As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)As free.—This points at once to what was the gist of the accusation. The Christian took up a position of complete independence within, and professed himself in a certain sense to be above the laws, by virtue of being a member of Christ’s kingdom. This position of independence the heathen state resented, and looked upon the Christian Church as a dangerous organisation. Here, therefore, St. Peter both insists upon, and defines that independent position. “This the Apostle adds,” says Leighton, “lest any should so far mistake the nature of their Christian liberty as to dream of an exemption from obedience either to God or to man for His sake, and according to His appointment. Their freedom he grants, but would have them understand aright what it is.”
And not using.—The word “as” in the Greek attaches better to the participle instead of to the word “cloke,” so that the sentence will run, As free (i.e., as men who are really free), and not as using freedom for a curtain of vice. In this way the true and the false freedom are more forcibly contrasted.
For a cloke of maliciousness.—The uncommon word here used means any kind of covering, but not in the sense of a garment, so that we must not insist on the metaphor of the word “cloke.” The same Greek word is used in Exodus 26:14 to express the second covering of the tabernacle there mentioned, i.e., the uppermost, outermost covering. Grimm quotes a fragment of the comic poet Menander, “Wealth is a covering of many a bad thing;” this helps us to see that what St. Peter means is not ordinary hypocrisy. The man does not profess to be better than he is, but loudly asserts that he is not a slave. Men admire such freedom of speech, and excuse his vices just because of their openness.
But as the servants of God.—Such freedom as has been mentioned is no freedom. It is moral slavery. The only true freedom lies in being “servants” (or rather slaves) “of God,” whose will it is that you should be good subjects (1Peter 2:13; 1Peter 2:15). For a slightly different turn of thought, see Galatians 5:13.1 Peter 2:16-17. As free — In the noblest sense, in consequence of your relation to Christ, and your interest in the merit of his death; (see on John 8:32; 1 Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:13;) as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, and therefore heirs of God; and not using your liberty as a cloak of maliciousness — Κακιας, of wickedness. Though you are indeed made free from the dominion of sin and Satan, the world and the flesh, yet not from subjection to magistrates; therefore use not your liberty so as, under pretence thereof, to be guilty of disobedience to governors, or any other wickedness: but act in all things as the servants of God — Observing all his laws, and performing all the duties he requires. Honour all men — As being made in the image of God, intelligent, free, and immortal beings; bought by the blood of his Son, and designed for his eternal kingdom. Love the brotherhood — All true Christians. Fear, reverence, and obey, God. Honour the king — Whom God has set over you. Pay him all that regard, both in affection and action, which the laws of God and man require. Perhaps no finer and stronger instances of the laconic style are to be found anywhere than in this passage. It is remarkable that the apostle requires Christians to honour the Roman emperor, though a great persecutor, and of a most abandoned character.John 8:33. They never willingly acknowledged their subjection to any other power, but claimed it as an elementary idea of their civil constitution that God only was their Sovereign. They were indeed conquered by the Romans, and paid tribute, but they did it because they were compelled to do it, and it was even a question much debated among them whether they should do it or not Matthew 22:17. Josephus has often referred to the fact that the Jews rebelled against the Romans under the plea that they were a free people, and that they were subject only to God. This idea of essential freedom the Jews had when they became Christians, and everything in Christianity tended to inspire them with the love of liberty.
They who were converted to the Christian faith, whether from among the Jews or the Gentiles, were made to feel that they were the children of God; that his law was the supreme rule of their lives; that in the ultimate resort they were subject to him alone; that they were redeemed, and that, therefore, the yoke of bondage could not be properly imposed on them; that God "had made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth," Acts 17:26; and that, therefore, they were on a level before him. The meaning here is, that they were not to consider themselves as slaves, or to act as slaves. In their subjection to civil authority they were not to forget that they were freemen in the highest sense, and that liberty was an invaluable blessing. They had been made free by the Son of God, John 8:32, John 8:36. They were free from sin and condemnation. They acknowledged Christ as their supreme Head, and the whole spirit and tendency of his religion prompted to the exercise of freedom.
