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Royal Priests to God
1 Peter 2:5–9
1 Peter Lesson #060
August 11, 2016
Prayer Request: Slide 2
Jim Myers is here and I want you to know they have a new address for their ministry:
James F. Myers Ministries
2828 West Holcombe Blvd., Unit N,
Houston, Texas 77025
As you know, we all have tests and Jim Myers Ministries is going through a couple of tests this summer. It’s nothing the Lord can’t handle, though. Jim’s business manager, Dick Mills went home to be with the Lord earlier this summer, so they had to reorganize some of the responsibility stateside and the Lord has provided very well in filling that gap.
This week on Monday night there was a break-in at the [Word of God Bible] College and they stole the safe and the thieves got a substantial amount of money. It was in cash because that’s how things have to operate there now. They also got all of their business documents. These are documents related to being able to do what they do in Kiev, including their lease agreement. You know, things of that nature that are important to have and are difficult to replace. So you need to be in prayer for the fact that the Lord will resupply those finances. It’s the Lord’s money and the Lord can supply that money just as well a second time, as He did the first time.
I would encourage you to pray about it and to see if you can help them with finances. I’m talking not just talking about the congregation here, but also those who are listening on video and live streaming that if the Lord has provided for you in a way that you can give above and beyond your normal giving in order to help meet this need, then I would encourage you to pray about it and give it serious consideration. We can trust the Lord to provide all these things. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. This is not anything that is too difficult for Him. It’s just from our perspective a little bit of a speed bump, but it’s an opportunity to trust Him.
“Father, we’re so thankful that You are a great and magnificent God. And as Jim has taught several lessons here this summer, that You are omniscient and omnipotent and that there is nothing that we face in life that is unknown by You and that You have not prepared for, Father.
You are a great God and too often we are caught up with the details of our own lives and forget Your immensity, Your greatness, and Your glory. Father, we recognize that You control all things, and that these little speed bumps that Jim’s ministry has experienced this summer are just opportunities for You to demonstrate Your grace and Your goodness to that ministry. We’re thankful for all that they do and for his faithfulness and we pray that You would continue to supply their needs and to resupply that which has been taken and that this will not be an overwhelming problem but one that can be easily remedied.
Father, we pray for us as we face trials, tribulations, difficulties, and heartaches in life that we may always be reminded that these are designed to teach us to go to You. We do not know all the facts whenever we hit a difficult time, no matter how hard it is. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we get upset. Sometimes we just get depressed or discouraged because our plans and our agenda don’t conform to Yours.
We know what You’re trying to do is to get our attention. Father we pray that You would help us to be mindful in each of the circumstances that we need to be learning the lesson of trusting You and relying upon You and being obedient to You.
Father, as we continue our study in 1 Peter we pray You will help us to understand what Peter is trying to communicate and the implications for our spiritual lives. We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen. “
I don’t know about you but I always get a little nervous when I’m here and we’re hearing the thunder outside. Some of you were here that night about eight years ago when it started doing this about the time class started. By the time the class was over at 8:30 the streets surrounding the church were filled with about a foot and a half of water.
Nobody could get out. Some people tried but they had to come back and we didn’t make it home till midnight. I don’t think it’s supposed to be like that tonight, but who knows, maybe the Lord decided we need some social life after Bible class tonight.
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 2 and also 1 Peter 2. We’ll start in 1 Peter with just some review but we’re going to go into Ephesians 2 pretty rapidly, because that connects back to what we are examining in context tonight.
In 1 Peter 2 we are engaged in this study that seems to have a particular resonance with these Jewish-background believers. It’s important to understand this because what Peter is doing is not saying, as I’ve indicated in the last few weeks, that this is something unique and distinct to these Jewish-background believers. It’s true for all believers. That’s what Ephesians 2:12 through 22 or 25 actually establishes.
It is special to these Jewish-background believers, though, because of their history, because of their tradition, because of their background, and because of their understanding of the Old Testament that this has a particular significance to them. I think that’s why Peter’s bringing this up and why he is going to these verses, because there was something that was true of the Jews in the Old Testament in terms of that they were to be a kingdom or actually royal priests. That’s the same language, same verbiage we have here in 1 Peter 2 that that they never fulfilled as a nation.
They were to be a priest–nation to all of the other nations. They’ll fulfill that in the Kingdom. They’ll fulfill that when the Lord returns and establishes His throne in Jerusalem. Right now we’re not living in the Old Testament period. We’re not living in a New Covenant age. The sacrifice for the New Covenant was made at the Cross, but the New Covenant is not initiated until Jesus comes back.
We’ve done extensive studies in the past, showing that that when you look at passages that resonate with New Covenant language, that it shows that the New Covenant itself isn’t put into effect. It doesn’t begin yet. It’s not this “already not yet view” that’s out there today. The New Covenant itself does not go into effect, until there is the Messiah on the Davidic throne and the people of Israel are back in the historic homeland that God has given.
