April is L-Plate month, where I’ve turned over this website to my students. They are studying an introductory preaching subject this semester, and writing for this website is part of their assessment, as well as a learning exercise for them. I’m hoping you’ll interact with them a bit via the comments function at the bottom of each post, offering some feedback. (Particularly, feedback that’s constructive or affirming – they’ve got me to deliver the negative stuff! Remember, some of them will never have preached before, and some have English as their second language.) They will then incorporate this feedback in a sermon they present in class at the end of semester.
We continue today in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 2:4-10 | Benjamin Pratt
When you think of other Christians, what images and ideas come to mind? Are they an important part of your life and your faith, or are they at times an unfortunate aspect that you have to deal with? For that matter, how do you feel about church? It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that attending a weekly service isn’t necessary these days, especially when excellent resources like this blog are available! 1 Peter 2:4-10 has a very important message for us all today about just these issues so let’s dive into it now, beginning with an exploration of what it is that should bring us together.4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
We are being built into a spiritual house. Note that it’s not “we have been built” but “are being built”… Here Peter gives us the sense that it’s not done once and for all, but that it’s an ongoing process. We are being built constantly through the work of Jesus. The image we’re meant to get is one of a living, breathing, working community brought together by Christ, bound up in Christ, worshipping and glorifying Christ.
But how does that work? We’re all very different people, with different wants and desires, different experiences and lifestyles. Other than the fact that we are all Christians, we often have little else in common, and if you followed the advice of dating websites, you’d believe that we’re just not compatible… things are not going to work out. If left to our own devices, they’d probably be right, but God doesn’t do that. Look with me at verse 6:6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
If we follow the analogy of us as Christians being built into a spiritual house (another term for this is a temple) then God will need something to guide Him as to where to put us all so that the temple stands strong and sure. If we were to build a temple today, we’d probably use laser lines, string lines, or maybe even GPS co-ordinates, but back in the first century, they used a cornerstone. Cornerstones were carefully fashioned to exact measurements and chosen for their specific task, because it is from them that the whole building takes its lines. You’ll see the importance of a good cornerstone if you’ve ever been in a building where the builders rushed the job and didn’t make sure everything was squared up! Doors don’t close or open properly, windows break, and eventually the building may collapse. As Christians, our cornerstone is Jesus; we’re to take our direction from His example, and to be built up into a temple along the lines He gives us.
Verse 6 ties back to Isaiah 28, a prophecy of woe for Ephraim and Judah. If you have time right now, go and read it, then come back here. I’ll wait.
No really, I’ll wait.
Okay, done? Great. If you just skipped ahead or if it was unclear, let me summarise for you. Isaiah relays a message from God to the southern kingdom of Judah, to tell them that they are trusting in lies and deception rather than God, and that while those who have remained faithful to God will be saved, those who have looked to other gods and other nations for their salvation (specifically Assyria and Egypt, and their gods) will receive divine judgment. This ties neatly into verses 7 and 8 of 1 Peter 2, which says:7-8 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
Just as a builder who chooses a good cornerstone will not be embarrassed or shamed because his building will stand the test of time, so too will we not be ashamed if we base our lives on Jesus’ life and message. It’s not just important for the life to come though, it affects the here and now, because our shared foundation helps us to keep in step with one another… it brings us together into the one temple, for one purpose. What purpose is that? Verse 5 mentioned it briefly, but it is expounded for us in verses 9 and 10.9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
You may not think that you have anything in common with some of the people in your church, or the church down the street, but the reality is that we all have a shared purpose AND foundation! We ARE a royal priesthood! We ARE a holy nation! We are the people of God, and that means that the foundation for who we are, the basis of our very identity is in Jesus Christ, and from that everything in our lives should flow. How we work, how we play, what we eat, what we say, where we choose to live, how we respond to joys and sorrows, all of it should come from the building lines given by the cornerstone of Christ in our lives. Our very lives should be an act of worship offered by us willingly as holy priests to our living God and King. And because our lives should all follow the directions Jesus gives us, what binds us together should always be greater than what divides us.
If what binds us is greater than what divides us, we should long to meet together. If we all follow the one true God, then we should thirst to worship him together on Sundays, and every other day. If we are all being constantly built and formed into a temple, then we should desire to spend time with other Christians.
You cannot build a house with only one stone.