1 PETER-SERIES : NR 3
Scripture: 1 Peter 2 : 1 – 12
The word THEREFORE in verse 1 is rather important because it links the instruction in verse 1 to the preceding chapter, and particularly the last two verses thereof.
Keep in mind that in the original manuscript of 1 Peter there were no chapter and verse groupings. In the Greek everything was written continuously. It was the later translators who inserted the divisions.
In other words, what the Apostle is saying is as follows:
“Seeing that you – Christian-believers reading this letter – by the almighty work of God have been reborn out of the eternal Word and consequently you have come to faith-obedience, THEREFORE you are able to live out of this new life that is in you, living holy lives and abstaining from every form of sinful desire – which does not conform to your new life in Christ. Just stop it! Because you CAN abstain as a result of the power of the new life that is in you. Things like malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind do not belong to a saved person in whom God has lavished the new life. Those are works of the unsaved fallen nature, the flesh. But you already live by the Holy Spirit – therefore – let it become visible in your practical lifestyle.”
Do you hear what the Apostle is saying?
He certainly is NOT saying: Cease from doing this and that SO THAT you can become holy and can receive the new life. No, he is saying: BECAUSE you are already included in Jesus Christ and are reborn by the eternal Seed of the Word, RID yourself of the things which do not come forth from Christ Jesus.
The Christian does not live to BECOME something, but he/she lives out of what he/she already IS. One can see that so clearly by simply linking 2:1 with the end of chapter 1.
Therefore: Stop with the evil and LIVE out of the living Lord Jesus who has made you new.
You can clearly see the sequence: FIRST realise how merciful the Lord was/is towards you and THEN obedience follows as a fruit. Realise that He is good. The LORD is good. The Lord IS good. The Lord is GOOD. Every person who starts to trust upon Christ for salvation, know by their own experience how merciful and compassionate the living Lord truly is. A follower of Jesus tastes and experiences something of God’s goodness, even in the most bitter circumstances.
Now the Apostle’s argument sounds as follows (verse 2-3): “The fact that you have come to know the goodness of the Lord, must inspire you to get to know and experience His grace more and more – by thirsting for His Word. The craving for the Word is the way in which the Christian-believer grows. The Word is like pure spiritual milk!
Peter uses the example of a baby who craves for milk. It is in fact the only thing with which such a little one is concerned. And we all know what happens when the milk is not available!
It is therefore a very strong metaphor that Peter is using. The growth of a baby is only about the thirst for and the intake of milk.
Spiritually it works the same. The spiritual life of somebody who neglects the Word, will flag and suffer damage. The more a child of God experiences that the Word is truly the Word of God, and breaks with sin and realises the need for the Truth and acknowledges and craves spiritual growth, to that degree shall the desire for spiritual milk develop and grow.
For that reason the summons and invitation in verse 4: COME! Come to Him – to Jesus. And keep in mind: The Apostle is speaking to people who are Christians already. This is therefore a summons to Christians (who have already surrendered to Christ) to keep coming! Particularly by the daily trust in the Word – the spiritual milk! The Greek emphasizes the thought of coming in order to remain in His presence. Almost like the vine and the branches (John 15). Or the building of bricks upon a foundation. The cornerstone of the building is the Lord Jesus Christ.
That is the picture/metaphor that the Apostle uses – as the Holy Spirit inspires him to do. The believers are the bricks and Christ the cornerstone. “Bricks, come to the cornerstone and let yourself be built in – to remain for ever, to be a part of the building for ever.“
Christ is the living Stone because He is everlastingly resurrected from the grave. And He is in a living relationship with His redeemed body, the church. But at the same time He is also the capstone for everyone who does not believe. As the Scriptures say. The one is built UPON the cornerstone and the other stumbles and falls over the very same stone. Because you see, the fallen man who is not enlightened through the Holy Spirit, will always reject this cornerstone.
Just think how He was examined and contemptuously rejected by the spiritual leaders of Israel. With Jesus, everyone who has ever suffered the pain of rejection can feel at home. He knows all about it. BUT, the resurrection of Christ from the dead was God the Father’s sign of approval of Christ. That is actually all that is important. God’s stamp of approval. If you are in Christ, YOU bear the stamp of God’s approval!
