1 Peter 2:4-5

1 Peter 2:4‑5  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ begot us again unto a living hope according to His abundant mercy, through (not the incarnation, but) resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It was not, as the Jews expected, unto an inheritance of earthly glory, ease and power superior to all disasters and adversaries, the kingdom as it is to be, but unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for those who are guarded by God's power for salvation ready to be revealed. All intrinsically has been accomplished, at a last fit time, wherein they exult, for a little at present, if there is need, put to grief by varied trials to the proving of their faith. After mention of redemption by the Lamb's blood and its practical end, the apostle refers to our being born again of incorruptible seed through God's living and abiding word, and that new nature nourished on the guileless or pure milk of the word unto salvation. All is in contrast with the law at Sinai lightening against disobedience and transgression, but powerless to give either life οr righteousness, the indispensable wants of sinful man. But grace has already supplied both abundantly in Christ, and hence, to the faith that receives Him for whom we wait, for salvation to the full, having tasted already how good He is, and so anticipated Psalms and Prophets that proclaim it for a future day.
Now we enter on privileges already conferred, represented by figures singularly interesting to the Jewish mind and its associations of honor and reverence. For, speaking of the Lord, the apostle says “Unto whom approaching, a living stone, by men indeed rejected but with God chosen, precious,1 yourselves also as living stones are being builded up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (vers. 4, 5).
However sure and enduring may be the counsels of grace, God allows no reasoning to weaken the need and the value and the duty of constant dependence on the Lord. So He Himself said, “Verily, verily, I say to you, Unless ye ate the flesh and drank the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in yourselves.” It is truly an act by faith once for all; but where real, a continual participation follows. Hence He adds, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath life eternal, and I will raise him up at the last day; for my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him.” It is not life eternal only, but communion as a constant thing: so the Christian abides in Christ and Christ abides in him. To pretend that once to have eaten and drank supersedes always eating and drinking proves its unreality, its selfishness also, and its contrariety to God.
So here it is said, “Unto whom approaching “: from the time of approach it is real and full of blessing. Assuredly a soul is not left free and assured, if one go back and walk no more with Him, as some of His disciples did, of whom John 6, tells us. Christ is the center and touchstone and foundation of Christianity. Those who left Him were fruitless branches of the Vine. The apostle hoped better things and akin to salvation of those who abode (Heb. 6:99But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. (Hebrews 6:9)). The converse is written later that “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have abode with us, but that they might be made manifest that none are of us” (1 John 2:1919They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (1 John 2:19)).
Christ is then called “a living stone, rejected indeed by men but with God chosen, precious.” “Living” is a word near to Peter's heart, since so he was enabled to confess Christ, “the Son of the living God,” and heard himself for it pronounced “blessed” by his Master. “The Christ” or Messiah was indeed truly given of God; but this truth does not raise above the earth over which He will reign from Zion His center in Israel. When the Jews were denying Jesus, as they still do, to confess Him as the Messiah was to be born of God. But the Son of God, as revealed in the Gospel of John, is often far more; and “the Son of the living God” gives strong emphasis to our Lord as the conqueror of him that has the power of death. Hence the person of the Lord thus revealed is the rock on which He would build His church, now that the Jews, not the fickle crowd only but the chief priests and elders and scribes, were rejecting Him, and would even to the death of the cross.
The new building of God was to rise when the chosen nation publicly and finally, as far as their responsibility went, forfeited all for the time; a heavenly work and witness displaced the former earthly one. And the new one, here peculiarly called “My church,” He declares superior to “the gates of Hades,” which is more than death. As resurrection was to mark Him out Son of God in power, to begin the new as First-born, not of all creation only but from out of the dead, so was that which Christ builds beyond Satan's power to destroy. Thus is its distinctness made plain and certain from that which man builds, which was to be corrupted and the object of divine judgment more irreparably than Israel, as shown through the N. T. from Matt. 13, 2 Thess. 2, 2 Peter and Jude to Rev. 17 For it is revealed that the apostasy shall come before the day of the Lord; and there is no restoration for Christendom, as there will be for Israel thenceforth and forever.
Meanwhile if Israel do not yet own Him as the Shepherd and their Stone, this He is, and a Living Stone as the apostle of the circumcision here designates Him to those who come unto Him. Shall the unbelief of the mass of Jews make of none effect the faith of God? Far be it: the remnant who believe are all the more blessed. He, a living Stone, imparts His own virtue to those who come. Did men, did the builders in Jerusalem, vent their contemptuous rejection of Him Who came into the world, not to reign, but to bear witness to the truth, to bring God into it and to put sin out of it, and thus met hatred as none ever had, and on the cross wrought atonement? What was He ever, and then especially, with God? Was He not His choice One? His servant, whom He upholds, though forsaken even by God as none ever was, yet so He must if made sin for us. Yes, He is Jehovah's chosen, in whom His soul delights; and as He put His Spirit upon Him, so Jesus shall bring forth judgment to the nations; He shall not cry, nor lift up His voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench; He shall bring forth judgment in truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for His law (Isa. 42.). Here however it is by the way; for the Spirit of God is occupied with a very different servant, deaf and blind, ensnared by the idols of the heathen with all the ruinous consequences, instead of being true witnesses, like Him of His choice, Who becomes from chap. 49 the great topic in His rejection with its blessed results; that in the end Israel may really become His servants to the joy and blessing of all the earth.
