1-3 So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. 4-8 Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. The Scriptures provide precedent: Look! I’m setting a stone in Zion, a cornerstone in the place of honor. Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have cause to regret it. To you who trust him, he’s a Stone to be proud of, but to those who refuse to trust him, the Stone the workmen threw out is now the chief foundation Stone. For the untrusting it’s...a stone to trip over, a boulder blocking the way. They trip and fall because they refuse to obey, just as predicted. 9-10 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
First Peter derives its name from the epistolary address in Peter 1:1-2, where the writer identifies himself as, “Peter, an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds” (MSG). The exiles to whom Peter writes are scattered to churches in seven different communities of Asia Minor during the latter part of the first century CE. By referring to the churches as exiles or those who have been “scattered,” Peter makes the theological distinction that early Christians are like the people of ancient Israel and Judah who were exiled to Assyria and Babylon in the eight and sixth centuries BCE. While it is likely that these Christians were not actually Jewish by birth, Peter nevertheless makes an assertion that they are like ancient Israel/Judah because the Asia Minor churches are experiencing widespread opposition from the dominant Greco-Roman society in which they live just like ancient Israel/Judah. For Peter, the promises that were given to the ancient Israel/Judah in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament have been transferred to the early Christians of the late first century CE.
First Peter begins with an emphatic assurance issued by the writer to the early churches of the blessings which will be theirs at the second coming of Christ. The writer seeks to remind them that their present conduct as believers should be based upon that future hope. As indicated in 1 Peter chapter one, their lives were to be characterized by obedience (I Peter 1:14, 22), holiness (I Peter 1:14-16), godly fear (I Peter 1:17-21), and love for each other (I Peter 1:22–2:3).
In this week’s lesson, Peter moves from instruction on the individual dimensions of a believer’s spiritual walk to the spiritual and practical responsibilities of the corporate church as a singular unified body. The writer takes up the subject of Christians growing up together, characterizing the relationship between believers as a building. Using a metaphor drawn from the world of carpentry, masonry, and residential construction, Peter spells out the Christian’s calling and purpose as one that is derived from Jesus of Nazareth, the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
After the epistolary greeting in verses 1 and 2, the lesson text divides into three sections—each with its own emphasis, but all interrelated. Verses 4-6, discuss the relationship of the trusting to the “Stone.” Verses 7- 8, explore the relationship of the untrusting to the “Stone.” Verses 9-10, emphasize the relationship of the trusting with each other, fostered by their relationship with the “Stone.”
1-3 So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.
Only one imperative is found in these verses: “Drink deep of God’s pure kindness.” Previously, Peter spoke of salvation as that initiated by means of the Word. Now, salvation is listed as the goal toward which obedience to the Word moves us.
Our purification requires putting off those things which enslaved us during the time of our ignorance and unbelief (Galatians 5:13-26; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:1-11). These negative character qualities are hostile to true love; they are contrary to an appetite for the Word and the growth the milk of the Word produces. We cannot harbor malice and practice guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander and still desire the Word. To be full of these evils is to fail to have an appetite for the milk of God’s Word.
Peter emphasizes the relationship between the truth of the Word and love for one another. There seems to be a growing trend for some Christians to belittle an accurate knowledge of the truth while heralding the benefits of love. But these two necessities are co-dependent (I Timothy 1:5).
Peter presents love to us as the goal and the result of our obedience. Our obedience to the truth purified our souls, producing love for the brethren and laying the foundation for Peter’s command to love one another “fervently” (persistently) from the heart (1:22).
On the basis of Peter’s teaching on the relationship of love and obedience, we need to reject much of the popular thinking about love. If we do not love another, it is not an excuse for disobedience regarding our relationship. In fact, disobedience is the reason we have ceased to love others. If love for one another is the result of our obedience, then the absence of love is due to disobedience. Obedience is the prerequisite to love. The solution to a lack of love is a return to obedience to the Scriptures. This is what our Lord Himself instructed a loveless church to do (Revelation 2:1-5).
Our Lord called a lack of love sin, and He instructed those deficient in love to repent and to return to those deeds which are in obedience to His Word. Love not only comes first as an incentive for obedience, but it comes last, as the result of obedience. Do we lack love? Let us turn to the Word, repent of our sin, and return to obedience.
Peter also expects obedience to the truth, love, and growth only from those who have truly been born again. Trust in Him as God’s only means of salvation and be saved (Romans 10:8-11).
4-6 Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. The Scriptures provide precedent: Look! I’m setting a stone in Zion, a cornerstone in the place of honor. Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have cause to regret it. To you who trust him, he’s a Stone to be proud of, but to those who refuse to trust him, the Stone the workmen threw out is now the chief foundation Stone.
Peter calls our attention to Jesus, whom he refers to as, “the living Stone,” precious in the sight of God but rejected by men. Peter points out our relationship to Christ: If He is the “living Stone,” we are also “living stones,” stones being built into a dwelling place of God from which ministry is conducted and spiritual service is offered.
Ancient Hebrew Scripture spoke of the Savior to come as a “stone” (Daniel 2:34-45). Peter had heard Jesus refer to Himself as the “Rock” spoken of in Psalm 118: 22 (Matthew 21:42). That He is referred to as “the living Stone” is an intended contrast to the lifeless objects that were worshiped in ancient times.
But 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 (I Peter 1:3).
Peter contrasts God’s estimation of the Jesus with that of the world. In the sight of the Father, He is precious, God’s chosen One; the blood that He shed for our sins was precious (I Peter 1:19). Unbelievers view Him just the opposite way—worthless, useless, to be rejected.
Because Jesus is “the living Stone,” those who put their trust in Him also become “living stones.” We share in the life and the ministry of our Lord. Peter’s words are very similar in symbol and meaning to those of Paul, in Ephesians 2:19-22: That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
The statement, in verse 6, emphasizes the blessing which comes to those who trust in Jesus as God’s precious stone, and that those who reject Him will regret it.
*We must make a choice—to either place our trust in God or in the things of this world.
7-8 To you who trust him, he’s a Stone to be proud of, but to those who refuse to trust him, the Stone the workmen threw out is now the chief foundation Stone. For the untrusting it’s...a stone to trip over, a boulder blocking the way. They trip and fall because they refuse to obey, just as predicted.
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 the fulfillment of ancient Hebrew scripture (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14). Unbelievers stumble to their own destruction because they disregard and disobey the Word of God, which bears witness to the promised Messiah, which we know to be Jesus.
9-10 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
Note several things about these verses:
• The emphasis does not fall on individual believers and their individual blessings and responsibilities, but upon the corporate body of Christ. When we come to salvation by a personal trust in Jesus Christ, we become a part of a people, a body of believers. As such, we have both a privileged position and a task to which we are called.
• The corporate descriptions of the Church are tied to descriptions of a spiritual Israel (Exodus 19:5-7; Isaiah 43:19-21). It is important to Peter that his readers recognize the connection between the God of their ancestors and the God who has wrought this wonderful work in us now, through the fulfillment of His promise.
• The work of God, through Christ, is transformative—internally (we are changed), interpersonally (we are bound to each other) and externally (we are charged to collectively change the world).
While trusting in Jesus 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. 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 Him, is by divine decree. To God be the glory, great things He has done!
In contemporary terms, this passage 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).
It is appropriate that we find our value in the price which Christ paid to save us. But we must understand that this is a value restored, a value redeemed—which became necessary because it was a value that we discarded. God saved us because He thought we were precious. He saved us in spite of the fact that we were sinful, defiled, and useless. Thus, let us not come to this passage only to find ourselves, to estimate our worth. 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. 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.