COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"2:4To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."KJV (1 Pet 2:4-5)
Jesus Christ is preeminently the means through Whom we come to God. Nothing dissociated from God, or unaffiliated with Jesus, is of any significance. Christ is also the exclusive means through Whom the purpose of God is being fulfilled, or brought to its culmination. Spiritual life does not begin without Jesus, and cannot be sustained without immediate involvement with Him. Every aspect of salvation is determined by the Son of God, beginning and ending with Him. Nothing is accomplished for God until men first come to His Son. The direction and extent of their life are established there, as they are enrolled in the purpose of Almighty God. This text will show us that the work of God is ongoing-that an entire order of life is being maintained through Christ that brings continual honor and glory to God. Connection with Jesus brings living and vibrant activity toward God among the saints-both individually and collectively. There are continual acceptable offerings rising to God from among the sons of men through the Son.
COMING AS TO A LIVING STONE
"2:4To whom coming, as unto a Living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious."KJV Other versions read, "Coming to Him"NKJV . . . "As you come to Him"NIV . . . "And coming to Him"NASB . . . "Come to Him"NRSV. The point is that we are presently in the process of coming to Jesus. Ordinarily, coming to Jesus is associated with our initial deliverance from the guilt and power of sin. Thus men would reason that once being in Christ, we would no longer "come" to Him. But this is not the case. While we are, indeed, "in Christ" and Christ is "in" us, the work is by no means completed. We are still coming to Him-making our way to deeper and more productive involvement with our glorious Savior. Elsewhere we are challenged, "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing His reproach" (Heb 13:13). There remain areas of our lives that must yet be lived out in fellowship with the Son, and thus we are still coming to Him. Only those who imagine they have no need to come to Jesus cease to do so. Just as Jesus coming into the world involved an extensive effort (humbling Himself, entering the world, increasing in wisdom, being tempted, ministering, dying, and raising from the dead), so extensive and prolonged effort is found on our part as we come to Him.
And how is it that we come to Him? What is the capacity in which He is eagerly sought? "A Living Stone!" The allusion is to Isaiah's marvelous prophecy of the coming Savior. "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa 28:16). Jesus is called a "Living Stone" because of His eternal nature and ongoing ministry. There is nothing lifeless about Christ's Person or work! Through Him God's great and eternal purpose is being carried out. Because every part of God's purpose is realized in Him alone, He is called the "Foundation." Because He has passed all of the tests of adversity, opposition, and Divine proving, He is called "a tried stone." Because He is the One determining the nature and extent of God's work, He is called "a precious cornerstone." Because nothing founded upon Him will fail, He is called "a sure foundation." God has hinged everything upon Jesus!
We are coming to Jesus "as unto" One possessing all of these qualities. We do not come only because we are weak, but because He is strong. We recognize in Him the only Man of whom God fully approves. He is the only One through whom any valid work can be accomplished. All other works, and all other projects are vain, destined to failure.
Emphasizing the depravity caused by sin, the Spirit reminds us this indispensable "Stone" was "rejected indeed by men."NKJV By saying "indeed" the Spirit emphasizes the rejection was deliberate, emphatic, and with unparalleled zeal. "Men" saw Jesus as irrelevant to what they were doing, and thus summarily rejected Him. They also perceived no connection between Him and God almighty. The irony of the situation was that this "Stone" was rejected by "the builders" (Lk 20:17; 1 Pet 2:7)-the ones charged with implementing the purpose of God. Their rejection was not casual. They set the Stone "at nought," despising Him because of the way He conflicted with their purpose (Acts 4:11). Thus, as the foundation and corner stone, He was "disallowed," not being permitted to be the key Person in the schemes of men. The rejection continues to this day! In fact, those who are not coming to Him have really disallowed, despised, and rejected Him.
Nevertheless, the Son remains "chosen of God, and precious." The purpose of God is still being accomplished, even though "the builders" rejected the One indispensable to its fulfillment. Here the choice of God is contrasted with the choice of man. Men rejected the Stone, but the foundation was laid in spite of their rejection. Because Jesus is a "Living Stone," men must still contend with Him. They will either come to Him or reject Him. But those who come will find Him "precious," just as He is to God Himself. He is a "well beloved" Son to the Father, and precious and beloved to the "comers" as well. The very moment that perspective ceases to be held by a person, he has ceased coming to Jesus. Through subtlety the "old serpent" has diverted such an one to vain and pointless living, for God will honor nothing that is not founded upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
A HOUSE MADE OF LIVING STONES
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house . . . "KJV Just as the Foundation is a "Living Stone," so those individuals placed upon it are "living stones." They are characterized by spiritual life-involvement with the Person and purpose of God. Just as there is nothing static or dormant about Jesus, so there is nothing lifeless about those who are in Him. They are part of a purpose that is being fulfilled. In Christ, not only have they been identified with His past death, they are also integrated with His present ministry, and live in prospect of reigning forever with Him in glory. That is all involved in being "living stones." It should also be apparent to you that this is an exceedingly rare perspective in the professed church. From the very first, Satan has been aggressive to divert the attention of believers from the Foundation Stone.
At this point, a clear distinction is made between the Foundation Stone and those built upon it. The Savior Himself is not presently advancing, or being perfected. Having been "made perfect," He is now the "Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Heb 5:9). But it is not so with the "living stones." They are being "built up a spiritual house." By this, the Spirit means they are being made a suitable habitation for the Living God. Elsewhere it is written, we are "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in Whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in Whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit"NKJV (Eph 2:20-22). The building project is being implemented by the words of the "Apostles and Prophets," to whom the Divine purpose was revealed. Because of His understanding of the purpose of God and the Foundation of Christ, Paul referred to himself as a "wise master builder" (1 Cor 3:10). Further, any person daring to defile this building with inferior materials, or unspiritual people, will be "destroyed" by God Himself (1 Cor 3:17). This is a most sobering consideration.
