1 Peter 2:4-12

But you are a chosen people

Context

In writing a letter to Christians scattered across the world, Peter encourages his readers to remember the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus. What joins us together is not this world or geography or heritage but the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have been born again into a the family of God. We are no longer part of this world but must set our minds on our eternal future. Everything in this world will pass away, but the promises of God stand forever.  He instructs us to live like we are God’s children in this world and not like we are making this world our eternal home.

The next section continues the theme of our new identity in Christ and uses words and concepts which harken back to the book of Leviticus. While preserving great links between the Old Testament and the New, Peter describes a great divide in this world between those who come to the Living Stone and those who reject Him.

Observation

Structure

  • 4-6 You are being built as a spiritual house
  • 7-10 Once you were not…but now you are!
  • 11-12 Live lives that glorify God.

4-6 You are being built.

“As you come to him…” Notice the progressive language here. Peter will teach us in this passage that we have been chosen by God (2:9 and 1:1) and that there are two different people in this world: those who reject Jesus and those who accept him. But here, those who accept Jesus are described as coming to him. They are inclined toward him. Salvation is both a binary and a progressive event. We are both holy now, and waiting for our glory to come. We are both saved and righteous now but also ridding ourselves of our previous way of life (2:1).

“…the Living Stone…” Peter identified Jesus as the Living Stone back in Acts 4:11-12. He alludes to Psalm 118:22; see also Isaiah 8:14-15; 28:16; Zechariah 10:4; Matthew 21:42-44; Romans 9:32-33; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:7. Every reference in the NT about this OT stone identifies Jesus as the stone. The OT itself identifies the cornerstone as the Messiah and all that was left was to identify Jesus as the Messiah.

“…rejected by humans but chosen by God…” Peter’s two early sermons in Acts 2 and Acts 4 focus on the line that God had clearly approved Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ but that mankind rejected and killed (Acts 2:36; 4:10-11). This reality of being rejected by men but chosen and precious to God flows through the rest of what Peter will say about Jesus and his followers. We will be rejected too, but the reality is that God has chosen us and we are precious to Him!

“…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…” How incredible to be compared even remotely to our LORD! While Jesus is the cornerstone, we are also stones making up the same house. Our nature derives from the resurrected Lord who has give us new birth into a living hope. While we are all stones making up this spiritual house, Jesus is the cornerstone which defines how the rest of the house will be built. The house is not a physical one but spiritual. Since Peter will speak of a priesthood and since the house is spiritual, we ought to think of the temple – the place where God met and dwelled with Israel. The temple and the priests were established so that God could dwell with his chosen people. All of this imagery, Peter embraces to describe Christians now! Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and together we make a spiritual house. God’s dwelling place among humans is in the lives of his chosen people – those who accept the Living Stone.

“…to be a holy priesthood…” although we have no need for blood sacrifices any more – because Christ’s blood has been offered for us, once for all – we offer spiritual sacrifices as God has described. We have already heard Peter command us to love one another deeply, to rid ourselves of our old ways and in verse 11 we are instructed to live exemplary lives. Like the whole tribe of Levi were devoted to God, Christians offer their whole lives to God. Living sacrifices, see Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15-16.

“…acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” A good life on it’s own is not acceptable to God – but by grace and faith through Jesus Christ. We cannot be born again except through Jesus Christ. We cannot be pleasing to God except through Jesus Christ. All of our acceptable spiritual sacrifices are offered in the context of what God has done for us through Christ.

7-10 Once you were not…but now you are!

“Now to you who believe…” A new subsection begins with the word ‘Now.’ This section has a flow that looks like this: To you who believe…but to those who do not…but you. Peter describes the great divide between those who believe and those who do not. If there is one thing that will highlight a true believer it is this: that Jesus is precious to them.

“The cornerstone” Both Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 are quoted by Peter to show that the one who has been rejected is both the cornerstone (foundation stone) and a stumbling block.

“They stumble because…” Verse 8 here gives us a classic picture of human judgement mixed with God’s sovereignty. Many will get fixated on God’s predistination of both the elect (1:1) and the damned (2:8). But Peter doesn’t say they were pre-destined, just that they were destined. This was going to be their end because – they disobey the message. God’s word is open and available for all to read and respond to (yes, there are closed countries and difficulties – but across time and the world the word has been made available). In our culture, there are dozens of Christian churches in every city. Their doors are open every Sunday and more! Their websites are running 24/7 and their members are living in and around the community ready and prayerful to share the good news of new life through Christ. Yet people stumble because they disobey the message. It was always going to be the way. “Christ is laid across the path of humanity on its course into the future. In the encounter with him each person is changed: one for salvation, another for destruction. …One cannot simply step over Jesus to go on about the daily routine and pass him by to build a future. Whoever encounters him is inescapably changed through the encounter: Either one sees and becomes “a living stone”, or one stumbles as a blind person over Christ and comes to ruin, falling short, i.e., of one’s Creator and Redeemer and thereby of one’s destiny.”

