1 Peter 2:4-10 July 2, 2017
“You Are Living Stones”
Many of the elect exiles (I Peter 1:1) to whom Peter is writing have been forcibly removed from their homes, often because of their faith in Jesus Christ and for refusing to worship pagan deities. These exiles were undergoing a difficult time of trial and testing.
How should these elect exiles think of themselves during their sojourn? Merely as individual sojourners, marking time until they die? What should their identity be as they struggle in this world, despised and rejected, and during times when their faith is put to the test? Peter answers this question in our text.
This leads to a discussion of the church’s identity (in vv. 4-10), reminds us that sanctification and the striving for holiness take place within the community of sinful people who together believe in Jesus Christ. This mirrors the people of God within the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as a people “set apart” by God unto himself and for his purposes. And this now includes the world or gentiles as it is sometimes referred to in the NT. Paul tells us that in Eph 2:14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” So he speaks to 2 groups.
Peter readers/hearers are Christians, so his imperatives are not aimed at people who are becoming Christians, or who are in the process of being evangelized. We do not do the things Peter commands in order to become Christians. We do them because we are Christians.
Yet, Peter realizes that a number of these elect exiles are still mere babes in the Christian faith. In order to grow to maturity in the faith, as well as the enjoy the full benefits of their salvation in Christ, they need proper food–pure spiritual milk, i.e., the word of God, the good news of the gospel.
Remember back in 1 Pet 1:1 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” The word of God is the word of life, that imperishable seed, through which dead people have been brought to life as babes in Christ. Babes with a living sure hope, and who need the appropriate nourishment so that they grow strong, and stay strong during difficult times of testing.
We are to develop a desire for pure spiritual milk because this God has delivered us from the pit of hell and has given us instruction on how to live in response to that work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit within the community of faith.
Then in verse 4-10, Peter takes up the identity of the church, the people of God, which is, as we will see, the new Israel, elect exiles, set apart by God.
Peter’s description of the church as the new Israel, which is a chosen race, set-apart by God for his purposes, is critical to the survival of elect exiles and sojourners in this present evil age. Where we are citizens of heaven, we need an earthly identity while we sojourn in this world. We are to consider ourselves to be members of a new race (chosen by God), a new holy nation (a new Israel), and a royal priesthood (family all thanking and praising God).
We are robed with robes of righteousness, not our own filfy rags as Isa 64:6 tells us but the righteousness that is of being united in Christ.
In verse 4 of his epistle, Peter describes Jesus as the living stone rejected by men. “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” Jesus is the “living stone” because of his resurrection from the dead.
The living stone metaphor likely comes from Psalm 118:22 where the Psalmist says“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” These stones came from the same quarry, and are the same by nature as the rest of mankind, until they are dug out and separated by the powerful and efficacious grace of God.
Then his ‘called out’ people are hewned, and made fit for the spiritual building which they receive from Christ. These stones are lasting and durable, and will never perish, nor be removed from the building: and because of the life which they derive from him, and have in him, they are called “living stones”.
Christ the “living stone “- allusion in this passage is from Isaiah 28:16 ““See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.” There may be also an allusion to in Psa 118:22 “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. “
The reference is to Christ as the foundation on which the church is built. Christ occupies the same place in regard to the church which a foundation-stone does to the edifice that is built upon it. Read Eph 2:20-22.
The purpose was not to speak of a temple, like that at Jerusalem, made up of gold and costly stones; but of a temple made up of living materials – of redeemed people – where in now God resides.
In speaking of that, it was natural to refer to the foundation on which the whole rested, and to speak of that as corresponding to the whole edifice. It was all a living temple – a temple composed of living materials – from the foundation to the top. And even the top center stone, the capstone, is the stone that holds the whole edifice up. Take it out and the whole structure falls.
So Christ imparts life to the whole spiritual temple that is built on him as a foundation and right up to the capstone. And this is the glorious crowning achievement in God’s creation.
It is in the church that the glory of God is used to describe God’s favor and presence toward His people. In the Old Testament, God’s glory is seen as a pillar of fire and cloud that followed the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt, guiding and guarding them (Ex 13:21). Once the Ark of the Covenant was built and placed in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the temple in Jerusalem, God’s glory resided there as a symbol of His presence among His people. When the Ark was captured by the Philistines in 1 Sam 4, the glory departed from the Israelites—Ichabod became a reality.
Jesus later refers to the concept of the glory of God leaving Israel after the flesh. In His last message to the populace of Israel and his final words to the religious leaders we read in Matt 23:37-38 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
Notice that He says your house is desolate. Jesus does not say ‘My house, not My Father’s house, as He used to call it. Now it’s your house..WHY because God has left—Ichabod! God is no longer there. It’s not the Father’s house; it’s not My house; it’s your house. “And it has left to you desolate” ….the Greek word translated “desolate,” means “abandoned to ruin.”
