1 Peter 2:17 Commentaries: Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
1 Peter 2:17
Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Honour all men.—“These words have very briefly, and yet not obscured by briefness, but withal very plainly, the sum of our duty towards God and men; to men, both in general, honour all men, and in special relations, in their Christian or religious relations, love the brotherhood; and in a chief civil relation, honour the king. And our whole duty to God, comprised under the name of His fear, is set in the middle betwixt these, as the common spring of all duty to men, and of all due observance of it, and the sovereign rule by which it is to be regulated” (Leighton). St. Paul had said that this honour was to be paid to those to whom it was due; St. Peter says that this includes all men; there is not one who can be entirely despised, not one who has quite lost the likeness of Christ; Jews are not at liberty to despise even the idolatrous Gentiles.

Love the brotherhood.—See 1Peter 5:9, and Note on 1Peter 1:22. The brotherhood means, of course, all Christian men, who (mystically even now that the Church is divided, but then actually) formed a single confraternity. “All men,” Christian or heathen, are to be “honoured,” but there is a special sense in which love is only possible between fellow-Christians. For the converse proposition, see Matthew 5:44.

Fear God.—This enforces reverence for every law and ordinance of God, and therefore serves fitly to introduce the next precept. Rebellion against Nero is rebellion against God (Romans 13:2. Bengel compares Proverbs 24:21).

Honour the king.—This is the climax. Logically, the foregoing commands have only been inserted for the purpose of bringing out this last more clearly. This was the point on which the Christian religion was assailed, and the putting the readers through their catechism (as it were) of duties in other respects awakes their conscience to receive this precept. 1Peter 2:13-16 have insisted on the duty of political submission, and then the writer steps back, so to speak, for a final thrust: “so—as to all men you must pay reverence; as to the Christians, love; as to God, fear—so to the emperor you must pay constant reverence.” It is hardly right to say with Bengel that this paragraph is specially written because of the usual disaffection of Jews towards the Roman government; rather it is called for (like the warning of 1Peter 2:11-12), not by any special temptation within them, but by the particular circumstances of the time, i.e., the calumnies that were afloat against Christians.

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.Honor all men - That is, show them the respect which is due to them according to their personal worth, and to the rank and office which they sustain. See the notes at Romans 13:7.

Love the brotherhood - The whole fraternity of Christians, regarded as a band of brothers. The word used here occurs only in this place and in 1 Peter 5:9, where it is rendered "brethren." The idea expressed here occurs often in the New Testament. See the notes at John 13:34-35.

Fear God - A duty everywhere enjoined in the Bible, as one of the first duties of religion. Compare Leviticus 25:17; Psalm 24:7; Psalm 25:14; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 23:17; See the Romans 3:18 note; 2 Corinthians 7:1 note. The word fear, when used to express our duty to God, means that we are to reverence and honor him. Religion, in one aspect, is described as the fear of God; in another, as the love of God; in another, as submission to his will, etc. A holy veneration or fear is always an elementary principle of religion. It is the fear, not so much of punishment as of his disapprobation; not so much the dread of suffering as the dread of doing wrong.

Honor the king - Referring here primarily to the Roman sovereign, but implying that we are always to respect those who have the rule over us. See the notes at Romans 13:1-7. The doctrine taught in these verses Romans 13:13-14 is, that we are faithfully to perform all the relative duties of life. There are duties which we owe to ourselves, which are of importance in their place, and which we are by no means at liberty to neglect. But we also owe duties to our fellow-men, to our Christian brethren, and to those who have the rule over us; and religion, while it is honored by our faithful performance of our duty to ourselves, is more openly honored by our performance of our duties to those to whom we sustain important relations in life. Many of the duties which we owe to ourselves are, from the nature of the case, hidden from public observation. All that pertains to the examination of the heart; to our private devotions; to the subjugation of our evil passions; to our individual communion with God, must be concealed from public view. Not so, however, with those duties which pertain to others. In respect to them, we are open to public view. The eye of the world is upon us. The judgment of the world in regard to us is made up from their observation of the manner in which we perform them. If religion fails there, they judge that it fails altogether; and however devout we may be in private, if it is not seen by the world that our religion leads to the faithful performance of the duties which we owe in the various relations of life, it will be regarded as of little value.

17. Honour all men—according to whatever honor is due in each case. Equals have a respect due to them. Christ has dignified our humanity by assuming it; therefore we should not dishonor, but be considerate to and honor our common humanity, even in the very humblest. The first "honor" is in the Greek aorist imperative, implying, "In every case render promptly every man's due" [Alford]. The second is in the present tense, implying, Habitually and continually honor the king. Thus the first is the general precept; the three following are its three great divisions.

