1 Peter 2:4
1 Peter 2:4, 5
1 Peter 2:4, 5 (to "built up").

Living stones. We have here incidentally a plain proof that to Peter, Jesus Christ was Divine. He has just been quoting Old Testament words which speak of "the Lord" as "gracious," and he goes on, "to whom coming, as unto a living Stone." He therefore regards Christ as standing in the place of the Jehovah of the old covenant, and has neither scruple in asserting that he is the "gracious Lord" of the psalm, nor thought that he need pause to explain or vindicate the assumption. Obviously such a tone indicates that the truth of our Lord's Divinity was familiar to the recipients of the letter. We have here, in broad, general outline, the great office which Christ sustains; the highest gift which he bestows; and the condition on which we receive it from him.

I. CHRIST'S GREAT OFFICE - THE FOUNDATION-STONE FOR ALL MEN'S LIVES AND HOPES. In this metaphor many 01d Testament references unite. The Shepherd, the Stone of Israel had been celebrated in ancient poetry. Isaiah had spoken of the tried Foundation laid by God's own hard in Zion, which yet should be a Stone of stumbling to those who refused to build on it. A psalmist of a later period had sung amidst the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and the effort to rear again the temple, of the Stone rejected by the builders becoming the Head of the corner. A prophet of the same epoch had seen in vision the head-stone of the completed and transformed theocracy brought forth with triumphant acclaim. Daniel had prophesied of a Stone cut out without hands, which should crash among the kingdoms of the earth like a boulder hurled by an avalanche among peasants' cottages and gardens. And all these streams of prediction had been gathered into one, in the words which Peter so well remembered, with which, in those last days of hand-to-hand conflict, his Master had silenced his antagonists, and claimed to be at once the tried Foundation, and the ponderous Rock which, when it was set in motion, would grind opposition and opposers to powder. The echoes of these mighty words stand here, as they have been interpreted to the apostle by all that has passed since he first heard them. He understands now better than he did, even when he fronted the Sanhedrin with the bold proclamation, "This is the Stone which is set at naught of you builders." He has learned that his Lord is not merely meant to be the Foundation on which Israel may build, but that on which "strangers scattered abroad may be gathered into one." In all aspects and relations Jesus Christ is the Foundation-stone. The whole universe rests on him. He is "the Firstborn of every creature," the Agent of creation, the Mediator through whom all things came to be, and based upon whom the mighty whole of the material creation continues to exist. He is the Foundation of humanity, the Root from whom it springs, the Head in which it is gathered into one. He is the Foundation on which the individual soul must build all hope, joy, and goodness. He is the Foundation of the highest and purest form of social life, in which ultimately all others shall merge, and men be one in him. He is the Basis of all true thoughts of God, man, immortality, and duty. He is the Motive and Inspiration of the purest life. His Person, work, and teaching underlie all being, all peace, and all nobleness. He is the "living Stone," inasmuch as in him is essential life, and he ever lives to be the Source of life to all who build on him.

II. CHRIST'S GREAT GIFT, THAT OF ASSIMILATION TO HIMSELF. Coming to him, we become living stones. One can scarcely avoid seeing here some allusion to the apostle's own name, as if he would share whatever honor there was with all his brethren, and disown any special prerogative. "'Thou art Peter' was, indeed, said to me; but you are all living stones. 'On this rock' was, indeed, said to me; but Christ is the only Foundation." Peter's own understanding of these much-controverted words is no bad guide to their meaning. The image here but puts under one aspect the wide general principle that transformation into Christ's likeness is the great end of his work on us. Is he a Son? Through him we become sons. Is he "the Light of the world"? Illumined by him, we too become lights. Is he anointed with the Spirit? Through him we too receive that unction which invests us with his threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. We are one with him, and participate in his relation to God; we are one with him, and receive of his fullness, are clothed with his righteousness, and growingly conformed to his image. We are one with him, and shall be one in destiny. "As he is, so are we in this world." "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." And the deep truth which underlies all these representations is the actual communication of the life of Christ to us. That life rises up from the foundation through all the courses of the building. This truth is more obviously suggested by the kindred metaphors of the vine and the branches, and the head and members; but it is clearly intended here also, and is conveyed, though with some incongruity, by the expression, "living stones." The life which is in us is Christ's life. Therefore it unfolds itself in us in a form like his, and the vital contact with the living Stone makes us, too, living stones.

