1 Peter 2:4
1 Peter Lesson #058
July 28, 2016
“Our Father, we’re thankful for the opportunity to meet here this evening, to study Your Word, to be reminded of Your grace and Your goodness, and Your plan, and Your purpose. Yet when we look out on the many crazy and some horrible things taking place in the world around us, it’s easy for us to get caught up in the deception of the world that things are just out of control. We know they’re not.
You’re allowing the outworking of human volition to take place and we’re seeing evidence time and again of not only the wicked evil of the human heart as a result of licentiousness in this country as well as most of Western civilization when all moral, spiritual, and ethical restraints are rejected.
We also see the horrors of religion, especially in the rise of this Islamist supremacy movement as they seek to conquer the west, and especially conquer Christianity. We understand from Scripture that this is a manifestation of a conflict going back into eternity past beginning with Satan’s rebellion against You.
That’s how we understand this. Father, we pray that as we study tonight, we can come to understand more about our world as individual believers within this historic conflict and how the decisions we make and the actions we take impact eternity. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles to 1 Peter, chapter two. We’ve gone through the first three verses and now we’re beginning a study of verses 4–10. This is going to take a little while to very carefully work our way through this. I want to do this in a way that helps us understand this and not just blow through it very quickly where someone thinks, “That was interesting but I’ll never remember that.”
This is important. It goes back, as I was pointing out last time, to understanding the thrust of what is being said in this epistle. Why is Peter writing to this group of people and what is he saying to them? That’s the focal point of interpretation, what did the original author mean to his original audience, and what was he trying to communicate?
We look at the context of that. Then when we get down to this particular section, verses 4–10, we have to interpret it or understand it within that basic thrust of what’s been going on. One of the things that I’ve pointed out again and again and we went through it in more detail last week is that he’s writing to a group that are Jewish-background believers.
That’s significant for understanding several things he’s talking about. One of the things he’s talking about is what I’ve titled this lesson and that is “Living Stones”. That’s important because that’s the only place in Scripture where we have this phraseology, but it is reminiscent of terminology that goes throughout the Old Testament—this imagery of a rock or a stone and how that impacts understanding.
Another thing we ought to observe as we go through this is that every verse in this section is either quoting from an Old Testament passage or it’s alluding to an Old Testament passage. That is important because it helps us again or it reinforces for us the fact that he’s writing to Jewish-background believers, those who have a firm grasp of the Torah, a firm grasp of the Old Testament. When he alludes to Scriptures and he reads these Scriptures together, he’s not talking to a group of Gentiles that would be ignorant of what is said in the Old Testament.
It reinforces that and that’s really important for us to understand the context of this verse.
Textually, I’ve gone through this many times. We have a series of commands from 1 Peter 1:13–2:3 we have this series of commands. That helps us to understand what this thrust has been. Ultimately what he’s saying to them, and we can apply this to us, is that when you’re going through difficulties, whether it’s overt opposition or persecution, or whether it’s just the difficulties of life because we live in a fallen world.
Our only hope is in the gospel. Beginning with trusting Jesus Christ as Messiah, as Savior, and that God is in control. Then, as a result of that, determining what we’re going to do after we’re saved and living in light of eternity. That’s the solution to any and every problem in life.
Even though the on-the-ground solutions may take on different forms, ultimately that has to be held within a biblical framework.
- The first command was to rest your hope fully on the grace that was brought to you through objective thinking.
- He says set yourself apart to the service of God. That is “be holy for I am holy”.
- We’re to conduct our lives in fearful respect of God.
- We’re to love one another with integrity.
- We’re to crave the milk of the Word.
In every situation if we are following those five commands then we know we are walking in the will of God. If we’re doing it in fellowship, we’re doing it by the Spirit and we know it has value for eternity.
His conclusion comes back with this honorable conduct doing these things by means of the Holy Spirit, which will glorify God at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
It’s important that when we look at the next section, when he begins the next section in 1 Peter 2:11, he says, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims.” Those are terms that are loaded. They could be used with anyone, but again this shows this has a Jewish-background sense.
When we got into this section in 1 Peter 2:1 where we saw that this command was given in verse two to desire the sincere milk of the Word, but it begins by removing these filthy clothes, these clothes that have been defiled. This indicates this is something that is done through an act. It is done through confession of sin.
