Him and experience His goodness. The darkness all people are called out of is a world of sin, selfishness, idolatry (i.e., misplaced worship), and ignorance of God. In contrast, the believer is given an enlightened mind to understand God, have a good relationship with Him, be obedient to Him, love others, and have a heart filled with hope and joy.

10 As His possession and subjects of His Kingdom, Christians are known as the "people of God." Peter wrote this letter to a diverse group of Jews and Gentiles from various nations. If one looked at the group outside of their faith, no one would consider them "a people." Even God considers the political nationalities of little significance (Rom 10:12-13). In the eternal timeframe, the only important distinction is whether one belongs to God or not. Peter apparently alludes to Hosea 1:9-10 and 2:23, so while the wording applied easily to the Gentiles, it also applied to the people of Israel, who, despite being God's chosen political and genealogical nation, would likewise only find mercy and spiritual identity through faith in the Messiah.
11 When someone travels in a foreign country, he does not automatically become a citizen of that country. This means there are limitations on their rights and participation within that country. That was an apt metaphor for the recipients of this letter since they had been scattered abroad. The same is true of Christians, who are citizens of the kingdom of God, even though we still live within the kingdoms of this world. We are ambassadors for God, and should not do anything that would compromise our good standing in our eternal homeland. We must be constantly aware that heaven, not this world, is our eternal home. Thus, one should remember that the physical things we gather here are temporary, and should therefore spend more effort seeking the permanent spiritual blessings of heaven.

Fleshly lusts are generally those things that please oneself to the detriment of others. We must be careful not to do things that are physically or spiritually damaging to others or ourselves.

Peter gives this advice as one who is seeking the welfare of those beloved by himself and God. These are not harsh commands coming from a dictator, but rather exhortations like a father would give to the children he loves.

12 Our conduct is to amount to more than mere abstinence from harming others - it is to be as a positive witness for God. It is a mystery why some non-Christians accuse Christians of all kinds of evil, when an objective overview would show that true believers are outstanding citizens. Even so, the disbeliever will one day glorify God because of the conduct they have observed in His people. It is not clear exactly what the "day of visitation" is. It certainly refers to the presence of God, but there are differing opinions as to whether it alludes to Judgment Day when every tongue will confess Him as Lord or to the day when a person rejoices in having become a Christian through the testimony of those who have already believed.
13 God is glorified when His children are recognized as good citizens. To be so, Christians must obey the laws of the land in which they live. In the time that this was written, a country's king or sovereign ruler dictated the laws of the land. In this particular case, Peter would have most likely have been referring to the Roman emperor. In today's world, there are a variety of different forms of governments, but we must be obedient to whatever person or group represents the supreme authority. Of course, civilian submission is implied here, and would not include renouncing God or worshiping something other than God, even if the highest power commanded it. However, perhaps in contrast to Jewish zealots of the day who would not obey any foreign government, Christians are responsible to be obedient to whatever ruler is over them.
14 While kings make the laws, governors tend to be the ones that interpret and enforce them. In a vast empire like the Romans had, it is easy to see why the emperor would not have the time or capacity to personally attend to each legal matter. Even in a relatively small country like Israel, local overseers were necessary (Exo 18:13-26). The governor is to encourage and publicize good deeds, while repressing and punishing evil behavior. Even those leaders who do not recognize God carry out this purpose. As citizens, we are responsible for heeding the government for our own good.

Unfortunately, because of the governors' distance from their kings, the occasional necessity to make quick decisions, and the general fallibility of people, they can abuse their position or simply ignore the law from time to time. The Bible has several examples of how to respond in such instances. Jesus submitted to the religious and political authorities, even when they acted outside the laws during His trial and sentencing (John 19:4-16). Paul, however, used his rights as a Roman citizen to prevent being abused in the legal system (Acts 22:25-29, Acts 25:11). Unfortunately, he too was eventually executed because of his faith rather than any crime against the empire.

In governments that allow their citizens to participate, the Christian should do so to be a good influence within the government. The book of Ester is an example of how Jews who participated in the Persian Empire's government worked within the system to save their people. Mordecai was specifically rewarded for being a good citizen. Daniel is another example of a man who was such an outstanding advisor that he served several rulers of the Babylonian and Persian empires. He was not afraid to openly worship God or use the special gifts God had given him to prophecy and interpret dreams.

