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.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
- We are not to hold any malice.
- We are not to be deceitful.
- We are not to be hypocritical.
- We are not to envy.
- We are not to slander.
- We are to long for spiritual things as a newborn seeks milk.
- It is the spiritual things that cause us to grow in salvation.
- There is growth in salvation.
- We grow in salvation only if we have experienced the goodness of God.
- We come to Christ.
- Christ was rejected by men.
- Jesus was God’s chosen.
- Jesus was precious to God.
- We are part of a larger whole.
- As a community of Christians we are built into a spiritual house,
- We are priests individually and a priesthood as a community.
- As priests we are to offer spiritual sacrifices to God.
- Our sacrifices are acceptable because they are through Jesus Christ.
- Whoever believes in Jesus will not be put to shame.
- For those who believe, Jesus is thing around which all other things are built.
- For those who do not believe, Jesus seems absurd.
- Jesus is offensive to those who do not understand.
- Those who disobey the word of God, trip over the idea of Christ.
- Those who disobey the word of God were destined to do so.
- But those who believe are a chosen race.
- Those who believe are a royal priesthood.
- Those who believe are a holy nation.
- Those who believe are God’s possession.
- We were chosen to proclaim the greatness of God.
- God called us out of darkness into light.
- Once we did not belong but now we belong.
- Once we did not have mercy, now we have mercy.
- We are simply passing through this life.
- We are not to partake of the passions of the flesh.
- The flesh wages war against our soul.
- We are to treat everyone honorably.
- We are to treat everyone so well that our good deeds will cause others to glorify God.
Peter has just taught that we are regenerated by the word of God. He now encourages us to lead a life that corresponds to our new birth. If we have been reborn and are in the Spirit, we ought to live in the Spirit. This is the same thing Paul teaches in Galatians. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) It is not sufficient to simply be called; we must live as new creatures. Peter continues the metaphor of being reborn and likens us to infants. This is the same metaphor used by Christ “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Peter says to lay down all malice. He then enumerates a few. Even though it is not a complete list, hypocrisy, deceit, envy and slander. It serves as a mirror into our lives. From this very short list we see just how sinful we truly are. Yet we justify ourselves. “I am not that hypocritical.” “I am not all that deceitful.” “I am only a little envious.” “Yeah, I may say things about people but it doesn’t rise to the level of slander.” The Apostle says put away all malice. We are to seek after the nourishment of the word of God.
Peter now changes the metaphor and calls us to be like living stones being built up as a spiritual house. Each of us is said to be the temple of God. And yet united together we are the temple of God. We are individual stones as part of the temple and yet individually we are built up to be a temple or spiritual house. We each have our own position or part to play. We work within the limits and capabilities of our own gifts. And yet we are to work together as one unit, the church.
Next, Peter says we are a priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices. Through Jesus Christ we are living stones which make up the temple and we are the priest who offer scarifies in the temple. The temple was a place where the divine grace was amplified. We, the church, are to be that place where God’s grace is amplified. We are also priests who bestow this amplified grace to the world. Peter mentions both of these honors to encourage us to more effectively serve and worship God.
The Apostle quotes Isaiah 28:16, where the prophet speaks out against the desperate wickedness of his own nation. The prophet says God will rebuild. God will lay the cornerstone. This cornerstone is Christ. Without Christ there is no church.
The Prophet says “whoever believes will not be put to shame.” There is no doubt that God sets Christ as the object of our faith. No one can rightly believe, except those who are fully convinced that it is Christ and Christ alone in whom we trust completely. When the prophet says we will not be put to shame he is referring to the fact that if we rely on Christ, we are not in danger of God’s wrath. In fact, the Apostle goes so far as to say we will receive honor. We receive honor through Christ.
Those who do not believe do not diminish Christ’s honor. Here, Peter quotes Psalm 118:22. “Even though the builders have rejected the precious stone, it has become the corner stone.” Notice two things. First Christ was rejected by the world. Second, the world’s rejection had no effect. God decreed that Christ would be the cornerstone. There is nothing men could do to frustrate God’s will. Not only does man’s rejection of Christ not frustrate the will of God, the rejection of Christ is their own down fall.
