1 Peter 2:4
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
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(4) To whom coming.—The word used is that which gives rise to the name of a “proselyte.” (Comp. Note on 1Peter 2:2.) It is also strangely used in something of the same sense in 1Timothy 6:3. “Joining Him therefore as proselytes.” Not that St. Peter has any notion of a mere external accession. The Apostolic writers do not contemplate the possibility of a difference between the visible and invisible Church. From this point the regeneration-idea, which coloured the whole of the preceding portion of the Epistle, suddenly disappears. The thought is no longer that of a spiritual seed instead of a carnal seed, but of a spiritual Temple instead of the stone temple at Jerusalem.

A living stone.—The very structure and order of the sentence puts Jesus Christ first. Foundation first, building afterwards. It is a pity to insert “as unto” with our version; it takes off from the striking, attracting effect of the sudden metaphor. St. Peter is fond of explaining his metaphors—e.g., “inheritance . . . in heaven,” “tested genuineness . . . more precious than of gold,” “gird up . . . loins of your minds:” so here, “living stone.” It is more than doubtful whether St. Peter, in what follows, had before his mind the giving of his own surname. The word which he here uses is neither petros, nor petra, but lithos; and indeed the whole idea of the relative position of the Church to the petra and to the lithos is quite different. Neither petros nor petra could possibly be used of the squared wrought stone, but represent the native rocky unhewn substratum—part, or whole—which pre-exists before any building is begun, even before the “chief corner-stone” would be placed. (Comp. Matthew 7:24.) Here, therefore, the idea is quite different: the substratum is not thought of at all; and Jesus Christ is a carefully selected and hewn stone (lithos), specially laid as the first act in the work of building. The only thing, therefore, which is, in fact, common to the two passages is the simple thought of the Christian Church being like a building. Our present verse gives us no direct help towards finding how St. Peter understood the famous name-passage. All we can say for certain is that he did not so interpret it as to suppose an official connection with his own person to be the one essential of the true Church, or else in again using the metaphor of building the Church (though in a different connection) he could hardly have omitted all mention of himself. He is, apparently, thinking only of the Messianic interpretation of Old Testament sayings as expounded by our Lord—the “unsophisticated milk of the word” of 1Peter 2:2.

Disallowed indeed of men.—A direct reference to the passage (Psalm 118:22), which is quoted below in 1Peter 2:7. It here says “men,” rather than “builders,” in order to contrast them more forcibly with God. The word “disallowed,” or “rejected,” implies a form of trial or probation which comes to an unsatisfactory conclusion. The human builders examine the stone, inspect all its qualifications, and find it unsuited to the edifice which they have in hand, and refuse it not only the place of honour, but any place at all, in their architecture. St. Peter wishes to bring out strongly the absolute opposition between God and the Jews.

But chosen of God, and precious.—Literally, but with God elect, honoured. This is a direct allusion to the passage, Isaiah 28:16, which is quoted in 1Peter 2:6. While the human builders saw the qualities of the stone, and rejected it because of its not fitting in with their ideal, on the other hand, “with God,” i.e., in God’s counsel and plan, it was “elect,” i.e., choice had been laid upon it, it had been selected for God’s building purposes; and not only “elect” (for this might be equally said of all the “living stones;” see 1Peter 1:2, where the word has precisely the same meaning), but also “honoured,” which is further explained to mean, singled out for the place of honour, i.e., for that of corner-stone. The designation of this stone as “elect,” brings out again what we have had in 1Peter 1:11; 1Peter 1:20, viz., the eternal predestination of Jesus to the Messiahship.

 51 Peter


1 Peter 2:4-5.

I wonder whether Peter, when he wrote these words, was thinking about what Jesus Christ said to him long ago, up there at Cæsarea Philippi. He had heard from Christ’s lips, ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church.’ He had understood very little of what it meant then. He is an old man now, years of experience and sorrow and work have taught him the meaning of the words, and he understands them a great deal better than his so-called successors have done. For we may surely take the text as the Apostle’s own disclaimer of that which the Roman Catholic Church has founded on it, and has blazoned it, in gigantic letters round the dome of St. Peter’s, as meaning. It is surely legitimate to hear him saying in these words: ‘Make no mistake, it is Jesus Himself on whom the Church is built. The confession of Him which the Father in heaven revealed to me, not I, the poor sinner who confessed it--the Christ whom that confession set forth, He is the foundation stone, and all of you are called and honoured to ring out the same confession. Jesus is the one Foundation, and we all, apostles and humble believers, are but stones builded on Him.’ Peter’s relation to Jesus is fundamentally the same as that of every poor soul that ‘comes to’ Him.

Now, there are two or three thoughts that may very well be suggested from these words, and the first of them is this:--

I. Those that are in Christ have perpetually to make the effort to come nearer Christ.

Remember that the persons to whom the Apostle is speaking are no strangers to the Saviour. They have been professing Christians from of old. They have made very considerable progress in the Divine life; they are near Jesus Christ; and yet Peter says to them, ‘You can get nearer if you try,’ and it is your one task and one hope, the condition of all blessedness, peace, and joy in your religious life that you should perpetually be making the effort to come closer, and to keep closer, to the Lord, by whom you say that you live.

