May 22, 2016
When we hear the word, “house,” we think of a building. When we hear the expression, “house of God,” we think of a church building or a temple. We picture a structure made of wood, brick, and stone. Such buildings are not alive because the materials they are made of have no life in them. Buildings do not live.
This morning as we continue to look at First Peter, we are talking about a house that is actually alive. This house is not made of wood, brick, or stone because it is made of people. The Church is the living house of God in the world.
I. AS THE CHURCH WE WORSHIP GOD. 2:4-8
Now that may sound a little obvious to you. I mean, what else would you do in a church but worship God? But we need to flesh this out and Peter helps us by the way he describes the church. He doesn’t actually use the word, “church.” Instead he talks about living stones in v.5. So what is that all about?
In v.4 Peter says, “As you come to him.” Who is “him”? Well the very next line says that he is rejected by men, but chosen and precious in the sight of God. So we’re talking about Jesus. In 2:3 we again see that “him” is the Lord, Jesus Christ. But v.3 is quotation from Ps.34 and in Ps.34 it refers to God. So I want to point out that “him” refers to Christ and Peter is taking this Old Testament reference to God and applying it to Jesus, showing his deity.
But why does he call Jesus a living stone? Well, in v.6, 7, and 8 Peter quotes from the Old Testament books of Isaiah and Psalms. There are a number of prophecies about a stone in the Old Testament. In Is.28:15 we read about a tested, precious stone which is a sure foundation in Zion, the city of God, Jerusalem. It is a foundation stone of justice and deliverance. Jesus is the fulfillment of these stone prophecies. He is the foundation of all that God is doing in the world.
In v.5 Peter tells us that believers are also like living stones and we are being built into a spiritual house. Well, what is a spiritual house? It is a temple. The word, “house” often refers to the temple in Jerusalem. And what is a temple? It’s a place where you meet with God. God dwells in his temple. Now this gets pretty cool.
In the Old Testament God revealed his presence to his people in a pillar of cloud. When God told Moses to build the tabernacle, we read in Ex.40:34, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Many years later when Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem we read in IKgs.8:10-11, “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD."
But God did not dwell in the temple forever. In Ez.10-11 we read of how the glory of the Lord departed from the temple because of the sins of the people of Israel. Finally, Mal.3:1 tells us that a day would come when Lord would suddenly come to his temple. But that day never seemed to arrive. The Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s temple and then it was rebuilt. When Herod came to the throne, he undertook a complete rebuilding of the temple. But the presence of the Lord did not come back to the temple. In fact, Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
When Jesus carried on his ministry at one point he was at the temple and in a very provocative statement, Jesus said in Jn.19:21, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” Men and women, Jesus is the new temple. The fullness of God dwells in Jesus. If we want to know and worship God we must go to Jesus. He is the temple.
But there is another piece to this. Here in 1Pt.2:5 Peter tells us that we are like living stones being built up as a spiritual house. Jesus is the Living Stone, the foundation stone and today the church is the temple, the house of God. We are living stones because we have the life of Christ in us. In Jn.14 we learn that Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell within every believer. God in all his fullness inhabits his church, his people. The church is the dwelling place of God. And finally, in Rev.21-22 we learn that a day is coming when there will be a new heaven and earth and the temple of God will be the whole earth, for the glory of God will fill the whole earth.
Now this is profound. For while Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth and has all authority in heaven and earth, the church of Jesus Christ is the primary expression of the fullness of God on the earth today. And notice what Peter says. We are a holy priesthood and as priests we also offer spiritual sacrifices in worship of God. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rm.12). We sing to the Lord in worship (Heb.13:15). We give of our resources to enable the work of God to continue on the earth (Phil.4:18). We offer ourselves in service to God in doing good to others (Heb.13:16).
When a person enters into life with Christ through faith that person is filled with the presence of God and brought into the church of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Believers in Christ are the center of the worship of God on the earth today. Is God worthy of our worship? Absolutely. Surely this demands that we give ourselves fully to the privilege of worship. Peter says in v.7 that this is honor for us.
Unfortunately Peter reminds us in v.7-8 that many stumble over Jesus Christ the cornerstone of God’s temple, the church. They are offended by Jesus. It offends them to hear that Jesus is the only way to find life in the kingdom of God. It offends them to have to surrender their lives in faith to Jesus in order to find life. They would rather create their own lives and kingdoms in disobedience to Christ and the gospel. To reject Christ is to embrace a destiny of being shut out from the presence of God and all his love and goodness. Now let me ask, are you alive in Christ? Are you part of his spiritual temple, the church, offering spiritual sacrifices? Or are you dead in your trespasses and sins?
