Ye also, as lively stones - Λιθοι ζωντες· Living stones; each being instinct with the principle of life, which proceeds from him who is the foundation, called above λιθον ζωντα, a living stone.
The metaphor in this and the following verse is as bold as it is singular; and commentators and critics have found it difficult to hit on any principle of explanation. In all metaphors there is something in the natural image that is illustrative of some chief moral property in the thing to be represented. But what analogy is there between the stones of a building and a multitude of human beings? We shall soon see. The Church of Christ, it is true, is represented under the figure of a house, or rather household; and as a household or family must have a place of residence, hence, by a metonymy, the house itself, or material building, is put for the household or family which occupies it, the container being put for the contained. This point will receive the fullest illustration if we have recourse to the Hebrew: in this language, בית beith signifies both a house and a family; בן ben a son; בת bath a daughter; and אבן eben a stone. Of all these nouns, בנה banah, he built, is, I believe, the common root. Now as בית beith, a house, is built of אבנים abanim, stones, hence בנה banah, he built, is a proper radix for both stones and building; and as בית beith, a family or household ( Psalm 68:6;) is constituted or made up of בנים banim, sons, and בנות banoth daughters, hence the same root בנה banah, he built, is common to all; for sons and daughters build up or constitute a family, as stones do a building. Here, then, is the ground of the metaphor: the spiritual house is the holy or Christian family or household, this family or household is composed of the sons and daughters of God Almighty; and hence the propriety of living stones, because this is the living house or spiritual family. As a building rests upon a foundation, and this foundation is its support; so a family or household rests on the father, who is properly considered the foundation or support of the building. But as every father is mortal and transitory, none can be called a living stone, foundation, or support, but He who liveth for ever, and has life independent; so none but Jesus, who hath life in himself, i.e. independently, and who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, can be a permanent foundation or support to the whole spiritual house. And as all the stones - sons and daughters, that constitute the spiritual building are made partakers of the life of Christ, consequently, they may with great propriety be called living stones, that is, sons and daughters of God, who live by Christ Jesus, because he lives in them. Now, following the metaphor; these various living stones become one grand temple, in which God is worshipped, and in which he manifests himself as he did in the temple of old. Every stone - son and daughter, being a spiritual sacrificer or priest, they all offer up praise and thanksgiving to God through Christ; and such sacrifices, being offered up in the name and through the merit of his Son, are all acceptable in his sight.
This is the true metaphor, and which has not, as far as I know, ever been properly traced out. To talk of "stones being said to be alive as long as they are not cut out of the quarry, but continue to partake of that nourishment which circulates from vein to vein," is as unsatisfactory as it is unphilosophical; the other is the true metaphor, and explains every thing.
Ye also, as lively stones - Greek, “living stones.” The word should have been so rendered. The word lively with us now has a different meaning from living, and denotes “active, quick, sprightly.” The Greek word is the same as that used in the previous verse, and rendered living. The meaning is, that the materials of which the temple here referred to was composed, were living materials throughout. The foundation is a living foundation, and all the superstructure is compassed of living materials. The purpose of the apostle here is to compare the church to a beautiful temple - such as the temple in Jerusalem, and to show that it is complete in all its parts, as that was. It has within itself what corresponds with everything that was valuable in that. It is a beautiful structure like that; and as in that there was a priesthood, and there were real and acceptable sacrifices offered, so it is in the Christian church.
The Jews prided themselves much on their temple. It was a most costly and splendid edifice. It was the place where God was worshipped, and where he was supposed to dwell. It had an imposing service, and there was acceptable worship rendered there. As a new dispensation was introduced; as the tendency of the Christian system was to draw off the worshippers from that temple, and to teach them that God could be worshipped as acceptably elsewhere as at Jerusalem, John 4:21-23 as Christianity did not inculcate the necessity of rearing splendid temples for the worship of God; and as in fact the temple at Jerusalem was about to be destroyed forever, it was important to show that in the Christian church there might be found all that was truly beautiful and valuable in the temple at Jerusalem; that it had what corresponded to what was in fact most precious there, and that there was still a most magnificent and beautiful temple on the earth.
Hence, the sacred writers labor to show that all was found in the church that had made the temple at Jerusalem so glorious, and that the great design contemplated by the erection of that splendid edifice - the maintenance of the worship of God - was now accomplished in a more glorious manner than even in the services of that house. For there was a temple, made up of living materials, which was still the special dwelling-place of God on the earth. In that I temple there was a holy priesthood - for every Christian was a priest. In that temple there were sacrifices offered, as acceptable to God as in the former - for they were spiritual sacrifices, offered continually. These thoughts were often dwelt upon by the apostle Paul, and are here illustrated by Peter, evidently with the same design, to impart consolation to those who had never been permitted to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, and to comfort those Jews, now converted to Christianity, who saw that that splendid and glorious edifice was about to be destroyed. The special abode of God on the earth was now removed from that temple to the Christian church. The first aspect in which this is illustrated here is, that the temple of God was made up of “living stones;” that is, that the materials were not inanimate stones but endued with life, and so much more valuable than those employed in the temple at Jerusalem, as the soul is more precious than any materials of stone. There were living beings which composed that temple, constituting a more beautiful structure, and a more appropriate dwelling-place for God, than any edifice could be made of stone, however costly or valuable.
A spiritual house - A spiritual temple, not made of perishable materials, like that at Jerusalem net composed of matter, as that was, but made up of redeemed souls - a temple more appropriate to be the residence of one who is a pure spirit. Compare the Ephesians 2:19-22 notes, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 notes.
