1 Peter 2:1-10 – Living Stones
2 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it is contained in Scripture:
Look! I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and honored cornerstone,
and the one who believes in Him
will never be put to shame!
7 So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving,
The stone that the builders rejected—
this One has become the cornerstone,
A stone to stumble over,
and a rock to trip over.
They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for His possession,
so that you may proclaim the praises
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light.
10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy. (HCSB)
The focus of Peter’s message in these verses is on community relationships. The previous passage focused on the need for love among fellow Christians. In chapter two, Peter begins with a call to get rid of actions that disrupt the community of believers.
- The sins listed in the first verse tear at the social fabric of the church, ripping away the love that binds them together.
- Malice – an attitude similar to hatred with a desire to inflict pain, harm, or injury to another person. It includes holding and acting on grudges.
- Deceit – refers to deliberate dishonesty. Anything less than speaking the full and honest truth from the heart is deceit. This is a selfish, two-faced attitude that deceives and hurts others for personal gain.
- Hypocrisy – a person who is acting out a part and concealing their true motives.
- Envy – a desire to possess what belongs to someone else and a feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.
- Slander – to speak against someone, to run others down verbally, assaults the character of a person, speech that harms another person’s status or reputation.
The central theme of the paragraph is in this verse, “desire the pure spiritual milk.” There are several themes associated with the “spiritual milk” theme.
- Consuming spiritual milk results in growth.
- Newborn babies crave milk; believers should have just as strong a craving for spiritual milk.
- Milk is the very substance of life that enables Christians to grow spiritually.
- The need for spiritual milk is not an indicator that they are new believers.
- The milk believers are to long for contain two characteristics.
- Pure – unadulterated and uncontaminated. Contaminated milk can produce sickness or death.
- Spiritual – the root of the Greek word used for spiritual is logos, which means word.
- The spiritual milk here is nothing less than the Word of God. But an underlying warning is contained here.
- Pure milk leads to healthiness and growth.
- Contaminated mild would lead to sickness or even death.
- Correct teaching/preaching leads to spiritual growth. False or heretical teaching leads to sickness or death. False or heretical preachers are sickening or killing their congregation with tainted Scripture interpretation. As believers, we must be careful that those we listen to are not tainting the message.
Those who have truly experienced the love, mercy, and grace of Yahweh should, as a result, actively pursue Him in worship and obedience. The desire to grow spiritually comes from experiencing the Lord’s kindness. The believer is filled with a desire for more, never fully satisfied that they have enough of the Word and Yahweh. This shouldn’t be interpreted as a sense of frustration but rather as desiring more of God.
Verses 4-10 The Living Stones
This next section focuses on the concept of living stones, both Jesus as the living stone and those who make up the church as living stones. This is an amazing and beautiful picture, which I’ll unpack, hopefully giving you a better sense of its full meaning.
This verse is a little tricky as there are connections to the Old Testament from verse 3, Lord, but in this verse called the “living stone” as well as references to the Old Testament in the following verses. The use of the Old Testament term being linked to the living stone is important from a Christological standpoint as it infers that what is true of Yahweh is also true of Jesus.
Jesus is the living stone.
- Living because of His resurrection.
- Rejected by man.
- Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
- Isaiah 28:16 Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakeable.”
- Acts 4:11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.
- Romans 9:33 As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.
- Chosen by Yahweh.
- This contrasts with the rejection by man.
- He is exalted through His resurrection.
- These two ideas follow the situation of the Christians Peter is writing to.
- They were despised by the unbelievers around them.
- They were chosen and honored in Yahweh’s eyes.
- They are destined for vindication after their earthly suffering.
In verse 4, Peter identified Jesus as the living stone. In verse 5, he calls followers of Jesus “living stones.” Why does Peter use the phrase “living stones?”
- Because of their faith in the resurrected Christ.
- When we place our faith in Jesus, we are buried and resurrected into the resurrected life of Jesus in the present.
- We also wait for our new body at the end of the age.
- This is the only place in the New Testament that believers are called living stones.
- In other places, believers are called God’s temple or house.
- 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
- Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
- Hebrews 3:6 But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.
- The illustration is of a house in which believers make up the stones of the building.
- The house (believer) is spiritual because it is animated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
- In other places, believers are called God’s temple or house.
- Peter is identifying the New Testament church as the new temple, replacing the concept of the Old Testament temple.
- Believers, as living stones comprising a spiritual house, are being built up through the teaching and discipleship that occurs in the New Testament church.
- The function of the “building” (believers) is to function as a holy priesthood.
- The idea of a holy priesthood should not be viewed in an individualistic context. Instead, Peter views this as the corporate church whose members are a holy priesthood.
- Western society tends to view the concept of priesthood in an individualistic mindset.