It is pictured as removing filthy garments. That’s the idea. You have to be cleansed. James uses the same imagery in James 1 and then in James 4 he says to “cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts.” This is the same language and imagery.
First we do that so we’re prepared to study the Word.
The primary thought there is to desire the pure milk of the Word. Why? So that you can grow. This section is focusing on growing up. One of the things you see in Scripture is that every verse is either talking about how to get justified, phase one, or it’s going to talk about how to live the spiritual life, or it’s going to be talking about living in the light of eternity: phase one, phase two, phase three. Every verse is talking about one of those.
Peter is not talking about how to get saved but to those who already understand how to get to Heaven, how they should live in light of the terrible things that are happening in their lives and doing it in a way where they’re living in light of eternity.
Now that’s the background.
Last time we came to the opening part of 1 Peter 2:4–5 and I pointed out that as we get to this we have language like the “living stone”. We have language of being rejected by men but chosen by God and being precious. We’ll see more of this, but this is language that is directly taken out of verses in the Old Testament.
Verses like Isaiah 28:16 use the term “precious” and the allusion there to a stone. Then 1 Peter 2:5 says, “as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.” All of this language goes back to the Old Testament.
I pointed out last time that when you study any book you have to understand to whom it’s written. Just as a quick review. We either have Peter writing to Gentiles, Gentile-background Christians, which is how the majority of people take this. I explained why last time. The “why” is that starting with the rise of anti-Semitism in the early Church due to allegorical and spiritual interpretation by AD 200–250, once this became institutionalized, the Church, as it were the early Church, tried to rid itself of its Jewish origins because that was an embarrassment.
You don’t find anyone through the Middle Ages talking about this being written to Jewish-background believers but up to the middle part of the 2nd century it’s the primary interpretation. So there are those who take it as Gentile Christians. The first way it’s applied, I said, was in terms of Replacement theology, that the church completely replaces Israel in God’s plan and Israel is permanently set aside.
The second way is to say yes, these verses are generally applied to the Church Age believers but they do not permanently replace Israel. That’s probably the dominant view, as I said last time.
Then we get to a second interpretation and that’s that it is written to Jews. Again, there are two interpretations. The first is that it’s written to Jewish-background believers exclusively and there really isn’t anything there for Gentile-background believers.
Then there’s a view that I’m taking and that is that it is written to Jewish-background believers that are the remnant. Paul talks about them in Romans 11:5. They’re the remnant. Remember, Jews and Gentiles are equal in the body of Christ. There’s still a historic and physical difference. Jews, whether they’re saved or not saved, are still under the Abrahamic Covenant and there are certain things that probably accrue to them just because they’re Jews.
For example, the Abrahamic Covenant says that those who bless Israel, God will bless and those who despise Israel, God will judge. Right? Does that still apply today? Yes. Then in some sense the Abrahamic Covenant still applies today. So if you’re Jewish, whether you’re obedient to God or disobedient, whether you’re spiritual or whether you’re carnal. Whatever your spiritual condition, it doesn’t matter because God is going to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. That is still in effect.
The Abrahamic Covenant is still very much in effect. It isn’t related to personal justification or personal spiritual life. It has to do with your identity toward Abraham. The sign of that covenant is physical circumcision for the male. That would still be expected of any Jew, whether you’re a Christian or a non-Christian, because you’re still a Jew ethnically and a descendant of Abraham.
The circle in the slide refers to the church—all Church Age believers. All in the circle are Church Age believers and they’re all equally members of the body of Christ. They are part of the Bride of Christ and they receive all of the spiritual blessings that Paul describes in Ephesians 1:3 that apply equally to every believer, Jew or Gentile, bond or slave, male or female.
The second thing is that these Jewish-background believers are a subset of the body of Christ. They are the Jewish remnant. We have to understand that.
A third point which I made last time is that what applies to the remnant, because they’re in the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, they’re in Christ, applies equally to the entire body of Christ.
Let’s say you’re a parent and you have ten kids. One of your kids is being a little bit disobedient and rebellious. You want to have a nice little heart-to-heart talk with that child and help him to understand that in your family no one acts or behave the way they’re acting or behaving.
You take them aside and you talk to them. You begin to explain all the benefits that they have as being part of your family. Does that apply exclusively to them? No, it applies to the other brothers and sisters, but you’re not talking to the other brothers and sisters. You’re talking to that one child helping him to understand who he is and what he has because he is a member of your family.
