1 Peter 2:25 MEANING

1 Peter 2:25
(25) For ye were as sheep going astray.--The right reading does not attach "going astray" to "sheep," but as predicate of the sentence, "ye were going astray like sheep." The "for" introduces an explanation of how they came to be in need of "healing." "I may well say that ye were healed; for Israelites though you are, your consciences and memories tell you that you were as far gone in wilful error as any Gentiles, and needed as complete a conversion." (Comp. 1 Peter 2:10.) Jew and Gentile take different ways, but both alike fulfil the prophecy, "every man to his own way." The two metaphors, of healing and going astray, do not match very well, but the fact that both are quotations from Isaiah 53 makes their disagreement less harsh. We must notice how deeply that prophecy (the interpretation of which was probably learned from the Baptist) had sunk into St. Peter's mind. (See 1 Peter 1:19.)

But are now returned.--The tense of the original verb points to the actual historical time at which it took place, rather than the position now occupied, "but now ye returned." The word "now" is used in the same way in 1 Peter 2:10, where literally it is, "but now did obtain mercy." "Returned" does not in the Greek imply that they had at first been under the Shepherd's care and had left Him. The word is that which is often rendered "were converted," and only indicates that they turned round and moved in a contrary direction.

The shepherd and bishop of your souls.--Undoubtedly this means Christ. The first of the two titles is of course suggested by the simile of the sheep. The image is so natural and so frequent, that we can not say for certain that it proves St. Peter's acquaintance with the parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10. More probably, perhaps, he is thinking of Psalm 23:3, "He converted my soul" (LXX.), where "the Lord," as usual, may be taken to mean the Son of God rather than the Father; or else of Ezekiel 34:11; Ezekiel 34:16, where the words rendered "seek them out" in our version is represented in the LXX. by that from which the name of a "bishop" is derived. (Comp. Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24; also Isaiah 40:11, which last citation comes from a passage which has been in St. Peter's mind just before, 1 Peter 1:24.) It is hardly necessary to add that to the Hebrew mind the thought of superintendence and ruling, not that of giving food, was uppermost when they spoke of shepherds, and that the pastors spoken of in the Old Testament are not the priests or givers of spiritual nutriment, but the kings and princes. Thus it will here be nearly synonymous with the second title of bishop. This name suggests in the first instance not so much overseeing as visiting--i.e., going carefully into the different cases brought under the officer's notice. (Comp. 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Peter 5:4, and Acts 20:28.) Both words were already familiar as ecclesiastical words already, and as such were especially appropriate to Christ, the Head of the Church; but as they had not yet become stereotyped in that sense, the writer adds, "of your souls," to show that it was not an outward sovereignty and protectorate which the Messiah had assumed over them. "Soul" is a word of which St. Peter is fond (1 Peter 1:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 4:19; 2 Peter 2:8), but which is, perhaps, never used by St. Paul in this sense. It is to be remarked how St. Peter works almost every section of the Epistle round, so as to end with some encouragement to the readers to cling to Jesus as the Messiah, and to their Christian state, from which they were in danger of receding into Judaism. He makes even the special exhortations lead up to that which is the main exhortation of the Letter.

Verse 25. - For ye were as sheep going astray; rather, with the best manuscripts, for ye were going astray like sheep. The apostle is probably still thinking of the great prophecy of Isaiah, and here almost reproduces the words of the sixth verse, "All we like sheep have gone astray." He who had been thrice charged to feed the sheep and the lambs of Christ would think also of the parable of the lost sheep, and of the people of Israel who were "as sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). But are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls; literally, but ye returned (the verb is aorist); that is, at the time of their conversion. The aorist passive, ἐπεστράφην, is so frequently used in a middle sense that the translation, "ye were converted," cannot be insisted on (comp. Mark 5:30; Matthew 9:22; Matthew 10:13). Christ is the Shepherd of our souls. The quotation from Isaiah doubtless brought before St. Peter's thoughts the sweet and holy allegory of the good Shepherd, which he had heard from the Savior's lips (comp. also Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24; also Psalm 22.). The word "bishop" (ἐπίσκοπος) is used in a similar connection in Acts 20:28, "Take heed... to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (ἐπισκόπους);" comp. also Ezekiel 34:11, "I will both search my sheep, and seek them out," where the Greek word for "seek them out" is ἐπισκέψομαι. The Lord Jesus Christ is the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He is also the chief Bishop or Overseer of those souls which he has bought to be his own with his most precious blood.

