1 Peter – Chapter Two

by Ed Urzi


The Apostle Peter touched upon several important topics in the first chapter of this epistle. For example, our author began the opening portion of this letter with a number of key insights, including…

  • “…you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (verses 15-16).
  • “[You have been redeemed] with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (verse 19).
  • …you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit” (verse 22).
  • “…the word of the Lord endures forever” (verse 25).

Peter will now build upon that foundation as he identifies several negative character traits that should not define our lives, or shape our interactions with the world…

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking” (1 Peter 2:1).

The opening verse of this chapter begins with the familiar word “therefore.” It thus provides us with an opportunity to revisit an important point from our earlier look at 1 Peter chapter one. As mentioned previously, the word “therefore” signals a transition from an earlier teaching or idea to an associated action, consequence, or behavior. In short, this word tells us that a Biblical author is about to shift from instruction to application. Therefore, the word “therefore” should encourage us to listen carefully whenever it appears.

Much like similar lists that appear in other portions of the New Testament. this transition draws our attention to a list of behaviors that should not characterize our conduct. This portion of Scripture thus builds upon the list of positive behaviors given to us earlier in chapter one. The first chapter told us what we should do. The second chapter opens with a list of things we shouldn’t do.

Peter presents these characteristics along with an encouragement to “lay aside” such conduct. This often requires tenacity, discipline, and a deliberate decision to avoid these behaviors as we seek God’s empowerment to make good choices. One source looks at this phrase in the original language of this passage and draws the following conclusion…

“This is from apothesthai, ‘which is the word for stripping off one’s clothes.’ The child of God must denounce and turn away from all manner of wickedness, just as one might strip off filthy clothing.” (1)

Later in our study of 1 Peter chapter two, we’ll discuss strategies that can help us choose the right path when our will to do so isn’t there. But first, we’ll take a closer look at the five negative characteristics that are given to us here in 1 Peter 2:1.

(1) William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 189. Quoted in Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 1 Peter 2”. “Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/ commentaries/ eng/ bcc/ 1-peter-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999. [verse 1]


“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1 ESV).

The first characteristic given to us in this list of attitudes and behaviors is “malice.” This word describes a sense of ill-will towards one or more individuals. It also conveys a desire to see another person suffer. A person with malice toward another individual is someone who is resentful when he or she succeeds, and pleased when that person meets trouble. While malice is a quality that is often visible to others, there are some who are highly skilled in concealing it behind a veneer of seemingly respectful conduct.

We express a contemporary form of malice with the modern-day word schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is a word that has found increasing use over the years to describe the pleasure one feels when others suffer pain. According to one source…

“Schadenfreude is a combination of the German nouns Schaden, meaning ‘damage; or ‘harm,’ and Freude, meaning ‘joy.’ So it makes sense that schadenfreude means joy over some harm or misfortune suffered by another.” (1)

Since many of us do not wish to be associated with a negative characteristic like malice, schadenfreude offers a better (and more socially acceptable) way to express our delight when negative events overtake those we dislike. The Scriptures admonish us against this attitude (no matter what we choose to call it) because it is incompatible with genuine love. A person who loves is someone who is displeased when others meet adversity, even when they appear to deserve it.

Nevertheless, we should recognize that those who habitually engage in inappropriate behaviors will eventually reap the consequences of those behaviors. We should also recognize that God may choose to discipline those who injure us, and perhaps bring them to repentance. Therefore, the Old Testament book of Proverbs offers a practical reason to avoid malice…

“Do not rejoice when your enemy meets trouble. Let there be no gladness when he falls— for the Lord may be displeased with you and stop punishing him!” (Proverbs 24:17-18 TLB).

The next characteristic on our list from 1 Peter 1:1 is “deceit” or “guile.” While it is possible to use deception in a good way (such as when planning a surprise for a friend or loved one), the type of deceit mentioned here in 1 Peter 2:1 “…is the translation of a word which in its verb form means ‘to catch with bait,’ and in the noun which Peter uses means ‘craftiness.’” (2) We might also use words like “crooked,” “underhanded,” or “fraudulent,” as synonyms to describe this sort of conduct.

Like malice, deceit is a characteristic that involves the intent to injure someone, and should not be found among those who profess to follow Christ.

(1) See “Schadenfreude” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/schadenfreude Accessed 6 October, 2023.

(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:1-5] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


“So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1 NET).

Hypocrisy is the third characteristic listed for us here in 1 Peter 2:1. A “hypocrite” is someone who pretends to be someone (or something) he or she is not. In the New Testament era, a hypocrite was synonymous with “one who wears a mask.” This term described a professional actor who employed a mask to portray different emotions. That led to a natural association with those who differed from what they seemed to be.

A hypocrite, therefore, is not someone who makes an error or struggles to do the right thing. A hypocrite is really a “mask-wearer,” or someone who knowingly and intentionally differs from what he or she claims to be. One source offers a technical analysis of this word that helps expand upon these differences…

“The word ‘hypocrisies’ is the transliteration of the Greek word hupokriseis which means literally ‘to judge under,’ as a person giving off his judgment from behind a screen or mask. The true identity of the person is covered up. It refers to acts of impersonation or deception. It was used of an actor on the Greek stage. Taken over into the New Testament, it referred to a person we call a hypocrite, one who assumes the mannerisms, speech, and character of someone else, thus hiding his true identity.” (1)

The New Testament Scriptures clearly denounce hypocrisy, beginning with the following quotes from Jesus Himself…

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven… And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:1, 5).

“Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NET).

Finally, the Apostle Paul offers a sobering reminder concerning hypocrisy in his New Testament letter to the church in Rome…

“Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3).

(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:1-5] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1 NIV).

“Envy” is an emotion that produces a sense of discontent and/or resentment when others are blessed or successful. One source associates “envy” with “…the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.” (1) If an envious person cannot secure the talents, qualities, assets, or accomplishments that others possess, he or she may seek to belittle or ridicule such things. While malice and envy are loosely related, malice incorporates an active desire to hurt someone else.

Envy is a longing that compels us to pursue something that is superior or more desirable than what others possess. We can often identify the presence of envy by taking an honest and objective assessment of our attitudes towards others. For instance, are we displeased with those who possess more than we do? Do we resent their achievements? Do we feel as if we are more deserving of the success they enjoy?

These characteristics (and others like them) are inconsistent with a God-honoring mindset…

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:14-16).

In fact, the Biblical Scriptures devote a surprising amount of content to this subtle (and often hidden) characteristic. A look at the verses below reveals the extent to which envy can work its way into our lives…

“Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NLT).

“A tranquil mind gives health to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 CJB).

“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient; we were misled by others and became slaves to many evil pleasures and wicked desires. Our lives were full of resentment and envy. We hated others and they hated us” (Titus 3:3 TLB).

Finally, we should note the role that false teaching plays in promoting envy…

“If anyone teaches false doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing, but has an unhealthy interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5 CSB).

(1) Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for ‘Envy, Envying’. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words. https://www.studylight.org/?dictionaries/?eng/?ved/?e/envy-envying.html. 1940.


“So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1 HCSB).

Have you ever had someone lie about you behind your back? Have you ever encountered a situation in which someone appeared friendly but secretly tried to undermine you? Have you ever had someone speak to you in a courteous manner but talk very differently about you when they were engaged with others? These examples all represent various forms of slander.

Slander involves the intentional communication of a false statement that is designed to injure another person’s reputation. It signals an attitude of contempt and/or disrespect for someone else. Slander is the oldest form of character defamation and traces its origin back to the Garden of Eden. Consider the serpent’s interaction with Eve concerning the forbidden fruit in Genesis chapter three…

“…the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…’” (Genesis 3:2-5).

That represented a false statement that was intended to damage God’s reputation, for it implied that He had not been truthful in His earlier warning.

From there, we move from the first book of the Bible to the last book of the Bible to consider Jesus’ letter to the ancient church at Smyrna. In Revelation chapter two, we learn that the Christians in the town of Smyrna were suffering from the slanderous opposition of others. In His message to the church there, Jesus assured His followers that He was aware of the situation and identified the root cause as well…

“I also know the slander against you by those who call themselves Jews and really are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9b NET).

Unfortunately, the individuals who were slandering the Christians in Smyrna were people who appeared to be spiritual, but actually had more in common with the devil than with God. That brings us to the following observation…

“There is a sense in which slander is the most cruel of all sins. If a man’s goods are stolen, he can set to and build up his fortunes again; but if his good name is taken away, irreparable damage has been done.” (1)

(1) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, “The Qualities Of Godlessness (2Ti_3:2-5 continued)”


Although it doesn’t serve as a popular topic of discussion, the Biblical book of 1 Peter repeatedly directs our attention the proper way to handle the sufferings, difficulties, persecutions, and negative circumstances we encounter in life. In fact, every chapter of this brief epistle dedicates at least one portion of its content to a discussion of that subject. For instance…

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV).

“…maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears” (1 Peter 2:12 NET).

“Can anyone really harm you for being eager to do good deeds? Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don’t worry about what people might do” (1 Peter 3:13-14 CEV).

“Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13 CSB).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV).

These passages remind us that God’s Word does not deny the existence of genuine suffering. Instead, the Scriptures acknowledge the fact that we may endure conditions that are unethical, discriminatory, inequitable, wrong, and/or unfair. However, we face a choice when confronting those circumstances. We can allow them to generate a negative response, or we can view them as opportunities to exercise the kind of faith that is pleasing to God.

