What we feel about Jesus matters. Not just what we know about him, but also how our hearts respond to him. You may have all things about him figured out(I doubt it), but still hate him, or worst don’t even consider him worthy of your attention. I say worst because even Satan knows more true doctrine than you can ever have in this lifetime and hate everything that he knows about Jesus. At least Satan consider Jesus worthy of his time. So if Jesus to you is boring and or as if nonexistent then you’re worst than the devil! But Jesus is worth our time. Infinitely worthy of our attention. And that’s what we’re going to look at today in 1 Peter 2:4-10.
Peter’s line of thought here is not as apparent as we want it to be, because you will notice that without any warning or hint he immediately change the imagery from image of an infant to that of a stone. However, we can see the connection of verse 4 to the preceding verses in the verbs “come” and “long”. That is, because we long for more of Jesus in the gospel, therefore we come to Him. Our craving for God’s goodness in the gospel compels us to come to Jesus. You can’t say that you desire God and yet you are running away from Jesus and his word. The verb “come” in this verse is not even command but an assumption that as you long for the pure spiritual milk you will in fact come to him.
Now Peter described the Lord Jesus to whom believers are coming to as a “living stone that indeed has been rejected by men, nevertheless in the sight of God chosen and precious.” Take note of this description as we will return to it later. So now Peter is saying that as we come to Jesus who is a living stone, the result of being in contact with Him is that we also become living stones that are built up as first, a spiritual house, and second, to be a holy priesthood. Both images are allusions to the old testament temple and priesthood which purpose is the offering of animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin. But now Peter used these images to describe those who come to the living stone. Collectively they become the temple of the Spirit of God and a holy priesthood to offer not animal sacrifices but spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God. These sacrifices are not for atonement, because they are already acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice, but they are what Paul calls in Romans 12:1, a living sacrifice, which is our spiritual worship. So that’s the main point of this whole unit. This is who we are as Christians.
Now what follows is the support for Peter’s statement about:
I. Jesus as the Living Stone(vv. 6-8)
Peter supports his assertion that Jesus is the living stone by quoting three Old Testament passages almost seamlessly. The first one is in verse 6, which is Isaiah 28:16 from the Greek Septuagint, second is in verse 7, from Psalm 118:22, and third is in verse 8, which is an allusion to Isaiah 8:14.
Two Responses to the Living Stone(vv. 6-8)
Precious to God and to those who believe
The first half of the citation from Isaiah 28:16 is supporting the last half of verse 4 which says that in the sight of God the living stone is chosen and precious. So Peter said in verse 6, “For this is contained in Scripture”. Then he goes on to quote Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone..” So for God, the Son is not just a stone, but the very precious cornerstone chosen by God. But not only that, the citation gave a promise that “the one who believes in Him will certainly not be disappointed.” The idea is that at first glance it would seem that this stone is useless and without value, but in reality this stone is the most important part of the building and the most precious stone in the sight of God. So those who believe will not be disappointed. So then Peter draws the conclusion in verse 7 that, “you who believe see his value [and will not be disappointed]”. I added the clause “will not be disappointed” because there’s a play on word here. The Greek of “value”, or “price” is the same word for “honor”, referring to the lack of “shame” or “disappointment” in verse 6. That’s why in ESV they translated verse 7a as “the honor is for you who believe.” However, the same Greek word is the root of “precious” in verse 6c, and therefore can be taken to mean as their perception of the stone in contrast to those who reject (vv. 7b-8). So by implication what this means is that those who see Jesus as precious will not be disappointed nor be put to shame, for indeed He is the precious cornerstone chosen by God.
Rejected by Men
Now the alternative response is in the second half of verse 7, “but on the other hand for those who do not believe.” That is, these are the ones who do not see the value of Jesus. This is what it means to disbelieve. When you look at Christ, you don’t see treasure.
Then in verse 7c Peter gave the second citation, which is from Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the very corner stone,” But it’s not that clear how this passage relates to verse 7b. I say that because it seems to suggest that for those who do not believe, referring to the builders, the stone has become the cornerstone. How is that the opposite of those who believe then?
So to make sense of the logical relationship of the two proposition, I supplied in verse 7b the clause “they will be disappointed”, because that is the opposite of honor or not being disappointed. Those who do not see the value of Jesus will be disappointed or shamed. Why? Because “The stone which the builders rejected has become the very corner stone.” It’s like throwing away a dirty stone without realizing that it is actually a gold, only that Jesus is more precious than gold or silver. So the connection is much clearer now.