2:18-25 Servants in those days generally were slaves, and had heathen masters, who often used them cruelly; yet the apostle directs them to be subject to the masters placed over them by Providence, with a fear to dishonour or offend God. And not only to those pleased with reasonable service, but to the severe, and those angry without cause. The sinful misconduct of one relation, does not justify sinful behaviour in the other; the servant is bound to do his duty, though the master may be sinfully froward and perverse. But masters should be meek and gentle to their servants and inferiors. What glory or distinction could it be, for professed Christians to be patient when corrected for their faults? But if when they behaved well they were ill treated by proud and passionate heathen masters, yet bore it without peevish complaints, or purposes of revenge, and persevered in their duty, this would be acceptable to God as a distinguishing effect of his grace, and would be rewarded by him. Christ's death was designed not only for an example of patience under sufferings, but he bore our sins; he bore the punishment of them, and thereby satisfied Divine justice. Hereby he takes them away from us. The fruits of Christ's sufferings are the death of sin, and a new holy life of righteousness; for both which we have an example, and powerful motives, and ability to perform also, from the death and resurrection of Christ. And our justification; Christ was bruised and crucified as a sacrifice for our sins, and by his stripes the diseases of our souls are cured. Here is man's sin; he goes astray; it is his own act. His misery; he goes astray from the pasture, from the Shepherd, and from the flock, and so exposes himself to dangers without number. Here is the recovery by conversion; they are now returned as the effect of Divine grace. This return is, from all their errors and wanderings, to Christ. Sinners, before their conversion, are always going astray; their life is a continued error.For ye were as sheep going astray,.... This is a proof of their being healed, namely, their conversion; in which an application of the blood of Christ, and pardon, and so healing by it, was made to their souls. The apostle has still in view the prophecy of Isaiah 53:6. God's elect are sheep before conversion; not that they have the agreeable properties of sheep, as to be meek, harmless, innocent, clean, and profitable, for they are the reverse of all this; nor can some things be said of them before conversion, as may be after, as that they hear Christ's voice, and follow him; nor are they so called, because unprejudiced against, and predisposed unto the Gospel, for the contrary is true of them; but they are so in electing grace, and were so considered in the Father's gift of them to Christ, and when made his care and charge, and hence they are called the sheep of his hand; and when Christ laid down his life, and rose again, which he did for the sheep, and as the great Shepherd of them; and when called by grace, for their being sheep, and Christ's own sheep by the Father's gift, and his own purpose, is the reason why he looks them up, calls them by name, and returns them: but then they are not yet of his fold; they are lost sheep, lost in Adam, and by his fall, and by their own actual transgressions; they are as sheep going astray from the shepherd, and from the flock, going out of the right way, and in their own ways; and are, like sheep, stupid and insensible of their danger; and as they never return of themselves, until they are sought for, and brought back: hence it follows,

but are now returned; not returned themselves, but were returned by powerful and efficacious grace: saints are passive, and not active in first conversion; they are turned, not by the power of their own free will, but by the power of God's free grace; they are returned under the illuminations and quickenings of the blessed Spirit, and through the efficacious drawings of the Father's love, unto Christ:

unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls; by whom Christ is meant, who bears the office of a Shepherd, and fully performs it by feeding his sheep, providing a good fold and pasture for them; by gathering the lambs in his arms, and gently leading those that are with young; by healing their diseases, and preserving them from beasts of prey; hence he is called the good, the great, and chief Shepherd: and he is the "Bishop" or "Overseer" of the souls of his people, though not to the exclusion of their bodies: he has took the oversight of them willingly, and looks well to his flock, inspects into their cases, and often visits them, and never forsakes them; nor will he leave them till they receive the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls; which he has undertook and effected by his obedience, sufferings and death. Philo the Jew (l) observes, that "to be a shepherd is so good a work, that it is not only a title given to kings and wise men, and souls perfectly purified, but to God the governor of all---who, as a Shepherd and King, leads according to justice and law, setting over them his right Logos, "the first begotten Son", who has taken the care of this holy flock, as does the deputy of a great king.

(l) De Agricultura, p. 194, 195.

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