We left off last time talking about our response to the work of God. C.T. Studd, the famous cricket player said, “Only one life. It will soon, soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last.” Ultimately, the last structure that will be standing will be the one that God has built through His people. So we said:
I. If Jesus is our cornerstone, we can build with confidence (1 Pet. 2:4-6).
This is the only reason we need not worry for the scheme of man or the powers of hell is because who is building and of the foundation it is being built on: Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone, the main stone on which a building is built. We can build confidently. We said two reasons last time why we could do so:
a) We build with His power (1 Pet. 2:4a)
The Christian life is a continual coming to Christ, especially when you are serving. Before Peter talks about any building of any kind, he says, “coming to Him” which is a conscious and deliberate entrance into the presence of Christ. This is where we get our power and perseverance in ministry. Secondly,
b) We build for His praise (1 Pet. 2:4b)
We saw that Peter wants us to come to Jesus, who did not live up to the measurements of man. He lived up to God’s standards. We would never ask someone "Who do you want me to be today?" but that's what our actions say when we worry what others think. Though man rejected Christ, God considered Him “chosen and precious.” Peter is encouraging the believers to build for God’s praise and not man’s. Thirdly,
c) We build for His purpose (1 Pet. 2:5)
So okay Peter, I know I have to build with His power and ultimately what the Architect thinks of how I am building is what is important, but what I am building again? What is the purpose? What’s the big picture?
Peter calls us “living stones,” just as He called Christ a “living stone.” I love that! When we come to Christ, we not only come alive, but we share His life as well. We do not just worship Him, obey Him, and pray to Him; we are united with Him as stones in a spiritual building of which He is the cornerstone. Christians are God’s new temple. God is the builder and He's putting all of us in place, integrating us with each other, integrating us with the life of Christ, we are in a marvelous union with Christ
Again, the “stones” here are that which are “cut into shape for building materials, not just boulders or fieldstone randomly gathered.” By the way, turn to Matt. 16:13-18. There are lots of confusion here as to what Jesus meant. Peter’s name Petros means “a stone.” Did Jesus say He was going to build His church on Peter? Roman Catholics say so. They say their church goes back to Jesus instituting it through Peter. We don’t have time to look at all the views here, but in 1 Pet. 2:4, Peter is clear about who is the foundation stone right? It is Jesus Christ! It is He who gives us purpose in our building something meaningful for Him.
So God’s purpose of having us here at Living Hope is: To be built up to be active worshippers. First of all, we build as we are being built up. Let’s break it apart. We must each ask, ‘Am I willing to be shaped and used as a living stone for God’s purposes?’” Am I willing to be built up? Through trials, He often chips away at us to make sure we are the right fit. To be built up means we each recognize we have not arrived. We are not the cornerstone or the whole temple. All of us are just a stone, but a chosen and precious stone, being cut and shaped and chiseled for God’s building. To be built up means I cannot build myself up. A stone is useless on its own, but a stone joined with other stones can create a building. This image of a building tells us that God intends his people to live out their lives in a constructive relationship with one another. Scattered bricks do not constitute a building. Scattered and isolated believers do not make a church. You can hate the church all you want, but God’s design for you to be built up is to be with His people. How can you be built up if you never are around believers who can help you, encourage you, pray for you and with you and push you towards growing in Christ? Did you build someone up today when you walked through these doors? Did you ask God to build you up today as you sat down today? Do you see unbelievers as inconveniences or potential living stones? When you look at the people you minister to, do you see them as living stones all around me to polish and to smooth them out so they can find his place in God’s great living temple?” I pray God gives us His eyes to see His heart and His heart to see through His eyes.
By the way, the church is not a building. Believers of Jesus Christ are the church all over the world throughout all generations. We are part of the universal church that meets in a building. So this building is not God’s house. God lives here only because we are here, because we are the temple of God (2 Cor. 6:16). In the Old Testament, the temple was known as the dwelling place of God, but now God lives in His people when they come to a saving knowledge of Him.
