Tag Archives: priesthood

Why all Christians need to see that they are living stones and priests

4 Jul

Photo by Jen Millet on Unsplash

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!

Would you go to a church named “The Church of the Holy Royal Priesthood of the Living Stones”?

3 Jul

Photo by Stefan Kunze on Unsplash

I would like to propose a new church name: Church of The Holy Royal Priesthood of the Living Stones.

Do you like it?  Would you go to that church?

I don’t know if I would.  I’d be thinking, “Huh? Something is off there.”  I would really be suspicious of going to a church with that name.

And yet in our next section of 1st Peter, 2:4-10, Peter uses those exact terms to describe the Christians he is writing to.  So actually, if a church named itself the Church of the Holy Royal Priesthood of the Living Stones, we would have to say that church has a completely biblical name.  A weird name, for sure, but straight off the page of the Bible.

Why would Peter use those words to describe the church?

Read the passage again, and what you’ll find is that there are actually more terms Peter uses.  There were so many I couldn’t figure a good way to include them into a church name.

He starts off calling them Living stones, a Spiritual house, and a Holy priesthood.  Then it gets confusing because the next one he says is “Royal priesthood”.

Didn’t he just say “Holy Priesthood”?  He did.  Now he goes on and says “Holy nation.”  Is he changing his mind?

Holy priesthood, royal priesthood, holy nation. Peter is all over the place.  Can we sort this out?

Imagine being these new Christians hearing this read to you for the first time; would this passage be helpful to you?  In my mind, I read and think, “Peter, what are you talking about?  What is a holy, royal priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices?”

Is Peter trying to give them a job description?  Is he saying there “Here is what I want you to do?”

The simple answer is Yes.  He is giving them a job description.  That means by extension, he is giving us a job description.  We can learn in these verses what we, a church, are to do.

But before he gets to job description, he is giving them an identity, which is why he mentions all these labels.  And in particular Peter needs them to see the central place that Jesus must have in their identity as his church.

In verse 4 Peter says “you come to him.”  To who?  To Jesus.  Jesus, Peter says, is the living stone.  Then he goes on to describe Jesus three ways: Rejected by men, Chosen by God, Precious to him.  Those phrases describe Jesus’ identity.  A living stone who was rejected by men, chosen by God, precious to him.

It gives me the image of a game of backyard soccer.  The neighborhood kids come together, and they start to pick teams.  There is often one guy or girl that no one wants.  All the kids are getting picked, running over to their team captains, so thankful that they got picked.  You know how it feels to be picked for a team, right?  Doesn’t matter if you are kids or adults.  If you get picked, it is so life-affirming.  Sadly we also know what it is liked to be rejected.  To be the kid who is waiting there, hearing other kids’ names called, desperately hoping their name gets called, and one by one, the options narrow down and their name is still not called.  Then it comes down to the final two.  At the final two, you do not want to be picked last.  Your heart starts pounding, your face flushes red with embarrassment and fear.  Then you hear it. The other person’s name.  You are last.  Rejected.  No one wants you, and it hurts.  The team captain with the final choice looks at you and says “I guess you’re on my team.”  Wow, that stings, right?

Peter says that person picked last was Jesus. Jesus was rejected by men when he was crucified.  But surprise!, there is an unexpected turn of events.

Jesus was chosen by God not to die, but to rise again!  The dead stone lives.  Jesus is precious to God.  This odd living stone, whatever that means, though he is rejected by men, is actually quite amazing from a totally different viewpoint, from God’s viewpoint.

Peter is saying this because these Christians he is writing to are experiencing the same thing in their world.  They, too, were being rejected by men.  They are being persecuted.  They are not wanted in their communities.  These Christians are a tiny minority, and they seem really odd to the vast majority of the people around them.  When these Christians received and accepted the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, the word of God that was preached to them, and they started following the way of Jesus, they started becoming different.

So Peter reminds them that they, like Jesus, are actually chosen by God, and what’s more, they are precious to God!  Peter is saying that they also need to see themselves as living stones, just as Jesus was.  He is their foundation.

They are living stones built on the foundation of Jesus.  They are being built into a spiritual house to be a royal priesthood.  Time out?  What?  Peter is changing images so fast here.  Living stones?  We barely have a clue what that is about, and now he is calling the Christians a royal priesthood?  Why is he changing images so fast?

We will look further into those two images, but first let’s keep going through verses 6 and following. There we see that Peter goes on to describe the foundation of Jesus.

He quotes some Old Testament passages in verse 6-8 showing that Jesus is the foundation.  More specifically, Jesus is the precious cornerstone of this spiritual house.  But there is a problem.  Not everyone thinks Jesus is precious.  We who believe think he is precious, of course, but for some other people, Jesus is a stumbling stone.

You ever walk on rocky path and stumble because there was a stone you didn’t account for?  At our house, it is dog toys.  It seems like every day, someone in our family, me included, walks across the living room carpet, not looking down, and steps on a dog toy, stumbles, looks hilarious doing it, and says “Bentley!” our dog’s name.

Jesus, Peter says, is a stumbling stone for people who do not believe.  It’s not just that they don’t believe in Jesus.  They find him distasteful or repulsive.  All that Jesus stands for, they find unnecessary or unhelpful, maybe even wrong.

So when we look at Jesus as precious, we stand out at odd.  When we see Jesus as precious, we want to follow his way.  We want to be like him.  That is what Peter is saying.  We are living stones, built on the foundation of the original living stone, Jesus.

How is Jesus a living stone?  He was dead like a stone and came back to life!  Because Peter calls Christians living stones, how are we living stones?  Check back in tomorrow when we’ll take a look at why Peter uses this unique image of living stones.