The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 Peter 2:11-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 22, 2010

Note: Like many commentators in his day the Bishop made use of paraphrases after quoting the actual text of Scripture, these paraphrases (in red) , along with his notes are reproduced here with some slight editing and omissions.  More resources for this Sunday’s readings can be found here.

2:11  Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul,

Dearly beloved, I earnestly exhort and implore of you, as strangers here below, and pilgrims traveling on through this vale of tears towards your heavenly country, to refrain from, and have on communication with, these carnal desires so much valued by this world, and which war against the soul, and ruin its eternal interests.

I beseech you may also bear, as apears from the Greek παρακαλέω (parakaleo), the signification of, I exhort you, as strangers and pilgrims.  Reference is made to the condition of Christians here below, whose country is in heaven, and who are here living in a foreign land.  The idea may have been suggested by the condition of the Jews scattered in foreign regions, far away from Judea.  To refrain youselves from carnal desires.  As travelers should not busy themselves with the concerns of the countries through which they pass, so neither should Christians, traveling on through this strange land, towards their heavenly country, take part in these carnal, noxious desires of pleasures, honors, and riches, so much prized by this world.  Which war against the soul; these desires, if indulged into an illicit extent, and for bad ends, ruin the life of the soul, and involve it in spiritual and eternal death.

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

Leading an edifying and praiseworthy life, among the unconverted Gentiles, so that instead of reproaching you, and speaking against you as malefactors, as they do at present, they may, upon a closer inspection of your good works, give glory to God in the day on which he may be pleased to visit them in his mercy, and give them his grace and faith.

Having your conversation, that is, the whole course of your conduct and actions good, or praiseworthy and edifying.  Among the Gentiles, the unconverted Gentiles, among whom they live in Pontus, Galatia, &c.  That whereas they speak of you as evil doers.  The Greek for whereas, ἐν ὅ(en ho), means instead ofSpeaking ill of you as evil doers, probably refers to the charges of infanticide and other obscenities, which the early Christians were accused of having committed at their meetings by the Pagans…the principal accusation, however, to which St Peter here refers, would appear to be, as the context warrants us in thinking, that of refusing to obey the temporal magistrates and governors.  In the day of visitation, most probably regards the gracious visitation of God, when he will visit them in his mercy, and call them to his holy faith.

2:13  Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to the king as excelling,

Be subject, therefore, and obedient to every human being, whether Jew or Gentile, faithful or unbeliever, placed in authority over you, for the sake of God whom they represent, and by whose ordinance they rule, whether to the king or emperor, as exercising supreme temporal authority in the state.

It appears that at this time the Jews were imbued with a spirit of disaffection towards Roman emperors, as we learn from Josephus and Suetonius; they considered it degrading to the chosen people of God, the descendants of Abraham, to whom were made so many and such magnificent promises, to obey or pay tribute to foreigners and unbelievers.  This spirit they carried with them into the very bosom of Christianity.  The foolish rebellion of Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), would serve to fasten more closely this imputation of insubordination, so injurious to the spread of the Gospel, on the Christians, whose teachers were Galileans.  Hence the zeal displayed by St Peter and by St Paul in instructing the Christians of their own day, and at all future times, regarding their obligations in this respect.  Be ye subject, therefore, to every human creature.  The word therefore shows that the chief point in which they were reproached, as evil doers (vs 12), was on the subject of insubordination and disaffection towards temporal authority.  For God’s sake.  In Greek, δια τον κυριον  (dia ton kurios), for the Lord’s sakeWhether to the king.  The word king refers to the Roman emperor, called by the Greeks, Basileus, or king.  Claudius, or according to others, Nero, was the reigning emperor at this time as excelling, i.e., exercising supreme temporal authority; for, the state, or secular authority is supreme in its own sphere, that is to say, in regard to merely temporal government matters…

2:14  Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of the good.

Or to governors or other inferior magistrates as sent by the same God, for the purpose of upholding order, by rewarding those who do good, and punishing such as do evil.

