Remember the broader context of this epistle, which is the need to cultivate holiness under pressure. And as we begin to see, that pressure is not insignificant. And whether you will be able to do this as instructed will depend entirely on your relationship to the Christ Stone.
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 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 . . . ” (1 Peter 2:1–25).
Summary of the Text:
Given the fact of the new birth, it is necessary to live out the ramifications of that new birth. So set aside every form of malice, deceit, two-facedness, envy, and bad talk (v. 1). Desire the Word, and do it the same way newborns desire milk (v. 2). This is so that you might grow, and you are driven by instinct and experience both (v. 3). A newborn knows how to root for milk he has never tasted. But a one-year-old is also motivated by past experience—“now you have tasted . . .” “O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Ps. 34:8).
You have come to a living stone, one accepted by God and rejected by men (v. 4). Those who come to the living stone are living stones themselves, fashioned into a Temple where their sacrifices will be as acceptable to God as Jesus Himself is (v. 5). Scripture predicted this. God will lay His chief cornerstone in Zion, and the one who believes will not be confounded (v. 6). So believers consider Him precious, and those who treated Him as the rejected stone will see Him established, despite their rejection, as the principal cornerstone (v. 7). To them He is the stone of stumbling, a stumbling that was assigned to them (v. 8). In short, they rejected Him because He had rejected them first. This is the mystery of reprobation, which is taught as plainly in Scripture as election is. But never forget that the judge of the whole earth will do right (Gen. 18:25)? In contrast, you believers are His elect nation, formerly in the darkness but now in the light (v. 9). Once you were not a people, and now you are a people, under the mercy (v. 10).
That being the case, abstain from lust, which is at war with your soul (v. 11). Mark that it is your lust which is at war with your soul. Live honestly among the pagans, such that they will be ashamed when they lie about you (v. 12). Don’t be scofflaws; respect civil authority (v. 13-14). You will be slandered as anarchists, so make it plain through your orderly lives that this is a lie (v. 15). You are slaves of Christ, making you free with regard to them, so don’t abuse your liberty (v. 16). Honor all men; love your brothers; honor the king (v. 17). House slaves (oiketes) are to be subject to their masters, including the harsh ones (v. 18). It is praiseworthy if a man suffers when innocent (v. 19). But where is the glory when you patiently endure what you richly deserved anyway (v. 20)?
All of us as Christians are called to imitate His example (v. 21). He did no wrong, and did not lie (v. 22). When He was reviled, He did not return fire (v. 23). When He suffered, He committed His case to God (v. 23). He bore our sins in his own body on the tree in order that we might be made dead to sin, and live to righteousness (v. 24). By His stripes we were healed—we were like sheep wandering, but have now returned to the shepherd and bishop of our souls (v. 25).
An Internal War:
The theme we considered earlier, the fact that we are strangers and pilgrims here, is brought up again (v. 11). You are in a strange land, Peter urges. Don’t drink the water, he says. But then a peculiar aspect of this pilgrimage and exile comes out. You are strangers in a strange land, and yet this alien place does have an anchor point in you. You are a stranger here now, but this was not always so. You used to be a native of this place, and you were turned into a pilgrim. You are an alien now, but this is the result of the supernatural miracle called regeneration. You have a new Father, but you are still dwelling in the country of your old father. Not only so, but you were not turned into a pilgrim instantaneously or all at once.
This is why he says “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” This alien land still has a foothold in you, and you experience that foothold as lust or desire. Peter teaches us that the great spiritual war that is going on all around us has a counterpart within us. There is part of you that wants to chuck it all and go back to the old ways. Don’t listen. Don’t go there. Don’t try to argue with lust because the rationale of lust (“I want”) does not admit of argument.
Honor and Submission:
Now I want you to look ahead to the first word of the next chapter. Peter, speaking to the wives, says likewise. They are to be in subjection to their husbands likewise. Likewise to what? The answer is found in this chapter.
All believers are told to be subject to “every ordinance of man” (v. 13)—to kings and to governors. Domestic slaves are told to be subject to their masters, including the harsh ones (v. 18). And Christ Himself suffered great indignities at the hands of revilers (vv. 21-23). Wives, follow these examples (1 Pet. 3:1). But wait . . . we are not done. Look down at verse 7—husbands, likewise . . . (homoios).
Any Christian anywhere, who has people who ought to be subject to him (father, employer, husband, etc.), therefore has a glorious opportunity to model for all of them how easy it is to subject yourself. You want never to be that clown who has strict views of submission with regard to those under your authority, while ready to mount the barricades in rebellious defiance if anyone above you dares suggest you do something you don’t want to do. In my experience, those husbands who abuse their patriarchal office downstream (“The Bible says you must do what I say, woman.”) are the most likely to be radical libertarians when it comes to any point of their obedience. This is no more surprising than to find someone carving up a pie in such a way as to get the biggest piece himself. Nobody needs lessons when it comes to being a selfish pig. But it is not the way of Christ.
We are to submit to the civil authorities (v. 13, hypotasso). Slaves are to submit to their masters, even the ungodly ones (v. 18, hypotasso). But the Lord Jesus does not call us to anything that He has not modeled for us. He submitted to His parents (Luke 2:51, hypotasso).
What Stone to You?
We are considering the Christ Stone. Christ is everlastingly the same, yesterday, today, and forever. But the reactions to Him vary wildly, widely. Christ is either the living stone, the cornerstone, upon which all the other living stones are fitted and placed, or He is rejected as having that role, and He becomes to them the stone of stumbling. Such do not prevent Him from becoming the cornerstone, but they do prevent themselves from being built up into His holy Temple.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, A tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: He that believeth shall not make haste” (Is. 28:16).
This passage from Isaiah is quoted here, and also in Romans 10:11.
“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” (Is. 8:14).
And this is quoted in our text, and in Romans 9:33 also. In Romans Paul tells us the nature of the stumbling. The issue was, as it always is, the question of works-righteousness as opposed to grace-righteousness. Stumbling over the cornerstone of sheer grace is to go about to establish a righteousness of your own—something the human heart perennially wants to do.
“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22–23).
This is quoted in our text, and also in Acts 4:11; Luke 20:17; Mark 12:10-11; Matt 21:42. This is how the Lord understood Himself, and this is how his apostles understood Him. But this brings us down the essential question before us all right now. There is a great reversal here, and what do you think of it? Do you applaud the rejection of this stone, showing that you are thereby yourself rejected? Or do you rejoice in the fact that God has made the rejected stone of absolute grace into the cornerstone of your only possible hope?
So how do you understand Him? It is either marvelous in your eyes that God has brought about this great reversal—taking the rejected stone as the principal stone—or your eyes are blinded to the nature of the Christ Stone, resulting in a blindness and a stumbling that was appointed to you as your appointed destiny (1 Pet. 2:8).
“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44).
There are the alternatives—broken and built or stumbled and crushed. But it is Christ either way. It is not whether you will deal with Christ, but rather how you deal with Christ. It is not whether you will have an encounter with Christ—you are having that encounter right now. It is rather what kind of encounter it is. Fall on the stone to be broken and raised into glory, or have the stone fall on you, resulting in an everlasting and miserable powder.