1 Peter 2:1-10
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
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,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
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 marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy
Peter’s aim in our passage is to help strengthen our faith and equip us to live in this world with courage and love and hope and he is going to do that by reminding us of what we have received from God and why we have received it.
By and For
My wife, Beth, and I have used the Children’s Catechism at different times with our children and the first three questions are these:
Q1: Who made you?
Q2: What else did God make?
A2: All things.
Q3: Why did God make you and all things?
A3: For His own Glory.
I am not going to spend much time defending these. I am going to assume that this is common ground. But so we hear it fresh from the mouth of God this morning listen, to these Scriptures:
And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
Isaiah 48:9 and 11
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
God has created and is acting in history for one great purpose: His own glory, that is, the display of who He is, to show forth His excellencies (see also Isaiah 43:7; Exodus 14:4; 9:16; Ezekiel 20:14; 1 Samuel 12:22; Romans 9:22-23; Ephesians 1:6,12,14; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
The Children’s Catechism is correct that God created you and all things for His glory. But what is also true is that He will succeed in this purpose. God always wins and no purpose of God will ever fail.
“…His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (see also Ephesians 1:11; Proverbs 16:33).
This sure victory of God seems to be in Peter’s mind as he writes, reminding us of what we have come to receive and why we have received it.
If you were here last time, you will remember that Peter described the Lord Jesus Christ as the chosen and precious cornerstone laid down by God in Zion.
And what we saw last time was that there are only two possible responses to this Rock laid by God. Either one believes and revived honor, or one stumbles and falls. Either we come to Jesus and build our life on Him and received everlasting life or we stumble and become offended by God’s foundation and received everlasting ruin.
But Peter makes an extraordinary statement at the end of verse 8. Let’s read from verse 7, “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, [catch this now] as they were destined to do.”
So, why would Peter mention that those who disobey, that is disbelieve, and stumble were destined for that? I believe Peter is saying, in no uncertain terms, that God wins, that the laying of this cornerstone will result in the glory of God — even if some reject Him, stumble over Him, and are offended by Him.
When Judas betrayed Jesus, when the religious leaders in Israel stirred up the crowd, when the romans authorities handed Him over to be crucified, when the Devil worked in all of them to reject God’s Messiah, it was all according to God’s plan.
“…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place…”
And even today, as we look out at a world absolutely insane with sin, a world in rebellion against its Creator, which shakes its angry fist at God and says, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” (from Invictus, by William Ernest Henley) even as it breaths the air God supplies – even then they do not thwart the God who works all things after the council of His own will and who can be stopped by no power in heaven or on earth. Every soul that runs from God and stumbles over the cornerstone ruins only themselves and is simply a servant of the King of kings, however unwilling they may be.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
Peter wants us, as those who have run to Jesus as our refuge and cornerstone, to know without a doubt that even though the world rages and plans to overthrow God rule and His purposes – they are unwittingly accomplishing the very things He has determined to take place for good. Even their disobedience and stumbling is according to His plan. God will be glorified. Trust in Him.
What You Received
But Peter turns now from those who disbelieve and reject the Cornerstone to consider the honor reserved for those who do believe. Here Peter tells us explicitly what we have received, as those built on Christ, and why we have received it. “So the honor is for you who believe… (v 7)” What is this honor?
Last time we saw in verse 4 and 5 that Peter described this honor in terms of being made living stones in the spiritual house of God and here in verses 9-10 he expands and adds to some of these things.
So, let’s take a look at verses 9 and 10 and see how Peter describes the honor we have received as believers in Christ Jesus. I’m going to list 5 things.
The first two things hang together.
- You have received mercy!
Look at verse 10. Peter says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Now, I don’t know the last time you have read through Old Testament Prophet Hosea, but it seems pretty clear that Peter is drawing these ideas from that short prophetic word.
At the beginning of Hosea, the Lord says to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (Hosea 1:2). So the Lord sends the Prophet Hosea not only with prophetic words to speak to Israel, but his life becomes an illustration to Israel of how she has been unfaithful to her God.