III. THE CONDITION OF ASSIMILATION. It is expressed in grand simplicity by that one pregnant phrase, "to whom coming." The original word implies, by the force of a compound, a very close approach. We must be so near him as to touch him, if his transforming power is to flow into our hearts. A hair's breadth of separation is enough to stop the passage of the electric current. The thinnest film of distance between the soul and Christ is thick enough to be an impenetrable barrier. There must be a real living contact if his life is to pour into my veins. And if we ask how this close approach is to be effected, our Lord's own words are the simplest answer, "He that cometh unto me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." We come in the act of faith. To trust him is to draw near to him. Faith is the approach of the soul to Christ, and we touch when, with the reliance of our whole nature, we grasp his cross, and him who died on it, as our only Foundation. But that act of faith must be continuous, if we are to draw life from him in an unbroken stream. The form of expression in the Greek shows that the "coming" is not an act done once for all, but one constantly repeated. The grace drawn from Christ in a moment of active faith cannot be stored up for use in a time when faith has fallen asleep. As soon as we cease to draw near to him, the flow stops. There must be a present faith for a present blessing. Let us, then, rely on no past acts of devout emotion, but hourly renew our conscious faith, and seek to nestle closer to his side, from whom all our life and all its hopes and joys, with all its goodness and power, proceed. So shall there rise up into us, from the living Root, the sap which shall produce in us flowers and abiding fruit. So shall there be one life in him and in us. - A.M.







To whom coming, as unto a living stone.
The Christian life is begun, continued, and perfected altogether in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes when you go a journey, you travel so far under the protection of a certain company, but then you have to change, and the rest of your journey may be performed under very different circumstances, upon quite another kind of line. Now we have not so far to go to heaven in the guardian care of Jesus Christ, and then at a certain point to change, so as to have somebody else to be our leader, or some other method of salvation. No, He is the author and He is the finisher of our faith. We have not to seek a fresh physician, to find a new friend or to discover a novel hope, but we are to look for everything to Jesus Christ, "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." "Ye are complete in Him."

I. HERE IS A COMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. It is a continuous "coming" to Jesus. Notice that the expression occurs in connection with two figures. There is one which precedes it in the second verse, namely, the figure of a little child fed upon milk. Children come to their parents, and they frequently come rather longer than their parents like; it is the general habit of children to come to their parents for what they need. Just what your children began to do from the first moment you fixed your eyes on them, and what they have continued to do ever since, that is just what you are to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. You are to be always coming to Him — coming to Him for spiritual food, for spiritual garments, for washing, guiding, help, and health: coming, in fact, for everything. You will be wise if, the older you grow, the more you come, and He will be all the better pleased with you. If you will look again at your Bibles, you will get a second illustration from the fourth verse, "To whom coming as unto a living stone," etc. Here we have the figure of a building. A building comprises first a foundation, and then the stones which are brought to the foundation and are built upon it. This furnishes a very beautiful picture of Christian life.

II. Now to ANSWER THE QUESTION, WHAT IS THE REST WAY OF COMING TO CHRIST AT FIRST?

1. The very best way to come to Christ is to come with all your needs about you. If you could get rid of half your needs apart from Christ, you would not come to Jesus half so well, for your need furnishes you with motives for coming, and gives you pleas to urge. Suppose a physician should come into a town with motives of pure benevolence to exercise the healing art. What he wants is not to make money, but to bless the townsmen. He has a love to his fellow men, and he wants to cure them, and therefore he gives notice that the poorest will be welcome, and the most diseased will be best received. Is there a deeply sin-sick soul anywhere? Is there man or woman who is bad altogether? Come along, you are just in a right condition to come to Jesus Christ. Come just as you are, that is the best style of "coming."

2. If you want to know how to come aright the first time, I should answer, Come to find everything you want in Christ. I heard of a shop some time ago in a country town where they sold everything, and the man said that he did not believe that there was anything a human being wanted but what he could rig him out from top to toe. Well, I do not know whether that promise would have been carried out to the letter if it had been tried, but I know it is so with Jesus Christ; He can supply you with all you need, for "Christ is all."

3. The best way to come to Christ is to come meaning to get everything, and to obtain all the plenitude of grace which He has laid up in store and promised freely to give.

III. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO COME AFTERWARDS? The answer is — Come just as you used to come. The text does not say that you have come to Christ, though that is true, but that you are coming; and you are to be always coming. The way to continue coming is to come just in the same way as you came at first.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. CHRIST THE SURE FOUNDATION. Without Christ the Bible is meaningless, the world hopeless, heaven charmless. You might as well have a summer without a gleam of light, without the smell of flowers, or the song of a bird, as have a life without Jesus Christ. You might as well have a year without a summer, nothing but barrenness and death, as to have a life without Jesus Christ. You might as well have a night without a morning, as to live in this world, and die, and be buried without Jesus Christ. You might as well speak of the astronomy of the world and leave out the sun, as speak of history, philosophy, and creation, and leave out Jesus Christ. In Christ, and in Him alone, the real and the ideal meet. Christ was the perfect, the symmetrical Man, the true centre of redeemed humanity.

