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

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Pet 2:4-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 16, 2011

A Summary of 1 Peter 2~In this chapter, the Apostle, alluding to the spiritual regeneration (1-23), by which the faithful contracted towards one another the relation of spiritual brotherhood, calls upon them to lay aside the vices opposed to the exercise of fraternal charity (1), and as they had lately received a new spiritual existence, to continue to covet the milk of the divine word (2), the sweets of which they already experienced (3).

He, in the next place, views them under a different respect, as living stones of the spiritual edifice, of which Christ was the chief corner-stone; and that he was the corner-stone of his Church, the Apostle proves from Isaias (4-7). He shows, that while to the believers Christ is a source of glory and honour, by their incorporation luith him, to the unbelievers, he is the occasion of ruin (7, 8).

He applies to the Christian converts, the exalted titles bestowed by God on his chosen people of old (9), and shows the magnitude of the blessings bestowed on them, by contrasting their present benefits, with their former deplorable condition (10). He encourages them to subdue their passions, and to edify, by their good works, the unconverted Gentiles (11, 12).

He inculcates the duty of subjection to temporal rulers, whether exercising supreme or subordinate authority, as both derive it from God (13, 14), and he enjoins this duty on the ground, that God wills it so. He also tells them not to make the liberty, into which Christ asserted them, the pretext of insubordination, and of unrestrained licentiousness, (15, 16).

He, then, descending to domestic obedience, enjoins on servants, the duty of obedience to their masters, even to such as are unkind (11). He encourages them, to suffer wrongs patiently after the example of Christ, he shows the great merit of such patience (19-24), and points out the great blessing of redemption through Christ (25).


1Pe 2:4  Unto whom coming, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men but chosen and made honourable by God:

Unto whom approaching by a conformity of life, as unto a living stone, whereon is built the sacred  edifice of the Church, and whereby is also communicated a spiritual life to the parts that form the superstructure; a stone, rejected as valueless, by men; but, chosen by God as the foundation of his Church, and honoured by him in his Resurrection, Ascension, and the other mysteries of his glory. 

After having regarded the Christian converts under the relation of spiritual children, who should continue to partake, during life, of the pure and nutritious food of Christian doctrine, the Apostle views them under a different respect viz., as living stones of the spiritual edifice of the Church, the great foundation and corner-stone of which was Christ. He it is, that continually imparts life and animation to the different parts of this spiritual edifice; and they should continue to approach him by good works and charity, after having been incorporated with him in baptism. “Unto whom coming,” by good works and charity, “as to a living stone-“living,” because he imparts life to all the other parts of the spiritual edifice. These words, “living stone,” show that the Apostle is here employing metaphorical language—”rejected by men,”—”His own received him not.”—(John 1:11). They would not have “this man to reign over them.” (Luke 19:14). There is an allusion in the Text to (Psalm 118:22), “the stone which the builders rejected” &c.  “But chosen by God,” as select and excellent, to become the foundation of his Church, “and honourable by God.” Honoured in his Resurrection, Ascension, in the glorious and adorable name of Jesus, &c. The Apostle, addressing the Jewish Christians, borrows his images from the temple and its service; hence, he represents Christ as the corner-stone of the edifice, and the faithful were to lead the life of grace, as its living, component parts.

1Pe 2:5  Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

You, also, as living stones, to whom he imparted the life of grace, are built up to form the spiritual edifice of his Church.  You are, likewise, in a certain sense, an assemblage of holy priests ; inasmuch, as you are constituted to offer up the spiritual sacrifices of good works, rendered acceptable to God through the merits of Jesus Christ.

“Be you also as living stones;”  “living,” through the life of grace, which Christ has imparted to you; the word “living” is also employed to show more clearly the metaphor, and to admonish them to promote, by good works, the advancement of the mystic edifice.  “Be you built up;” the Greek word, οικοδομεισθε, admits of being rendered in the indicative mood also, you are built up; and, this latter is the more probable construction; for the Apostle, has principally in view here, to point out the dignity to which Christians are raised by their connection with Christ; “a spiritual house,” the faithful are built up, and from the superstructure of the spiritual and mystical edifice of the Church.