Now, Hosea has children by his unfaithful wife and the first is named “Jezreel,” which (as far as I can make out) represents the northern kingdom of Israel. The second child is named “No mercy,” and another of them is named “Not my people.” Again, the Lord uses Hosea’s life to illustrate the unfaithfulness of Israel and the fruit that resulted.
The Lord makes these incredible declarations, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all”(Hosea 1:6) and “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9).
God makes it plain, “…I remember all their evil” (Hosea 7:2). Even as they ignore and belittle God and act in unfaithfulness, God says the fruit of their actions is that they are not His people and He will no more have mercy on the house of Israel.
But in the very next verses God makes some equally incredible promises. He says,
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
So even as Israel’s behavior toward God is described in the most horrific and graphic terms – like an unfaithful wife going after other men – and the just result being that she is disowned and shown mercy no more, this is the point where God promises, Yet, Israel will flourish and they will indeed be called Sons of God and they will indeed be united with Judah under one Head.
Now, Peter is drawing upon this language and he says to us, who have believed upon the Head, who have been built upon the Cornerstone, you once were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy!
Peter is telling us that this glorious statement is extended to us, Gentiles!
Both from Israel and from the Gentiles, those who were justly called “not my people” because of our wickedness have become His people and we who could expect “no mercy” have now received mercy.
I hope that we do not pass by this quickly.
Mercy is God’s compassion toward the miserable. But God’s mercy cannot be demanded. Our miserable state is owing completely to our own sin and unfaithfulness. The misery of mankind grows out of the rejection of God our Creator and Sustainer.
God is constrained to relieve no one’s misery. Israel’s history is a parable about every human heart: God pours out His blessings and we forsake our Maker and serve other gods. No one can demand the mercy of God.
But He freely gives it in Christ Jesus.
- You have been made God’s people, made member’s of the chosen race!
Now, If you look at the beginning of verse 9, Peter adds to the idea that we have become the people of God. You see in verse 9 that we have become members of the chosen race.
This is a truth we are meant to enjoy and meditate upon. You are included in God’s chosen race.
The “race” language that Peter employs here needs some thought. Peter is not saying that the Christians to whom he is writing, nor we by extension, are physically descended from anyone particularly.
In fact, Revelation 5:9 and 10 say explicitly that Jesus, “…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.”
The ransomed people of God are made up of people out of every nation and background.
But we, who have come to the cornerstone believing, have become members of the chosen race. What race is Peter talking about? I believe it is the race or offspring of Abraham — that is those who share the faith of Abraham.
As Paul says, “…the promise…rests on grace and [is] guaranteed to all [Abraham’s] offspring—not only to the adherence of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations…’”(Romans 4:16-17).
Just as no one can demand God’s mercy, so no human being can claim the right to be called the children of God — except through faith in Jesus Christ. If we are God’s people it is owing completely to God’s gracious work of laying the foundation stone in Zion.
Peter is highlighting the fact that we who are in Christ are full heirs as God’s children and are of God’s chosen people. And what an indescribable blessing this is!
As the Psalmist says 65:4
“Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!”
So the honor is for us who believe upon Jesus — that is 1. we have been shown mercy and 2. we have been made His people, members of the chosen race by faith in Jesus Christ.
- You have been made a royal priesthood!
The next thing we have received, Peter mentioned in the section we were in last week, but here he expands upon it. Peter says in verse 9 we are a royal priesthood. As we saw last time, this means we have been granted access to God and made able to offer up a life of worship, pleasing and acceptable to God.
But there is one thing Peter adds here and that is we are a “royal” priesthood. In the Revelation given to John, Jesus reveals that the kingdom of redeemed people out of every nation are priests to God and they shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10). Add to this 2 Timothy 2:12 which says that those who endure hoping in Christ will reign with Him. We are brushing up against mystery here, but in some amazing way we are a royal priesthood and we are those who will reign with Christ.
The honor is for you who believe: 1. we have received mercy, 2. we have been made God’s chosen people, 3. we have been made a royal priesthood.
