1 Peter 2 begins with a retelling of who we are in Christ (rather than in Adam); and continues by telling us what a difference that will make in our relation to the world around us. The chapter ends by reminding us that “we have been called for this very purpose,” that is for living out the gospel in this world while we await Christ’s return. Living that out usually leads to suffering, but we suffer knowing that He keeps us, guards us (c.f. Jude 1; 1 Peter 1:5).
In the course of this chapter you will see so many facets of God’s purposes for His people: to grow together, to honor Him, to declare His excellencies to the world, to let our good deeds be seen, to interact with society rather than hide, to suffer (because the world does not approve of our beliefs), to trust our Shepherd.
It is a delight to read this chapter alongside Ephesians 2, noticing how the Spirit led both Paul and Peter to use the same imagery when describing the Church. God’s people, His one people, are being built in this manner. Peace with God and with one another through Christ, by His cross, through His Spirit. This is God’s dwelling with man now; God is in His Church.
The chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ
He is a living stone, chosen by God for this purpose–no other will be chosen or used for this purpose. The whole building is being built on Him and none other. As the cornerstone He keeps us secure, sound, and able to be built up. And the building will be solid. The work Christ is doing to build His Church is not individualistic. Not once does Peter hint at any believer being their own edifice.
We also, as living stones, are being built in this edifice (remember, this is a metaphor) as a “spiritual house.” Spiritual house, because we are of the Spirit, His Spirit dwelling in us. For a holy priesthood. How wonderful to meditate on a passage reminding us that because of His work, not ours, we are holy. And we are priests. What was the purpose of a priest, before our Great High Priest came? (cf Hebrews 5-8) And now His priests are not one tribe among many, but all of His people. And we do not offer the same sorts of OT sacrifices, the kind that showed us our need of redemption and atonement, the kind that pointed towards the One to come.
Rather, we offer what Peter calls “spiritual sacrifices.” Offering up praise and thanksgiving; declaring His excellencies; presenting ourselves to God as those alive from the dead (Romans 6) who are no longer enslaved to sin; worshipping Him with our whole self (Romans 12; Deuteronomy 6:1-7). The fruit of our lips is pure, matching our inner man–we praise and sing and exult in spirit and truth, to His glory. We speak the gospel, and shine His light, in the dark world in which we have our temporary home.
He who believes
Believing. God sent His Son, the Word made flesh; and He has spoken to us in His Son. Jesus said that “he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life…” Peter tells us then that the OT promises fulfilled in Christ are for us who believe; and we will not be disappointed–He has been and will continue to be faithful.
Peter here is quoting from Isaiah 8:14, 28:16, and Psalm 118:22. Honor to those who believe, not to those who reject. Those who believe receive the honor, those who reject receive the appointed doom for those who reject. Those who believe will not be ashamed, disappointed, or proven wrong. Our hope is sure.
For more musing upon 1 Peter 2:9, see:
Exodus 19:6; Deut 7:6, 10:15; Psalm 36:9
Is 42:16, 43:20-21, 61:6, 66:21;
Hosea 1-2; Mal 3:17;
Rev 1:6, 5:10;
How then shall we live?
Most epistles address some aspect of this after reminding the Church of foundational theological doctrines. Peter is no different; so after the description of the Church he talks about their deeds. “As aliens and strangers…” This is who the Church is in this world.
We forget, and need to be reminded from time to time that we are aliens and strangers here; He has gone to prepare a place for us. Jesus said His Kingdom is not of this world, and that has not changed.
So consider yourself not at home; consider yourself a sojourner.
Then comes the word timely in every generation; we must abstain from those things that “wage war against the soul.” Our faith is victorious, but many take that as permission to sin with the intent to repent. And many try to make peace with the elements of the world that God hates, that God says are destroying His people. We do not repurpose evil. No beloved, we abstain, and this is not legalism.
Grace in our hearts will lead us to share His affections, and share His perspective. He will faithfully lead us further into a life of obedience, which calls for abstaining appropriately.
“Keep your behaviour excellent?!” Peter is not urging his readers towards self effort, but Spirit-willed, Spirit-bourne behaviour; works that flow out of a heart filled with hesed. We set aside our former lusts (1:14) and like the Holy One we run towards God rather than away; like Jesus we seek to please and honor the Father.
The Holy Spirit Himself leads us in this, and as we follow we will put to death the deeds of the flesh. He is, and in our sojourning will ever be, conforming us to the image of the Son. (Romans 8) And as the world around notices, they may slander us–but at the judgment seat of Christ they will admit that our deeds honored God.
Especially now, in a season of so many walking away from the Church (1 John 2:19), we cannot ignore the sections of His revealed will, His Word, that they declare unnecessary. God is making us more like Christ, which means we will love His ways and delight to do His will. We will learn obedience, and enjoy His delight as we .
This behaviour flows from our identity, from what God says about us: you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…[Who] has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 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. (vs 9-10)
When you slow down and read and re-read and muse upon this chapter, you begin to see how much we are told that who God has made us to be will come out in our actions and relationship. This is foundational, as the churches are about to be told that they will be facing more persecution, more suffering, in the days to come. Already distressed by various trials (1:6), they are in for more.
When working at the university, my favorite aspect of the ‘job’ was the small group Bible studies, and the one-on-one mentoring; nothing compares to fellowship. Every year I worked with different students, and every year we focused on ‘one another’ passages. Fast forward a few years, and during the summers while not doing our regular ladies Bible Study, we would focus on a few ‘one another’ passages (until 2020, when I chose a book to go through together; we’ve done books ever since). It is good for believers to be reminded often of the design for fellowship, our need for true Biblical fellowship, and the value we add to the Body as we partake.
Peter knows the value of walking together, side by side, face to face. These Christians would share their hurts–whether persecution came from family or the government, they would see in their Christian brothers and sisters an empathy that would strengthen them. In seeing one another, sharing our lives, we too experience healing, renewed strength and courage, and hear the truth that our pain would otherwise twist.
We need the face to face, the hugs, the help and support; but also the words, and the holistic compassion of a sibling in Christ–not a person who has been through an identical situation, but a person who knows and loves the One True God, and will fellowship with us under His Word. No matter our past, we have experienced His compassion–it is that compassion we share with one another, and that the world cannot replicate.
Our Shepherd and Example
Having returned to the Shepherd of our souls, we follow Him.
What had Peter learned of his Shepherd? What had Peter learned about shepherding the flock? Peter was foolish enough (as we all are) to declare that he would never abandon Jesus and would suffer with Him. Then he denied Jesus three times. After rising from the dead, Jesus led him through an exercise of examining his faith, and being reassured of Jesus’ love and of his own love for Jesus. He was told to tend Jesus’ lambs, and feed Jesus’ sheep. Perhaps at this time Peter remembered the time that Jesus declared that He is the Good Shepherd?
This title was precious to Peter, and ought to be to us, who had strayed but are now His.
We have our own ways of straying, but, like it or not, this is true of us: For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. Continually? Ugh, yes; we were completely in need of His work, not just “kind of” in need.
How did Jesus face suffering? What were His actions, what were His words? Peter is telling us Jesus is our example, though Peter is not saying Jesus was merely an example. We are healed by His wounds, not merely taught by His wounding.
Our Shepherd will lead us through the persecutions or trials to come. As we abide in Him, and as the Spirit works in us conforming us more to His image, we will face suffering and trials and difficulties in His strength.
photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash