A Spiritual House and a Holy Priesthood
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 2:4-5
One of the purifying effects of trials is that they expose the status of our hearts. When difficulties come, we get to see where our hope and our strength and our joy really come from.
Sometimes, underlying desires are exposed negatively when we are overcome with worry or despair because something is gone. For example, if your retirement account takes a big hit and you respond with sinful worry, that exposes that you were trusting in your money more than you were trusting in God.
But the trials of this life also expose our heart’s true refuge. When life gets tough, where do you go to feel secure? What do you turn to for fulfilment or satisfaction? Where do you go for affirmation and comfort?
Some people turn to food. Some people turn to alcohol. Some people turn to social media. Some people turn to the political sphere. Some people turn to their place of employment. Some people turn to sports. None of those are inherently wicked, but they cannot be the final source of our security or affirmation.
When Peter was writing this letter in the first century, Christians were on the brink of severe persecution. They were outcasts in this world. And so, he reminded them that they are not of this world. We are not of this world. We have an eternal, glorious inheritance that awaits us.
In some ways, persecuted Christians have a bit of an identity crisis. This world gives its attention and its prestige to the rich and the influential. And so, it becomes very easy for us to start to do the same. It’s a lot easier to check the news, or to check the sports scores, or to open up social media, or to check on your emails throughout the day than it is to focus on Jesus Christ through prayer and the word.
I think that’s because we get caught up the glamour of it all. Those things sound important, and to some degree, we identify with them. We don’t like being left out of an event or a conversation that we consider to be part of our identity. When I’m scrolling though a list of news stories, I don’t read them all. Some are meaningless to me; I don’t care at all. Other stories are much more aligned with my interests.
What would happen is one of those news stories was simply a Bible. What if one of those headlines said, “Click here to spend time with Jesus.” Would I click on it? Would you?
I guess it might depend on how much time you had. It would also depend on how close you aligned yourself with Jesus.
The biblical Jesus, as far as our culture is concerned., isn’t flashy. And a lot of times, there doesn’t seem to be anything immediately pressing about your walk with Christ. So, our walk with Christ gets pushed further and further down our list of priorities.
Peter knows exactly what this felt like. On the night Jesus was betrayed He chose to deny His Lord and Savior. He cared more about the threat of persecution than He did about identifying with Jesus. He cared more about what he could see in that moment, than about what he knew by faith.
And in writing this letter, Peter wanted to keep Christians from making the same mistake. It’s like he’s saying, “Don’t separate yourself from Jesus. Don’t forget who you really are.” That’s the heart of verses 4 and 5, which we’ll be looking at today in First Peter chapter 2. Here’s what it says:
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.
This is a section dealing with identity. The more that you and I realize who we are, the more inclined we will be to draw near to Jesus.
Coming to Jesus, in this case, isn’t talking about salvation. Peter is talking about a regular, ongoing approach to Jesus which happens through prayer and time with His word. This is communion with Christ. And if you’re like me, you would say that your intimacy with Christ is lacking. It could use some renewed energy.
Well, as we look at our passage today, I want to help us in this regard by sharing a couple reasons why our practical connection to Christ is so vital. All Christians are eternally and spiritually united to Christ, but that connection needs to be expressed practically. It needs to be nurtured. Why?
Number 1, connection with Christ is vital because we are a spiritual house, and Jesus builds us up. We are a spiritual house, and Jesus builds us up.
I’ve seen surveys or studies saying that a common sentiment among young people today is that they want to make a difference. They want to belong to something important.
That’s why people volunteer for a political campaign, or sign up to help with a blood drive, or become foster parents, or join a community service project. That's why companies spend money on advertising that showcases the good they do for the community. That's why people get a cardboard cutout of themselves placed in a baseball stadium.
Well, as a Christian, if you’re not involved in something like that, you might be tempted to feel like you’re being left out. A stay-at-home mom might feel like that. "What am I doing here? What difference am I making? Why can’t I be part of something great?"
