Spiritual House, Holy Priesthood
1 Peter 2:4–5
1 Peter Lesson #059
August 4, 2016
“Father, we’re thankful we have You to come to in times of need, when we are very uncertain about the future and especially in this country: world events, the rise of militant Islam and ISIS, and the lack of leadership on the part of the leaders in many countries.
Father, we know that the only way that we can have security ultimately is through You and that all things are in Your control. Father we pray that You would guide and direct our leaders and that they would be responsive. That You would raise up men and women who know the truth and who will act on it; men and women of integrity and men and women of leadership ability.
Father above all, we pray for pastors and churches that will stand firm on the truth of Your Word and not back down and that they might challenge and encourage people in their congregations to do the same. We know that as goes the believer, so goes the nation.
Father, we pray that You would strengthen us with your Word tonight that we might be encouraged in terms of our own spiritual life in our own spiritual walk. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re continuing to work our way through 1 Peter and that this whole section is extremely significant. It continues to lay the foundation for what Peter is going to say as we go forward. Tonight we’re going to look at and finish up with verse four and get into verse five.
I thought, being somewhat ambitious this afternoon, that we might make it to verse eight, but after amassing about nine pages of notes just getting through verse five, I decided maybe I’ll just only get through one more verse tonight.
Let’s review a little bit about the context. Peter is going through a series of imperatives starting back in 1 Peter 1:13 and it’s around those imperatives that he is structuring what he is telling his recipients. The last imperative that we saw is in verse two, to desire the milk of the Word.
The precondition for doing that, based on the Greek grammar is to lay aside all malice, all deceit, all hypocrisy, and all evil speaking. It seems like every time I teach this, every now and then, I start getting e-mails or questions or something from somebody when I try to connect something to confession of sin.
If we think about this, both grammatically and logically, if the precondition for desiring or craving the Word and learning the Word and growing is to first remove all sin in our life, we’ll never get there because none of us can stop sinning. So this has to mean something else.
The idea in the imagery of the word is to take off an unclean garment and that indicates being cleansed. It’s another metaphor, another picture, for us of the importance of being cleansed from sin, which is the focal point of all of these various commands. Confession, then, in 1 John 1:9 describes what has to take place for cleansing to happen. It’s to confess to God the sin in our life and instantly we are forgiven of those sins and cleansed of all unrighteousness.
The command here is to “desire the milk of the Word, if you tasted that the Lord is gracious,” which is another way to talk about responding to the grace of God in our salvation and our justification.
Then Peter moves from that. It’s interesting because verses 4 through 10 seem to be a bit of a diversion in his thought. Actually the way Peter is thinking about the growth that takes place is what develops the function of our priesthood, which is what he’s developing in these next five, or six verses..
He starts off, “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious.” As I pointed out last time what we have here is a somewhat convoluted way of expressing this because this whole verse is a participial clause. You don’t get the main verb until you get down into verse five.
It’s like the trouble I always had reading German. The verb can come second but if you have a helping word that’s first, then the verb goes at the end of the sentence. If the sentence is four lines long you don’t know what the action word is until you get to the end of the sentence. Only people like that could fall for Hitler and his convoluted logic.
That’s what happens here. The focal point here is that Peter is saying that you … I think it’s descriptive. We’ll talk about that. It’s a little bit of an exegetical issue there. I think he’s describing that since [that participle as I pointed out last time should be translated as a temporal] talking about since the time that they were saved, since the time that they came to Jesus Who is described as the living stone.
Since then they have been growing. They are being built up by the Lord, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood for the purpose of offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Now that opens up a whole realm of application that is very important because we often don’t think of our lives as a sacrifice. One of the reasons we don’t is because we have a perverted human viewpoint concept of what sacrifice is.
People think that sacrifice means giving something up. But what we will see when we get into it is that praise, that is singing hymns to God, praising God and being thankful to Him, is considered a sacrifice of praise.
We don’t feel like we’re giving up anything when we are expressing our gratitude or thankfulness to God. The reason I say that is that shows that the way many people perceive sacrifice has somehow got to feel like “I’m giving up something for God and I’m doing something, and I’m hurting and somehow I’m feeling that I don’t have something that I ought to have.”
