Christians, Living Stones for a Spiritual Temple (1 Peter 2:4-10)
In previous weeks, we have seen Christ figured as the Chief Cornerstone and the apostles as the foundation of the church. Now Peter turns his attention from Christ to the church, in 1 Peter 2:5, 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 Protestant 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. The Lord says through the prophet in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” And Micah 6:8 also affirms, “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 ultimately desire animal 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 commands us to sacrifice things such as:
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 the context in 1 Peter 2? I think it does. Consider 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 in Himself.