- You have been made A holy nation and 5. a treasured possession!
The next two, “you are … a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” I’d like to take together as they seem to be drawn by Peter from closely tied Old Testament ideas.
In Deuteronomy 7:6-8 we read,
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (see also Exodus 19:5-6).
Israel was to be holy, set apart from the sinful nations of the world. And Israel was to be holy, set apart unto God as His treasured possession. Peter is clearly drawing upon this same idea and saying, “so now, those built upon the Rock, are set apart from sin and unto God. We have become that treasured possession.
We are God’s holy people and are precious to Him. He, who owns and possesses all things in the universe, has set His love upon us as His treasured possession.
So we have seen very briefly what we have come to receive, the honor that belongs to us who believe in Christ Jesus: 1. we have received mercy, 2. we have been made God’s chosen people, 3. we have been made a royal priesthood, 4. we have been made a holy nation, and 5. we have been made a treasured possession of God.
But Peter does not stop there. He goes on to tell us why.
Why Have You Received this Honor?
We began by considering the truth that God has created all things for His glory. And Peter points out the fact that even those who stumble over the cornerstone, rejecting God’s precious Cornerstone, and fall to ruin unwittingly and unwillingly bring God glory.
Now, Peter tells us that we who are hoping in Christ are designed to bring God glory in a particular way.
Trees and rocks and birds and butterflies bring God glory in their way; thunderstorms and earthquakes and tsunamis bring God glory in their way, unbelievers bring God glory in their way and we who believe, who have received incredible honor are designed to bring God glory in a specific way.
Peter says in verse 9, “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 and into his marvelous light!”
We who have come to the Cornerstone and who have received such underserved honor are meant to be the heralds who proclaim the many excellencies of our God and Savior who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
Who better to tell of the glorious qualities of God than those who have tasted of them? Who better to describe and proclaim the greatness of God’s mercy and grace than those who have experienced His mercy and grace?
How can we who have been so blessed and whose future in glory with Christ is so sure keep silent? We are in this world today to proclaim, to make known, to announce, the greatness of our God – to make known His mercies, the riches of His kindness, the unfathomable wisdom of His plans, the perfection and preciousness of the Cornerstone.
But, it is the heart that has fixed its hope on Christ and knows the wealth that is immovable, imperishable, incorruptible in Him that will free the tongue to speak of His excellencies and free the hands and feet to act in God honoring ways in this world so that God might be praised.
You are God’s ministers, designed to be living, breathing, thinking, feeling, worshipping, loving, speaking heralds of your Father who has loved you so greatly.
But we must know whom we have believed, and be convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what He has promised in Christ Jesus.
A Prayer by C.H. Spurgeon
“Make us useful in the salvation of our fellow man. O’ Lord, have we lived so long in the world and yet are our children unconverted? May we never rest until they are truly saved. Have we been going up and down in business, and are those round about us as yet unaware of our Christian character? Have we never spoken to them the Word of Life? Lord, arouse us to deep concern for all with whom we come in contact from day to day. Make us all missionaries at home or in the street, or in our workshop, wherever Providence has cast our lot, may we there shine as lights in the world.
Lord keep us right, true in doctrine, true in experience, true in life, true in word, true in deed. Let us have an intense agony of spirit concerning the many who are going down to the everlasting fire of which our Master spoke. Lord, save them! LORD, SAVE THEM! Stay, we pray Thee, the torrents of sin that run down the streets of London; purge the dead sea of sin, in which so many of the heathen are lying asoak.
Oh! that the day were come when the name of Jesus shall be a household word, when everybody knew of His love, and of His death, and of His blood, and of its cleansing power. Lord, save men, gather out from among the ruins of the fall to be His joy and crown. “Let the people praise Thee, O God, yea, let all the people praise Thee.” Let the ends of the earth fear Him who died to save them. Let the whole earth be filled with the glory of God.
This is our great prayer, and we crown it with this: Come, Lord Jesus, come Lord and tarry not! Come in the fulness of Thy power and the splendor of Thy glory! come quickly, even so come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.”