2:1-12 – You are living stones – be built up!

Here we will consider Peter’s ecclesiology.  As those of you that have been here before, you will know it is not the idea of the Roman Catholic church that Peter puts forward.  Knowing their doctrine as some of us here do, we can say without any equivocation that Roman Catholicism is in fact antithetical to following Jesus Christ.  There is no reason hide my meanings here:  at least three confessions of faith I am aware of (the WCF, the LBC, and the Heidelberg Confession) actually take apart that notion and name the person in the pope as at least a type of Antichrist.  [Read a the portion of the relevant 1689 confession here.]  In fact the Council of Trent, a council that lasted for about 18 YEARS (1545-1563) under Pope Paul III in the city of Trent, Italy, is the Council that ruled against Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone and the authority of the Scriptures alone in 1547 (I think, I couldn’t find the dates of the decisions).  With a clear reading of this text, we can see that it is not Peter’s theology, and it does not cause their doctrine of salvation through good works and the sacraments to even enter into one’s mind unless they wish to deliberately confuse themselves about Peter talking about the process of Sanctification, that is of being made holy, that takes place in believers ONLY.

Instead, as a shepherd caring for the sheep as he was charged by Christ in John 21 (three times you will remember), he talks about going through the trials and not running away or avoiding them in other ways.  We are quickly coming to a time in the history of Earth during which all people are going to face trials as they never have before.  The temptation, which I personally know all too well, is to run away and hide, and not face these things unless we have to do so.  But is that what Peter did?  No.  He said we should face them, because it is this very time that will sanctify us in our walks with God.

I broke the text for this study down as follows:

KV12:  The Behaviour of God’s Elect

1-3:  Desire what will help you grow in Christ

4-8:  Be built up as living stones like and on Christ

9-10:  Chosen by God to be His holy people


Normally I have a preamble that I go through for everyone, and I admit I don’t really have one for this text because it kind of speaks for itself. 

KV12:  The Behaviour of God’s Elect

I have already stated that we are approaching a time of great trouble for people all over the world, and we will not escape all of it.  What I want to highlight about it though is what Peter says everyone’s response should be.  Remember, Peter is writing this to a set of believers in Asia Minor in several locations, because Nero burned down Rome to make space for planned “upgrades” to the city, and because of the loss of life and outrage by the citizenry, he found a scapegoat in this strange new sect of people that were called “Christians” that did not recognize Roman gods, or that Nero was a living god.  This resulted in a sudden and intense persecution for those believers, and Peter was writing to them to encourage them to face that trouble regardless of the cost.  Last time, with that in mind, we looked at three key things that Peter described in the last test we considered:  Obedience, Redemption, and Eternality in how we are made alive in and by Christ.  It should come as no surprise then that Peter begins the paragraph of text that immediately follows with a list of behaviours to discuss.  Let’s get into the text.

1-3:  Desire what will help you grow in Christ

Babies desire things!  If you’ve ever met one or had one, or even if you have had time to just sit back and observe things, you have to agree with that assertion.  When an infant begins to squawk, you can rest assured it has an unmet desire, whether for nourishment, comfort, or a clean pair of pants.  I can tell you that regardless of instinct, and we do have some spiritual instincts after we are born again (like reading the word and talking about Christ to everyone around us), but by and large we need to be taught what helps or makes us grow in Christ, just like a baby needs to learn to walk, or not to touch the hot surface of the stove.  What Peter is telling us in this paragraph is that we need to find (by the teaching to Scripture) what will help us grow, and that can only be done in the setting of the Church.  Again, let’s look and see.