Notice that all believers, "as living stones," are built up into a single house-"a spiritual house." Christ is not divided, nor does He promote separate spiritual houses. There is a single foundation, and there is a single dwelling place for God. It is comprised of all of the people of God, with not a single one of them being excluded. A form of religion that excludes any of the people of God is, by that very condition, brought under the curse of God. Thus the church is called "the temple of God" (1 Cor 3:16). Again it is written, "you are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (2 Cor 6:16).
By saying "spiritual house," the Spirit contrasts God's dwelling with one constructed by men. This is a supernatural house, one crafted by Divine power. The materials used are "living stones," created by God Himself in Christ Jesus. The bonding of these stones together is also supernatural, being accomplished by connection with the Head, "from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow"NIV (Col 2:19). Effective building is directly proportionate to the involvement of God in the project. The more earth is involved, the less building is done.
The totality of the saved are also called a "spiritual house" because of the involvement of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:22 reminds us we are "built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."NIV Sin has so defiled humanity that God can only dwell within us because of Jesus Christ and by means of the Holy Spirit. The awareness of this condition will deliver us from distorted views of our achievement, and from presumption, or willful sin, which is the "great transgression" (Psa 19:13). Apart from the energizing work of the Holy Spirit, all human effort is pointless and vain. As our blessed Lord affirmed, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing"NKJV (John 6:63).
Thus the entire Godhead is involved in the project. The house is for God. The Foundation of the house is the Lord Jesus Christ. The means through which God indwells the house is the Holy Spirit. All of this is facilitated through Divine activity--"building."
A HOLY PRIESTHOOD
" . . . an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."KJV Salvation, in all of its aspects, involves the current activity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It should not surprise us, therefore, that the saved themselves are also appointed to activity. At this point, you will find a sharp contrast between the mind of the Spirit and the perception of the nominal Christian. Here we come to grips with the focus of our endeavors. This is at the very heart of serving God, and it is intensely personal.
A HOLY PRIESTHOOD. A "holy priesthood" is a dedicated one, devoted exclusively to God. The concept of the priesthood of reference was developed under the Law. It is found in the Levitical priests, the Aaronic priesthood being a type of Jesus. (1) The Levites were chosen of God for His service because of their zeal in purging the camp of sin (Ex 32:26-28). (2) They were excluded from the army (Lev 1:46-47). (3) They were not included in the census of the people (Lev 1:49). (4) They were appointed over the tabernacle and its ministry (Lev 1:50). (5) They pitched their tents around the tabernacle (Lev 1:53). (6) They had "no inheritance" with Israel, for the Lord was "their inheritance" (Deut 18:1-2). Thus men were taught of a life devoted exclusively to the Lord, with no earthly inheritance or allegiance. Here was a group of people separate from all others.
So it is with the saints of God. They have been called by grace into exclusive involvement with God. They are forbidden an inheritance in this world, being given "the world to come." They are not numbered with other people, and live in close proximity to the Lord. Not only are believers a "spiritual house," they are an active spiritual people. They not only receive blessing from God, they bring blessing to Him (Psa 103:1). Not only do they rejoice in the Lord (Phil 4:4), He also rejoices in them (Zeph 3:17). Whatever they do is for the Lord. As it is written, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him" (Col 3:17). They are a "holy priesthood," devoted exclusively to the Lord and His work.
SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES. The Levitical priests assisted the high priest in making sacrifices for sin (2 Chron 29:12-22) After the Babylonian captivity, they also killed the passover lamb (Ezra 6:20-21). But the "holy priesthood" of believers offer continual sacrifices to God-"spiritual sacrifices." Our first "spiritual sacrifice" is ourselves. As was said of the churches of Macedonia, "they first gave themselves to the Lord" (2 Cor 8:5). Further, we are to present our bodies as a "living sacrifice" to the Lord (Rom 12:1). A "spiritual sacrifice" is one that comes from the deepest part of man-his spirit. It is also one that is made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Whatever does not come from our very heart, and is not offered in the power of the Spirit, is no sacrifice at all. It is like a lame lamb or a diseased offering (Mal 1:8), and will not be accepted by the Lord.
ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. Something offered to God is one thing, but an offering received by God is quite another matter. Israel presented God with sacrifices He refused to accept (Lev 26:31; Isa 1:15; Amos 5:21-23). It would be staggering to know how many things are being ceremonially offered to God in our day, yet are rejected by Him. We have not been called into such vain activity. Ours is not a religion of mere formality. It includes sacrifices that are "acceptable to God." Hebrews 13:16 speaks of sacrifices with which God is "well pleased." We have been set apart for such holy activity. Those who are not convinced of the acceptance of the sacrifice are not apt to offer it.
God's acceptance of our sacrifices, however, is owing to His Son. They are acceptable to Him "by Jesus Christ." We must learn from this that however extensive our sacrifice may be, it must still be sanctified by the Lord Jesus. He is the heavenly salt with which every sacrifice must be "salted" (Lev 2:13; Mark 9:49). This is a Divine formality, but not a mere formality. Acceptance "by Jesus Christ" indicates the sacrifice was made within the context of fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 1:9). Such sacrifices are the RESULT of abiding in Christ, and not the cause of it. Rest assured, abiding in the Son will motivate us to offer spiritual sacrifices to our God. Such sacrifices are, because of that, are accepted by the Lord.