But, if the Lord Jesus is the cornerstone, what are the Christian-believers? Answer: The building bricks with which the spiritual house is being constructed. The house is the true church, the true body of Christ. The saved person is closely identified/associated and united with Christ so that the same life that is in Him is also in them.
The wonder is therefore that God the Father is in the process of building a spiritual house by building all believers into it – placing them and incorporating them with one another. But look at the words in verse 5: You also are being built into a spiritual house. Yes, it is God’s work, but the reborn person is also active in obedience. This does not mean that God and man are working together – as if each one has their share to do. God does everything. But He brings man into action and man receives it as an instruction towards obedience. As Phil 2:13 puts it: It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. And 100% of the devotion and surrender of the “bricks” is acceptable to the Father only through the perfection of the Lord Jesus. We never, but never have any merit in ourselves, but we are enclosed and included in Jesus’s 100%. THAT is how the Father looks at it. Seen from HIS point of view, the NT believers are now fulfilling the function which the OT believers had – ALL are now holy – that means: belonging to Him – and ALL are His priesthood who bring, not animals, but sacrifices of honour and praises to God. In the OT the priests interceded for people, rendered service, brought people to the Lord. In the NT this is true of all true believers, not only some.
It is so marvellous to see how the Apostle’s mind is continuously led by the SCRIPTURES – always the Scriptures. Meaning the OT of course – the absolute Word of God. FOR IN SCRIPTURE IT SAYS he is saying in verse 6. What he just said in verse 5, he now substantiates with Scripture, namely Isaiah 28:16 where the prophet refers to the coming Messiah as cornerstone or capstone.
Jesus is the living Stone upon whom the true church – the body of Christ – is being built. And the One who is doing the construction is God the Father himself. What an assurance and comfort! It is not preachers or church councils or synods who are building. It is God Himself. Before the creation already He chose Christ and appointed Him to be the cornerstone. Before there were humans and before there was a Fall. JESUS is the chosen cornerstone. There are not several ways to God. There is only ONE. The Lord Jesus Christ. God did not lay any other cornerstone.
One can be very religious and devoted, but apart from Christ such a person is absolutely lost – lost for eternity. That is why we must be so feverish to get the Truth to people. It is urgent. It is a matter of life and death.
But now notice the next statement Peter makes: The one who trusts in HIM will never be put to shame. Is that not too wonderful? The person who truly begins to build upon this chosen foundation-stone, shall never ever regret it and God shall carry such a person to the end. That is the glorious assurance which every true child of God has. Just think: The truth of Christ shall never forsake you. Never.
It cannot be clearer and plainer than in verses 7-8. The entire humanity consists of only TWO groups of people: Those who have placed their hope ONLY upon Christ and His death on the cross, and those who have not done so. For God, humanity does not exist of white, black, brown, yellow, buddhist, Hindu, atheist, European, Dutch, French, Mandarin, rich, poor, uptown or downtrodden. There are only TWO groups. And you and I ARE at this very moment part of one of them.
In verses 7-8 the Apostle is still busy quoting from the infallible Old Testament Scripture. And he is saying: Some truly share in the glory of the Lord Jesus, but the others stumble and fall over exactly the same Christ. To one person Christ is the fragrance of life and to others the odour of death – says tPahe Apostle Paul in another place.
Yes, exactly this Capstone who was rejected by Israel of old, HE has become the most important stone in the building – indeed the foundation-stone. And the person who begins to build upon Him, simply LIVES – without end!
But, God ordained that those who disobey the Gospel-message, they will stumble over the foundation stone. They fall. The lost eternity is God’s destination for people who are disobedient to the Gospel. It is an accomplished fact. These are true realities. But for the people who know the Lord, it is also a dreadful Word, because we realise our great responsibility towards everyone around us. Mourn for disobedient people – as Psalm 6 teaches – and the Lord sees and answers our tearful prayers.
But in sharp contrast to the people who stumble over Christ, the NT-believers are God’s chosen people and nation – consisting of all ethnic peoples. They were already chosen before the creation (Eph 1:4).
In verse 9 Peter uses Exodus 19 to describe the NT-church with notions which applied to God’s OT-people. It is clear that the NT-church has taken over the role of the nation Israel. The most beautiful descriptions are used. Listen to this:
CHOSEN > In other words, God’s grace and his choice is the basis of everything. KINGS > In other words, a Christian reigns, he is not a victim, but reigns in the authority of Christ. PRIESTS > who can serve and care and intercede and sacrifice. The two go hand-in-hand: Reign and serve. Royal priesthood! It is a priesthood that belongs to the King and serves Him and truly belongs to Him.