1:  Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all  slander,

  • Now because we also had a life before the new birth Peter learned about from Jesus, we often have habits to UNLEARN so to speak, and Peter here dutifully puts them in a list to easily ID them for us.  When we see what they are, we can see what it is we need to lay aside.  Let’s look at the list.
  • All malice – This is the Greek phrase pasan kakia, and it literally means all badness.  That’s the literal meaning.  It can also be translates as wickedness, depravity, malignity, maliciousness, naughtiness, or evil.  It can be seen as the opposite of excellence (arete).  Peter is basically saying that if you know it is bad, STOP DOING IT.
  • All deceit – the word here dolos, and means quite literally to bait someone, and that is why we translate it as fraud or deceit, sometimes guile.  So baiting someone into saying or doing something that would benefit you and not them would be wrong, and it is the kind of thing Peter is speaking of.  Now why does that remind me of that old ditty, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket?”
  • Hypocrisy – this is actually a transliteration from the Greek, and we are familiar with what it means in Scripture, but for those that may be watching this at a different time, means literally a reply, but came to mean “the acting of a stage player” because of how they would answer each other in dialogue.  It has come to mean pretense or dissembling, and can be translated as dissimulation.  This is like the new Pharisees that act all righteously indignant over how much makeup a sister wears without actually worrying about her soul, for example.  Their condescending tone usually gives them away.
  • Envy – The Greek is phthonos, and it refers, according to Vine, as the displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.  The Spirit of God that dwells in believers was never given to us so that we would envy each other and be brought displeasure at the prosperity of others.
  • Slander – The Greek word here is katalalia, literally “evil speaking,” the very definition of slander.  Now I make a bit of a difference between this and speaking about someone doing this, one is evil-speaking, the other is diagnostic and potentially corrective.  These are the things we should, as believers, be putting aside.

2:  like newborn babies, long for the  pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

  • This is what I was talking about at the beginning of this section.  Peter here is saying that when we have put all of this off from the previous statement, then we should desire the pure milk of the word.  I have said this for decades now, and I mean more than three.  Babies grow.  I have mentioned this story before, but it really illustrates the point.  In the place I was saved, there was a lady (who I think was about 40 at the time) that was saved at about the same time I was.  She was a really great sister in Christ, and she was definitely trying to follow Him.  But she had this thing.  When someone asked her a more difficult question, she would always respond, “Oh, I’m just a little baby Christian,” to wriggle out of the question.  I didn’t really have an issue with that until I went home for the summer in between first and second year university.  At that point, I was reading the word every day or trying, and I was praying, and generally fellowshipping with other Christians I had met at work, or like that.  I wasn’t anything even close to a mature believer, but at that point, I had been a Christian for more than 2 years, and I could at least take on basic questions, preach a clear gospel, like that.  And then I heard her say it:  “Oh don’t ask me, I’m just a little baby Christian.”  I knew the answer to the question, and I answered it for her.  I didn’t say anything to her, she was a very dear sister, and I know people mature at different rates and that by the will of God, but it stuck in my mind…sideways.  I have always felt a little…awkward…about that incident, because I know, and so do you, that babies are only the starting point, and that ALL babies grow, assuming they live.  I think it would be a little odd for me, for example, to beg off answering a legitimate question by claiming to be just a little baby Christian.  If I was doing that, we wouldn’t be in this bible study.
  • Now, how does Christian growth occur according to Peter?  By STUDYING THE WORD OF GOD, THE BIBLE!!!  And in that way, we “grow in respect to salvation,” as Peter says, or become mature Christians in my words.  It all comes from the reading of the Word, and especially the detailed and labourious study of the Word, toiling to understand what God said, and what He meant when He said it, all so we can draw appropriate and meaningful application and be better followers (read Disciples) of Jesus Christ.  At least that’s why I’m here, and I hope you are here for the same reasons.

3:  if you have tasted  the kindness of the Lord.

  • It is very important that we note the first word of this verse.  “IF.”  Who has tasted of the kindness of the Lord?  Believers, one would think, from the context.  Peter is reminding us almost surreptitiously that not all who say they believe do, and it is increasingly important to know that.  Otherwise, we cast our pearls before swine, and no good really ever comes of that.
  • The Kindness of the Lord – The Greek word here is chrestos, and it means roughly, “serviceable,” but more like “fit to be used.”  Here, it is speaking to a character of God, His kindness, or His graciousness toward us.  If we have tasted of His grace, we have at least considered his kind gift of salvation, freely offered to us.  I think the unspoken implication here is that if you have NOT tasted of the Lord’s grace and goodness, you will not desire the word to help you grow in Christ, and you probably won’t be putting that list of naughtiness aside either.

