1 Peter 2:4-10 You are Living Stones WC McCarter
It is really something to watch true professional stone masons in action. These guys are very fast in their work. As they build a wall, or a stone facing on a building, they take a stone from the pile, look it over to see where it would fit in any of the open spaces, and stick it in place. They then move on to the next stone. Every so often they take their hammer and give a chip here or there to shape up the stone and make it fit in certain places, but rarely do they cast a stone aside. They are so efficient in their work; they can spot weakness in a stone with one glance. They know a defective stone almost instinctively.
In the first century, during Jesus time, stone was the main building material. The cornerstone was the first stone to be laid in construction. It became the foundation upon which all the other stones were set. The cornerstone had to be the perfect stone and set perfectly because if it was off, even a little bit, the whole building was off. Once the cornerstone was set they could then build out from that point. There have been many cornerstones found in archeological digs in the Middle East; one was measured at 69 feet by 12 feet by 13 feet. These stones were very important in Ancient architecture.
Peter uses this same thought in his first letter. Today we will discuss Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone and how, as Christians, we participate in the spiritual temple and priesthood.
READ Scripture- This Word of God
Living Stones (4-6)
The Christian life is about “Coming to Him (Christ).” Notice that the previous context was clearly referring to God the Father, who is revealed as Yahweh in the Old Testament, but now the Him of verse four clearly refers to Christ. So, we see that what is true of Yahweh is true of Jesus Christ.
Christ is compared here to a living stone. This is based on Psalm 118:22 where the stone which the builders rejected becomes the chief cornerstone. A stone which was tossed away as useless is later brought back as the most precious stone. In the same way, Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leaders and crucified to get rid of Him. Yet, God the Father had chosen Him as the chief cornerstone, and, so, He was raised from the dead on the third day. Three things are said about Christ, the Living Stone: (1) He was/is rejected by men, but (2) He is chosen by God and (3) precious.
Now Peter turns his attention from Christ to the church and continues the imagery of a building project, calling us living stones. Notice that in verse five the apostle says that the church is being made into two things based on our association with Christ, the Living Stone: (1) a spiritual house (or, a temple for the Spirit to dwell) and (2) a holy priesthood. This is for the purpose of offering up spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God. We are living stones, no doubt, because we have put our faith in the resurrected Christ. His resurrection life becomes ours (Schreiner). Like stones which are stacked together, we are being built together to form a spiritual house, a temple for God Himself to come in and dwell. The old temple pointed to the church, which is the new, spiritual temple. Not only are we the temple, but we are the priesthood. This is a major distinction of the Reformation—the priesthood of all believers. I am no closer to God than you are. He does not favor the prayers of a pastor more so than the prayers of those in the pews. What does a priesthood do? They offer up sacrifices to God.
My question is, what are spiritual sacrifices? First of all, even the Old Testament begins to tell us that God desires something beyond law-keeping and the temple cult. [Hosea 6:6] says, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” [Micah 6:8] also says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” God does not ultimate desire physical sacrifice, we know that Christ was the once-for-all sacrifice which brings to an end the Old Testament sacrificial system and Law, but God does still desire spiritual sacrifices. So, the New Testament says,
1. Bodies offered to God as living sacrifices (Rom. 12)
2. Money or material goods (Ph. 4, Heb. 13)
3. Sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13)
4. Sacrifices of doing good (Heb. 13:16)
These are the things acceptable to God. Now, does this fit with our current context in 1 Peter 2? I think it does. Look at verse nine. We are all these things so that we “may proclaim the praises of Him.” I think this is our spiritual sacrifice. We are those devoted to the proclamation of the Gospel deeds of God. The sacrifice is giving of our resources to support that proclamation, giving of our time, enduring ridicule or persecution because of it, and much more. Of course, it is a small price to pay considering that Christ has gone before us, suffered, and died to absorb the sins of the world upon His sinless soul.
Those Who are Disobedient (7-8)
For Christians, Christ is precious, just as He is to God the Father. You see His worth, His value. But, to those who are disobedient, He is only worthy of rejection. He becomes a rock of offense to them. They trip over Him and fall over Him. Why do so many academics and great thinkers of our time who are atheists fight so ferociously against Christianity? If they assert that it is all false, then why do they even bother? I think it is because they find Christ to be offensive, and something/someone who is offensive must be dealt with. Just like those who confronted Christ over and over in the first century and ultimately put Him to death, today is no different. They disobey by rejecting the word. We have already seen in 1 Peter that we experience the new birth through the word, but they stumble because they are disobedient to the word. This is the world that God created. There will be some saved and many lost. There will be sheep and goats divided. There will be wheat and tares. God knew this is how human history would go.
You Who Believe (9-10)
More elaboration is given about the church in the last two verses today:
(1) Chosen Generation—just like Christ was chosen, so are you. God said before the foundation of the world that those who put their faith in Christ will be His chosen people.
(2) Royal Priesthood—what makes you royal? You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and you serve the King of kings.
(3) Holy Nation—you are a people group. You are not supposed to live this life alone. You need the support, encouragement, accountability, and more that comes with being a part of a corporate assembly. You have been set apart for this purpose, you are special and different from those in this world.
(4) His Own Special People—which is not too much different from “holy nation.”
(5) The People of God—you belong to God. This is what makes you special.
(6) Those Who have Received Mercy—only those who put their faith in Christ, those who believe and find Christ to be precious are those who receive mercy.
Let me encourage you to take these vv9-10 and meditate on them this week.
Why is this so near and dear to us? Because He called us out of darkness and into His light. We have been united with the Son of God. This is why Peter calls this new birth experience “marvelous.” We are now the people of God.
What is interesting about this passage is that these things were all once said about the nation of Israel, but now all these things are said of the church. We are the chosen, special people of God!
God is the Master Mason that is building us together to form a spiritual house. He first laid the Chief Cornerstone in Zion and then has taken those who believe that Jesus is Christ the Son of God (including us) and shaped us into living stones, ready to be built into that spiritual house. God laid the foundation of our faith, which is the only way to salvation (Jesus Christ).
Today, I want you to wrestle with these things. Are you letting God shape you into a living stone? Are you looking to the Chief Cornerstone to make sure that you are in line? Are you offering the spiritual sacrifices that God desires?