4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”[b]
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”[c]
“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”[d]
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Whenever I was in High School I worked several jobs, but most of those jobs were low key and with friends. I delivered newspapers on my bike for a few years, I mowed lawns for a local real estate agent, I was a market researcher – which is different than a telemarketer.. we did surveys only, so the do not call list didn’t apply to us.
I also worked for a few summers at a moving company loading people’s stuff in and out of trucks out near Pittsburgh. It was actually a fun job but I worked with some guys who were a little… rough around the edges.
This one guy in particular… I didn’t work with him very often, and I don’t recall how he found out I was a Christian, but he did… and when I worked with this guy, he made jokes about me being a Christian. He would joke about how terrible my life must’ve been since I was saying no to certain things because I was choosing to follow God… he would look at stereotypes of Christians on TV or Christians involved in scandals and ask me if that’s how I was. At a high school kid, those things hurt.
My guess is that in one way or another, every Christian feels out of place and maybe even mistreated at times. Maybe it’s when you’re with family who don’t believe or at work when you skip out on certain office conversations or at school when you tell someone to stop picking on another kid … it doesn’t take very long before you start looking a little weird, right?
The apostle peter here is addressing the church when they were not only the butt of jokes, but were actually being persecuted. Being a Christian meant not being accepted in society as you were and being mistreated and physically abused. It was just commonplace for them.
And so we see Peter address this right here in our text, in verses 4 and 5. He says “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…” – Peter is saying, I know you’re suffering, but you’re in good company. You’re not alone. Because the one you follow, he was rejected by the world, too.
Jesus himself said that this would be the case. John 15:18-19 says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.”
See… when we’re mistreated because of our faith, remember that it’s because you belong to Jesus… it’s not because you look funny.. Necessarily… it’s because you belong to Jesus.
Just a quick side… if you’re being talked about or ridiculed because you’re being a jerk or rude or selfish, that’s not persecution. Persecution is when we are living out our faith and being mistreated because of it. But if you’re riding someone’s bumper, flipping the bird going down seven mountains and they brake tap you… that’s on you.
So that’s good news, in our suffering because of our faith we are connected with Christ. Christ walks with us in our mistreatment.
And then Peter continues and says that while Jesus was rejected by the world, he was actually chosen and precious in God’s sight. Jesus was chosen by God to redeem the world and to make the saving grace of God available to anyone who believes… but the world rejected him.
There’s this great object lesson in youth ministry. You got a bus full of teenagers and you’re driving through the woods and you come across a hitchhiker that looks like he’s been on the road a while. You tell the bus driver to pull over, and you let him ride with you and then drop him off before you get to camp. Everyone gets to camp and gets settled in… and then when it’s time for the guest speaker to come up, the hitchhiker comes up on stage because he’s the guest speaker. Suddenly, while there were likely a lot of people casting judgment on this guy because of the way he dressed and smelled, it turns out he’s the one who is going to be the person of highest respect for the weekend. He was rejected, but he turned out to be vindicated.
Jesus was rejected by the world, but he was chosen by God. You can picture a similar scene at the crucifixion… in the 11th hour, when it looked like death had won, when it looked like all the things Jesus claimed were lies and his disciples looked like idiots and Jesus and his followers would all be put to shame…, this is what we find in verse. 6 and 7 – “I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
Jesus is the precious cornerstone, and while it looked like he was about to be shamed in the crucifixion, discovered as a fraud, he ended up being vindicated in the resurrection… and he became the very foundational cornerstone that brought grace and connection to God for all mankind.
Jesus was chosen by God to overthrow sin and death… to take back what was rightfully his… Even though he was rejected by men, Jesus was chosen and precious in God’s sight.
And in the same way, we are rejected at times, but we’re also chosen and precious in God’s sight. First, we’re chosen to be his people, but as soon as we follow him, we’re chosen for a monumental task. when we follow him, we see in verse. 5 what we’re called to… when we come to Jesus “we, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood…”
The original audience would’ve heard the words that we translate “spiritual house” and would have immediately thought of the Jewish temple. Before the resurrection of Jesus, there was only one temple where the Jewish people went to worship God. And in the temple, specifically in the holy of holies within the temple is where God’s presence dwelled. And God’s presence was so strong in the holy of holies that the only ones who could even go in were the high priests, and they only went in one time per year to offer a sacrifice for the atonement of the sins of Israel.
And Peter tells the church that through Christ and in Christ, the church, the people of God… all who come to him ARE the temple of God. In and through the church is where God’s Spirit dwells. We are the temple of God.
We see this affirmed in many places, one of which is 1 Corinthians 3:16… Paul says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”
The presence of God in the world is in and through the people of God.
In fact, this is exactly what Jesus tells the disciples is going to happen right before he ascends to heaven in Acts 1:8 – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
God dwells in and among the people of God. How cool is that? And by dwelling in us, God gives us the power and strength and courage and boldness to do the things he’s called us to do.
And he’s called us… to be a holy priesthood. Verse 4 and 5 again – As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament, only the Israelites who were from the tribe of Levi could be priests… but Peter tells us that together we are the temple of God, and together, we are to take on the role of the priests in the world.
So on your way out today you’ll receive a white collar and a black dress shirt so you can go out and perform your priestly duties.