One commentary addresses these challenges in an honest and forthright assessment of this epistle…

“Returning good for evil sounds noble, and Christians agree that it is the right thing to do; however, in the midst of trials and persecutions, showing kindness to our persecutors can be extremely difficult. The Christians of Asia Minor who received this letter from Peter had discovered this. They had found that a life lived for God is often a life of many difficulties. Some of their troubles came from their neighbors, while some came from government authorities. Peter wrote to these Christians to encourage them, to explain to them why suffering occurs, and to remind them of their eternal reward at the end of this earthly life.” (1),

(1) Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1674.


“as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

This passage offers the first of several analogies (or comparisons) that appear here in 1 Peter chapter two. The first of these analogies serves to encourage us to develop an appetite for the Word of God. Just as milk is essential to the growth and development of an infant, the consumption of God’s Word is essential in nourishing our spiritual development.

However, we should also note the reference to purity within this passage. Milk that is tainted or diluted cannot nourish us properly. In the same way, we should recognize that books, videos, or messages pertaining to spiritual matters should never serve as a substitute for God’s Word, no matter how helpful they seem.

This offers several important considerations for today. For instance…

  • Spiritual messages that consistently revolve around the speaker’s subject of interest cannot (and should not) substitute for the verse-by-verse study of God’s Word.
  • A ministry that specializes in a specific area of Biblical doctrine should not regard their area of expertise as the only valid measure of legitimate spiritual belief. Such expertise does not negate the validity of other Biblically-grounded perspectives.
  • A book, video, or spiritual message that simply purports to help us live happier or more successful lives may fail to represent the “…pure milk of the word” as quoted above.

These considerations should lead us to ask some important questions:

  • Do we spend more time engaging with books, videos, or messages that explore various spiritual themes rather than the Bible itself?
  • Do our devotional readings primarily consist of topical messages that are supplemented with a small selection of Bible verses?
  • Are the sermons at my place of worship devoid of Biblical content, or feature minimal references to the Scriptures?

Devotional studies and the acquisition of spiritual knowledge are valuable and necessary pursuits. But if we follow those pursuits to the exclusion of the Scriptures (or carefully selected commentaries that help us understand the Scriptures better), we ultimately do ourselves a disservice. It is crucial to have a working knowledge of God’s Word in order to interpret it correctly. For this reason, we should seek to read and study the Biblical Scriptures for ourselves.

While some Biblical texts may seem dull or repetitive, those portions of Scripture are comparable to the meals we might consume over the course of a week. Even though we may not recall the specifics of those meals, they still provided us with nourishment. The same is true of the Word of God in our spiritual lives.


“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious” (1 Peter 2:4).

The construction of a new building generally starts with an idea in the mind of an architect. The architect then transfers that concept to a set of design prints for review, approval, and construction. That process also serves to illustrate God’s personal building program as described over the next few verses of 1 Peter chapter two.

Here in verse four, our author will return to the archives of God’s building department, so to speak. Those archives are embodied in the Old Testament Scriptures and serve to facilitate our understanding of God’s building program. For instance, every new building rests upon a foundation. In a similar manner, this verse identifies the foundation of God’s building program: “You are coming to Christ, the living stone…” (GW).

In searching through the Old Testament archives of God’s building department, we also find a reference that describes the characteristic quality of that foundation…

“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken’” (Isaiah 28:16).

However, those archives also contain some references to certain building contractors as well…

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22).

“God will become a sanctuary— but he will be a stone to trip over and a rock to stumble on for the two houses of Israel; a trap and a snare for those living in Jerusalem. Many of them will stumble and fall, and be broken, snared, and captured” (Isaiah 8:14-15 CEB).

Jesus made use of those Scriptures in speaking of Himself in a parable that is recorded for us in Luke 20:9-19. Unfortunately, a portion of Jesus’ audience for that parable consisted of those who exemplified the individuals who appear in these excerpts from the Book of Psalms and the prophet Isaiah. Those who heard Jesus’ message had an opportunity to respond by making the necessary changes that would bring them into alignment with God’s design. Instead, they chose to respond in a different manner…

“The legal experts and chief priests wanted to arrest him right then because they knew he had told this parable against them. But they feared the people” (Luke 20:19 CEB).

In light of these things, one source leaves us with an important reminder…

“If we are going to be used in God’s building program we must come to Christ. Our only suitability to be building materials is derived from our identification with Him.” (1)

(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad, Thomas Nelson Publishers [pg. 2258]


“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4).

It seems that life is full of ironies. For example, the race isn’t always won by the fastest runner, recognition doesn’t always come to the most talented person, and the best team doesn’t always win the championship. In Romans chapter nine, Paul the Apostle noted another irony that relates to our text from 1 Peter 2:4: God had been found by those who weren’t looking for Him, while God’s chosen people had largely failed to recognize Him (see Romans 9:30-32).

How did such a thing occur? Well, Paul provides us with that answer…

“…they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, ‘I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced’” (Romans 9:32-33 NLT).

So the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ impeded those who sought to approach God through their own efforts. Those who preferred to approach God on their own terms thus rejected God’s plan for their salvation. Then there were others who dismissed Jesus for other reasons…

“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (1 Corinthians 1:21-23 NLT).

Therefore, the Scriptures offer some important counsel for those who build their foundation upon the living, chosen, precious stone that is Christ…

“…no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames” (1 Corinthians 3:11–15 NLT).


“you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

The work of a stonemason often serves as a critical element in the building construction process. For instance, various forms of stonework serve a decorative function that brings beauty and character to an office or residence. In other instances, a stonemason or bricklayer is responsible for establishing a wall or foundation that supports other portions of a building.

With this in mind, let’s consider the work that involves the construction of a brick wall. This process does not involve a terribly complicated procedure; the mason adds a layer of brick, secures it with mortar, checks to ensure that the layer is plumb and level, and then repeats the process with another layer. This procedure lacks complexity because bricks are inanimate objects that generally stay where we put them, sometimes for centuries.

But what if the contractor in our illustration is working with living stones? In other words, what if our stonemason is dealing with bricks that interact with the other bricks that are placed above, below, or alongside? In that instance, the work of our mason becomes much more complex. The same is true of the relationship of every stone to every other stone within the building.

This serves to describe those who are “…being built up into a spiritual house” (AMP) as we’re told here in 1 Peter 2:5. Fortunately, the foundation for these living stones is a cornerstone that has been rejected by the world but is chosen and honored by God. That cornerstone of our “spiritual house” is Christ. He serves as our foundation and the example for our relationship with the other living stones that comprise the household of God

Therefore, we must determine how we will integrate with these other living stones as we look to Christ as our example. Since a house divided against itself cannot stand, we should ensure that we are not the cause of such division.

Nevertheless, we should not be surprised if God chooses to position us near other living stones who challenge us in different ways. Some of those living stones may help us develop the qualities of patience, charity, or graciousness. Others serve to grind down the rough edges of our personalities. We may serve similar purposes in the lives of others as well. Thus, we have an encouraging reminder from Colossians 3:13…

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:12-13 NLT).


“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense’…” (1 Peter 2:6-8).

It should hardly come as a surprise to find that Peter turned to the idea of “Christ as a cornerstone” here within this passage. After all, this is not the first time Peter has used this imagery.

For instance, Acts chapter three relates the account of a disabled man who looked to Peter and the Apostle John for a charitable offering. In response. Peter said, “…’Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’” (Acts 3:6). Following that miraculous healing, the local religious authorities took Peter and John into custody. When those authorities questioned the Apostles over what had taken place, Peter responded in the following manner…

“If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:9-12).

If Peter thought enough of this word-picture to use it in his sermons and writings, then we should take the time to study and apply it as well. For example, a cornerstone serves many functions. Just as the name implies, the work of a cornerstone often involves joining two walls together. In this respect, Jesus is the cornerstone of all who place their faith in Him. He is the one who joins us all together, no matter where we come from.

On the other hand, Jesus had also became “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” for the religious authorities who arrested Peter and John in Acts chapter three. The same holds true for many today. This stands in stark contrast to those who accept Christ in faith, for they “…are no longer foreigners and outsiders but citizens together with God’s people and members of God’s family. You are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20 GW).


“For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense’…” (1 Peter 2:6-8 ESV).

In addition to its use as a stone that joins two walls together, a cornerstone may also serve as the foundation stone of a building project. The following commentators explain the function of a cornerstone in this regard…

“A cornerstone is the visible support on which the rest of the building relies for strength and stability. Believers trust in Christ much as a building rests on its cornerstone.” (1)

The ‘corner stone’ refers to the main stone on which the building rests. It does not refer to a modern ‘cornerstone,’ or to the last stone the mason put at the top of the building, the ‘keystone’ (Isa. 28:16; cf. Eph. 2:20). In view of this, it seems that the rock (Gr. petra, a large stone), to which Jesus referred in Matthew 16:18, was not Peter (Gr. Petros, a small stone), but Himself. Jesus, not Peter, much less Judaism, is the Foundation upon which God has promised to build the church (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11).” (2)

Construction workers in the Biblical era also made use of a cornerstone as an alignment tool to position other stones in a building structure. Today, a 21st century building contractor has an array of electronic tools to ensure that a new building project adheres to an architect’s specification or local building code. But in Peter’s day, a carefully hewn cornerstone was used to measure and adjust the dimensional aspects of a building during the construction process.

That function leads to an easy application from our text here in 1 Peter 2:6-8. Just as the fixed point of an ancient cornerstone served to align the parameters of a newly constructed building, Jesus serves a similar role in our lives. As we prayerfully look to Jesus’ example in the Scriptures, we find the right standard for the choices and decisions we have to make over the course of our daily lives.

It is in this manner that we can “…set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 CSB).

(1) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary, note on 1 Peter 2:6 pg. 845

(2) Constable, Thomas. DD, Notes on 1 Peter 2023 Edition “3. Building on Christ 2:6-8” [2:6] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1peter/1peter.htm


 “…They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Peter 2:8).

