Our reading this morning comes from Peter’s first letter. Peter uses a variety of images to describe the Christian life.
He begins by telling us to get rid of certain things. Next, he compares Christians to nursing babies. Third, he compares us to stones in the temple. Finally, he describes Christians as a chosen, priestly people.
1 Peter 2:1-10: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
In verse 1, Peter recalls the conversion of his readers, when they obeyed the truth of the gospel and were purified. Our NIV has rendered it as getting rid of things; in the Greek, it refers to the stripping off of clothes.
Men, how many times have we come in from the yard, and our wives tell us, “Leave those clothes in the garage!” We need to remove the old dirty things, and put on new garments. No Christian should stay the way he or she is. We need to throw off our old behaviors.
And what is Peter telling us to get rid of? All the evil of the heathen world.
- Deceitfulness – literally, being two-faced
- Hypocrisy – in the Greek, it means an actor
- Envy – envy is the last sin to die.
Remember James and John? They wanted the best seats in heaven! Before the Last Supper, the disciples were arguing who was the greatest.
Verse 2: Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation
As you know, I have three grandchildren, 2 girls and a boy, with a fourth due any day. From what I hear, only a few hours after they arrived, newborns do what God intended them to do – EAT. I have read that, no matter how hard scientists try, they have not yet been able to duplicate mother’s milk.
There is no substitute for mother’s milk; is there any substitute for the Word of God?
How do babies know what to do? God creates us to yearn for our mother. I read that after four months in the womb, the baby can hear its mother’s voice. We know that the baby smells its mother.
I can’t remember – did someone have to teach me how to eat? (No comments from the peanut gallery…)
Peter prays that our yearning for the Word of God will be the same thing. Like mother’s milk, the Word of God is pure and cannot be imitated. We are created to yearn for the Word of God; it should come naturally to us.
And the only way we are going to grow spiritually is thru that same Word. My three grandchildren began to grow right away, thanks to their diet. I guess they tasted it, and it was good! They all ate, and they grew.
How are we doing with our own “Spiritual diet?” Are we eating regularly? Maybe we should be like a newborn, eating every two to three hours! Now that we have tasted it, and found it good, we should crave more.
Peter has just described God’s Word as pure spiritual milk. Next, he presents Christ not as food, but as a rock or a stone:
- The “rock-stone” imagery is common in Scripture – there is:
- The stumbling stone of Isaiah 8:14
- The foundation-stone of Isaiah 28:16
- The parental rock of Isaiah 51:1 and following
- The rejected but vindicated building-stone of Psalm 118:22
- The supernatural stone of Daniel 2:34
- The burdensome stone of Zechariah 12:3
Peter describes Christ as a living stone, but we also are living stones, being built into a spiritual house. I think this is a case of us giving God too little credit. Can we really understand or appreciate what Peter means?
We all remember Jesus’ proclamation to Peter (Matthew 16:18) that he would be the rock upon which his church would be built. And just who do you think the building blocks would be? That’s right, we are the blocks! We are living stones, building the church of God. Because of the work of Christ, every Christian is a living stone, a building block of a new Christian community.
In verse 6, Peter cites Scripture to support his teaching. The quotation of Isaiah 28:16 refers to God’s foundation stone, carefully chosen and very costly, placed in position in Zion.
The picture is from the building of a temple. At great cost and care the corner foundation stone was obtained, moved, and laid. One stone was sixty-nine feet by twelve feet by thirteen feet. Once this large corner stone was in place, the rest of the building was determined. Isaiah uses this image to encourage his people to build on the Lord himself, the one who is immovable and unchangeable.
The applications of Peter’s use of the metaphor are obvious. God placed Jesus in Jerusalem as the foundation of the new temple. Whoever builds on this foundation will be established and will never be ashamed.
Peter tells us more about Christ and the church. Jesus is the stone which the builders rejected. Over and over, the nation of Israel refused to listen to the prophets. Eventually, they rejected even Jesus Christ, the Messiah. But the stone they rejected eventually became the cornerstone.
In verse 5, Peter tells us we are a holy priesthood. The priest is the one who has access to God, and who brings others to God; the priest is the one who brings offerings to God; the function of the church is to tell the excellencies of God.
We are to tell others about the mighty acts of God. God has called us out of the darkness into his glorious light. No longer do we need to guess and grope. If we know Christ, we know God. God has made a people who were not of God, into the people of God. The Christian is called out of no mercy into mercy.
To us who believe, the living stone is precious. The honor for Christians is linked to our union with Christ. Since Christ is honored by God, we who participate with Christ will also be honored by God.
Verses 9-10: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
I have said this before – we have no idea what God has in store for us:
- Do we think of ourselves as a royal priesthood?
- Do we think of ourselves as a holy nation?
- Do we think of ourselves as a people belonging to God?
Are we declaring the promises of him who called us out of darkness into light?
My friends, at one time, we were not a people; now we are the people of God. Once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy.
Whenever we face difficulties, either individually or as a congregation, sometimes it’s a good idea to pause and consider who we are, and WHOSE we are. We need to stop and prayerfully consider what we are.
We are living stones, called by God to build up the Body of Christ called the church. Jesus is the corner stone, rejected by some, but honored by us to lay out the dimensions of the church. Like a single brick, each of us has an important part to play in the building up of the church.
Let us not be discouraged, or let us not think too little of ourselves.
Of course, we are going to be under attack, but we are on the cusp of doing great things. As this great church continues to build upon itself, let us not lose sight of the cornerstone, Jesus Christ. He has laid out the breadth and width of this community, so let us not go astray. Let us continually measure ourselves against the original stone.
A chosen people
A royal priesthood
A holy nation
A people belonging to God
That we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Let’s focus on these words, and let us continue to be living stones.