II. CHRIST REJECTED BY MANY. He reveals character; He makes men declare themselves; He is the touch stone that draws worth and develops worthlessness. Come near to Christ, and if you have the elements of nobility you will be drawn toward Him; if you are worth less you will hate Him.

III. A STARTLING CONTRAST — God's judgment of Christ as compared with that of men: "Chosen of God, and precious." God knew Him, and He knew God as it is impossible for men to know Him; and this is the judgment which God here gives.

IV. In order to receive the blessing of Christ's life, WE MUST COME TO HIM. God's promise includes God's condition.

(R. S. MacArthur.)

I. THE CHURCH OR SPIRITUAL TEMPLE IN ITS FOUNDATION.

1. Jesus Christ is here set forth as the foundation of the Christian Church.

2. The apostle here seems to violate the rules of rhetoric and elegant composition by attributing life to a stone. God's thoughts were so infinite that the laws of grammar stood in constant need of expansion to receive them.

3. "Disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God." This Divine choice does not refer primarily, if at all, to God's eternal election of His Son to be the foundation of the Church, but to His choice of Him in consequence of His holy life and atoning death. The disallowing by men and the choosing by God were simultaneous processes. God chose Him, not arbitrarily, but on account of fitness after trying Him.

II. THE CHURCH OR SPIRITUAL TEMPLE IN ITS SUPERSTRUCTURE.

1. What then is the first step you should take to be built into the walls of this spiritual edifice? This — you must come to Jesus Christ. "To whom coming"; or, as the words might be rendered, "To whom coming close up," "to whom coming very near" — so near as to be in personal contact with Him, nothing whatever intervening. You must remove all the earth and brush away every grain of sand, and build your house on the clean face of the rock, with nothing whatsoever between.

2. "To whom coming close up, as unto a living stone," then it follows that "ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house." The word for "stones" here suggests — I do not say it positively means, but it suggests stones dressed, smoothed, and polished, fitted to their place in the walls of the spiritual edifice — the root of the English word lithograph. Young people, and old, you will not do to be built into the walls of this temple in the rough, as you come from the quarry of the world. The Holy Spirit alone can prepare you for this.

III. THE CHURCH OR SPIRITUAL TEMPLE IN ITS SERVICE.

1. "A priesthood." So there is a priesthood in the Christian Church. The whole body of believers forms the Christian priesthood.

2. "An holy priesthood." A learned priesthood? No. An educated priesthood? No. No; an holy priesthood.

3. "To offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." "Spiritual sacrifices": what are these? Singing? Yes. Praying? Yes. Preaching? I am glad to believe it. Under the law material sacrifices were required — oxen, sheep, doves; but under the gospel only those sacrifices which proceed from a regenerate heart, and which testify to the gratitude and devotion of an emancipated spirit. God condescends to accept the offering for the sake of the love which inspires it. What else is necessary? That we present all by, or, as in the Welsh, "through" Jesus Christ. Our sacrifices must ascend to the throne through Him; and as they go through Him they are beautifully filtered and refined.

(J. C. Jones D. D.)

Disallowed indeed of men
Disallowed lie was, indeed, of men: they called Him the carpenter's Son, a Samaritan, winebibber, deceiver; they would have no other king but Caesar; with them Barabbas was meeter to live than He. What was the cause? They looked for one that should come as an earthly prince, to deliver them out of the hands of the Romans; but His kingdom was not of this world. They looked also for one that should have upheld their customs, laws, and traditions; but the date of them was out. Again, how came they to this height of disallowing Him? At the first of ignorance and blindness, but after of malice; so men grow (when they desire not to amend and see the truth) from one degree of wickedness to another.

(John Rogers.)

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up
Religious art finds its culmination in the temple of the ancients and the cathedral of the moderns. Higher than this it cannot reach. That the temple made a profound impression upon the minds of the apostles, that its association interpenetrated their religious life and coloured their teaching, we have unmistakable evidence. In his Epistle to the Ephesians Paul seizes hold of the idea to illustrate the stability, the growth, and the grandeur of the Church. It is precisely the same idea which Peter had in his mind. The idea is a grand one, and it has had a fascination for more than one of the great men of the Church. To mention only one instance, it has given to us the immortal work of John Howe, "The Living Temple." Let us look at it. Rising slowly in the midst of the world, noiselessly and unobserved by the majority of men, are the fair proportions of a temple in comparison with which the grandest conceptions of man are but blurred and broken lines of beauty. Century after century has contributed its quota to the pile, and during the unborn ages it will continue to increase in symmetry and perfection, until with the last man the edifice will be complete. The text reminds us that believers are the living stones of this living temple. Let us pay a visit to the temple, and look upon the stones that are being built into it.

