“As you come to Him”
1 Peter 2:1-5 ESV
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 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. ESV
Repeating our previous review we noted that we started to think about the words “As you come to him” that we find at the beginning of 1 Peter 2v4. We noted that the phrase centres on the idea of “coming” and the text that follows mentions both those who come and the one to whom they come. We particularly concentrated on what Peter had to say about the one to whom we come.
In thinking about this coming to Jesus we noted that it is a continual coming and that as people come to Him something simultaneously happens to them. Peter goes on to speak of those who come to Him and what happens to them when they come as we see in verse 5 where he continues by saying: “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”. So, we’ll start to think about that verse today. There are five things that Peter had to say in the verse about those who come to Christ as the living stone. They are:
What they come as
What they come to experience (two posts)
What they come to be
What they come to do
What they come through
So, as we have begun to consider, speaking of those who come to Christ as being “living stones” is consistent with what Peter has been saying throughout the letter about them having been born again and so being partakers of a new spiritual life. The new idea that has been introduced here is that of them being “living stones”. Referring to them as stones or building materials really paves the way for what Peter is going on to say about:
What they come to experience
That’s our next point and what I mean by it is what happens to us when we come to Him as living stones. What does Peter say happens? What do we experience when we come? Well, Peter says: “As you come to Him…….. even you yourselves……. being built up as a spiritual house”. The idea here is that as we each come to Him we are brought together and joined together and formed into a whole. Now, previously, when Peter was using the illustration of new born babes, the emphasis was very much on the individual’s relationship with and dependence on Christ. There is no doubt that that is an important aspect of the Christian life but it’s not the whole story.
Those who only concentrate exclusively on the personal, individual relationship with Christ have a distorted view and impoverished experience of the Christian life. In introducing this picture of “being built up as a spiritual house” Peter is showing that, besides the personal relationship with Christ, there is also an essential aspect of togetherness and mutual dependence that is an equally important aspect of the Christian life. John Donne once famously and idealistically, wrote that “No man is an island”. I say idealistically because, in this world, many do live as though they are islands. That attitude and sense of alienation is conveyed very clearly in the Paul Simon song: “I am a rock”. Some of the lyrics are:
I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock, I am an island.
Don’t talk of love,
But I’ve heard the words before;
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock, I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.
That was written in pre-internet and social media days. Sadly, it’s probably true of even more people nowadays.
However, as Christians we can and should say “I am a rock” or at least “I am a stone” but, unlike the cold, hard rock that results in being disconnected like an island that Paul Simon sang about, we can say “I am a living stone”. We can love and be loved and touch and be touched and in coming to Christ we come to one another so that we are not disconnected islands but are “being built up as a spiritual house”.
So, let’s give some thought to this phrase “being built up as a spiritual house”.
Firstly, we see that “As you come to Him” you not only find that you’re not the only one; you experience “being built”. That means that connections are made. There’s a joining together that takes place. As you come to Him you become part of a building project. That should not come as a surprise in view of what we’ve seen previously. Remember that the one to whom we come is “a living stone” and God said of Him in Isaiah 28v16: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious”. We come to the “cornerstone” that God has laid as the foundation for His building. He’s the starting point so, when we, as living stones, come to Him as the cornerstone, we are added to Him so that a building can grow. So, as we come to Him, we don’t merely come together – we’re joined to Him and are built together.
Secondly, we need to see what we are being built to be. God’s saying: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone” certainly seemed to be an allusion to the Temple in Jerusalem. We see here that Peter says that we’re “being built up as a spiritual house”. That’s a way of speaking of a temple or the house of God by which is meant “God’s dwelling place” – the place where God is especially present. So, in coming to Christ we experience not only being built together but being built together into God’s temple. That’s what happens to us.
Now, we mustn’t misunderstand Peter’s description of this temple as being a “spiritual house”.
That word “spiritual” is often taken in a wishy washy sense to mean something “immaterial” or “non-physical”. That certainly isn’t what Peter has in mind here. Remember that this “spiritual house” is being built out of believers in Christ, like you and me, upon the foundation of Christ Himself. Neither we nor He are immaterial. We’re flesh and blood. We are physical beings. So, what does Peter mean by saying that we are “being built up as a spiritual house”?
Well, look at 1 Corinthians 3v16 where we read that Paul said to the Corinthian church: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? ” Now, to understand that verse correctly you need to realise that the word “you” there is plural and the word “temple” is singular. So, Paul was not saying “each one of you individually is God’s temple”. No, he was saying that you together, collectively, form God’s temple. He was saying “you together are God’s dwelling place”. How come? Well, Paul said that it’s because “God’s Spirit dwells in you” – that is, “God’s Spirit dwells in you together or collectively”. So, we’re being built together into a temple that is described as a “spiritual house” because the Holy Spirit influences it and dominates it by His presence.
We see exactly the same idea in Ephesians chapter 2 where Paul speaks of the Ephesian believers being “a holy temple in the Lord” with “Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” and then he goes on in v22 to say: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”. You see, this Holy Temple, built from believers in Christ as living stones upon Jesus Christ as the foundation is the place in which God dwells by His Spirit. That’s why Peter speaks of the temple we’re being built into as a “spiritual house”. The Holy Spirit lives in it.
This is really amazing!
We need to grasp that together in Christ we form a temple that is far more glorious than the temple that Solomon built ever was. For all of the splendour of that amazing building, God was never present in it in the way that He is present in us. Look at what Stephen said as he addressed those who were about to stone him to death. We read in Acts 7v44-50:
““Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things? ’”.
You see, Solomon built a magnificent house for God to dwell in but the fact is “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands”. That is, God doesn’t live in anything that man might build for Him. Deep down, even Solomon himself knew that. During his prayer of dedication for the temple that is recorded in 1 Kings 8 we find that he said in verse 27:
““But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! ”
He was acutely aware of the inadequacy of the temple he had built, hence his anguished question: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? ” I think that Solomon thought that answer must be “no” but we know that the answer is “yes” don’t we? True enough, we can’t build a temple that God will dwell in because no building can contain Him but the amazing thing is that He has chosen and purposed to build us into a temple for Him to dwell in!
I urge you to take encouragement from that.
Outwardly, we look so ordinary and weak and unimpressive but God dwells among us. Let us take to heart Paul’s words of encouragement to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3v16-17: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple”. Outwardly we might look nothing special but we’re important to God because we’re His holy temple.
Next post we will consider yet a third additional point to be made on this theme: What they come to experience
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!