That’s the essence of sacrifice to most people but that’s not the essence of sacrifice in Scripture. It is offering something to God freely and it does not necessarily involve a sense of loss.
I pointed out last time that this is crucial to understanding this section. We have to understand the nature of the church, the body of Christ. This circle describes the body of Christ. It’s comprised of Gentiles and Jews, but the Jews are just a subset within the body of Christ. So the whole circle equals all Church Age believers who are equal members of the body of Christ.
There is no distinction. The Jews are a subset of the body of Christ and this is described by the term remnant. I don’t know where this came from or why we got it, but I have heard a number of people over the years talk about the believers in this country and describe them by the term remnant.
But if you are biblical, the term “remnant” only is used in the Bible to refer to the believers in Israel. The Old Testament remnant was the believers in the promise of the coming Messiah. Paul refers to himself in Romans 11:5 as a member of the remnant of Israel. That is, those Jews who trust in Jesus as Messiah.
So what applies to the remnant applies to the entire body of Christ. I think that’s what Peter is doing here. He’s talking to primarily Jewish background believers and he’s pointing out and reminding them of what their spiritual heritage was as Jews. That doesn’t mean that some of this doesn’t apply equally to Gentiles.
So back to our verse, “Coming to Him as to 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 acceptable to God through Christ.”
The main idea here is you’re being built up since the time that you were saved. As I pointed out last time we’re coming to Jesus as a living stone which sort of sounds like an oxymoron. Stones are not alive. Stones are inanimate, but this is a living stone and again and again in Scripture we see the Bible refer to God in the Old Testament as the living God in contrast to the inanimate gods of the pantheons of the various pagans.
The idols were made out of stone, wood, and metal. Today we have just as wicked gods but they are gods that are constructed in the mind. There are a lot of Christians who have never read much in the Bible or studied much about Jesus and they have an image of Jesus in their mind that is not biblical and it’s idolatrous. They have an image of God in their mind that’s not biblical. It’s idolatrous.
They also have lust patterns. Paul in Colossians, chapter 3 talks about greed as idolatry. So materialism is idolatrous. It’s not wrong to have things or enjoy things, but if the pursuit of material things, the pursuit of success, and the pursuit of all the things that money can buy takes precedence over the study of the Word of God and spiritual growth and serving God, then it becomes idolatrous.
In this opening verse Peter reminds them what has happened since they came to Him, that is to Jesus, as to a living stone. Then he’s going to unpack that and he uses the term “rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious”. What’s interesting is he’s going to quote verses from Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16.
That’s where this language comes from, but he sort of paraphrases or summarizes it at the beginning. That’s another reason I think that that he’s writing to Jewish-background believers. The text of 1 Peter is so loaded with Old Testament references. He’s presuming that they understand the meaning of these things.
That’s what we see in Judaism at the time. Often they would quote a verse or they would quote the first verse and expect their reader to know the whole Psalm or the whole chapter. In Judaism often they would just quote a part of a verse, and they’re really alluding to the whole thing.
We see a little bit of this, almost in reverse in passages in the New Testament. For example, in Hebrews chapter 8 when the writer of Hebrews is talking about the New Covenant, he quotes all three verses in Jeremiah 31:31–33. The only point he makes is the reason it says New Covenant is that that tells us that the Old Covenant was to go away.
In Acts 2 Peter is quoting from Joel 2 and he quotes the whole passage in Joel 2 about what will happen in the Day of the Lord except he’s only emphasizing one thing, that this is the kind of thing the Holy Spirit can do. Sometimes we have big passages where just one point is being made.
Other times it’s like when the Lord is on the Cross. He screams out, “My God My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He probably was reciting much of that Psalm. That’s the first verse and it is would be the title for the Psalm. We call it a Psalm 22. They called it “My God My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
The living stone imagery and the other words that are used here would bring to the mind of a Jewish person many of these Old Testament verses. We’re told that this living stone is a stone that’s rejected by men. The verb there in the Greek is a perfect middle participle. We don’t need to talk much about the participial sense of this. But the perfect tense indicates completed action.