An holy priesthood - In the temple at Jerusalem, the priesthood appointed to minister there, and to offer sacrifices, constituted an essential part of the arrangement. It was important, therefore, to show that this was not overlooked in the spiritual temple that God was raising. Accordingly, the apostle says that this is amply provided for, by constituting “the whole body of Christians” to be in fact a priesthood. Everyone is engaged in offering acceptable sacrifice to God. The business is not entrusted to a particular class to be known as priests; there is not a particular portion to whom the name is to be especially given; but every Christian is in fact a priest, and is engaged in offering an acceptable sacrifice to God. See Romans 1:6; “And hath made us: kings and priests unto God.” The Great High Priest in this service is the Lord Jesus Christ, (see the Epistle to the Hebrews, passim) but besides him there is no one who sustains this office, except as it is borne by all the Christian members.
There are ministers, elders, pastors, evangelists in the church; but there is no one who is a priest, except in the general sense that all are priests - because the great sacrifice has been offered, and there is no expiation now to be made. The name priest, therefore should never be conferred on a minister of the gospel. It is never so given in the New Testament, and there was a reason why it should not be. The proper idea of a priest is one who offers sacrifice; but the ministers of the New Testament have no sacrifices to offer - the one great and perfect oblation for the sins of the world having been made by the Redeemer on the cross. To him, and him alone, under the New Testament dispensation, should the name priest be given, as it is uniformly in the New Testament, except in the general sense in which it is given to all Christians. In the Roman Catholic communion it is consistent to give the name “priest” to a minister of the gospel, but it is wrong to do it.
It is consistent, because they claim that a true sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ is offered in the mass. It is wrong, because that doctrine is wholly contrary to the New Testament, and is derogatory to the one perfect Oblation which has been once made for the sins of the world, and in conferring upon just one class of people a degree of importance and of power to which they have no claim, and which is so liable to abuse. But in a Protestant church it is neither consistent nor right to give the name “priest” to a minister of religion. The only sense in which the term can now be used in the Christian church is a sense in which it is applicable to all Christians alike - that they “offer the sacrifice of prayer and praise.”
To offer up spiritual sacrifices - Not bloody offerings, the blood of lambs and bullocks, but those which are the offerings of the heart - the sacrifices of prayer and praise. Since there is a priest, there is also involved the notion of a sacrifice; but that which is offered is such as all Christians offer to God, proceeding from the heart, and breathed forth from the lips, and in a holy life. It is called sacrifice, not because it makes an explation for sin, but because it is of the nature of worship. Compare the notes at Hebrews 13:15; Hebrews 10:14.
Acceptable to God by Jesus Christ - Compare the notes at Romans 12:1. Through the merits of the great sacrifice made by the Redeemer on the cross. Our prayers and praises are in themselves so imperfect, and proceed from such polluted lips and hearts, that they can be acceptable only through him as our intercessor before the throne of God. Compare the notes at Hebrews 9:24-25; Hebrews 10:19-22.
The Lord has permitted misfortunes to come to men, poverty to press upon them, adversity to try them, that He may thus test those whom He has placed in more favored circumstances; and if those to whom He has entrusted His goods are faithful, He declares them to be worthy to walk with Him in white, to become kings and priests unto God. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” TM 287.1
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evilspeakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” TM 287.2Read in context »
Centuries before the Saviour's advent Moses had pointed to the Rock of Israel's salvation. The psalmist had sung of “the Rock of my strength.” Isaiah had written, “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.” Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 62:7; Isaiah 28:16. Peter himself, writing by inspiration, applies this prophecy to Jesus. He says, “If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.” 1 Peter 2:3-5, R. V. DA 413.1
“Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11. “Upon this rock,” said Jesus, “I will build My church.” In the presence of God, and all the heavenly intelligences, in the presence of the unseen army of hell, Christ founded His church upon the living Rock. That Rock is Himself,—His own body, for us broken and bruised. Against the church built upon this foundation, the gates of hell shall not prevail. DA 413.2
How feeble the church appeared when Christ spoke these words! There was only a handful of believers, against whom all the power of demons and evil men would be directed; yet the followers of Christ were not to fear. Built upon the Rock of their strength, they could not be overthrown. DA 413.3Read in context »
In Isaiah's prophecy, Christ is declared to be both a sure foundation and a stone of stumbling. The apostle Peter, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly shows to whom Christ is a foundation stone, and to whom a rock of offense: DA 599.1
“If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient.” 1 Peter 2:3-8. DA 599.2
To those who believe, Christ is the sure foundation. These are they who fall upon the Rock and are broken. Submission to Christ and faith in Him are here represented. To fall upon the Rock and be broken is to give up our self-righteousness and to go to Christ with the humility of a child, repenting of our transgressions, and believing in His forgiving love. And so also it is by faith and obedience that we build on Christ as our foundation. DA 599.3Read in context »
Not in their own power did the apostles accomplish their mission, but in the power of the living God. Their work was not easy. The opening labors of the Christian church were attended by hardship and bitter grief. In their work the disciples constantly encountered privation, calumny, and persecution; but they counted not their lives dear unto themselves and rejoiced that they were called to suffer for Christ. Irresolution, indecision, weakness of purpose, found no place in their efforts. They were willing to spend and be spent. The consciousness of the responsibility resting on them purified and enriched their experience, and the grace of heaven was revealed in the conquests they achieved for Christ. With the might of omnipotence God worked through them to make the gospel triumphant. AA 595.1
Upon the foundation that Christ Himself had laid, the apostles built the church of God. In the Scriptures the figure of the erection of a temple is frequently used to illustrate the building of the church. Zechariah refers to Christ as the Branch that should build the temple of the Lord. He speaks of the Gentiles as helping in the work: “They that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord;” and Isaiah declares, “The sons of strangers shall build up thy walls.” Zechariah 6:12, 15; Isaiah 60:10. AA 595.2
Writing of the building of this temple, Peter says, “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4, 5. AA 595.3Read in context »