What is it to come to Him? The context explains the figurative expression, in the very next verse or two, by another and simpler word, which strips away the figure and gives us the plain fact--’in Whom believing.’ The act of the soul by which I, with all my weakness and sin, cast myself on Jesus Christ, and grapple Him to my heart, and bind myself with His strength and righteousness--that is what the Apostle means here. Or, to put it into other words, this ‘coming,’ which is here laid as the basis of everything, of all Christian prosperity and progress for the individual and for the community, is the movement towards Christ of the whole spiritual nature of a man--thoughts, loves, wishes, purposes, desires, hopes, will. And we come near to Him when day by day we realise His nearness to us, when our thoughts are often occupied with Him, bring His peace and Himself to bear as a motive upon our conduct, let our love reach out its tendrils towards, and grasp, and twine round Him, bow our wills to His commandment, and in everything obey Him. The distance between heaven and earth does part us, but the distance between a thoughtless mind, an unrenewed heart, a rebellious will, and Him, sets between Him and us a greater gulf, and we have to bridge that by continual honest efforts to keep our wayward thoughts true to Him and near Him, and to regulate our affections that they may not, like runaway stars, carry us far from the path, and to bow our stubborn and self-regulating wills beneath His supreme commandment, and so to make all things a means of coming nearer the Lord with whom is our true home.

Christian men, there are none of us so close to Him but that we may be nearer, and the secret of our daily Christian life is all wrapped up in that one word which is scarcely to be called a figure, ‘coming’ unto Him. That nearness is what we are to make daily efforts after, and that nearness is capable of indefinite increase. We know not how close to His heart we can lay our aching heads. We know not how near to His fulness we may bring our emptiness. We have never yet reached the point beyond which no closer union is possible. There has always been a film--and, alas! sometimes a gulf--between Him and us, His professing servants. Let us see to it that the conscious distance diminishes every day, and that we feel ourselves more and more constantly near the Lord and intertwined with Him.

II. Those who come near Christ will become like Christ.

‘To Whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also as living stones.’ Note the verbal identity of the expressions with which Peter describes the Master and His servants. Christ is the Stone--that is Peter’s interpretation of ‘on this rock will I build My Church.’ There is a reference, too, no doubt, to the many Old Testament prophecies which are all gathered up in that saying of our Lord’s. Probably both Jesus and Peter had in mind Isaiah’s ‘stone of stumbling,’ which was also a ‘sure corner-stone, and a tried foundation.’ And words in the context which I have not taken for consideration, ‘disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious,’ plainly rest upon the 118th Psalm, which speaks of ‘the stone which the builders rejected’ becoming ‘the head of the corner.’

But, says Peter, He is not only the foundation Stone, the corner Stone, but a living Stone, and he does not only use that word to show us that he is indulging in a metaphor, and that we are to think of a person and not of a thing, but in the sense that Christ is eminently and emphatically the living One, the Source of life.

But, when he turns to the disciples, he speaks to them in exactly the same language. They, too, are ‘living stones,’ because they come to the ‘Stone’ that is ‘living.’ Take away the metaphor, and what does this identity of description come to? Just this, that if we draw near to Jesus Christ, life from Him will pass into our hearts and minds, which life will show itself in kindred fashion to what it wore in Jesus Christ, and will shape us into the likeness of Him from whom we draw our life, because to Him we have come. I may remind you that there is scarcely a single name by which the New Testament calls Jesus Christ which Jesus Christ does not share with us His younger brethren. By that Son we ‘receive the adoption of sons.’ Is He the Light of the world? We are lights of the world. And if you look at the words of my text, you will see that the offices which are attributed to Christ in the New Testament are gathered up in those which the Apostle here ascribes to Christ’s servants. Jesus Christ in His manhood was the Temple of God. Jesus Christ in His manhood was the Priest for humanity. Jesus Christ in His manhood was the sacrifice for the world’s sins. And what does Peter say here? ‘Ye are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.’ You draw life from Jesus Christ if you keep close to Him, and that life makes you, in derived and subordinate fashion, but in a very real and profound sense, what Jesus Christ was in the world. The whole blessedness and secret of the gifts which our Lord comes to bestow upon men may be summed up in that one thought, which is metaphorically and picturesquely set forth in the language of my text, and which I put into plainer and more prosaic English when I say--they that come near Christ become as Christ. As ‘living stones’ they, too, share in the life which flows from Him. Touch Him, and His quick Spirit passes into our hearts. Rest upon that foundation-stone and up from it, if I may so say, there is drawn, by strange capillary attraction, all the graces and powers of the Saviour’s own life. The building which is reared upon the Foundation is cemented to the Foundation by the communication of the life itself, and, coming to the living Rock, we, too, become alive.

Let us keep ourselves near to Him, for, disconnected, the wire cannot carry the current, and is only a bit of copper, with no virtue in it, no power. Attach it once more to the battery and the mysterious energy flashes through it immediately. ‘To Whom coming,’ because He lives, ‘ye shall live also.’

III. Lastly:

They who become like Christ because they are near Him, thereby grow together.

‘To whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also, as living stones, are built up.’ That building up means not only the growth of individual graces in the Christian character, the building up in each single soul of more and more perfect resemblance to the Saviour, but from the context it rather refers to the welding together, into a true and blessed unity, of all those that partake of that common life. Now, it is very beautiful to remember, in this connection, to whom this letter was written. The first words of it are: ‘To the strangers scattered abroad throughout,’ etc. etc. All over Asia Minor, hundreds of miles apart, here one there another little group, were these isolated believers, the scattered stones of a great building. But Peter shows them the way to a true unity, notwithstanding their separation. He says to them in effect: ‘You up in Bithynia, and you others away down there on the southern coast, though you never saw one another, though you are separated by mountain ranges and weary leagues; though you, if you met one another, perhaps could not understand what you each were saying, if you "come unto the living Stone, ye as living stones are built up" into one.’ There is a great unity into which all they are gathered who, separated by whatever surface distinctions, yet, deep down at the bottom of their better lives, are united to Jesus Christ.

