1 Peter: Lesson 5: From Nothing to Something


Last week, Peter commanded Christians to long for the “worded” (logikon) milk like newborns for their mothers’ milk.  This referred to the Lord’s Supper, for if Peter meant the preached Word, he would have used a different Greek construction (to gala tou logou).  Why are we to crave the Supper?  To grow up into salvation.  This is realized when Christians come to Jesus and He builds them into His people.


Though segueing into a new section, Peter does not do this by starting a new sentence.  Instead,

  • he connects what he now writes with what he earlier wrote through the preposition: “toward.”  “…grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good toward…”
  • Second, he moves from body imagery into Temple imagery through the word “stone.”  We know this because the word he used for stone (Greek, lithos) is one specifically used in a building, not a rough stone in its natural state (petra). 

Read 1 Peter 2:4

“Living stone”: A contradiction.  The Old Testament referred to idols lifeless “gods of wood and stone,” the works of human hands, in contrast to the living God, who created all things (Deuteronomy 4:28, 2 Kings 19:18, Isaiah 37:19).

  • So what is Peter calling Christ by referring to Him as a “living stone”?
  • Why is Christ “living”?

Because Christ is living, this gives the Christian a living hope (1 Peter 1:3, 21; 3:18).  But as Jesus said, people will still reject Him (Matthew 21:42-44, Mark 12:10-11, Luke 20:17-18).

  • According to Peter, who rejected Christ?

Psalm 118:22 (LXX)

1 Peter 2:3

What Peter does

The stone the builders rejected

rejected by men

Extrapolates from the psalm and applies its truth to the general state of humanity

“rejected”: This is in the “perfect” case in Greek, which conveys this rejection is ongoing state of being.  So, not only did people, in general, reject Christ at His crucifixion but also continued to reject him when Peter wrote his epistle, which people still do to this day.

By saying “you come to Him [Christ],” this carries the idea that the Old Covenant is now fulfilled by Christ, superseded by the New.  This affirms Peter’s earlier statement about the “ways inherited from [their] forefathers” as being “futile” (1 Peter 1:18).

Read 1 Peter 2:5a (up to “holy priesthood”)

you … are being built up”: by its location, “you” is emphatic: “YOU are included in this.

“built up”: This is in a present tense, passive.  So the focus is on who and what they currently are by God’s doing (the divine passive).

built up as a spiritual house: Only because one is “built up” (oikodomeo, “house” as a verb) does one become a spiritual “house” (oikos).  This is solely due to the builder, not the building or the stones in the building.  Here, however, Peter uses “house” to picture a New-Covenant Temple:

  • In Greek, “house” can be a noun or a verb, unlike the word for “temple.”  In several places, the Septuagint used “house” to refer the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:23, Psalm 69:9, and Isaiah 56:7) and as a verb to refer to building the Temple (2 Samuel 7:5-6; 1 Kings 8:27, Isaiah 66:1). 
  • House will also allow an easy shift from temple imagery to those who become a part of it: “a holy priesthood” (2:9) and “the people of God” (2:10).

“built up as a spiritual house”: Unlike 1 Peter 2:2, where the ESV translated logikos (“worded”) as “spiritual,” now Peter uses the actual word for “spiritual” (pneumatikos).  The Christian being a part of God’s House, the Church, is the result of the Holy Spirit working through God’s chosen means.

Excursus: The Priesthood of “All Believers”—Properly Understood

1 Peter 2:5 (and 2:9) is not referring to the individual believer but to “you” as a plural (“y’all,” 2:9).  So those who use these two verses to assert a Christian doesn’t need anyone between himself and God is not only misapplying these verses but misses the point Peter makes!  For Peter is focusing on the “holy priesthood” and what this priesthood does.  Thus, what Peter will later describe are corporate acts, done as part of this priesthood, not singular activities someone does on his own. 

In Ephesians, Paul also writes about this: The Church, is the “mystery of Christ,” “hidden for the ages in God” (3:9), which has been “revealed” (3:5) to the Apostles by the Spirit.  Why?  So, through the Church, “the wisdom of God may be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10).  

“The heavenly places” denotes the totality of what takes place.  For this will happen on the Last Day, in the new heaven and earth.  The Christian Church worships in the present, preaching and pointing to Christ, the Fulfillment of our salvation on the Last Day.

