“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
For the last couple of times we’ve been thinking about the words “As you come to him” that we find at the beginning of 1 Peter 2v4 and we’ve seen that Peter went on to speak of both those who come and the one to whom they come. We saw that verse 4 tells us that the one to whom we come is “a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious”. That is a description of Jesus as the promised Messiah who, though rejected by men, is chosen by God as the chief cornerstone of a radical new and better temple that God is building to take the place of the physical temple in Jerusalem. So, the one to whom we come is the foundation upon which a new type of temple is being built.
Last time we went on to start to think about what Peter went on to say in verse 5 about those who come to Jesus as the “living stone” and what happens to them when they come. In that verse Peter 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”. We identified five things that Peter had to say in that verse about those who come to Christ as the living stone. They are:
1 What they come as
2 What they come to experience
3 What they come to be (Our present section)
4 What they come to do
5 What they come through
Last time we only had time to consider the first two of those five points. What do they come as? Well, we saw that they come as “living stones”. By that rather strange description Peter means that they come as building material that is alive because God, in His mercy, has caused them to be born again. What do they come to experience? Well, we saw that they experience “being built up as a spiritual house”. We saw that, by that, Peter means that they experience being built upon Christ as the foundation into the temple in which God the Holy Spirit dwells.
We’ll go on now to take up the first of these three remaining points. So, firstly, let us see:
What they come to be
Well, the verse says: “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, what they come to be is “a holy priesthood”. Peter will go on to refer to believers in Christ together being a priesthood again in verse 9 where he says: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”.
Now, remember that Peter has just been talking about those who come to Christ “being built up as a spiritual house”. Now he’s saying that they come to “be a holy priesthood”. That seems quite puzzling. You might well wonder to yourself “How can we be both a temple and a priesthood?” In Old Testament times, the temple was a physical building made of stone and the priesthood was made up men who were designated as priests. There was no way that the temple could be thought to be the priesthood. Neither could the priesthood be considered to be the temple. They were undoubtedly very closely related in that the priesthood served in the temple but the priesthood and the temple were most definitely two quite distinct things. So, how can those who come to Christ be both living stones that are built together to form a temple and at the same time be priests that together form a priesthood? The fact is that the wonder of the reality of what happens to “living stones” as they come to Christ stretches the temple and priesthood imagery to the limit and forces it to break down.
We find exactly the same sort of thing when we consider Jesus Himself as the fulfilment of the Old Testament pictures and types. As we’ve already seen, He’s the foundation stone of the new temple. But, that’s not all He is. The New Testament makes it clear that He’s also the high priest that makes the once for all sacrifice for sin. He’s also the altar on which that sacrifice is made. Furthermore, He was the sacrifice that He Himself offered on that altar. All of those Old Testament features are fulfilled in Him at once. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that those who come to Him fulfil more than one facet of what is pictured in the Old Testament.
The remarkable thing that Peter is saying about us here is that, not only are we living stones who are being built into the spiritual house in which God lives by His Spirit, but we are also, at the same time, a “holy priesthood”. In other words, we don’t just form a passive building where God dwells; we also have an active role before God Himself. We relate to God and interact with Him. Yes, He comes to us as His temple and that is a wonderful thing but, even more incredibly, we come to Him as His priests. We, as believers in Christ who have been born again, can approach Him in a way that those without Christ can’t.
Now, in Old Testament times the priesthood was limited to the tribe of Levi. They were the “priestly caste” but Peter does not talk in terms of there being such a distinct group of priests in the church of Jesus Christ. Peter speaks in terms of all who come to Christ forming a priesthood. So, it’s a serious mistake to think in terms of ministers or vicars or preachers or elders or leaders or any other “special” or prominent Christians in particular being priests. Yet, when you look at the way the church all too often functions or the way in which people sometimes speak about the church you get the distinct impression that some believers in Christ must come to Him to be the building blocks who passively form the temple while others come to Him to be the priests who actively perform in the temple. There are those who form it and those who perform in it.
To put it crudely, all too often, the idea is that there’s the “pew fodder” and there’s the priestly class of clergymen. That is a gross distortion of the church of Jesus Christ. You see, Peter is clearly saying here that there are two things that are true of every believer in Christ as they come to Him. One is that they are each a “living stone” that, along with all the other “living stones”, are being built into God’s temple. The other truth is that every believer in Christ is a priest and that they together form God’s priesthood. Do you think of yourself as priest? Well, you should because the Bible clearly teaches the “priesthood of all believers”.
That’s not simply on the basis of what Peter says here.
Even in the Old Testament it was hinted that the time would come when all of God’s people would be priests. For instance, look at Exodus 19v5-6 where we read: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel”. You can clearly see that Peter’s reference to “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” in 1 Peter 2v9 has come from that verse. Now that Jesus the Messiah had come the promise that all God’s people will be priests has become a reality.
We find that Isaiah said much the same thing in chapter 61v6 where we read: “but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast”. I’m sure that Isaiah’s hearers would have been pretty baffled by that. To them, only Levites could be priests. When would it come to be that all of God’s people rather than just Aaron’s descendants would be “the priests of the Lord”? Well, in the context of Isaiah 61, we’re told that it would be in what Isaiah described as “the year of the Lord’s favor”. What did that mean? When would “the year of the Lord’s favor” actually be?
Well, look at Luke 4v16-21 where read of Jesus as follows: “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”.
Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the Scriptures and the passage He read was the opening verses of Isaiah 61. As we read on we see what Jesus then had to say about the words He’d read: “And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing””. You see, Jesus was saying that it was His coming as the Messiah that heralded the beginning of “the year of the Lord’s favor” and all the promised blessings associated with it, including the promise that all of God’s people would then be “the priests of the Lord”.
It wasn’t only Peter who saw that all believers in Christ are now priests as the Old Testament had suggested would one day be the case. John did too. Look at Revelation 1v5b-6 where we read: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”. Who was John addressing when he said that? From Revelation 1v4 we see that it was “John to the seven churches that are in Asia”. John didn’t single out the leaders of those churches. He was addressing the churches themselves – that is, he was addressing all the believers in Christ who made up those churches. In saying “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” the word “us” referred, in the first instance, to John and all the believers in Christ who made up those seven churches. John was saying that all those who are loved by Christ and freed from their sins by Christ are made to be priests to God by Christ.
Then, if we look at Revelation 5v9-10, we find that John said: “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.””. Who are those who have been made to be “priests to our God” here? Well, we see that it’s those “from every tribe and language and people and nation” who have been ransomed for God by the blood of Christ. Everyone who has been ransomed by Christ had been made a priest to God by Christ so that they together form a priesthood.
So, if you are a believer in Christ and keep on coming to Him. You are a priest. But, what does that mean? What is a priest? Very simply, a priest is one who has access to God. A priest is one who is permitted to come to God and appear before Him.
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!