NB: be careful to conclude verse 8 is about predestination to damnation. It could be saying that ‘they’ are destined to disobey or it could equally mean all those who disobey are destined to stumble. That is the destiny of every person who disobeys the message that they stumble for they have no other hope.

“But you are…” In contrast to those who reject Jesus as Lord, we, who see him as precious, are described by Peter in holy and sacred terms.

“…a chosen people…” not just wandering into the sheepfold of God but called by name. Not only are Christians chosen but also the type of people they become are the choice people that God ordained – they are Jesus people, i.e., they cannot simply be loved by God but they are the people God has chosen them to be through Jesus. Israel were known as the chosen people of God because he regarded and treated them as special out of all the other nations but this was not of their own greatness but of God’s mercy (Exodus 19:5). The purpose of this calling, even of Israel were for proclaiming his praise before all the other nations (Isaiah 43:20-21). So, royal priesthood, holy nation and God’s special possession are all synonymous for the same thing: that God has chosen those who have accepted Jesus to speak into this world the good news about God.

“…holy nation…” As 1 Peter 1:1-2 implies, Christians are united on the basis of their faith in Christ. We may be scattered and vary in all sorts of ways but we are a singular group – a nation of people set apart by God and for God.

“…that you may declare…” There is a purpose or a responsibility to all who call on the name of Jesus to be saved. We are to declare or speak or proclaim to all that God is mighty and sovereign and the only source of salvation is through Jesus. Let’s celebrate and be people who worship with joy and thanksgiving to the God who raised us from darkness to light. It’s such a puzzle why we fail to do this – except that we fail to set our hope on the grace being brought to us through Christ (1 Peter 1:13). The remedy may well be to meditate on verse 10 which follows…

“Once you were not a people…” The value of ‘not a people’ is quite extreme but Peter appears to be taking language from the Old Testament prophet, Hosea. Through that book, the prophet was commanded to take a bride and have children and name them in ways that communicated God’s plans for Israel who were being unfaithful to God. Hosea 1:6-10, one of Hosea’s sons was named Lo Ammi which means ‘not my people’. Prior to being the people of God, we are nothing. At that time, we had not received mercy but now, what defines us as the chosen people of God is that we have received mercy from God. To be his people is to have God’s mercy poured upon you (Deuteronomy 7:7, 9:6).

11-12 Live lives that glorify God.

“…I urge you to abstain…” The Christian life is a life of denying self. Peter has already talked about offering spiritual offerings and about ridding ourselves of the old way of life we once lived when we were in ignorance of God’s grace and mercy.

“…sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” The spiritual battle we will always find the hardest is the one going on inside our very minds and hearts. Paul talks about this battle between the flesh and the Spirit (Romans 7-8). Even a Christian living in isolation from the world, as if they could find a place to escape from it, will continue to experience this warfare going on inside themselves. The command is to abstain and be in control of this battle – unaware or unconcerned with this battle will just not do. The good news here is that signs of inner struggle is not evidence of unconversion! Even God’s chosen, holy and royal priesthood will need to combat their inner conflict: to serve the flesh or to live as children of God.

“Live such good lives…” The level of good here is simply the kind that stands out in a pagan world. The result though is sobering – it won’t be the Christian praised for their goodness (this is not the purpose for our good living) – it will be God who is praised. This glory that God receives when he returns may not be of a saved person praising God – rather, that all mankind will see what great mercy and work God has had on mankind – it may be recognising God’s glory through a snarly face.

Meaning

There are two type of people in this world: those who love Jesus and those who do not. The difference is huge! The former are called the chosen people of God – set apart to worship him with their whole lives, while the latter remain in darkness, receiving no mercy from God and destined to  remain in that state. Those who come to Jesus do so at the mercy and grace of God and are called to live wholly for Him.

Application

  • Topic A – Rejecting or accepting Christ. Can you say that your faith is based on a living relationship with Jesus? How can we remove human obstacles and create as many paths for people in our community to come to Jesus and receive him? We cannot force people to love him but we can certainly try to make him known. Who are you praying for at the moment to bring the gospel to ?
  • Topic B – Declaring the praises of God. How can you express your gratitude to God for calling you from death to life, darkness to light, outside his mercy to inside his grace? Consider how our praises can be displayed in prayer, in song, in our conversations with Christians and those outside our Christian community.
  • Topic C – The war against your soul within. To what extent are you aware of a battle going on within you? What is your strategy for combat? James says to resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:8); do you have a method for resistance? Being aware of the particular temptations that ‘get’ us is a good place to start. Think of, or even share with others, the particular sins that you are most vulnerable to.

Prayer of the Week

Our Lord God and King, may we live our lives grateful for your salvation and always ready to declare what you’ve done in us. Thank you for embracing us as your people. Please help us in our ambition to live holy and exemplary lives for you and your glory. Amen.

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