That is probably the best analogy I’ve been able to come up with for what Peter is doing here. He’s talking to this one group and reminding them that ethnically their spiritual heritage in Abraham provides them with a certain spiritual heritage.
It wasn’t realized by virtue of their position in Israel because of the apostasy of Israel and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. But now that they are in the body of Christ, they are realizing those blessings above and beyond anything that was anticipated in the Old Testament. It’s true for them as much as it’s true for every other member of the body of Christ.
As I pointed out last time, one of the problems that’s come along, and I’m not picking on Arnold. I’m not saying Arnold Fruchtenbaum is a heretic or anything like that. People often misunderstand things like that. This is a very important issue and there’s a lot of discussion that goes on between different people trying to work through a clear and precise understanding in Scripture.
I respect Arnold tremendously. He’s tremendously productive and he’s accomplished a lot of things and is very, very insightful. I’m sure that if we had a conversation, he might not say it in the way that he’s said in a couple of his commentaries.
The point is that if you emphasize that there are certain privileges and blessings that Jewish-background believers have today in the body of the Christ that Gentiles don’t have, then it runs afoul of what Paul in Galatians 3 and in 1 Corinthians 12 talking about the fact that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor slave. There are no spiritual distinctions.
That doesn’t mean that if I’m talking to someone who is a Jew that you can’t remind them of what is part of their ethnic and historic heritage and how that is realized in a greater way in the body of Christ. I think you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, saying, “It’s overstated so therefore that interpretation is wrong.” We have to work it through.
In the past two or three weeks I’ve had discussions with a lot of different pastors that you know and we’ve all hit this at some time or another. The thing is some guys haven’t really taught through verse-by-verse in 1 Peter. Others have and have just read the theology of it. It’s always important we don’t just read someone and say, “That theology makes sense” and then go read it into the passage. That’s always the path to perdition.
We have to go through verse-by-verse and look at all these different issues. Another thing that happens is that pastors come out of seminary and during the first ten or twelve years you’re a pastor you’re probably teaching a lot more what you were taught in seminary. Dr. Toussaint once said that he was hired to be a professor at Dallas right out of getting his doctorate. He said, “I was a half a step ahead of the hounds. I was the fox and the students were the hounds. I got up every morning and threw up because I was afraid they were going to ask questions that I hadn’t quite resolved yet.”
It takes time to work through these things and to go verse-by-verse through all these different kinds of passages. It’s interesting that I know three doctrinal pastors who are all teaching Matthew and I was talking to one this afternoon. He just got into Matthew 21 and he, opposed to everyone else I’ve talked to, was wrestling with this in the same way as me and was coming to basically the same conclusions I was coming to. He had discovered some of the same things that I had come up with in doing background studies so I knew I wasn’t off. He had no idea what I had taught in the passage. I knew I wasn’t just out in left field.
We’re going to understand this but since this passage is loaded. Every verse talks about the Old Testament and every verse is applying what’s in the Old Testament to this audience and how is that application being made? That’s really the bottom line and we’re going to sort of work our way through this.
So these first two verses represent a complete sentence or a complete thought. By the way, Peter’s Greek is complex and it’s really difficult. That’s not the easiest thing to work through. The first couple of words that he uses aren’t even translated into English.
It doesn’t seem to make sense because in some translations it’s translated “you are coming”. The “you” can be a second person singular or plural but the pronoun that begins the verse in the Greek is a third person plural, meaning “these who”. You don’t even see a “these” or a “you” in the NKJV, but it’s there in the New American Standard.
“These” goes back to “these babes” who are growing. It actually goes to the plural “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” That second person plural in verse 3 is the important word. So “these”, that is those who have tasted that the Lord is good. “Since these were coming …” That’s the idea. It’s just difficult to work it through.
The main idea of 1 Peter 2:4 is all of a participial phrase and verse 5 states your main clause, “are being built up as a spiritual house.” You’re being built up.
You also have a problem here with the fact that a spiritual house is a singular noun and it’s in the nominative case, which means it is a subject or a predicate nominative. I found in searching through the commentaries only one commentary that even hesitantly mentioned this. The way everybody, including the one who wrote that commentary, translates it either is as an object or an indirect object.