They were not to submit to the chains of slavery; not to allow their consciences to be bound, or their essential liberty to be interfered with; nor in their subjection to the civil magistrate were they ever to regard themselves otherwise than as freemen. As a matter of fact, Christianity has always been the friend and promoter of liberty. Its influence emancipated the slaves throughout the Roman Empire; and all the civil freedom which we enjoy, and which there is in the world, can be traced to the influence of the Christian religion. To spread the gospel in its purity everywhere would be to break every yoke of oppression and bondage, and to make people everywhere free. It is the essential right of every man who is a Christian to be a freeman - to be free to worship God; to read the Bible; to enjoy the avails of his own labor; to train up his children in the way in which he shall deem best; to form his own plans of life, and to pursue his own ends, provided only that he does not interfere with the equal rights of others - and every system which prevents this, whether it be that of civil government, of ecclesiastical law, or of domestic slavery, is contrary to the religion of the Saviour.
And not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness - Margin, as in Greek, "having." Not making your freedom a mere pretext under which to practice all kinds of evil. The word rendered "maliciousness" - κακία kakia - means more than our word maliciousness does; for it denotes evil of any kind, or all kinds. The word maliciousness refers rather to enmity of heart, ill-will, an intention to injure. The apostle has reference to an abuse of freedom, which has often occurred. The pretence of these who have acted in this manner has been, that the freedom of the gospel implied deliverance from all kinds of restraint; that they were under no yoke, and bound by no laws; that, being the children of God, they had a right to all kinds of enjoyment and indulgence; that even the moral law ceased to bind them, and that they had a right to make the most of liberty in all respects. Hence, they have given themselves up to all sorts of sensual indulgence, claiming exemption from the restraints of morality as well as of civil law, and sinking into the deepest abyss of vice. Not a few have done this who have professed to be Christians; and, occasionally, a fanatical sect now appears who make the freedom which they say Christianity confers, a pretext for indulgence in the most base and degrading vices. The apostles saw this tendency in human nature, and in nothing are they more careful than to guard against this abuse.
But as the servants of God - Not free from all restraint; not at liberty to indulge in all things, but bound to serve God in the faithful obedience of his laws. Thus bound to obey and serve him, they could not be at liberty to indulge in those things which would be in violation of his laws, and which would dishonor him. See this sentiment explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Corinthians 9:21.
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.As free; he prevents an objection; they might pretend they were a free people, as Jews, and therefore were not to obey strangers, Deu 17:15 John 8:33; and made free by Christ. He answers: That they were free indeed, but it was from sin, and not from righteousness, not from obedience to God’s law, which requires subjection to magistrates, for they were still the servants of God.
And not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness; not using your liberty to cover or palliate your wickedness, excusing yourselves from obedience to your superiors by a pretence of Christian liberty, when, though ye be free from sin, yet ye are not from duty.
But as the servants of God; and so still bound to obey him, and your rulers in him.
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.As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1 Peter 2:16. ὡς ἐλεύθεροι] is not, as Lachm., Jachmann, Steiger, Fronmüller think, to be joined with what follows (1 Peter 2:17), but with a preceding thought; either with ἀγαθοποιοῦντας (Beda, Luther, Calvin, Wiesinger, Hofm.), or with ὑποτάγητε (Chrys., Oecum., Gerhard, Bengel, de Wette, Schott, etc.). The latter of these connections deserves the preference, not because in the former a change of construction would take place, but because the special point to be brought out here was, that the freedom of the Christians was to be manifested in submission to (heathen) authorities. What follows shows this, inasmuch as those Christians who had not attained unto true freedom, might easily be led to justify their opposition to those in power on the ground of the liberty which belonged to them in Christ. ὡς ἐλεύθεροι states the position which the Christians are to take up inwardly towards the authorities; their subjection is not that of δοῦλοι, since they recognise them as a divine ordinance for the attainment of moral ends.
καὶ μὴ ὡς ἐπικάλυμμα ἔχοντες τῆς κακίας τὴν ἐλευθερίαν] καί is epexegetical: “and that,” since what follows defines the idea ἐλεύθεροι first negatively and then positively.