This portion of 1 Peter 2:8 requires us to approach this passage with care in order to avoid reaching a conclusion that is not supported by the text or the Biblical Scriptures as a whole. We can begin our examination of this portion of Scripture with a look at this reference to “stumbling.”

As anyone who has ever fallen over a tripping hazard knows from personal experience, this word describes “those who strike against a stone or other obstacle in the path.” (1) Christ is the “obstacle” in this instance, and the tripping hazard is salvation through faith in Him alone. That represents a stumbling block to anyone who seeks to relate to God based on their individual efforts.

The next characteristic given to us is “disobedience to the word.” One source informs us that the literal rendering of “disobedient” in this passage conveys the image of someone who is “non-persuasable.”(2) Since Jesus’ sinless life, miraculous works, and resurrection from the dead were proofs of His messianic credentials, those who rejected them clearly fell into the “non-persuasable” category.

One source illustrates this idea with two scenes from Jesus’ life…

“When news of the Messiah’s arrival came to the magi in the East, they determined to bring Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But when that same news came to King Herod in Jerusalem, his response was to attempt to kill Him.” (3)

Nevertheless, it is possible to read this passage and conclude that God appointed such individuals to stumble in this manner. However, a careful reading of this text identifies the actual cause: they were appointed to stumble because they were disobedient to God’s Word. The first action (disobedience to the Word) led to their corresponding appointment. Our final commentator clarifies this idea for us…

“God appoints those who stumble to stumble, because they do not believe. Their disobedience is not what God has ordained, but the penalty of their disobedience (‘stumbling’) is (cf. Acts 2:23; Rom. 11:8, 11, 30-32).” (4)

This same concept also holds true for us today. Therefore, a person who follows (or presents) a “Jesus” who differs from the Jesus of the Biblical Scriptures is someone who faces a dangerous appointment. In light of this, we must align our view of Christ with the Jesus of the Bible, lest we stumble when we discover Him to be someone who differs from from our perception of Him.

(1) G4350 Proskopto https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4350/kjv/tr/0-1/

(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:6-10] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

(3) GotQuestions.org, “What does it mean that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone?” Retrieved 20 October, 2023 from https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Christ-cornerstone.html

(4) J. N. Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, 5:436; Bigg, p. 133; Marshall, p. 73. Quoted in Notes on 1 Peter 2023 Edition, Dr. Thomas L. Constable https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1peter/1peter.htm


“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

In keeping with his practice throughout this portion of his letter, the Apostle Peter alludes to an Old Testament passage here in verse nine…

“‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).

Consider how God describes His people within these passages: a chosen generation, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. Perhaps we have never thought of ourselves as royalty, but that is how God views His people. Thus, “All that God said of His ancient people may be realized by us in and through Christ.” (1)

Another source frames this passage in a manner that is highly accessible to modern-day audiences…

“People often base their self-concept on their accomplishments. But our relationship with Christ is far more important than our jobs, successes, wealth, or knowledge. We have been chosen by God as his very own, and we have been called to represent him to others. Remember that your value comes from being one of God’s children, not from what you can achieve. You have worth because of what God does, not because of what you do.” (2)

To build upon this idea, let’s envision the various exhibits that one might encounter in a museum…

“It frequently happens that the value of a thing lies in the fact that someone has possessed it. A very ordinary thing acquires a new value, if it has been possessed by some famous person. In any museum we find quite ordinary things–clothes, a walking-stick, a pen, books, pieces of furniture–which are of value only because they were once possessed by some great person. It is so with the Christian. The Christian may be a very ordinary person but he acquires a new value because he belongs to God.” (3)

In a similar manner, our value is linked to the God who willingly sacrificed the life of His Son and calls us into a royal priesthood. We’ll continue our look at this concept next.

(1) Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. “Commentary on 1 Peter 2”. “F. B. Meyer’s ‘Through the Bible’ Commentary”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbm/1-peter-2.html. 1914.

(2) Life Application Study Bible [1 Peter 2:9-10] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.

(3) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, “1 Peter 2:1-25, (3) The Glory Of The Church.”


“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NET).

Human value is not limited exclusively to those external qualities that others find good or desirable. Instead, the concept of human value is (or should be) based upon the idea of inherent human worth. As human beings who are created in the image of God, every member of the human family is a person who possesses worth and value based on his or her status as God’s image-bearer. It is that same God who subsequently calls us to become “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [and] a people of his own…”

Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that we rarely feel much like royalty. Since God’s people inhabit a world that is populated by many who choose to live as if God did not exist, we often face pressure to become “just like everyone else.” Since it is always easier to “go with the flow” of a world that rejects God, a person who seeks to follow Christ is bound to meet resistance in various forms.

In these instances, we can find encouragement in Jesus’ message from the Beatitudes…

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV).

This reminds us that the economy of heaven will be far different from what we know today. Those who live for Christ and follow His example in a world that has little use for Him have a substantial reward waiting in eternity. These passages are important to remember whenever we are tempted with the desire to join with a world that has no use for God, or quit when things become difficult.

In those instances, we must focus upon our calling as members of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people of God’s own. As Jesus promised from the Book of Revelation…

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5, see also John 6:37-39, John 10:27-28, and Romans 8:33-39).



“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

The brief New Testament epistle of 1 John offers two insights that pertain to our look at this portion of Scripture. The first of those insights involves God’s nature, and the second involves our relationship to God’s nature…

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:5-6).

In this context, “light” is synonymous with the qualities of truth, goodness, and integrity. “Darkness” conveys the characteristic attributes of falsehood, evil, and corruption. These references are easy to grasp in view of the fact that we continue to employ these descriptive phrases in various ways today.

To illustrate this concept, let’s consider the example of Count Dracula, the well-known fictional character. Dracula is often characterized as the “Prince of Darkness” for his ability to bring human beings under his control and condemn them to a bleak and predatory future as members of the undead. In one sense, Dracula typifies Satan, for as 1 John 5:19 tells us, “…the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (GW).

So in contrast to the God of light, the Scriptures associate Satan and his affiliated behaviors with the concept of darkness. Thus, we can say that our text from 1 Peter identifies what we have been called from (darkness) and what we have been called to (light). The purpose of that calling is identified as well: “…so that you may proclaim the excellencies [the wonderful deeds and virtues and perfections] of Him who called you” (AMP).

This passage also features another Old Testament allusion in referencing those “…who once were not a people but are now the people of God.” That concept finds its origin in the book of the prophet Hosea and serves to demonstrate the value associated with a good working knowledge of the Scriptures. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter used this Old Testament imagery to make an important spiritual connection. In a similar manner, we can facilitate our spiritual growth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit when we prayerfully read God’s Word each day.


“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

One commentator offers a brief overview that helps us navigate from our starting point in the Biblical letter of 1 Peter to the next stage of our journey through this epistle: “Peter now turns to address the conduct of Christians as God’s people in the world (2:11-4:11). If they are God’s people (1:3-12; 1:13-2:10), they must act as God’s people.” (1)

It is also interesting to note the Apostle Peter’s approach as he begins this new section of his letter. While Peter could have sought to compel his audience to act by virtue of his apostolic authority, he chose to encourage and exhort them instead. Much like the Apostle Paul writing to the members of the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 1:24, Peter had no dictatorial aspirations. Instead, he sought to urge (CSB), encourage (GW), or beseech (KJV) his readers to do what was right.

That exhortation grew from their status as “sojourners [or strangers] and pilgrims. Peter laid the groundwork for that appeal right in the very first sentence of this epistle as he referred to his readers as “…temporary residents in the world” (GW). Here now in chapter two, Peter returns to that idea by referencing those who are passing through this life on the way to another place.

Two additional commentators expand upon the meaning and application of this concept…

“The word ‘stranger’ is the translation of a Greek word meaning ‘to have one’s home alongside of,’ thus a ‘sojourner.’ ‘Pilgrims’ is from a word which literally means ‘to settle down alongside of pagans.’ The two words describe the Christian in his position in this world. He has made his home alongside of the unsaved and settled down amongst them, a sojourner and one that is a stranger to them in that he is different from them.” (2)

“As sojourners, Christians must exemplify the values and standards of their permanent home, heaven. Paul reiterates that theme in Philippians 3:20, reminding the church that ‘our citizenship is in heaven.’ We are sojourners here, ambassadors for our Father, the King (2 Corinthians 5:20). This world is not our home. The knowledge that we are sojourners on this earth keeps us from setting our hearts on its treasures.

Christians don’t pour their hearts and passions into things that won’t last. The wise Christian is one who lives every day with bags packed, ready to move on when God directs and eager to vacate this world when our Father calls us home.” (3)

(1) Kendall, David W. “B. Act as God’s People (2:11-4:11)” In Asbury Bible Commentary. 1190. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1992.

(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:11-17] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

(3) GotQuestions.org, “What is a sojourner in the Bible?” Retrieved 27 October, 2023 from https://www.gotquestions.org/sojourner-in-the-Bible.html


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

This reference to “lust” in 1 Peter 2:11 involves “a longing, especially for something that is forbidden.” (1) In a general sense, “lust” is a characteristic that is found among those who seek to exploit others in various ways. It may also involve an urge to possess (or control) someone or something that belongs to someone else. “Fleshly lusts” typically involve those physical appetites that prompt us to dehumanize others and use them for our gratification. They may also include various forms of overindulgence.

While there are some who undoubtedly view “lust” and “love” as interchangeable qualities, we should note that there are important differences between the two. For instance, love is characterized by selflessness and benevolence (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). On the other hand, lust involves a range of inappropriate behaviors (see Colossians 3:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). Since God is love (1 John 4:8), lust is incompatible with His character.