We should not be surprised when the gospel of Christ is rejected. Man in his natural state is an enemy of God. Only Divine intervention causing a rebirth changes a man. But we may rejoice we have been called to be servants of God, priests, royal priests. He has called us out of bondage and enslavement into freedom. We have been called to proclaim the excellencies of God.
After Peter talks about the opposition the world and natural man has with God, he makes a sharp contrast with, “But you…” to demonstrate the status of the elect. God’s sovereignty in His choice of both Christ and the church stands out. Peter says we are chosen so we, “may proclaim the excellencies,” of God, the one who chose us. Being called God’s people is not only for salvation but for our service as also. All believers are called to be witnesses to the saving acts of God.
When Peter says, “Once you were not a people…” this is a reference back to the Old Testament. In fact, the word Peter uses for “people” is the same world use in the Septuagint to refer to Israel. Peter is drawing on Septuagint version of Hos. 1:6,9,10; and 2:23 and equating the church to Israel. Peter, like Paul in Romans 9:25 &26 is interpreting Hosea to include Gentiles in the people of God.
Peter concludes this passage by encouraging right conduct. We are to live righteous lives and not give into worldly or fleshly desire. There is nothing inherently wrong with bodily desires it is only when they are perverted by our sinful nature do they become perverse. That is what Peter is warning us about. We are to act out a life that causes others to glorify God.
This passage, where Peter says to be like infants and in Matthew 18:3 where Christ says to become like children, is often misapplied. Peter is using the analogy to say we are to desire spiritual things as infants desire milk. Christ is referring to humbling one’s self as a child does in accepting and believing a parent. In neither case is Christ nor Peter saying we are to remain children. Peter goes no to say, “that by it you may grow up.” Paul admonishes the Corinthians because they were like children who could not or would not move beyond the most basic spiritual truths. Therefore, we are not to use this text as an excuse for slothfulness in our spiritual life and be satisfied with immature spiritual lives.
Is Christ, as preached in most evangelical churches today, a stumbling stone to the unbeliever? Is Christ, as preached in most evangelical churches today, offensive to the unbeliever? I dare say the christ (notice I use lower case “c” here) preached in most evangelical churches today is intentionally non-offensive. Most evangelical churches today try desperately to be appealing to the unbeliever. The sermons are not about our sin and Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Most sermons are about how to raise moral children. They give parenting advice. They are about how to have a happy marriage. They give marriage counseling. They are about, “How to slay the giants in your life.” They give coping advice.
The Church is not called to entertain or give advice like a day time talk show. The Church is called to preach the gospel of Christ and call a condemned world to repentance. We are to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
You many notice I said went so far as to say most evangelical churches. I did not soften my words by even saying, “many.” I intentionally said, “most.” This is a result of personal experience and research. A few years ago, I felt the need to leave a church who preached everything but the gospel. In fact, when I asked the pastor about this, his response was, “What if a pregnant 17 year old girl walks in to church Sunday. She doesn’t need a sermons on the gospel, She needs help.” I agree she needs help. She needs Christ. That is exactly what I need. That is exactly what you need. His response was what drove me to seek another church. I spent over 2 year visiting churches in the area and listening to hundreds of sermons online trying to find a church who preached Christ’s death and resurrection, Christ’s atoning sacrifice. I finally found one. But it took over 2 years of desperately seeking and looking. This Sunday listen, truly listen to the sermon. What is it about? What is the solution presented? Is it Christ? Or is it something you could get from Oprah or Doctor Phil? Is your church proclaiming the excellencies of Christ?
Most evangelical churches today, worship the name of Christ but they cannot stand the gospel. Peter says all who do not receive Christ, as revealed in the Gospel, are adversaries to God. It is hard to accept but many who call themselves the church and even use the name of Christ actually oppose Christ Himself.
If your church does not proclaim the excellences of Christ and Christ alone, I pray this will be the start of you seeking a church that does. Trust me it can be a hard and difficult journey. But as believers we are to seek after the nourishment of the word of God. The true church is a spiritual house a royal priest hood.