Love—present: Habitually love with the special and congenial affection that you ought to feel to brethren, besides the general love to all men.

Fear God … the king—The king is to be honored; but God alone, in the highest sense, feared.

Honour all men; viz. according as honour is due to them, according to their dignity, power, gifts, &c.: see Romans 12:10 Romans 13:7 Philippians 2:3.

Love the brotherhood; though all may challenge suitable respects, yet there is a more special affection owing to believers, 1 Peter 1:22 Galatians 6:10.

Fear God; with a filial fear or reverence. This command is interposed, either to show what is the true spring and fountain from which all the duties we perform to men are to proceed, viz. the fear of God, because where that doth not prevail no duty to men can be rightly performed; (they love the brotherhood best, and honour the king most, that truly fear God); or to show the due bounds of all the offices we perform to men, that nothing is to be done for them which is inconsistent with the fear of God. Honour the king; with that honour which is peculiarly due to him above all others. Honour all men,.... To whom honour is due, according to the place, station, and circumstances in which they are, the gifts of providence and grace bestowed on them, and the usefulness they are of, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, believers or unbelievers: it is a saying of Ben Zoma (e),

"who is to be honoured, or is worthy of honour , "he that honoureth creatures";

meaning men in general, or the Gentiles particularly, who were sometimes so called by the Jews; See Gill on Mark 16:15, and may be meant by "all men" here:

love the brotherhood; or "your brethren", as the Syriac version renders it: the whole company of the brethren in Christ, who are born of God, are members of Christ, and of the same body, and have the same spirit, belong to the same family, and are of the household of faith, let them be of whatsoever nation, or in whatsoever circumstances of life. The Jews had not that good opinion of, nor that affection for the Gentiles, but were ready to treat them with indifference, neglect, and contempt; and not only those that knew not God, but even believing Gentiles themselves; and which is the reason of these exhortations, that they should despise no man, but honour all; and especially should express their love, both by words and deeds, to those that were in the same spiritual relation with them, and that without any difference, on account of their being of another nation:

fear God; not with a servile, but a filial fear, the new covenant grace of fear; which springs from the goodness of God, has that for its object, and is increased by the fresh instances and discoveries of it; and which shows itself in a reverential affection for God, a strict regard to his worship and ordinances, and a carefulness of offending him. This is placed between what goes before, and follows after, to show the influence it has on each of them; for where the fear of God is, there will be due respect shown to all men, more or less, and an hearty and affectionate love to all the saints, as brethren, and a proper regard to those that are set in high places of dignity and power:

honour the king; Caesar, the Roman emperor, though a wicked, persecuting Nero, and so any other king or governor; who, so far as he acts the part of a civil magistrate, preserves the peace, the property, and liberty of his subjects, is a terror to evil works, and an encourager of good ones, and rules according to the laws of God, and civil society, is deserving of great honour and esteem from men; and which is to be shown by speaking well of him; by a cheerful subjection to him; by an observance of the laws, and by payment of tribute, and doing everything to make him easy, and honourable in his government: advice much like this is given by Isocrates (f),

"fear God, honour parents, revere friends, and obey the laws.

(e) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 1.((f) Paraen. ad Demos Orat. 1.

{20} {d} Honour all men. Love the {e} brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

(20) He divides the civil life of man, by occasion of those things of which he spoke, into two general parts: that is, into those duties which private men owe to private men, and especially the faithful to the faithful, and into that subjection by which inferiors are bound to their superiors, but so that kings are not made equal to God, seeing that fear is due to God, and honour to kings.

(d) Be charitable and dutiful towards all men.

(e) The assembly and fellowship of the brethren. Zec 11:14

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Peter 2:17. Four hortatory clauses suggested to Peter by the term ἀγαθοποιοῦντας; in the last he returns, by way of conclusion, to the principal theme. In the first three there is a climax.[143]

πάντας τιμήσατε] ΠΆΝΤΑς must not, with Bengel, be limited to those: quibus honos debetur, Romans 13:7,[144] nor to those who belong to the same state (Schott); it expresses totality without any exception.

ΤΙΜᾷΝ is not equivalent to ὙΠΟΤΆΣΣΕΣΘΑΙ (de Wette); but neither is it equal to, civiliter tractare (Bengel); the former is too strong, the latter too weak; it is the opposite, positively stated, of ΚΑΤΑΦΡΟΝΕῖΝ, and means: to recognise the worth (ΤΙΜΉ) which any one possesses, and to act on the recognition (Brückner, Weiss, Wiesinger, Schott). This exhortation is all the more important for the Christian, that his consciousness of his own dignity can easily betray him into a depreciation of others. It refers to the ΤΙΜΉ which is due to man as man, and not first in respect of any particular position he may hold (Flacius: unicuique suum locum et debita officia exhibete.)