It seems clear that Peter’s desire for people at this point is that they come to know Christ in a saving way, and if they have, for them to put aside their old nature (which he describes in v.1) and put on the new man in Christ (described in v.2).  It would be pointless to bother if it is in anywise different.

4-8:  Be built up as living stones like and on Christ

Continuing the theme of growing, that growth has a decided direction, and Peter picks up an old analogy of a building being built.  Specifically, it is that of the building of the first temple, or it has at least been used that long, so we will consider some of that as appropriate.  I think the point Peter is making with this paragraph is that God has a plan in mind and at some point, the work and maturity will be a completed work.  Let’s see what he means.

4:  And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God,

  • This living stone that is rejected by men is a reference to the foundation stone of the first temple that was completed by Solomon.  There is a story I’ve heard a couple of times over the years, and it relates to the original foundation stone of the temple.  The stone for the temple was all cut and finished offsite according to the Scriptures, and it was so no work of man would be heard while that temple was being built.  The stones were precut and just fitted at the site of the temple.  They had selected and cut the corner stone (also called the foundation stone) early on, but wanted most of the stone in place to begin the work for whatever reason.  That cornerstone was bigger than most of the other stones, and some fool of a stonecutter left that stone right in the middle of the path out of the quarry.  It irritated most people that had to carry these big, heavy stones out of the quarry and ship them to the temple site.  There is a story that someone was SO upset that the stone was in the way that he began shouting at the stone!  Can you imagine?  Getting upset with an inanimate object?  And that stone, that literal rock of stumbling, the rock that caused offense, it turns out was the chief cornerstone.
  • Peter tells us in this verse that that living stone that was rejected by men was Christ, the him in the verse.  Men may have tripped over it in frustration, and rejected it as too strict, to much of an obstacle, too big to move out of the way, like that, but that stone was they very choice of God, and was as such precious in His sight.  That Stone was Christ, if you missed that.

5:  you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

  • Now Peter says something amazing!  WE ALSO are living stones, like Christ was the living foundation stone.  We aren’t that foundational cornerstone, but we ARE living stones!  Why?  HE made us alive by that new birth!  And those stones have a purpose.
  • We are being built up for a purpose!  And that purpose is that of being the house for a holy priesthood–and we are the priests.  What do priest do?  Peter tells us here that we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices (as opposed to the blood of bulls and goats) that are acceptable to God!  Not of our own works, but through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Beloved, that’s something to get excited about!

6:  For this is contained in Scripture:  “Behold, I lay in Zion A choice stone, A precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

  • This is Peter quoting Isaiah 28:16, which reads, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.  He who believes in it will not be disturbed.”  It may read a little different, but it means about the same thing.  That word that we translate as “disappointed” literally means “not put to shame.”

7:  This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone,”

  • Now Peter is almost directly stating that this is only valuable information for those who believe and follow Christ as a result of that belief (if you’re not obeying, you didn’t really believe, regardless of what you tell yourself).  However, for those who disbelieve, it says something else.  Peter is quoting Psalm 118:22, which reads, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.”  It is almost like Peter is saying to unbelievers that the very thing that set them off, that they said COULD NOT be the truth, was true.  The very thing.  It CANNOT be Christ, that didn’t happen, they say.  Oh, but it did, and “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23)
  • A word on that word “disbelieve:”  this is actually the Greek word apisteo, the negative of pisteo, to believe.  This translates directly as “to not believe,” in a deliberate sense.  Vine says this word implies that the unbeliever has had a full opportunity of believing and has rejected it; some mss. have apeitheo, “to be disobedient,” in 1 Pet. 2:7.  Disobedience is the direct result of not believing.  Peter is about to say this exactly.  Next verse.