I. As soon as we approach our attention is arrested by some HUGE, UNSHAPELY BLOCKS OF STONE, SHARP ANGLED, AND DISFIGURED HERE AND THERE WITH MUD. We glance hastily up at the superb building before us, re-examine the stones, and then in some wonder ask our guide, "What possible use can these be put to?" Touching the stone tenderly with his fingers, the master builder replies that there is no better material built up in the whole fabric than this. Despite their roughness and shapelessness, these stones, he says, possess a nature which yields readily to the tools and skill of the workmen. Do we understand the teaching? Have we not in our Church fellowship met with men and women freshly hewn from the world's quarry, with such angularities of character, with such imperfect knowledge, with such lack of grace, that we have begun to question if such rough material could be used for anything but stumbling blocks in the cause of Christ? It may have been, even, that we have treated them with indifference, if not with contempt, and denied them the assurance of a brother's sympathy. Forgetting "the hole of the pit from whence we have been digged," we have despised these little ones for whom Christ died. Let us be consistent with ourselves. We profess to believe in spiritual capacities and capabilities, and we cry each day out of the depths of our weakness and ignorance, "Lord, help us." In what lies the difference between us and them? Are not their souls endowed with the satire faculties, the same capabilities, spiritually, as ours? But if we have seen anything of the operation of Divine grace upon the heart, we surely have seen enough to lead us to the belief that there is no limit to its power, that it can fashion the roughest into symmetry and grace. The tinker of Elstow is transformed into the immortal dreamer. Ah, surely bitter must be our humiliation if by our spiritual pride we mar the beauty and usefulness of our Christian life, and see those whom we have despised outstripping us in service, and bearing more vividly upon them the imprint of Divine favour. Proceeding in our examination of the stones, we have one pointed out to us as being of great importance.

II. Examining it we find that WHILE IT BEARS EVIDENT MARKS OF THE WORKMEN'S TOOLS, IT IS ONLY A LARGE PLAIN BLOCK OF STONE, WITH NO PRETENSION TO ORNAMENT WHATEVER. We acknowledge at once its solidity, but have to ask an explanation of its use. We are led to a part of the building where the first stones are being laid in the freshly excavated earth, and there we are told that these plain blocks of stone are used for the wall foundations. "What!" we exclaim, "are they to be hidden out of sight, and their worth never to be appreciated?" "True," replies our guide, "they are hidden, and the thoughtless dream not of them; but the architect knows their value. They serve a grand purpose; upon them depends the strength, aye, and the beauty of the building, too." Unspeakable comfort this to many a lonely, toiling Christian. Look at that mother, the object of her children's lavish affection — their most trusted adviser in times of difficulty and doubt. But she is unknown to the world and fame. Men do not know that the strength and nobility of character which they have been accustomed to admire in her son, has a foundation in her life and heart. Let us take courage, therefore, and labour on in the dark a little while longer. We cannot pass by these pillars without stopping a minute or two to admire their strength and various beauty.