The second part of the purposes of God for which we build is to be active worshippers. Just in case you start to think that you are just a stone and what do stones do? They just sit quietly and blend in with the environment right? Yes, I’m too cool for school and I’m too sexy for my shirt, so I will still sit in church like I’m sitting in my high school biology class…I love being a stone! This is not what Peter is saying. First of all, that is why you are called “living” stones. You are supposed to be alive, not the “frozen chosen” of God. Secondly, Peter quickly dismisses your argument when he says you are being built up for what? To be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
What does it mean to be an active worshipper? First of all, it means I am a priest of God. Peter switches metaphors again. He went from babies to building to priests. Believers are not merely passive buildings where God dwells but are active participants in the worship service. And not just participants, but a special kind of participant - set apart as His priests! You mean, just the pastor or the elders? No. Peter says all of us. So “…they are not only the stones that form the house, but also the priesthood that serves in it.” This is the great teaching about the "priesthood of all believers." He will say it again in 1 Pet. 2:9.
There are some groups that teach that only a few ordained into ministry can be priests. This is not biblical, well not the full teaching of both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the people of God had a priesthood. In the New, the people of God are the priesthood. What does it mean to be a priest of God?
It means a lot of things, but for our purposes here, let me give you a few here. It means first you are set apart. Notice the word “holy” there. God called you and set you apart to be His priest. It is an incredible privilege and responsibility. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). Being a priest means you have access to God. In the Old Testament, only the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies once a year (Lev. 16:2; Heb. 9:1-10), but now, Christ our High Priest has offered Himself once for all as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. As believer priests, we all have direct access into God’s presence through Christ, our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). We need not go through any human priest. Now all believers can come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). It is a throne of grace and not of judgment.
It means we do not treat our meetings together here lightly. We are set apart priests coming into the presence of God. I grew up in a church where it was the other extreme. You had an altar where the priest and his assistants served. I was one for almost 10 years. In fact, I could never show my back to the altar ever. A curtain separated the people from the ministers. The message that was given was that of reverence. This was a serious time. You were in the presence of a holy and righteous God, but He was distant. Only the priest seemed to have access to Him. Only the priest can forgive you.
Once I became a believer, I was awestruck that I need not worship with such fear and distance anymore. God was accessible. I can run to Him. I can pray straight to Him. He could directly forgive me. He was near. But then going to Protestant churches, I noticed they went the other extreme. God was a buddy. You can walk in here and sleep. You can lounge back like you are watching a movie. In fact, I have often felt like I am watching a performance or a show or a movie. What do you do when you watch a movie in a theater? You sit around, get something to eat, talk to your friends about whatever, joke around until….the show starts! Once the show starts, then what do you do? You are a spectator. You watch it. You want to be entertained. You want to laugh and feel good. Going to church has become like going to a movie. Where is the reverence? Where is repentance? Where is that awe that we as a redeemed people, cleansed from our sin, hell canceled, a huge price paid, the attentive listening heart waiting for His still small voice? Where is the waiting for Him to nourish our heart with a holy desperation that if He doesn’t speak today that we are of all people most miserable? The power is in the balance. I am not telling us that we need to come in here with gloomy faces like we are at a funeral. Don’t get me wrong, but Peter here is calling us to be active worshippers.
By the way, priests not only have access to God, they bring others to God. Husbands, single men, fathers and fathers to be, your role in your home is to be priests, bringing your family to God. Leadership in this way means taking initiative. You take initiative to pray with your wife. You take initiative to pray with your children. But all of us need to be bringing people to God as God’s priests. Make people thirst for God. Do something in someone’s life to get them to think about God. These are ways you can be an active worshipper, a priest of God.
A lot more can be said here about being a priest, but let’s focus on what the text says a priest does: offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. John Macarthur notes, “The primary function of the Old Testament priests, as they ministered in the tabernacle and then the temple, was to offer animal sacrifices to God (Ex. 29:10–19; 2 Chron. 35:11). But when Christ inaugurated the new covenant, animal sacrifices were no longer necessary (Heb. 8:13; 9:11–15; 10:1–18). Now the only sacrifices remaining for the priesthood of believers to offer up, according to Peter, are spiritual sacrifices.”