This isn’t a present tense that’s talking about ongoing rejection. It’s not an aorist tense, which is just a simple past, which would just be talking about something that happened. That perfect tense would be used to express the fact that this is something that had happened. He’s referring to a specific kind of rejection that was completed and over with and wasn’t continuing anymore. They were living now with the results of that past action.
That past rejection, using the same Greek word, is described in Mark 8:31, “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected.” This is Jesus teaching the disciples that He must be rejected. He is referring to that same word that is being used there. It’s a different parsing there. The parsing I have there just came over from the other slide, but that’s what it’s talking about, that rejection of Jesus that occurred in AD 33 when the religious leaders of Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah.
Then he goes on and he uses two other words to describe this, the words “chosen” and “precious”. The word “chosen” is this Greek word EKLEKTOS, which means elect, but it also has the idea of choice. You’ve heard me teach this many times. The Old Testament word is bachar. It’s used in several places in the Old Testament, not to describe a selection process or an election process, but the quality of people.
For example, in the war between the various Israelite tribes and the tribe of Benjamin that’s described at the end of the book of Judges it says that the Benjamites had choice warriors and that’s how it’s translated in the text. These were the cream of the crop. This was their elite fighting force.
They had choice warriors so it’s describing something qualitative, not a selection process. Because of the influence of Augustinian theology on Calvin and on Luther and the sort of a determinative type of theology that we often refer to as Calvinism, it goes back to Augustine in the fifth century, the mindset was to always translate this word as “elect”.
And that takes us off course here, I think, because the word is used in conjunction with this second word translated “precious”, which is the Greek word ENTIMOS which has that idea something that is precious, something that is highly valuable. Contextually both of these words are describing something that has quality and value.
The idea of selection or choice is not part of the context and it’s not part of the original context in Isaiah 28:16. I’ve put two different translations on this slide for a reason I’ll explain in just a minute. In the top translation after God is announcing judgment that’s going to come on a future generation of Israel that will come under judgment from the Babylonians, He then provides what that solution will be.
God said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation [or a foundation stone], a tried stone.” That word there in the Hebrew means a stone of proving. It’s been proven. The quality of it has been assessed. Okay, it’s like you demonstrate something. You take some ore to the assayist and he will prove it. He will show what is of value there, the gold or the silver that is there. So that’s the idea there.
It is a tried or tested or evaluated stone and that’s a reference to Jesus. He will be proven. Also, it’s the idea that it’s tried and it’s precious. It is intrinsically precious. Okay, that’s talking about the quality of it again. So that’s the context of what Peter is alluding to here in Isaiah 28:16.
At the end of this verse it goes on to say it’s “a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation”. All of this is indicating its quality.
“Whoever believes will not act hastily.” That’s the new King James translation and that’s a little ambiguous, isn’t it? A little cloudy, not too sure what that means.
I put this up here because the NET translates it “The one who maintains his faith will not panic.” The one who believes it will not act hastily. He will not act quickly. He will not lose control of his thinking and get out of control. That’s the idea. It’s because the person who is grounding his faith on the foundation stone is going to be stabilized by his faith in Christ. That’s the idea in the text.
This idea that the stone also is going to be a stone of stumbling is in Isaiah 8:13–14 which says, “The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow [or set aside]; Let Him be your fear.” Remember the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of knowledge. “Let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary.”
Now think about this. We’re going to get into this passage, and it’s going to talk about building a spiritual house. Other verses we will look at are talking about building a spiritual temple. “The Lord will be as a sanctuary.” This is mikdash in the Hebrew, which is the word that is used to describe the tabernacle in the Old Testament. It is from the verb kadosh, which means a set apart place, a place that has been sanctified. So that’s what it means to be a sanctuary.
We get the idea of a sanctuary city today where people can go who haven’t come into the country legally and then they can’t be arrested or prosecuted if they make it to this sanctuary. The idea of going to a church at one time if you’d committed a crime and you fled into the inside of the church, then you had sanctuary there and the police couldn’t come and arrest you. That’s not the idea here. It is the idea of a set apart or a holy place. God will be our holy place. We will rest in Him.
He goes on to say in Isaiah 8:14, “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel.” So this foundation stone is indicated as a place that will be a stumbling place. People will trip over it and it will cause them injury because they have rejected Jesus as the rock.