Now in verse 8a the stone that they rejected was for them nothing but “a stumbling stone and a rock to trip over” according to Peter’s third OT citation from Isaiah 8:14. They don’t see its usefulness and value, that is why they rejected it. Then Peter explains in verse 8b that those who don’t believe, are those who stumble. The verb stumble is being modified the participle “disobeying”. So literally, “who stumble, disobeying the word.” Most translation reads “because they disobey the word.” I don’t think that’s an accurate translation for two reasons:
We already saw that the opposite of seeing Jesus as a precious cornerstone is rejecting and seeing him as a useless and valueless stumbling stone. And the idea of “not seeing Christ’s value” is the very essence of disbelief or disobedience to the gospel word.
Therefore I think it’s not a stretch to say that the stumbling is their disbelief or disobedience to the word.
Now the reason they disobeyed is because according to verse 8d, “unto which also they were destined.” Some have argued that what was predestined is not their disobedience but their stumbling, which some take to mean as God’s punishment. But again, I already argued that the stumbling is their disobedience and or disbelief. Also, the immediate antecedent of the prepositional phrase is disobedience. So there is no escaping its implication that predestination is double. Now John Piper said, “If any proud unbeliever should boast and say, “I have chosen my own destiny―my own disobedience and my own stumbling―to show God that I have the final and ultimate say in my life; I have the power of ultimate self-determination; and I can frustrate the purposes of God with my own self-determining will”―if anyone boasts in that way, Peter responds with the awesome words: No, you can’t; you only think you can. But you will discover sooner or later that whatever you choose―and mark this, your choice is real and crucial―whatever you choose, “unto this you were appointed.” God and not man will have the last say. No mere human can thwart the ultimate purposes of God―not by belief or unbelief.”
II. Christians as living stones(vv. 9)
Now in verse 9 Peter support the idea from verse 5 that Christians too are like living stones. So in what sense are we like Jesus who is the living stone? Verse 9 says that we are a “chosen race”. Just as Christ was chosen, we too are chosen by God. Not only that, Peter also mentioned that we are “a people for his possession”. That is, we are precious in his sight just as Jesus is precious in his sight. But remember, we are not chosen and precious because we have inherent value in ourselves. Rather, according to verse 10, “Once you were not a people but now are God’s people. Once you were not shown mercy, but now were shown mercy.” God chose
us to be his precious possession only because of his mercy.
III. Acceptable sacrifices to God(vv. 9)
Lastly, Peter gave us the sense in which Christians present acceptable sacrifice to God by answering the question why are we a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for his own possession? We already saw the answer to the first kind of why, namely the grounds of all of these, which is God’s mercy. But now we ask the second kind of why, namely purpose. The answer is in verse 9b, “in order that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” So we a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for his own possession for the purpose of worship and glorifying God by proclaiming the excellencies of God. And you cannot proclaim these excellencies if you don’t even know what they are. That’s why there’s chapter 1 where Peter belabored God’s supremacy in our salvation from the beginning at election to the very end at glorification. Now this proclamation is not just verbal, but also in practice. In verses 11-12 Peter says, “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.” This is the sense by which we present acceptable sacrifices to God. That’s why verse 13 onward until chapter 5, Peter provided practical ways of doing this as exiles in the world. After all, like Jesus, we too will be rejected for doing good. People will malign us because they will see our non conformity to world as an offense to their sinful lifestyle. That’s why Peter wrote this hope filled letter.
This text is one of the most theologically rich passages in the New Testament. We’re only scratching the surface. We can talk about the relationship of the church to the old covenant nation of Israel. We can talk about God’s effectual calling. We can talk about race, nation and people. Or we can also talk about the kingly line of our priesthood. But we don’t want to miss Jesus. Your understanding of this passage hangs on how you see Jesus. When you look at him now as you read the gospels and the teachings of the Apostles about him, do you see him as precious or do you see him as worthless? Do you see him as the cornerstone or a stumbling block? Pray to God to open the eyes of your heart so that you may see beauty and glory in the face of Jesus, that you may see wisdom on the cross, and that it will be God’s power to you for salvation.