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Remember the broader context of this epistle, which is the need to cultivate holiness under pressure. And as we begin to see, that pressure is not necessarily insignificant. And whether you will be able to do this will depend entirely on your relationship to the Christ Stone.
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ . . . ” (1 Peter 2:1–25).
Summary of the Text
Given the fact of the new birth, it is necessary to live out the ramifications of that new birth. So set aside every form of malice, deceit, two-facedness, envy, and bad talk (v. 1). Desire the Word, and do it the same way newborns desire milk (v. 2). This is so that you might grow, and you are driven by instinct and experience both (v. 3).
You have come to a living stone, one accepted by God and rejected by men (v. 4). Those who come to the living stone are living stones themselves, fashioned into a Temple where their sacrifices will be as acceptable to God as Jesus Himself is (v. 5). Scripture predicted this. God will lay His chief cornerstone in Zion, and the one who believes will not be confounded (v. 6). So believers consider Him precious, and those who treated Him as the rejected stone will see Him established, despite their rejection, as the principal cornerstone (v. 7). To them He is the stone of stumbling, a stumbling that was assigned to them (v. 8). In contrast, you believers are His elect nation, formerly in the darkness but now in the light (v. 9). Once you were not a people, and now you are a people, under the mercy (v. 10).
That being the case, abstain from lust, which is at war with your soul (v. 11). Mark that it is your lust which is at war with your soul. Live honestly among the pagans, such that they will be ashamed when they lie about you (v. 12). Don’t be scofflaws; respect civil authority (v. 13-14). You will be slandered as anarchists, so make it plain through your orderly lives that this is a lie (v. 15). You are slaves of Christ, making you free with regard to them, so don’t abuse your liberty (v. 16). Honor all men; love your brothers; honor the king (v. 17). House slaves (oiketes) are to be subject to their masters, including the harsh ones (v. 18). It is praiseworthy if a man suffers when innocent (v. 19). But where is the glory when you patiently endure what you richly deserved anyway (v. 20)?
All of us as Christians are called to imitate His example (v. 21). He did no wrong, and did not lie (v. 22). When He was reviled, He did not return fire (v. 23). When He suffered, He committed His case to God (v. 23). He bore our sins in his own body on the tree in order that we might be made dead to sin, and live to righteousness (v. 24). By His stripes we were healed—we were like sheep wandering, but have now returned to the shepherd and bishop of our souls (v. 25).
An Internal War
The theme we considered earlier, the fact that we are strangers and pilgrims here, is brought up again (v. 11). You are in a strange land, Peter urges. Don’t drink the water, he says. But then a peculiar aspect of this pilgrimage and exile comes out. You are strangers in a strange land, and yet this alien place has an anchor in you. You are a stranger here now, but this was not always so. You were a native of this place, and you were turned into a pilgrim. Not only so, but you were not turned into a pilgrim instantaneously or all at once.
This is why he says “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” This alien land still has a foothold in you, and you experience that foothold as lust or desire. Peter teaches us that the great spiritual war that is going on all around us has a counterpart within us.
Honor and Submission
I want you to look ahead to the first word of the next chapter. Peter, speaking to the wives, says likewise. They are to be in subjection to their husbands likewise. Likewise to what?
All believers are told to be subject to “every ordinance of man” (v. 13)—to kings and to governors. Domestic slaves are told to be subject to their masters, including the harsh ones (v. 18). And Christ Himself suffered great indignities at the hands of revilers (vv. 21-23). Wives, follow these examples (1 Pet. 3:1). But wait . . . we are not done. Look down at verse 7—husbands, likewise . . . (homoios).
Any Christian anywhere, who has people who ought to be subject to him (father, employer, husband, etc.), therefore has a glorious opportunity to model for all of them how easy it is to subject yourself.
What Stone to You?
We are considering the Christ Stone. Christ is everlastingly the same, yesterday, today, and forever. But the reactions to Him vary wildly, widely. Christ is either the living stone, the cornerstone, upon which other living stones are fitted and placed, or He is rejected as having that role, and He becomes the stone of stumbling.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, A tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: He that believeth shall not make haste” (Is. 28:16).
This is quoted here, and in Romans 9:33 and Romans 10:11.
“And he shall be for a sanctuary; But for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, For a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Is. 8:14).
And this is quoted in our text, and in Romans 9:33 also.
“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22–23).
This is quoted in our text, and also in Acts 4:11; Luke 20:17; Mark 12:10-11; Matt 21:42. This is how the Lord understood Himself, and this is how his apostles understood Him. But this brings us down the essential question before us all right now. How do you understand Him? It is either marvelous in your eyes that God has brought about this great reversal—taking the rejected stone as the principal stone—or your eyes are blinded to the nature of the Christ Stone, resulting in a blindness and a stumbling that was appointed to you as your appointed destiny (1 Pet. 2:8).
“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44).
There are the alternatives—broken and built or stumbled and crushed. But it is Christ either way.