The book of Revelation also proclaims this: Through the blood of the slain Lamb, “saints from every tribe and language and people and nation” are “ransomed for God” and made into “a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on the earth” (5:9-10).  

This reign reflects the character of the King’s priesthood (2:9).  How does this priesthood as a whole live out priestliness as the King’s priesthood among the nations?  When it reigns in the world, which is by worshiping the slaughtered Lamb, who is also the King of kings, because He will bring all to completion.

When do the baptized, who are brought into God’s Priesthood, proclaim the excellencies of Christ who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)?  Most specifically in worship, when the Church represents, mediates, and proclaims the final, messianic destiny of God’s people (Ephesians 2:11-22). 

What Peter will write in the second half of 1 Peter 2:5 follows this thinking.


Read 1 Peter 2:5b

  • What does the “holy priesthood” do?
  • What makes the holy priesthood’s sacrifices acceptable?

Only by God, through His Spirit, incorporating the person and building him into the Building of Christ, making him part of the Holy Priesthood, are such sacrifices acceptable to God the Father.  Don’t miss Peter’s emphasis, spiritual sacrifices, that is, “en-Spirited” sacrifices.

Read 1 Peter 2:6

Peter quotes Isaiah, but not to prove God builds the Christian into a spiritual house.  He just did this.  Now, he will bring out what being in Christ’s Church means, adapting Isaiah 28:16 from the Septuagint

Isaiah 28:16 (MT) Isaiah 28:16 (LXX) 1 Peter 2:5 What Peter Does
  Behold, I establish a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation, and the believer will not hurry away.   Behold, I throw into the foundation of Zion a valued and chosen stone, a precious cornerstone into the foundation itself and the believer, because of him, will not, not be shamed.   Behold, I place in Zion a stone [“foundation” is missing], an elect and precious cornerstone, and the believer, because of him, will not, not be shamed.   By using “place” instead of “throw,” he uses a different verb to emphasize the preciousness of this cornerstone.  Next, he focuses on the result the believer has because of the cornerstone—not as part of the foundation—but by not being shamed.

“be put to shame”: Greek, kataischyno.  In the Septuagint, we find the same verb form Peter used to refer to God shaming opponents and the unfaithful (Psalm 119: 31, 78, 116; Isaiah 47:3; Jeremiah 23:40; Ezekiel 16:23).  The “not not” affirms God will absolutely not shame those trusting in Christ.  With this as the focus, Peter continues with this idea in vs. 7.

Read 1 Peter 2:7-8a (through “trip over”)

  • So what is for the believer, not the unbeliever?

“you …”: by its location, Peter again uses “you” as an emphatic: “YOU are included in this.

“honor”: In vs. 6, Peter described Jesus as “precious” (entimon).  Now, using a form of the same word, the Christian is time: someone valued because he is considered precious.  By using time (a passive) and connecting this status to an attribute of Christ, this shows a Christian’s “honor” is all because of Christ.

  • How does Peter’s quote of Psalm 119:22 affirm the status of the Christian?

Even if the recipients of Peter’s letter find themselves alienated from society and suffering a loss of status, he assures them that they belong to a much grander and everlasting community, the Church of Christ.  Peter next adapts Isaiah 8:14 where the prophet admonished both houses of Israel for failing to believe the Lord could become a “stone,” which would cause those without faith to stumble.

  • Instead of receiving God’s honor, what happens to the unbeliever?
  • What’s the common denominator for the one who is honored and the one who stumbles?

Read 1Peter 2:8b

“disobey”: Greek, apeithountes: A strong word, implying refusal to obey, not simply disobedience.

  • What causes nonbeliever to stumble?
  • What causes them to “refuse to obey” God?

“destined”: Greek, etethesan, which is the same word Peter used for “lay” or “place” in 1 Peter 2:6: “I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone…”  This word is used specifically for God’s predestining of something (see also Isaiah 49:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:9).  This is how certain something is.

So, is God predestining some people to unbelief?  No, He is predestining to stumble those who refuse to obey the Word, Jesus, because they don’t believe.   As unbelievers are predestined to stumble if they don’t believe, those who believe are predestined to be honored (1 Peter 1:7, 21; 2:6).