Instead of a foundation and the solution to their problems, because they reject Him He will become a trap and a snare and they will come under the judgment of God.
So back to our passage in 1 Peter 2:4–5. He’s rejected by men. That’s the idea that they repudiate Him, they turned their back on Him, they’re hostile to Him. He’s rejected by men, but choice and precious by God. That describes the quality of this Living Stone.
Then we get into something that drove me nuts most of the day. I’d look at it. In fact, I may have said something about this last week because it reads a little … Peter has some odd Greek here and he starts off this verse with a pronoun in the plural. It’s AUTOS plus the conjunction AUTO KAI. I mentioned it to Jim and he said, “It’s these are.”
That’s what it looked like and that’s what I translated it. But no one translated it that way and I was scratching my head from last week. I finally found in a grammar [book] that AUTOS can also be used as a first or second person pronoun. It’s normally used as a third person pronoun, but rarely as either “I” or “you”.
It has the idea of emphasis and so it’s called an emphatic demonstrative and basically means you yourself. I don’t know why Scripture translators don’t ever catch that. It’s really emphatic, saying you yourselves are living stones. He’s really making it clear that by their coming to The Living Stone they, too, are also living stones and that something is happening to them as a living stone. They “are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Now this verb OIKODOMEO that we have is a word that is not unfamiliar to many of us. It means for something to be built up. It’s a construction term and it is sometimes used of personal edification. As personal edification you have in a number of places where we are to edify one another or the pastor is to edify the congregation to build them up spiritually.
It’s also used of the construction and the building up of the body of Christ from its beginning on the day of Pentecost until its completion at the end of the Church Age.
We see it first used this way in Matthew 16:18–19. I talked about this a little bit last time. We covered this in Matthew. Jesus is talking to Peter and the disciples up near Caesarea Philippi in the north of Israel and in a beautiful setting there near the temple to the Greek god Pan at a place called BANIAS. Because Arabs can’t pronounce the letter “P” so instead of saying PAN, they would say BAN.
If you don’t get anything out of this Bible class and if you don’t get anything spiritual from this, this is a subtle argument why there is no truth to the Palestinian claim that Palestine is their home. Why would they call themselves a name that begins with the letter they can’t pronounce? They’re “Balestinians.” They live in Balestine. If you talk to an Arab he will never say he’s a Palestinian. Why would they do that? End of story. Kick them out. It’s not their country. They didn’t come up with that name. Okay, so just a little extra added attraction there.
Jesus says to Peter and to the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
The disciples say, “Well, some people think you’re Elijah. Some people say John the Baptist.” I didn’t know they believed in reincarnation, but apparently they were saying the people had these ideas.
Then Jesus said, “Who do you think that I am?
Peter said, “You are the Christ [the Mashiach] the Son of the Living God.” There’s that idea of the living God again, emphasizing that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a living God.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah [Simon son of John]. And I also say to you that you are Peter [PETROS].” There’s a play on words here in the Greek. “And on this rock” [PETRA, which is a feminine term for a large rock] Jesus says, “I will build My church.”
There’s a lot of debate over what Jesus is referring to when He says “on this rock”. Some people think it’s the statement identifying him as the Messiah. Some people think it’s a statement of faith believing in Jesus or Peter’s identification, but I believe that as I pointed out last time that He’s referring to Himself because the term “rock” is a title that is used of God all through the Old Testament.
We went through numerous verses last time showing how the terms “rock” and “stone” are often and frequently used to describe God in the Old Testament. Jesus is saying here, though, the point I’m making here, this is OIKODOMEO. And Jesus is saying He’s going to build His church.
Another point here is that in John chapter 21 Jesus had another conversation with Peter. Peter has just been forgiven and he has realized his forgiveness from the Lord for betraying Him. Then the Lord says, “Peter do you love Me?” three times.
He says, “Peter do you love Me” and the first and the last time He uses the same word. In the middle He uses a different word. He uses a lot of different synonyms but each time when Peter says, “Lord I love You”, Jesus says something about what Peter is supposed to do.