Although we can often document the physical afflictions that appear in the lives of those who indulge in fleshly lusts, the way those indulgences taint our view of others may be less visible. For example…

  • We may begin to view other human beings as objects to be used in various ways.
  • We might begin to make choices and decisions that serve our needs without regard for the effect of those choices upon those around us (Philippians 2:4).
  • We may begin to see others through a prism of what they can do for us and value them accordingly.

These underlying ideologies are things that change us as we yield to them. Those changes may be subtle at first, but typically grow to become more obvious over time. Much like an armed conflict between two rival factions, fleshly lusts thus wage war against the soul. Romans 8:13 identifies the stakes involved in that war: “…if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (NIV).

Whenever we expose ourselves to practices that promote fleshly lusts, we are sure to be negatively influenced by them. Those influences may take the form of videos, music, movies, friendships, or anything else that serves to elevate “sinful desires” (NIV). Therefore, we would do well to consider our choices in those areas and ask for God’s help in enabling us to “…keep clear of the desires of your lower natures, for they are always at war with your souls” (Phillips).

(1) G1939 epithumia Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1939/kjv/tr/0-1/


“having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

As we’ve seen in other passages throughout this chapter, 1 Peter 2:12 is closely aligned with a similar Biblical teaching from Paul the Apostle. Consider the “same, yet different” aspect of our text from 1 Peter in comparison with the following verse from 2 Corinthians: “We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry” (2 Corinthians 6:3 NLT).

These passages convey the importance of living a God-honoring lifestyle. They also draw our attention to the positive response that often accompanies that commitment. Nevertheless, we should take a moment to make an important observation: even if we strive to conduct ourselves honorably and love others in a way that will not cause them to stumble, that does not necessarily mean that we will earn their respect.

To underscore that point, we can look no further than the only sinless human being who ever lived. There were many who treated that person disrespectfully and later inflicted the ultimate indignity upon Him in the form of the cross. His example serves to remind us that what is deemed as honorable in the sight of God may be contemptible in the eyes of others.

1 Peter 2:12 touches upon this unfortunate reality with the following admonition: “Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong” (CEV). In the New Testament era, such accusations took the form of sedition (Luke 23:2), unlawful activity (Acts 16:20-21), and incitement to riot (Acts 19:21-41). Today, similar allegations may come from those who accuse God’s people of holding “dangerous,” “phobic,” or “intolerant” ideas or beliefs.

As one commentator observes, the best way to answer such charges is to live them down. (1) Therefore, these portions of Scripture remind us that others are evaluating our choices and forming opinions based on what they see. We can return to another of Paul the Apostle’s New Testament letters to highlight this idea: “…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1 NIV).

If we conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of the calling we have received, then friends, family members, co-workers, classmates, and others will have an opportunity to observe our good works and glorify God.

(1) Johnson, B. W., The People’s New Testament [1 Peter 2:11,12]. Public Domain https://ccel.org/ccel/johnson_bw/pnt/pnt.pnt2102.html


“Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12 HCSB).

If the Apostle’s Peter’s counsel from this passage sounds familiar, then it may relate to the fact that he heard a similar message from Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount…

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV).

Much like today, the members of the original audience for this epistle lived among those who were disinclined to accept the message of salvation through Christ. Some of those individuals may have acted to spread rumors, distortions, or deliberate misinformation to help obscure that message. The remedy to those efforts was (and is) a God-honoring lifestyle that undercuts and neutralizes such things, at least among those who will accept the truth.

Ultimately, those who follow this counsel will find vindication “on the day of visitation.” There are several ways in which we might understand this reference. For instance, this phrase might to refer to the time when God inspects our lives and works at the final judgment. When that moment comes, any attempt to present an alternative to the truth regarding our conduct will dissipate. Only the reality of our efforts to honor God with our choices will remain.

Another possibility might involve any life circumstance where God elects to intervene on our behalf. One such intervention took place in the lives of Jacob, the great Old Testament patriarch, and his devious father-in-law Laban (Genesis 31:22-24). Laban’s malicious intent towards Jacob quickly changed when God appeared to him in a dream. That served to constrain Laban and prevent him from escaping his obligation to acknowledge and honor God’s will.

One source builds upon this idea with the following observation…

“[This denotes] a time when God intervenes directly in human affairs, either for blessing (Luk_1:68; Luk_1:78; Luk_7:16; Luk_19:44) or for judgment (Isa_10:3; Jer_6:15). This phrase may be a quotation from Isa_10:3, in which case judgment is in view here. But blessing seems to be the point, since part of the motive for good behavior is winning the non-Christian over to the faith (as in 1Pe_3:1; also apparently in 1Pe_3:15; cf. Mat_5:16).” (1)

(1) NET Bible notes on 1 Peter 2:12 https://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=1Pet&chapter=2&mode=print


“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14).

1 Peter 2:13-14 introduces us to the first of two controversial subjects within this chapter. One involves our relationship to governing authorities (as we see in the passage quoted above) and the other addresses slavery (as we’ll see later in verse eighteen). We will take an extended look at these topics (beginning with our relationship to government) as we work through these subjects from a Biblical perspective.

As noted previously, the word “therefore” acts like a bridge that connects one portion of Scripture to a preceding section. In this instance, verses eleven and twelve set the foundation for what follows here in verses thirteen and fourteen…

  • As sojourners and pilgrims, we should abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul (verse eleven).
  • We should conduct ourselves honorably before those who do not have a relationship with God (verse twelve).

In light of these things, we should submit ourselves “…to every human institution for the Lord’s sake” (NET). The imagery behind this passage depicts a contingent of soldiers being arranged under the leadership of a commanding officer. (1) This directive thus applies to local jurisdictions, state or provincial governments, and/or national authorities (as represented by this reference to “the king as supreme“).

These verses also identify the motivation behind this admonition: “for the Lord’s sake.” If it seems difficult to submit to these human institutions for our own sake, then perhaps we may find it easier to do so for the Lord’s sake. Since every governmental entity is led by one or more flawed human beings, we would do well to maintain this perspective in our relationship with them.

Finally, it is worth noting that the infamous Roman Emperor Nero was the head of state when this epistle was originally authored. In commenting on Nero, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells us: “So prodigious a monster of nature was he (more like a beast, yea, rather a devil than a man) that he seemed to be born to the destruction of man.” (2)

History remembers Nero as a ruthless leader who subjected Christians to death in a variety of ways. Some were attacked by ravenous dogs. Others were thrown to lions. Then there were those were incinerated to death while serving as torches to light Nero’s gardens. These shocking historical realities should bring our efforts to submit to modern-day human ordinances into perspective.

(1) G5293 hypotasso https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5293/kjv/tr/0-1/

(2) John Foxe, Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs [pg. 5] © 1981 by Whitaker House https://archive.org/details/foxesbookofmarty00foxe_1/mode/2up


“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14 ESV).

The Apostle Peter’s counsel from this passage is reminiscent of a similar portion of Scripture from the Biblical book of Romans. That verse provides us an opportunity to consider our relationship to governmental leaders…

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1 NIV).

We can begin our review of these passages by considering the various forms of government that human beings have implemented throughout history. Those governmental structures include monarchies, dictatorships, and democracies, among many others. While some governmental models are clearly better than others, each was (and is) far from perfect. The late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill illustrated that reality when he reportedly observed, “Democracy is the worst form of government — except for all the others.”

But before we proceed with that discussion, we should first consider God’s relationship to human government. You see, Romans 13:1 tells us that God has established every governmental authority in existence. This also suggests that an accountability structure exists as well: citizens are subject to the governing authorities of their nation, while the governing authorities are subject to God who grants them authority.

Jesus illustrated that structure during His arraignment before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. When Jesus declined to answer Pilate’s judicial inquiries, Pilate responded with the following statement…

“‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’

Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin’” (John 19:6-11 NIV).

Although Pilate failed to recognize his subjection to God’s authority, Jesus reminded him that he was subject to that authority whether or not he recognized (or accepted) it.

Finally, while the failures and shortcomings of human government are often subjected to various criticisms and complaints, one commentator invites us to consider the alternative…

“A regime might be very unchristian or even anti-christian, but any government is better than no government at all. The absence of government is anarchy, and people cannot survive for long under anarchy.” (1)

(1) Believer’s Bible Commentary, William MacDonald, edited by Arthur Farstad. Thomas Nelson Publishers Nashville pg. 2142


“Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14 NET).

We can elaborate on the principle behind this portion of Scripture in the following manner: when we obey the law, we are obeying God indirectly, for it is God who establishes human government and provides that government with the power to enact such laws. For additional insight on this subject, we can turn to the inspired pen of Israel’s King Solomon in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes…

“Obey the king since you vowed to God that you would. Don’t try to avoid doing your duty, and don’t stand with those who plot evil, for the king can do whatever he wants. His command is backed by great power. No one can resist or question it. Those who obey him will not be punished.

Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble” (Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 NLT).

These passages remind us that we do not follow governmental edicts out of loyalty to the government. We do so out of loyalty to God: “…Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God.” In another portion of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us, “Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts. And don’t make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom. For a little bird might deliver your message and tell them what you said” (Ecclesiastes 10:20 NLT).

Thus, we should demonstrate respect in our relationships with those who hold positions of governmental leadership or others who possess similar authority. As we’re told in the New Testament book of Romans, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7 NIV).

In addition, the Biblical book of Titus tells us, “Remind your people to obey the rulers and authorities and not to be rebellious. They must always be ready to do something helpful” (Titus 3:1 CEV). While the person who holds a position of governmental leadership may not be worthy of our respect, the office that he or she holds is.

With these things in mind, we might question God’s relationship to dictatorial, tyrannical, oppressive, or totalitarian forms of human government. What is God’s purpose in permitting the existence of such regimes? We’ll consider the answer to that question next.