If one is predestined to damnation, then what Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:10 cannot be true: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”  So, how do those who were once not a people become God’s people?  Peter answers that next.

Who Christians are Destined to Be

Read 1 Peter 2:9

“a chosen race”: Peter quotes Isaiah 43:20: “A chosen [elekton] race [genos].”  What’s worth noting is the word for “race” is also the same as “born.”  Through this word, Peter brings together two ideas he explored earlier: Being God’s elect [elektos, 1:1b] are those whom He causes to be “born anew” (anagennao, 1:3, 23: ana= re; gennao = born).  Through baptism, someone becomes part of God’s “chosen race.”

“royal priesthood”: In Greek, the adjective almost always follows the noun: Chosen race in Greek is “race chosen”; holy nation in Greek is “nation holy.”  Here, royal precedes priesthood.  The Septuagint uses these two words as nouns, king and priesthood, with one providing information about the other. 

Since “royal” is in the wrong location to modify priesthood, we should understand this as Peter restating what he said in vs. 5: “a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.”  Here, however, the imagery would be the King’s House with the priesthood serving there.  Though context will allow the insertion of “house,” it would still be forced a translation.  The best middle ground is “King’s Priesthood.”

Exodus 19:5-6, LXX Isaiah 43:20-21, LXX 1 Peter 2:9
      I gave water … to give drink to my race, my chosen [genoseklekton],   But you are a chosen race [genos eklekton]
  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be … to me a King’s priesthood [basileion hierateuma]       a King’s priesthood [basileion hierateuma]  
  and a holy nation [ethnos hagion]       a holy nation [ethnos hagion]
  you shall be to me a peculiar people [laos periousios] above all nations   even my people whom I have possessed [laon mou hon periepoiesamen]   a people for His possession [laos eis peripoiesin]

Peter quotes two Old-Testament passages related to the two greatest liberations in Israel’s history:

  • their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 19) and
  • their deliverance from exile in Babylon (Isaiah 43).

Christians are to understand their salvation in the same way.  Thus, what Peter next writes reveals a fitting response for so wondrous a salvation.

Isaiah 43:21 Isaiah 42:6-7 1 Peter 2:9
  My people whom I preserved to declare My virtues [aretas].     that you may proclaim the excellencies [aretas] of him
    I will … give you as the covenant of a race, as the light [phos] of the Gentiles, to … those in darkness [skotos] …   who called you out of darkness [skotos] into his marvelous light [phos].

Peter draws on the Old-Covenant designations of Israel: race, chosen, a holy nation, people of God.  By applying these to the Church, he shows those in the Church are the now God’s people.  The community of the Messiah is reconstituted to the people founded on the Cornerstone of Christ.  

Read 1 Peter 2:10

Hosea 1:6-7 Hosea 2:23 1 Peter 2:10
Then [Gomer] conceived again and bore a daughter.  So God said to him, “Call her name ‘Not-a-People,’ for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel … but I will have mercy on the house of Judah and will save them by the Lord their God. And I will say to that which was not My people, ‘You are My people!’ 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.

Using the Old Testament, Peter applies God’s Word from Prophet Hosea in a similar context.  In Hosea’s day, the Israelites went whoring after other gods, pictured to them by Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute.  So, they lost their status as God’s people.  But God, nevertheless, promised a future restoration, a time when His unmerited love and mercy would again reconstitute a people for His special possession.

Similarly, the Christians to whom Peter writes were not a people, who were following “the futile [work-righteous] ways inherited from [their] forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18).  Once, they were predestined to stumble over the Word, Jesus, because of their unbelief.  Now reborn in baptism, they are God’s people once more because of Christ.

Christ in 1 Peter 2 Who the Christian is because of Christ
  vs 4a: Christ as Living Stone   vs 4b: Living stones
  vs 2:6a: Christ as cornerstone of the house     vs 5: A spiritual house
  vs 7a: The Cornerstone is the source of honor for believers     vs 6b: Those never to be shamed
  vs 10: Gives God’s mercy to be received and makes a people His own   vs 9: A chosen race, a King’s priesthood, a holy nation, a special possession of God

The Old Testament promises what we now have in Christ.  Without understanding the Old Testament, what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9-10 would almost be incomprehensible.

Link to the next Lesson.

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