Those are always the conditions that we see in the Scripture, that those things all come together and therefore we cannot be seeing the New Covenant in any way, shape, or form today. We are in preparation for it in terms of our spiritual life.
Every now and then I get questions from people that ask why Paul said we’re ministers of the New Covenant. That is because those who are saved today under the Church Age gospel will participate in the fullness of blessing when the New Covenant is established in the Kingdom.
This is then the issue of Christ saying at the Lord’s Table, “This is the new covenant of My blood.” That’s the sacrifice that establishes the New Covenant, but that doesn’t begin the New Covenant. He just establishes the sacrifice that is the basis for that covenant.
In 1 Peter 2 the focal point is on spiritual growth. That spiritual growth is the basis of the command in verse two that we are to “crave”. We are designed to desire the milk of the Word and that’s such an important thing.
Last year we talked about having a Bible reading challenge to people and we put that up on the DBM website. A lot of people are following through with reading the Scripture through on a regular daily basis. Some people have already finished reading through the whole Bible. They sped up. Other people are consistently plodding along.
I get reports every now and then that people are realizing things in the Scripture that they never knew were there because they never read the Bible. I’ve been meeting with a young man for the last year or so and he was trying to start a ministry when we were first talking about 15 or 16 months ago. I asked him if he had ever read the Bible all the way through. He said “no” and we talked about that a little bit and then one day he said I really got convicted last night thinking about that that. He said, “Here I want to start a ministry and I’ve never read the Bible all the way through.”
You might say that you want to live the Christian life and you’ve never read the Bible all the way through. That is something that can be said for many people, and this is the most important thing. Jim [Myers] gave a great message Sunday morning and talked about the fact that that Scripture indicates that we’re to remember the mighty things that the Lord has done. It’s hard to remember something you’re ignorant of and the mighty things that are in the Scripture are the mighty things that are repeated again and again in the Scripture.
They don’t compare with some of the things that we focus on in our day-to-day lives. At times we think we’re sure glad the Lord protected us when we could’ve gotten that speeding ticket the other day, or the Lord protected us from getting involved in that accident. Or maybe we were going to get into a business deal and it turned out later that it wasn’t so good. The Lord protected us and those things are all true and fine. They pale in significance to the historic great and wonderful acts of God.
It doesn’t say that the apostles spoke or proclaimed the gospel on the Day of Pentecost. It doesn’t say that. A lot of people read that into the text. It doesn’t say that. I think they talked about the wonderful works of God. I think what they did was they talked about those wonderful works in the Old Testament and tied everything together so the people could understand what those two disciples on the road to Emmaus came to understand and that is that from Genesis to Malachi everything talked about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Everything talked about the Messiah, but to be able to do that you have to know the Bible, you have to be reminded of these things and that doesn’t just happen. It’s not just, “I read my Bible through this year.” That’s great. Then three years later, you say, “I think I’ll read it through again,” It doesn’t work that way. We need to know the Word. We need to crave the Word. We need to desire it more than anything else.
When you die, that’s the only thing that is going to go with you and transition from this life to the next. We’re going to get a resurrection body. We’re going to get eternal life and are going to get a lot of things that are different.
We’re not going to take any money with us or your degrees or my degrees. All of those things we’ve accomplished in this life are not going to go with us. The one thing that transitions is our knowledge of the Word and the Bible doctrine that’s in our soul.
That Bible doctrine that in our soul isn’t just what we learned academically. It’s what we’ve applied, and we have drilled on again and again and again. If you’ve ever been involved with sports or you’ve ever been involved with music or you’ve ever been involved with any kind of dance or athletics, you know for one thing that you can’t master something if you don’t practice it, and practice it, and practice it.
The old adage that “practice makes perfect” is wrong. Perfect practice makes perfect. If we’re practicing what is wrong that’s what gets embedded in our soul. We’ve got to practice the faith-rest drill and those other spiritual skills over and over and over again.
What I see happen so many times in life is when folks get older, whether they’re in their 30s or 40s or 50s, they have a blowout on their road to sanctification and spiritual maturity because they confused academic knowledge of the Word with practicing it and implementing it day-to-day. And then suddenly something happens and life blows up on them. They get upset with God because they really didn’t internalize and practice. They just have a lot of nice organized notebooks.
That’s the focal point here, it’s growing and carrying out the ministry that God has given us. That’s what Peter develops when he talks about priesthood in 1 Peter 2:4–9.
We look at those verses that we are to come to Him. Actually it should be understood “since coming to Him as to a living stone” and that living stone is Jesus who was rejected by men, but “choice”. We will see that should be translated, “by God, choice and precious.”
“You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.”
Now what we’ve seen here in terms of interpretation is that the body of Christ is comprised of Gentiles and Jews. Peter’s writing to Jews. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to Gentiles. All members of the body of Christ are equal. The Jews are a subset. The remnant of the Jews is who Paul talks about in Romans 11:5 and that’s the audience. But what he says that applies to them as Church Age believers also applies to all believers.