8:  and, “A stone of stumbling and A rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

  • Here, with an interpretive quote of Isaiah 8:14, which reads, “Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”  The main context of that quote for the record is that Isaiah here is speaking of those who will NOT form the believing remnant of Israel being discussed in that passage.  You can check that context on your own, but I do think I am accurately handling the word of truth in this matter.
  • Peter is saying that these who stumble are stumbling because “they are disobedient to the word.”  Beloved, it is a very serious thing to know what to do and who is telling you to do it and then not be doing it.  Now, you do know that I believe in the eternal security of the believer, which goes along with the preservation of the saints.  However, are you sure, you who will not do what you are supposed to do to be a good testimony to Christ, that you are actually his?  Or instead of what it says in 1 John 5:13, that you may know you have eternal life with an absolute knowledge, are you unsure, and just hoping, guessing, praying, or wondering?  Because if that is the case, you can change that right now.  Repent!  Change your mind about your sinfulness.  Admit that it is sin!  And then give it up and stop doing it, and do instead those things that you know God wants you to do, that are right, that we have been speaking about this evening, and not just in nebulous terms!  Believe that Jesus paid the price for YOUR sinning personally when He died on the cross in your place!  And God will save you from His coming wrath that is about to be poured out on those who will not believe, those who are disobedient to the word–for it is to this doom that they are also appointed.  (The word “doom” is in italics, indicating that it was inserted by the translators for clarity.  I don’t think it’s needed for the understanding of the passage, but at the same time, it isn’t wrong.)
  • That word for “appointed” literally means appointed to something.  Why settle for eternal punishment, to which all of us are appointed apart from Christ?  Why not believe, and in believing pass out of death and into life, as it says in John 5:24?

The message that Peter is concerned that Christ’s followers receive from this part of the text is that they be true followers of Christ, and not just those who pay lip service to Christianity.  We have a plethora of examples we could site here, and I don’t want to bog us down in all of that, but I must give a strong warning to all who hear my words.  You cannot serve God and something or someone else.  You will love either one or the other, and given our proclivities for sin, we can be safe in assuming that the VAST majority of those who are currently double-minded and unstable are going to choose something or someone other than God Almighty and Our only God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  I know people that for years have fooled themselves into thinking they are following Christ even though it is obvious to everyone but them that they are not.  They are proud, they are vain, they are obnoxious, and they don’t even know it.  And to quote a guy we greatly respect around here, “I’m talking about you.”  Beloved, if you have the ears to hear this, please, in the name of Jesus Christ, repent of your sins and be saved.  We need to move on.

9-10:  Chosen by God to be His holy people

Over the last few years, I have had opportunity to really think about this and do some research on the subject.  I am nowhere close to an expert on the subject, but I think I’m starting down a blessed road as to what this means.  Let’s get into the text and see what the teaching of the Apostle Peter is.