II. AS THE CHURCH WE DECLARE THE PRAISES OF GOD. 2:9-10
If you know Christ then you have an amazing destiny, and I’m not just talking about our future in the new heavens and new earth. I’m talking about the present. Peter is defining who we are. We are, in fact, the people of God. And here is a surprising thing. The four phrases in v.9 are phrases that were applied specifically to Israel, the people of God in the Old Testament. I believe that God has a future for Israel, in the sense that a day is coming when many Jewish people will turn to Christ. But I also believe that there is only one people of God. The people of God are those who are in Christ Jesus. The church is the people of God and all the promises that were made to Abraham and his seed are brought forward to the church through Christ who is the seed of Abraham, according to Paul in Galatians. In Gal.3:29 Paul writes, “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”
There are many races in the world today, but there is only one chosen race, made up of followers of Christ. There are many nations on the earth today, but there is only one holy nation. It is the church of Jesus Christ. There are many religious leaders, but there is only one royal priesthood, followers of Jesus. We who know Christ are his possession. He has bought us through his death and resurrection. We belong to God. What an honor!
Now I don’t know what this does for you, but I believe this knowledge should shape the way we think about ourselves and carry ourselves in this world. Paul says, “You are not your own.” In other words you do not own yourself. You say, “Wait, Isn’t this my body?” Not really. Your body belongs to Christ. Sure, you are free to watch, read, and listen to what you choose, but if you are a follower of Christ you will choose to watch, read, and listen to things that are honoring to him. Sure, you can think about whatever you want, but if you belong to Christ you will want your thoughts to track with the mind of Christ.
This is not a restriction on our freedom. This is a recognition that belonging to Jesus holds the greatest potential for joy, meaning, and purpose in life. In Rm.14:17, Paul reminds us that, “…the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Who doesn’t want righteousness, peace and joy? If you would even just get in the habit of reminding yourself on a daily basis that the Holy Spirit is in you and that you belong to God, it would do a world of good for you. Paul doesn’t say, feel the Spirit. He says walk according to the Spirit. By faith walk according to the Spirit and you will not gratify the sinful desires that reside in our flesh.
And then the fact that we are the people of God ought to shape how we carry ourselves in the world. Israel was called to be a light to the Gentiles. God’s purpose in calling Israel was not to create some exclusive, self-obsessed nation that would proudly look down on everyone else. But that is exactly what happened. The people of Israel took pride in the fact that they were God’s chosen people who had been given the law of God. But what happened? Israel turned away from God in idolatry and unbelief and still claimed to be special because God chose them. Israel was not a light to the Gentiles. Israel became like the Gentiles and God removed himself from Israel because he was not wanted. He is still not wanted.
When Jesus came he said that he was the light of the world. But then he said that we are also the light of the world. And Peter tells us that we have the honor of proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Listen to Is.43:20-21. “The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
The world is in darkness. You and I have been called out of darkness. We have received mercy through Jesus Christ. We have become the people of God through Jesus Christ, and now we are in a position to declare the wonderful truths about forgiveness and life in Christ.
But do not think that this is just a bald, bold stating of the gospel. The gospel should not be presented in a vacuum. The gospel is meant to be accompanied by righteous living. We don’t just focus on the news that our sins can be forgiven. That’s not the main point. The main point is that our sins are forgiven so that we can enter into the wonderful eternal life of Christ now. We present the good news because it is good news to us for living life now. We are living the good news!
My concern is not with how many people you witness to. I am concerned with helping us see that gospel witness flows out of gospel living. If we are prospering in Christ we will declare his praises because we are experiencing his goodness and love deep in our lives. But we must also see that life in Christ is surely meant to be lived in the fellowship of the local church. It seems that we have separated life in Christ from his church as if the gospel is only about my life with Christ. No. We are living stones being built into a spiritual house of God.
I don’t know if you have driven by St. Luke’s at the corner of Lake and Lathrop. If so you have seen that the whole building is surrounded by scaffolding. Obviously the building is in need of tuck-pointing. The mortar that holds the building stones together is deteriorating and if it’s not repaired those stones may begin to fall out. That would be dangerous.
Now men and women, the church of Jesus Christ is being built with living stones. But I am concerned because on any given Sunday it seems that the living stones have fallen away from the spiritual house. This puts the whole building in jeopardy. Well, are you a living stone? Are you in Christ? Do you have life with Christ? If so, you belong here with the other living stones. Amen.