“For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14 GNB).

In addressing the relationship between God and unjust forms of human government, the 17th century commentator Matthew Henry once observed, “God… hath appointed the ordinance of magistracy, so that all civil power is derived from him… The usurpation (or wrongful exercise) of power and the abuse of power are not of God, for he is not the author of sin; but the power itself is.” (1)

This represents an important distinction. While God establishes the authority of human government, that is not to say He approves of those who abuse such power or exercise it inappropriately. When a government engages in practices that are Biblically unjust or declines to protect the individual right to acknowledge and follow God, that government (in whatever form it takes) exceeds its authority.

While Christians are responsible to obey the laws of their nation, our ultimate responsibility rests with the highest authority- God Himself. The Biblical book of Acts records an incident that illustrates this concept in action. That incident involved the Apostles Peter and John and their appearance before a group of judges known as the Sanhedrin.

After a period of testimony regarding Peter and John’s involvement in the healing of a disabled man, Acts 4:18 records the following interaction…

“Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’” (NIV).

We find another important exchange between the Apostles and the Sanhedrin in the following chapter of Acts…

“Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’” (Acts 5:27-29 NIV).

Much like these Apostles in the Biblical book of Acts, we are similarly responsible to “obey God rather than men,” even if doing so results in civil noncompliance.

(1) Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Rom.13.1-Rom.13.6


“Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good” (1 Peter 2:13-14 HCSB).

While this passage from 1 Peter outlines our relationship to human government, the Biblical Scriptures are realistic concerning the challenges that often accompany that relationship.

For instance, Israel’s King Solomon once remarked, “Don’t be surprised when you see that the government oppresses the poor and denies them justice and their rights” (Ecclesiastes 5:8 GNB). This observation still rings true today. When faced with the challenge of navigating through layers of civil bureaucracy, municipal corruption, and/or administrative incompetence, those who are financially disadvantaged are often the ones who suffer most.

Solomon also offered a brutally honest assessment regarding the extortionary nature of some who hold positions of governmental authority: “One officer is cheated by a higher officer who in turn is cheated by even higher officers. The wealth of the country is divided up among them all” (Ecclesiastes 5:8 NCV).

These negative characteristics bring us to the question of civil disobedience in its various forms. Are such acts justified in light of our text from 1 Peter 2:13-14? Well. we have already examined one justification for civil disobedience. That justification involves governmental ordinances that conflict with clear Biblical teaching. In such instances, our ultimate responsibility rests with the highest authority, that being God Himself.

In addressing this question, 1 Peter 2:13-14 alerts us to an important aspect of God’s intent for human government: such governments are appointed “…for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” When a government declines to punish criminal activity (or criminalizes Biblically appropriate behaviors), then civil resistance may represent an appropriate response.

In addition, the following questions may factor into a decision to engage in acts of civil disobedience:

1) Does the government seek to prohibit (or inhibit) the free exercise of religious beliefs?
2) Has the government mandated an action that clearly violates Scriptural tenets or conscience?
3) Is the government promoting or endorsing policies that are clearly unbiblical?

Finally, it is important to seek Godly counsel and address these questions with prayerful forethought before we initiate such action, even if that response seems Biblically justifiable. To borrow another cautionary message from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, “…remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do” (Ecclesiastes 11:9 NLT).


“Place yourselves under the authority of human governments to please the Lord. Obey the emperor. He holds the highest position of authority. Also obey governors. They are people the emperor has sent to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14 GW).

Before we leave the subject of our relationship to human government, let’s consider the counsel offered by Paul the Apostle to Timothy, the young pastor of the first-century church that met in the town of Ephesus. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3, we read the following…

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” (NIV).

While there may be many who complain about their government, how many of those same individuals are willing to pray for their governmental leaders? For instance, we might ask God to provide judicial leaders with the wisdom and courage to adjudicate wisely. We might pray that God would grant wisdom to elected and appointed officials so they will govern appropriately.

Legislators can also benefit from those who will pray that the laws they enact are good and acceptable in God’s sight. We can pray for the salvation of governmental ministers and ask God to furnish them with advisors who will offer them good counsel. To draw upon a phrase from 1 Timothy 2:3, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior…”

In addition. this call to prayer highlights the need to pray for all who hold positions of governmental authority, regardless of their competence or lack thereof. No matter how effective or ineffective they may be, the desired result remains unchanged: “…that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (AMP).

Finally, in an instance where we must live under governmental leaders who are unprincipled, dishonest, or hostile, we may respectfully approach God with the following question from His Word: “Will you permit a corrupt government to rule under your protection—a government permitting wrong to defeat right?” (Psalms 94:20 TLB).

Any governmental institution that is populated by fallible human beings is one that can benefit from those who pray for them. While it may be easy to criticize the failings of those who hold such leadership positions, we should not neglect our responsibility to pray for them.


“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men–” (1 Peter 2:15).

Anyone who seeks to follow God will inevitably wrestle with the following question: “What is God’s will for my life?” In seeking to answer that question, we might first look to those areas where God has already revealed his will. In addition to our text from 1 Peter 2:15, we can find other expressions of God’s will for our lives in Micah 6:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

In this instance, the will of God involves the act of silencing the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. One source illuminates this passage with a look at the original language of this verse…

“The words ‘put to silence’ are the translation of a Greek word which means ‘to close the mouth with a muzzle.’ It was used of the muzzling of an ox (1Co 9:9). It means here, ‘to reduce to silence.’ Matthew uses it (Mat 22:34) of our Lord putting the Sadducees to silence, and Mark, of stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mar 4:39).” (1)

We should also note the intersection of ignorance and foolishness within this portion of Scripture. Since Psalm 14:1 tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’…” (ESV), those who embrace that belief will inevitably demonstrate those characteristics, no matter how knowledgeable or cultured they seem.

We can find a similar example in those who express an interest in Biblical spirituality but have little intent to act upon it. The Gospel of Mark and its revealing portrait of King Herod’s interaction with John the Baptist offers one such illustration…

“…Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly” (Mark 6:20).

Although Herod listened to John, he never allowed John’s message to influence his conduct. Unfortunately, Herod’s wife later seized the opportunity presented by his foolish behavior to orchestrate John’s death. If Herod had chosen to act upon what he heard from John, things might have been different. Instead, he opted to sanction the horrifying murder of a great man of God for the sake of his reputation.

It often takes prayer, wisdom, humility, grace, sensitivity, and discernment to engage with those described here in 1 Peter 2:15. Perhaps this is why 2 Timothy 2:24-25 offers the following counsel…

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth” (NLT).

(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:15] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


“You are free, but still you are God’s servants, and you must not use your freedom as an excuse for doing wrong” (1 Peter 2:16 CEV).

While there are a variety of ways to express “freedom,” this word carries a rather simple definition: freedom represents the ability to choose between alternatives and the liberty to act upon those choices.

Although some may prefer to associate freedom with the ability to do whatever they like, there is an issue with defining freedom in that manner. To illustrate that issue, we can turn to an oft-quoted question among many commentators: “Can you flap your arms and fly to Jupiter?” While that idea sounds laughable, it serves to illustrate our point. We may desire to flap our arms and fly to Jupiter, but we are not free to do so.

Perhaps the best-known Biblical statement on the subject of true freedom can be found in Jesus’ message from the Gospel of John…

“…’If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed’” (John 8:31-32, 34-36).

1 Peter 2:16 also underscores our need to accept personal responsibility in those areas where we are free to choose between alternatives: “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil…” (NIV). This cautionary message resurfaces whenever we uncover instances where people have privately engaged in inappropriate behaviors that contradict their public image.

Nevertheless, any effort to conceal such behaviors is merely a temporary measure at best. 1 Timothy 5:24 alerts us to the futility of using our liberty as a cover-up for evil when it tells us, “Some people’s sins are obvious, preceding them to judgment, but the sins of others surface later” (CSB). As we’re also reminded in Romans 2:6, God “…will repay each person according to what they have done” (NIV).

We can find a far more encouraging motivation in Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Therefore, we would do well to discard any cloak for vice we are wearing today to help ensure that we will meet God with a pure heart later.


“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16 ESV).

1 Peter 2:16 employs the word “servants” to identify those who devote themselves to the interests of others, even to the detriment of their personal interests. (1) This definition offers an important perspective to consider for servants of God as they face the challenge of choosing between different courses of action. The following directives from the New Testament epistle of 1 Corinthians provide further insight into that challenge…

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’ But I reply, ‘Not everything is good for you.’ And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT).

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is helpful. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NLT).

Although we may have the liberty to pursue a particular course of action, the real question is, should we take that course of action? There are several test questions that can help us make good decisions as we encounter these waypoints on the road of life…

  • From a Biblical perspective, is anything good likely to emerge from a particular decision? While God can certainly bring good from a poor decision, that does not bestow us with a license to make inappropriate choices. If nothing good is likely to come from a particular course of action, then we would do well to consider an alternate path.
  • Will this course of action set a good example for others? If we are headed in a direction that sets a poor example for others to follow, we would be wise to change course.
  • Finally, we should consider how our choices may reflect upon Christ. If the path we are considering leads to a place that reflects poorly upon Jesus, then we should seek an alternate route.

As one source observes, “Christian freedom does not mean being free to do as we like; it means being free to do as we ought.” (2) Therefore, it’s important to remember that others will often judge Christ by those who claim to represent Him. Since people typically associate Jesus with the actions of those who claim to follow Him, it’s important to consider how our choices and decisions will ultimately reflect upon Him.

As we’re reminded in the New Testament book of Colossians, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5 NIV, see also 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

(1) G1401 doulos https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1401/kjv/tr/0-1/

(2) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, “The Duty Of The Christian-In Society” (1Pe_2:16).


