|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:13-17 A Christian conversation must be honest; which it cannot be, if there is not a just and careful discharge of all relative duties: the apostle here treats of these distinctly. Regard to those duties is the will of God, consequently, the Christian's duty, and the way to silence the base slanders of ignorant and foolish men. Christians must endeavour, in all relations, to behave aright, that they do not make their liberty a cloak or covering for any wickedness, or for the neglect of duty; but they must remember that they are servants of God.
Verse 16. - As free. This verse is not to be taken with what follows, for it does not well cohere with the contents of ver. 17; but either with ver. 14 (Ver. 15 being regarded as parenthetical) or with ver. 15, notwithstanding the change of case in the original, which presents no real difficulty; the meaning being that Christian freedom must show itself, not in license, but in willing obedience to constituted authorities: "Not only for wrath, but for conscience' sake" (Romans 13:5). Those whom the truth makes free are free indeed, but true freedom implies submission to legitimate authority. And not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness; literally, not having your liberty as a cloak. The word rendered "cloak" (ἐπικάλυμμα) is used in the Septuagint (Exodus 26:14) for the covering of the tabernacle. The pretence of Christian liberty must not be made a covering, a concealment, of wickedness. But as the servants of God. The truest liberty is that of the servants of God; his service is perfect freedom (comp. Romans 6:16-23).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
As free,.... These converted Jews might value themselves on their freedom, partly as the descendants of Abraham, and so freeborn, and not to be brought into bondage to other people; and chiefly because of their liberty which they had in and by Christ Jews. The apostle allows that they were freemen, that they were Christ's freemen, were free from sin, its damning and domineering power, and from the curses and condemnation of the law, and had freedom of access to God, and a right to all the privileges and immunities of the house of God; but then they were not free to sin, and to live in the contempt of the laws of God and men, to despise government, speak evil of dignities, and break in upon the rules of civil society:
and not using your liberty as a cloak of maliciousness; under a pretence of Christian liberty, to hurt the persons, properties, and estates of men, without looking upon themselves accountable for their conduct to their superiors: some think the apostle alludes to the ancient custom of servants, who, when they were made free, walked with a cap, or covering on their heads, in token of it: it follows,
but as the servants of God; for they that are free are the servants of God and Christ, and show themselves to be so by submitting to and obeying those that are under them, and ordained by them; and which is no ways inconsistent with, and contrary to their Christian liberty, which never was designed to thwart and subvert the principles of natural religion, laws of a moral nature, or the rules of civil government; some instances of which are next mentioned.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. As free—as "the Lord's freemen," connected with 1Pe 2:15, doing well as being free. "Well-doing" (1Pe 2:15) is the natural fruit of being freemen of Christ, made free by "the truth" from the bondage of sin. Duty is enforced on us to guard against licentiousness, but the way in which it is to be fulfilled, is by love and the holy instincts of Christian liberty. We are given principles, not details.
not using—Greek, "not as having your liberty for a veil (cloak) of badness, but as the servants of God," and therefore bound to submit to every ordinance of man (1Pe 2:13) which is of God's appointment.
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