So we come to Jesus, and as I pointed out, He’s the living stone who is rejected by men.
Then there are these words put together on this slide. One thing I wanted to bring up again is this word EKLEKTOS, which has been historically translated as “elect”. You’ll even have perhaps memorized at one point in time that there are several elections in Scripture. There’s the election of Israel, which I think is true. Then Jesus is elect, which isn’t true because the idea of election has the idea of making a selection of one out of others.
Think about that. What others would God the Father have chosen Jesus from? From what group would He have selected Jesus? It’s a select group of one. Therefore, it’s not like an election where you’re choosing one from many. The emphasis here in context is talking about His choiceness, His quality, and His excellence.
We see from the quote in Isaiah and the quote here that the words that are used that surround this are words that also talk about His preciousness and His value. He’s tried and that’s important. Isaiah 28:16, as I pointed out, calls them a tried and approved stone, a precious cornerstone, and a sure foundation.
All of those relate to His quality and His excellence and not that He has been chosen for a specific task from among others. There are no others!
So the language that we see behind 1 Peter 2:4–5 and from Isaiah 28:16 and Isaiah 8:14, which talks about that the stone of stumbling and rock of offense, are relating this to the Messiah.
1 Peter 2:5 says that “you yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I think understanding this is really a key to understanding the next three verses, because the next three verses are giving quotes from the Old Testament to substantiate what he is saying here.
This is talking about something that is being constructed, not in our spiritual lives, but in terms of the church, the body of Christ, that we’re being built up a spiritual house. I know that getting into the grammar gets confusing, but if you don’t understand what the text is saying in the original, then it can get confusing because you’re misapplying what you think it says. It doesn’t say what you thought it said.
It’s confusing with Peter.
He talks about being built up a spiritual house. This word “spiritual house”, because it’s in the nominative case, can’t be the object of being built up.
It has to be understood as relating to an appositional description, which is another description of what these living stones are. I think that it should be moved up to the front of the verse.
“You yourselves also a spiritual house.” That’s what we are. It’s a building project and the Holy Spirit is the building engineer. [Pause when it starts raining: I’ve got to look outside too when all of a sudden it starts raining. I see everybody turn and start looking towards the window. I pastored a church in Irving, Texas back in the late 80s. It was in a YMCA and had about a 15-, 16-foot ceiling and the entire wall of the church was glass and looked out on the parking lot. Church started about 10:30 and it was Easter morning, Resurrection Day, and just about 10:45, 15 minutes into the message, it started snowing. Everybody was looking outside, so we had to stop and pay attention to the snow for a few minutes. Yes it was snowing in Dallas, Texas on Resurrection Day in the middle of the spring. This never happens there. Yes it’s raining outside here now. Probably won’t last.]
Okay, we’re being built. We are a spiritual house. That’s what we are. That’s what the church is, the body of Christ. The body of Christ is one metaphor that’s used to talk about the church as a living organism with Christ as the head. We’re the members and that’s one analogy that Paul uses.
Here we see this other analogy that it’s like a house. We’re going to ask the question in a minute, what kind of house? As living stones we’re being built up to a living priesthood.
Now this is where Ephesians 2 comes in. So let’s turn back to Ephesians 2 and just briefly review what we looked at last time, because this is so important for controlling our understanding of what is happening in the body of Christ today.
We started in verse 14. We summarized this and basically what we’ve seen is that there are two barriers that are indicated in this section. One barrier is a barrier that exists between Jew and Gentile in the Old Testament that was described as the barrier of the Law. The other barrier is the barrier that exists between man, the Jew and Gentile, and God.
Jesus in His death destroys both of those barriers so that that the dividing wall, as the text says, between Jew and Gentile is now removed. That distinction that existed in the Old Testament is not there anymore. I pointed out in verse 18, “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” The “we both” is Jew and Gentile. We both have access by one Spirit.
Later on in Ephesians chapter 4 Paul is going to talk about the fact that it’s one body. It’s one Spirit. We have a unity in the body of Christ. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” The one baptism there is not saying that the baptism by the Holy Spirit is the only baptism and there’s no water baptism. Because the water baptism is a physical, visual aid for teaching about Spirit baptism.
Spirit baptism is a very abstract idea and so water baptism helps us to understand this profound doctrine related to positional truth or our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
Then there is a shift and he begins to talk about these citizens that were no longer strangers and foreigners but were fellow citizens with others, Jew and Gentile, members of this household of God. There we get this idea of a house again and that it’s built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
So that helps us to understand this building idea. Well, what kind of building is this? That’s developed when we get into the next couple of verses. Ephesians 2:21 starts off, “In whom [that’s a reference back to Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone] the whole building [that’s this new edifice that’s being developed through the living stones, you and me, through the living stones that are constructing this new house] the whole building being fitted together grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” This new building is a spiritual temple.