“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).

1 Peter 2:17 presents us with a four-point summary of Christian duty. (1) Each point is worthy of a deeper analysis, beginning with the first directive listed above…

1.) Honor all people. Since human beings are created in the image of God, we possess the ability to interact meaningfully with our Creator. This also means that every human being possesses an inalienable value that is worthy of respect. If we fail to recognize the inherent worth of other human persons who have been made in God’s image, we are also likely to fail in our efforts to honor all people.

In addition, we have several other directives from Jesus Himself in this regard…

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

“In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you…” (Matthew 7:12 NET).

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).

A mindset that rejects the inherent worth of other human beings who have been made in God’s image will inevitably produce various forms of injustice. On the other hand, genuine Christianity offers the best solution to the iniquities of racism, prejudice, inequality, and other such injustices, for it attacks the root and branch of such things.

Authentic Christianity first addresses the root issue: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV). The Apostle Paul is perhaps the greatest example of the change that accompanies that spiritual rebirth; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 offers several others.

From there, Galatians 3:28 guides our interpersonal relationships: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” With this in mind, we cannot act unjustly towards those who are one with us in Christ, or anyone else (as noted in Jesus’ teachings quoted above). In this way, we can observe this directive from our text in 1 Peter 2:17: “Honor all people.”

(1) See Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, “Summary Of Christian Duty (1Pe_2:17).”


“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17 ESV).

The second item in our four-point summary of Christian duty from 1 Peter 2:17 is “Love the brotherhood.” This passage draws our attention to the nature of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7…

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

This portion of Scripture tells us that genuine love is not “self-seeking” (NIV) or “self-serving” (NET). In other words, love does not prioritize its interests at the expense of others. Instead, love considers the needs of others and seeks to respond appropriately.

For example, genuine love seeks to determine what is best for everyone in a given situation and willingly defers to others when appropriate. While circumstances may change from person to person, we can often identify a loving response with the following question: “What is in the best interest of those who are involved in this situation from a Biblical perspective?”

Paul the Apostle also expanded upon this idea in his Biblical epistle to the Philippian church…

“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well” (Philippians 2:3-4 NET).

The New Testament book of Ephesians ties these elements together in the following manner: “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another” (Ephesians 4:2-3 TLB).

It has often been said that we can choose our friends but we can’t choose our families. This brings us back to Peter’s exhortation from earlier in this epistle: “…love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). As mentioned previously, the word “fervently” conveys the image of an athlete who stretches to his or her limit in competition. While “fervent love” is not necessarily synonymous with emotional affection, we must also be willing to stretch ourselves to the limit in our efforts to “Love the family of believers” (CEB).


“Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17 NET).

In modern-day usage, the word “fear” often serves to communicate a sense of apprehension, or a state of being afraid. The New Testament book of Hebrews highlights this idea when it tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). But here in 1 Peter 2:17, this word is associated with the qualities of reverence, honor, or respect. Therefore, our responsibility to “fear God” means that we should maintain an attitude of respect and reverence for Him.

For instance, Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Thus, a healthy fear of God can help restrain our inclination to engage in behaviors that are inappropriate and displeasing to Him. Ideally, that fear should be anchored in a loving relationship with God in Christ, rather than a desire to appease Him and avoid the corrective measures He might impose on us.

One scholar clarifies these differences in his analysis of 1 John 4:18, a passage that tells us, “…perfect love casts out fear”

1 JOHN 4:18—If love casts out all fear, why are we told to fear God?

PROBLEM: John affirms here that “perfect love casts out all fear.” Yet we are told that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7) and that we should “serve the Lord with fear” (Ps. 2:11). Indeed, Paul said, “knowing … the terror [fear] of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).

SOLUTION: Fear is being used in different senses. Fear in the good sense is a reverential trust in God. In the bad sense it is a sense of recoiling torment in the face of God. While proper fear brings a healthy respect for God, unwholesome fear engenders an unhealthy sense that He is out to get us. Perfect love casts out this kind of “torment.” When one properly understands that “God is love” (1 John 4:16), he can no longer fear Him in this unhealthy sense. For “he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Nonetheless, at no time does proper love for God ever show disrespect for Him. Rather, it is perfectly compatible with a reverential awe for Him, which is what the Bible means by “fearing God” in the good sense (cf. 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Peter 2:17). (1)

(1) Norman L. Geisler and Thomas A. Howe, When Critics Ask : A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992), 540.

e, Thomas. DD. “Notes on 1 Peter 2023 Edition” (1:10-11) Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable. https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/1peter.pdf


“Show respect for all people [treat them honorably], love the brotherhood [of believers], fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17 AMP).

As we close our look at these four points of duty from 1 Peter 2:17, we now come to this final admonition to “honor the king.” In considering this directive, we should note the difference between “respect” and “honor.” While many government officials may not merit our respect, it is appropriate to honor those individuals in recognition of the offices they hold.

One commentator expands upon this difference with the following observations…

“Respect is not the same as ‘honor.’ We may not respect someone, but we can and should still honor him or her… Similarly, we may not be able to respect certain government officials because of their personal behavior or beliefs. Still, we can and should ‘honor’ them, because they occupy an office that places them in a position of authority over us. We honor them because they occupy the office; we do not just honor the office.

Peter commanded us to honor the king and all who are in authority over us, not just the offices they occupy. We may not respect someone, but we can and should honor them by treating them with respect. Respecting people and treating them with respect are two different things. Feeling respect for someone is different than showing respect for someone. Honoring others is our responsibility; earning our respect is theirs. This is especially difficult when those in authority are persecuting us.” (1)

Thus, we honor God when we demonstrate respect for governmental leaders. As we saw in our earlier look at Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God” (NLT).

Finally, another source helps us apply this directive to “honor the king” in a political structure that does not incorporate a monarch…

“When there is no exact modern equivalent to some aspect of a command (such as, ‘honor the emperor’ in 1 Peter 2:17), then we are still obligated to obey the command, but we do so by applying it to situations that are essentially similar to the one found in the NT. Therefore, ‘honor the emperor’ is applied to honoring the president or the prime minister.

In fact, in several such cases the immediate context contains pointers to broader applications (such as 1 Peter 2:13–14, which mentions being subject to ‘every human institution’ including the ’emperor’ and ‘governors’ as specific examples).” (2)

(1) Constable, Thomas. DD, Notes on 1 Peter 2023 Edition “1. Respect for everyone 2:13-17” [2:17] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1peter/1peter.htm

(2) Wayne Grudem, “Review Article: Should We Move Beyond the New Testament to a Better Ethic?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47, 2 (June 2004), 302–303. Quoted in, Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible © 2009 by Ligonier Ministries, Reformation Trust Publishing [pg. 64].


“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (1 Peter 2:18).

As noted earlier in our introduction to this section of 1 Peter chapter two, the latter portion of this chapter addresses two controversial subjects. The first involved our relationship to governing authorities. The second topic -slavery- will occupy the focus of our attention beginning here in verse eighteen. Before we approach this subject from a historical perspective, let’s first consider how we might apply these teachings in a contemporary setting where the institution of slavery no longer exists.

First, we should acknowledge that modern-day societies have clearly moved beyond this first-century model for working relationships. Although the shameful practice of human trafficking still persists in our 21st century world, the master-slave relationship model no longer exists as a cultural norm for virtually everyone. Thus, we must choose an alternate approach in seeking to understand and apply our text from 1 Peter 2:18.

In this instance, we can adapt the Biblical teaching on this subject to the next closest working arrangement that exists in a typical modern-day society. That working arrangement involves the relationship that exists between an employer and an employee. This approach allows us to observe the principle that is given to us within this passage and adapt it to the needs of modern-day society.

The foundational principle that undergirds this portion of Scripture tells us that God’s people must demonstrate respect for their employers, managers, and/or supervisors. This principle applies to all societies, both ancient and modern, and is adaptable to meet the needs of various working relationships.

However, there is a qualification that accompanies this approach. You see, it is important to recognize that “adapt” or “modify” does not mean “change” or “alter.” In other words, we do not change this Biblical principle to reflect our preferences. Instead, we should use (or adapt) this Biblical principle to inform our thinking on the leader-subordinate relationships that currently exist.

This offers a good way to address changing societal needs and apply Scriptures like the one we find here in 1 Peter 2:18. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that our text from 1 Peter 2:18 presents some challenging questions. For example, how could this passage advise slaves to “…be submissive to your masters with all fear” when a master/slave relationship between two human beings is clearly immoral and wrong? We’ll address that question, beginning with a look at some historical context, next.


“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (1 Peter 2:18 NIV).

As we consider the Biblical teachings that touch upon the subject of slavery, we should first note that people throughout much of human history did not perceive slavery as an immoral institution. Unfortunately, a great moral wrong like slavery has an opportunity to take root and flourish as a cultural norm whenever a society fails to recognize the God of the Scriptures. Jesus illustrated this unfortunate reality when He observed, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants and officials lord it over the people beneath them” (Matthew 20:25 NLT).

In light of this, any society that truly seeks to honor God will reject the master/slave relationship model. A society that acknowledges the fact that a just and fair Creator will eventually hold human beings accountable for their actions will renounce such relationships. Nevertheless, Jesus made another observation that relates to our topic: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34 NIV). With this in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised to find historical instances of physical enslavement among those who were spiritually enslaved.

This brings us to the historical background for this passage. You see, the Roman Empire (which controlled most of the known world at the time of this letter) accepted the institution of slavery as part of it’s national economy. There were approximately sixty million human beings who were under the yoke of slavery during that era, a number that may have comprised up to half the population of the Roman Empire.