Or to governors sent by him.  Under the word governors are included all those in a subordinate capacity, entrusted with authority; as sent by him; by God.  The opinion referring him to God, is preferred by Estius; because, he says, the Roman emperors did not always send out governors.  This was often done by the Senate.  Again, they did not always send them for the object here specified, viz., for the punishment of evil doers &c.  Others understand the words to mean, “as sent” by the emperor or king; for he ordinarily did so, and the general end for which they were and should be sent was, for the punishment of those who did ill, and the praise or reward of such as acted well.  Similar are the words of Romans 13~”for he is God’s minister to thee for good; he is God’s minister, an avenger to exercise wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

2:15   For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

For the will of God is this, that by your good actions you close, or rather muzzle, the mouths of foolish, ignorant men, who wrongfully bring charges against our holy religion, of teachings and principles of which they are utterly ignorant.

For this is the will of God.  these words, as appears from the Greek, refer not to the preceding, but the following.  That by doing well, you may put to silence.  The Greek word for put to silence, φιμόω (phimoo), means, to muzzleThe ignorance of foolish men, who attempt to revile a religion, of which they are wholly ignorant.  The doing well, regards good works in general, but especially subordination to temporal authority.

2:16  As free and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God.

(Be subject to every human being placed in authority over you-verse 13-from a free spirit of generosity, and a love of justice), and make not the liberty into which Christ asserted you the pretext for insubordination and other wicked deeds, but serve temporal rulers, as if you were serving God himself, from whom they derive their power.

As free.  These words, as appears from the Greek, ως ελευθερο (hos eleutheros), are to be connected with verse 13, and not with doing well, ἀγαθοποιός
(agathopoios), which is in a different case (verse 14).  And not as making liberty, the liberty into which Christ asserted you by his grace; a liberty and freedom from the dominion of sin and of the passions; a cloak for malice, a pretext for insubordination and other crimes.  It appears that the Gnostics, Nicholaites, and other heretics in the Apostolic age construed the liberty into which Christ asserted them, as implying a total independence of all temporal authority, and even a freedom from moral restraint.  Hence, they thought themselves justified in indulging in the most unbounded licentiousness.  This is what the Apostle here alludes to in saying, not making liberty a cloak for malice, i.e., licentiousness of all sorts.  But as servants of God, serving our temporal rulers in all things lawful, as if we were serving God, whose vicegerents they are, and from whom they hold the reigns of government.

2:17  Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Treat all men with the honor and respect due to them; but in a special manner, cherish and love the brethren of the faith.  as a safe check against carrying your obedience too far, so as to extend to things evil as well as good, have a filial fear of God; and hold in special honor the supreme ruler on earth, the king or emperor.

Honor all men, i.e., pay all men the degree of honor and respect due to each one.  Similar is the injunction “honor to whom honor is due” (Rom 13).  Love the brotherhood.  The members of the household of the faith should be, in a special manner, the objects of our affection.  “we should do good to all, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 5:10).  Fear God with a reverential fear, which should serve as a check upon us against carrying our compliance with the mandates of authority too far, to evil and unlawful things, as well as to the lawful subjects of obedience.  Honor the king, is probably added, because the reigning prince, whether Claudius or Nero, were not the most deserving objects of respect or reverence.

2:18  Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the froward.

Servants, be subject to your masters with great reverence and respect; not only to such as are kind and gentle, but also to such as are froward and morose.

The Apostle passes from inculcating obedience to public authority, to treat of domestic obedience, which servants and domestics owe their masters.  It appears that, on this subject also, false notions were afloat, and that many were of the opinion, that duties of servitude were inconsistent with the liberty of the Gospel, and that servants and domestics after their conversion, were exempted from obedience to their temporal masters.  One of the charges against Christianity was, that it subverted the relations between servants and masters.  With all fear, that is, great reverence and respect.  To the froward, such as may be rough and unkind in their treatment of them.

2:19  For this is thankworthy: if, for conscience towards God, a man endure sorrows, suffering wrongfully.

For, this is the work of God’s grace, exceedingly pleasing to him; if from a consciousness of God’s will and pleasure that he should do so, or from a pure motive of religion, a person submit to troubles and sorrows, and suffer unjustly.

Thankworthy, χάρις (charis), grace, that is the effect of God’s grace, or a thing exceedingly pleasing to him.  If for conscience towards God, that is, from a conscientious knowledge that God wills it so; in other words, from pure religious motives, a man endured sorrows, anguish of mind, and miseries.  Suffering wrongfully, suffering unmerited punishment.

4 Responses to “Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 Peter 2:11-19”

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