9. Rock Talk—The Rock and Your Role (1 Peter 2:4-10)
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For [this] is contained in Scripture:
“BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER [stone], AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER [stone],” 8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this [doom] they were also appointed. 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
The first time Peter and Jesus met, Jesus said something very unusual which He did with no one else:
40 One of the two who heard John [speak], and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter) (John 1:40-42).
Peter could hardly have missed the significance of this. Certainly he remembered from the Old Testament that God had changed Abram’s name to Abraham and the name of his wife Sarai to Sarah. This signified that although this couple had been childless for many years, they were to become parents, indeed the parents of a multitude (Abraham means “father of a multitude”). He also probably remembered when God changed Jacob’s name to Israel as an indication that he was to be the patriarch of the nation Israel through his sons. Now, Jesus, the Son of God, had changed Simon’s name to Peter, a name which means “rock.”
Later, after his great confession, Jesus again referred to Simon as Peter (Petros) and said on this rock (petra) he would build His church:
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He [began] asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some [say] John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal [this] to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.
19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20).
We can hardly approach the “rock” portion of 1 Peter 2 independently of what has preceded it. Our text in this lesson is crucial for several reasons.
First, 1 Peter 2:4-10 is Peter’s own commentary on the meaning of our Lord’s words to him in Matthew 16. Roman Catholicism understands our Lord’s words here very differently than evangelical Protestants. Consider the Catholic view of our Lord’s words in Matthew 16:
“This passage (especially 16:17-19) proves that Peter was the first pope. ‘The pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven, of earth, and of hell.’ He wields ‘the two swords, the spiritual and the temporal.’ ‘The Catholic Church teaches that our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in the government of his whole church, and that same authority has always resided in the popes, or bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter. Consequently, to be true followers of Christ all Christians, both among the clergy and laity, must be in communion with the See of Rome, where Peter rules in the person of his successor.’”39
One of these views must be wrong. Peter’s own words indicate the teaching of Rome is in error. We shall see that our text teaches a very different view of the church (ecclesiology) than does Roman Catholicism. Our text teaches the view we need to understand and practice.
Second, the “rock” theme is introduced very early in the Bible and plays a prominent role in the Scriptures. The earliest reference to God as our “Rock” occurs in the Book of Genesis in the blessings pronounced by Jacob:
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; [its] branches run over a wall. 23 The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot [at him] and harassed him; 24 but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)” (Genesis 49:22).
At the exodus of the nation Israel from her Egyptian bondage, the “rock” became a source of life-giving water for God’s people:
“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel (Exodus 17:6; see also Numbers 20:8-12).
Paul’s commentary in the New Testament on this “rock” from which the water flowed is almost astounding:
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
In the Book of Deuteronomy, God is repeatedly called “the Rock:”
4 “The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
15 “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—you are grown fat, thick, and sleek—then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation.
18 “You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth.”
30 “How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? 31 Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this.”
37 “And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, The rock in which they sought refuge?’” (Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 37).
The “rock” imagery is sprinkled throughout the Psalms:
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2; see 18:31, 46; 31:2-3; 42:9; 61:2; 62:2, 6, 7; 71:3; 78:35; 89:26; 92:15; 95:1; 118:22; 144:1).
The “rock” symbolism continues in the prophets (see Isaiah 8:14; 17:10; 26:4; 28:16; 30:29; 31:9; 33:16; 44:8; 51:1). Daniel’s “rock” is especially fascinating:
34 “You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:34-35).
45 “Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy” (Daniel 2:45).
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus identified Himself as the rejected “rock” in fulfillment of Psalm 118:22:
41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the [proper] seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER[stone]; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES’? 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” 45 And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 And when they sought to seize Him, they feared the multitudes, because they held Him to be a prophet (Matthew 21:41-45).
Paul chose to turn to the “rock” prophecies of Isaiah in chapters 8 and 28 rather than Psalm 118:
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at [that] law. 32 Why? Because [they did] not [pursue it] by faith, but as though [it were] by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED” (Romans 9:30-33).
In his defense before the Sanhedrin, Peter turned to Psalm 118 to show that their rejection of the Lord Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures:
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this [name] this man stands here before you in good health. 11 He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, [but] WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER [stone.] 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:8-12).
While Jesus focused on Psalm 118 and Paul on Isaiah 8 and 28, Peter alone draws upon all three texts in 1 Peter 2 to demonstrate how the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole basis for the eternal deliverance or the destruction of men.