One of the most wonderful privileges a Christian has: You truly belong to Someone. Because remember: He called you with a mighty voice out of the darkness into His wonderful light. And therefore we come into motion. It is the effectiveness of His call that moves and changes us. Now we must and should become proclaimers of His salvation. Evangelists. Privileged people can hardly keep quiet. The Apostle says we MUST tell and proclaim the Gospel in order to spiritually help other people. Because of the fact that the Christian already IS everything described here, he/she must be a witness.
Look, Peter does not waste words. Every word carries weight and is significant. Every verse is loaded with truth and meaning.
Verse 10 now illuminates the other side of the diamond namely that the true body (church) of Christ has a BEFORE and AFTER. It also applies to the individual Christian.
Peter does not mince matters. EARLIER you weren’t God’s people. But NOW you are. EARLIER you did not receive mercy. But NOW you are objects of His favour and grace and forgiveness and salvation and love and care. The Bible calls it compassion.
This EARLIER and NOW was of course in a historical sense literally true of the earliest NT church to whom Peter was writing. BEFORE Jesus’s death on the cross they were still pagans and AFTER Jesus’s resurrection there was salvation for them. BEFORE they came to faith and repentance they were lost. AFTER they came to faith, they were delivered and forgiven. EARLIER in OT time Israel was God’s nation. NOW after Pentecost, the Christian-believers out of all the nations are God’s people.
Apply this principle to your own life. Is there a BEFORE and an AFTER in your life? EARLIER you did not have faith-assurance, but THEN the Lord miraculously took over and called you by name and NOW the Holy Spirit is active in your life. It is very important that you and I should have a clear testimony.
The Apostle calls his fellow-believers DEAR FRIENDS. It is so great and is something that is found only in the Christian Faith: Love for one another. Being a family. Arising from God’s love.
But do not imagine that this being family implies moonlight and roses. Because the CONTEXT wherein the family lives, is the world – the antichrist-system that nobody can avoid – which is not sympathetic towards the followers of Christ. The clearer and more obvious you live for Christ and more openly you stand up for Him and the Truth, the more hostile becomes the context. That is exactly what Peter’s first readers experienced. Indeed, they suffered much hardship and even endured great affliction as a result of their connectedness to the Triune God.
Within the context of the world, the Christian always is and remains a stranger and an exile – meaning that you should and must not be a part of the system. You are not at home and you are here only temporarily. A boat is in the water, but the water is not in the boat. If you are travelling and sleep over somewhere, the sleepover place is not your home. This Christian-hostile world system is never the true Christian’s home. It is merely a temporarily pit stop. If you are at home in the world and do not experience trouble, it is because you EITHER have not been born of Christ OR because you are living a life of compromise. Perhaps you are trying to be a Christian in secret. It is deadly dangerous.
While the Christian is temporarily living in the world system, it is of cardinal importance to live a HOLY life, says verse 11. Listen to the emphatic instruction: “I urge you, ABSTAIN from sinful desires, which war against your soul”. With self-discipline the Christian must refuse/resist the desires of the fallen human nature – that destroy the soul and war against the spirit. That way only can the Christian make an impact on the world. Desires of the flesh are like guerrilla fighters who continuously attempt to destroy the Christian’s joy and peace and usefulness. That is why the conscious LIVING out of Christ’s holiness – that is imputed on the believer – is so imperative.
It therefore is not firstly about what Christian-believers say and talk, but about how you live. That is what the sceptic worldly people look at first. Yes, of course you must SPEAK if you are a follower of Christ. If the Spirit dwells in you, you shall certainly do it. BUT – look what the apostle is saying in verse 12: Of course they will accuse and slander you – as if you have committed a crime. But, let them do so. It is to your advantage. Point is: They must find nothing to say against your life and behaviour. Your lifestyle, which they will watch closely, must be their condemnation on the Great Day of judgment – which is imminent. On THAT Day they shall have to glorify the LORD. That means they will have no excuse, and they’ll be forced to give the Lord all honour for what is the truth.
We can therefore clearly see that a Christian must not live in a cloister in isolation. But must continue with ordinary life among people who are separated from Christ.