1 Peter 2:4-10
To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,…
This is the last paragraph of the doctrinal section of the Epistle. (Peter's doctrinal teaching covers much less ground than that of Paul, and confines itself here to personal Christian life.) The key-words of the argument so far (see preceding homilies) have been "redemption," "holiness," "fear," "love," "growth," each of which comes in natural sequence. Now, what remains to be said may be gathered up in the word "honor." The central statement of this paragraph is in ver. 7, "Unto you therefore who believe [is] the preciousness." But "preciousness" does not harmonize with the tenor of the passage. And as the Greek word equally means "honor," and is often so rendered ("No man taketh this honor unto himself;" "Hath not the potter power to make one vessel unto honor?" "Hold such in reputation [i.e. 'honor'] because," etc.), we so read it here. The apostle contrasts their position in Christ, first with theirs who reject him, and then with their own former position out of him, both of these being positions of shame, the contrast to which is honor. Shame out of Christ, honor in Christ - that is the idea: "Unto you who believe there is honor."
I. CONSIDER THE HIGH HONOR OR THE PEOPLE OF GOD. Not unnatural for this to be emphasized to the "sojourners of the dispersion," who were exposed to suffering and shame for the gospel. There are many illustrations in the Acts of the bitterness of the unbelieving Jews to their Christian brethren; from the Gentle world, moreover, the first mutterings of Nero's persecution of the Church were beginning to be heard. The Epistle contains several references to a condition of reproach (vers. 12, 15, 19-23; 1 Peter 3:9, 16; 1 Peter 4:13-16). Peter, therefore, reminds them that, though scorned by men, they are crowned with great honor by God. And mark how he illustrates that. As a Jew, writing mainly to Jews, he fixes on what was most honored in Judaism - the temple with its priesthood and sacrifices. Then he turns to their Scriptures, and shows that God's Elect One, who should come, and who would be despised of the people, would be for a Foundation-stone of a spiritual temple, on and into which all who believe should be built; the honor of the Jewish temple was to pass over to the Christian Church. For instance:
1. The Church is God's chosen dwelling-place. Of the temple it was said, "This is my rest forever. Here will I dwell, for I have desired it." The symbol of his presence was there. But of the Church founded on Jesus, he said, "Ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you;" "Where two or three are gathered together," etc. God's dwelling! the place of his most glorious manifestation! Elsewhere we see him as Creator, Sovereign, Judge; here he is at home.
2. The Church is God's peculiar possession. Over the portal of the temple the eye instinctively reads the unwritten inscription, "Holiness unto the Lord." "My Father's house," said Jesus. But so the Church: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a people peculiarly his own." The Church is his as nothing else is - his peculiar treasure; the object of his delight, thought, care, on which he lavishes himself so that it shows forth, as the text says, "the excellences of God.
3. The Church is God's means of making himself known to the world. Like the temple, the depository of sacred truth and influence, which therefrom are to stream into the world's darkness like the light of day. Ye Christians are the light of the world." Think what a Church is in a city - that to which the weary, the tempted, the dark, the sorrowful, come for healing; to which, through the weekly toil, tired hearts look with longing, and in which men with all their wants find God. Such a sanctuary is the Church of Christ, the world's one temple, through which alone can flow from God the healing for its woes. The Church is the fulfillment of the ancient predictions of the temple that should rise on Zion in the latter days, to which all nations should flow, and from which all should be blessed. Well may Peter write to the Church, "Unto you who believe there is honor."
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS HONOR BECOMES THEIRS. "Unto whom, coming as unto a living Stone, ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house " - the Church a fabric of "living" souls.
1. By coming to Christ as a Foundation. Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Christ answered, "Upon this rock will I build my Church." Rome speaks of Peter as the foundation of the Church, but this same Peter speaks of Christ. The Church, thus, are all those who have come to Christ as God's Foundation-stone. And what is that but to come to Christ, to build on him - all our hopes on Jesus, Sacrifice, Revealer of the Father, Intercessor, Lord; not on personal experiences, etc., but on him?
2. That is coming to Christ as the Foundation of a holy temple. For many build on him who do not build to this end. Just to rest on Christ as an insurance against penalty, or to satisfy conscience whilst still belonging to the world, is not to be of the Church; for that we must so build on him as to become part of that spiritual house in which God lives, and walks, and reveals himself, and works.
3. And this coming to Christ as a Foundation of a holy temple, of which all his people form a part. Not to be isolated stones, but to be firmly knit together with the whole. Only thus is the idea of the temple fulfilled. God requires "the building up of the body of Christ, till we all attain unto the unity of the faith. . . unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ from whom the whole body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love."
III. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THIS HONOR AND THEIR FORMER SHAME. The apostle heightens the honor of the Church by reminding them of their once different position, of theirs who still have no part in him. This gives a rare impulse to joy, gratitude, and service. "Unto you who believe there is honor, but for such as disbelieve, the Stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the chief of the corner [not 'head,' as though topstone, but foundation-stone], and a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence; for they stumble at the Word, being disbelieving [same word as ver. 7], whereunto also they were appointed" - appointed not to disbelief, but to find him a Stone of stumbling and Rock of offence if they refused to believe. Hurt, maiming, destruction, are the appointed consequences of rejecting Christ, as salvation is for those who believe on him. Brethren, build on Christ, Peter seems to say, "Remember what you were, what you have escaped, and what you are. - C.N."
Parallel VersesKJV: To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,