Let’s review a couple of things related to what we’re studying here. First of all, in the Old Testament we had a physical building that was originally a tent, a mobile home, going through the wilderness that was a dwelling place for God.
Then once they entered into the land they had a semi-permanent location at Shiloh for probably 300 to 350 years. Then there was a period when the ark went on … well, God decided He wanted to go on a little walk and went on a little travel through the Gaza Strip and came back. He brought Himself back without any help from man, showing that He’s perfectly capable of taking care of Himself.
When He came back, the ark … we’re not really sure where it was kept, but it may have been kept just a little west of the Temple Mount. It may have been kept at Nob. Scripture really isn’t clear until David brings it. It’s at the home of Obededom for a little while. Then it’s brought somewhere near, a vicinity near the Temple Mount for a few years.
Then it’s put into the temple, a permanent structure built by Solomon. That temple was beautiful. It was just amazing. People would come from all over the world to see this magnificent temple that was designed not to give glory to the architect. That’s what happens in the second temple when Herod the Great decides to remodel the temple so that it would be the eighth wonder of the ancient world and everybody would come and ooh and aah over what Herod built.
This was designed to reflect the magnificence and the glory of God, so that when people came they would reflect upon the majesty of God, and upon the greatness of God, and upon His grace and provision to Israel.
If you went on to the Temple Mount precinct you would discover that there were certain social divisions that were in effect for those who wanted to worship God. If you were a Gentile, you could only go so far. If you were a Jewish woman you could go a little bit further. If you were a Jewish male, you could go a little bit further still.
If you were a priest you could get a little bit further and then if you were the high priest, you could go into the Holy of Holies once a year where God dwelt between the cherubim. There were these distinctions that were made in relation to their closeness to God.
Now part of this is showing that these divisions have broken down because in a second point, it’s through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we become one in the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:4 talks about one body, Jew and Gentile alike. That’s further explained in Galatians 3:26–28. We’re “all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This, though, is empowered and energized by God the Holy Spirit. He’s the one who’s building this temple.
Ephesians 2:22 says, “In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:13 you have references to the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. I think both of those places are talking about the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit in each individual believer.
Romans 8 also talks about the Holy Spirit indwelling each individual believer, but here it’s talking about the Holy Spirit, Who is energizing the church. The Greek phrase is EN PNEUMATI, which I think almost always indicates when “in” is used with “the Spirit” that God the Holy Spirit is doing something or is being used by God to do something.
Back to 1 Peter 2:5. Here we see that there’s something left out of the new King James Version. It’s usually added or is accurately translated in the New American Standard Version and some other modern translations that are updated. It expresses the goal “to a holy priesthood”. There’s a preposition there. That’s why there’s a difference between the New King James, which puts spiritual house, a holy priesthood appositionally when they’re both different grammatical forms and don’t relate to each other.
We’re being built up to something. There is a training here. We have a priesthood, but we are training now in the use of that priesthood because of where we’re going in terms of the future. It’s not an emphasis on the present reality of that priesthood as much as it is an emphasis on the training in that priesthood today in light of where we’re going.
In Revelation, as we will see, we are going to be a kingdom, priests to God. In other verses it describes us as kings and priests. It’s a little different terminology, a little bit different word than what’s used in 1 Peter 2:9 for a royal priesthood. It’s the same root, but it’s a different form of the word and we’ll look at that in just a minute.
The purpose for this training right now is to offer up spiritual sacrifices. We talked about this last time. It’s a sacrifice of praise. We should be training ourselves to learn how to offer up the sacrifice of praise. I don’t think this is just limited to singing, although that’s definitely part of it. I think it’s also expressed through the things that we say.
We live in a somewhat superficial, sentimental time in Christianity. People don’t take the time to think very deeply or profoundly about their own spiritual life or their walk with the Lord. Often what we see are “share groups” or home Bible studies. Different things like that are a rather off-the-cuff, top-of-the-head kinds of expressions. “Oh, let me think of something or say something. I want to hear my own voice expressing something that God did for me in the last week.”
That may be true but when you read Scripture as we heard Sunday morning when Jim Myers emphasized that the more you read Scripture and you read through the Psalms for yourself, it should elevate the quality of the kinds of things that you express when you are talking about what God has done in your life. That becomes a pattern and a model for how we should express praise to God.
We can declare our praise. One way we talk about the Psalms is declarative praise. We declare what God has done. Another way that we do it is that we describe it, and we give thanks to God for what He has done. There are more than just the trivial things although you know God takes care of the details in our lives. Often the reason we go to trivial things is simply because that’s the easiest, that’s the simplest, and we haven’t given it a whole lot of thought. We don’t want to be caught flat-footed and we want to say something.
We need to think. I know when I was younger and growing up, working in a ministry, working at Camp Peniel and in other ministries, I would hear people talk about having a quiet time and sometimes that was denigrated a little bit as, “Well, you’re not really doing real Bible study if you’re just having a 30-minute devotional.”