9:  But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

  • As I was beginning my study of this verse, I was listening to a playlist I have constructed on Spotify.  Just as I read this verse, the sone “If We Are the Body” by Casting Crowns started playing.  I think it has incredible implications for this section of text and for our behaviours in the church and outside.  I’ll say more about that later, because there is a lot here.
  • The first thing to notice here is that Peter is speaking to BELIEVERS.  If you name the name of Christ as YOUR Lord and Saviour, THIS includes YOU!  And it is very blessed.  Peter tells us that we are a CHOSEN RACE.  You will notice that this is an Old Testament quote, and it is pulled from two places primarily.  The first of those is Deuteronomy 10:14-16, which reads, “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.”  [The bolded part I verse 15, and it is the part where the Lord makes Israel His chosen people, and then v16 explains the behavioural implications of this.]. The second of those is Isaiah 43:20, which says, “The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert,
  • To give drink to My chosen people.”  [Again, the bolded text is to show the portion of text being quoted.]. Who is this chosen race?  It is nothing less than what Paul calls “the Israel of God” in Gal. 6:16.  It is all those who believe through all of time from all parts of the globe.  It is the Church, the very body of Christ on Earth.
  • Peter also says that we are a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD!  Vine has an interesting observation on this text specifically:  “Hierateuma (ἱεράτευμα, 2406) denotes “a priesthood,” “a body of priests,” consisting of all believers, the whole church (not a special order from among them), called “a holy priesthood,” 1 Pet. 2:5; “a royal priesthood,” v. 9; the former term is associated with offering spiritual sacrifices, the latter with the royal dignity of showing forth the Lord’s excellencies (RV). In the Septuagint, Exod. 19:6; 23:22.”  I’ll let you look up the OT passages yourselves.  It is the duty of the priest, Vine points out, to offer SPIRITUAL sacrifices to God.  We saw this in verse 5 earlier.  Paul says this about it in Romans 12:1-2–“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Both Paul and Peter are very clearly referring to the behaviour of the priests here, Beloved.  We’re coming to what that means in a moment.
  • A HOLY NATION!  This is a quote from Exodus 19:6, which says, “‘…and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”  Priests of God apparently have WORDS to say as well!
  • A PEOPLE for God’s OWN POSESSION!  This is Deuteronomy 7:6, which reads, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”  Now these two quotations are spoken to God’s Old Testament people, Israel, but Peter is now applying them to the Church in the New Testament via the Holy Spirit, so historical context is not violated here.  Beloved!  God CHOSE us!  HIMSELF!  And He has not shared with us WHY.  We do not NEED to understand why, because it is true.  I also think this is one of those things in Scripture that cannot be resolved at a human level, and that to me is proof of the concept as a believer, just like the trinity.  WHY He chose us is irrelevant.  It is simply true that He did, and now we should WANT to respond to Him in love.  If we don’t something is wrong between us and Him, and we need to resolve that by repentance and faith in Christ. 
  • Then peter gives us the purpose for God’s choosing of us:  so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Beloved, God has saved us if we are really His followers.  This should make you want to ACT like it!  It should burden you for the lost!  You should want to share Christ with people, even if you “aren’t allowed” to do so.  And this is where that Casting Crowns song hit me.  And one thing I have learned in 35+ years of being a Christian is that there are no coincidences.  This took my thoughts in an altogether unexpected direction and it is all accurate, and probably potentially embarrassing to all of us who name the name of Christ.
  • Normally, I would play the song for you, but because Twitch has issues with us sharing copyrighted music under fair-use rules, I’ll just give the relevant lyrics.

It’s crowded in worship today…

As she slips in trying to fade into the faces

The girls’ teasing laughter

Is carrying father than they know…farther than they know –

But if we are the Body, why aren’t His arms reaching?

Why aren’t His hands healing?  Why aren’t His words teaching?

But if we are the Body, why aren’t His feet going? 

Why is His love not showing them there is a way?  There is a way.

A traveller is far away from home

He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row

The weight of their judgemental glances

Tell him that his chances are better out on the road –

But if we are the Body, why aren’t His arms reaching?

Why aren’t His hands healing?  Why aren’t His words teaching?

And if we are the Body, why aren’t His feet going? 

Why is His love not showing them there is a way? 

Jesus paid much too high a price

For us to pick and choose who should come

And we are the Body of Christ

If we are the Body, why aren’t His arms reaching?

Why aren’t His hands healing?  Why aren’t His words teaching?

And if we are the Body, why aren’t His feet going? 

Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

  • I have a theory about this, formulated over many years of walking with the Lord and personal experience, but I discovered some time ago that it isn’t just my theory, there is actual research that backs this up.  We all have our own personal pain that we are mostly DESPERATE to keep quiet, but that we want resolved in the worst way, and most of us don’t know the first thing to do about this.  God has CLEARLY called us to a conduct that is beyond the flesh we all walk around in, and it requires regeneration from Him to walk in this fashion.  Let’s start there.
  • It is possible to walk around and claim to be a Christian and not be one.  It is even possible to not realize that you are a false convert.  The reason you have no power in your walk with Christ and you cannot stop sinning no matter how hard you try, that is you kick yourself the morning after for the things you did the night before.  AND IT DOESN’T EVEN BOTHER YOU.  How could that possibly be?  It is because regardless of what some well-meaning modern evangelist said to you, or in contradiction to that card you signed at that church that one time, or beyond your self-aggrandizing and proud reasonings that might even be ORTHODOX, YOU ARE NOT CHRIST’S.  Even as I say those words, were I a betting man, I would wager a lot of money that I don’t even have that my words are making you angry.  Your self-righteousness is rising, and you want to attack me verbally, or maybe even physically.  You want to censor me or shut me up, and if you can’t do that, you want to shut me off.  Let me ask you a question:  Why do you think that is?  And I will answer that question.  It is because YOU HAVE NOT EVER BEEN REGENERATED and been born again, which is an act of GOD, and not dependent on your “choice,” whatever that means.  The only way for you to proceed is if you will HUMBLE YOURSELF and admit to God that you are not able to save yourself, not by your works, not by your choice, but only by obeying His command to change your mind about yourself and admit that you are lost without Him.  You have some work to do, and I will leave you to it.  Don’t wait, you might live to regret that.
  • Next, it is possible to belong to Him and be caught in the oppression of the enemy because you don’t know any better.  You don’t understand that there is a code of behaviour that you need to follow.  I personally believe that this is because you are not LISTENING.  The Scriptures are very clear, IN THIS VERY CHAPTER, that we need to desire the pure milk of the word so that we can grow buy that nourishment.  Let me ask you a direct question.  When is the last time you blew the dust off of your bible and read a passage, and thought about what it said?  Did you know that is the very basis of your devotion to Christ, along with attending a bible-believing church, worshiping God with them, and praying with them?  Acts 2:42 says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  See?  I’m not making this up!  Yet you get out of bed a few minutes before you have be wherever it is you have determined you want to be (another problem, He should be determining that), jump in the shower, eat in the car on your way there, and then you just do what it is you want to do.  There is no thought of the discipline that it takes to actually have personal devotions, or fellowship with believers, or worship God, or pray to Him for your needs and to intercede on behalf of people who need it, and there is no shortage of those.  Here’s some food for thought for you.  Did you know that the words “disciple” and “discipline” share the same root in English?  They do in Greek as well.  We don’t discipline ourselves because it is painful at some level, and because of our own private pain, we avoid it like the plague, all the while we are NOT doing what Peter tells us to do in THIS VERY VERSE, to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  These four actions I have mentioned and that are recorded for us in Acts 2:42 are the anchors of your faith for all the stormy weather that Peter is saying that you as a believer WILL encounter.  So I will leave you with a question regarding this:  Will you deploy those anchors for your faith, or will you be tossed around by the storms of life, much like the ship caught in a “Euroclydon” storm Paul was on in Acts 26?  By the way, their response was correct!  They deployed four anchors and wished for daylight!  So should we.
  • However, before we can start acting like this, we need to process all the bad stuff that’s happened to US first.  And Friend, it is my job as an undershepherd of the sheep to help you with that if you want it.  But I know what will happen.  I will make that offer and no one will respond, or if then do, it will only be on a superficial level.  I know this is a fact, because before I processed all my own pain, I was just like this.  However, on the off chance you’re ready, I make this offer.  Let’s talk.  Email or text messaging is a lousy way to do this, because it makes you put in a format that can be forward to the entire planet with the push of a button.  That’s bad for confidentiality.  Call me and we can speak about it.  If you’re near the Ottawa, Canada area, we can have a coffee or something.  You would be surprised at the anonymity that is granted to people sitting in a restaurant.  If you’re ready to start this painful but necessary exercise, then let’s connect.  I guess we’ll see what happens.  We’ll move on from this verse.