- Under the New Covenant, all believers have a priestly identity.
- All believers have direct access to God through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.
- However, we should focus on the corporate body of Christ rather than individual members.
- Priests offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
- Offering our bodies to God for His service.
- Offering of financial gifts.
- Loving service to others.
This verse is taken from Isaiah 28:16 Therefore the Lord God said: Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakeable.
The context of Isaiah 28 is a judgment on Ephraim for disobedience and unbelief. The theme that Isaiah emphasized throughout the book is captured here, those who trust in the Lord will escape judgment, those who don’t will perish.
- Isaiah 28:16 is fulfilled with the coming of Jesus.
- A cornerstone establishes the design and structure of a building.
- Jesus is the fortress, refuge, and stronghold.
- Those who believe in Jesus will never be put to shame.
- Just as Jesus is chosen and honored by God, believers will also be vindicated on the last day.
- Believers will not experience the embarrassment of judgment but the glory of approval.
Depending on the translation you use verse 7 could have the word honor, as in the HCSB, or precious. The correct understanding of the original Greek is honor.
- Honor for believers on the day of judgment.
- Eschatological honor for Jesus.
- The stone (Jesus) rejected by the builders (unbelievers) is the stone that believers rest their faith on.
- Unbelievers reject the Gospel, which is the cause of their stumbling or tripping. This should be interpreted as judgment and eternity in hell.
The ideas in this verse are the Gospel message, Jesus, and unbelievers.
- Jesus and His message, the Gospel, is offensive to many.
- When unbelievers choose not to believe the Gospel and place their faith in Jesus, the very message that could bring them life instead causes them to stumble.
- Disobedience is the cause, and all disobedience is because they fail to trust in God.
- The stumbling mentioned in these verses is not accidental tripping; it is a willful rebellion by refusing to submit to the lordship of Yahweh.
- The same thing led to the crucifixion of Jesus, refusing to submit and fulfilling their own desires.
There’s a lot going on in this verse, which contains three main themes; a royal priesthood, holy nation, and purpose of God’s people.
- Royal priesthood.
- God has chosen them.
- A reminder that we serve royalty.
- It is predominately corporate in nature.
- But it doesn’t deny the fact that individuals serve priestly functions.
- A proper understanding is that believers have priestly functions but always as members of a group who exercise priestly functions.
- Both Israel as a nation and the church of Jesus are identified as a royal priesthood.
- Exodus 19:6 “And you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.” These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.
- Revelation 1:6 And made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father – the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen.
- Holy nation.
- Holy means to be set apart.
- Both Israel and Jesus’ church are to be different than the world around them. They will be set apart by their holiness in obedience to Yahweh.
- A people for His possession.
- Individual believers all make a valuable contribution to Jesus’ church.
- Christians are the true people of God, continuing His purpose that began with Abraham and Moses.
- Purpose of God’s people.
- To proclaim the praises of Yahweh.
- They were called out of darkness (death).
- They now live in marvelous light (life).
- 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
- Conversion is an illustration of moving from darkness to light.
- Acts 26:18 To open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.
- Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.
- Isaiah 43:21 The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.
- Isaiah 43:7a Everyone called by My name and created for My glory.
- Components of praising God.
- To proclaim the praises of Yahweh.
The verse presents an amazing picture of God’s grace and mercy. There is also a connection to Hosea 2:23 I will sow her in the land for Myself, and I will have compassion on No Compassion; I will say to Not My People: You are My people, and he will say, “You are my God.”
- This was a renouncing of Israel as God’s chosen people because of continuous sin. Yet, Yahweh vows to have mercy on them and restore them as His chosen people.
- It is also the experience of the church of Jesus and Gentiles.
- Gentiles once lived in darkness but have now been restored by the light.
- Gentiles are now grafted into God’s chosen people.
- Gentiles are the recipients of God’s grace and mercy through faith in Jesus.
- Take the list of sins that is in verse one and do a self-assessment on whether or not you stumble in any of these areas. Even better, ask your spouse or close friends/co-workers. If you have sinned against anyone, you should apologize and ask for forgiveness. They may or may not give it, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are to ask forgiveness.
- Do you desire spiritual milk for growth? With our busy lives, it can be challenging, but we should be reading Scripture every day. We should read through the entire Bible each year. The only way to know God, be obedient to His Word, and defeat the spiritual powers of darkness is by being immersed in Scripture. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He quoted Scripture.
- Do our lives reflect being a member of a holy priesthood? Are we any different than the world around us? If not, we need to confess our sins and do a course correction.
- Do we rest in the security of the fortress of Jesus? There is nothing in this world bigger than Jesus. If we really trust Him, we will be secure no matter what the world throws at us.