1 Peter 2:14
Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
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(14) Governors, as unto them that are sent by him.—This word will include legati, proconsuls, propraetors, procurators, all officers entrusted with the administration of provinces. Of course the person “by” whom they are here said to be (from time to time) “sent” is Cæsar, not “the Lord.” The persons to whom the letter is addressed would have very little to do with Cæsar himself directly, their submission would be chiefly shown to the lieutenants. Yet how personal was the Imperial government, even in details, is shown in Pliny’s letters; the very letter before that in which he asks how to deal with the Christians of Bithynia requests Trajan’s leave to cover in an unhealthy beck in the town of Amastris.

For the punishment of evildoers.—St. Peter credits Roman imperialism (rightly in the main) with having as its aim the promotion of moral behaviour among its subjects. The word for “punishment” is that which is translated “vengeance” in 2Thessalonians 1:8, and implies forcing the malefactors to make satisfaction to those whom they had wronged, the “avenger” being, of course, quite disinterested. The “praise” which here, as in Romans 13:3, is said to have been bestowed by the government on welldoers, must mean the solid praise of preferments, which is hardly so marked a feature of government as the foregoing. Be it observed that neither St. Peter nor St. Paul lay down any exceptions to the rule of complete obedience. They refuse to contemplate, at least to formulate, the occasions when disobedience may be necessary. Obedience is the first thing to learn, and when they have learnt it, they will know of themselves when to disobey. St. Peter himself stands to all time as the type of magnificent disobedience (Acts 4:19).

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.Or unto governors - Subordinate officers, appointed by the chief magistrate, over provinces. Perhaps Roman proconsuls are here particularly intended.

As unto them that are sent by him - By the king, or the Roman emperor. They represent the supreme power.

For the punishment of evil doers - One of the leading ends of government. "The Roman governors had the power of life and death in such conquered provinces as those mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1" - Doddridge. Ulpian, the celebrated Roman lawyer, who flourished two hundred years after Christ, thus describes the power of the governors of the Roman provinces: "It is the duty of a good and vigilant president to see to it that his province be peaceable and quiet. And that he ought to make diligent search after sacrilegious persons, robbers, man-stealers, and thieves, and to punish everyone according to their guilt." Again, "They who govern whole provinces, have the power of sending to the mines." And again," The presidents of provinces have the highest authority, next to the emperor." Peter has described the office of the Roman governors in language nearly resembling that of Ulpian. See Lardner's Credibility, (Works, i. 77, edit. 8vo., Lond. 1829)

And for the praise of them that do well - Praise here stands opposed to punishment, and means commendation, applause, reward. That is, it is a part of their business to reward in a suitable manner those who are upright and virtuous as citizens. This would be by protecting their persons and property; by defending their rights, and, perhaps, by admitting those to share the honors and emoluments of office who showed that they were worthy to be trusted. It is as important a part of the functions of magistracy to protect the innocent, as it is to punish the wicked.

14. governors—subordinate to the emperor, "sent," or delegated by Cæsar to preside over the provinces.

for the punishment—No tyranny ever has been so unprincipled as that some appearance of equity was not maintained in it; however corrupt a government be, God never suffers it to be so much so as not to be better than anarchy [Calvin]. Although bad kings often oppress the good, yet that is scarcely ever done by public authority (and it is of what is done by public authority that Peter speaks), save under the mask of right. Tyranny harasses many, but anarchy overwhelms the whole state [Horneius]. The only justifiable exception is in cases where obedience to the earthly king plainly involves disobedience to the express command of the King of kings.

praise of them that do well—Every government recognizes the excellence of truly Christian subjects. Thus Pliny, in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, acknowledges, "I have found in them nothing else save a perverse and extravagant superstition." The recognition in the long run mitigates persecution (1Pe 3:13).

Or unto governors; he seems immediately to intend the governors of provinces under the Roman emperors, such as Pilate, Felix, Festus were in Judea, Sergius Paulus in Cyprus, Acts 13:7; and other places; see Luke 3:1; but so as to imply, under the name of governors, all inferior magistrates, as under the name of king he doth all supreme.

