This passage, 1 Peter 2:4-10, is a really rich one, but it might seem a little confusing at first because of the imagery involved, that of living stones, but as you’ll shortly see, this, too is a simple passage to understand. To begin with, Peter writes:
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 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.
1 Peter 2:4-5
It’s pretty obvious that “the living stone” that we have come to is Jesus Christ; He was chosen from the beginning and is precious to God. Next, that we are illustrated as living stones is also pretty clear. The next part used to puzzle me, until I caught the fact that all of us living stones are being built into a spiritual house where sacrifices are to be offered. Oh, easy money!
The Old Testament Temple was the place where acceptable sacrifices were offered. It was also said to be the dwelling place of God on earth, and that His Spirit dwelt in the Holy of holies, behind the veil. But now in the New Covenant, His Spirit is the indwelling Holy Spirit that lives within us as covenant partners of Jesus Christ, and we offer spiritual (not animal) sacrifices through Jesus Christ as a holy priesthood. What is a priest? A priest is one who intercedes between man and God, offering sacrifices as they do so. Because of what Jesus did in taking sins away, He is our only intercessor, and as His co-heirs, we can approach the throne of God with confidence, and we do so in prayer all of the time. Thus, when built up together, all of us living stones are a royal priesthood, the dwelling place of God on earth… the Church. (Hebrews 8-10)
Peter is using these images from the OT to illustrate our awesome relationship with God to teach Jewish Christians how all of this works together to fulfill the Law, and once we get the hang of it, it’s actually really simple, and really very amazing. Next Peter cites some OT passages that show where this imagery came from…
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.” (1 Peter 2:6 c.f. Isaiah 28:16)
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,” (1 Peter 2:7 c.f. Psalm 118:22)
“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. (1 Peter 2:8 c.f. Isaiah 8:14)
Notice that the first quotation, Isaiah 28 is Jesus, the cornerstone or foundation stone for Zion. Zion is the mountain upon which the Temple was built, the seat of worship, the dwelling place of God. Those who trust in Him (yes the stone is a “him”) will never be put to shame, for their names are written in the Book of Life. The next 2 quotes are contrasts. Psalm 118 is why a believer would consider the “stone the builders rejected”. Remember that Jesus was “despised and rejected by men,” because Jesus is the very foundation of all of our hopes. Contrast that with the Isaiah 8 quote that follows. For an unbeliever, one who has rejected Jesus, He is their stumbling block and causes them to fall, why? For the Jews of Peter’s time who refused to follow Jesus, He was not what they wanted or expected in a Messiah. This caused them to turn away from Him and that was their ultimate undoing. For the unbeliever today who refuses to follow Jesus, because they just can’t accept the story of His death, burial or resurrection… or because they are just too cool… their rejection of His grace will also be their ultimate undoing. Yes indeed, they stumble because they disobey His message. Finally, something truly wonderful…
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. 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.
1 Peter 2:9-10
We as followers of Jesus Christ are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession! No, Peter is not addressing Old Testament Israel, he is writing to Christians. The old Temple is over. Israel is over. The Law of Moses is over. We are in a whole new age, we who were not a people, are now God’s special people; we come from every Nation. In His church, God has recaptured the purpose for which He created Mankind in the first place: Fellowship. (Relationship + Purpose = Fellowship) We have what Israel never had, direct contact with God’s presence. We have an inheritance Israel never contemplated, being co-heirs with Christ to everything. We have received what Israel never received, mercy and eternal life. Yes, dear reader, I think Peter may have understated one thing: That we “may declare the praises of Him…” should be more like praise Him from the rooftops!
Reviewing all of this, how can we not love Him? How can we hold back any longer taking up His work to share this great salvation, brought about by His great love, with those who still hold back from following Him?