He’s supposed to “feed my sheep”, Jesus says. You are to attend My lambs. Jesus uses different words for lambs and sheep so He is covering all the maturity levels in the flock. He uses different words for feeding, but He is making the point that the role of the shepherd is not to go to the hospital. There’s nothing wrong with going to the hospital if you’re a pastor, but that’s not the primary job of the pastor. There are people in the congregation that have the gift of mercy, and they’re the ones who should be going to the hospital using their gift of mercy.
The pastor should help, just as every believer should help, but that’s not his primary job. His primary job is to feed the sheep. In Matthew 16 Jesus tells us what His mission is in relation to the church. He says, “I will build My church.”
I often wonder why it’s the vogue thing for the last 50 years for seminaries to have courses on church growth. Church growth starts and ends with Matthew 16:18. Jesus said, “I’ll build My church. You feed the sheep.”
What happens today is that most pastors and seminaries think that it’s the job of the pastor to build the church and the Sunday school teachers to feed the sheep. That’s why we have the mess we’re in today, because we have an uneducated laity in the church because they’re not being taught by people who have a solid education in the Scriptures.
They’re not trusting the Lord to build the church. They are trusting in all kinds of techniques and all kinds of different methodologies that are borrowed usually from salesmanship and motivational things. As Harry Leafe told me when I was first ordained by him, he said, “Robby, always remember anybody who is smart and who has some understanding of business can go out and build a huge organization. That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit had anything to do with it.”
You can have a congregation of 50 or 100 people or even 10 people and if those 10 people are the growth of the Holy Spirit, then you’re going to do great. But if you’ve got 300 people and the Holy Spirit brought you 10, you’re going to have trouble. They really don’t want to be there to learn the Word of God and to grow.
We’ve got to understand that it is the Lord who brings the increase. It’s the Lord who is in control and He’s the one who builds a church. This is part of what is being talked about in 1 Peter because we’re talking about the universal church, not just the local church. People get confused on that. Jesus is talking about He’s the one who builds the universal church, builds His body, and I think that, by implication, is that He’s the one who brings people into local churches as well.
1 Peter 2:5 says, “You yourselves also as these living stones.” This teaches that this is a dynamic process. As more come to believe in Jesus and are added, then the building continues to grow. This is this process. You’re being built up and then he says, “a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Now this is another place where Peter’s grammar is tough because of the word that’s translated “a spiritual house”. I have it in this slide on the lower right, OIKOS PNEUMATIKOS. If you parse those two nouns, they’re both in the nominative case.
That’s the case of the subject or a predicate nominative. It’s not the case of a dative, the direct object or the indirect object. It’s the case of the subject or it may be an appositional phrase to the subject. So by translating it “you’re being built up”, some translations even put “you’re being built up as a spiritual house” or “you’re being built up to a spiritual house”.
That violates the sense of the grammar I think. I read this in a few commentaries where they actually address the term “spiritual house” as appositional to the subject of the verb and the subject of the verb is you. You all are being built up.
What Peter is saying is that you all are a spiritual house. The term “spiritual house” is explaining who they are. You are a spiritual house and you’re being built up to a priesthood. Now that word “to” is probably not the original word there. It indicates direction.
What we have here is basically identification. You also are a spiritual house, as living stones, are being built up. In some of the older manuscripts it’s inserted the preposition EIS, translated “to”, which might just been done in order to give it a little more clarity. Holy priesthood is definitely in the accusative so that indicates direction. Our growth is to grow and to be more and more functional as holy priests.
That’s the direction. “You, yourselves also, a spiritual house, as living stones, are being built up to [be or to] a holy priesthood, for the purpose of offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Now, at this point I want to stop a little bit go to another passage to try to help us understand the nature of this spiritual house. This is important for understanding and properly interpreting the rest of the section in terms of what applies to Gentiles and what applies to Jews. I want you to turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 2.
Everyone’s familiar with the first 10 verses or probably the first nine verses of Ephesians and less so with the remainder of Ephesians, chapter 2. The next part of Ephesians 2 is really crucial for understanding what happened on the Cross in relation to the formation of this new entity or organism known as the body of Christ.
We’ll start in verse 11 to give a little backdrop. I just want to read it through and give some explanation as we work our way through the text. In Ephesians 2:11–13—that’s our first chunk—Paul is describing those who were once Gentiles in the flesh. It might be easy at first blush to think that when he uses the word Gentile here, he’s using it as a synonym for unbelievers, but that would be wrong.