This place has been abandoned. God has left their temple. He is saying….the ark of the covenant has left you!! Jesus was saying that this old brick and mortar structure is no longer something I live in. In other works Works of Judiaism is dead. It brings you nothing. But I bring Grace!!!
This was His final statement of judgment on Israel for the rejection of their Messiah. He has indicted their leaders and, by indicting the leaders, indicted all the people who followed the leaders. And they all are justly condemned. (John 3:18). And now He says their house is left desolate—Ichabod, the God’s glory has departed. It is now cursed, devoted to ruination.
And it was finally decimated in AD 70, was totally destroyed by Titus and his armies. And those who rejected Christ won’t see Him again until “Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” 2 Thess 1:7. When He comes in full Messianic glory it is too late for them. “When he comes to be glorified in his holy temple”. Verse 10. This is the is final separation and final destruction upon them that know not the Christ at his coming.
Yet, Peter says, if you the people of God have tasted of his goodness (in the word), then you know that Jesus is that one chosen by God to be the Savior of his people (his elect), and that he is the only mediator between sinful people and a Holy God.
Jesus was despised by men (both Jews and Gentiles), yet he was absolutely precious to God. The same is true of elect exiles. Jesus, who was the rejected cornerstone by the Jews, is now the living stone and the foundation upon which the living temple of God (the church) now stands.
Therefore, in verse 5, Peter goes on to say of those who have been set apart (sanctified), sprinkled with his blood, and called to a life of holiness, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter’s readers/hearers may be exiles and aliens in this life, but they are God’s spiritual temple, and are set apart to be a holy priesthood, offering acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus.
Remember that the Jews prided themselves in their temple. It was a most costly and splendid edifice. It was the place where God was worshiped, and where he was supposed to dwell. It had an imposing service, and there was acceptable worship rendered there.
But as a new dispensation was introduced; the word became flesh, it was the tendency of the Christians system to draw off the worshipers from that temple because God was no longer there. Christians proselyted on Saturday in the synagoge. They tried to teach them that God could be worshiped as acceptably anywhere and on the first day of the week….John 4:21-23.
Christianity did not instill the necessity of rearing splendid temples for the worship of God; and as, in fact, the Jewish temple at Jerusalem was about to be destroyed forever. It was important to show that in the Christian church will be found all that was truly beautiful and valuable in the temple at Jerusalem has now been internalized. It is spiritual in nature.
The sacred writers labored to show that all that was found in the church that had made the temple at Jerusalem so glorious, was now being accomplished in a more glorious manner than even in the services of that old temple. For there is a temple, all right, now made up of living materials, which even to this day the special dwelling-place of God on the earth.
As the soul is more precious than any materials of stone. There are living beings which compose that temple, constituting a more beautiful structure, and a more appropriate dwelling-place for God, than any edifice could be made of stone, however costly or valuable.
This spiritual house made up of redeemed souls – a temple more appropriate for the King to set up residency; of one who is a pure spirit dwelling in the hearts of his own ‘called out’ people.
A holy priesthood – In the temple at Jerusalem, the priesthood appointed those to minister there, and to offer sacrifices, this constituted an essential part of the arrangement in the temple. It was important, therefore, to show that this was not overlooked and does continue in the spiritual temple that God was raising.
The apostle says that this is amply provided for, by constituting “the whole body of Christians” to be in fact a priesthood. Everyone is engaged in offering acceptable sacrifice to God. This sacrifice is not entrusted to a particular class to be known as priests; but every Christian is in fact a priest, and is engaged in offering an acceptable sacrifice to God. The Great High Priest in this service is the Lord Jesus Christ, besides him there is no one who can sustain this office, except these who are by grace and indwelling of the Spirit are members of the household of faith.
Many many American Christians think nothing of identifying themselves as Christians, and yet never seek to join, nor think it necessary to be a member of a local church. I get the problems with denominations and religious formalism. But every person who becomes a Christian in the New Testament does so in the context of a local church. To profess faith in Jesus Christ is to profess that he is the living head of a spiritual body, which is the church. All believers are living stones in God’s spiritual house, and God’s spiritual house is manifest in the local church–I call it God’s embassy on earth.
The language Peter uses is drawn directly from the Old Testament–specifically the temple and priesthood. This means that Christ’s church is the true Israel of God. In ancient Israel, the temple was a divinely mandated and appointed physical building. The temple and its sacrifices were the center of Jewish religious life. Israel’s priests sacrificed on behalf of the people–the blood of animals granting a temporary reprieve from the wrath of God. But this new spiritual house is built of living stones (those whom God has converted) and who are now described as spiritual priests who offer spiritual sacrifices.