But it’s in the nominative case, which means it’s the subject or it’s a predicate nominative. You don’t have an equative verb there because the verb there is “being built up”. You have to have an “is” or a “was” or a “were” there to have a predicate nominative.
You wonder what I do with my time during the day. This is what happens. We’ll get back to the exegesis later on. I don’t want to get too technical because I think you can understand it without nitpicking the grammar.
He’s basically saying in the main line that you’re being built up. It makes more sense to translate the independent clause first and then verse 4 second. “You’re being built up since you came to Him as a living stone.” He’s describing what’s happened.
He’s commanded them in verse 2 to desire the milk of the Word so you can grow. Then he goes into this discussion saying, “You are being built up.” That’s another picture of growth. “… since the time you came to Him as a living stone.” In other words, since you were saved.
You’ve often heard me say we have to begin with the end in mind. Sometimes it’s helpful when you read a book, especially if it’s a heavy book, to go read the conclusion before you read anything else so you know where the author is taking you.
Sometimes that’s important even in a complicated passage of Scripture. I want to start at 1 Peter 2:10 and just back us up. Let’s see where Peter is going in this section with all these heavy references to the Old Testament to understand the trajectory of his thought.
The last thing in verse 10 describing them is, “who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
Does that sound familiar to anyone? If you look at that verse it’s easy to say, “Oh, they must be Gentiles because they weren’t a people but now they’re the people of God.”
Actually this phrase and the concept of obtaining mercy go back to the first two chapters in Hosea. So we go to Hosea, chapter one. I’m going to turn there because as usual, when we get these kinds of quotes, we have to think a little bit about the nature of what’s going on.
Hosea writes in the late 700s BC, roughly at the same time as Isaiah. He overlaps Isaiah a little bit. He began earlier than Isaiah, but their ministries overlapped. He begins in the Northern Kingdom and the Northern Kingdom went out in 722 BC. Hosea’s ministry or his life ends about 710 BC.
Hosea is one of the strangest books in the Scriptures. His life ends in 710 BC but his ministry ends before they went out under discipline. It’s strange because God commands him to marry a prostitute. So he’s married to a prostitute and he’s going to be exhibiting a love for that prostitute who is unfaithful to the marriage covenant as a picture of God’s faithfulness to Israel even when Israel is unfaithful to the covenant with God.
We’re not going to get into all the things that deal with her, but God tells Hosea in Hosea 1:2 to take unto himself a wife of harlotry. Go take a prostitute for your wife. And have children of harlotry. Why? Because the land, that is Israel, has committed great harlotry. They have been unfaithful to the Lord. So he went and he married Gomer [not Gomer Pyle]. She’s Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, who bears a son.
Then we pick it up in Hosea 1:4 where the Lord says to Hosea, “Call his name Jezreel.” Jezreel is another name for the Northern Kingdom of Israel. “For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel.” It was a city in the northern part of Israel and it was where Jehu had carried out his acts of avenging the blood of Jezreel and the house of Jehu. “And bring an end to the House of Israel.”
This is all designed to announce the coming judgment on the Northern Kingdom. He says, “And it shall come to pass in that day [of judgment] that I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” That’s also the Valley of Megiddo, the Valley of Esdraelon, that runs there just to the north of the Carmel Ridge, between there and the various mountains, Mount Tabor and those areas, Harod Spring where Gideon thinned out his 32,000 down to the 300.
Then she’s going to give birth to a second child, the daughter. That’s where I pick it up on the slide. “And she conceived and bore a daughter. Then God said to him, ‘Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel.’ ”
Lo is the Hebrew word for “no”. We used to have a little rhyme in Hebrew class. Lo is no, he is she, and who is he? That’s how you would remember the words. The Hebrew word lo means no. The Hebrew word he is the pronoun for the 2nd person feminine singular, she, and who is the 3rd person singular pronoun for he. He is she, who is he, and lo is no. See, now you know some Hebrew. If you don’t know anything else out of the class, you at least know that much.
Lo-Ruhamah. Ruhamah is from the Hebrew word for mercy. God is saying you’re going to call her Lo-Ruhamah because I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, the Northern Kingdom. “But I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah.”
This is predicting the invasion of the Assyrians who will defeat and destroy the Northern Kingdom, but they will only defeat the Southern Kingdom to a point. Then they will shut up Hezekiah like a canary in his cage. Then God is going to wipe out the Assyrian army and Sennacherib will go licking his wounds back home where his children will assassinate him.