15 God's desire is that we live at peace with those around us by working within the guidelines of the governments we live in. Some people want to do away with Christians because of our God-centered worldview, but if they cannot find a legal flaw in us, then there is little they can do but remain silent, least they expose their groundless hatred. Even if those who hate Christians bend the rules or break laws to harm us, we are to remain law-abiding citizens. Those who oppose Christianity are ignorant of God, and they do not see that they are foolishly throwing their eternal life away. If they can see past their misconceptions through our good example, then they might be willing to believe and follow Him.
16 The Jews always considered themselves a "free" people, regardless of what governing institution ruled them (e.g., John 8:33). They had often used this ideal as an excuse to rebel against the rules God had placed over them because of their disobedience to Him. While we, as Christians, are to also consider ourselves a free people, we are still bound by the moral laws of God, which should make us superior citizens in any community to which we belong. We should always do what is right in God's eyes, even if the legal system allows us to do wrong.
17 We are to respect others whether they are good or bad because God created them and they bear His image. We are to show special love to those who are fellow Christians and treat them as close family members. We are to obey God with reverent fear because we recognize His ultimate authority over all people. We are to honor and obey the rulers because God has appointed them to punish those who do wrong.
18 The word used here is not "slaves," as some translations render it, but "domestic servants." This likely referred to both slaves and those who were employed as servants. In modern times, these verses can be applied to the employee-employer relationship. Some employers are more reasonable than others are. In any situation, we are to submit to our employers and always treat them with respect. Following these guidelines will help the servant gain the recognition and respect of the employer. For those with "unreasonable" bosses, following these guidelines should help ease the tensions.

Many may escape a bad working environment by getting a new job, but others may be compelled by circumstances to stay where they are. Life is not always fair. Often when we think of "slaves", we think of brutes performing menial tasks. However, many people in history who have been forced into slavery were highly intelligent people. If we feel that we are forced into a service that is beneath us, we should not start rebelling. We should bear up the burden and see if we can make the situation better.

In some cases the employee and employer may both be Christians. The employee should not think that he could get away with being slack in his work. Instead, the employee should feel compelled out of love to do even a better job (1 Tim 6:2).

19 Even if people do not appreciate your hard work, God will certainly recognize and reward your efforts. We can be assured that if we do a good job because we know God wants us to, He will take note when the job causes His child to suffer. Employers should be warned that God will punish those who abuse their employees (James 5:1-6).
20 When one causes trouble for his employer or does not work up to reasonable expectations, he should expect to be reprimanded, demoted, or fired. He should not expect to gain sympathy from God or the general population because he was punished for his bad behavior. However, God will reward those who do the best they can when their employers put them to unreasonable tasks.
21 This verse says that a Christian's lot in life is to do excellent work that either goes unnoticed or is openly criticized. This verse probably also refers to 1 Pet 1:6, indicating that Christians can expect to be misunderstood and persecuted by those who refuse to believe God. Jesus warned His followers about this in John 15:20-21. However, He encouraged us to endure and set the example we are to follow. He lived a perfect life, but was branded a criminal by the religious leaders who then persuaded the secular authorities to kill Him illegally. This He endured for our sakes, mysteriously implementing the plan of salvation in the process. The idea is that there is a spiritual benefit to suffering as Christ did.
22 This verse is similar to Isa 53:9. Jesus had never committed any sin and had never told a lie. This undoubtedly made some uncomfortable, jealous, or concerned. It should have been seen as evidence that Jesus was indeed God incarnate, but the fears and disbelief of the majority of people turned them into a murderous mob.
23 Jesus endured many false accusations at His trial, but He did not respond to any of them. He only requested that His accusers would present any real evidence they had against Him (Mat 27:12-14, John 18:20-23). He could have threatened them with divine judgment (Mat 26:53-54) or pointed out their many sins, but did not do so. Instead, He only said, "Father forgive them" as He died (Luke 23:34). He endured the false allegations, mock trial, and even crucifixion because He committed to follow the Father's will. We may not know our future and purpose as Jesus did, but we do know that God is fair when the world is not. When we suffer terrible things, we should look to God for relief if people will not listen.
24 By patiently and willingly enduring these things, Jesus brought about salvation for the world (Isa 53:4). He separates and frees us from sin because He bore the ultimate punishment in our place when He died on the cross. Through His death, resurrection, and final judgment, He brings about healing to all who will believe in Him (Isa 53:5). These wounds include those caused by one's own sins and those inflicted unjustly by those in the world. Our appropriate response is to live in a way that is pleasing to God, both in action and in faith.
25 Before salvation, people are like sheep that stray (Isa 53:6). Sheep often get into eating modes where they concentrate on eating so much that they do not pay attention to where they are going. If they have no shepherd watching them, the heard would scatter and be unprotected. Likewise, people get so engrossed with whatever they are doing that they forget or never learn about the more important spiritual life they live. Without such knowledge and proper guidance, people wander away from God, who is the only real spiritual benefactor. Once people come to know Christ, they begin to recognize His voice, as a sheep learns to recognize the voice of its Shepherd. Then, as a shepherd leads his sheep to good pastures and protects them from harm, Jesus shows us how to live abundant spiritual and physical lives, and will protect us, ultimately, from the spiritual forces of evil that want to destroy our eternal spirits (John 10:1-16).