Now they are unbelievers but that’s not the point he’s making, if you look at the text. He says, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh— who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands.” As soon as he brings in the terms “circumcision” and “uncircumcision”, what should you be thinking about? The Abrahamic Covenant.
The backdrop to this is going to be the covenantal relationship of Jews to God, and the non-covenantal relationship of the Gentiles to God. It doesn’t have anything to do with their soteriological status.
Some Jews are not saved but they’re still in the covenant with God. They are still part of the Abrahamic Covenant. And some Gentiles were saved, but they didn’t come under the Abrahamic Covenant. They remained saved Gentiles in the Old Testament.
Paul’s talking about the fact that they’re Gentiles, but his emphasis is explained as he goes through the text. He’s already indicating this contrast is going to be between those who are under the Abraham Covenant and those who aren’t. He says at that time you were without Christ, which clearly shows that he’s adding the idea of their spiritual status now. Now he’s making clear that they were unbelievers.
“… You were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise ...” That’s what makes the difference between a Gentile and a Jew. “… Having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That is the death of Christ.
The point that he’s making here is about Jews and Gentiles in the Old Testament. Jews had a covenant with God. Gentiles didn’t. They were separated and far off. You have these two different people.
Paul begins in Ephesians 2:14, “For He, Himself, is our peace.” Christ is the One who is going to be the peacemaker between Jew and Gentile. “He is our peace, who has made both one.” The “both” refers to Jew and Gentile.
See, we’re not talking about man and God yet. We’re just talking about that the distinction between Jew and Gentile. Christ is our peace, who brings Jew and Gentile together. He’s broken down the middle wall of separation. The wall is described in verse 15, as the law of commandments containing ordinances.
That’s why Peter would not have gone to a Gentile’s house to eat treif, that’s non-kosher food, unless God tells him. God had to tell them three times to take and eat from that big tablecloth that He lowered. Still it was difficult for Peter to understand that the point was that now he could go and fellowship with Gentiles. Otherwise as an Orthodox-observant and Law-observant Jew, he would never do that.
So the Law of commandments kept Jew and Gentile separate. What Jesus has done, He has abolished in His flesh that enmity between Jew and Gentile so as to create in Himself [another phrase for that is “in Christ”], one new man from the two.
Up to the Cross you have Jew and Gentile. But now, because of the Cross there’s a new entity that’s going to join the two together—one new man from the two, thus making peace. This isn’t peace with God yet.
This is peace between Jew and Gentile because the Law of commandments has been fulfilled and abrogated. Once Jesus does that so you can have one new man from the two it says, “That He might then reconcile them.”
Now we get to the point of the vertical [relationship], that He might reconcile them both to God in one body. That’s the body of Christ, “that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the Cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
What enmity is this? It’s not the enmity we have toward God but the enmity between Jew and Gentile that’s based on the Mosaic Law and the 613 ordinances in the Law. In Ephesians 2:17, we read, “And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.”
He is not saying to those who were unbelievers and those who are believers, those who are far off are those who are away from the Cross, those who are not in a covenant relationship with God. Those who are near were the Jews who were in a covenant relationship with God. It doesn’t have anything to do with their soteriological status, but their covenant status.
Now that they have been brought together in one body, Ephesians 2:18 says, “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” What does that describe? That’s the function of priesthood, that because we have a High Priest who has torn down the veil we have access to God.
That’s Hebrews. We have access to God so that we can go directly and boldly before the throne of grace. That’s the function of our priesthood, so it’s not an explicit reference to priesthood here. It’s an implicit reference, but it’s very clear that this is talking about a priestly function to have direct access to God.
Next we go to Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, Paul says, you are no longer …” He’s writing to the Ephesians. They are primarily Gentiles. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners.” There are those terms “strangers” and “foreigners”, which relates to the Covenant. But now you are “fellow citizens with the saints and the members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
We have some of the same language here that we have over in 1 Peter related to the cornerstone and related to the construction of the foundation stone and the household of God.
Then we get into the core verses here, Ephesians 2:21–22, “In whom the whole building being fitted together, grows ...” That’s the process through the Church Age of the development of the church, the body of Christ “grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom also you are being built.”
