1 Peter 2:1-12
Priesthood of Believers

Read 1 Peter 2:1-12

In the first chapter, Peter had reminded his readers that their salvation had begun in the mind and purpose of God even before the world began. Salvation was assured by the resurrection of Christ and is reserved for us in heaven as an inheritance. It will be complete when Christ is revealed. Until then our status is that of aliens and strangers in this world. Peter goes on to tell us to have these three qualities: personal holiness, the fear of God, and love for each other.

This passage touches on our spiritual growth and privileges, particularly our priesthood as believers. The concept that all believers are priests is one that relatively few of God’s people understand. The priesthood is the privilege of every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a believer you and I are already a priest.

VERSES 1-3. Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2: As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

In verse 1, "wherefore" refers us back to 1 Peter 1:22.

In 1 Peter 2:1 there are five items which must be put away. They are evils that negate love for each other and destroy the fellowship of God’s people. All of them aim at harming others, while love aims at helping others.

1. Malice is first. It's the attitude of “ill will” toward others wishing that bad things will happen to them.
2. Deceit is next. Deliberate dishonesty is the idea here.
3. Hypocrisy follows, which is the attempt to cover inward evil by an outward show of righteousness. It's an attempt to conceal our motives behind a pretense of holiness.
4. The fourth is envy. We're envious when we resent the successes of others. It is the opposite of being thankful when good comes to someone else. It is common among Christians in churches and Christian organizations, as well as elsewhere.
5. Finally, there is evil speaking of every kind. When we intend to hurt the reputation of another by speaking evil about him or her. It's running down the character of another person.

All five of these are sins of attitude and speech.

In the first verse Peter emphasized the laying aside of sins toward others, because unloving attitudes prevent us from wanting to do the Word of God. Our desire should be to seek the sincere spiritual milk in order to grow.

I believe the sincere milk of the Word means the total Word of God. We don't grow spiritually by taking a comforting verse here and there. We need to read and study the total Word to grow.

Peter wasn't implying that his readers were baby Christians. He just wanted to illustrate the intensity with which they should long for the Word. The same longing was expressed by the psalmist, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, pants my soul for You, , 0 God” (Psalm 42:1).

"Sincere milk” is a reference to the living Word of God, our Bibles. In other passages “milk” refers to the simple things of the Bible compared to the “strong meat” of deeper truth. ( "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." 1 Corinthians 3:2; and Hebrews 5:12-13: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13: For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.")
. But here it refers to the Word of God as spiritual “growth food” for all us as children of God to attain spiritual maturity.

Peter describes it as spiritual food. This means that in contrast to literal milk, it's food for the soul. Our lives are to be marked by continuous growth in the knowledge and likeness of God, nourished by God's Word.

Verse 3 reflects Psalm 34:8, “0 taste and see that the Lord is good.” When we drink the “milk” of His Word we taste what He is like. We "tasted" His goodness in providing our salvation. Now as we “grow up in our salvation,” we gain a "thirst" for more of His goodness.

VERSES 4-8. "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6: Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7: Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8: And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

The word “stone” is not from Peter’s name which means “rock.” This means a stone cut and finished at the quarry to be part of a building. Jesus called Himself "the Stone," from a prophecy in Psalm 118:22 "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." He's the "Living Stone," in contrast to the “dead” stones in the temple. He said, "Behold I am alive forevermore” (Revelations 1:18).

Verse 4 states He was "disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God." The "living Stone" was “rejected” by men. The reaction of people in the Lord’s day was to reject Him. Peter is inferring that those who “come to Him,” the "rejected Stone," will experience opposition just as He did. But in contrast to man’s rejection of the "living Stone" and of those who follow Him, God has chosen the "living Stone," and it's precious to Him.

Now we go from Christ the "living Stone" to believers who are living stones being built into a spiritual house. The “house” is made up of all true believers and is called the church. Believers are “living” stones because Christ has given us His life. We are “being built up to a spiritual house.”

The picture here is from the temple that was the dwelling place of God on earth. The old temple was made with building stones, the new “people temple” is made of “living stones”--believers in Jesus Christ. They are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and the building they form is described as a “spiritual house.” All believers are “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians. 2:22). The number of stones in the temple increases as people are saved. The beauty of the temple grows as the “living” stones exercise their privileges.

Believers are also priests offering sacrifices, and with direct access to God. In the Old Testament there were only a few priests and one high priest. Their job was to represent the Israelites to God. Only the priests could present the offerings and sacrifices to God. Only priests could enter the holy sanctuary to offer incense and other duties. Only the high priest could enter the holiest place where the ark of the covenant stood and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement.

Since the death and resurrection of Christ, all that has changed. When the work of atonement was finished, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom. There is one great high Priest, Jesus the Son of God, and all believers have direct and equal access to the throne of grace as priests. There is no other priesthood for the church but the priesthood of all believers.

Our priesthood is described as “holy” because holiness reflects the character of God and by that the people of God. We are to offer sacrifices, but our sacrifices are spiritual.

1. This includes praises to God:
(Hebrews 13:15 "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.")
2. Sharing our possessions: (Hebrews 13:16 "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.")
3. Offering our bodies as a living sacrifice: (Romans 12:1-2 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.")

4. And giving money for advancing the Gospel: (Philippians 4:18 "But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.").

