1 Peter 2:4-12
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a royal priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
Here Peter describes what the Church is. It describes (1) the Glory, (2) the Gifts and (3) the Grace of the church.
The Glory of the Church
In 1 Peter 2:4-5, he was actually saying the same thing which was mentioned in Exodus 19:4-6 (and, take note, after Moses relayed these words to the people, it was then when they responded with, 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do'; we all know the story after this - the Law was introduced, as if God was telling the people, 'You cannot do all that I have spoken). Mount Sinai shook under the glory of God when the Commandments were given. Moses asked to see the glory of God but He responded that he would die.
In spite of all this, Peter insists that if we come together as an ecclesia, then the same glory that came down in Sinai and in the burning bush would be seen (Christ Himself mentioned when 2 or more are gathered in His name He is in their midst). This is seen as a corporate promise - 'As you come together, God indwells you.' - The glory of God is available to you in the church in a way that is not available otherwise. Yes, we do have Christ alive in us, and we are alive in Christ, but the presence of God inhabits his people in a way it relates to a community, versus how His glory shines in us as individuals.
Ex. If you read the Bible, then you would have personal understanding, but when you read the Bible as a group, when you worship and pray as a body, it connects us to God in a more distinct, deeper way. Consequently, if you listen to a sermon on your own, it ministers to you that way, but if it is heard as a group, the group is ministered another way. What a dynamic, personal Father we have.
(Earlier in my own personal life I thought I could make it on my own by just reading the Bible without going to church. This was during those days when I was in ROTC while the rest of the family went to the Church of the Resurrection. And though I was able to cultivate things and lessons here and there, it was nothing compared to when I began praying and worshipping with the Good News family. There were revelations and lessons that I could not have learned on my own. This is true. God ministers to us as individuals and as an ecclesia - personalized each and every time.)
If the glory of God is in the church, then He will constantly be breaking your boundaries. Isaiah 6 describes how he kept going to the temple, and on one particular day He had a vision of God upon His throne, and he was never the same after that. He kept going back to the human institution of the temple, but then there was that one day when God literally broke out.
Peter mentions that we are that temple. We may be in a human institution, but the ecclesia is the only one that Jesus Christ started... and with that, we ought to brace ourselves every time because we don't know what would happen every time we gather. (This is another reason why the writer of Hebrews tells us never to forsake the gathering of believers).
"you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house"
It's never really in our control - the glory of God inhabits us each and every time, in different yet equally effective ways. Here, Timothy Keller shares a couple of stories of how just one encounter led hundreds of thousands to Christ - In America, in Korea, in Africa.
The Gifts of the Church
"to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
"you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
Religion had its day. It's the same now as it used to be - That God and man were separate, and there is something that man needs to do to get to God. Most of the time this would involve what Timothy Keller would call 'spiritual elites' - prophets, priests, monks, holy men, witch doctors, etc. Israel was not exempt, with priests and kings.
True Christianity was never like this. The Romans could not understand the Christians - they could, in a sense, understand the Jews as they had their temple, but upon asking a Christian where he worships, or where his temple is, he or she would say that Jesus Christ is the temple, and we are alive in Him, and He is alive in us. When asked who our priests were, we would say Christ was the priest. When asked where the sacrifice is, we would say Christ was the sacrifice.
(Christ is the end of religion in the sense that Christ was God made man, and He did it all for the gap between God and man to be filled)
Christ tore down the temple to become the Temple. In Hebrews 9-11 it is also elaborated that Christ is the ultimate priest, the ultimate mediator, and the ultimate sacrifice. On one hand, Christ is the ultimate temple, but we should also know that in Christ, we are Temples (a spiritual house), and we are Priests, and we are Kings (royal priesthood), and we are Prophets (you may proclaim)... Glory given to us that we would give glory to God.
As prophets we have the courage to speak out and proclaim the Gospel.
