Studies in Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter
34. 1 Peter 2:2-10 – Special Roles for Special People
Peter has just reminded his readers that humans have only a fleeting glory, but “the word of the Lord stands forever” (1 Peter 1:25). Since only spiritual values last forever, Peter advises us to put away old ways and seek something new:
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (2:1-3). We should abandon our old approach to life, and seek from God the strength to live a different way.
Peter said that we have been born again (1:23), and he now builds on that metaphor by saying we should desire spiritual nourishment as eagerly as babies desire milk. Now that we have begun our experience with God, we should want to become more mature.
A special people
Where do we get our spiritual nourishment? We get it by going to Christ: “As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him…” (verse 4). Peter got this metaphor from Jesus himself, and in verse 7 he quotes Isaiah 8:14, as Jesus did (Matthew 21:42).
Peter adds to the metaphor. Since Jesus is the living Stone, believers are “like living stones…being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). But he quickly switches to another metaphor, saying that the believers are becoming “a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (verse 5). This supports the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” Every Christian has access to God through Christ, our mediator.
Peter now gives biblical support for the concept of Christ as a living stone. In verse 6 he quotes Isaiah 28:16: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Jesus is the cornerstone, and those who trust in him will never be condemned (Romans 8:1).
To believers, “this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’” (1 Peter 2:7, quoting Psalm 118:22). Although God chose Jesus as the cornerstone, most people rejected him.
Peter also quotes Isaiah 8:14: “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” Christ continues to be a cause of offense, a Savior who is rejected — and it should be no surprise that some people reject and persecute his followers.
The people who reject Christ “stumble because they disobey the message — which is also what they were destined for” (1 Peter 2:8). Just as the readers were chosen for obedience (1:2), God also planned for some to disobey. But their resistance is not necessarily permanent — Peter holds out hope in 2:12 that some will be converted. Words such as “destined” do not always indicate eternal results.
In contrast, believers “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (verse 9). Peter gives to the church titles that God once gave Israel (Exodus 19:6) — the highest titles existing in that society. We are chosen to praise God. This refers to worship, but in context, it most likely refers also to evangelism. The God who rescues us from darkness offers the same rescue to others.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10, quoting Hosea 2:23). Just as we received mercy, others can as well.
Things to think about
- What steps am I taking to pursue spiritual growth? (verse 1)
- In what ways do I declare God’s praises? (verse 9)