The idea in these verses is the idea that there will be no mercy. Then in Hosea 1:8 we read, “Then when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah [no mercy], she conceived and bore another son. Then God said to call his name Lo-Ammi.” What does lo mean? No.
There’s a little saying, Am Israel hai, yes, the people of Israel. Am is the word for people. So Lo-Ammi means no people. “For you are not My people, and I will not be your God.”
So you have “No mercy” and “Not my people” and the other one, Jezreel, because I’m going to bring judgment on Jezreel in the Valley of Jezreel. This is an object lesson to Israel.
Then we go to Hosea 1:10 and God shows that this is not permanent, that He is once again going to make them His people. He says, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea [even though He’s going to bring this judgment on them], which cannot be measured or numbered [that goes back to the Abrahamic Covenant] and it shall come to pass in the place where it is said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.’ ”
So they’re going to shift from being “my people” to “not my people” and then they’re going to become the sons of the living God. Notice that word “living God”.
In our text it talks about the living stone, the “living” part is what’s important. Then if we skip through Hosea, chapter two. In Hosea 2:23 God says, “Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy.” So even though God’s going to withdraw mercy and bring judgment on the Northern Kingdom and He’s going to make them “not My people”, they are going to be restored to being His people and they will be restored to mercy.
He says, “I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are my people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ ”
So now when we look at 1 Peter 2:10, “Who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy,” we see this is an allusion to Hosea and has direct application to Jewish people, who are the remnant, those who are responsive to God’s message of grace.
Now if we look at the verse that comes immediately before verse 10, we see verse 9. In verse 9 there are four ways that these people are identified. These come out of Exodus 19:6–7. They are called “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and His own special people.” Those terms come out of the Old Testament.
How do they apply to Jewish-background believers who are in the church, the body of Christ? This passage is often taken as the proof text passage for the universal priesthood of the believer. We’ll be looking at that. I think all of these things are said in one way or another of every Church Age believer, so I think there’s an implication of the universal priesthood of the believer.
If I was going to defend that doctrine, I wouldn’t go here, which is what everyone does. Everyone who goes here goes here because they think that Peter is writing to Gentiles. See how squirrely this gets? If he’s not writing to Gentiles but to Jews for whom this has another meaning, you have to ascertain what this means.
We’re not going to do that tonight.
1 Peter 2:7–8 are quotes from Isaiah and the Psalms. What Peter does in a remarkable, sophisticated way is tie these two verses together when they’re not tied together in any other passage. Paul in sort of a paraphrase weaves Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14 in Romans, but he doesn’t add Psalm 118:22.
Psalm 118:22 ought to be familiar to everyone in here because we’ve just gone through Psalm 118 in our Matthew series and we’ve gone through its quotation twice within the context of Jesus’ last week. We’re in Matthew 22 now and we studied it in Matthew 21.
We see here that there’s a conclusion that Peter draws in 1 Peter 2:7, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient …” Then he quotes a verse, Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
What we see here is that there’s a contrast between two groups of people: those who believe and are obedient, and those who are disobedient. What he means when he quotes Psalm 118:22 is that he’s describing and applying an historic event in Psalm 118:22 to those who are disobedient and who did not believe or rejected the stone.
Then in verse 8 he goes on explaining more about these disobedient ones and this stone. He says it’s, “The stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” That language comes directly out of Isaiah 8:14. So we’ve got “precious” from Isaiah 28:16. We have a quote from Psalm 118:22. And we have another quote that comes right out of Isaiah 8:14. So the two long verse quotes relate to the disobedient ones, the ones who have rejected the stone. Then as he finishes he says, “They stumble ...”
Who are the “they”? That’s a really good question. Does the “they” refer to anyone who has rejected Jesus as Messiah or does the “they” refer only to Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah? Well, let’s read the rest of that sentence, “They stumble, being disobedient to the Word, to which they also were appointed.”
Were Gentiles appointed to the Word? No. So Peter is clearly talking about the “they who stumbled”, who are clearly the Jews who were the non-remnant, the Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah. It’s very clear when you’re looking at 1 Peter 2:7–8 that when he’s applying these verses to “you who believe”, he’s got to be talking about the believing remnant, because those who are disobedient to the Word are the unbelieving remnant of Israel.