III. In these pillars WE SEE GRACE, STRENGTH, AND UTILITY COMBINED. To be a pillar in the Temple of God is the highest honour to which we can reach. Do we covet their position, their fame, or their worth? Then we must drink of the cup they have drank of, and be baptized with the baptism they were baptized with. That the Church has had such pillars, and will continue to have them, is her strength and hope. "Ah! more ornamental than useful," we exclaim, as we are called to look at some stones covered with filigree work, or highly finished carving. "A judgment somewhat hasty and thoughtless," replies the architect. "See, this stone you have despised because of its ornament is fashioned for a keystone, and its utility will be enhanced by its beauty. This other, with all its marvellous delicacy of carving, has a sound core, and is fashioned for the capital of one of these pillars. It will add grace to the pillar, and will sustain part of its load." Hasty and thoughtless judgments are, alas! too frequent among professing Christians. By some zealous workers the men and women of culture are despised as being necessarily more ornamental than useful. They are not seen to be enthusiastic in the service of the Master, and forthwith, without a moment's calm thought, they are spoken of rather as hindrances than helps in the cause of righteousness. Have we been tempted to think so of anyone? Let us see to it that we have not been doing great injustice to a keystone or a capital in God's Temple — living stones, perchance, not only more beautiful than we, but vastly more useful also. Some of the most zealous and humble Christian workers are to be found among the men and women of culture today. And not only is it so, but they do a work that the less cultured cannot do. Like the carved capital or keystone, they can catch the eye of the careless or sceptical men of culture and compel them, by the force of their intrinsic worth, to investigate the claims of religion. "How beautiful is the polish on this stone! How it reveals the beauty of the granite! How it flashes back the sunlight! Such is our exclamation over a stone which our guide regards with a look of mingled tenderness and delight. "Very beautiful," he replies, "but at what cost!" and then he explains to us the hard pressure, the constant friction, and the other processes to which it had been subjected before it took on this lustrous beauty. Just so. We have a friend in whose Christian life there is a sparkle, a heavenly beauty, as exceptional as it is delightful. Would we know the secret? Then let us look into his past life. Sorrow came to his heart suddenly, overwhelmingly. "Made perfect through suffering!" How difficult the lesson! Instinctively we shrink from pain. Truly, pain is a mystery. "Hold, hold!" cries the stone to the polisher when the cold water and rough sand are thrown upon it, and the heavy polishing plane passes over it for the first time. "Hold, hold! Why this rough treatment? What wrong have I done? Have I not already suffered at the hands of workmen?" "Peace, foolish stone," cries the polisher. "Dost thou not know that there are yet roughnesses in thy nature to be rubbed down, and wilt thou grudge the pain? Dost thou not know that I will bring to light thy hidden beauty by this process? Thou wilt become a mirror to catch the faintest smile of heaven if thou wilt but suffer it to be so now."

IV. "What mean these quantities of SMALL STONES lying here and there? Is it possible that they can be used in the great building?" To which question our instructor replies, "The temple could not be built without them. There is not only a place for them, but there are places which nothing but they can fill. Unseen by the eye, these small stones supplement the deficiencies of the larger ones, and there would be many an interstice through which the wind and rain would penetrate were it not for these insignificant-looking stones." Little children living stones in God's temple! Sweet thought! What parent does not clutch at it with unspeakable joy? The fact may well fire the zeal and intensify the love of every parent and teacher of the young in pouring out their souls labouring for their weal. We would do well to ponder —

1. In the first place, it is quite possible for the living stones to be deceived with regard to their position and importance.

2. In the second place, a true view of our own hearts, as well as of the importance of Christian service, will lead us to cast ourselves at the Master's feet, saying, "Choose my place for me."

(W. Skinner.)

I. IT IS ORGANISED AFTER A DIVINE PLAN.

1. This is the leading plan in the world's history.

2. This plan, though unknown by men, is being worked out by them.

II. IT IS COMPACTED TOGETHER INTO A NECESSARY UNITY. Supreme love for a common Father, unbounded confidence in a common Christ, life consecration to a common cause, are the indissoluble bonds of union. This union is —

1. Independent of local distances.

2. Independent of external circumstances.

3. Independent of ecclesiastical systems.

4. Independent of mental idiosyncrasies.

III. IT IS THE SPECIAL RESIDENCE OF THE ETERNAL SPIRIT. There is more of God to be seen in the true Church than anywhere else under heaven. In nature you see His handicraft, in saints you see His soul.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The only idea which I think can be legitimately connected with purity of matter, is this of vital and energetic connection among its particles; and the idea of foulness is essentially connected with dissolution and death. Thus the purity of the rock contrasted with the foulness of dust or mould is expressed by the epithet "living," very singularly given the rock in almost all languages; singularly I say, because life is almost the last attribute one would ascribe to stone but for this visible energy and connection of its particles; and so of water as opposed to stagnancy.

(J. Ruskin.)

The apostle assumes, as a matter of course, that if one is in Christ, one is also in His Church. Detached stones are mere rubble. There is contact, cohesion, mutual attachment and support in these "living stones" of God's spiritual house. Based on the "living stone," the bedrock of the Church, they grow together into God's glorious human temple.

(G. G. Findlay.)

Travellers sometimes find in lonely quarries, long abandoned, or once worked by a vanished race, great blocks squared and dressed, that seem to have been meant for palace or shrine. But there they lie, neglected and forgotten, and the building for which they were hewn has been reared without them. Beware, lest God's grand temple should be built up without you, and you be left to desolation and decay.

(A. Maclaren.)

Tyndall, speaking of the frozen crystals in snowflakes, says: "Surely such an exhibition of power, such an apparent demonstration of a resident intelligence in what we are accustomed to call 'brute matter,' would appear perfectly miraculous. If the Houses of Parliament were built up of forces resident in their own bricks, it would be nothing intrinsically more wonderful."