But there may be another lesson here for us, and that is, that the true and only secret of the prosperity and blessedness and growth of a so-called Christian congregation is the individual faithfulness of its members, and their personal approximation of Jesus Christ. If we here, knit together as we are nominally for Christian worship, and by faith in that dear Lord, are true to our profession and our vocation, and keep ourselves near our Master, then we shall be built up; and if we do not, we shall not.

So, dear friends, all comes to this: There is the Stone laid; it does not matter how close we are lying to it, it will be nothing to us unless we are on it. And I put it to each of you. Are you built on the Foundation, and from the Foundation do you derive a life which is daily bringing you nearer to Him, and making you liker Him? All blessedness depends, for time and for eternity, on the answer to that question. For remember that, since that living Stone is laid, it is something to you. Either it is the Rock on which you build, or the Stone against which you stumble and are broken. No man, in a country evangelised like England--I do not say Christian, but evangelised--can say that Jesus Christ has no relation to, or effect upon, him. And certainly no people that listen to Christian preaching, and know Christian truth as fully and as much as you do, can say it. He is the Foundation on which we can rear a noble, stable life, if we build upon Him. If He is not the Foundation on which I build, He is the Stone on which I shall be broken.

1 Peter 2:4. To whom coming — With desire and by faith; as unto a living stone — Living from eternity; alive from the dead; and alive for evermore: and a firm foundation, communicating spiritual life to those that come to him, and are built upon him, making him the ground of their confidence and hope for time and for eternity. The apostle alludes to Isaiah 28:16, where the formation of a Christian church, for the spiritual worship of God, is foretold under the image of a temple, which God was to build on the Messiah as the foundation-stone thereof. See the note there. There is a wonderful beauty and energy in these expressions, which describe Christ as a spiritual foundation, solid, firm, durable; and believers as a spiritual building erecting thereon, in preference to that temple which the Jews accounted their highest glory; and St. Peter, speaking of him thus, shows he did not judge himself, but Christ, to be the rock on which the church was built; disallowed Αποδεδοκιμασμενον, rejected indeed of, or by, men — First and primarily by the Jews and their rulers, as not answering their carnal and worldly expectations, nor suiting their way of building; that is, not to be made use of for the carrying on and promoting of their worldly projects and interests. By representing Christ as being rejected of men, the apostle intimated that he was the person spoken of Psalm 118:22; The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner; a passage which our Lord himself, in his conversation with the chief priests and elders, referred to as a prophecy which they were about to fulfil by rejecting him; but whose exaltation, notwithstanding all they could do to prevent it, should assuredly take place. See on Matthew 21:42. But the Jews, or, added to them, the Turks, heathen, and infidels, are not the only people that have rejected, and do reject Christ; but all Christians so called, who live in known sin on the one hand, or who expect to be saved by the merit of their own works on the other, reject him; as do also all hypocrites, formalists, lukewarm, indolent, worldly-minded professors, and all those backsliders who, having begun in the Spirit end in the flesh, and draw back unto perdition, instead of continuing to believe, love, and obey, to the saving of their souls, Hebrews 10:38-39. But chosen of God — From all eternity, to be the foundation of his church; and precious — Of unspeakable dignity and worth in himself, in the sight of God, and in the eyes of all true believers.

2:1-10 Evil-speaking is a sign of malice and guile in the heart; and hinders our profiting by the word of God. A new life needs suitable food. Infants desire milk, and make the best endeavours for it which they are able to do; such must be a Christian's desires after the word of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is very merciful to us miserable sinners; and he has a fulness of grace. But even the best of God's servants, in this life, have only a taste of the consolations of God. Christ is called a Stone, to teach his servants that he is their protection and security, the foundation on which they are built. He is precious in the excellence of his nature, the dignity of his office, and the glory of his services. All true believers are a holy priesthood; sacred to God, serviceable to others, endowed with heavenly gifts and graces. But the most spiritual sacrifices of the best in prayer and praise are not acceptable, except through Jesus Christ. Christ is the chief Corner-stone, that unites the whole number of believers into one everlasting temple, and bears the weight of the whole fabric. Elected, or chosen, for a foundation that is everlasting. Precious beyond compare, by all that can give worth. To be built on Christ means, to believe in him; but in this many deceive themselves, they consider not what it is, nor the necessity of it, to partake of the salvation he has wrought. Though the frame of the world were falling to pieces, that man who is built on this foundation may hear it without fear. He shall not be confounded. The believing soul makes haste to Christ, but it never finds cause to hasten from him. All true Christians are a chosen generation; they make one family, a people distinct from the world: of another spirit, principle, and practice; which they could never be, if they were not chosen in Christ to be such, and sanctified by his Spirit. Their first state is a state of gross darkness, but they are called out of darkness into a state of joy, pleasure, and prosperity; that they should show forth the praises of the Lord by their profession of his truth, and their good conduct. How vast their obligations to Him who has made them his people, and has shown mercy to them! To be without this mercy is a woful state, though a man have all worldly enjoyments. And there is nothing that so kindly works repentance, as right thoughts of the mercy and love of God. Let us not dare to abuse and affront the free grace of God, if we mean to be saved by it; but let all who would be found among those who obtain mercy, walk as his people.To whom coming - To the Lord Jesus, for so the word "Lord" is to be understood in 1 Peter 2:3. Compare the notes at Acts 1:24. The idea here is, that they had come to him for salvation, while the great mass of people rejected him. Others "disallowed" him, and turned away from him, but they had seen that he was the one chosen or appointed of God, and had come to him in order to be saved. Salvation is often represented as corning to Christ. See Matthew 11:28.