God accepts our sacrifices “through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5b). His sacrifice, offered once for all on the cross, is the basis that our spiritual sacrifices of praise, doing good and offering our bodies, is acceptable to God (Hebrews 10:12 " But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;")

In Isaiah. 28:16, Isaiah prophesied that God would “lay a stone in Zion, a chosen, precious cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6). In verse 4, Peter mentioned Christ the “living Stone-rejected by men.” Here in verse 6 he sees Christ the “Cornerstone”-placed there by God. The One that man rejected and crucified is the One God gave the highest place of honor as the cornerstone.

Christ as “Cornerstone” can be seen as the capstone that occupies the highest place and is over all. God has given Christ the highest place of honor. He is both “chosen” by God for this honor and “precious” to God-more than anything else in the universe or even the whole universe itself.

Verses 6-15 are from Isaiah’s prophecy, “And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame” (Isaiah. 28:16). If God has given His Son the highest place in the universe, then no one who trusts in Him will ever be disappointed.

Peter quotes two more Old Testament passages. "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone" (Psalm. 118:22). The wording here, "head of the corner," indicates that He is the Capstone, the uppermost one.

Isaiah 8:14 "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." The “Stone” they rejected caused them to stumble and fall: “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble over the stone because of "being disobedient to the word.” They deliberately disobey the Word of God. The unbelieving world, then and now, has willfully rejected the moral standards of the Word of God and have stumbled over the Son of God who came to pay the penalty for their sins. They did not want God’s way of salvation (John 5:40 "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.")

Verse 8: “They stumble.. .to which they also were appointed” teaches that the rejecters who consciously disobey God’s Word are destined to stumble. In the whole passage the “blame” is placed on their disobedience and not on God’s choice. God does not want any one to perish.

VERSES 9-10. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Peter points to those who accept Christ and acknowledge Him as the precious, chosen Cornerstone in verses 9 & 10. He says, “But you." We are called a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” These four privileges for believers are added to those we have already seen in verse 5.

The same privileges were offered to Israel when the Law was given at Mount Sinai if they would obey God. (Exodus 19:5-6 "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.") But the Israelites didn't obey and lost their privileges. Now God gives those privileges to all who “come to Christ, the Living Stone.

1. True believers are a "chosen generation" from before the creation of the world (Ephesians. 1:4 "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:") We are not chosen as a physical family like the Jews. We are a spiritual family, born of God and indwelt by the Spirit of God.

2. Believers are also a “royal priesthood." Our holy priesthood has been mentioned in verse 5, which refers to the offering of spiritual sacrifices of praise and worship to God. Now as royal priests we “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).The privilege of the “royal priest” is to witness to the world of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Believers are a “holy nation.” Israel had been set apart by God to be a holy nation, but Israel failed and has been set aside as God’s special nation until a future time. Meanwhile the true church is God’s “holy nation.”

4. The fourth description of believers is “His own special people.” This emphasizes God’s ownership. God had called Israel “My people.” (Deuteronomy 7:6 "For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."; Isaiah 43:21 "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.") Through disobedience they temporarily lost that distinction (Hosea 1:9 "Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God,") but it will be restored (Hosea 2:23 "And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people") and they shall say, "Thou art my God." (Zechariah 8:8 "And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.") Meanwhile the church is His special possession, His “people” for this age, because God’s purposes on earth are being carried out through her.

All four of these privileges are given to us that we may “proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9b;) This is God’s evangelistic purpose for the church. We are never to lose the wonder of the truth that we were formerly in spiritual darkness. He “called us” into His wonderful light, and “in the light” we declare God’s preeminence in all that He is and does.

In verse 10 there are two contrasts. “Once were not a people, but are now the people of God.” In our un-saved days we serve no useful purpose in God’s program. We were “no people:" but with our salvation we became God’s special people for His purposes. The second contrast is, ”Who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Before salvation we had no idea of God’s forgiving love---now we have.

God has made us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s possession, called into His wonderful light, a people having received God’s lovingkindness. God’s people are “special people.” These privileges compare to the privileges that Israel had as God’s people in Old Testament times.

Israel disobeyed God and fell under judgment and lost her privileges. In the future Millennial Reign, all these will be restored to the physical nation of Israel when the Messiah establishes His kingdom on earth. Meanwhile, between the first and second comings of Christ, the church enjoys these privileges in a spiritual way.

VERSES 11-12. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12: Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Peter is appealing to the Christians who he has been addressing as “holy priests” and “royal priests” to live like priests so that the world around them can observe. He calls us“Beloved” so we know his concern for our spiritual lives. “I beseech you!” He's pleading with us to live as such.

"As strangers in the world” We have no rights, no home on earth. Our citizenship is in heaven. (Ephesians 2:19 "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.") We are to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." In chapter 1:14, Peter told us not to let our lives be shaped by these “earthly desires.” Here he tells us to avoid these fleshly world desires completely.

The positive side comes in verse 12. Instead of giving in to worldly desires, we are to live such good lives that they convict the world of its own sin. Just check the political views of the news media on the fundamental Christians voters. The world builds a case against the believers and slanders them publicly. But with a closer inspection of the Christians’ lives, even the unsaved will glorify God. We take this to mean that as a result of the godliness they see in Christians they may yet get saved and glorify God.

In the next chapter Peter gives an example of this when he says that husbands may be converted when they see the godly behavior of their Christian wives. (1 Peter 3:1-2 "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2: While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.")

The “day of visitation” refers to “a day when God visits,” either to bring blessing or judgment. Here it seems to refer to the day when those unsaved people who are presently putting down the Christians would be saved by observing the good works of the Christian and responding by faith in Christ. If that is the case, they would glorify God in that day. Godly lives are still the most powerful testimony to the unbelievers today.