The church is full of priests, and there are three things that priests did that we are going to talk about today…
The first is priests are called to a life committed to God. Over and over again in Scripture this is the call actually to all who follow God. And just a few verses before our text, in 1 Peter 1:14-16 Peter says, “14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Being holy means being set apart for the work of God. We love the way God calls us to love and we live the way God calls us to live. Being holy means we never say, “well, I know this isn’t what God would want, but I’m going to do what I want this time.” No. Being Holy means we give ourselves fully to God and we follow him in all the ways we know how. Yea, we’ll make mistakes and do wrong along the way, but when that happens, we get up and we keep going.
The second call as a royal priesthood is to take advantage of our direct access to God through Jesus Christ. As I mentioned earlier, in the temple system, the people had to go through the priests to get to God, but through the resurrection, we have direct access to God.
Therefore, spend time with God in prayer. Whenever we find ourselves in sin, we can and we should turn to him and seek forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, if we confess our sins to God, he forgives us.
When we have a friend or a loved one going through something difficult or needs a touch from God, we can and should go to God and pray for them. When we’re facing temptation, we can and should go to God and ask him for strength.
While there’s no need for offerings of bulls and goats anymore, we can and should offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God. That’s part of what we do in our worship together. The songs we sing are spiritual sacrifices of praise to God. It’s not just a little sing along time before the message, but in a real way we are offering the praise of our hearts to God.
So, as priests, we live a life committed to God and we take advantage of our direct access to God in our lives. I want to press in a bit more on this. How often do we rush through our times of prayer? Right now at my house we’re teaching our son to slow down during prayer times. Right now, he wants to be the one to pray for every meal and he says, “God is good God is great let us thank him for our food amen.”
But as priests, we have the opportunity to linger in communion with God…….. to take a few moments and just.. be.. still.. and to allow God to give us his peace and his rest. The God who created us wants to fellowship with us in prayer… is there such a thing as being too busy for that?
And yet how easy it is to mumble off a quick prayer before bed or work. And that’s fine to do, but I want to be a person who spends more time lingering in prayer with God.
As priests we commit our whole selves to God and we spend time in prayer and praise.
Our last call as priests is to invite people to God. The priests in the temple, through their yearly sacrifice in the holy of holies, they facilitated the people being brought back to God. The people couldn’t do it on their own, they had to go to a priest. So it’s our call too, to be a people who invite people back to God because we understand that God called us out of our darkness and into his light… his light of abundant life and eternal salvation, and so we invite others to follow with us.
As I was studying this text I made a realization… I mentioned earlier that the church is both the temple, the dwelling place of God, but we’re also the priests. Before, people had to go to the temple, but since we’re the temple and we’re the priests we don’t wait for the people to come to us in a building… through Christ God released the temple to go to the people and take with them the fullness of God and invite them to follow with us.
So we invite people to God by bringing God to the people, and we this in three ways:
First, through us people see the good news of Jesus. People see our love for one another, they see our love for our neighbor, they see our commitment to God, they see our joy and peace from God, they see our kindness and selflessness, they see us reaching out to the oppressed and the hurting, and when they see these things in our lives, they see the goodness and the love of God. Isaiah 58:10 says it like this, paraphrased: if you stop accusing people and talking badly about people and start spending yourself on behalf of the hungry and help the oppressed… then your light will rise in the darkness.
Through our life of sacrificial love, people see the good news that God loves them and gave himself up for them.
Secondly, through us people hear the good news about God. In our 1 Peter text, verse 9 says to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.”
When it’s appropriate, we talk about spiritual things. We share the way God has impacted us. We tell the story of how our lives changed when we met Christ. We tell the story of God’s grace in our lives. We tell the story of the tough time God walked with us through.
The great news is we don’t have to figure out the appropriate time on our own. If we spend time in prayer and ask God to show us opportunities to talk about spiritual things, he will show us the opportunities. And then we need to pray for boldness to step out in faith.
Through the stories we tell, people hear the goodness of God.
Lastly, through our lives people have opportunities to respond to the good news. When it’s appropriate, after we’ve shared about genuine ways that God has touched our lives, we invite others to join us on the journey of faith. You invite them to your small group, you invite them to read a book of the Bible, maybe the book of John, and talk about it on your lunch break at work or school, you invite them to come to church with you, or you encourage them to attend church with their family if their family is already connected somewhere. But part of being a kingdom of priests, part of being a follower of Jesus… is inviting people to walk alongside us as we follow Jesus.
We don’t exist for ourselves. We exist for the world.
And when we do these things… when we spend time with God in prayer and praise, when we invite people to God by giving people an opportunity to see, hear and respond to Jesus, we are living out the call that God has placed on every single person who professes faith in Jesus. This isn’t for the priests or the pastors, in the kingdom of God, this is for every single one of us.
The reality is, you’re here right now. At the end of our text Peter says, “once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” Who were the priests in your life who helped to invite you to God? And whose priest are you going to be…
Peter was writing to a persecuted church, and to them he said, your hope is found in the Lord and the Lord alone… the precious cornerstone. As a persecuted people, you walk in good company, connected with Christ. Until you’re reunited with Christ, keep on going. Press on. Because you’ve got important priestly work to do in the world.
The reality is that all people are invited to follow Jesus… it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done… everyone is invited to be part of the family of God. God’s love and grace surpasses understanding and all we have to do is say yes.