The third reason our passage is crucial is because it defines our relationships. Most importantly, it explains our relationship to God and then to His church through the person of Jesus Christ, the “Rock.” Furthermore, this text explains why men disdain God, reject Jesus Christ, and resist and persecute Christians. They stumble over the same “Rock” which saved us. It also defines our relationship to the nation Israel.
Fourth, after spelling out the privileges God has poured out upon us in 1 Peter 2:4-10, Peter goes on to spell out the responsibility these privileges bring. Peter tells us God’s purpose in saving us and in causing us to become “living stones,” a part of his people and of his temple, His dwelling place among men.
Finally, this text motivates our service to God and men because we are the recipients of great and marvelous privileges, all on the basis of divine grace as a result of His great mercy.
Our Text in Context
Our passage is a turning point in Peter’s first epistle. Peter began by assuring us of our hope, our confidence in those blessings which will be ours at the second coming of our Lord. At verse 14 Peter begins to speak of our present conduct based upon our future hope (see verse 13). Our life should be characterized by obedience (1:14, 22), holiness (1:14-16), godly fear (1:17-21), and love for the brethren (1:22–2:3). From verse 11 of chapter 2 onward in Peter’s epistle, the emphasis is upon our conduct in a heathen world. This conduct, as always in Scripture, is based upon our calling which Peter defines in verses 4-10 of chapter 2.
In 1:22-25, Peter introduced the concept of our new birth through the seed of the Word. In 2:1-3, Peter has moved on to the concept of growth, once again brought about by the Word. Now in 2:4-10 Peter moves from the individual dimensions to the corporate dimensions of our spiritual walk. He takes up the subject of growth, but now we are growing up together, as a building. With this he spells out our calling, our purpose. Our relationship to God, to the “Rock,” and to others is determined by our response to the Word (2:8).
The Structure of Our Text
The text, broadly outlined, divides into three sections, each with its own emphasis but all interrelated.
(1) Verses 4-6 The Christian’s relationship to the “Rock”
(2) Verses 7- 8 The unbeliever’s relationship to the “Rock”
(3) Verses 9-10 The Christian’s relationship to Israel
Believers and the “Rock”
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up40 as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For [this] is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER [stone], AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
In verse 4, Peter calls our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he refers to as a “living stone,” precious in the sight of God but rejected by men. In verse 5, Peter points out the believer’s relationship to Christ. If He is the “living stone,” we are also “living stones,”41 stones which are being built into a dwelling place of God from which priestly ministry is conducted and spiritual sacrifices are offered. In verse 6, Peter gives the Scriptural foundation for his teaching in verses 4 and 5.
It comes as no surprise that Peter would call the Lord Jesus a “living stone.” The Old Testament spoke of the Savior to come as a “stone” (see Daniel 2:34-45). Peter had heard the Lord Jesus refer to Himself as the “Rock” spoken of in Psalm 118:22 (Matthew 21:42). That He is referred to as a “living” stone is no great surprise either. Often, the no-gods—the idols of the heathen—were made of stone. The Old Testament prophets mocked them as lifeless objects which their worshippers had to carry about (see Deuteronomy 4:28; 28:36, 64; 29:17; 2 Kings 19:18; Isaiah 40;18-22; 44:6-23; Daniel 5:4, 23; Acts 17:29). But the Lord Jesus is alive! He has been raised from the dead, proof that He is precious in the Father’s sight. As Peter has already said, we have a “living hope” based on our trust in a living Lord whom God raised from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).
Peter contrasts God’s estimation of the Lord Jesus with that of men.42 In the sight of the Father, He is precious, God’s chosen One. Because of this, the blood which He shed for our sins was precious (1:19). Unbelievers view Him just the opposite way. To them, He is worthless and useless, to be rejected. It is little wonder that God’s values and man’s values are so different:
And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
If the things men highly esteem are detestable to God, is it any wonder that the One who is precious43 in His sight is detestable in the sight of men?
Because the Lord Jesus is the “living stone,” those who put their trust in Him also become “living stones.”44 These “stones” share in the life of their Lord. They also share in the ministry of our Lord. Through Him, we “as living stones” become a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices45 to the Father which are acceptable because of Him. Peter’s words are very similar in symbol and meaning to those of the apostle Paul:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner [stone], 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22).
