“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
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
4 What they come to do (Our present section)
5 What they come through
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 to look at the second remaining point today. So, let us see:
But then, what does a priest do when he comes before God? Well, that question brings us nicely to the next point that we have from verse 5:
What they come to do
This follows naturally and inevitably from the fact that those who come to Christ come to be “a holy priesthood”. What did priests do in Old Testament times? They appeared before God and offered sacrifices to Him as prescribed under the Old Covenant. Our 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, like the Old Testament priesthood, we too as priests come to God and offer sacrifices to Him. However, the sacrifices we bring are very different from those prescribed under the Old Covenant. That’s made clear because Peter refers to them as “spiritual sacrifices”.
What does he mean by “spiritual sacrifices”? Well, remember that when Peter spoke of us being built into a temple he described it as a “spiritual house” and we saw that it is “spiritual” in the sense that the Holy Spirit influences it and dominates it by His presence. Likewise, the “spiritual sacrifices” that we bring are “spiritual” in the sense that the Holy Spirit inspires and enables these sacrifices to be made.
Now, recognising that these “spiritual sacrifices” are inspired and enabled by the Holy Spirit means that they are not like the prescribed rites and ceremonies of the Old Testament sacrificial system but we mustn’t think that they must, therefore, be somehow, vague and mystical. The New Testament gives us plenty of examples of such “spiritual sacrifices” and they are invariably very practical things. Let’s look at some of those examples.
Firstly, look at Romans 12v1 where we read: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”. Paul speaks here of us presenting “a living sacrifice” to God. What are we to present as “a living sacrifice”? Well, Paul says that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices and he says that that is “your spiritual worship”. Notice that word “spiritual” again. This presenting of our bodies as living sacrifices isn’t natural worship. It isn’t an observing of religious rites or ceremonies. It stems from the Holy Spirit being at work in us. And, notice that it is described as “a living sacrifice”. As we’ve seen previously with “living stones”, that sounds to be a contradiction in terms but, you see, sacrifice in the temple that is founded on Christ is very different from the sacrifices that were made in the Old Testament temple.
What is it to present your body as a living sacrifice?
I think it means that everything you do with your body in every area of life is to be done as an act of worship to God. It’s perhaps summed up well by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10v31 where we read: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. You see, whatever you do with your body, whether it be eating or drinking or anything else, it is to be done to the glory of God. You’re to “do all to the glory of God”. That’s a sacrifice because it means denying what we might naturally want to do and putting God and his glory first. Do you do your paid employment to the glory of God? Do you do your housework to the glory of God? Do you do the gardening to the glory of God? Do you watch TV to the glory of God? Do you do use the internet to the glory of God? Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is all embracing. It encompasses everything that we do with our bodies.
For another example let us next look at Hebrews 13v15 where we read: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name”.
The verse speaks of offering “a sacrifice of praise to God”. What is a sacrifice of praise? Is it singing hymns when we meet on a Sunday? Is it shouting “hallelujah”? I’m sure that it could include those things but the text says that it is “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name”. It’s “the fruit of lips” so it’s verbal – not necessarily singing or shouting but it’s to do with words and notice that it’s specifically the uttering of words that “acknowledge his name”. That is acknowledging, or confessing or declaring God’s name and God’s name speaks of who He is. It speaks of His being and his nature and His character. It speaks of Him being almighty and holy and righteous and eternal and unchanging and merciful and gracious.
How is this “praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” a “sacrifice”?
Well, it’s a sacrifice because if we are truly acknowledging His name we are giving up all dependence on ourselves. Acknowledging His name involves bowing the knee to Him and renouncing our own efforts. It’s also a sacrifice because when we acknowledge His name those who have not come to faith in Christ don’t like what they’re hearing. They don’t like the implication that they aren’t their own masters. They are offended by the truth that it is God who rules and has rights over them and so they react against us when we acknowledge His name. Being prepared to be unpopular and maybe even hated is a sacrifice that we make when we acknowledge His name.
Moving on to the next verse in Hebrews 13 we see that yet another example of such a sacrifice is mentioned and it shows that our sacrifice is not only in word and attitude of heart. We read in verse16: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God”. Doing good and sharing what you have seem to be much more practical, down to earth sacrifices but we are told that they are pleasing to God. Now, you might think to yourself “I’m not wealthy, I don’t have much to share”. But you don’t have to be wealthy to do good. We’re not told that we must share a great abundance. It simply says “to share what you have” whatever that may be and whether it be little or much. It might mean sharing your time or your energy or your home or your abilities.
In Acts 9 we find a good example of someone who did not neglect to do good and who shared what she had. Her name is Tabitha or Dorcas, depending on whether you prefer to speak Aramaic or Greek! We read in Acts 9v36-37: “Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room”.
What were these good works and acts of charity that she had been known for?
Had she set up a charitable foundation? Was she a wealthy woman who had given away huge amounts of money from her personal fortune? Well, let’s read on in Acts 9 and look at verses 38 to 39: “Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them”. She was a seamstress. She was good at sewing and she’d used that ability to provide tunics and other garments for needy widows. Doing that was the good works and acts of charity that she had been known for and that was a sacrifice that was pleasing to God. She had lived and acted as a priest to God.
We see another example of doing good and sharing what you have in Philippians 4v18 where we read: “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God”. The Philippian church had sent gifts to Paul to help him in a time of need and he described the giving of those gifts as “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God”. As priests they had made that sacrifice.
What these examples of spiritual sacrifices show us is that anything and everything we do in the service of God is a “spiritual sacrifice”. The fact is that we are God’s temple and at the same time we are his priesthood. Unlike the Old Testament priests who entered into God’s presence on certain special, set occasions, our whole lives as New Testament priests are to be lived in God’s presence and all that we do is to be a sacrifice to God by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
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!