That’s how the early church felt too. They weren’t a political movement. They weren’t going to overthrow the king. Paul said they were “not many wise, not many powerful, not many noble.” In the eyes of the world, they were nobodies. The Greeks though they were crazy.
In terms of significance, Peter doesn’t talk about Christians as a movement. He talks about us as a building.
What are some of the most impressive or significant buildings today?
... (responses from audience)
Buildings have always been important. In Genesis 11, when the world united under one language to make a name for themselves, what did they do? They built a building. And nations and businesses have been doing it ever since.
When you see the word “stone” in these verses, don’t think of a rock you might throw into a river. Think about something you would use to build something with. Stones were used for walls and structures. They were symbols of power and might. Choosing the right stones meant more than having an enduring structure; it meant having an enduring legacy.
One of the men most know for his building legacy was King Herod the Great. He was a harsh and ruthless man—feared and hated by many. But despite Herod’s brutality, he is recognized by historians as a competent king because he was able to maintain peace with Rome and peace with the Jews. And one of the most recognized features of his reign was his extensive building campaign.
Herod built the city of Samaria. He built an artificial harbor at Caesarea Maritima. In many cities, he built pagan temples and sports facilities. Jerusalem, was rebuilt as a Greek city which included his own fortified palace and a military citadel.
What the Jews appreciated most, however, was Herod’s work on the Temple. When Herod came to power, the Temple at that time had been built by Zerubbabel back when the Persians allowed the Israelite exiles to return. The building had been standing for about 500 years. It had taken considerable damage due to wars, and it was too small to accommodate the masses who would come for the Jewish feasts.
In Herod’s mind, you couldn’t have a modern city with such an antiquated building at its heart. So, the platform was expanded to hold more people. Extending out into the Kidron Valley there were arches built to hold up the expanded plaza. It was known as the Court of the Gentiles and took up 35 acres.
Herod also added gold wherever he could, and his work on rebuilding, updating, and adorning the Temple never stopped. The reputation of this Temple spread to the corners of the Roman Empire. Jerusalem sits on a hill, so as travelers approached it the, glittering gold would be clearly visible. This Temple made a statement.
As much as the Jews resented Herod, they couldn’t help but marvel at what was being done. They saw a glorious temple as evidence of God’s favor upon them. Look at our building. Look at what we have.
The Jews who followed Christ, though, were being kicked out of the Temple. They weren’t welcome anymore. So, where is their building. Peter says here, you are part of a more glorious structure. You are all part of a spiritual house. You are all living stones being built by Jesus, who is Himself the living stone.
“Living” speaks about His power. He is the One who rose from the dead. He is the One who said “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overpower it.” Jesus is building something far more impressive than we can imagine, and we are part of it.
Jesus, the passage will go on to say, is the cornerstone. He is the most important stone, and He knows exactly where He fits. What about you? Where do you fit? Where are you supposed to go? What are you supposed to do? I don’t know, but Jesus does. He’s the One who shapes you. He’s the One who puts you right where you belong. Verse 5 says, He’s the builder of the house. How does He do that?
Verse 4: As we come to Him. We are a spiritual house, and Jesus builds us up. He’s the architect. He’s the designer. He’s the contractor. He’s the builder. He does everything. And if you feel disconnected from the church family, or if you feel like you’re struggling to figure out how you fit in here, or if you feel like you’re lacking a sense of purpose and identity, the solution is going to include drawing near to Jesus. As we come to Him, we are being built up. We are part of the most glorious and enduring entities in this entire world. We are part of the church of Jesus Christ. He will place you right where you need to be, and He will give you purpose and meaning and satisfaction where you are.
There’s a second reason to draw near to Jesus continually and here it is: We are a holy priesthood, and Jesus makes us acceptable. We are a holy priesthood and Jesus makes us acceptable.
I think most high school graduates, at some point in their lives get asked the question: “So, what do you want to do with your life?” And it’s asked in terms of a career. I don’t want to make light of career choices, but I do think it’s important to push back against any notion that our true identity is found in whatever job we do for a living.