The older I get the more I realize that when I get up in the morning and I get my cup of coffee and I cook my breakfast real quick and go sit down in my chair and I get through with breakfast, it’s then when I open my Bible and I spend the next 30 minutes just thinking about the Word. I’m thinking about the Lord and I’m writing down things, underlining the Scripture, and making notes and thinking about it at more than a superficial level, that my morning seems to go just a whole lot better.
Better than if I get up in the morning, as someone here pointed out not too long ago, if I get up in the morning and read Breitbart and Drudge Report and look at the mainstream media, I start the day more than a little out of fellowship.
It’s important to have that time because it focuses us and our focus should be on the Word. It’s not something we need to hurry through. We need to make time for it. That’s part of the spiritual sacrifices that we make when we’re giving thanks and praise and giving financially. All of these are part of the ways that we serve the Lord.
Our life is to be a living sacrifice and that doesn’t mean this sense that we’ve given something up—that we gave this up for God or I feel some loss in my life. What’s essential to the idea of sacrifice is giving something to God for His service and the idea that I may feel a loss or not is not significant.
I know that you had the same experience that I’ve had. Some of you have done this with your kids. Some of you have done it with somebody else. Somebody comes along and you know they have a financial need and you give them a hundred bucks or a couple hundred bucks or maybe more, you say, “Well, I guess I just won’t go out to dinner tonight.” Other times it makes no impact whatsoever on your plans and ideas. You just had the money when they needed it. You just gave it to them and moved on. You didn’t give them a second thought.
That’s as much a sacrifice in giving to God as thinking you won’t go out to eat or you won’t go buy that new “whatever it is this” month. You’ll have to wait until next month. Sometimes we feel a sense of loss. Sometimes we don’t, but that idea of a sense of loss is about as relevant to sacrifice as how you feel is relevant to your confession of sin. It’s may be there or it may not be there.
That’s not what sacrifice is talking about. So we give sacrifices. We do this as a part of our priesthood.
Let’s go over a few points related to what a priest is in the Scripture. First of all, all Church Age believers, Jew and Gentile alike, are set apart to God. We are positionally holy. “Holy” is one of those words that so many people today don’t use and don’t know. That’s been true for a long time. We overuse words and then they lose their significance and meaning. So we don’t understand “holy”. Holy means to be set apart to the service of God.
When we go back into the Old Testament we realize that for the vessels in the temple to be used in the service of the temple they had to be cleansed. Before a priest could serve the Lord in the ministry in the temple he had to be cleansed. He had to come in and go to the laver and wash his hands and wash his feet.
Jesus uses that same imagery when he talks to Peter in John 13. He says if you don’t let Me wash your hands and your feet, which is a depiction of experiential cleansing, you won’t have any inheritance with Me in the Kingdom. So it’s pretty serious.
We have to be cleansed. That relates to experiential cleansing. In Exodus 19:6 God said of the Jewish people, of the Israelites, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests.” You could translate that “royal priests”. The part of speech there clearly can indicate royal priests and a holy nation, a nation set apart to My service. The whole nation was to have a priestly function in relation to the rest of the world. We’ll look at that in more detail in a minute.
In Ephesians 1:4, Paul says of Church Age believers, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” We’re to be set apart before Him. What’s true of the Israelites and the Jews under the Mosaic Law is also true of Church Age believers.
The church isn’t replacing Israel. It is that both are peoples of God, and that they are being used by God in different ways. To be used by God, and to serve Him, they both have to be holy.
A second thing that we learn about the priesthood is that every Church Age believer has direct access to God. This relates to the basic definition of a priesthood: the difference between a prophet and a priest. A prophet represents God to men and a priest represents men to God. That’s the core functional difference between the two.
The priest represents men to God so he is bringing sacrifices and offerings on the part of people to God in order to praise God and to provide for Him. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that the priesthood has access to God. In the Church Age our priesthood has direct access to God. That’s every believer. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.” Why? Because we have a High Priest who is passed through the heavenlies and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. So because of that we can intercede. We can pray for ourselves and bring our petitions before the Lord and we can intercede for others.
A third thing that we learn about Church Age believer priests is that we are to offer our life as a living sacrifice to God. Our lives should be an offering of service to God. We’re here to serve Him. We’re not here to serve our own selfish pleasures. That doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy life. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good time, that you can’t pursue a career, that you can’t engage in the hobbies and the fun things that you like to, but it’s all under the umbrella of serving God.
In Romans 12:1 Paul says, “I beseech you, I beg you, I plead with you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God …” That’s grace orientation. If we understand grace, we can understand service. Not like a lot of legalists and a lot of churches that want to have you get involved in what they believe is Christian service, which basically means teaching Sunday school or helping out in the kitchen or going on visitation or something like that before you know anything.
In my first church I had some guy tell me, “If you want to build this church, as soon as you get a visitor in the church you give them a responsibility.” Why should I do that? They don’t know anything and I’m not even sure they’re a believer. That’s how the world operates in terms of building an organization in the flesh.