It’s very clear that he’s alluding to their ethnic past and their historic position in the covenant plan of God.
Remember in the previous section he’s going to say “you are a chosen generation”. He’s talking to them as the believing remnant. As far as this goes, I think Arnold is absolutely correct that Peter is reminding these Jews in the body of Christ that they have a heritage in Israel as the believing remnant.
It’s the next part, the application of that where we’re going to have a little disagreement, but that’s something we’ll get to.
So before 1 Peter 2:7–8, as we back our way through the passage, in verse 6 we have another “therefore”. We have a “therefore” in verse 6 and a “therefore” in verse 7. The “therefore” in verse 6 is going to be a conclusion that comes out of verses 4 and 5. Again, it’s a direct quote from Isaiah 28:16. It says, “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ ”
How does that relate to what we’re talking about? That’s the question. Now we go back to the first two verses. “Coming to Him [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices ...” Now that’s your purpose clause. When we get through all these details [don’t get lost] he’s basically telling them that they need to grow up so they can offer spiritual sacrifices.
We can think of numerous places in the Scripture where that’s true. Paul uses a little different language but he’s talking about the same thing in Romans 12:1 that we are to offer our lives as a living sacrifice. It’s the same idea and we’re going to see this again and again in Scripture. Believers’ lives are to be an offering or a sacrifice to God.
That’s what Peter is saying. So what he is saying to them as Jewish-background believers applies to them certainly, and it has a certain resonance in what he’s telling them because of their background, but it equally applies and is expected of every believer, Jew and Gentile.
Now let’s look at another aspect of this. “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.” That’s the starting point here. We’re being built up. We’re being edified. That’s the main idea. We are to grow by the Word in order to mature.
The first thing we can say about 1 Peter 2:4–5 is that the recipients are to be built up. They have been being built up since they first believed in Jesus as the Messiah. This idea of being built up is a development of that growth idea that Peter had first introduced in 1 Peter 2:2 that we’re to be nourished by the milk of the Word in order that we may grow. That’s the idea. He wants them to grow so that their lives will be a spiritual sacrifice.
As we start this and we look at verse 4 the second thing we ought to observe is that this growth, this growing up, or being built up into a spiritual house, is the result of their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. They came to Him as a living stone.
There are about nine things we need to say about this living stone. It is a word that is loaded with Old Testament background and significance if you were Jewish. If you were a Gentile, most of this would go past you because you didn’t know the Old Testament. So let’s just run through the different ways in which “stone” is used and the significance of this.
One of the most important passages is Isaiah 8:14–15. This is the reference to the stumbling stone, which is also called the rock of offense or the offensive rock in Isaiah 8:14, which reads, “He will be a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” It’s talking about the Messiah. On the one hand He’ll be a sanctuary to some, but to others He’s a stone they’ll stumble over and He’s a rock they will be offended about.
“To both the houses of Israel, and He will be a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” We’re seeing that very clearly in our study on Sunday morning in Matthew 21. In fact, if you’re listening to this lesson in 1 Peter, you ought to be going back and listening to the series in Matthew, at least starting in Matthew 21 and going through Matthew 22 and 23.
We see that Jesus is presented there this same way, as the rock of offense and a stumbling stone. This is fulfilled in Jesus.
A second stone we find in the Old Testament is one which we’ve already alluded to as well. It’s the rejected cornerstone in Psalm 118:22, that is first rejected as being inconsequential and unnecessary, and then in God’s plan that becomes the chief cornerstone.
This is important to understand. We went through Psalm 118 verse by verse over two or three lessons back in May [in our study of Matthew, lessons #119–121], and we brought out the point that when you have this term used in the context of Psalm 118, it was a historic reference to a situation in the Old Testament.
If you’ve gone through this with me many, many times, there are four different ways that the Old Testament is used in the New Testament. The first is that you have literal prophecy and literal fulfillment. Micah 5:2 says that the Messiah is going to be born in the future in Bethlehem. Matthew 2 says He’s born in Bethlehem.
The second use is an historical reference. This comes out of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt, I called My son.” That is an historic allusion to Israel coming out of Egypt. It is applied typologically to Jesus. Jesus’ family escaped Herod and his attempt to kill the children by going down to Egypt. When they come back they are generally retracing the steps of Egypt. That’s when Matthew says in Matthew 2:15, “Out of Egypt have I called My son.”