(Hours of Exercise on the Alps.)

An holy priesthood
Christians are a royal priesthood; they are united together in the Church to be a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ: the joy of priesthood should be the tasted joy of every member of the Church of Christ. True it is that in its fullest sense there is but one priest — Jesus, the anointed of the Father. No other priest can be, since He ever lives and ministers in His priesthood. But He ministers as priest under two conditions — in heaven in His glorified human body: on earth in His mystical body — the Church. When He was on the earth "in the days of His flesh," He ministered to men through His natural body. In it He interceded for them with God, and instituted and offered the holy Eucharistic sacrifice. By it He spake to them God's words, and did among them God's works. But when His body was taken up into heaven, it could not be the instrument of His priesthood on earth. So He created His mystical body — the Church. Thus the Church, as the mystical body of Christ, is the extension of His natural body, and so is the fulness of Christ, As, then before His ascension, Christ ministered on earth in His natural body, since His ascension He ministers on earth in His mystical body. Hence His Church is a sacerdotal society. It is a kingdom of priests, because its members are the ministers of Christ's priest hood. Its priesthood is not one existing side by side with, nor is it supplemental to, the one priesthood of Christ. It is not the delegated representative of an absent Lord fulfilling priestly ministries on His behalf; it is the organism of a present Lord. It is the organism whereby Christ intercedes with God for men in prayer and Eucharist on earth, and by which He teaches men God's faith, and ministers to them God's grace. This sacerdotal vocation and character is not the exclusive possession of any one section of the mystical body of Christ — it is common to all Christian men. Each member of the mystical body of the Great High Priest is himself a priest unto God. But he is a priest called on to minister in the unity and in the order of that mystical body. Each member in it is placed in his position in its structure to fulfil the ministry proper to him as the organ of the whole body. The priestly character is common to all, but all are not called to the same measure of priestly ministries or gifts. The priesthood of the laity is recognised by the Church in confirmation. Christians are born to priesthood in the sacrament of regeneration as sons of the second Aaron, just as Aaron's sons were born to the priesthood of Israel. But as in Israel of old those thus born were at a given age solemnly consecrated and commissioned to execute the priest's office; so in the Church of Christ the regenerate are consecrated, commissioned, and dowered, for the lay priesthood in the sacrament of confirmation. This priesthood of the laity has, as priesthood always has, a two-fold aspect — Godward and manward. The Church, as a sacerdotal society, has primarily to minister to God — to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The first duty of the lay priesthood is by cooperation with the consecrated ministers of the Church to offer to God continual worship in Christian sanctuaries. Closely allied with the ministry of worship is the ministry of intercession. He whose soul ascends to God and rests in God in adoration will share with God His love to men, and, sharing this love, he will breathe it out in intercession. Moreover, as God's priest, the layman is called to minister to man for God in active service. He has his place in that great mediatorial system by which God wills to give to men the two great gifts of truth and grace. Each Christian Churchman is here in a position of grave responsibility. All wealth is a trust held by each for all. And, in addition to this, as the priest of God, the layman is called on to do what he can to bring his fellow men into the knowledge of the truth as he knows it, and with those gracious conditions of life in which he is privileged to live. He must be an evangelist — the bearer to others of the good tidings in the joy of which he is privileged to live. Let me conclude with two cautions bearing on this question of lay priesthood.

1. Avoid individualism in its exercise. Priesthood is an official status; it exists in the body of Christ, and can only be rightly exercised according to the will of God in the unity of that body. All its ministries must be performed "decently and in order." God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, in all churches of the saints, "and peace is," as St. teaches us, "the harmony of ordered union."

2. The one motive of the layman in his priesthood must always be to reveal to men and to bring them to submit to the One Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He ministers in and through His Church. No one can rise to the realisation of his lay priesthood except he be one who, in the unity of the Church, tastes and sees the goodness of the Lord.

(Canon Body.)

I. THE PERSONS OF WHOM THIS PRIESTHOOD IS COMPOSED. The apostle is here writing, not to Church officers, but to individual Christians scattered throughout the world. Why should they be represented as a priesthood?

1. On account of their entire devotedness to Divine service.

2. On account of their free access to the Divine presence (Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 10:19-22).

II. THE CHARACTER BY WHICH THIS PRIESTHOOD IS DISTINGUISHED. "Holy." Moral holiness is resemblance to Christ — the spirit of supreme love to the Father and self-sacrificing love for man.