For “you are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” The first word “whole building” (verse 21) is this word, SUNOIKODOMEO. It refers to a building or something being built up. Here it refers to a building because it is connected to a spiritual building, not a physical building.
It connects to the temple, which is the word NAOS. NAOS is a term that refers to the inner sanctuary of the Temple. Our bodies are the temple, the NAOS of the Holy Spirit, not the HIEROS. HIEROS would include all the temple precincts and the court of the Gentiles.
That’s why we can say Christians can’t be demon possessed, because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the word for temple wouldn’t include the outer courtyard. It would just include the inner holy of holies, where only someone truly sanctified could go, where Christ indwells.
The whole building is being fitted together and that whole building in context is being brought together by Jews and Gentiles together. It “grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together.” That’s the word in the lower left, SUNOIKODOMEO. Notice it’s the OIKO that you find in OIKODOME and KATOIKETERION. That’s your root word for a house or building.
In the verb here you have a preposition SUN plus the same verb that we have in 1 Peter 2. They’re being built together for a dwelling place. That’s this word here KATOIKETERION, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit. What we see from Ephesians here is that in the church, the body of Christ, the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile is torn down so it’s that diagram I had earlier
Jews are a subset in the body of Christ. But Jewish believers and Gentile believers in the Church Age are equal. The dividing wall is torn down. They are now one in the body of Christ and united in the body of Christ.
This is found in other passages such as Ephesians 4:4. There is one body, not two. There is not a Jewish body and a Gentile body. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling.”
Then in Galatians 3:26–28, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ [that would be the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a non-water baptism that happens at the instant of salvation for every believer] 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.”
There’s not a distinction. The distinction is going to come because Jewish background believers have a cultural history and they have a tradition and they are still part of the Abrahamic Covenant because they’re ethnically Jews. The Abrahamic Covenant applies to all Jews, whether they are believers or not.
If they are an apostate, does the principle “I will bless those who bless you” have a qualifier? Does God say in the Old Testament to the Assyrians, “I will bless you even if you curse Israel?” No. The same with the Babylonians because they were anti-Semitic, even though God used them as a tool to bring judgment on Israel.
God was true to the Abrahamic Covenant and said, “I will curse those who curse you,” even if the Jews that you were cursing were apostate Jews. The principal was still true. The principle is still true today. If Israel is disobedient to God, God’s going to deal with it but He doesn’t need Gentiles to come along and be anti-Semitic and help.
That will bring divine judgment. God still honors the Abrahamic Covenant. The sign of the covenant for the Jew is still circumcision. It doesn’t make him more spiritual or less spiritual. It doesn’t make them saved or savable. It’s just a cultural, historical, and in this case a covenantal reality for the Jewish people.
In Christ there is not a distinction in our spiritual life. In our access to God there’s not a distinction. You get people who want to have women pastors and they want to do all these other kinds of things and deny the role distinctions among the sexes. They go to this verse, Ephesians 4:4. They just hone in on this, saying, see there is neither male nor female so this idea that women can’t be pastors is just first-century chauvinism.
No. If you are saved and you were a slave you are still a slave. If you were a man you still had all your male body parts. If you were a woman you still had all your female body parts. You didn’t change. In the Old Testament, a Jew could go all the way into the temple to worship God. But Gentiles had to stay out. They couldn’t go beyond the court of the Gentiles.
Women couldn’t go beyond the court of the women. Men could go all the way in. Slaves could not go in. So all of these terms and this whole idea is that in the body of Christ Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female all have equal access to God, unlike what they had in the Old Testament. That’s going to relate to our priesthood and the function of our priesthood as believers in the body of Christ.
Back to 1 Peter 2:5. We’re being built up a spiritual house. This is the body of Christ. It’s a spiritual temple. It also says we’re a holy priesthood. I didn’t change the translation here. It should be, “You also a spiritual house as living stones, are being built up a holy priesthood.”
It’s again describing the directionality there to a holy priesthood, for the purpose of offering up spiritual sacrifices. Now the word translated “priesthood” here is HIERATEUMA, which refers to the function of a priest. It’s only used twice in the New Testament, once in verse five of this chapter and then verse nine of this chapter.
