Friday, January 5, 2018

Looking At A Christianity That Is Built To Last - 1 Peter 2:1-20

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1 Peter 2:1-4 "Therefore, ridding yourselves of all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn infants long for the unadulterated spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, 3 if you have tasted that the Lord is kind, 4 to whom you are drawing near, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and precious in the sight of God."


My dad was a carpenter by trade. Whenever he built anything, it was built to last. His skills as a carpenter came in handy when he began working for a large brick and stone company. They were building a series of buildings that required bricks cut to fit into large circular windows. The particular brick cutters that worked for the company left the job. My dad stepped up to help out and ended up being the new brick cutter. One day our family took a ride to view one of the finished buildings. I was amazed by the perfect circular windows and passage ways that were made by my father. He told me he would sometimes take broken bricks and cut them to be included in those beautiful structures. To this day, years later, those buildings are testimonies of his handiwork. They were built to last. 

In today’s post we are exploring the Christian’s spiritual identity as part of a spiritual temple built upon Jesus Christ – the Precious Cornerstone. Jesus is building a spiritual temple, composed of every believer that is a living stone. By centering upon Jesus Christ, you will discover how the Christian life is “built to last”. 

The Apostle Peter was called by Jesus to follow him. Originally named "Simon", Jesus would change his name to "Petros" - meaning "rock". There is no doubt in my mind that Peter identifies himself as included in the words of exhortation he has written by his secretary or amanuensis - Silvanus (see 1 Peter 5:12). The theme of this first letter or epistle is "stand firm in the grace of God" (see 1 Peter 5:12). Therefore, we want to know what it looks like as Christians stand firm as a spiritual temple, built upon the Chief Cornerstone - Jesus Christ - as He builds them to endure for His sake. Let's consider the foundation, walls and curb appeal of the project Jesus has undertaken.

1. Foundation: The New Birth. 1 Peter 2:1-3

The last post we did in 1 Peter dealt particular with God's divinely given second chance - i.e the new birth ( ). We learnt in that post:

a. the new birth done by God

b. brought about by Spirit, word, faith 

c. this new birth results in a life that can live for God. 

Without the word of God, no heavenly fire of salvation can be kindled in the human soul (see Jeremiah 23:29). Without the air of the Person of the Spirit, no flame of spiritual life can come forth in the heart (see John 3:8). Without the fuel of faith, the word of God and the Holy Spirit will not burn as an enduring flame in the human spirit touched by grace (see Hebrews 4:2). 

Peter's reflections on the new birth as the foundation for a faith that is "built to last" continues onward into this second chapter. In 1 Peter 2:1-3 we find a conditional statement, beginning at verse 3: "if you have tasted that the Lord is kind" (Lexham English Bible). 

The way we know we have not only tasted of saving grace, but consumed such, is by how we regard His word and obedience.  The foundation of the New birth is a firm foundation because of the fact it is brought about by the Spirit and the Word. Getting into one’s Bible and it into you is not optional when it comes to cultivating God’s presence, withstanding ongoing doubts, fighting sin and growing in faith. 

As Peter points out in these first few verses of 1 Peter 2, craving God's word is likened unto an infant that craves milk. If one finds their newborn child not wanting to eat, there is cause for concern. A baby that has no interest in eating is not well. Many would regard such a state of affairs as unnatural to what it means to be an infant - namely the capacity to eat, eat and eat! A born-again child of God cannot expect to grow nor expect to enjoy the awareness of one's assurance in salvation apart from regular intake of God's Word. Thus, to understand how the Christian life is "built-to-last", we must first consider the foundation of the new birth with respect to the Word of God. 

2. The Walls: Shaped by Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5-8

A sound structure must have a good foundation. With the foundation of the new birth in place - we next consider the walls of the project Christ is doing in the building of His people. The apostle Peter expounds further on this score by citing key Old Testament texts that highlight Jesus as our precious cornerstone. The following headings convey Peter's central message in 1 Peter 2:5-8.

a. Delight in Jesus strengthens you. 

