We’ve been seeing lots of images of lava in the news in the last month or so, as volcanic activity has rocked Hawaii and Guatemala. Red hot glowing lava seems alive, as it crawls along the ground. But it is not alive. Lava is molten stone. There is no stone that is alive. Maybe something like coral is close.
Yesterday we looked at 1 Peter 2:4-10 where he says that Jesus a living stone. There Peter also calls Christians living stones. How are we living stones?
A living stone is an anomaly. Stones are dead. They have no life in them. But living stones? How can a stone be alive?
What Peter describes here is something that is physically impossible. A stone that is alive. For a stone to be alive, a miracle has to take place. The stone’s physical properties have to change. The rules of biology and geology must be replaced. That is exactly what has happened for Christians. We once were dead in our sins, but we have been made alive in Christ Jesus.
That is good biblical talk right there, but what does it mean? “Dead in sin, alive in Christ.” It means that all humans have a sin nature, and we will choose, over the course of our lives, to behave in such a way that goes against God’s will for us. That is sin. Choosing to do what God does not want us to do. From the littlest white lie to grand acts of violence and everything in between. Because of that, the biblical writers figuratively call us dead in sin. What they mean is that when we die, we will be separated from God forever. That’s really dead.
But thanks be to God, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection for us, God is at work rectifying the sin problem. He has made it possible for us to place our faith in Christ, to trust in and obey Jesus, and thus be reborn. This is what baptism symbolizes! The idea of new birth is the idea of new life that Peter has mentioned three times so far in his letter. Here he hints at it again. This time he is not talking about being born again as babies, but he is talking about the concept of something that was dead that is given new life. A stone that is alive.
In Christ, we are living stones, just as Jesus was the original living stone. As he died and rose again to new life, so we too, when we trust in and obey him, we can become living stones, which means that when we die in this life, we will not be separated from God, but we will be with him forever.
The image of living stones, then, is an image of hope!
Now Peter quickly changes images. Next he says that we, the church, are a holy and royal priesthood, a holy nation, and we have a job to do!
Priesthood is not a word that is common to many Protestants. In Catholic circles, it is common. The priesthood is how Catholics and some other denominations describe their pastors. Would the idea of priesthood have been common to those first Christians Peter was writing to? Some of them likely came from a Jewish background, and it was a big part of their history, there were priests of the nation of Israel. Also, some of these Christians were Greek or Roman, and there again, pagan religion in Greco-Roman society had priests.
In each of their societies/culture there was a priestly class. But in those cultures, like ours, only the rare few were priests. Most people are not priests or pastors.
Peter teaches something shocking. He says they are all members of the holy, royal priesthood.
Not just the pastors. Not just the missionaries. Think about that: Every single one of us that is a living stone is now in the priesthood! You transformed living stones are all priests! We so rarely talk about that. We should not elevate a priestly class within the church. I’m the pastor. It doesn’t mean that I am in a different special class in the church or in the Kingdom of God. The young, the old. The males, the females. We are all on equal footing in God’s eyes.
So how did Peter envision that these Christians live out their role as living stones in a royal and holy priesthood? We’ll look at that tomorrow!