We are to present our bodies. Why does Paul say bodies? He doesn’t say mind. The next verse he talks about renewing our thinking. But here he talks about our bodies because that represents the whole person. Your mind is inside your body and when you talk about your body, you’re talking about not only your overt actions and what you do and where you go, but also the thinking that goes behind it. So by using the term “bodies”, he’s talking about the whole person.
You are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice”. That’s that sacrifice of service, holy, set apart unto God. And it’s acceptable to God, not because of what we’ve done, but because we possess the perfect righteousness of Christ. We’ve been positionally sanctified so we can do that. Then he says this is your LOGIKON. That’s the same word used for the Word of God and in 1 Peter 2:2. It’s that reasonableness. It’s that that rational expression of truth.
Once we understand that, we understand we’re to serve the Lord in lots of different ways. I’ve been encouraged over the years as I watch people in this congregation take the initiative to develop ministries, some small, some not so small. They just wanted to serve the Lord in some capacity. That’s so much better when it happens that way than for the pastor or the deacons in the church to come and say something needs to be done. There’s nothing wrong with this either.
A lot of churches have programs. In and of itself that’s not wrong. It’s just a structured way of doing something, but it’s the way they approach it. That’s the problem or can be the problem. It’s always something that’s initiated from the top down. We need to have a missions project and we’re going to start recruiting people to support this mission’s project, rather than somebody coming up with a desire to go do X, Y, or Z with a missionary opportunity. They ask, “Now what do I need to do in order to get that going?”
Or maybe they say, “I’d like to do something with the Child Evangelism Fellowship? Who do I talk to? How can I get involved?” Where the individual, as a result of their own spiritual growth, is taking the initiative to serve the Lord is much more effective than to have it come from the top down in terms of church leadership. Every believer is to offer his life as a living sacrifice to God.
Fourth, all believers, Jew and Gentile, are equal in access to God because we have been placed “in Christ”. That’s positional truth. Some people call it identification truth. It’s the same thing that we’re identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. We’re a new creature in Christ and because of that we have new privileges, we have new responsibilities, and we have a new destiny.
So this is what Peter is saying in verse five, “As living stones, spiritual house, you are being built up into a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We talked about that last time and a little bit just a few minutes ago.
Then we see verse six starts with a “therefore” and verse seven starts with a “therefore”. That tells us that we ought to see why he’s doing that. He’s quoting these Old Testament passages in order to show a comparison that this is some of the things of God predicted in the Old Testament, what He was doing, and now we are seeing this take place within our own lifetime.
So in verse six, Peter 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 …[Notice that identifies the cornerstone as a person] will by no means be put to shame.’ ”
Now he gets this language from Isaiah 28:16. I had the slide up here last week and this week from the new King James Version and also from the NET Bible, the New English Translation, to show the source for this language. God says, “the Lord God [Yahweh Elohim] says behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation.”
In the midst of Isaiah’s prophecy in this chapter, chapter 28, there’s been a strong condemnation of the religious leaders who led the people into apostasy and idolatry. Now what God is saying is He’s pointing to His gracious provision that even though He’s going to bring judgment on Israel for their apostasy, He still hasn’t deserted them. He’s going to provide a solution.
Let me remind you of something that it’s easy for us to forget. Sometimes when things happen that are not what we want, we look at them and think, “My life is just going to be destroyed.” Maybe you’ve received a diagnosis of cancer. Or maybe you’ve had an unexpected death of a loved one, or maybe you discovered that there is a very real chance with the oil downturn that you may or may not have a job in another month or less.
These kinds of things tend to rock us to our very core. They tend to scare a lot of us, and it’s an opportunity for us to trust in the Lord. Whether it’s divine judgment that may come our way for bad decisions or some sin in our life or whether just because God is testing us or training us, the solution is the same. Just make sure you’re in fellowship, walking by the Spirit, and applying the Word. That doesn’t mean it’ll go away.
Let me tell you, there are people that I know and you know that I don’t know how they do it. Every time I talk to them it’s another disease, it’s another job loss, it’s another disaster, or it’s another problem. Some people always seem to be happy. They know that the Lord is providing. They’ve grown and they’ve learned in those situations. Other people, they hit a couple of big speed bumps and it’s like running into a brick wall and they just go to pieces.
The Lord is training us. The Lord was training Israel by bringing discipline on them for their sin. He said that He was going to provide a solution and that solution is going to be this foundation. A foundation stone is something that is solid. It’s compared to a cornerstone, that which is critical to upholding all of the architecture.
It’s a tried stone. That means it’s been tested; it has been approved; it can carry the weight; it can handle it. It is a stone of proving in the Hebrew. It’s precious, valuable, and significant. It is precious because of what it does, what it provides. It’s a sure foundation.
And then the issue becomes clear in the last line, “Whoever believes will not have panicked.” I like that way the NET translates that, “the one who maintains his faith [in the midst of disaster] will not panic.” They’re going to be able to survive the difficulty and bring glory to the Lord.
