James Nisbet Commentary - 1 Peter 2:4 - 2:5

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James Nisbet Commentary - 1 Peter 2:4 - 2:5

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


‘To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.’


Christ is everything to St. Peter in this Epistle. It is Christ’s resurrection that inspires the hope of rising again above evil and living a good life.

I. Are you crushed with the recollection of a sin into which you fell?—Do you know that the misery is that your best ideal, as it were, of life has entirely been obliterated because you fell into some sin of which you are ashamed, and you grieve over it, and would give anything to blot out that page? St. Peter, with all his tears of repentance, could not blot out the page of the New Testament that tells us he fell. It is there. You sinned. You cannot stop that. It is done, but you can be the better man now; you can rise above it in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; you can find, as he did, as he bids you find, your hope in Christ. Because Christ rose again, you can rise above your sin. Do you find it very hard to go on steadily enduring little difficulties that you have got to meet, the worries of life which perhaps send you into a bad temper and make you cross at home, an uncomfortable person to those round about you? He puts, before you the endurance and suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that manly patience—never forget that patience, although it is so splendidly characteristic of women, is still one of the attributes of a man—and in that noble, manly, magnificent patience of Jesus, he would have you learn to meet all little difficulties, just as all great trials, and so persevere to the end. You say, ‘Well, but my heart and life are so cold and indifferent that I cannot rise to all this.’ He puts before you in this Epistle what the character of Jesus Christ is, and shows how that transforms a man, so that through the life of Christ, if you let it sink into you, you can become a different person, all because Christ has done that and is ready to give you of His grace. You know what it is to struggle against the passions of your nature, and to find that the sins of a sensual kind, impurity and the like, are the ones by which you are most severely buffeted, and it may be, yea, it is, a hard thing to throw them off and a hard thing to trample them down; but here he lets you into the secret of doing it. It is in the mind of Christ being formed in you, and that is possible if you will only let yourselves come so near to Christ as to learn what He is, Who He is, and what His power over you may be.

II. It is not only in dealing with persons as individuals, but in dealing with us as a Church, that St. Peter’s Epistle is so valuable. Here is his spiritual building up of the Church brought before you in my text. It is not a thought peculiar to St. Peter; you find it in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, and in the Apocalypse. But here you will find it plainly enough in the writings of St. Peter. From what Bishop Lightfoot wrote, I think it is very likely that St. Peter and St. Paul were thrown very much together at the time when St. Peter composed this Epistle and St. Paul composed his Epistle to the Ephesians, which would account very much for St. Peter’s writing in this peculiar strain of the building up of the Church. And the great theory that is filling the minds of both of them is this: that there is to be a great spiritual temple built—that is, a great Catholic Church—and each member of it is to be a spiritual stone in this great edifice. We Churchmen are constantly being accused of narrow-mindedness and exclusiveness. I wonder if those who criticise the Church understand it. That which we, according to our Prayer Book, are aiming at, and ought to be aiming at, is that breadth and catholicity of the Church which will not allow sectarianism, and therefore has to hold itself aloof from divisions and dissent because it realises that we ought to be one body, we ought to be one great Church. We are to realise what the unity of the great body is—we are to be built not into a number of separate small edifices, but to be built up into a great spiritual temple; and who can help seeing the strength it would be to Christianity if we realised that unity, if, instead of all that struggling and fighting, one set of people against another, we learned what that spirit of unity really is!

III. The explanation of the fact that Christianity does not take strong hold on the world, is because we are divided among ourselves. Let us learn to be united under our King of Kings, to realise the unity of the Church, and then we shall know what it is to be able to win souls for Christ. I am not saying one word to argue that there is to be a fixed adamantine kind of level of thought, or an absolute dictatorial uniformity. Unity is an entirely different thing from uniformity; and it is that unity of the Church which fills the mind of the Apostles. They have got the one thought of the one Head of the Church, Who fills every particle of their minds, their hearts, and their wills, and they want to be and they want to do all they can for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop G. W. Kennion.


‘We know well enough all the claims that are made in the name of St. Peter. If you study this Epistle right through you will not find one word said about his supremacy over other Apostles or over other people. If you read this Epistle with microscopic care, you will never find one trace of infallibility in it; but what you will find is that the strenuous, active, buoyant, high-spirited character that you knew of in Peter, the fisherman, called to be an Apostle, is, after his fall, his repentance, his reinstalment, and his baptism by the Holy Ghost, turned into a new channel. And because he is so entirely absorbed in the life of Jesus Christ, he bases all that he teaches, all that he thinks, all that he wants others to be, upon what Christ is, upon what Christ has done, and upon what Christ is able to do for those to whom he writes.’