Historic imagery is applied typologically to Christ. That’s the same thing we have going on here. In Psalm 118 the stone, if you remember, which the builders rejected is Israel. The builders are the empire builders of the ancient Near East, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Chaldeans, the Medes, and the Persians. They overlooked what in their view were minor kingdoms or countries. They overran them. The Assyrians, for example, overran numerous countries and they resettled their populations all over the Assyrian Empire.
They did the same thing with the Jews in the Northern Kingdom. They took them away and they resettled them all over the Empire. No one else got brought back home like the Jews did. At the end of the Babylonian captivity, when Cyrus the Great is the king of Persia, he not only decrees that the Jews would go back home, but he pays for it. He paid for them to go back and to rebuild the city and to rebuild the temple.
Psalm 118 was written as a descriptive praise psalm by the Jews after they had rebuilt the temple. They were dedicating their temple and were amazed at the fact that the stone which the empire builders rejected as being meaningless, which is Israel, God in His grace, had brought them back to the land to restore them to their place in God’s plan and purpose and that they were going to be used by God to crush these empires.
So the stone, which the builders rejected, has become now the chief cornerstone; it’s an historic reality. Israel became the chief cornerstone but it is applied typologically by Peter, Paul, and Jesus, to Jesus as that Chief Cornerstone.
The third use of stone is the foundation stone, which is called the tried and precious cornerstone in Isaiah 28:16. I want you to look at this verse. The verse says, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation.’ ” So this is the foundation stone. “… a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.”
It’s translated a little differently into the Septuagint, into the Greek. Now the Septuagint was not an inspired translation, but when New Testament writers quote from the Septuagint without changing it to conform to the Hebrew, then the Septuagint translation, even though it may have been an erroneous translation, it still may communicate truth. So when the Holy Spirit goes back and takes this wrong translation and includes it into the New Testament, He’s putting His stamp of approval on it that it’s still true. It’s still inerrant. It’s still truth.
What’s interesting is when you look at this in the original it uses the term “expensive” instead of a “tried” stone. Maybe that’s the idea of “tried” here. It’s been tested and appraised and it’s valuable. So it’s translated in the Greek as an expensive stone. It’s translated as precious and it’s translated as a sure foundation.
Now when you look at 1 Peter 2 the first thing we see in verse 4 is we see this same language that this is a stone that’s rejected by men but chosen by God [that’s not the best translation] and precious. The word “precious” is then again picked up in verse 6 as it quotes from Isaiah 28:16 that comes from the Septuagint. So that’s an important verse.
The next “rock” verse is also from Isaiah, but it refers to the paternal rock, Abraham as the father of the Jewish people. In Isaiah 51:1–2 God is speaking, “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you are dug. Look to Abraham your father …” This view is of Abraham as the father. He’s the rock out of which they were hewn.
What we’re going to see a little later on, that ultimately God is the rock that gave birth to them. We’ll see that in a couple of passages in a couple of points later in Deuteronomy. So Abraham is the paternal rock.
Then we have the kingdom rock of Daniel 2:34 and 44–45. I didn’t quote Daniel 2:34 because it’s the prophecy of the rock. It’s basically restated in verse 45. Daniel 2:44–45 is interpreting what Daniel saw at the end of the vision, that all these human kings are established and then there’s going to be this rock cut without hands that’s going to destroy them.
What does that mean? It’s interpreted in Daniel 2:44–45, “And in the days of these kings …” It’s when all of these empires, which are cumulative in nature, are brought back. Remember in Revelation there are elements of each of these kings in the final kingdom of the Antichrist. He’s got the wings of an eagle and the face of a leopard, and something else like a lion. All of these come together and they’re elements of these different kingdoms as they’re expressed in Daniel 7.
So in Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.” We’re talking about the indestructible kingdom, which is the Messianic Kingdom in the future. “He will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you [Nebuchadnezzar] saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron [Rome], the bronze [Greece], the clay [Revived Roman Empire], the silver [Medo-Persia], and the gold [Babylon].” The great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this.
So the “rock” is the kingdom. The Kingdom of the Messiah is going to destroy all these human kingdoms. That’s the depiction in Daniel 2:44–45. The “rock” then is an image of the Messianic Kingdom as well as the Messiah.