The purpose is then described in terms of offering up spiritual sacrifices. Now there’s a verse that may connect to this. Hebrews 10:21 says that we have a High Priest who is over the house of God. That’s talking about the Church body.
We’re under Jesus Christ as our High Priest, and since He’s our High Priest, we’re all priests. This relates to the universal priesthood of the believer and what we do is we offer up sacrifices.
This is the Greek word ANAPHERO, which literally means to lift something up. But it is the word that is used all the time to translate Old Testament words for offering a sacrifice, bringing an offering to the temple.
We are to offer up these spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God. The word for sacrifice is THUSIA, which is your standard word for sacrifice. It’s the word we see throughout the New Testament, especially in the verse we’ll end with, Romans 12:1.
But these sacrifices are to be acceptable to God, EUPROSDEKTOS. That means that there can be unacceptable sacrifices. Unacceptable sacrifices would be sacrifices that are made in the power the flesh and the power of the sin nature when we’re walking according to the flesh.
We think somehow we’re doing something that’s impressing God. We’re praising God or giving thanks to God. We’re giving an offering or whatever and it’s just the power the flesh. Now this word EUPROSDEKTOS is used in a couple of interesting passages.
For example in Romans 15:16, Paul says, “That I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering [that’s not the word for sacrifices] of the Gentiles might be acceptable.”
What makes it acceptable? It’s sanctified by the Holy Spirit. See, if you’re not walking by the Spirit it’s not sanctified by the Spirit. If you’re not walking in the light, walking in the truth, or abiding in Christ, then it’s not [sanctified]. If we’re not doing those things then we’re out of fellowship. The only way Scripture says that we can be spiritually cleansed and restored is to confess sin.
Just a couple of points on how sacrifice is used in the New Testament for the believer.
- First of all, our spiritual walk when we’re walking by the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual walk, our spiritual life is called an offering and it’s compared to a sweet-smelling sacrifice in the Old Testament. It’s an offering and a sweet smelling sacrifice to God.
In Ephesians 5:2, Paul says, “And walk in love as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.” So this is the walk in love. It’s an offering and a sacrifice to God.
- Grace-oriented giving is called a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God. Philippians 4:18, Paul is praising and is grateful for the Philippians because of the offering that they brought. He said, “Indeed, I have all and abound. I’m full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”
So their gifts given were sanctified by the Spirit and were an acceptable sacrifice.
- The believer who gives his life to the service of God in whatever capacity, whether it’s full-time professional or full-time nonprofessional service, in the epistles is described as a sacrifice in the service of your faith.
Philippians 2:17, Paul says “Yes, and if I’m being poured out as a drink offering.” So his life was viewed as a sacrifice. “If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith.”
Paul is poured out, but they are also viewed as the sacrifice and service of their faith.
- Singing praise to God is called a sacrifice of praise. Not too many people feel like they’re being “sacrificial” when they’re standing up and singing “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”, but that’s a sacrifice if you understand the biblical term correctly. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Therefore by him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
- Applying doctrine through gracious acts, divine good, good works for people, and helping others is a sacrifice with which God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Of course, that’s if it’s done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then, in closing, in Romans 12:1 Paul says, “I beseech you [or I implore you] therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice [that’s a function of a priest to present a sacrifice], holy, acceptable to God which is your logical service [your rational service].” Your LOGIKON—that’s the same word that is used for the Word of God, the milk of the Word in 1 Peter 2:2.
That helps us think this through a little bit more. When Peter is talking to Jewish-background believers, relating Old Testament concepts of priesthood to them, he’s not setting them apart from the rest of the body of Christ. But he’s reminding them that what they had and what they were called to in the Old Testament is being realized in a fuller dimension than they ever imagined as they are now in Christ. The reason he’s telling them this is to motivate them to greater growth and maturity and spiritual service. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word and to be reminded that we are expected to grow. That we have been called to walk in good works prepared beforehand and that we are to serve You with our lives. Our lives, in many dimensions, is a service, a sacrifice to You, and a function of our priesthood that we can continue to grow and mature, being conformed to the image of Christ and manifesting Your essence to those around us.
Father, challenge us with what we studied. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”