First Peter with Andy Murray

Acceptable Sacrifices

1 Peter 2:4-8

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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.

For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.


Andrew Murray

Introduction: Peter wrote this letter to get us to heaven. The Lord inspired this letter so that His saints would persevere and make it to glory. There is no more important thing that we could spend our time doing than this: attending to God’s Word to us intended to make sure we are not everlastingly lost but everlastingly blessed.

Now, one thing we might do as we study this letter is to draw out all the commands, all the imperatives directed at us. This is a very natural thing. I want to hear what to do. I want a nice list of tasks to accomplish. As we read down the first chapter and into the second chapter of this letter we gravitate toward commands like:

be holy in all our actions (1:15)

conduct ourselves with fear (1:17)

love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1:22)

put away malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander (2:1).

These, we are tempted to think, are the kinds of things we really need to hear. And of course they are, which is why they are in this letter. Without such things marking our lives we can have very little assurance that we will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant” on the day our Lord appears.

The Impotence of Commands and the Power of Christ

But let me plead with you to notice that Peter did not simply write a list of commands to the people of God and that is because we need more than commands! Yes, our lives must be marked by holiness and reverence and love and a tenacious turning away from evil, but simply commanding these things does not produce them! Far more is needed and far more is being done in this letter.

I believe the Lord wants us to hear loud and clear this morning, that what we need in order to produce holy conduct, acceptable worship, genuine love, is not a more a more detailed list of commands, rather it is to have the eyes of our heart opened by the Spirit of God to the beauty and grandeur of God’s wisdom and power and grace in Jesus Christ.

What we need is to know Christ and to come to Him as the rock solid foundation and life giver God chose Him to be. So much of this letter is aiming to hold forth the excellencies of God. This passage is aiming at this. Are we attentive to the Spirit’s desire to show us God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ – recognizing that the required life, acceptable to God, is not possible unless we are beholding and adoring and loving the glory of Christ?

God’s Work is the Foundation

One of the things I think God wants to press upon us is that our salvation, from beginning to end, is His work. And the life of holiness that is required of every believer is only possible as we feed upon Jesus and build our lives upon Jesus.

Peter is giving us a glimpse into what is required to get us to the place where we are offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.

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.

I’d like you to notice as we walk through these verses that God’s work is on display here. What He has done and what He has made — and our obedient life is really truly the fruit which grows out of God’s glorious work.

Defining the Goal

Before we walk through this passage let’s first answer the question: what are these acceptable sacrifices?

Well Paul in Romans 12:1-2 uses similar words,

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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I think this is indeed what Peter means by offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ because the rest of the letter unpacks the life of acceptable worship we are to live in this world until Christ returns. We are talking about genuine love, bearing with one another, forgiving each other, being bold in a hostile world, being generous and hospitable, putting away sin and waling in purity and holiness.

Peter is talking about us how these things are produced in our lives.

God Laid A Stone

So first, look at verse 6 as we begin.

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Peter is drawing this from Isaiah 28:16 where God promised to lay a stone in Zion. Now, Zion was used to describe the city of David, that is Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:7; 1 Kings 8:1). And in the Psalms Zion is the place from which God rules and shines forth (Psalm 48, 50) and in which God dwells (Psalm 74:2, 76:2) and from which God’s salvation is hoped for (Psalm 53:6). The Prophets of the Old Testament spoke very often of Zion as Isaiah does here.

So God promised to lay a stone in Zion. God foretold through the prophet Isaiah to place a cornerstone, chosen by God and precious to God, in Zion — the place from which God rules and shines forth and in which He dwells and from which His salvation comes. And Peter here in verse 5 tells us that this foundation stone which God laid in Zion is none other than Jesus Christ.

So as we think about what is necessary to produce in us genuine love and holiness, a life acceptable to God, we need to understand that the first thing that is required is the foundation stone that God promised and then laid in Zion.

We Come to the Stone

Next, in verse 4 and 5 Peter explains that in order for us to produce genuine love and holiness we must relate to this Cornerstone in the right way. He says, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up…”

So the stone was laid, and we come to Him. Now there are one of two things that happen as people come to the Cornerstone laid by God in Zion. Either, they reject Him and He becomes a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense (v 8 – drawn from Isaiah 8:14) or they believe in Him. As Peter tells us here some do not recognize Jesus as chosen and precious and so He becomes a stumbling block. But for those who do believe upon Him there is honor. Peter says in verse 7, “So the honor is for you who believe.”