As unto a living stone - The allusion in this passage is to Isaiah 28:16, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." See the notes at that passage. There may be also possibly an allusion to Psalm 118:22, "The stone which the builders disallowed is become the headstone of the corner." The reference is to Christ as the foundation on which the church is reared. He occupied the same place in regard to the church which a foundation-stone does to the edifice that is reared upon it. Compare Matthew 7:24-25. See the Romans 9:33 note, and Ephesians 2:20-22 notes. The phrase "living stone" is however unusual, and is not found, I think, except in this place. There seems to be an incongruity in it, in attributing life to a stone, yet the meaning is not difficult to be understood. The purpose was not to speak of a temple, like that at Jerusalem, made up of gold and costly stones; but of a temple made up of living materials - of redeemed people - in which God now resides. In speaking of that, it was natural to refer to the foundation on which the whole rested, and to speak of that as corresponding to the whole edifice. It was all a living temple - a temple composed of living materials - from the foundation to the top. Compare the expression in John 4:10, "He would have given thee living water;" that is, water which would have imparted life to the soul. So Christ imparts life to the whole spiritual temple that is reared on him as a foundation.

Disallowed indeed of men - Rejected by them, first by the Jews, in causing him to be put to death; and then by all people when he is offered to them as their Saviour. See the notes at Isaiah 53:3. Psalm 118:22; "Which the builders refused." Compare the Matthew 21:42 note; Acts 4:11 note.

But chosen of God - Selected by him as the suitable foundation on which to rear his church.

And precious - Valuable. The universe had nothing more valuable on which to rear the spiritual temple.

4. coming—drawing near (same Greek as here, Heb 10:22) by faith continually; present tense: not having come once for all at conversion.

stone—Peter (that is, a stone, named so by Christ) desires that all similarly should be living stones BUILT ON Christ, the true foundation-stone; compare his speech in Ac 4:11. An undesigned coincidence and mark of genuineness. The Spirit foreseeing the Romanist perversion of Mt 16:18 (compare Mt 16:16, "Son of the Living God," which coincides with his language here, "the LIVING stone"), presciently makes Peter himself to refuse it. He herein confirms Paul's teaching. Omit the as unto of English Version. Christ is positively termed the "living stone"; living, as having life in Himself from the beginning, and as raised from the dead to live evermore (Re 1:18) after His rejection by men, and so the source of life to us. Like no earthly rock, He lives and gives life. Compare 1Co 10:4, and the type, Ex 17:6; Nu 20:11.

disallowed—rejected, reprobated; referred to also by Christ Himself: also by Paul; compare the kindred prophecies, Isa 8:14; Lu 2:34.

chosen of God—literally, "with (or 'in the presence and judgment of') God elect," or, "chosen out" (1Pe 2:6). Many are alienated from the Gospel, because it is not everywhere in favor, but is on the contrary rejected by most men. Peter answers that, though rejected by men, Christ is peculiarly the stone of salvation honored by God, first so designated by Jacob in his deathbed prophecy.

To whom; to which Christ.

Coming; by faith: q.d. In whom believing, John 6:35,44,45. The word is in the present tense, the apostle describing here not their first conversion to Christ, but their present state, that they, being in Christ, were daily coming to him in the continued exercise of their faith.

As unto a living; not, only having life in himself, but enlivening those that by faith adhere to him.

Stone; viz. a corner-stone, as 1 Peter 2:6. Being about to set forth the church as a spiritual building, he first mentions Christ as the foundation, and corner-stone.

Disallowed indeed of men; rejected, not only by the unbelieving Jews and their rulers formerly, but still by the unbelieving world.

But chosen of God; either chosen to be the foundation of the building, and then it is the same as foreordained, 1 Peter 1:20; or chosen is the same as choice, excellent.

And precious: a different expression of the same thing. Here seems to be an allusion to those stones which men count precious, and have in great esteem; and Christ’s being precious in the sight of God, is set in opposition to his being disallowed of men, to intimate, that their unbelief, and rejecting Christ, doth not make him less valuable in himself, when his Father so much honours him.

To whom coming, as unto a living stone,.... Christ here, as often elsewhere, is compared to a "stone"; and Peter, by the use of this metaphor, shows that he is not the rock, but Christ is the rock on which the church is built, and he is the foundation stone on which every believer is laid; and it is chiefly with respect to the usefulness of a stone in building, that Christ is compared to one, who is the foundation and cornerstone, as well as for strength and duration; and he is called a "living" one, because he has life in himself, as God, as Mediator, and as man; and communicates life to others, as natural life to all creatures, and spiritual and eternal life to his people, whose great privilege it is to come to him: and by coming to him is meant believing in him; and it does not design the first act of faith on Christ, or a soul's first coming to Christ, but an after and continued exercise of faith on him; and it supposes Christ to be come at, notwithstanding he is in heaven, and saints on earth, for their faith and hope can enter into, and reach him within the vail, and notwithstanding their many transgressions and backslidings; it supposes life in them, or they could not come; and a sense of their need of him, of his righteousness to justify them, of his blood for pardoning and cleansing, of his fulness to supply their want of food, rest, peace, comfort, and salvation in him; and a persuasion of his ability and willingness to relieve them: and they are encouraged to come to him under the above considerations, as a stone, a foundation stone; believing that he is laid as a foundation, and that he is the only foundation, and therefore they lay the whole stress of their salvation, and build all their hopes of happiness on him; and as a living stone, deriving grace, life, and strength from him; exercising faith on him for all the mercies, blessings, and comforts of a spiritual life, and looking to his mercy for eternal life,

