1 Peter 2 v4 – 4 v12
Peter has been telling us to live differently – to be holy. It is seeing ourselves as we truly are that will help us to live as we truly ought: that’s the concern here in this passage too. Following on from 1:22-2:3 the focus is corporate, who we are together as the church. And who we are is determined now by who Jesus is – he is “the Living Stone” and through our relationship with him we become “living stones”; he is “chosen by God and precious to him” and through him we have become “a chosen people … belonging to God”; he was “rejected by men” so we should expect the same – we are “aliens and strangers in the world” and the world will “accuse” and reject us.
Our coming to Christ I think here refers not just to our initial conversion, but to our ongoing coming to Him by faith, (and the implication of vv.2,3 is that we come to Him especially as we feed on His word and so taste his goodness). The contrast between how men viewed him and how God views him is something that should encourage us if we are feeling the rejection of the world.
In Christ we become both the temple of God, in-dwelt by His Spirit (that is the sense of “spiritual”, not that this house is immaterial – it is physical, though made not of bricks and mortar but of people), and a holy priesthood, who have the responsibility of offering “spiritual sacrifices” (again I think the sense of “spiritual” is that we offer these sacrifices through the enabling of the Holy Spirit). Such sacrifices are not to secure God’s favour (for they are acceptable only through Jesus Christ, not in and of themselves) but are a response to His grace (cf Rom 12:1, Heb 13:15,16, Phil 4:18). These are rich verses about nature and privileges of the church. We know not to reverence church buildings or church furniture, but perhaps we don’t reverence and esteem as we should the people of God.
This idea of Jesus being the “stone” is one rooted firmly in the Old Testament, as Peter goes on to show. The stone there refers to God’s Messiah, through whom all his promises and purposes would be fulfilled. He is the “cornerstone”, the first stone laid in the foundation, which defines the very shape, size and proportions of the building, and to which every other stone is aligned. By quoting from these Old Testament texts Peter reassures these Christians that their decision to trust Christ was not foolish – for the one they consider precious is indeed precious, he’s God’s chosen one. And nor should they be fazed by others’ rejection of Christ, for that was predicted, even “destined”. Verse 8 may raise difficult questions about predestination, but Peter’s intent is to comfort not confuse. The verse holds together two truths the Scriptures jointly affirms: God’s sovereignty (“destined”) and man’s responsibility (“disobey”). We need to hold on to both. God is not to blame, but nor are God’s plans ever thwarted.
These verses too are rich in scriptural allusion – see for example Ex19:5,6, Hosea 2:23 etc. – showing the enormous privilege and grace that is now ours. And God’s purpose is that we should declare his praises – to him, to one another, and to the world.
When we feel like “aliens and strangers” our temptation can be to want to try and fit in, but instead Peter has been reminding us who we are and wants us to live in the light of it. We are to avoid sin – both because of the harm it does to us, and so that our good deeds might cause the world to glorify God too. When Christ returns every knee will bow, if only grudgingly, but some will glorify him gladly, having come to trust in him through the witness of Christians.
Used with the permission of St Ebbe’s, Oxford