We Become Alive

So God laid the foundation of Jesus Christ. Some come to Him and are offended and stumble while others believe and receive honor.

And what does this honor entail? Certainly we know ultimately that glory, honor, and praise will come to us who believe at the appearing of Christ (1 Peter 1:7), that is we will be glorified and receive the inheritance kept in heaven for us. But is this all Peter has in mind? I don’t think so because He describes in verse 5 something that happens when we come to the Cornerstone.

1 Peter 2:4-5

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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, when we come to Him, we do not stumble. We become like living stones. Notice that Peter is emphasizing that Jesus is Himself s living stone. The Cornerstone which God laid in Zion is in fact a living foundation and all those who come to him either stumble or believe in Him, or to say it the way verse 5 says it, are made alive by content to Him. We become living stones in the City of God because of Jesus.

We Become Dwelling Material

And what Peter says is that we are being built up as a spiritual house. That is we ourselves are the stones which are being laid upon the foundation and we ourselves, by virtue of the fact that we are connected to the cornerstone by faith, are building materials used by God to build for Himself a house – a spiritual house. God is fashioning for Himself a dwelling place in Zion and we are the building materials.

I hope you are hearing loud and clear that we are indeed being built up as the very temple of God – the dwelling place of God. Here the image is that each of us are a part of the greater structure. Now, of course there is a sense in which we are each individually the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), but here Peter is talking about the greater reality of all God’s people joined together into a holy temple in the Lord (see also Ephesians 2:21-22).  

But, again, we are living stones and what God is building is a spiritual house. The reality of what God is building is greater than the Old Covenant temple so the image of the temple is stretched: we are living stones and a spiritual house.

We Are Made a Priesthood

Notice that Peter says we are being build up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. The temple of the Old Covenant was a physical reality in a physical location. Peter makes it plain, now that the cornerstone of God’s temple has been laid, we are now the dwelling place of God. We ourselves are the temple – the place God dwells. But we are not like the old temple stuck in one location. We are living stones and a spiritual house and this reality means that we are not a ridged inanimate structure in which God dwells, rather we an animated, alive, spiritual dwelling place.

In this sense we are both the dwelling place of God and as Peter says, a holy priesthood. What does it mean to be a holy priesthood? Peter does not spend a long time unpacking this, but if we think about what the Old Covenant priesthood was to be and do and by extension what the entire nation was to be we may start to get a sense for what Peter is getting at.

We know that the priests of the Old Covenant were appointed by God to mediate between God and the people. God appointed the Levites to perform the daily ritual duties and those duties pointed to the need for radical holiness and cleansing and sacrifice if God was to dwell among them. The high priest had a special ministry of entering the Most Holy Place once a year with blood which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people (Hebrews 8 and 9).

But it is very interesting that Exodus 19:5 tells us that when God gave the Old Covenant Law at Sinai, in some sense it seems that not just the priests but all of Israel was intended to serve a priestly function on earth.

Exodus 19:5-6

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.

So Israel, from the very establishment of the Old Covenant, was intended to be the people of God on earth. The people who mediated between God and His creatures. Of course we know under the arrangement of the Old Covenant they failed to be that kingdom of priestly mediators and that holy nation as the history of the Old Testament shows. Under the terms of the Old Covenant Israel failed to be holy and eventually brought the covenant curses upon themselves and were exiled and scattered among the nations.

A Better Temple and Priesthood

Now I think you can easily hear how Peter is drawing from this Exodus passage to speak now of the church. Just as there was a sense in which the nation of Israel as a whole was to function in the world as God’s mediating priests so Peter says that privilege has come now to us, who are trusting Jesus. Each of us who are coming to Christ believing upon Him are members of this holy priesthood.

So Peter is painting an incredible picture for us: God promised and has now laid His chosen and precious foundation stone in Zion. People either stumble over Him and are offended or they come to Him believing – that is they are made alive – and as living stones these are built up into a spiritual house, a dwelling place of God. Not just a ridged inanimate structure, but living ministers of God on the earth.

And what we, as ministers have been equipped to do by our connection to Christ is quite amazing. We, Spirit in-dwelt servants, are all equipped to “…offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

This means you have access to God. You are His minister (I am a fellow minister, not THE minister). And you represent Him on earth! You have the Spirit of the Living God in you, and you have the Word of God in your hand. I am not “God’s man” anymore than you are, if you are built upon Christ Jesus. Yes, each of us has unique and needed gifts and we all need the gifts of one another, but let no one who is in Christ think they are not a priest – able to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ and represent Him in the world.