Slaves within the Roman Empire were recognized as the property of their owners and were viewed no differently than we might view a household appliance today. As one commentator observes, ” The dominant fact in the life of a slave was that, even if he was well treated, he remained a thing. He did not possess even the elementary rights of a person and for him justice did not even exist.” (1)

So, just as we would dismiss the concept of justice for a mistreated automobile or home appliance, the same was true of a first-century slave. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle summarized this reality with the following observation: “…a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.” (2)

These realities thus provide us with some historical context for these remarks. But while some may view this passage as an expression of support for slavery, we’ll identify the key element that served to undermine the master/slave relationship model next.

(1) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, “The Duty Of The Christian As A Servant (1Pe_2:18-25).”

(2) Nicomachean Ethics


“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust” (1 Peter 2:18 ESV).

The idea that one human being can be made to serve as the property of another human being is properly viewed by every modern society as a violation of human rights. We can also say that most contemporary societies rightly agree that the concept of “slavery” is morally repugnant. Yet in addition to what we read here in 1 Peter 2:18, the New Testament Scriptures offer the following admonitions…

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (Ephesians 6:5 NIV).

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” (Colossians 3:22 NIV).

“All who are under the yoke as slaves should regard their own masters as worthy of all respect, so that God’s name and his teaching will not be blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1 CSB).

“Slaves are to submit themselves to their masters and please them in all things. They must not talk back to them or steal from them. Instead, they must show that they are always good and faithful, so as to bring credit to the teaching about God our Savior in all they do” (Titus 2:9-10 GNT).

While these passages seem difficult to reconcile with the unjust practice of slavery, the mere existence of an immoral institution (such as slavery) does not automatically mean that God endorses it. For instance, God accommodated certain types of human interaction in recognition of human sin. Those relational behaviors did not reflect God’s preference for His creation, but the fact that He permitted and regulated them did not necessarily signal His approval.

As mentioned earlier, every human person has been created in God’s image and thus possesses an inalienable value that is worthy of respect. In addition, Galatians 3:28 tells us that “We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same-we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus” (TLB).

This was a revolutionary concept in the context of first-century Roman culture: everyone is equal in Christ regardless of his or her social position. Over time, this idea began to fracture the master/slave paradigm and paved the way for a new standard of business and interpersonal relationships. We’ll examine how this important New Testament concept served to undermine the master/slave relationship model next.


“You servants must submit yourselves to your masters and show them complete respect, not only to those who are kind and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (1 Peter 2:18 GNB).

Instead of launching a frontal assault upon the institution of slavery by directing slaves to rebel against their servitude, God employed a subtle and effective means of eradicating that practice. First, this passage directed slaves to submit to their owners. They were also instructed to adopt a respectful, God-honoring work ethic (see Ephesians 6:5).

In contrast, slave owners were commanded to treat slaves in a dignified manner. For instance, slave owners were forbidden to threaten their slaves (Ephesians 6:9). They also had to ensure that slaves were treated equitably: “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1).

These instructions, along with Jesus’ directive to “…treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (Matthew 7:12 NASB), meant that every Christian shared a collective responsibility to uphold the values of mutual respect and dignity in their interactions with others. These principles slowly began to erode the slave/owner paradigm and influenced a gradual move away from the master/slave model of working relationships. One source identifies why…

“For society at large, slaves were not full persons and thus did not have moral responsibility. For the church, slaves were full and equal persons, and thus quite appropriately addressed as such.” (1)

These new realities also impacted social relationships on a congregational level as well. For instance, consider the situation that might unfold between a Christian master and a Christian slave in the New Testament era. Since the Scriptures tell us that human beings are one in Christ, it was possible for a slave to hold a position of spiritual authority within the church. That might lead to a scenario where a master would look to a slave for spiritual guidance, further undermining support for the practice of slavery.

So those who look to Scriptures such as 1 Peter 2:13 and find support for the institution of slavery take a shallow and inaccurate view of this passage. Instead of promoting the master/slave model of working relationships, these teachings actually produced the opposite effect. In the words of one commentator, “It was Christ’s purpose to change the world, but not with dynamite…” (2) The Biblical concept that slaves and masters were equal in God’s sight established the foundation that helped eliminate the once common practice of slavery and continues to do so today.

(1) Constable, Thomas. DD, Notes on 1 Peter 2023 Edition “2. Slaves’ respect for their masters 2:18-25” https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1peter/1peter.htm

(2) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 1 Peter 2”. “Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-peter-2.html Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999. [verse 18]


“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Peter 2:19).

The hallmark of an exceptional athlete is often reflected in his or her ability to overcome adversity. Such athletes frequently exhibit a strong work ethic, along with the mental toughness and commitment to excellence that serves to elevate the play of those around them. They take responsibility for their performance and accept defeat without making excuses as they work to overcome the challenges they encounter.

In a similar vein, we typically hold great admiration for those who persevere through difficult situations. Those who choose to stand firm and never give up are those who often earn our greatest respect. If we seek to emulate those qualities in our spiritual lives, we may be called upon to endure unjust treatment as a result. Thus, it is commendable in God’s sight to endure undeserved suffering as we pursue His will for our lives.

That recognition enables us to persevere when others treat us in an unfair, unjust, or unwarranted manner. If we honor God in response to such treatment, our conduct will be honorable in His sight, even if others don’t see it that way.

This passage also furnishes the right motive for responding in this manner: “because of conscience toward God.” In God’s view, it is commendable to act in accordance with our conscience, even if our understanding of His will is limited. For example, some may respond in a retaliatory or vindictive manner when others mistreat them. But if we rely upon God’s empowerment to demonstrate the qualities of patience and self-control in those situations, our conduct becomes virtuous in His sight.

In addition, we should also recognize that nothing goes to waste in God’s economy, including the unjust treatment we receive from others. The New Testament book of 2 Corinthians provides us with an encouraging reminder in that regard: “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 TLB).

The following commentator thus provides us with a summary application of these concepts for modern-day readers of this epistle…

“Favor with God is found when an employee, treated unjustly, accepts his poor treatment with faith in God’s sovereign care, rather than responding in anger, hostility, discontent, pride, or rebellion (cf. Mt 5:11).” (1)

(1) John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), 1 Pe 2:19.


“For this finds God’s favor, if because of conscience toward God someone endures hardships in suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19).

1 Peter 2:19 directs our attention to the significant role of our consciences in our decision-making processes. You see, the word “conscience” can be defined as, “…that moral inner sense of what is appropriate or inappropriate…” (1) Much like an umpire, judge, or referee, the conscience functions as an arbitrator in distinguishing right from wrong. The main issue involves the “rule book” our consciences employ to govern our decisions.

When our decisions are not guided by a conscience that honors God, it is often difficult to distinguish between choices that seem right, but are really something else. For instance, it is possible for two individuals to act in good conscience while each pursues a different course of action. These concerns take on greater importance when we reflect upon the cautionary message given to us in the Biblical book of 1 Timothy…

The Spirit says clearly that some people will abandon the faith in later times; they will obey lying spirits and follow the teachings of demons. Such teachings are spread by deceitful liars, whose consciences are dead, as if burnt with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 GNT).

We can avoid that path if we begin with the recognition that Jesus identified the Scriptures as the Word of God (John 10:34-35) and the command of God (Matthew 15:3-4). He also stated that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). These acknowledgements should thus inform our consciences based upon the authority of Christ. While our consciences are not infallible, they can serve as trustworthy guides if they are aligned with sound Biblical teaching.

Knowing this, we should prayerfully refrain from violating our consciences by knowingly doing wrong. Much like the calluses that develop on the hands of a hard-working laborer, our consciences may become hardened if we repeatedly ignore them. If we disengage our consciences in this manner, it becomes more difficult to resist the allure of unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors.

One of the more common methods of bypassing our consciences involves the process of rationalization. We can define “rationalization” as “a way of describing, interpreting, or explaining something (such as bad behavior) that makes it seem proper, more attractive, etc. (2) This offers an attractive (but ultimately futile) way to justify Biblically inappropriate behaviors and alleviate feelings of guilt or remorse.

Therefore, we should seek to engage with God’s Word each day. While study aids and commentaries (including this one), have their place, only God’s Word can identify and counteract the justifications, excuses, and/or rationalizations we sometimes use to bypass our consciences.

(1) Dr. Bob Utley, 2 Corinthians 1 [1:12] http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL06/VOL06B_01.html Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International. All rights reserved.

(2) “Rationalization.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rationalization. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.


“For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20).

A piñata is a festive container that traces its origin back to the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Today, piñatas serve as a popular fixture at children’s birthday celebrations throughout Latin America. Piñatas are typically crafted from light cardboard or paper-like materials that take the form of an animal or brightly colored character. Assorted treats are placed inside and the piñata is suspended in mid-air.

Children then gather around the piñata as they eagerly take turns swinging a stick at the colorful figure until it bursts open to spill the treats hidden inside. This offers great fun for small children, and not surprisingly, this celebratory pastime has spread to other areas of the world.

While this fun activity may not seem relevant to our text from 1 Peter 2:20, it actually serves as a fitting analogy for this passage. You see, a piñata has one job, so to speak. The duty of a piñata is to endure being struck until it has fulfilled its purpose and successfully distributed treats to an eager group of children. In a similar manner, this passage tells us that there may be occasions when God calls us to serve in the role of a “piñata” in the affairs of life.

1 Peter 2:20 alerts us to this possibility in saying, “…when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” However, this passage also presents us with an alternate scenario through the use of a rhetorical question: “…what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it?” (NET).

This common-sense observation reminds us that there is nothing credible about getting what we deserve, especially when we do something wrong. However, God finds it commendable if we respond in a manner that honors Him whenever we are punished for righteousness’ sake. Jesus addressed this circumstance in the following excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew…

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

So much like the piñata in our illustration, the knowledge that God commends our behavior when we suffer for doing good provides us with the right mindset to overcome such challenges.