Now the gracious sacrifice, when Jesus died on Good Friday, it is not accidental that the temple veil at that moment of death –separating the holy place from the most holy place (where only the High Priest could go) was torn from top to bottom. Now all may go in. The physical temple in Jerusalem had been superseded by the one to whom it pointed, Jesus.
Throughout the letters of Paul in Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:16 the church is identified as the temple of God. And then in John 2:19-20 we read….
So also Jesus is identified as the temple of God. When Jesus dies as the spotless Passover Lamb, the temple in Jerusalem was Ichabod, the veil was torn in two, its glory now gone. The implication of Peter’s argument is that a new temple has taken the Jerusalem temple’s place, a temple made up of God’s people and built upon the foundation stone (Jesus), a temple which assembles on resurrection Day to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.
As Peter explains, the Jerusalem temple belonged to the old order of things (types and shadows). The futile ways of Israel’s forefathers (as Peter put it in Chapter 1:18). And with the coming of Jesus, the reality has come.
In verse 6, Peter cites Isaiah 26:16 “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Peter clearly sees Jesus as the one to whom Isaiah is referring in this section of his prophecy. Jesus may be the stone rejected by the Jews, but he is foundation of God’s redemptive work, including the building of a spiritual house with spiritual priests offering spiritual sacrifices.
In verses 7-8 we see God’s eternal plan for Jesus including his rejection by the Jews and Peter speaks of the contrast between believers and the fate of unbelievers. “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, `The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and `A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
God passes over them and leaves them in their sin which God can justly do. They suffer the very fate which they desire–they will be crushed by the very rock of Jesus, over whom they stumbled (by rejecting him). Make no mistake, those who reject the cornerstone do so freely and gladly, and yet in doing so, bring to pass the very thing God had foreordained.
In verse 9 as a new Israel with all four phrases used of them by Peter taken from Old Testament texts once applied to ethnic Israel “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” And now the mission of this holy nation is to proclaim the gospel to all the world revealing salvation by faith alone through grace alone imputed in man through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In verse 10, Peter reminds these elect exiles that at one time they too were pagans.“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Elect exiles outside of House of Israel were once separated from God, but have been brought near to him through God’s mercy. Be not boastful of your grace given.
Our identity is found in the fact that as we too….elect exiles, are all coming back to the promised land, a paradise restored. As we are members of a chosen race, sinners who have been set apart by God to bring him glory–so let us strive to do exactly that. Be holy as he is holy and as witnesses how a gracious God saves sinners through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, let us be living sacrifices acceptable to God.
Question: “What does the term ‘Ichabod’ mean in the Bible?”
Answer: The term Ichabod is found in two places in the Bible,1 Samuel 4:21 and 14:3. Ichabod was the son of Phinehas and the grandson of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh. The sad story of Eli and his two wayward sons, Phinehas and Hophni, is found in 1 Samuel, chapters 2 and 4. Hophni and Phinehas died in battle with the Philistines who captured the Ark of the Covenant and took it away from Israel. Upon hearing this terrible news, Eli fell backward off his chair and broke his neck and died. Phinehas’s pregnant wife went into labor and bore a son.
“And she named the child Ichabod, saying, ‘The glory has departed from Israel!’ because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’” (1 Samuel 4:21–22). The word Ichabod means literally “inglorious” or “there is no glory,” and in her pain and despair, the woman (who is unnamed in Scripture) lamented over the loss of the glory of God from Israel.
The glory of God is used to describe God’s favor and blessings toward His people. In the Old Testament, God’s glory is seen as a pillar of fire and cloud that followed the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt, guiding and guarding them (Exodus 13:21). Once the Ark of the Covenant was built and placed in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the temple in Jerusalem, God’s glory resided there as a symbol of His presence among His people. When the Ark was captured by the Philistines, the glory departed from the Israelites—Ichabod became a reality.
Jesus later refers to the concept of the glory of God leaving Israel. In His last message to the populace of Israel, His final word to the religious leaders was “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37–38). That was His final statement of judgment on Israel for the rejection of their Messiah. He has indicted their leaders and, by indicting the leaders, indicted all the people who followed the leaders. And now He says their house is left desolate—Ichabod, the glory is departing.
Notice that He says your house is desolate. Not My house, not My Father’s house, as He used to call it. Now it’s your house because God has left—Ichabod! God is no longer there, it’s not the Father’s house; it’s not My house; it’s your house. The Greek word translated “desolate,” means “abandoned to ruin.” This place is in abandonment. God has left. It’s cursed, devoted to ruination. And they won’t see Jesus again till He comes in full Messianic glory (Matthew 23:39).
It is a terrible thing to experience the loss of the glory of God, one wonders how many churches today have lost the glory of the Lord, whether willingly or unknowingly. The same things that caused Ichabod in Israel—sin, disobedience, idolatry—are present in many of today’s churches. Christians must never take the glory of God in our midst for granted, lest we wake up one day and find that Ichabod has become a reality among us.