Seeing God’s Plan

Now, just pause a moment and think about what Peter is saying! He is calling us to consider the glory and grandeur of what the church is and what we have been equipped to do in this world.

Unlike the nation of Israel and the Old Covenant priests, we have become the very dwelling place of God and a kingdom of priests through a New and Better Covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 12:24). As Peter says, we are “being built up… to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The Old Covenant only had types and shadows of this reality in Christ.

We are no longer under the threats of the external letter written on stones. We are made made living stones, animated by the Spirit, by faith in Christ. We no longer have sinful high priests who are prevented by death from continuing in office. We have such a High Priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, who is exalted above the heavens, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up and not man.

So, Peter, though in far less detail than in the letter to the Hebrews, is really drawing us to consider the new and better and permanent relationship we have received through the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we have received is the great and glorious gift of God’s own Son – the necessary and sufficient foundation to produce a people with genuine love and holiness.

We have become, individually, living stones of the dwelling place of God and we are being built up by our connection to the chosen and precious cornerstone to be a truly holy priesthood which has been designed to offer spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God.

Offering Spiritual Sacrifices Acceptable to God

So, if we are clinging to Christ we are equipped to offer ourselves as Spirit led and Spirit filled people up to God as holy and acceptable vessels as we live in this world. That is we have what we need so that our entire lives, every facet and every moment, can be lives of worship, set apart unto God for His pleasure and for His glory.

Just think about how glorious this is! We have been equipped to offer up our lives to God as acceptable sacrifices of worship!

How? Through faith in Jesus Christ. Without Him our lives, from beginning to end would not be acceptable. We would be utterly cast away forever. But Christ has been laid in Zion and through Him we are made alive, animated by the Spirit and are being built up to offer acceptable sacrifices to God. Praise the Lord Jesus. Love Him and Adore Him.

Peter’s Method

I want to just make sure we see what Peter has done here. He is writing these things so that we might make it to glory and live as God’s faithful people in this world. And indeed he has told us how (through it might not be the how we expected).

Take note of what He is doing. He is not giving us commands to do (though those do have a place). Rather, he is telling us about what God has done in Christ Jesus. Peter is aiming, not first to command, but to strengthen our faith. He is showing us the glory and grandeur of God’s power and wisdom and grace because what we need is to believe on, hope in, drink from, build our lives on Christ and Christ alone.

Come to Him!

The life of a believer, the life of holiness, must grow organically out of an animated heart. You must be a living stone and a spiritual house. You must taste that the Lord is good. And this is not a one time decision this must be an ongoing reality. Babies don’t depend upon their mother’s once and then stop depending — so we must long for Christ in ongoing dependence.

Peter will give the contours of the Christian life in much of the rest of this letter, but our lives will only begin to resemble those contours when we understand the roots of a holy life: humble, dependent, broken, self abandoning, persevering faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I want you to take note of the fact that Peter says in verse 4, “As you come to him…” The “him” Peter is referring to is the Lord of verse 3, “…if you have tasted that the Lord is good.” And the Lord we are coming to is at the end of verse 4, “a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.”

There is no indication here that this coming is a one time action, completed in the past. No, just the opposite. Just as Peter said in verse 2 that we are to long for the pure spiritual milk that by it we may grow up into salvation if we have tasted that the Lord is good, so now this is described as coming to Him whom we have tasted as good and trusting in Him as the life giving foundation. Are we those who long for Him and are coming to Him for mercy and forgiveness and life and joy everyday?

So what is the change Peter is hoping to accomplish in our lives? It is not simply that we would learn to conform externally in our words and action, but that genuine love for and faith in Christ would grow strong in our hearts. If we do not come to Him believing, we will not be equipped to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.

I believe Peter is aiming to leave us with a renewed reason to trust in the wisdom, power, and grace of God in Jesus, the precious cornerstone.

    • It is faith in Christ that will equip us to offer sacrifices acceptable to God.
    • It is faith in Christ that will equip us to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.
    • It is faith in Christ that will equip us to not neglect to do good and to share what we have.
    • It is faith in Christ that will destroy strongholds of sin in our hearts.
    • It is faith in Christ that will equip us to cast all our cares upon God, because he cares for us.
    • It is faith in Christ that will result in glory, honor, and praise when Christ appears.

~ Andy

About Andrew Murray
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.