III. THE SERVICE TO WHICH THIS PRIESTHOOD IS CONSECRATED.

1. The sacrifices are spiritual.

2. Mediatory.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The priesthood of the law was holy, and its holiness was signified by many outward things, by anointings, and washings, and vestments; but in this spiritual priesthood of the gospel, holiness itself is instead of all these, as being the substance of all. The children of God are all anointed and purified, and clothed with holiness. There is here the service of this office, namely, to offer. All sacrifice is not taken away, but it is changed from the offering of those things formerly in use to spiritual sacrifices. Now these are every way preferable; they are easier to us, and yet more acceptable to God. How much more should we abound in spiritual sacrifice, who are eased of the other! But though the spiritual sacrificing is easier in its own nature, yet to the corrupt nature of man it is by far the harder. He would rather choose still all the toil and cost of the former way, if it were in his option. A holy course of life is called the sacrifice of righteousness (Psalm 4:6; and Philippians 4:18; so also Hebrews 13:16), where the apostle shows what sacrifices succeed to those which, as he hath taught at large, are abolished. In a word, that sacrifice of ours which includes all these, and without which none of these can be rightly offered, is ourselves, our whole selves. Now that whereby we offer all spiritual sacrifices and even ourselves, is love. That is the holy fire that burns up all, sends up our prayers, and our hearts, and our whole selves a whole burnt offering to God — and, as the fire of the altar, it is originally from heaven, being kindled by God's own love to us, and the graces of the Spirit received from Christ, but, above all with His own merits. The success of this service; acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The children of God delight in offering sacrifices to Him; but if they could not know that they were well taken at their hands, this would discourage them much; therefore this is added. He accepts themselves and their ways when offered in sincerity, though never so mean; though they sometimes have no more than a sigh or a groan, it is most properly a spiritual sacrifice. No one needs forbear sacrifice for poverty, for what God desires is the heart, and there is none so poor but hath a heart to give Him. But meanness is not all. There is a guiltiness on ourselves and on all we offer. Our prayers and services are polluted. But this hinders not, for our acceptance is not for ourselves, but for the sake of one who hath no guiltiness at all, "acceptable by Jesus Christ." In Him our persons are clothed with righteousness. How ought our hearts to be knit to Him, by whom we are brought into favour with God and kept in favour with Him, in whom we obtain all the good we receive, and in whom all we offer is accepted! In Him are all our supplies of grace and our hopes of glory.

(Abp. Leighton.)

I. First, all those who are coming to Christ, daily coming nearer and nearer to Him, are as living stones built up into A TEMPLE.

1. They are called a spiritual house in opposition to the old material house in which the emblem of the Divine presence shone forth in the midst of Israel, that temple in which the Jew delighted, counting it to be beautiful for situation and the joy of the whole earth. When we become holy, as we should be, we shall count all places and all hours to be the Lord's, and we shall always dwell in His temple because God is everywhere.

2. We are a spiritual temple, but not the less real. The Lord has a people scattered abroad everywhere, whose lives are hid with Him in God, and these make up the real temple of God in which the Lord dwelleth. Men of every name and clime and age are quickened into life, made living stones, and then laid upon Christ, and these constitute the true temple, which God hath built and not man, for He dwelleth not in temples made with hands; that is to say, of man's building, but He dwelleth in a temple which He Himself hath builded for His habitation forever, saying, "This is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it."

3. This temple is spiritual, and therefore it is living. A material temple is dead, a spiritual temple must be alive; and so the text tells us, "Ye also as living stones."

4. We are a spiritual house, and therefore spiritually built up. Peter says, "Ye are built up" — built up by spiritual means. The Spirit of God quarries out of the pit of nature the stones which are as yet dead, separating them from the mass to which they adhered; He gives them life, and then He fashions, squares, polishes them, and they, without sound of axe or hammer, are brought each one to its appointed place, and built up into Christ Jesus.

5. We are a spiritual house, and therefore the more fit for the indwelling of God who is a Spirit. It is in the Church that God reveals Himself. If you would know the Lord's love and power and grace you must get among His people, hear their experiences, learn from them how God dealeth with them, and let them tell you, if ye have grace to understand them, the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, for He manifesteth Himself to them as He doth not to the world. Hath He not said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them"?

II. In addition to being a temple, God's people are said to be A PRIESTHOOD. Observe that they are spoken of together, and not merely as individuals: they make up one indivisible priesthood: each one is a priest, but all standing together they are a priesthood, by virtue of their being one with Christ.

1. This stands in opposition to the nominal and worldly priesthood.

2. This priesthood is most real, although it be not of the outward and visible order; for God's priests become priests after a true and notable fashion.