This “living stone,” precious in the sight of the Father, is the corner stone of the spiritual house of which we become a part. Peter now turns to Isaiah 28:16 to show that his words are based upon the Old Testament promise of the Messiah to come. Peter called the “living stone” “elect”46 and “precious.” All the terms found in verse 4, “choice,” “precious,” and “stone,” are found again in the citation of Isaiah 28:11 in verse 6. While the concept of Christ as the corner stone is implied in verse 5, it is stated in verse 6.47
The last statement in verse 6 plays an important role in our text.48 It emphasizes the blessing which comes to those who trust in Jesus of Nazareth as God’s precious stone. It also implies that those who reject Him will be disappointed, or even better, “put to shame” (see the marginal note in the NASB). The force of these words can best be understood in the light of the context in which they were originally written:
“Isaiah speaks the word of the Lord against the princes of Jerusalem who foolishly suppose that their city is secure against the threat of invasion. They speak as though they had a treaty with death and hell so that the lethal waters of the abyss could never sweep over them. God declares that their pride is no refuge, their covenant with death no security. Only one edifice can stand against the storm of destruction: God’s building, established upon one sure foundation stone. It is this figure that Jesus used when he said to Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against his church.”49
Would the people of God put their trust in alliances with heathen nations rather than in the living God who was their “Rock?” Then they will be put to shame. But if they place their trust in the “Rock” of God’s choosing, they will find blessing. They will not be put to shame.
Men today have the same choice to make as the people of Jerusalem so long ago. They must either place their trust in God, or they must trust in men. Those who reject God will be put to shame, and those who trust in Him whom He has chosen (the “Rock”) will not be put to shame.
Unbelievers and “the Rock”
8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this [doom] they were also appointed.
Those who trust in the “living stone” will not be put to shame (verse 6). Now in verse 7 Peter indicates that while there is “honor” for those who believe, there is dishonor for those who do not. The rejection of Christ by unbelievers and their resulting doom is but the fulfillment of the divine plan (“and to this [doom] they were also appointed,” verse 8) and thus the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Peter joins two Old Testament prophecies about Christ as the rejected “Rock.” The first is from Psalm 118:22; the second from Isaiah 8:14. Those who disbelieve (verse 7) and are “disobedient to the Word” (verse 8) reject the precious “Rock” to their own doom. The rejected “Rock” is the “Rock” whom the Father regards as precious, whom He has raised from the dead to be our “living stone.” This “Rock,” whom unbelievers reject, has thus been made the chief “corner stone.”
For believers, Jesus is the precious “stone” through whom they have been saved and upon whom they are built up into a dwelling place of God. Because of Him, they will never be put to shame. But for unbelievers, just the opposite is true. This “Rock” is no corner stone but a stumbling stone over whom men stumble and fall for eternity. So it was destined to be.
Verse 8 describes man’s doom from two perspectives: (1) the responsibility of man and (2) the sovereignty of God. Man stumbles to his own destruction because he has disregarded and disobeyed the Word of God, which bears witness to the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth as the promised “stone.” This is all a part of the divine plan. Man’s unbelief did not catch God by surprise; rather, it is the fulfillment of the eternal decree.
Believers and Their Relationship to Israel
9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD,52 A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR [God’s] OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;53 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
Notice several things about these verses. First, here, as elsewhere in our text, the emphasis does not fall on individual believers and their individual blessings and responsibilities, but upon the corporate body of Christ, “the people of God.” Each expression, “a chosen race,” “a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” “a people for God’s own possession,” and “the people of God” is a corporate concept. When an individual comes to salvation by a personal trust in Jesus Christ, he or she becomes a part of a people, a body of believers. As a part of this body, he or she has both a privileged position and a task to which they are called.
Second, the expressions used to describe the New Testament church in verses 5, 9, and 10 are quotations from the Old Testament. Specifically, the corporate descriptions of the church are descriptions of the nation Israel. Consider these Old Testament texts:
5 “‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.’” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him (Exodus 19:5-7, emphasis mine).
19 “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. 20 The beasts of the field will glorify Me; the jackals and the ostriches; because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people. 21 the people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise” (Isaiah 43:19-21, emphasis mine).
9 And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.” 10 Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and it will come about that, in the place where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” it will be said to them, “[You are] the sons of the living God.” 11 And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:9-11, emphasis mine).
21 “And it will come about in that day that I will respond,” declares the LORD. I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, 22 And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine, and to the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. 23 And I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ and they will say, ‘[Thou art] my God!’” (Hosea 2:21-23, emphasis mine).
The nation Israel was chosen and set apart by God, not because of their goodness or merit but simply as the recipients of divine mercy (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 8:11-20). Because of her sin and rebellion against God, the prophet Hosea declared this people, who were once known as the “people of God,” no longer His people. In yet a future day, after they have repented and returned to Him, they will once again be His people.
