What’s an Exile to Do? Proclaim the Excellencies of Your God

Posted by R. Fowler White

To hear the thought leaders in our culture tell it, we Christians are intolerant haters. We have the audacity to turn to the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture as the supreme judge to settle all controversies of religion and to examine all competing claims of truth. We declare that the salvation of sinners is in Christ alone by faith alone. So, in the opinion of many, we should be shamed and pressured to conform. In 1 Pet 1:22–2:10, however, the Apostle Peter has a different take on who should feel shame and pressure, and it leads him to tells us how to live lives that don’t yield to the world.

First, he says, live a new life of love and increasing holiness (1.22–2.3). Your obedience to the gospel truth has brought about a moral transformation in you, a purification of your souls. Moreover, your rebirth (cf. 1:3) from imperishable seed—the living and abiding word of God preached to you—made you God’s newborns (1:23-25; 2:2). Furthermore, you’ve tasted God’s goodness to sinners in Christ (2:3). In light of these experiences, live a new life of fervent love for your believing siblings (1:14, 22). While showing that love for others, root out all disobedience to Christ’s law of love, especially disobedience to the sixth, ninth, and tenth commandments (2:1). And, all the while, satisfy that new appetite you have (2:2) for God’s goodness. As God worked through His preached word to give you new birth (1:23-25), so now through that word He’ll work to increase and strengthen all saving graces in you (2:2-3). Obedience to God’s truth, rebirth through God’s word, new appetites for God’s good grace—all these realities effect change in us to live a new life of love and growth in holiness.

Yet there’s even more to God’s conversion of us that should motivate us to live new lives. Peter says, now that we’ve come to Christ, we’re being built as God’s holy house. The big idea here is that God is building His new temple, and we—all who believe—are it (2:4-6)! The Apostle’s images may puzzle us. He had been talking about being God’s newborns, and now he’s talking about building God’s house. What’s up with that? In the ancient world, we hear about “the house” of Israel, of David, and of others. The point is, your family was your house, and your house was built by having children added to your family. So, just after Peter talks about our rebirth as God’s children, he now talks about God building His house. And notice: we’re not just any house. We’re a spiritual house of holy priests. We no longer need a temple on earth; we are the temple on earth. Through Jesus Christ, we believers are now being built as that spiritual house, the site of sacrifices pleasing to God.

Peter elaborates for us. He says, God put Christ in place as the living cornerstone of His new and true temple (2:4), living in that God raised Him from the dead. Christ Himself had taught that His resurrection would signal that God was building His new and final temple (John 2:18-22), and Peter picks up that teaching. Though Christ was rejected by other would-be builders (2:7; the leaders and followers of Jerusalem and Rome), the Divine Builder chose Him (cf. 1:2) and honored Him, placing Him in heavenly Mt Zion as the cornerstone, the first temple stone put in place. So it is, says Peter, that God is also now putting you yourselves in place as living stones joined to Him to make up the new temple (2:5a). Joined to Christ, we believers pass from spiritual death to new spiritual life and together we are being formed into a living spiritual house. In fact, through Christ we’re holy priests who please God with spiritual sacrifices (2:5b). Through Him we offer up praise, the fruit of our lips, as a sacrifice; we present our bodies as a living sacrifice; we bring tithes and offerings as a fragrant offering. Something better than the OT temple is here! Joined to Christ, we’re God’s true and final temple!

As we read of God making Christ the living cornerstone, making us living stones, and receiving our sacrifices, it’s vital for us who are rejected by the world to know that in doing these things God is fulfilling His promises documented in Scripture (2:6). According to those promises, though the world shames us, God honors us. It is unbelievers who bring shame on themselves (2:7b-8). They reject those whom God honors; they follow the builders of this world. They disobey the word, stumble, and fall where believers stand, namely, on Christ the Cornerstone. What happens to them is exactly the ruin that Jesus Himself predicted (Luke 20:18)—their downfall is no accident. In fact, it’s the destiny to which God appoints all sinners left to themselves. The destiny they have is not only the destiny they deserve; it’s the destiny they desire: honor and glory without Christ. So, without Christ, their destiny is nothing but dishonor and shame. By contrast, it is we believers who receive glorious honor and privileges (2:7a, 9-10). What honor? What privileges? All that God promised to Israel: being a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession … God’s people. Who receives these promises? According to Moses, it was whoever obeys God’s voice and keeps His covenant (Exod 19:5a). But who has done that? No sinner. Only Christ. And in the gospel God offers to impute to sinners the obedience He requires by faith alone in Christ alone. If you’ve believed in Christ, you have in Christ the obedience God requires—and in Christ all these glorious honor and privileges belong to you!

In the opinion of many, we Christians should be shamed and pressured into seeking glory and honor from our culture. But the Apostle Peter makes clear that all who want honor and glory without Christ are doomed. Unashamed, then, we’ll stand firm on Him and proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

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