This is a focal point there. This is why Peter is quoting this. He’s talking about this cornerstone. That’s the focal point going back to verse four, the living stone. What living stone is this? It’s the one that Isaiah talked about that is the chief cornerstone who is choice and precious. This is where he got that language in verse four. Therefore, it is also contained in Scripture, in verse six: “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone.”
Then in verse seven we read, “Therefore, to you.” It’s a second “therefore.” It’s another application.
The conclusion here is related to how you respond to that Cornerstone. You have a choice. Some are going to believe in the Cornerstone. Others are not going to believe in the Cornerstone. That’s the issue in all of life. The Cornerstone is a reference to the Messiah. Over and over again in the prophets there’s this reference to the Messiah as a stone and as a cornerstone.
In 1 Peter 2:7, Peter says, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.” He’s precious to God. He’s valuable to God. “To those who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient …”
The text says, “the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” That’s from Psalm 118:22, which I have at the bottom of the slide now. We studied that historic event in context and historically that referred to the event of Israel coming back into the land, building the second temple, and dedicating the second temple.
They had been overlooked and trodden down by the big empires, the empire builders. That’s who the builders represent, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians. These little bitty Jews are in the way. Well, they’re just in the way and as these nations came through, they conquered all these other people and they relocated them throughout their empires.
But something unique happened with Israel. They are brought back, and God is restoring them to that place where they will be a cornerstone in history. That’s the original context of Psalm 118:22. By the way in verse 24, it says, “Behold this is the day that the Lord has made.” That’s another verse that gets trivialized by a lot of folks who don’t pay attention to the context. It’s not talking about waking up in the morning and the sun’s coming up and it’s a bright day and, “Golly, it got down to 76 last night.” We’ve had a hot summer because the lows in the morning are 81 and 82. If we get a 76 in the morning we feel a little bit refreshed.
That’s not what this is talking about. It’s not talking about waking up in the morning and having a good cup of coffee and the day’s going to look good. We feel refreshed. Maybe got down to 60 in the morning and we’re cool. It’s not talking about that.
It’s not talking about that day. In context in Psalm 118 it’s the day of rejoicing that the temple has been rebuilt and that God has restored His worship in Israel and is restoring Israel to their plan. This is something significant. This is like the Fourth of July. This is a huge celebration. It’s a great day. It’s a significant day and it’s applied prophetically to when the Lord returns at the Second Coming, and establishes His Kingdom.
Now those are great days. These are not just a good day because I’m getting out of bed and my name is not in the obituaries today. So the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief Cornerstone. Then he quotes in verse eight from Isaiah 8:14. Isaiah 8:14 talks about, “He will be as a sanctuary.” That’s the Messiah again. He will be as a sanctuary, a holy place, a dwelling for God.
He will be as a sanctuary, but for those who don’t believe, He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel. There’s that prediction that they’re going to reject Him. To both the houses of Israel He is a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
So Peter takes that and he applies it and reminds them that there can be some who believe. There will be some who are disobedient. Those who are disobedient saw the Cornerstone, rejected Him and stumbled over Him.
He was offensive to them. And the reason they stumbled was they were disobedient to the Word to which they also were appointed. I think that’s real important. Gentiles were not appointed to the Word. Israel was appointed. They were the custodians of the Scripture. So again, this reminds us that Peter is talking to Jewish-background believers.
Now I drew this little chart to illustrate that verse. He talks about the Cornerstone. To God He is choice and precious. To the believer they are not put to shame. No matter what happens in life when we get to the Judgment Seat of Christ, we’re going to see how it all worked out. “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” We may look at things in this life and think that God’s not paying attention. I’m mad at Him. But guess what, God is still in control.
We just don’t know all the facts. We don’t know everything that’s going together. We don’t know that God isn’t taking us through this because somebody in our periphery that we don’t know anything about is watching us and it gives us an opportunity to be a great witness and testimony to God’s grace in the midst of difficult times.
The believer is not put to shame and to the believer the Cornerstone is choice. To the disobedient, they reject the stone and the stone is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. What we see here is that Peter has made his point back in verse 5 and that we are being built up. We are a spiritual house that is being built up toward a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices. That’s the present tense. We’re functioning as priests now, but we’re learning for something in the future.
That sets the parameters for our interpretation because when we get to this next verse we get into some difficulties. One of the difficulties is that some people in church history who believe that the church has completely replaced Israel and argue that the church is an entity to replace Israel look at this and say, “See Peter is saying that Israel is no longer the chosen nation, the chosen generation, or holy nation; they’ve been replaced by the church. He takes this language from Exodus 19 and he applies it to the church.”
We ran into the same kind of problem when we were looking at Matthew 21:23 when Jesus says to the Pharisees that you are going to see this judgment, but God is to take this away from you and give it to another nation. Some people said see that’s the end of Israel. They are replaced by this new nation, the church.
