“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)
Being described as a “living stone” seems odd. After all, stones are hard, dead and cold, and not alive. Builders use stones, sure, but that connection to our spiritual lives is difficult to grasp.
Perhaps that’s because while we may have respect for our church buildings, our reverence pales in comparison to that of the Jewish Christians (Peter’s audience). They were driven out of Jerusalem and scattered through Asia Minor. So, his original readers understood this analogy at a deeper level since they were unable to even go to the temple because of persecution by the Roman Emperor Nero.
Peter’s words presented a paradigm shift for the Jewish Christians in AD 63. For them, the temple provided a place to offer sacrifices and make atonement. Then Christ came replaced this system.
Peter’s analogy helped the Jewish Christians make that shift in thinking. They could go from the system of sacrifice handed to them through their Jewish heritage to understanding how Christ fulfilled that system so completely that physical sacrifices became unnecessary.
Because of this heritage, they fully understood the significance of the stones creating the temple building. They held an immense reverence for the temple building itself as well as an understanding for what Peter’s analogy meant. (See Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 & 28:16.)
Barnes Notes on the Bible explains the Jewish Christian’s view in this way.
“The Jews prided themselves much on their temple. It was a most costly and splendid edifice. It was the place where God was worshipped, and where he was supposed to dwell. It had an imposing service, and there was acceptable worship rendered there.”
Regardless of the time in history, the application is no less significant or relevant. Consider the following 5 points in terms of applying the “living stone” analogy to our Christian walk.
- You are being built up in Christ. While individually every Christian represents Christ, Christians collectively – each “living stone” placed one upon another with Christ as the cornerstone – are being built up together in Christ. In other words “all true Christians are a chosen generation; they make one family, a people distinct from the world: of another spirit, principle, and practice.”
- You are part of a spiritual house of God. The house of God is not built with stones or wood but with “living stones” that hold the breath of God. As such, these “living stones” (Christians throughout time) have an immensely greater value. They give His house significantly more value than any physical temple or church building built by man. Together, in unity and community, all Christians create the temple of the Lord.
- You are a holy priesthood. With Jesus’ final sacrifice on the cross, the old system of sacrifice for atonement of sin was abolished. Blood sacrifices through priests at the temple are no longer required. Christians exist now as a holy priesthood and offer sacrifices of a different kind.
- Spiritual sacrifices are the result. Since blood sacrifices are no longer required, what are we to sacrifice? “The sacrifice of prayer and praise.” (Hebrews 13:15)
- Our sacrifices must be acceptable in God’s eyes. Fortunately for us, God looks at our sacrifices through Jesus. Through the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice, our prayers and praises become acceptable. They come through imperfect lips and hearts, but they go through Jesus as the “author and perfector of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Every Christian today exists as part of the temple of God. Prayer and praise exist as sacrifices when we offer our whole selves, holding nothing back. This happens as we realize that nothing we do or say is sufficient, but we instead offer what we have…
“…with pure hearts that with the intention to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly.” (Micah 6:8)