Objection.-Is not the Church, then invisible?

Answer.—By no means. The word “spiritual,” is not opposed to visible, but to a material house, such as the temple of Solomon. Hence, it means mystical, as typified in the Old Testament, by the material temple of Solomon and the Tabernacle; but, this, by no means, implies, thar the thing typified is invisible; for, the men who constitute the living stones of this edifice surely are visible, and so must the house which they compose.

1Pe 2:6  Wherefore it is said in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious. And he that shall believe in him shall not be confounded.

It is good to point out to us, that Christ is the living foundation of his Church, that the following words are contained in the sacred Scripture Isaiah 28): Behold I place in Sion-in which was contained the palace of David, and, was a type of the Church, wherein Christ reigns—a chief corner-stone, whereby the entire edifice is bound together, propped up and
supported; chosen for this, in preference to every other, and “precious,” owing to the infinite dignity of his person, in which are united the divine and human natures. Whosoever shall believe, and place his trust in him, will not be confounded in his expectation.

“Wherefore, it is said in the Scripture,” In Greek,  περιεχει εν τη γραφη, ”it is
contained in Scripture”—(Isaiah 28:16). The Apostle quotes the passage, with some transposition of the words. He expresses the sense, however, both of the Hebrew and Septuagint. He proves, from the prophet, that Christ was made the living foundation of his Church.  “Behold I will place in (Mount) Sion”—a type of the Christian Church—”a chief corner stone,” because, he supports the edifice; and, by a Hebrew idiom, the rulers and governors are called the corners or angles of the people, as being their chief props of support.—(Judges, 21:1; 1 Sam 14; Isaias, 19.) Christ might be called the “corner-stone,” because he connects and unites in one, the two walls of Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2:14-21); ”elect,” for, in no other name can salvation be found; “and precious,” and most highly honoured, since, “in His name every knee in heaven, &c., must bow.” (Philip 2:10).  “And he that shall believe in him shall not be confounded.” The Apostle quotes from the Septuagint version. In the Hebrew, instead of “shall not be confounded,” we have “let him not hasten.” The sense, however, is the same, for, the word ”hasten,” expresses the hurry and trepidation, consequent on confusion or disappointment in one’s expectation; hence, the words mean, he need not be in that hurried anxiety into which those are thrown, who dread disappointment in any important concern (see Rom 9:33).

1Pe 2:7  To you therefore that believe, he is honour: but to them that believe not, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner:

To you, therefore, that believe in him, will belong the special privilege of not being confounded in your hopes; or, to you, who by faith are incorporated with him, will belong, a share and participation in the honour conferred on him; but to those who refuse to believe in him, this same stone, which the builders rejected, shall, in despite of their efforts and machinations against him, become “the head of the comer,” by being vested with supreme, legal, and judicial authority, so as to punish and destroy them.

“To you, therefore, that believe, he is honour.” The word “honour” may refer
either to the last part of the preceding verse, “shall not be confounded,” or, to “precious,” that is, honourable. This “corner-stone” is honourable and precious. To you, therefore, who as living stones, are constructed as a part of the spiritual edifice on him, and incorporated with Him, shall be given a share in the honour and preciousness, which belongs to him.—(See Paraphrase above). The Apostle wishes to show the glory of the believers, and the greatness of the benefits conferred on them, by being incorporated with Christ, and this he does the more clearly, by contrasting their advantages with the evils, in which the unbelievers are involved, “But to them, that believe not;” “The stone which the builders rejected;” by “builders” are meant the Scribes and Pharisees, who under pretext of zeal for their religion, rejected Christ, and persecuted him unto death, this stone is
“made for them, the head of the corner,” that is. He who is represented by this stone, is vested with supreme authority, to punish and destroy them. The words are taken from Psalm 118:21.

1Pe 2:8  And a stone of stumbling and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word, neither do believe, whereunto also they are set.