But the apostle writes in the gap of Christ's rejection, before the day of blessing and glory dawns on Israel, the land, and all the nations; and he shows us Christ, dead, risen, and ascended, the object of God's delight, and the hinge of all that is good for the believer now. He is a living Stone, rejected indeed by men, but with God chosen, prized. So he preached at Pentecost. Him given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye through hand of lawless men did crucify and slay, Whom God raised up. . . Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God made Him, this Jesus Whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ. And as Peter received a new name from the Rock which Christ alone was, so the saints who believe acquire a nature from what He is, as he here tells us; “yourselves also as living stones are being builded up a spiritual house.”
In nature no object lies more obviously void of life than a stone. But this only makes the power of grace the more impressive. Even John the Baptist could tell the haughty Pharisees and Sadducees, who pleaded their descent from Abraham, that God was able of the stones to raise up children to Abraham. Here the apostle predicates of the believing remnant that they themselves as living stones were being builded up for God's use and to His praise. But it was all through the One, even our Lord Jesus. He does not develop the unity of the Spirit like the apostle of the uncircumcision; but he not obscurely hints at the association of the saints. They are being formed into a spiritual house.
It was no longer a question of the mountain consecrated by Samaritan pride, nor yet of Jerusalem and the house, where the Jews said one must worship if one worshipped at all. That hour in principle passed away with the cross of Christ, as the Epistle to the Hebrews demonstrated at a later day. The only temple God owns is the church as a whole, unless it be individually the temple of a Christian's body; for the Holy Ghost by His indwelling so constitutes both (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:1916Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
19What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
). Here the language is less full and precise. The general import sufficed for the purpose in hand. They composed, as being living stones, a spiritual house. Assuredly such and so near a relationship to God was a high honor put upon them even now when passing through the world; and we shall find that it entails corresponding duties on all so invested.
This he follows up by another title of honor and living nearness to God, “a holy priesthood.” Nor does the Holy Spirit now recognize any other priesthood as accredited by God. The entire Jewish religious system came to its end with Christ's death: temple, sacrifice, rite, and priesthood. Heathenism was an imposture, Satan's evil imitation or delusive substitute. Christ is not entered into holy places made with hand, answering to the true, but into heaven itself now to appear before the face of God for us. As He according to scripture is the sole and great High Priest, become higher than the heavens and seated on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, the sole priestly house (the same scripture acknowledges) consists of all the saints of God. They are alike washed, sanctified, and justified. They had and have also access by faith into the favor of God “in which we stand.” In Christ Jesus they were become nigh by the blood of Christ. Whatever the distance between Jew and Gentile, and between God and both, we out of them both who believe have through Christ the access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Though nearness to God is the most precious and essential mark of a priest, the proof is not merely the principle furnished in the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Ephesians just referred to. In our text the apostle Peter explicitly characterizes the Christians only as the “holy priesthood” which the N. T. owns. The apostle John speaks to the same effect in Rev. 1:66And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:6); and the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the fullest treatment of the necessity arising out of the priesthood changed in Christ, from first to last treats Christian brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, as the true and present analogue to the family of Aaron. Early in it we read that Christ is Son over God's house; Whose house are we (Heb. 3:66But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Hebrews 3:6)). Later (10:19) we read again, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy [places] by the blood of Jesus, a new and living way which he dedicated for us through the veil, that is his flesh, and [having] a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from a wicked conscience and having our body washed with pure water,”
Here the privilege attributed to all saints is greater than any son of Aaron ever enjoyed, or even Aaron himself; for it applies to all times, and with a boldness he never knew. Faith is entitled thus to approach where Christ is now through the rent veil in virtue of His blood and the Spirit who makes its efficacy good to our conscience and heart, as our settled status. Hence as we read in our text “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” the functions are open to us and binding on us, far beyond using oxen, sheep, goats, cakes, or incense. And this we find confirmed in Heb. 13:1515By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15): Through Him therefore let us offer up sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, fruit of lips confessing to His name. The proof of our priestly place is remarkably complete. Hence it follows that the caste of a priesthood now on earth on behalf of the Christian saints, and separate from them, is an imposture not only unsupported by scripture, but wholly opposed to its plain and ample testimony. Nay more, it is subversive of the being and nature of the church, and incompatible even with the fundamental character of the gospel, and of Christian standing.