ΤῊΝ ἈΔΕΛΦΌΤΗΤΑ ἈΓΑΠᾶΤΕ] ἈΔΕΛΦΌΤΗς, also in chap. 1 Peter 5:9, corresponding to our: brotherhood, i.e. the totality of the Christian brethren, cf. ἱεράτευμα 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9. The apparent contradiction of Matthew 5:44, here presented, where love to enemies is also enjoined, is to be explained on the following principle: that the ἈΓΆΠΗ is differently conditioned, according as it has different objects. In perfect harmony with its inmost nature, it can exist only between Christians, for only among them is there community of life in God, cf. chap. 1 Peter 1:22. Pott interprets ἈΓΑΠᾷΝ here superficially by “entertain goodwill to.”

ΤῸΝ ΘΕῸΝ ΦΟΒΕῖΣΘΕ] cf. chap. 1 Peter 1:17; a command not only of the Old, but of the New Testament, inasmuch as a lowly awe before the holy God is an essential feature of the filial relation to God.

ΤῸΝ ΒΑΣΙΛΈΑ ΤΙΜᾶΤΕ] Reiteration of the command (1 Peter 2:13) as a conclusion to the whole passage; cf. Proverbs 24:21, ΦΟΒΟῦ ΤῸΝ ΘΕῸΝ, ΥἹῈ, ΚΑῚ ΒΑΣΙΛΈΑ.

ΤΙΜᾷΤΕ
has here the same meaning as previously: “show to the king the respect which pertains to him as king;” what that is the apostle has explained in 1 Peter 2:13. Hornejus[145] incorrectly thinks that in the conjunction of the last two commands, he can here discover an indication of the limits by which obedience to the king is bounded.

The difference in the tenses of the imperative, in the first exhortation the imperat. aor., in the three others the imperat. pres., is to be regarded as accidental, rather than as in any way arising from the substance of the command.[146]

[143] To distribute these four exhortations over “the two provinces of life: the natural and civil, and the spiritual and ecclesiastical communities” (Schott), is warranted neither by what precedes nor by anything the clauses themselves contain.—Hofmann, who denies the climax, determines the relation of the four maxims to each other in a highly artificial manner. He holds that the second sentence is in antithesis to the first, and the fourth to the third; that the first is akin to the fourth, and the second to the third; that in the first stress is laid on πάντας, whilst on the second, on the other hand, it lies not on ἀδελφότητα, but on ἀγαπᾶτει, and that in the first antithesis it is the first member that is emphatic, in the second it is the last.

[144] In like manner Hornejus: non de omnibus absolute loquitur, quasi omnes homines etiam pessimi honorandi sint, sed de iis, quibus honor propter potestatem quam habent, competit.

[145] Explicat Petr. quomodo Caesari parendum sit, nempe ut Dei interim timori nihil derogetur.

[146] Hofmann’s view is purely arbitrary: that in the foremost clause the aorist is put because, in the first place, and chiefly, it is required to honour all; and after this, that the Christian should love his brethren in Christ. Nor can it be at all supported by Winer’s remarks, p. 294 [E. T. 394].1 Peter 2:17. Sweeping clause based partly on Romans 13:7 f. (cf. Matthew 22:21), partly on Proverbs 24:21, φοβοῦ τὸν θεὸν υἰὲ καὶ βασιλέα καὶ μηθετέρῳ αὐτῶν ἀπειθήσῃς.—πάντας τιμήσατε. The aorist imperative is used because the present would be ambiguous; cf. ἀπόδοτε, Rom. l.c., and for matter, Romans 12:10, τῇ τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι, since πάντας covers both the brotherhood and the emperor.—οἱ οἰκέται, vocative; the word is chosen as being milder than δοῦλος and also as suggesting the parallel between slaves and Christians who are God’s household (1 Peter 2:5)—ὑποτασσόμενοι has force of imperative resuming ὑποτάγητε or goes with τιμήσατε (1 Peter 2:17) as being a particular application of that general principle.—τοῖς δεσπόταις, to your masters, not excluding God, the Master of all, as is indicated by the insertion of in all fear (cf. 1 Peter 2:17, etc.) and τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπιεικέσιν (cf. Psalm 86:4, σὺ κύριος χρηστὸς καὶ ἐπιεικής).—τοῖς σκολιοῖς, the perverse, cf. Php 2:15, ἵνα γένησθετέκνα θεοῦ ἄμωμα μέσον γενεᾶς σκολιᾶς καὶ διεστραμμένης, where the full phrase is cited from Deuteronomy 32:5 (σκ. = עקש), The Vulgate has dyscolis = δυσκόλοις; Hesychius, σκολιός. ἄδικος; Proverbs 28:18, ὁ σκολιαῖς ὁδοῖς πορευόμενος χ. ὁ πορευόμενος δικαίως.17. Honour all men] The universality of the precept is not to be narrowed by any arbitrary restriction of its range to those to whom honour was due. St Peter had been taught of God “not to call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). The fact that there were in every man traces of the image of God after which he had been created, and infinite undeveloped capacities which might issue in the restoration of that image to its original brightness, was in itself a reason for treating all, even the vilest and most degraded, with some measure of respect. It is obvious that the command is perfectly consistent with shewing degrees of honour according to the variations in men’s character and position. It would almost seem as if the Apostle chose the most terse and epigrammatic form for these great laws of conduct that their very brevity might impress them indelibly on the minds of his readers.

