SERMON ON 1 PETER 2:1-11
(Rev. Eric Kayayan)
IN CHRIST, THE CORNERSTONE, GOD GIVES A
and sisters, if there is one book in the Bible which Church members very little
read, or even not at all, it is probably the book Leviticus, in the Old
Testament. One could also add the
books Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Is
it necessary to say that this is a big mistake?
Actually, the book Deuteronomy is quoted many times in the New Testament
(only the Psalms and Isaiah are quoted more than Deuteronomy).
As far as Leviticus is concerned, it mainly addresses the question of
sanctity before God, that is, how holy the priests of
goes back to the Old Testament to reveal to us further God’s plan for His
is not how Peter reasons, brothers and sisters.
His words of comfort, encouragement and warning do not rest on legends or
cleverly invented stories. Rather,
he knows what the background of Christ’s work is.
He can even write that he was an eyewitness of his majesty (2 Peter
Peter goes back to the Old Testament when he writes, chapter one verse 10
and 11: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace
that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to
find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was
pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would
follow.” In verse 16 of
chapter one, Peter quotes a statement that appears four times in the book
Leviticus: “Be holy for I am
holy”. In verse 19 of the same
chapter, Peter mentions the price of redemption with which we were bought back:
“You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without
blemish or defect”. Here we
have to do with a look back at Leviticus chapter 25, which deals with the right
of Israelites to be bought back in case they would have sold themselves as
slaves to a stranger in order to pay back their debts.
In chapter 2 verse 11, we read: “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens
and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires”.
Still in Leviticus 25, verse 23, we read: “The land shall not be
sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners
with Me.” Even our text verse
looks back at the Old Testament. Let
us compare verse 9 of chapter 2 with Exodus 19:6: “But you are a chosen
people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you
may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His
wonderful light. Once you were not a
people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but
now you have received mercy.” Exodus
19, verses 5 and 6 sounds like this: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my
covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.
Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests
and a holy nation.” Our second
text verse can be compared in the same way with Hosea chapter one:
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once
you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
In Hosea chapter one we read how the Lord commands his prophet to
take a prostitute as his wife, in order to symbolize the relationship between
Him and His people. Let us read
together Hosea 1 verses 6 to 9: “Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a
daughter. Then the Lord said to
Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah [in Hebrew that means “no mercy”], for
I will no longer show love to the house of
does Peter quote the Old Testament in this way?
He does not do it in order to sound very learned to his readers, or
because he is just trying to confer the authority of the Old Testament to his
own writings. What he does, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to reveal
further what God’s plan for his elect people is, in the light of the
background of the Old Testament, without which such a further revelation would
remain unintelligible. By doing so,
Peter can explain to God’s people what their new identity is.
In this way, the elect people can understand and live out better this new
identity. You and I are indeed the
recipients of a new identity, a new citizenship.
We, who were not a people, have become a people, God’s people.
Our calling is to be a royal priesthood for God.
Why “royal”? Because we
have become citizens of a Kingdom which is incorruptible.
Our new citizenship with the rights and privileges attached to it, is
much better than that of the global world in which we live, and which claims to
become more and more universal. The
Kingdom of which we have become citizens has at its head a King who rose from
the dead, not an impersonal administration determining the course of our lives!
Let us look together at what our new identity and our new citizenship
mean, in the light of our text. Let
us begin met Jesus-Christ as the cornerstone of a spiritual building.
Christ is the cornerstone
Old Testament people had to be a kind of spiritual house where God could live, a
place in Creation which could reflect something of God’s holiness despite the
Fall. In the midst of all the false
religions, which witnessed the decay of humankind after the Fall,
what does it exactly mean to be a royal priesthood for God?
What are the requirements attached to such a status? Verse 5 of our text
puts it as follows: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a
spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus-Christ.” It
goes about bringing spiritual sacrifices to God.
Not any more sacrifices of atonement as prescribed by the book Leviticus,
because the cornerstone of our spiritual building, Jesus-Christ, did it for us
once for ever; but rather sacrifices which reflect the character, the density,
the solidity en the beauty of the cornerstone.
We cannot be characterized by another colour or another grade of quality
than that of the cornerstone. Otherwise
we have no place in such a building! We
cannot be taking the colour or the grade of quality of other buildings which do
not have Jesus-Christ as cornerstone, for we are the very people of God, his
possession, a nation put apart for Him. O
certainly there are many other buildings in the world, after the Fall.
Some of them were erected long ago and do have a long history: the
temples of other religions, the temples of human wisdom.
Other buildings have a shorter history, some have collapsed shortly after
having been built: the temples of fascism, of communism, of all kinds of
nationalisms. Other buildings will
probably collapse very soon, like the temple of globalization.
Sooner or later all these buildings which have been erected by mankind to
last forever, will collapse. Why?
Simply because they rest on a dead or corruptible cornerstone.
But as regards our spiritual house, we know that it rests on a living
stone which was chosen by God for the place of honour, the royal place.
Therefore in our priestly service we must adopt the character of our
living and incorruptible cornerstone. Living
and incorruptible: these two characteristics witness precisely the royal
character attached to our priestly service.
Christ is our King, He who rose from the dead, who triumphed over Satan
and who lives for ever. But, you
will ask, who will administer these characteristics to us?
Peter gives us the answer in verse 5 when he speaks of a HOLY priesthood,
of SPIRITual sacrifices. The
presence of the Holy Spirit here cannot be missed.
He will equip us to receive more and more the colour and the quality
grade of the cornerstone, for he is life-giving.
Since God chose us as His own possession, we must not doubt that His
Spirit will equip us.
concrete implications of our royal priesthood are being outlined by Peter after
verse 11. It is precisely an appeal
to a holy lifestyle which stands in contrast with that of the pagans.
We remain always stones of God’s holy house.
A stone cannot excuse itself and become for a while part of another
building. If you try to do so, you
run the risk of collapsing together with its rotten cornerstone.
As citizens of an eternal and incorruptible Kingdom, we must know that in
the world we are strangers and sojourners. We
now know what our identity is. We do
not form part of the rotten buildings around us, although we live in their
midst. We remain a covenantal people
who always put first God’s rules in our lives, without being either
hypocritical or proud.
For we know that earlier we were not a people, and also did not receive
any mercy. Peter’s warning towards
the royal priesthood in verse 16 is the same we every now and then read in
Paul’s writings: “Live as
free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants
of God.” We may not allow that
our glorious cornerstone, which gave us priestly and royal privileges, become a
stone that causes us to stumble and a rock that makes us fall (v. 8).
kind of witness brings us to the last characteristic of the kingly priesthood
which God has made of us. Verse 9
opens for us a wonderful missionary vision: “You are a chosen people, a
royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare
the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Our lifestyle, our dealings with other believers but also with
unbelievers, is a witness towards the world.
But we are also called to let resound our witness throughout the earth.
As we read in Exodus 19:6, the Lord told His people
Thus is God’s plan for his people implemented. Thus do we become carriers of His wonderful light. Thus can we rightly be called: “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”.