As priests we have the sympathy and the love and the heart to love the Gospel into people's lives.
As kings we are able to organize things and to get things done.
Every single Christian has an anointing - a prophetic gift for some, priestly for some, and/or a kingly gift to some - but all of us in Christ was prophets, priests, and kings at the same time.
What does this mean?
Sociologists would say that human organizations exist within a spectrum - on one end we have institutions, and on the other end we have movements. Timothy Keller elaborates on their key differences but we are told how institutions are static, while movements are dynamic. Institutions are structural, while movements are fluid. Institutions are hierarchical - they are structured from the top down, while movements are formed and kept together from the bottom up. Institutions are kept together by rules, while movements are kept together by visions.
For the most part, people in my generation are less receptive to institutions, but Timothy Keller relays how sociologists find this pattern of thinking 'naive' in the sense that there has to be some sort of structure still - practicality has to be practiacally approached. There have to be boundaries and practices, structures, officers and elders.
On this spectrum, and in the light of how the Word tells us that we are all ministers and gifted in our own ways yet equally loved by God - the church, the ecclesia is not mainly an institution, but a dynamic movement as well. The eccelsia is not controlled by a human being - no, it is a dynamic movement of God.
If the church was mainly an institution, you can definitely control it to some degree, but it's a dynamic movement. (in other words, the vision is not limited to a static set of projections, but the church, the ecclesia moves as Christ moves - and as we move, Christ moves.)
Sociologists go on to say that institutions are turf-conscious and are about themselves and about their own survival - contrary to how we exist as a church: We exist for those who do not believe. We are about those who need to hear Christ.
Something has to detonate for an ecclesia to actually have its function instead of masquerading as a club. What has to detonate?
The Grace of the Church
Luther and Wesley had their own struggles with religion, but when they had an encounter with God's grace, their spiritual gifts ignited, and the glory of God detonated in their lives. Of course, we shouldn't base our own walks on the walks of famous people.
Timothy Keller goes on to speak about Nathan Cole, an illiterate farmer who, in his memoirs, mentions how he got converted:
"By Gods blessings: my old Foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me; then I was convinced of the doctrine of Election : and went right to quarrelling with God about it; because that all I could do would not save me"
Because of the grace of God, Nathan's life became characterized by wonder and awe... the grace of God hits you, so that 'you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.'
(I remember being in the Baguio Country Club, at the Raisin Bread Bakeshop. My father was still alive and he sat beside my mom facing the front; we were seated at the corner table closest to the newspapers. I don't know exactly what triggered it but I began to cry, being in absolute awe of Christ at the cross, thinking about me. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I recall this as one of the most prominent encounters I have had with the raw grace of God)
How can you fill your life with wonder? Timothy Keller tells us 3 ways we are told of the grace of God - how free it is, how loved you are, and how expensive it was.
The Grace of God is free
Peter calls us a chosen people. We are not choice people that deserve to be chosen, but by grace we are chosen.
’Twas sov’reign mercy called me
And taught my op’ning mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heav’nly glories blind.
My heart owns none before Thee,
For Thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first.
’TIS NOT THAT I DID CHOOSE THEE - Josiah Conder, 1836
Peter goes on to call us a people for his own possession; we are a treasured possession, a prized possession of God. God created everything and yet calls US His prized possession... The galaxies and the stars, to the streams and the mountains are there, but WE are His prized possession...
Jonathan Edwards says until you know you're His treasure and love, everything you do will be for you, to fill that 'void' - but when you do know that treasure, everything you do will be selfless.
"Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
This is the same line mentioned by the Lord to Hosea when he bought back his unfaithful wife. in Jesus Christ, God came to earth, into the marketplace of this world, in spite of all we have done, and bought us not with his gold, but with His blood, to make us His own.
When you realize this, and when your life is filled with wonder, it will activate the glory and the grace of God in the Church, and in your life.
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May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you His Shalom. - Numbers 6:24-26