10:  for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

  • You see?  WE as believers that are desiring to follow Him were once not the people of God.  However, HE has MADE us to be a part of His people.  We sometimes don’t take that history seriously enough.  We read it like a story book, and it doesn’t viscerally grab us like it should.  God chose us as His people, and we did nothing to earn it or deserve it, and He hasn’t particularly explained WHY, because it probably has nothing to do with US!  We like to be the center of the story, but in reality, HE is not only the central figure of the story, he is the story itself!  And as the song says, “The half has never yet been told!”  He has taken us who were NOT a people, from every tribe, and language, and nationality, and has made us to be ONE PEOPLE, united in ONE BODY, of which Christ Himself is the HEAD!  That in itself is miraculous, never mind the why.
  • When we were NOT His people, we had NOT received mercy from Him.  But He chose us to receive that mercy.  With that in view, who cares what the reason is?  Because He paid the highest price possible for that.  He gave up His place with God the Father and He became fully human with the single purpose of DYING IN OUR PLACE.  And it wasn’t an easy and painless death, it was the most horrible death ever devised!  He was CRUCIFIED!  And as if that wasn’t enough, they thought up another treat for Jesus and actually NAILED Him to that cross, which was not normal historical practice before that time.  The thieves weren’t nailed, they were simply bound to the cross, we are told.  And by dying in this way, He carried our sins in His body there on the cross, taking them away for all those that would acknowledge that sacrifice on their behalf in faith.  Beloved, you can’t make this kind of stuff up!  I read a lot of strange and mind-blowing headlines, and even the Babylon Bee, a so-called Christian satire site can’t compete with the strange headlines that come up these days.  The Onion a non-Christian satire site can’t compete.  Stuff has happened in the last few days where I thought I was being punked at the headlines!  And yet, it’s all real.  How much more is the fact that God became a man just to die to take away our sins, and that He died the worst death that anyone could cook up to that point, and perhaps ever?  And because of THAT act, WE have received mercy as His chosen people.
  • I should say a word about that word “chosen.”  It is the Greek word eklektos, the same word the King James translates as “elect.”  It means that God chose us with His own free and sovereign will, for reasons that He has no need to or reason to, or responsibility to explain to us, if those reasons relate to us at all.  And we have no way of knowing that either–and yet it happened, it is true, it has benefitted ALL those that He has caused to be born from above, whom He has made alive to be with Him forevermore.  What are a few trials compared to that reality?

Now if you’re thinking that didn’t go in the direction you thought it would, into a discussion of sovereign election, you can join the club.  However, I know that what I said was more important for you to hear than a dry treatment of theology, even correct theology, because right doctrine is not enough.  We can actually see that in Christ’s letter to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2.  They had the right doctrine, and they even had the right practice!  And Jesus Himself charged them with having left (not “lost”) their first love, which should always be Christ because of vv.9-10!  Beloved, Orthodoxy is not enough!  Orthopraxy is not enough!  Yes, it is good, yes, we should have it, but if we do not have a deep and abiding love for Him that is reflected in our genuine love for the people of God and their resulting care, you have NOTHING!!!  Don’t be like that.  If you need to, repent.  Again.  Or maybe still.  I’ll let you figure that out.  I’ve already made my repentance on this topic, because I got to study this.


 Look, if God has really given us that pure milk of His word to grow in faith toward Christ, and if He is really building us up together as living stones on the great and glorious chief cornerstone, Christ Himself, and He has really chosen us to be that holy priesthood and royal holy nation to glorify His name with the gospel, then we need to do this about it, and I’ve been hinting at it all along.  Paul says in Ephesians 4:1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called!”  This is Peter’s version of the same thing, so let’s see what prescriptive behaviour Peter is giving us.