Disallowed indeed of men; by the Jewish builders, high priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, and the body and bulk of that nation; who rejected him as the Messiah, and stone of Israel, refused him as a foundation stone, and left him out of the building; and laid another foundation, even their own works of righteousness, on which sandy foundation they built themselves, and directed others to do so likewise; and set him, at nought, as a living stone, would not come to him for life, but sought it in the law, the killing letter, and among their dead works; but though Christ was thus disallowed and disesteemed of by men, yet was he highly valued and esteemed by God:

but chosen of God, and precious; his human nature was "chosen" from among, and above all other individuals of mankind; to be united to the Son of God; as God-man and Mediator, he was chosen to that high office, to be the head of the church, and the Saviour of the body; to be the foundation in the spiritual building, and to be the author and giver of spiritual and eternal life to as many as were given him. Moreover, this phrase denotes the superior excellency of Christ to angels and men in the account of God; being the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person, the Son of his love, in whom he was always well pleased, and in whom he took infinite delight, considered both as his Son, and the surety of his people; and to whom he was

precious, and by him highly honoured, made higher than the kings of the earth, than the angels in heaven, than the heavens themselves, being set down at God's right hand, and a name given him above every name in this world, or that to come; and who is precious to the saints too, more so than rubies, or any precious stones, or any thing or creature whatever; his person is precious, and so are his name, his blood, his righteousness, his truths, his ordinances, and his people.

{4} To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,

(4) He advances the same exhortation, but uses another kind of borrowed speech, alluding to the temple. Therefore he says, that the company of the faithful is as a certain holy and spiritual building, built of the living stones, the foundation of which is Christ, as a living stone sustaining all that are joined to him with his living power and knitting them together with himself, although this great treasure is neglected by men.

1 Peter 2:4-5. The structure of this new exhortation is similar to that of the previous sentence, to which it belongs in thought, externally (ὅν) as internally, inasmuch as the imperative (οἰκοδομεῖσθε) is preceded by a participle (προσερχόμενοι), and an adjunct introduced by ὡς, defining the subject more nearly.

Starting from ὁ κύριος the apostle says: πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι] προσέρχεσθαι (elsewhere in the N. T. always construed with the dative) denotes the going spiritually to the Lord; the Christian does indeed already live in union with Christ, but this does not exclude the necessity of becoming united ever more completely with Him (thus also Hofmann).[114] Luther incorrectly: “to whom ye have come,” as if it were the part. praet.; Hornejus well puts it: non actum inchoatum, sed continuatum designat.

λίθον ζῶντα] in apposition to ὅν; it is not necessary to supply ὡς (Wolf). What follows shows that the apostle had in his mind the stone mentioned in the prophecies, Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16 (cf. Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33). The want of the article points to the fact that the apostle was more concerned to lay stress on the attribute expressed in λίθος ζῶν, than to draw attention to the fact that in these passages of the O. T. Christ is the promised λίθος. In using this term, Peter had already in view the subsequent οἰκοδομεῖσθε. The church is the temple of God, the individual Christians are the stones from which it is built; but Christ is the foundation-stone on which it rests. In order that the church may become ever more completed as a temple, it is necessary that the Christians should unite themselves ever more closely with Christ. The apostle enlarges on this thought with reference to those predictions.

The explanatory adjective is added, as in 1 Peter 2:2, to the figurative λίθον; and by it, on the one hand, the expression is marked as figurative, ne quis tropum nesciret (Bullinger); and, on the other, the nature peculiar to this stone is indicated. ζῶντα is to be taken here as in John 6:51 and similar passages. Flacius correctly: dicitur Christus lapis vivus, non tamen passive, quod in semet vitam habeat, sed etiam active, quia nos mortuos vivificat.[115]

ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον] a nearer definition, according to Psalm 118:22. What is there said specially of the builders, is here applied generally to mankind, in order that a perfect antithesis may be obtained to the παρὰ δὲ Θεῷ. The want of the article τῶν does not warrant a toning down of the interpretation to mean “by men,” i.e. by some or by many men (Hofmann). The thought is general and comprehensive; the article is wanting in order to emphasize the character of those by whom Christ is rejected, as compared with God (Schott). Believers are here regarded “as an exception” (Steiger).

παρὰ δὲ Θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν, ἔντιμον] after Isaiah 28:16; Peter has, however, selected two attributes only; “that is to say, he passes over the characteristics of the stone itself, and its relation to the building, giving prominence only to its value in the sight of God” (Steiger). Both adjects. form the antithesis to ἀποδεδοκ.; ἐκλεκτός is neither equal to eximius (Hemming) nor to προεγνωσμένος (Steiger); but: “elect,” i.e. chosen as the object of love; cf. 1 Timothy 5:21.