In the sixth, Jerusalem is depicted as a heavy stone in Zachariah 12:3. “It shall happen in that day [the end of the Tribulation period] that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.” That’s in the campaigns of Armageddon. They come against Jerusalem and that’s when the Messiah returns and destroys the enemies.
Then the seventh is the reference to God, the Rock. Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” This is a metaphor here. He is the Rock. This explains the metaphor that “rock” indicates perfection, justice, truth, and righteousness.
Then in Deuteronomy 32:18 Moses says to the people, “Of the Rock who begot you.” In Isaiah it’s Abraham, but that’s the human who begot the nation, the people of Israel. But this is God who begot them. “Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you.”
Now the eighth thing I want to mention is in the Second Temple period, the term “Rock/Stone” had become an accepted reference to the Messiah, it’s a Messianic title. When we see that, it’s clearly used of God. We saw that back in Deuteronomy 32:4 and 18, but by the Second Temple period it’s understood that this Rock is a term for the Messiah and His Kingdom.
Now under the ninth point, Jesus clearly alludes to this in His famous conversation with Peter in Matthew 16:18. Now this is important because Peter, who is in this conversation with Jesus in Matthew 16, is the same Peter who writes 1 Peter. He clearly understands who the Rock is and who the Rock focuses on.
I don’t have all the verses in the slide but I do have the first two and the last two. In the first two we see that Jesus takes the disciples up to Caesarea-Philippi, which is in the north, and He says to them, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” He’s using a Messianic title there. He says, “Who do people say that I am?”
They’re knocking it around and they say that some people say you’re John the Baptist, some say you’re Elijah, others say you’re Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then in verse 15 Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?”
In verse 16 Simon Peter answers and says, “You are the Messiah [HO CHRISTOS in the Greek, HaMashiach in the Hebrew], the Son of the Living God.” Notice we keep having this reference to “Son of the living God,” as opposed to the dead idols of stone and wood and metal.
Jesus answered and said, “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah: for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you, that you are Peter [PETROS, a rock].” Then He says, “Upon this rock [PETRA] …”
People have all kinds of interpretations of this that He’s talking about building the church on Peter. He’s not going to build the church on Peter. Jesus is talking about Himself. He’s the Rock. He’s the Cornerstone. He is that foundation stone that Isaiah talks about. He is God, the Rock that Moses talked about.
So He says, “On this Rock.” He’s referring to Himself. “I will build My church.” He’s the foundation stone. You build something on the foundation. He’s talking about Himself. He says, “The gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
Then He says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” is the gospel. Those who believe are going to be saved. Those who don’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah will not. He says, “whatever you bind on earth will already have been bound in heaven.” Heaven has announced that those who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah will not be saved. Those who do believe will be saved. So whatever you bind, you bind those who are going to go to Heaven; it has already been determined in Heaven that those who believe will be saved. Whatever you loose on earth, those are the ones you let go. These are the ones who have rejected Christ as the Messiah; they will be loosed, on earth, that is, rejected because they did not trust in Christ as Savior.
Why? Because the decree was that those who believe will go to Heaven and those who do not believe will not. John 3:18, “He that believes on Him is not condemned: but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he does not believe in the name of the only begotten son of God.”
So we have these references to the stones and we have passages in the Old Testament that constantly talk about God as the Living God. As Joshua is giving his pep talk to the Israelites before they go into the land, he says, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you.” You’re going to drive out all the enemies in the land.
Jeremiah 10:10, “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.”
Psalm 42:2, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
Then in the New Testament Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:10, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men [unlimited atonement], especially of those who believe.”
So with that we’ve come to an understanding of the beginning of this important section dealing with what we have in Christ, and especially for those who are Jewish-background believers. It has a greater resonance for them.
It doesn’t give them more. It just has more significance, more meaning, before they have the Old Testament promises and covenants as a reminder of who and what they were supposed to have accomplished in the Old Testament period. “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by man, but chosen by God and precious.”
Next time we’ll talk about this, being rejected among men but being chosen by God and precious. We’ll begin there next Thursday night.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to be reminded that all of Scripture is integrated together. We see this done in a remarkable and sophisticated way by Peter in this passage. It helps us to understand the fullness of who Jesus is and all that we have in the body of Christ.
We have truly been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”