3. We are priests in the aspect of priesthood towards God. You are to speak with God on man's behalf, and bring down, each of you, according to the measure of your faith, the blessing upon the sons of men among whom you dwell.

4. And you are priests towards men also, for the priest was selected from among men to exercise necessary offices for man's good. The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and if ye be as ye should be, ye hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints.

5. This is to be your function and ministry always and in every place. You are a holy priesthood; not alone on the Lord's day when ye come into this house, but at all times.

III. Consider the SACRIFICES which we offer — "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

1. We offer spiritual sacrifices as opposed to the literal.

2. This sacrificing takes various forms. "I beseech you, brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." You are to present yourselves, spirit, soul, and body, as a sacrifice unto God. You are also to "do good and to communicate, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." To Him also you are to "offer the sacrifice of praise continually, the fruit of your lips giving glory to God." To the Lord also you must present the incense of holy prayer; but all these are comprehended, I think, in the expression, "I delight to do Thy will, O God."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The theory of sacrifice seems to be intuitively inherent in all religions. The sacrifice of the life and death of Christ is the one essential foundation of every acceptable offering which can be made to God. God never requires what we cannot offer. He never asks a sin or trespass offering from us. You and I could not offer that. But He asks what we can give, a sweet-savour offering, as a testimony of our gratitude and love. Not a sin offering. As far as Christ's work was propitiatory, it stands absolutely alone: "He offered one sacrifice for sin." But though no sufferings, no work, no worship, no service of ours can propitiate, God still requires from us offerings of another character. These are called "spiritual sacrifices," which we are "ordained" to offer. There is no more attractive form in which a devout life can appear than that of a constant oblation to God, of all that we are, have, or do. Let the thought of sacrifice be inwoven into the texture of your life. Study to turn, not your prayers alone, but your whole daily course and conversation, into an offering. Surely the thought that God will accept it if offered in union with the merit of His Son, is enough to give stimulus to the sacrifice; to open purse, and hand, and heart. You can please Him if you give, strive, work in His name. To please God. What a privilege to lie open to us day by day, and hour by hour! What a condescension in our heavenly Father, when we consider the strictness of His justice, the impurity of our hearts, and our manifold falls, to admit of our pleasing Him, or to leave any room for our touching His complacency. We may have this dignity if we offer all in Christ. We need not go far to seek the materials of an acceptable offering; they lie all around us; in our common work; in the little calls of providence; in the trivial crosses we are challenged to take up; nay, in the very recreation of our lives. If work be done (no matter how humble) in the full view of God's assignment of our several tasks and spheres of labour, and under the consciousness of His presence, it is a sacrifice fit to be laid upon His altar. If we study the very perversity of our enemies with a loving hope that we may find something of God and Christ about them yet, which may be the nascent germ of better things; if we try to make the best of men, and not the worst, treating them as Christ treated them, we may thus redeem an hour from being wasted, and sanctify it by turning it into a sacrifice to God. If you should obey an impulse to divert some trifle meant for self and luxury to Christ's poor and charity, here, again, is a sacrifice, sweet smelling before God, which will buy the better luxury of His smile and love. And if you regard time as, next to Christ and the Holy Spirit, the most precious gift of God; if you gather up its fragments and put them into God's basket by using them for holy things and thoughts — this, too, grows into a tribute which God will accept. It is the altar which sanctifieth the gift. Apart from Christ and Christ's sacrifice, no offering of ours is redolent of the sweet savour, For our best gifts are flecked and flawed by duplicity and evil.

(A. Mursell.)

Christians, you are priests. Be like Christ in this,

1. Wherever you go carry a savour of Christ. Let men take knowledge of you, that you have been with Jesus; let it be plain that you come from within the veil, let the smell of your garments be as a field which the Lord hath blessed.

2. Carry a sound of Christ wherever you go. Not a stop, Christians, without the sound of the gospel bell! Even in smallest things, be spreading the glad sound, Edwards says, wherever a godly person enters, he is a greater blessing than if the greatest monarch were entering. So be it with you.

(R. M. McCheyne.)

To offer up spiritual sacrifices
1. The offering up of our bodies and souls, and all that is in us to serve God; having neither wit, will, memory, nor anything else, but for the Lord's use. It is meet we should offer this sacrifice, for it is His by right of creation, redemption, and continual preservation.

2. The sacrifice of a contrite and broken heart.

3. Prayer and praise.

4. Alms, mercy to all in hunger, thirst, sickness, prison, especially to the household of faith.

(John Rogers.)

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