Image Credit: Keyla Torruco, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


“For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20)

In comparison to some other Biblical subjects, suffering is not a topic that tends to elicit widespread enthusiasm. Nevertheless, virtually everyone faces some degree of suffering at various points in life. Therefore, we would do well to consider the counsel given to us in the passage quoted above.

While it is natural to avoid unnecessary suffering, there may be occasions in life where we are compelled to endure suffering in order to honor God or fulfill His will for our lives. Jesus serves as our example in this regard, for He “…endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and he is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2 Phillips).

This characteristic quality is one that finds favor with God according to our text from 1 Peter 2:20. Of course, it is often difficult to endure suffering in light of our natural desire to retaliate against those who make us suffer. But as 1 Thessalonians 5:15 reminds us, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else” (NIV).

Jesus also encouraged His followers to embrace that mindset in a well-known portion of Scripture from the Gospel of Matthew…

“But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too” (Matthew 5:44-45 TLB).

Finally, this passage stresses the importance of patient endurance in the midst of adversity. For instance, it is relatively easy to engage in discussions on secondary aspects of the Christian faith or exchange our views regarding prophetic events that are yet to come. However, it is much more challenging to display patient endurance in those areas where we must suffer to do what is right.

One commentary challenges us on this subject with a thought-provoking observation: “In parts of Christendom today, great emphasis is placed upon so-called miracles, such as speaking in tongues, healing the sick, and similar sensational acts. But there is a greater miracle than all of these in the age in which we live: A child of God suffering patiently and thanking God in the midst of the trial!” (1)

(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers p.1991


“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

In the midst of life’s challenges, it is reassuring to know that Jesus faced many difficult confrontations over the course of His earthly life. His example serves to encourage us whenever we encounter the injustices of life as well. Paul the Apostle also touched upon this subject in his Biblical letter to the Galatian churches…

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).

The Scriptures openly acknowledge our need to emulate Jesus’ example in periods of adversity. In fact, these references appear repeatedly throughout the New Testament Scriptures as evidenced below…

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

“Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!” (Matthew 10:24-25 NLT).

“…We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

“…no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this” (1 Thessalonians 3:3).

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:16-18).

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3).

It is also helpful to remember that patient endurance is a quality exhibited by God Himself who “…is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). While this virtue may not come naturally to us, God can help us develop this characteristic as we depend upon Him to navigate the trials we experience in life.


“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21 NLT).

Our journey through this passage now ends with a brief look at Jesus’ role in setting an example for His followers. 1 Peter 2:21 presents that role in a manner that is easily accessible, even to young children.

When a small child first learns to write the letters of the alphabet, he or she often will begin with a pencil and a sheet of tracing paper. As the child places the tracing paper over the alphabet and begins to reproduce the shape of each letter, he or she effectively learns the art of writing. This, in fact, is precisely what the word “example” means in the original language of this passage. (1)

One commentator offers some additional insight into this analogy…

“Just as a child slowly, with painstaking effort and close application, follows the shape of the letters of his teacher and thus learns to write, so saints should with like painstaking effort and by close application, endeavor to be like the Lord Jesus in their own personal lives. Or, as a small child endeavors to walk in the footprints made by his father’s feet in the snow, so we are to follow in the path which our Lord took.” (2)

Peter learned this truth directly from Jesus Himself in a rather painful manner…

“And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Mark 8:31-33 and following).

Through the use of the phrase, “Get behind me Satan,” Jesus revealed to Peter that he had inadvertently played into the hands of his spiritual adversary. In this instance, Peter had deviated from God’s agenda- and much like the devil before him, Peter sought to persuade Jesus to follow a plan that served a different objective. That led to a painful rebuke, and Peter made certain to ensure that his readers understood the gravity of that message.

(1) See G5261 hupogrammos https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5261/kjv/tr/0-1/

(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:21] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


“Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:22-23).

One of the most remarkable aspects of Jesus’ earthly life is the fact that He was completely without sin. Three lines of witness testimony offer Biblical evidence to support that conclusion. Those individual lines of testimony were offered by…

  • Witnesses who were hostile to Jesus.
  • Witnesses who were supportive of Jesus.
  • The secular and religious authorities of His era.

The Testimony Of Hostile Witnesses

  • Demonic Entities: “Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!’” (Mark 1:23-24).
  • Judas: “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’” (Matthew 27:3-4).

The Testimony Of Supportive Witnesses

  • Paul the Apostle: “Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 GNT).
  • Author of Hebrews: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
  • Jesus Himself: “Can any of you convict me of committing a sin?…” (John 8:46 GNB).

Secular And Religious Authorities

  • Pontius Pilate: “…I don’t find this man guilty of anything!” (John 18:38 CEV).
  • The Roman military officer who oversaw Jesus’ execution: “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47 KJV).
  • The Religious High Court: “Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none” (Mark 14:55).

Peter was a man who spent three years of his life in close proximity to Jesus as he viewed Jesus’ conduct in a variety of circumstances. With that firsthand experience in mind, it’s significant to note that Peter adapted a passage from the prophet Isaiah without reservation concerning Him: “He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth” (NET).


“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 ESV).

The word “revile” in this passage is synonymous with the idea of verbal abuse. A “reviler” therefore, is someone who is vocally malicious towards other human beings. When others treat us in this manner, we should look to Jesus as our example, for He “…never answered back when insulted; when he suffered he did not threaten to get even; he left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly” (TLB).

For instance, consider the level of self-restraint that Jesus demonstrated at the time of His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane…

“Suddenly one of Jesus’ disciples drew his sword, slashed at the High Priest’s servant and cut off his ear. At this Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its proper place. All those who take the sword die by the sword. Do you imagine that I could not appeal to my Father, and he would at once send more than twelve legions of angels to defend me? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that all this must take place?’” (Matthew 26:51-54 Phillips).

As the Biblical book of Hebrews adds, “…consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3 HCSB).

So what should be our response when others revile us? Romans 12:19 provides us with that answer: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord” (NLT). The following verses then go on to say…

“…feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be ‘heaping coals of fire on his head.’ In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:20-21 TLB).

So, we would do well is to seek God in prayer for the wisdom to respond appropriately in such instances. In the words of one commentator…

“Jesus is our example. He suffered wrongfully at the hands of man. We should follow in His steps. He didn’t pour out guile from His mouth when they were doing these things. In fact, what did He say as they were nailing Him to the tree? He said, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). That’s your example. ‘Pray for those,’ Jesus said, ‘who despitefully use you’ (Matthew 5:44).” (1)

(1) Chuck Smith, Verse by Verse Study on 1 Peter 1-2 https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/smith_chuck/c2000_1Pe/1Pe_001.cfm


“who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Although the word “sin” is typically associated with immoral conduct, the Biblical meaning of this word goes beyond that definition to convey the idea of “missing the target.” Sin arises from our inability to meet the perfect standard that God established when He brought the very first human beings into existence. In other words, “sin” involves falling short of God’s purpose for humanity.

It’s probably fair to say that most of us perceive ourselves to be “good people” who have done little or nothing to offend our Creator. While this is undoubtedly true in the sense that most people aren’t intentionally malevolent,  the issue involves God’s standard of perfection for humanity. God maintains this standard of perfection because it is consistent with His nature and His design for the human family (see Genesis 1:31).

This brings us to an uncomfortable reality. God, as the all-knowing Creator, has witnessed every secret thought, every hidden motive, and every wrong we’ve ever committed, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. This is critical, for as we’re told in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, “…God will judge us for everything we do, including every hidden thing, good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:14 TLB). The Biblical book of James adds, “…the person who keeps every law of God but makes one little slip is just as guilty as the person who has broken every law there is” (James 2:10 TLB).

Fortunately, God has provided a remedy in the substitutionary death of Christ. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross reconciles God’s perfection with our imperfection and rescues humanity from eternal death and separation from God. Through His death on the cross, Jesus satisfied the death penalty against humanity, thus enabling us to establish a relationship with our Creator.

As we’re told here in 1 Peter 2:24, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed” (NLT). Thus, we have the following double-edged message from the New Testament Gospel of John…

“…God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17-18 NIV).


“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV).

This portion of Scripture presents us with a statement that merits careful attention: “…by [His] stripes you were healed” (NKJV). This passage can be traced back to the Biblical book of Isaiah in speaking of God’s future Messiah. One source offers some additional background commentary regarding this reference to “stripes”…

“The word ‘stripes’ in the Greek presents a picture of our Lord’s lacerated back after the scourging He endured at the hands of the Roman soldier. The Romans used a scourge of cords or thongs to which latter were attached pieces of lead or brass, or small, sharp-pointed bones. Criminals condemned to crucifixion were ordinarily scourged before being executed. The victim was stripped to the waist and bound in a stooping position, with the hands behind the back, to a post or pillar. The suffering under the lash was intense.” (1)

So this passage highlights Jesus’ substitutionary atonement, the act by which He removed our sins through His sacrificial death. That brings us to the factors related to the word “healing” in this passage…

“In the New Testament, there are several instances in which Scripture seems to promise healing. One verse often cited is 1 Peter 2:24: Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. With this verse many claim healing from God based upon the suffering of Christ on the cross. In context, however, this verse refers to healing from sin, not disease. It does not promise immediate healing from disease.” (2)

Therefore, we should exercise caution before we associate this passage with physical healing. While God will heal His people of their maladies, that healing will ultimately take place at our resurrection, if not before. As we are told in the New Testament epistle of 1 Corinthians…

“…our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55 NLT).

(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 2:24] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

(2) Don Stewart, What about Verses That Seem to Promise Healing? Retrieved 02 December 2023 from https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_467.cfm