παρὰ Θεῷ] not: a Deo (Vulg.), but: ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, coram Deo, Deo judice, “with God.” Worthy of note is the “antagonism between the human judgment and the divine” (Wiesinger), the former given effect to in the crucifixion, the latter in the glorification of Christ.—1 Peter 2:5. καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε] καὶ αὐτοί places the Christians side by side with Christ (Wiesinger inappropriately takes αὐτοί as also applying to the verb οἰκοδομ.). As He is a living stone, so are they also living stones, i.e. through Him. The explanation: cum lapidibus comparantur homines, qui, quoniam vivant, vivi lapides nominantur (Carpzov, Morus), is inadequate. Further, ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες states the qualities which the readers already possessed, not those which they were to obtain only through the οἰκοδομεῖσθαι (Schott); that unto which they should be built is stated in what follows.

οἰκοδομεῖσθε is, according to the structure of the sentence, not indicative (Hornejus, Bengel, Gerhard, etc.; more recently, Wiesinger, Weiss, Hofmann), but imperative (Beza, Aretius, Hottinger, Steiger, de Wette-Brückner, Luthardt, Schott, etc.). The objection, that the verses following are declarative, may be quite as well used for the imperative force of that which precedes them.[116] If 1 Peter 2:4-5 serve as the basis of the foregoing exhortation, this turn of the thought would also be expressed. Several interpreters (as Luther and Steiger) incorrectly regard the verbal form as middle; it is passive: “be ye built up,” i.e.let yourself be built up,” i.e. by Christ, as the foregoing πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι shows. Corresponding with the reading ἘΠΟΙΚΟΔΟΜΕῖΣΘΕ super illum, i.e. Christum, is generally understood; an unnecessary supplement; the thought is: that (not: on which) the Christians should let themselves be built up, to that, namely, which the following words state.

οἶκος πνευματικός εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον] In the Rec. without εἰς the two conceptions are co-ordinate, both stating the end of the ΟἸΚΟΔΟΜΕῖΣΘΑΙ: “to the spiritual house, to the holy priesthood;” but if the reading οἰκ. πν. εἰς ἱεράτ. ἅγ. be adopted, then “ἹΕΡΆΤ. ἍΓ. is the further result of the being built up to the spiritual house” (Brückner). Hofmann holds that ΟἾΚΟς ΠΝ. is in apposition to the subject contained in ΟἸΚΟΔΟΜΕῖΣΘΕ, and that ΕἸς ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ ἍΓ. alone is directly dependent on ΟἸΚΟΔΟΜΕῖΣΘΕ; the former view is, however, more expressive, inasmuch as it prominently shows that the Christians should be built up to a spiritual house, ΟἾΚΟς ΠΝ. contains the expression of the passive, ἹΕΡΆΤ. ἍΓ., on the other hand, that of the active relation of the church to God (Wiesinger, Schott, Brückner). The dissimilarity of the two ideas seems to be opposed to the reading ΕἸς, since an ΟἾΚΟς cannot be transformed into a ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ; but this difficulty disappears if it be considered that the house here spoken of is built of living stones. It is clearly not the case that εἰς serves only to facilitate an otherwise abrupt transition to a new idea (de Wette, Wiesinger).

οἶκος means, in the first instance, “house,” and not “temple;” nor does the attribute ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΌς mark it as a temple. We must either hold by the conception “house” (Luthardt, Hofmann),[117] or assume that by the house Peter thought of the temple. The latter view deserves the preference on account of the close connection with what follows; comp. the passages 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Peter 4:17.

ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΌς is the house raised from “living stones,” in contradistinction to the temple built from dead ones, inasmuch as their life is rooted in the Spirit of God, and bears His nature on it.[118]

ἱεράτευμα is here not the “office of priest” (2Ma 2:17), but the “priesthood” (comp. Gerhard: coetus s. collegium sacerdotum); comp. 1 Peter 2:9; Exodus 19:6; “not instead of ἱερεῖς ἅγιοι, but including the essential idea of a community” (de Wette). It has unjustly been maintained that if the reading ΕἸς be adopted, ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ must be understood of the priestly office. ἍΓΙΟΝ subjoined to ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ does not mark a characteristic of the ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ of the New as distinguishing it from that of the Old Testament, but one which belongs essentially to the ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ (of course “as ordained by God,” Hofmann) as such. Here, too, there lies in the connection of thought a special emphasis on ἍΓΙΟΝ, inasmuch as without sanctification the priestly calling cannot be truly fulfilled.

ἈΝΕΝΈΓΚΑΙ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚᾺς ΘΥΣΊΑς] is closely conjoined both in form (see Winer, p. 298 f. [E.T. 399f.]) and purport with what precedes, pointing out as it does the function of the ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ. This consists, as under the Old Covenant, in offering sacrifice. The word ἈΝΑΦΈΡΕΙΝ, which is never used by Paul, has not indeed in the classics, but in the LXX., in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in the Epistle of James, the meaning “to sacrifice,” strictly speaking “to bring the offering to the altar.”

The θυσίαι which the N. T. priesthood, i.e. the Christian church in all its members, has to offer are called πνευματικαί, because they have their origin in the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ, and bear on them its nature and essence. Calvin says in what they consist: inter hostias spirituales primum locum obtinet generalis nostri oblatio, neque enim offerre quicquam possumus Deo, donec illi nos ipsos in sacrificium obtulerimus, quod fit nostri abnegatione; sequuntur postea preces et gratiarum actiones, eleemosynae et omnia pietatis exercitia. Cf. with this Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16.