In our own culture, when two people are getting to know each other, inevitably one will ask the other: “So, what do you do for a living?” And then some kind of value is assigned to that job.
Well, no matter what these early Christians did for a living, Peter wanted them to know: “You are a holy priesthood.”
Imagine introducing yourself and saying: “Hi, my name’s Luis, and I am a priest of the living God.” Maybe that makes some sense for me since I’m a pastor, but according to the Bible, that applies equally to all of us who belong to Christ. We’re all priests.
Within the sphere of a religion, priests are pretty highly valued, right? A lot of Catholics love it when someone in the family become a priest. To them, it’s like a good luck charm. We got a priest in the family.
What’s a priest? A priest is a middleman between God and mankind. A priest is closer to God. A priest is consecrated to perform special rituals for God that other people can’t perform. That’s what it meant for Old Testament Jews, and that’s what it meant for pagan temples. Priests were a privileged group.
Even people who aren’t religious today aspire to be close to greatness. Back in 2006, a book came out called Fame Junkies by a man named Jake Halpern. It was a book discussing our culture’s obsession with celebrities. In that book, the results of one survey found that when ranking girls’ choices for a career, “Personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star” ranked higher than being a Navy Seal, Chief of a major corporation, and a U. S. Senator.
That’s an expression of a culture that prizes being close to greatness. I remember when I worked at Knott’s Berry Farm and a celebrity came in to eat at the restaurant. Everybody knew about it in a second. And I was the busboy at her table.
Or at Marie Callender’s, some celebrity couple had gone in on my day off, and the next day, the waitress was eager to show me the photo she took.
Well, even if you have never come into contact with any celebrity whatsoever, recognize that you have unlimited, unrestrained bold access to the God of the universe. You are one with Jesus Christ.
“Yeah, but most people don’t care.” That’s right. They don’t care. And you know what? They didn’t care about Jesus.
Jesus, as a living stone, was, verse 4 says rejected by men. The highest-ranking Jewish officials detested Him, and they eventually put Him to death. “This guy is a nobody! He’s a sham! Get rid of him!”
But what mattered more than man’s view was God’s. Yes Jesus was rejected by men, but in the sight of God, He was chosen and precious. Jesus was elect of God, and so are we. Jesus was precious in God’s sight, and so are we. Chapter 1 said our faith is precious. We have something exceedingly valuable, but the world can’t see it. We are all priests of the most high God. We may not serve some celebrity. We may not serve a king. But we serve the most high God.
God has given us the privilege of coming before Him to offer up spiritual sacrifices. What are those? That is our obedience. Romans 12 says our bodies are to be presented as living and holy sacrifices. Hebrews says our worship includes praise and our righteous acts.
Everything you and I do should be done as an act of worship to God. And how does God respond? Is he like some kind of food critic, waiting to reject what you bring Him? No.
We offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable through Jesus Christ. We are a holy priesthood, and Jesus makes us acceptable. Our lives could never be righteous enough for a holy and perfect God. But the perfection of Jesus Christ covers our sin and our frailties and our weaknesses. And God accepts what we offer to Him with our lives. God accepts it.
When you draw near to Jesus, and in response to Him to live for God’s glory, that obedience won’t be perfect, but God will accept it.
Think about it like this: Because of Jesus Christ, God doesn’t grade your Christian life. God doesn’t grade your parenting or your family life or your prayers or your devotional life. He wants us all to improve, don’t forget that. But He’s not sitting up in heaven giving out grades for how good we’re doing. He accepts our worship.
You don’t draw near to Jesus hoping to earn points with God. You draw near to Jesus, thanking Him for the privilege of being counted worthy to serve the true God.
Like Jesus, this world will reject you. Like Jesus, you will face persecution. But those difficulties shouldn’t make you forget who you really are in Jesus Christ. You are part of a spiritual house. You are part of a holy priesthood. And you serve the eternal and living God. And this God invites us to draw near to Him so we can fulfill our calling to a greater degree.
Our life is hidden with Christ in God. And the more we draw near to Christ, the more we will know and delight in the life God has intended for us.