Rolling stones to living stones- Discovering Identity and Purpose in Christ
We have been going through the book of 1 Peter. The letter is written by the apostle Peter to a scattered group of Christians undergoing severe persecution in present-day Turkey. We don't read this word simply as a historic text but as the word of God - breathed by the Holy Spirit- sharper than a double-edged sword. The word of God is inerrant and our ultimate authority. There are descriptive and prescriptive passages in scripture. Today we will look at a prescriptive passage.
1 Peter 2:1- 12 (Read)
In light of the previous passage(1 Peter 1: 23-25 “23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”)- Peter urges the exiles to do 3 things - an internal work(v.1-3), embrace their identity (v-4-10) and an external work (v11 onwards).
The Internal Work:
1. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
Example of cleaning house. Matthew Henry’s commentary defines these words
Malice- settled overgrown anger
Deceit- flattery, falsehood, and delusion,
Hypocrisies. counterfeit piety, counterfeit friendship or pretend friendship when mischief lies in their hearts.
All envies - grieving at the good and welfare of another, at their abilities, prosperity, fame, or successful labours.
Slander - speaking against another, or defaming him; backbiting
Action Point - Identify and throw it out clean house, and have nothing to do with it.
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Once you clean the house, you need to fill it with good things. Illustration of a crying child in the plane. Peter commands the people to long/ crave for pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk i.e. the Word of God. So craving is not a natural thing that happens, but something we can do. Illustration of craving for Bamboo Shoot Chicken. How do we crave pure spiritual milk - if we have tasted that he is good. Have you tasted the goodness of God in his word? (Psalm 34:8) Write it down. Reading Psalm 91 when we were sick. (Action Point). We are commanded to crave because he can satisfy us. He sets a table before us, in the presence of our enemies - even in the valley(Psalm 23).
Embracing our Identity:
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,
Our understanding of who we are always starts with knowing who Jesus is. When Peter describes Jesus as a stone, the image is not of something harsh and rough - the image is of something strong and foundational. It is a fortress, a place of refuge and safety. They would go to the temple to meet with God, and the temple was made of stones. As refugees in a foreign land, these people would have been longing for the temple at Jerusalem. But Peter is saying, he has come to you. He is a LIVING stone.
5 You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Think about who is saying this- Peter (meaning rock) and his prophetic call was to be the rock on which Jesus would build the church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
As He is, so are we in Him. As he is chosen and precious, so are we. Don’t fall into the trap of self-identifying. He gives us identity.
Being built up: Like a stone Mason first gathers other stones for the building to the cornerstone, we are gathered to Jesus. But the gathering itself is not the end - it is to be built up as a house.
Illustration of a group project. If you see yourself as an attendee, you will think that it doesn't matter if you go to this local church or that. Or if you stay in this city or another. But when we realise that we ARE the church, we understand that when you take one stone out of the wall, it affects the entire wall. We cannot build with rolling stones. So would you commit to a local church and give yourself to be built up and united?
Spiritual house: The Jews had the temple, a physical building where they would gather to offer their sacrifices. In the same way, today Christians also have a temple, but this is not a physical house, but a spiritual one. That is why, we can meet in any building, any house, any format and it is the house of God - it is the church. Our GYM meetings are a church, our prayer meetings are a church, and you having meals with your family and sharing about God’s goodness around the table is the church. It is NOT a physical building, it is a spiritual one!
To be a holy priesthood: The purpose of this gathering is to be a holy priesthood. It is a community of priests who have been set apart. So we are not gathering to a priest/ pastor so he can bridge the gap between you and God. We are gathering as a community of priests, to encourage each other, so that we can go out there and bridge the gap between the unbeliever and Jesus. Your 9-5 job, your classroom, our reach out Sundays is church scattered like salt in the community- it is the work of the priesthood in the world.
What is the work of this holy priesthood when we gather together - it is to minister to God.
To offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God: Romans 12: 1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” It is not your wealth or your gifts - you are the treasure - can you give of yourself - not under compulsion or reluctance, but cheerfully (2 Cor 9 :6-7).
Action Point: How can you present your bodies as a living sacrifice?
6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Is 28:16)
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,” (Psalm 118:22)
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.” (Is 8:14)
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
The cross is offensive. The gospel is offensive, but by the grace of God, we were able to respond in repentance and receive his mercy.
9 But you are a chosen race(Hebrew word Segulla meaning a special treasure), a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
This is the summarization of what he was establishing in the last 5 verses. Peter is saying that since it is true that believers have a new life principle (chosen generation), a new access to God (royal priesthood), a new government (holy nation), and a new owner (His own special people), it will affect the way the believer lives life.
The External Work:
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
We may never get the glory for our good works, but the object is that God gets glory from it in the end.