Peter's first quotation of Isaiah 28:16 in 1 Peter 2:6 hearkens back to a time in Israel's history wherein she had lost all hope. The Lord's word to the people in eighth century b.c. Jerusalem was to not to abandon their hope in Him. All is not lost! Sadly, the Southern Kingdom of Judah would over the remainder of her history follow in the train of her Northern Kingdom counterpart – resulting in the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem beginning in 605 b.c. Peter’s word to his readers and to us is to not lose hope – but to look to that Precious Cornerstone – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The second Old Testament quotation is that of Psalm 118:22 in 1 Peter 2:7. Whenever one studies the context of Psalm 118, the author of that psalm is praising Yahweh for delivering him from certain trouble. The Psalm is filled with hope and renewed faith in the face of adversity. We know from the background of Peter’s audience in the first century that they were facing increasing difficulties. (see for instance 1 Peter 1:6-7; 3:13; 4:12) 

By recalling Psalm 118, Peter could show how the same God that answered cries of distress in the Psalmist’s time could do the same for the readers of his first epistle. Thus Peter is reinforcing his overall message to look to Christ as that Precious Cornerstone. Not only is Jesus the believer’s source of hope, He is also precious. 

b. Doubting Jesus will hurt you. 

The third quotation by Peter deals with the negative consequences of rejecting Jesus as the Precious cornerstone. 

Sadly, the Southern Kingdom of Judah would over the remainder of her history follow in the train of her Northern Kingdom counterpart – resulting in the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem beginning in 605 b.c. Peter’s word to his readers and to us is to not lose hope – but to look to that Precious Cornerstone – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter's quotation from Isaiah 8 in 1 Peter 2:8 carries the message that God always has a faithful remnant in every age.  The sense on gathers from Isaiah 8 is that the inhabitants of the Jerusalem were seeing their fellow Jews to the North given in and give up to the threats and pressures of opposing forces. Despite deserving the consequences themselves, God still held out His message of hope and salvation to them. So we see then that the strength of God's building project of salvation lasts due to the Lord Jesus Christ. What then makes the Christian's life appealing to a watching world?

3. Curb Appeal: Changed Lives. 1 Peter 2:9-20

Whenever we study any of the New Testament epistles, we find the authors dealing with Christian identity or "gospel indicatives" and commands to carry forth that identity or "gospel imperatives". Gospel indicatives are so named because they explain "who I am and whose I am" or my status as an adopted child of God. Gospel imperatives are so designated due to the expectations and commands urged upon the believer to live their lives in light of their newly-given identity in Christ. The Apostle Peter gives forth the following "gospel indicatives" and "gospel imperatives" to raise the bar for attracting a watching world to the Christian faith.

a. Gospel Indicatives: Christians are a holy priest hood.  2:9-10. 

b. Gospel Imperatives: Christians are to function as a holy priesthood 

i. Abstain from worldly lusts 2:11 

ii. Guard (Integrity) 2:12 

iii. Submit to authorities (unless violating Christian convictions) 2:13 & Acts 5:29 

iv. Live (freely for God) 2:16 

v. Exercise (godliness in your relationships) 2:17 

vi. Persevere to the end 2:18-20

These six sets of imperatives or commands contribute to the overall "curb-appeal" of the Christian life. Just as the owner of a home clips their hedges, mows the lawn and applies paint to increase the visual appearance or "curb appeal" of their home to others, the Christian's claims about the reality of Jesus Christ find validity insofar as they take to heart their identity in Jesus. James 1:26-27 reminds us: 

"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

Closing thoughts:

The sort of Christianity that the world is in need of is the type that manifests the working of Christ by the way the "living stones" of His spiritual temple live their lives. This is the sort of project Jesus is making - one that is "built-to-last". 

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