“Offer” here means literally “to carry, bring or bear up and so to cause to move from a lower position to a higher position.” Sacrifices need to be offered. Sacrifices do not offer themselves. You need to bring it from a hidden, low position to the Lord, the highest position. What are you offering? Spiritual sacrifices. The Bible lists several spiritual sacrifices. What does God want you to bring to the altar on this side of the cross? First of all: yourself (Rom. 12:1). Everything about you. John Macarthur says, “Like Abraham was willing to do with Isaac in Genesis 22:1–19, it is only when saints offer God everything they are in life, everything they possess, and everything they hope for that they truly present Him with a living sacrifice. That is the total commitment He requires of spiritual priests.” So when you place your offering in the offering bag today, picture yourself in the bag too!
Secondly, praise or worship. Look at Heb. 13:15. This is to gratefully declare His attributes. God loves a heart of gratitude. My old pastor used to say, “Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living.” Thirdly, stay in Hebrews and go to Heb. 13:16. Macarthur adds, “Doing good” involves doing what is righteous and what honors God (cf. 2 Cor. 9:8; Titus 3:8; James 3:17). Any good work—whether it is reproof that restores a brother, loving and helpful action toward someone, studying God’s Word, listening to the Word preached, or speaking a righteous word —is a spiritual sacrifice in Christ’s name that glorifies God (2:12; Matt. 5:16; Col. 1:10; 3:17; Heb. 13:21; cf. 2 Thess. 3:13).“Sharing,” or generosity, is a specific good work the writer of Hebrews names. It involves sacrificially giving up one’s resources to meet someone else’s need (Mark 12:42–44; Acts 2:45; 4:36–37; 2 Cor. 8:1–4; 9:6–7; cf. Luke 12:33; Phil. 2:30).” Also, sacrificial love for one another (Eph. 5:1-2). Love demonstrated in selfless humility toward one another is well pleasing to One more: our prayers (Rev. 8:1ff).
Why would God want any of these from me? And why should He accept them? It is only acceptable because look at 1 Pet. 2:5: THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. It is He who takes our weak and sinful offerings, covers it in His blood and offers it to the Father. Have you ever gotten a prescription from the doctor and you look at it and it looks like your 2 year old scribbled something on a piece of paper? You cannot read it all, but it has always amazed me how at the pharmacy, the pharmacist can take one look at it (do they take classes on doctor’s handwriting?) and know exactly what it says?
Sometimes I feel like that’s what happens with our “spiritual sacrifices.” We send it up to Heaven like a bunch of scribbles. But like the pharmacist, our Lord intercepts those things, seals it in His blood and says, “Father, accept these for my sake.” He understands those groans of our soul that no one else understands. He makes sense of our cold words and the broken heart that sometimes leaves us with no words at all. Like the high priest who would have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved on the outside of his robe on the chest region, as though he could keep them close to his heart (Ex. 28:21), our Lord has our names engraved on his heart and on his hands (Is. 49:16) and is ever praying for us. Spurgeon adds, “It is only through a mediator that we poor defiled ones can ever become priests unto God. I present what I have before the messenger, the angel of the covenant, the Lord Jesus; and through him my prayers find acceptance wrapped up in his prayers…If I can bring him nothing but my tears, he will put them with his own tears in his own bottle for he once wept; if I can bring him nothing but my groans and sighs, he will accept these as an acceptable sacrifice, for he once was broken in heart, and sighed heavily in spirit. I myself, standing in him, am accepted in the Beloved; and all my polluted works, though in themselves only objects of divine abhorrence, are so received, that God smelleth a sweet savour. He is content and I am blessed.”
Beloved, we can build confidently because Jesus is our cornerstone. So we build with His power, for His praise and purpose and lastly:
d) We build with His promise (1 Pet. 2:6-7a)
The world and Satan offer you much and promise much, but delivers nothing. In fact, not only do they overpromise and under-deliver, you end up paying more than you bargained for. Such is the deceitfulness of sin. But look at what happens to those who decide to build their lives in Jesus Christ: they will not be “put to shame.” This phrase “denotes being deceived in some confidence, or placing hope in someone and having that hope dashed.”