ὡς belongs not to ἐπικάλυμμα, but to ἔχοντες: “and that not as those who have.”
ἐπικάλυμμα is the more remote, τὴν ἐλευθερίαν the proximate, object of ἔχοντες: “who have the ἐλευθερία as the ἐπικάλυμμα τ. κακ.”
ἐπικάλυμμα, ἅπ. λεγ.; for its original meaning, cf. Exodus 26:14, LXX.; here used metaphorically (cf. Kypke in loc.). The sense is: “not as those to whom their freedom serves as a covering for their κακία” (cf. 2 Peter 2:19; Galatians 5:13), i.e. who seek to conceal their wickedness by boasting of their Christian freedom. This is the exact reverse of the Pharisaism of those who seek to conceal the wickedness of the heart by an outward conformity to the law.
ἀλλʼ ὡς δοῦλοι Θεοῦ] expresses positively the nature of the truly free. True liberty consists in the δουλεία Θεοῦ (Romans 6:16 ff.); it refers back to the τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ, and further still to διὰ κύριον.
 Hofmann justly says: “We cannot think of joining ver. 16 with ver. 17, for its contents would not suit πάντας τιμήσατε—even should it be connected with this only (Fronmüller), which is quite impossible—not to speak of τὴν ἀδελφοτητα or τὸν Θεὸν φοβεῖσθε.”
 It is not probable that Peter here refers, as Weiss (p. 349) thinks, to the words of Christ, Matthew 17:27, since they apply to circumstances altogether different from those mentioned here; see Meyer in loc.1 Peter 2:16. ὡς ἐλεύθεροι, the contrast with τῆς κακίας supports the connection of ἐ, in thought with ἀγαθοποιοῦντας, which explains the nature of the self-subjection required. Christians are free (Matthew 17:26 f. q.v.; John 8:36; Galatians 2:4) and therefore must submit to authority. Peter generalises summarily St. Paul’s argument in Galatians 5:13, which refers to internal relations.—καὶ μὴ … ἐλευθερίαν, and not having your freedom as a cloak of your malice. For ἐπ. cf. Menander (apud Stobaeum Florileg.) πλοῦτος δὲ πολλῶν ἐπικάλυμμʼ ἐστιν κακῶν. The verb is used in Ps. cited Romans 4:7 = כפר; and this sense may perhaps be contemplated here; early Christians regarded their freedom as constituting a propitiation for future as for past sins.16. as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke] The English text gives the impression that the word “free” is closely connected with the preceding verse. In the Greek, however, the adjective is in the nominative and cannot be in apposition with the preceding participle for “well-doing” which is in the accusative case. We are led therefore to connect it with what follows. “As being free … honour all men …” The fact that men had been made free with the freedom which Christ had given (comp. John 8:32; John 8:36, Galatians 5:1) brought with it an obligation to use the freedom rightly. If under the pretence that they were asserting their Christian freedom, they were rude, over-bearing, insolent, regardless of the conventional courtesies of life, what was this but to make their liberty a cloke (the word is the same as that used in the LXX. of Exodus 26:14 for the “covering” of the Tabernacle) for baseness? The word just given answers better to the comprehensive meaning of the Greek word than the more specific “maliciousness.” In Galatians 5:13, 2 Peter 2:19 we find indications that the warning was but too much needed.
“License they mean when they cry liberty”
was as true in the Apostolic age as it has been in later times.
as the servants of God] St Peter, like St Paul, brings together the two contrasts as expressing one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life. There is a service even in slavery, which is not only compatible with freedom, but is absolutely its condition. Comp. Romans 6:16-18, 1 Corinthians 7:22-23.1 Peter 2:16. Ὡς ἐλεύθεροι, as free) without maliciousness. This depends on 1 Peter 2:13. Concerning liberty, comp. 1 Peter 2:9.—κακίας) maliciousness, the vice of a slave.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).
Lit., having or holding.
Only here in New Testament. Lit., a veil. The idea is that of using Christian freedom as a mask for ungodly license. Paul uses the kindred verb (Romans 4:7) of the covering of sins. On the sentiment, compare Galatians 5:13.
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