So, as Hosea promised Israel, although they were not the people of God, He would once again make them His people. Peter applies this same principle to the Gentiles. If those who are “not God’s people” (namely disobedient Israelites) can become “God’s people,” then surely disobedient Gentiles (also “not God’s people”) can become God’s people.
These words are intended to produce in the Gentiles the proper response to divine grace. They are intended to produce a spirit of humility and gratitude. Just as Israel dare not take pride in her unbelieving past or take credit for her election and calling, along with all of its privileges, neither do Gentiles dare take credit for their salvation. Salvation is all of grace, all of mercy. Neither Jews nor Gentiles dare boast in themselves, but only in God (see Romans 3:27-30; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Furthermore, these Old Testament quotations are applied to the Gentile saints to remind them of the obligations which stem from their high calling. As the Scriptures teach, to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). God chose the nation Israel and delivered them from their bondage for a purpose, and that purpose is given in the texts Peter cites.
9 That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (verse 9).
While trusting in the “Rock” is for the good of the believer, the emphasis falls not on our blessings but on God’s glory and our duty to proclaim His excellencies. Our text is not self-centered, but God-centered. We are His possession. The Lord Jesus is the One who is precious in the Father’s sight. We are saved by His mercy and grace. We are chosen and called to proclaim His wonders. Our salvation, as well as the doom of those who reject the “Stone,” is by divine decree. To God be the glory, great things He has done!
This text concludes the first section of Peter’s epistle, and what a grand finale it is! On the one hand, Peter contrasts what his readers once were with what they are now. On the other hand, he contrasts their present privileges with that of those who have stumbled over Christ, the “living Stone.” In so doing, Peter has now laid the foundation for our understanding of why unbelievers are so intensely hostile toward those of us who profess Christ as “the Rock.” This passage not only spells out our privileges and responsibilities by virtue of our identity with Christ, “the Rock,” it also explains our persecution. Our rejection is not to be personal, but representative because of our identity with Christ. As Michaels puts it, “The theological contrast between these two groups [believers and unbelievers], with its consequent social tensions, will absorb Peter’s interest through the remainder of this epistle.”54
Peter’s words demonstrate a continuity between the Old Testament and the New, a continuity sometimes denied or minimized. The privileged position of New Testament saints is spoken of in the same terms as employed in the Old Testament. The church of God is described in terms that were, and will again be, applied to Israel. These terms bring to mind both the privileges of our calling and our purpose. Our calling is by His grace and mercy, to His glory. We have been brought into a relationship with Him so that we may worship and praise Him.
Peter’s words suggest that God has privileged Gentile believers to experience all the blessings promised to an Israelite. We are what the Jews could have been and what they will someday be. But yet another truth must not be overlooked. All Israel failed to be, which we now are, we are in Christ. All of the terms Peter has used that once applied to Israel, and now apply to us, also apply to our Lord. Indeed, only through our Lord are these privileges ours (or will they be Israel’s).
Israel was called by God to be a “spiritual house,” a “holy priesthood,” a “chosen race,” “royal priesthood,” and a “holy nation.” Israel failed at all of these because they tried to do so on their own rather than by trusting in the “Stone” who was to come. Our Lord alone is holy. It is He alone who became a “royal (king) priest.” He is the great High Priest. It is He who was God’s faithful “Son” and “Servant” when Israel failed. It is He who was the dwelling place of God, for in Him God tabernacled among us (John 1:14). We dare not boast or think ourselves better than the Jews, for neither they nor we enter into these privileges other than “in Christ.” He is the means of our blessings. He alone is worthy to be praised.
In contemporary terms, this passage from the pen of Peter spells out our identity. Here we learn who we are and what God has purposed for us to do. It is the basis for the teachings which follow concerning our conduct. Our calling is the basis for our conduct (Ephesians 4:1).
Some say our value is evidenced by the price which our Lord paid to save us. Neither this text nor any other text I know of in the Bible says that God saved us because He thought we were precious. He saved us in spite of the fact that we were sinful, defiled, and useless, and only because He regarded His Son as precious. Let us not come to this passage to find ourselves, to estimate our worth, but let us come to it overwhelmed by His worth and God’s grace in saving us through His precious blood.
Let us learn from Peter that we dare not accept the value structure of this world. The world does not esteem the Lord Jesus Christ. The world does not see Him as precious. God views Him as precious though the world thinks Him worthless. We would be far better to accept God’s evaluation than man’s. And if the world could so badly appraise the worth of our Lord, why do we look to the world for approval and a sense of self-worth? We can only learn what is truly precious from God, not from our unsaved peers.