Peter is quoting Isaiah 28:16. Notice he calls it “Scripture,” which means he definitely saw the Old Testament as possessing inspiration and authority. Zion is referring to Israel where Jesus was born, had lived died and rose again. Peter repeats what he said in 1 Pet. 2:4 that those building on the foundation of Jesus Christ can build confidently because they will receive honor.
Let’s remind ourselves of what it means to have Christ as our cornerstone: this denotes a chief cornerstone and describes the stone that sets all the proper angles for the building. It is like the building’s plumb line in that it sets the horizontal and vertical lines of the rest of the building; it also establishes the precise symmetry of the entire edifice. To ensure the perfect precision of God’s spiritual house, the main cornerstone had to be flawless. The only one who could set all the angles of God’s house was the living, perfectly prepared cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Matt. 21:42; 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18; cf. John 1:14; Phil. 2:9; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; 7:26–28; 8:6).The Greek word translated precious (entimon) means “unequaled in value,” “costly,” or “irreplaceable.” Christ is irreplaceable because He is the cornerstone, the most important stone in any building. Because Jesus Christ is the perfect, exact, precise One on whom God has built His church, all the lines coming from Him in every direction complete the perfect temple of God. No one is ever out of alignment. No one ever falls from the structure. It all fits exactly and permanently together (cf. Eph. 4:16). So here is one analogy that fittingly illustrates believers’ security.”
We have His promise. Sometimes we feel like we are falling apart. Sometimes we feel like we never change. Sometimes we feel like we don’t fit anywhere. But if you believe in Christ, know that He is the one who holds you as part of His temple and building. And if you persevere and hold on, you will not be disappointed in the end. So if Jesus is our cornerstone, we can build with confidence. This point implies something else:
II. If Jesus is not our cornerstone, He will be our stumbling block (1 Pet. 2:7b-8)
So if you decide not to build with Jesus as your cornerstone, there is no building plan B. So if you take one look at this Cornerstone and decide He does not meet your standards and toss Him aside, you will end up tripping over and falling under the very stone you threw away. Either Jesus is your stepping stone or your stumbling block. Since unbelievers decide to reject Christ and refuse to believe in Him, they are doomed for destruction according to 1 Pet. 2:8. This is why the greatest question in all the universe, the one question that really only matters in the end is: “What did you do with Jesus Christ the irreplaceable, costly, precisely measured stone to build your life upon?”
You know every single day when we wake up, we must choose to have Jesus as our precious and chosen Cornerstone for that day. We have to see that He is irreplaceable for our lives that day. Because our flesh will tell us He is replaceable. Replace Him with stuff. Replace Him with pleasure. Replace Him with sense of entitlement. He is irreplaceable. He is precious and we build with purpose with His power and for His praise and motivated by His promises.
This is what keeps me going. But I must continually reevaluate my purpose here at Living Hope. God says not only are you living stones in His temple He is building you up for, you are also the active worshippers inside the temple as His priests. Look over again at some of the functions of a priest: To be set apart, have access to God, bring others to God and one who offers sacrifices. Which of these is God calling you today to step up in? Perhaps your complaint meter has been high and your sacrifice of gratitude meter is low. Perhaps you have been hoarding your time and resources that you are not blessing others with the sacrifice of helping others and sacrificial love. It is not self-effort here, but where you can say Lord, live in me and through me so that I can live up to your purposes here at Living Hope. Or you have not been praying and talking to the Lord. You can talk to Him now because you have access to Him because of Christ. He will take your scribbles. Sometimes it’s all of these things and you need a fresh start. You may have lost your purpose here or simply have been drifting along. If that is you, jump into the offering tray and say, “Here I am. All of me! Set me apart again as your priest o Lord!” He accepts you only because of Christ. Perhaps you are not sure where you fit in God’s purposes. Tell that to the Lord, but be reminded “whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”
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