ΕὐΠΡΟΣΔΈΚΤΟΥς Τῷ ΘΕῷ] ΕὐΠΡΌΣΔΕΚΤΟς (Romans 15:16), equivalent to ΕὐΆΡΕΣΤΟς (Romans 12:1; Romans 14:18; Php 4:18, and other passages).

ΔΙᾺ ἸΗΣΟῦ ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ] belongs not to ΟἸΚΟΔΟΜΕῖΣΘΕ (Beda), but either to ΕὐΠΡΟΣΔ. Τ. ΘΕῷ (Luther: per Christum fit, ut et mea opera a Deo aestimentur, quae alias non culmo digna haberet; Bengel, Steiger, Wiesinger, Hofmann, etc.), or to ἈΝΕΝΈΓΚΑΙ (Grotius, Aretius, de Wette, Weiss, etc.).[119] No doubt Hebrews 13:15 might be appealed to in support of the latter construction; but in favour of the former are—(1) That the ἈΝΕΝΈΓΚΑΙ as a priestly function stands in such close connection with ἹΕΡΆΤΕΥΜΑ ἍΓ., that it seems out of place to suppose a medium (ΔΙᾺ ἸΗΣ. ΧΡ.) in addition; and (2) With ἈΝΕΝΈΓΚΑΙ ΠΝΕΥΜ. ΘΥΣΊΑς the idea is substantially completed, ΕὐΠΡΟΣΔ. being a mere adjunct, to which therefore ΔΙᾺ Ἰ. ΧΡ. also belongs.

[114] The single passage, 1Ma 2:16, by no means proves that προσέρχεσθαι πρός has in itself a stronger force than προσέρχ. cum dat. (as against Hofmann). According to Schott, by προσέρχ. is meant: “not the individual Christian’s deepening experience of community of life with Christ, but only the conduct of the believer, by which, as a member of the church, he gives himself up to the Lord as present in His church, in fact to the church itself!

[115] De Wette (as opposed to Clericus and Steiger) is right in refusing to see here any reference to the conception of the saxum vivum as opposed to broken stones (Virg. Aen. i. 171; Ovid. Metam. xiv. 741). Inappropriate is Schott’s opinion: “that ζῶν indicates that by the self-unfolding(!) of His divinely human life, Christ causes the church to grow up from Himself the foundation stone.” Hofmann would erroneously exclude the second of the above-mentioned ideas from the λίθον ζῶντα, although it is clearly indicated by the very fact that through connection with the stone Christians themselves become living stones.

[116] The structure of the clause is in favour of the imperative, inasmuch as it is thus brought into conformity with the imperative preceding. When Hofmann asserts that the sentence must necessarily be indicative in form, “because the words subjoined to χρηστὸς ὁ κύριος must state that to which the goodness of Christ brings them,” he does so without reason, for the clause may also state that to which they should allow the goodness of Christ to lead them.

[117] Luthardt: “οἶκος is not equal to ναός; nor in the context is a temple alluded to, for the emphasis lies on πνευματικός. οἶκος is chosen because of οἰκοδομεῖσθε: be ye built as a spiritual house! To this is joined: to an holy priesthood.”

[118] Schott finds the antithesis therein, that in the O. T. temple “the indwelling of God was confined to the Holy of Holies, and visible to the eye” (?); whilst, on the contrary, in the Christian church there is “a real and direct indwelling of God.”

[119] Brückner and Schott think it is correct to connect διὰ Ἰ. Χρ. not with ἀνενέγκαι only, but with the entire thought; but it is self-understood that in the first combination, not the mere ἀναφέρειν, but the ἀναφέρειν πνευματικὰς θυσίας κ.τ.λ., must be considered as effected by Christ.


In this description of the Christians’ calling, the apostle’s first object is not to state the difference between the church of the Old and that of the New Covenant, but to show distinctly that in the latter there is and should have been fulfilled what had aforetime indeed been promised to the former, but had appeared in her only in a typical and unsatisfactory way. The points of difference are distinctly set forth. Israel had an house of God—the Christian church is called to be itself that house of God. That house was built of inanimate stones, this of living stones; it is a spiritual house. Israel was to be an holy priesthood, but it was so only in the particular priesthood introduced into the church; the Christian church is called to be a ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον in this sense, that each individual in it is called upon to perform the office of priest. The sacrifices which the priests in Israel had to offer were beasts and the like; those of the Christians are, on the other hand, spiritual sacrifices, through Christ well-pleasing to God.

The idea of a universal priesthood, here expressed, is opposed not only to the catholic doctrine of a particular priesthood, but to all teaching with regard to the office of the administration of word and sacrament which in any way ascribes to its possessors an importance in the church, resting on divine mandate, and necessary for the communication of salvation (i.e. priestly importance).

1 Peter 2:4-10. Passages of scripture proving that Christ is called stone are first utilised, then quoted, and finally expounded. The transition from milk to the stone may be explained by the prophecy the hills shall flow with milk (Joel 3:18), as the stone becomes a mountain according to Daniel 3:21 f.; or by the legend to which St. Paul refers (1 Corinthians 10:4); compare also ποτίσαι of Isaiah 43:20, which is used in 1 Peter 2:9. This collection of texts can be traced back through Romans 9:32 f. to its origin in the saying of Mark 12:10 f.; Cyprian (Test. 1 Peter 2:16 f.) gives a still richer form.