We have to be careful with the language here. I think that what Peter is doing here is he is showing an analogy that just as God called Israel to be a chosen, actually a choice generation with an emphasis on quality, a royal priesthood. That’s the same language that we have in the Greek Septuagint and from the Old Testament. “… a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
What he is saying is, in the Old Testament if you are Jewish, you’re under the Mosaic Law; you’re going to be in a priesthood. Part of that priesthood was to proclaim the greatness of God, the One who called you out of darkness into a marvelous light.
Paul uses that same language: that we’re to shine His light in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation as believers over in Philippians 2. What Peter is saying is, this is true in terms of who they were as Jews. But now they’re in Christ. They’re in this new spiritual temple and it’s even more true in this new spiritual temple.
One of the things that I’ve seen come along here that I just wanted to briefly touch on is the use of this word “nation” here. What’s happened because of Replacement Theology and the big battle taking place right now to try to fight Replacement Theology, is that there have been people who have argued that the church is not a nation. I think they’ve taken this word too technically. The way they support this is from a passage in Romans 10—towards the end in Romans 10:19. I’ve seen this in more than one place where someone has argued that while you see the church isn’t a nation, this can’t be applied to the church as a whole. It’s got to be applied only to the Jews because they are a nation. The church is not a nation.
Let’s go to this passage, Romans 10:19. What does Romans 10:19 say? Paul quotes from the Old Testament. Paul says to introduce his quote, “But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses says, …” and this is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:21. They only quote the first line. The first line says, “I will provoke you to jealousy [Israel]. I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation.”
That’s as far as they go in the quote. Now if you know Romans 11, you know that God says that He’s going to use the Gentiles in the church to provoke Israel to jealousy by blessing them [the Gentiles] through salvation. They immediately connect that to what Paul says in Romans 11. They say, “See, it says there ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation’.” Let’s read the next line. The next line is in synonymous parallelism. God says I will move you to anger by a foolish nation. In the first line it says they’re not a nation. The second line it says they are a foolish nation.
In one line they are a nation and in the second line they’re not a nation. So you can’t use this. You can’t pull a phrase out of context and argue that Romans 10:19 says that the church is not a nation. It doesn’t work that way. It has other implications. In the Hebrew you have two different words that are used there. You have the word am and goy in Hebrew, but they’re used in poetry. They are synonyms of one another so you can’t apply a technical language.
I think this is a problem sometimes we get into in exegesis, especially when we’re fighting a heretical doctrine, we tend to get too myopic in the text to try to make it answer a question that it’s not addressing. It’s not making that point about Replacement Theology at all. It’s just making an analogy between the distinctiveness of Israel in the Old Testament and the distinctiveness of Church Age believers and that these Jewish-background believers can realize their priesthood and their significance in the body of Christ in a way they never could have in the Old Testament.
Now when we look at the original in Exodus 19:5, it says, “Therefore if you will indeed obey My voice [that’s Israel] and keep My covenant then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people …” In the Hebrew that’s the word am. In the Greek it’s the word LAOS. “For all the earth is Mine.” The Septuagint actually adds, “You will be a special people from all the nations”. See, it’s using all these different terms in synonymous ways. They’re not distinguishing them in these kind of technical distinctions that are being imposed on them.
Verse 6, “And you shall me to me a kingdom of priests [royal priests] in a holy nation.” That’s ETHNOS. Sometimes people think that ETHNOS just refers to Gentiles in the New Testament because that’s the Greek word, but that’s not true. It can apply to Jews also.
Here’s the term “kingdom of priests”, this phrase BASILEION HEIRATEUMA that is found here in the Septuagint and it is translated “royal priests”. That’s what we are, where we get this terminology that we are royal priests is by application of Exodus 19:6 as it’s used.
Then we get into passages like Revelation 1:6, “And He has made us kings.” This is a little different form of the word. It’s not the word BASILEION. It’s the word BASILEIA and it means, “He has made us kings”, but literally here it’s a kingdom “comma” [there’s no “and”], priests to His God and Father.” The word BASILEIA can refer to king, a kingly rule, or a kingdom. He has made us a kingdom, priests to God.
Revelation 5:10 uses a slightly different form of the Greek word where it’s translated “And have made us kings and priests to our God.” That’s our destiny. We’re in training now. I think that’s what Peter is saying, that by learning to serve the Lord now, we’re in training, because when the Lord comes in His Kingdom, we are going to be fully functional royal priests. We’re going to be ruling and reigning and serving God with Him.
We need to be about our business of being trained now so that we have the capacity to serve Him at that point. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to reflect upon this passage and to be reminded that the thrust of this whole section is to serve You, to realize that our whole life is to be in service to You and that is in terms of training for the future. It’s predicated on growth, craving the milk of the Word, that we may grow to maturity so that we can serve You, Father. We are challenged by You and all the things that we are studying and thinking through, that we might realize more and more that our service to You is of greater value than anything else we do in life. And we pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”