Meditations in 1 Peter : 21: Living Stones
1 Pet 2:4 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.
The New Testament has two main analogies for the Church – a body and a building. Paul uses both. (There is a third analogy – the bride of Christ (Rev 19:7,8)
Let’s consider first the body: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rom 12:4,5) and “who are many, are one body.” (1 Cor 10:17) and “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12;27). The emphasis on the body is the picture that we all contribute to be the expression of Christ as he continues his ministry.
Then there is the building that Peter speaks about here – a spiritual house. In the previous meditation we considered the following: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit,” (Eph 2:19-22) where Paul refers to the church as God’s household, a building, a temple and a dwelling in which God lives. The emphasis of this picture is of us being God’s dwelling place on the earth. In the Old Testament He revealed Himself at and in the Tabernacle and the Temple. Today, this picture says, He reveals Himself through His people who form a living temple. Paul taught, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor 3:16) and “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor 6:19).
This is the amazing truth that Peter reiterates in his verse above, that we are a spiritual house (or house of God – i.e. temple), so the first emphasis is of us being indwelt by God, but the second point is that we are stones that are living – alive by the Spirit. Now a house isn’t a pile of bricks; it is a carefully designed and constructed building made up of walls. In this case, this building is made of stones, stones that are alive and we allow the Master Mason to build us in where He sees fit.
But then Peter pivots the picture. One minute it is a building, the next it is a priesthood. What is a priesthood? It is all the priests. What did the priests do in the Old Testament? They brought mankind to God (as distinct from the prophets who brought God to mankind). When people came to the Tabernacle or to the Temple to meet with God, the priests saw to it that they came in the acceptable manner, the manner laid down by the Law, and that was by bringing a sacrifice.
The particular sacrifices or offerings that we find in the early chapters of Leviticus were the burnt offering which was to be an expression of an open heart to God, the grain offering which was a giving over of personal work or achievement, the fellowship offering that indicates a desire for unity and communion with the Lord, the sin offering for dealing with specific wrongs committed, and the guilt offering for making restitution and atonement.
But we don’t make these sacrifices any longer for Christ himself has become a sacrifice that covers all of these things, so how can Peter say that we offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ? I suggest we do all these things above by our heart attitude that responds to the work of Christ on our behalf.
Burnt Offering: So when we come to Christ initially, we come with a completely open heart and lay down our lives to God, and in so doing we receive the work of Christ on our behalf – he was a perfectly obedient Son, given over totally to his Father’s will. We are thus received.
Grain Offering: As we walk out our Christian life we realise that all we have and all we do comes through the grace of God and so we surrender our hopes, ambitions and desires, as well as our achievements, to God and in so doing we reflect the work of Christ who utterly surrendered and gave up all his three years of ministry to the will of the Father for the Cross, which was the greater purpose in his coming.
Fellowship Offering: As we grow in the Christian Faith we begin to realise that the most precious thing we have is not our gifts or our talents or anything else, but simply the possibility of fellowship with God the Father. As we wait upon Him we can wait confidently knowing that Jesus was our perfect sacrifice who showed he wanted nothing more than to totally do the Father’s will and live with the Father in eternity, as he died on the Cross.
Sin Offering: As we grow in Christ we become more and more aware of the awfulness of sin and especially as it manifests itself in our lives, and we come in repentance and trusting Christ’s atoning work on the Cross to put us right again and again with the Father.
Guilt Offering: As we become sensitive to the hurt and harm we cause others and God, so we look to the enabling work of the Spirit that is released to us to bless others, the Spirit’s presence that was earned for us by Christ on the Cross. We cannot restore others who have been harmed by us, but we can look to God for His grace to flow directly to them and through us to them.
All this is the work of Christ on the Cross and it is this alone that enables us to be able to approach God wholeheartedly, surrender our whole lives to Him meaningfully, seek for fellowship with Him, know cleansing from sin and know His healing work to flow between us in restoring relationships with others around us. How wonderful!