4. To whom coming, as unto a living stone] The whole imagery changes, like a dissolving view, and in the place of the growth of babes nourished with spiritual milk, we have that of a building in which each disciple of Christ is as a “living stone” spontaneously taking its right place in the building that rests on Christ as the chief corner-stone. The new imagery is connected in St Peter’s mind with its use in Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16, but it is not without significance to note that we have the same sequence of the two metaphors in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11. It may be noted also that the Greek is bolder in its use of the image than the English, and has no particle of comparison, to whom coming, even to a living stone. The term “living” is used in its fullest sense, presenting the paradox of connecting the noun with the adjective which seems most remote from it. The lower sense of the word in which Latin writers applied the term saxum vivum to rocks in their natural form as distinct from those that had been hewn and shaped, is hardly admissible here.

disallowed indeed of men] The verb is the same as the “rejected” of Matthew 21:42. We cannot forget that the thoughts on which St Peter now enters had their starting-point in the citation of the Psalm by our Lord on that occasion. In the substitution of the wide term “men” for the “builders” of the Psalm, we may trace the feeling that it was not the rulers of the Jews only, nor even the Jews only as a nation, but mankind at large, by whom the “head of the corner” had been rejected. Here again we see in the Epistle the reproduction of the Apostle’s earlier teaching (Acts 4:11).

but chosen of God, and precious] More accurately, but with God (i.e. in God’s sight) chosen, precious (or, held in honour). The two words emphasize the contrast between man’s rejection and God’s acceptance. Both are taken from the LXX. of Isaiah 28:16.

1 Peter 2:4. Ὅν, whom) Apposition: whom, that is, the Lord, the Stone.—προσερχόμενοι, approaching) of your own accord, through faith.—λίθον, stone) In what manner He is regarded both by believers and unbelievers, is declared, 1 Peter 2:6-7. The name given to Peter by the Lord remained fixed in his mind: hence he alludes to it in various ways, not only under the name of Stone, Acts 4:11, but also under the repeated mention of firmness [stedfastness, 1 Peter 5:9].—ζῶντα, living) living from the beginning, 1 John 1:1, and raised from the dead, Revelation 1:18, after that He had been rejected by men, both Jews and Gentiles.—ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον, disallowed) especially before His death: 1 Peter 2:7, note.—ἐκλεκτὸν, elect) 1 Peter 2:6.

Verse 4. - To whom coming as unto a living stone. Omit the words, "as unto," which are not in the Greek, and weaken the sense. The participle is present; the Christian must be ever coming to Christ, riot only once for all, but always, every day. The ', living Stone" is Christ; the "Lord" of Psalm 34:8 is Jehovah. St. Peter passes from the figure of milk to that of a chief cornerstone. So St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, after saying that he had fed his Corinthian converts "with milk, and not with meat," passes first to the figure of laborers on the land, and then to that of builders upon the one foundation "which is Jesus Christ." This, like so many other coincidences, indicates St. Peter's knowledge of St. Paul's Epistles. St. Peter may have been thinking of his own name, the name which Christ gave him when Andrew brought him to the Lord; though the Greek word here is not πέτρα or πέτρος, but λίθος ( νοτ the solid native rock on which the temple is built, nor a piece of rock, an unhewn stone, but a stone shaped and wrought, chosen for a chief corner-stone. But the apostle does not mention himself; he omits all reference to his own position in the spiritual building; he wishes to direct his readers only to Christ. He is plainly referring to the Lord's own words in Matthew 21:42, where Christ applies to himself the language of Psalm 118, He described himself as a Stone; St. Peter adds the epithet "living" (λίθον ζῶντα). The figure of a stone is inadequate, all figures are inadequate, to represent heavenly mysteries. This stone is not, like the stones of earth, an inert mass; it is living, full of life; nay, it gives life, as well as strength and coherence, to the stones which are built upon it: for the Lord hath life in himself - he is risen from the dead, and is alive for evermore. Disallowed indeed of men. St. Peter slightly varies the quotation, and attributes to men in general the rejection ascribed in the psalm and in the Gospel to the "builders." "He was despised and rejected of men." In his speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:11), he had directly applied the prophecy to the chief priests. But chosen of God, and precious; rather, as the Revised Version, with God elect, precious, or perhaps better, honored; a reference to Isaiah 28:16. He was rejected of the builders, but chosen of God; despised of men, but with God held in honor. The adjective is not the same as that rendered "precious" in 1 Peter 1:19: τίμος there marks the preciousness of the blood of Christ in itself; ἔντιμος here, the honor with which God "hath highly exalted him." 1 Peter 2:4Coming (προσερχόμενοι)

Indicating a close (πρός) and an habitual (present participle) approach and an intimate association.

A living stone (λίθον ζῶντα)

Omit as unto. So Rev. The words are in apposition with whom (Christ). Compare Peter's use of the same word, stone, in Acts 4:11, and Matthew 21:42. It is not the word which Christ uses as a personal name for Peter (Πέτρος); so that it is not necessary to infer that Peter was thinking of his own new name.

Disallowed (ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον)

Rev., rejected. See on the simple verb, 1 Peter 1:7. The word indicates rejection after trial.

Of God (παρὰ Θεῷ)

Of in the A. V. is equivalent to by; but πατά has a stronger sense, implying the absolute power of decisive choice which is with God. Render, as Rev., with God; i.e., God being judge; and compare Matthew 19:26; Romans 2:11.

Precious (ἔντιμον)

At 1 Peter 1:19 (precious blood) another word is used (τίμιος), denoting essential preciousness. The word here indicates the preciousness as recognized or held in honor.

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