And he shall become a stone of offence, which shall cause them to fall, and a rock of scandal, against which they shall be dashed, who stumble against his
word, and refuse to obey; into this blindness and incredulity, they are permitted by God to fall, in punishment of their sins, and their resistance to divine grace.

In the first words of this verse, there is an allusion to Isaiah (8:14). The words “stone of stumbling, and rock of scandal,” probably mean the same thing, which is repeated, for the sake of emphasis, in two different forms of expression; “who stumble at the word,” that is, who make it the occasion of sin and unbelief; “neither do believe,” they stumble against his word, by their positive incredulity and unbelief.  “Whereunto also they are set.” Some Commentators understand these words to mean, that they were set, and appointed by God to believe this word, which, through incredulity, they rejected. Looking, however, to the construction in the Greek, where, for
“neither do believe,” we have but one word, απειθουντες, disbelieving; the most probable construction seems to be that given in the Paraphrase.
“Whereunto,” i.e., into which unbehef they are permitted by God to fall in punishment of their sins. There is nothing in this, which is not perfectly warranted by the sacred Scripture. “God delivered them up to a reprobate sense.”—(Rom 1:28; 2 Thessa 2:10). On which passages, (see Commentary.)

1Pe 2:9  But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

But you are, in a still more exalted sense than were the Jewish people of old, a chosen generation, peculiarly selected by God as his chosen people—a kingly priesthood, in whom are united the exalted dignities of kings and priests at the same time—a holy nation called to interior sanctity, and rendered such, by the plentiful effusion of heavenly and sanctifying grace—a purchased people, whom your Lord has rescued and redeemed by the effusion of his blood, and asserted into liberty, thereby making you his own
pecuhar possession, in order that you may announce, and loudly proclaim the wonderful attributes and perfections of him who called you forth from the darkness of vice and ignorance, in which you were involved, into the light of faith, which reveals to you the admirable truths and mysteries of his gospel.

The Apostle now reckons up the glorious titles and prerogatives conferred by God on the faithful. These several titles were originally bestowed on his chosen people, the Jews, but, as “all things happened unto them in figure”
(1 Cor 10), hence, the Apostle applies, in a still more exalted sense, the same glorious titles to spiritual Israel, the children of the promise called in Isaac. “You are a chosen generation,” which according to some, is taken from Isaiah (43:20), “my people, my chosen,” also from Deuteronomy 4; 8;  10; 14.), and elsewhere; “a kingly priesthood,” from Exodus (19:6), where it is written, “a priestly kingdom.”  The Apostle, however, here quotes, according to the Septuagint version. The words mean that they are priests and kings at the same time. This meaning is also conveyed (Rev 1:6).

“A holy nation,” from Deuteronomy 7:6, “because thou art a holy people to
the Lord thy God.” Also (Exodus 19:6). They are called a “holy nation” in the
same sense, in which the Church is termed holy, viz., in her doctrine, sacraments, founder, and many members, in the abundant means of sanctity, and the plentiful effusion of sanctifying grace; all Christians are called to the state and practice of sanctity; “a purchased people,” that is, a people asserted into liberty, and fully ransomed, so as to become peculiarly his (Exodus 19:6), “you shall be my peculiar possession above all people;” also, Deuteronomy7:6.  “That you may declare his virtues;” by “virtues,” as appears from the Greek, τας αρετας, are meant, his attributes and perfections, his power, his goodness, mercy, &c. There is allusion made to the canticle, which the Jewish people sang, proclaiming God’s perfections after their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, when they crossed the Red Sea.  “Who hath called you out of darkness,” that is, the darkness of sin and ignorance, in which the Jews, as well as the Gentiles, were involved (Isaiah 60), “surge, illuminare Jerusalem” (Matthew 4), “populus qui sedebat in tenebris, vidit lucent magnam.”  “Into his marvellous light,” the light of faith, which proposed to their view, the marvellous mysteries of God’s designs upon man, and the whole economy of man’s redemption.


One Response to “Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Pet 2:4-9”

  1. […] UPDATE: Bishop MacEvily on the Second Reading for Sunday Mass (1 Pet 2:4-9). […]

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