11:  Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

  • If I can let you all in on a little secret, this is why I am calling the members of His body “Beloved.”  Because He does, and Peter did especially.  We are those who are in fact loved (agapeo) by Jesus Christ Himself, because He is our redeemer, just like Boaz redeemed Ruth (and Naiomi’s entire estate) in the Old Testament of Ruth.  He has saved us, and we are His.
  • He urges us, Peter does.  Any guesses as to the Greek word here?  It’s a familiar one!  Parakaleo.  It is used here in the sense of “intreat,” but it carries with it a sense of urgency in the exhortation.  How is Peter urging us?  As aliens and strangers.  Alien is the Greek paroikos, to live near, or to sojourn, live in a place that isn’t one’s permanent place of citizenship.  The word strangers is the Greek parepidemos, which carries the meaning of those that are living away from one’s own people.  KJV translates this phrase as “strangers and pilgrims,” and it can easily be translated as “strangers in a strange land.”  Peter is telling us while saying something else entirely that our citizenship is in heaven, just as Paul says in Phil. 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  How does that song go?  This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through – My treasures are laid somewhere beyond the blue!  It ends with the line, “And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”  Nor should we, as Peter will tell us.
  • In fact he tells us that we are to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul.  That word “abstain” is the Greek apechō, which means to keep or hold oneself from a given activity or behaviour.  So take those fleshly desires and DON’T DO THEM.  If you’re truly regenerate, you’ll be able to do so and get better over time.  No, it isn’t easy, speaking from personal experience.  Fleshly desires is “sarkikōn epithumeōn,” which literally means lusts of the flesh, or if you like, fleshly cravings.  These things are typically based for the believer in their old life before regeneration, and can be difficult to deal with apart from the new nature Christ gave us when we were saved by His Spirit.
  • These cravings of the old nature, Peter tells us here, cause us to serve as a soldier against our own souls.  Paul talked about this dichotomy in his own life in Romans 7 if you want a reference.
  • What Peter is telling us here is that we need to walk in the Spirit and newness of life, and not in our old nature that is bound in the flesh.  This is next to impossible at first, but it does get better with practice.  I suspect that’s what we mean when we say we are “practicing Christians.” 

12:  Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

  • In the final verse of this paragraph, Peter tells us that we are to be a good witness, or good testimony if you like, to unbelievers.  Here is where I have to remind you of the context in which Peter was writing to the churches.  The unbelieving pagan Romans were knowingly or unknowingly speaking slander against believers, and calling them evildoers, all because Nero wanted to remake the city of Rome according to his own vision, and then found out that incredible sorrow and loss generate real anger and destructive behaviour in those who have to respond to that kind of loss.  As a result, he SLANDERED Christians, making them a scapegoat for his own actions, blaming the burning of Rome on them. 
  • Peter here is not concerned with the slander.  He isn’t protesting the innocence of the Christians, because no one would listen.  That’s the way it is with tyrants, sadly.  He isn’t looking for a lawyer to sue the government.  Instead, he is concerned that believers behave in accordance with good, peaceful, Christian behaviour.  He is concerned that Christ’s followers are known by walking with Christ in their behaviours in a manner worthy of Him because of what He has done for all of them.  It has been this way with the martyrs from the beginning of Christianity, friends.  Every one of them looked to God and glorified Him with their lives–or their deaths, as God chose–so that under the microscope of the watching public, it would be plain to all who would have the eyes to see and the ears to hear that God was receiving His own to Himself as they were executed, or He was preserving them as He saw fit.

Now that understanding is what comes from the text and historical context, and it is anything but intuitive to the flesh and those who are dominated by it.  So-called pastors that shout intruders off of church property with calls of “Fascist” and “Nazi” come quickly to my mind from recent news in Canada.  Contrast that with principled men that will not stop being the shepherds that God called them to be standing up for their flocks and refusing to do what humans dictate in favor of what God commands us.  Both sets of individuals went to jail.  I guess the question is what really energizes you between these two (three) examples.  Is it the one that screamed justifiable epithets at the police and government health worker who were overreaching their God-given authority, or is it the men (two) that could not in good conscience allow themselves to go free because Caesar wanted to be god?  I believe Peter would have fallen into the latter category, as did Paul and the other Apostles.

I don’t know that there is an easy answer there, but I do think there is a difference between the way the flesh handles things and the way the Spirit handles things.  And I fully believe that if the situation calls for it, then a pastor can make a stand against overreaching authoritarians.  But we must always, always, always WALK IN A WORTHY MANNER as we do so.  Because it is only that that will have lasting, eternal influence, as a pastor, or as a deacon, or as a rank-and-file believer in the pews.  Because the behaviour of God’s Elect is on public display.  As His Elect, that means it is incumbent on us to serve Him with courage. 

And that’s what I saw in the text.

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