Peter’s teaching in our text most certainly requires us to reject Roman Catholic teaching on the position of Peter. Who would know better than Peter himself about his position? Peter does not wave Matthew 16 before us and demand that we believe the church is built on him. He tells us emphatically that the church is built upon the precious stone, our Lord Jesus Christ. He claims no special relationship with God nor does he claim to be a mediator between God and man; instead Peter teaches that the whole church has a priestly calling and ministry, and he in no way sets himself apart from or above others. Whatever privileges Peter experienced in his relationship to Christ and His church, his teaching here implies that they are ours as well.55 He had a unique role as an apostle but not a unique relationship to Christ or to his church. If we would learn the meaning of our Lord’s words in Matthew 16 concerning Peter, let us learn from Peter himself.
We dare not leave this text without a reminder that each individual’s response to the Lord Jesus Christ seals their eternal destiny. If you receive Him as the “precious Stone,” you will obtain the forgiveness of your sins and receive the privileges which become the possession of God’s people. If you reject Him as God’s only means of salvation, you do so to your own eternal doom. Your eternity is determined by your response to who Jesus is.
Let us close by remembering these words spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself:
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).
40 As the marginal note in the NASB indicates, it is possible to render this term as an imperative as well as in the indicative mood. It would seem as though the indicative mood (“are being built up”) best suits the context.
41 The Greek word rendered “stone” is LITHOS not PETROS or PETRA, as we might expect. This is for several reasons. A LITHOS is a stone which has been shaped and prepared; a PETROS is not. LITHOS is the word used in the texts Peter is citing. Finally, Peter would have deliberately avoided using the term PETROS if possible to avoid any confusion with himself based on a misunderstanding of Matthew 16. The term PETRA is found once in 1 Peter 2:4-10--in verse 8, and there it is the “rock of offense.”
43 There are those who seek to find their value (self-esteem, if you would) in the fact that God chose them. No biblical text ever indicates that God sent His Son to die for us because we were so precious or because there was something of value in us. To the contrary (see Romans 3:9-18), Peter speaks only of Christ as precious. If we look for value, we must look to Him and not to ourselves.
46 Both the KJV and the NIV translate verse 4 to read “chosen” rather than “choice” as in the NASB. The marginal note in the NASB informs us that the term literally means “chosen” or “elect.” The same Greek word is used in verse 6 and is rendered “elect” by the KJV and “chosen” by the NIV. The NASB is at least consistent with the rendering “choice.”
50 The rendering “precious value” in the NASB is unfortunate. It is a different (but related) term than that rendered “precious” in verses 4 and 6. In the KJV, of the 45 times this term occurs in the New Testament, it is rendered “precious” only once--here in 1 Peter 2:7. It is rendered “honor” 35 times. The “honor” which is granted believers in Christ is the opposite of the dishonor mentioned at the end of verse 6. It seems most likely, then, that the connection is between verses 6 and 7, between shame (or being “disappointed”) and being honored.
51 Jesus applied the words of this Psalm (118:22-23) to Himself in Matthew 21:42. Peter also applied this to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:11. In Romans 9:32-33, Paul applied Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16 to all Israel. Now, Peter applies it to all mankind--Gentiles in particular.
52 “Our popular idea of a priest is of a person with the right to offer sacrifice on behalf of others. The basic meaning in the Bible is a person who serves God and has the right of access to him. That is why he is able to bring sacrifices on behalf of people who do not have access to God.” I. Howard Marshall, 1 Peter (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press), 1991. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Pp. 74-75.
“The descriptive adjective royal, however, adds the dimension of kingdom and king. In the kingdom of priests (compare Exod. 19:6), there is a king. In fact, the Messiah is both priest and king as Zechariah prophesied: ‘He will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne’ (6:13; also see Heb. 7:14-17; Rev. 1:5-6). Whereas Zechariah prophetically portrays the Messiah as the royal priest, Peter reveals that believers are priests in a royal priesthood.” Simon J. Kistemaker, Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), 1987. New Testament Commentary Series. P. 92.
53 “Conversion from paganism to Christianity was commonly viewed by the early Christians as a passage from darkness to light (cf., e.g., Acts 26:18; 2 Cor 4:6; Col 1:12-13; . . . ), so that believers in Christ viewed themselves in some instances as ‘light’ (Eph 5:8-14) or at least as already living in the light (1 Thes. 5:4-5; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:9-11).” J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher), 1988. Word Biblical Commentary Series, p. 111.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
“Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).
Related Topics: Christology