As unto them that are sent by him; either:

1. By the king, or supreme magistrate, and then the next words show what should be his end in sending, or appointing officers, or subordinate rulers under him: or rather:

2. Sent by God, from whom all rulers, subordinate as well as supreme, have their authority, and which is the great motive on which they are to be obeyed; and then the following words show what is God’s end in appointing them, and another reason for yielding obedience to them, viz. their being set up for the common good of the societies which they rule.

For the praise of them that do well: praise is a kind of reward, and is here to be taken by a synecdoche for all sorts of rewards given to those that do well, and are obedient to the laws: see Romans 13:3,4.

Or unto governors,.... Inferior magistrates, such as were under the Roman emperor; as proconsuls, procurators, &c. such as Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus, who had under the emperor the government of particular nations, provinces, and cities:

as unto them that are sent by him; either by the king, the Roman emperor, by whom they were sent, from whom they received their commission, and derived their authority, under whom they acted, and to whom they were accountable; or by God, by whom they are ordained, and whose ministers they are, and for the ends hereafter mentioned; so that this contains an argument or reason why they should be submitted to:

for the punishment of evildoers; the breakers of the laws of God and men, on whom punishment is to be inflicted, by the civil magistrates, for the breach of them, by lines, scourgings, imprisonment, and death itself, according as the crimes are:

and for the praise of them that do well; who behave according to the laws of God and nations, and are obedient to magistrates, and subject to every ordinance; these have praise of men, of magistrates, and are rewarded by them; by protecting their persons, defending their properties, and preserving them in the peaceable enjoyment of their estates and possessions; see Romans 13:3.

Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him {18} for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

(18) The second argument taken from the end of this order, which is not only most profitable, but also very necessary: seeing that by that this means virtue is rewarded, and vice punished, in which the peacefulness and happiness if this life consists.

14. as unto them that are sent by him] The tense of the Greek participle indicates that obedience was to be paid to those who, from time to time, were the local representatives of the central supreme authority. The identity of thought with Romans 13:3-4, will be noticed as another interesting coincidence in the teaching of the two Apostles. Both alike recognise that even an imperfect and corrupt government works, on the whole, for a greater good than lawless anarchy. Both therefore are against revolutionary attempts to destroy an established order. It has, of course, to be remembered that the Christian citizens of a Christian country now stand in a different position, in relation to the state, from that occupied by the disciples of the Apostolic Church, and have therefore different duties and responsibilities; among others, that of defending the “ordinance” or “institution” under which they live, whether that institution be monarchical or republican in its form, against open or insidious aggression.

1 Peter 2:14. Ἀγαθοποιῶν, those that do well) A word of frequent occurrence in this Epistle.

Verse 14. - Or unto governors, as ante them that are sent by him; literally, through him. Some commentators, following Calvin, understand the pronoun of the Lord. Certainly, governors are sent through him; he "ordereth all things, both in heaven and earth." But it seems more natural in this place to refer the pronoun to the nearer substantive, the king; it was through the Roman emperor that the various governors, legates, etc., were sent from time to time (as the Greek present participle implies) to administer the provinces. For the punish-meat of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. Observe the close resemblance to Romans 13:3, 4. St. Peter recognizes the Roman sense of justice which we see in men like Festus and Gallio. At first the Jews were the persecutors of the Christians; the Roman magistrates were their protectors. St. Peter wrote before the great outbreaks of Roman persecution; he was himself to suffer under that emperor whose authority he upheld. 1 Peter 2:14Sent (πεμπομένοις)

The present participle. In the habit of being sent: sent from time to time.

By him

The king; not the Lord.

Punishment (ἐκδίκησιν)

Not strong enough. Better, vengeance, as Rev. Compare Luke 18:7; Romans 12:19.

Them that do well (ἀγαθοποιῶν)

Only here in New Testament.

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