Love the brotherhood] In the Greek, as in the English, the abstract noun is used to express the collective unity made up of many individuals. Within the Christian society in which all were brothers, as being children of the same Father, there might well be a warmer feeling of affection than that which was felt for those who were outside it. If St Peter’s rule seems at first somewhat narrower than that of Matthew 5:44 (“Love your enemies”), it may be remembered that the special love of the brethren does not shut out other forms and degrees of love, and that our Lord’s words are therefore left in all their full force of obligation.

Fear God. Honour the king] The king, as before, is the Emperor. The two verbs seem deliberately chosen to express the feelings of man’s conduct in regard to divine and human authority. They are to fear God with the holy reverential awe of sons, with that fear which is “the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7). They are not to fear man more than God, however great may be the authority with which he is invested. St Paul’s conduct before the high-priest, Felix, Festus and Agrippa (Acts 23-26.) may be noted as a practical illustration of St Peter’s precept. We may, perhaps, trace in the juxtaposition of the two precepts a reproduction of the teaching of Proverbs 24:21.1 Peter 2:17. Πάντας, all) to whom honour is due: Romans 13:7.—τιμήσατε, honour) They who are unconnected with us, are to be treated with courtesy; brethren, with familiarity. This Aorist is followed by three Presents. The king must be honoured in such a way, that the love of the brotherhood, and the fear of God, be not violated.—τὸν ἀδελφότητα, the brotherhood) The abstract, ch. 1 Peter 5:9. Brethren are to be loved, because they are brethren.—τὸν Θεὸν, God) Proverbs 24:21, Septuagint, φοβοῦ τὸν Θεὸν, υἱὲ, καὶ βασιλέα, “Fear God, my son, and the king.”—τὸν βασιλέα, the king) 1 Peter 2:13.—τιμᾶτε, honour) in action also, and not in feeling only.Verse 17. - Honor all men. St. Peter illustrates the well-doing which he enjoins in ver. 15, drawing out his general exhortation into four rules of conduct. First, he bids us give honor to all men. The Christians of Asia Minor saw heathenism and vice all around them; they heard of the abominable life of Nero and his courtiers at Rome. They were conscious of a great and elevating change which had passed over themselves; St. Peter has just been enumerating the dignities and privileges of the Christian life. But they must not be lifted up; they must despise no one, but honor in all men the handiwork of God, created after God's own image, though sadly marred and defaced by sin. Respect is due to all men, of course in varying degrees and to be shown in different ways; but in some sense it is due to all, to the humblest and even to the worst. The aorist imperative (τιμήσατε) seems to lay down this principle as a sharp, definite rule, to be accepted at once, and to be applied as need arises, according to the circumstances of each case. The three following imperatives are present; the duties which they prescribe are viewed as continuous, recognized elements in well-doing. There was something new and strange in the command to honor all men; it is expressed forcibly, once for all, by the aorist imperative. Love the brotherhood. The word ἀδελφότης, brotherhood, is peculiar to St. Peter; it stands for the aggregate of Christian brethren regarded as one body in Christ. The Lord bids us "love our enemies." St. Peter's rule does not weaken the force of the Savior's precept. But love must vary in depth and degree according to the varying relations of life; and the love which true Christians feel for the like-minded must be one of its strongest forms. Fear God. Honor the king. The holy fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God as the King of kings will lead us to give due honor to earthly princes, who rule by his controlling providence. It was especially necessary to urge the fear of God as a motive, when the king to be honored was such as Nero.
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