LEAVING NO STONE UNTURNED, 1 Peter 2:4- 8, August 13, 2020
Reflection | Having counseled us in terms of spiritual diet, Peter continues to direct us in terms of following our craving for “pure spiritual milk” – that is, the Word and the Spirit of God.
We cannot, as Peter has just encouraged us to do in verse 3, “taste” that “the Lord is good” unless we “come to him” (verse 4). Something worth thinking about is that everyone has a relationship with Jesus – even the Devil – in the sense that we all relate to Christ in some way, either in awareness, in opposition, or in submission to Christ. Being in a relationship with Jesus is entirely different. Being in a relationship implies active and positive engagement with Jesus – regularly seeking and depending upon Christ.
As Peter goes on in this passage, he changes metaphors in order to reveal to us exactly who we are coming to be in a relationship with. Previously, Peter has referred to Jesus as our “living hope” (1:3) as well as the “living word” (1:23). Now, Jesus is described as the “living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him” (verse 4). The repeated emphasis upon “living” underscores something about Jesus that we ought to never forget or take for granted.
False gods come and go. They live and they die with our imaginations and our allegiances. But the God to whom we look in Jesus is the only One who lives apart from and beyond our belief or allegiance. Even when, as Peter notes by making a passing reference to Psalm 118, all humanity rejected God in Christ, Jesus is the One who victoriously conquered the death we sought to impose upon Him – a death we rightly deserve. The word “living” shows both the resurrection of Christ and his ability to give life to us. The only way we can truly live is to follow the God whose life is greater than death.
This metaphor of Jesus as the “living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God” is a favorite of Peter’s. It was the heart of his defense of Christ when he was arrested by the religious leadership and admonished to stop preaching the Gospel (see Acts 4:11). It is a theme he will elaborate upon shortly but for now, Peter includes us in the metaphor as he refers to followers of Jesus as “living stones” (verse 5).
Much like today, the people in Peter’s day and age perceived true worship as being tied to a physical building – hence the various temples scattered across the cities of the Roman Empire. Even within Judaism, under the Old Testament Law, there remained a heightened fixation on the significance of a material edifice – a centralized place where one had to go in order to encounter the Lord’s presence. But from the very beginning, God’s provision of first a portable tabernacle and then later a stationary temple was a concession – a temporary stop gap to prepare the people for the realization of a much more radical, intimate, and organic means of worship.
Peter points to this reality as he reveals that we, who through being in relationship with Jesus, have become like Resurrected Christ “living stones,” are God’s ultimate construction project. Surprisingly, in the original Greek language, the word for “stone” that Peter uses throughout this passage is not the same as the word that is his God-given name, “Petros” or “rock.”
“Petros” was a rock or rock formation protruding from the ground. “Lithos,” the Greek word Peter does use in these verses, meant a stone already cut or dressed for use in building.
Hence, Peter continues, as living stones, we “are being built into a spiritual house.” As we read this passage, it’s worth noting that every “you” is plural as in “you all.” In other words, instead of looking for and going to a Temple; we are collectively the Temple of the Lord.
We do not need nor should we fixate on buildings made by human hands because God’s presence through the coming of the Holy Spirit resides in and among us.
More than just a house – a place for Christ’s presence to dwell – Peter adds we are “a holy priesthood.” In this new temple—made out of the people of God—each of us also serve as priests. Previously, the people would come to the Temple where the priests would meditate and represent them before the Lord. Specifically, the people would have brought particular animal sacrifices which the priests would have offered to God on behalf of the individual and the community.
Later in verse 9 (next time!), Peter will unpack in more detail our job description as, what has come to be known as, “the priesthood of all believers.” For now, we should recognize our mutual calling and responsibility as priests is to stand in the gap for one another before God and to reflect the presence of God to each other. Answering such a calling, Peter says, requires sacrifice – “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Unlike the sacrifices of old that were presented by worshippers to the priest and then the priest offered them before God, we, who are made priests in Christ, bringing the sacrifice on behalf of others. We become the sacrifice. As Paul expresses it in Romans 12:1, we are “living sacrifices,” presenting our lives in service to one another as an offering of worship to God. As disciples, we become like our Master, Jesus, who became both our priest and our sacrifice in order to serve us.
This last point is reinforced by how Peter rounds out this passage. Linking together a couple of different scriptures from the prophet Isaiah to the Psalms, Peter emphasizes how Jesus is more than just the “living Stone;” Christ is “the cornerstone.” Jesus is being likened to the first stone laid in the construction of a building – the basis for the foundation of its structure. Its size, placement, and solidity were crucial to ensure the building was straight, square, and plumb and therefore, able to stand.
How can we know that we as the house of the Lord, the Church, will not crumble and fall? Because Jesus is our cornerstone. The foundation upon which our lives are being built in Christ will endure to the end. As Peter assures us, “the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (verse 6). However, as Peter also makes clear, we must value as “precious” (verse 7) our relationship with Jesus. Meaning, we must allow our lives to be constructed out of His example. Like the stones in a building, what we say and do needs to line up and be solely directed by His teaching and commands.
Peter warns that “to those who do not believe,” those who do not actually follow Jesus will experience Christ as a stone in a very different way. Instead of a being a firm foundation upon which one’s life can be built, Jesus will become “a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (verse 8). To be clear, I do not believe Peter is not suggesting that God has appointed anyone to perpetually stumble in disbelief and thus is predestined to miss out on the salvation He offers us in Christ. However, in the midst of our sin and the resulting death we deserve, God has and continues to extend to us a lifeline of grace through Jesus which we have but to receive and let our lives be built upon.
The only life that can be built to last is the one that is built on the forgiveness, the love, and truth of Christ. If we believe, if we let our lives be built through the Word and the Spirit on the foundation of Christ, then what God constructs in and through us will endure forever. On the other hand, if we refuse to believe, if we dare to try and build our lives ourselves on any other foundation, then whatever we construct is destined to eventually, inevitably collapse.
Consider & Discuss | Are you making a life for yourself or living your life, letting your life be built upon the cornerstone of Christ? Are there any competing foundations in your life to the foundation of Jesus? What are some of the weak cornerstones in our lives that we can trust in but don’t hold up? Is any of the current uncertainty or feelings of inadequacy in your life due to what you are trying to construct rather than recognizing and leaning into whatever the Holy Spirit is seeking to construct in and through you?
Prayer Focus | Master Architect, by Your Word, You spoke all creation into existence out of nothing. Through the inspiration and leading of Your Spirit, You spoke the promise of grace from the very moment of our betrayal in the Garden all the way to our denial at the Cross. When Your Word became flesh in Jesus Christ, You provided the Cornerstone upon which Your promise became a reality. Out of Your love for us all, You haven’t just forgiven us or saved us, You are building something out of our lives. In making us living stones, You are crafting us together into Your Temple – a house of prayer and worship for all nations. Protect us from being tempted to make lives for ourselves – for attempting to build anything of our own. Instead, teach us, guide us to relinquish the design and construction of our lives to Your artistry and plan. We know and trust whatever You purpose to build in and through us will bless Your people and will last forever glorifying Your name. What else could be better than this? Amen.