Summary: Christ desires our sanctification individually, but there are also goals for the church corporately--what are they?
I Peter 2:4-10 “Coming to the Living Stone”
Intro—Most of you are aware, I’m sure, of the recent scandal involving the bankruptcy of Enron Corporation and the alleged wrongdoing by its highest officials in inflating the apparent profit of the company in order to make money for themselves. I don’t know how much of the story is true, and how much is being blown out of proportion by the media, but clearly there were problems at Enron, serious problems, for some time.
That being said, I was surprised when a former Chief Executive Officer of Enron, who resigned last August, I believe, came before a Congressional committee and said “I believe everything was fine with the company on the day I left, I didn’t know anything was wrong.” At first I said to myself, “How could the guy running the company not know all of this stuff?” Then as I thought about it, I realized that, in a company of the size and scope of Enron, it might be impossible for anybody to know everything that was going on in the company. In fact, it would not surprise me if the vast majority of Enron employees had little idea about what businesses the company was in, let alone how it ran them. Most employees in a large company have a particular area of responsibility and expertise, and so long as their area is running well, they can’t be bothered with anybody else.
Now, that doesn’t excuse anybody at Enron who was in a position of responsibility and didn’t fulfill their responsibilities, but it shows us how, if a group of people all get focused in on their individual tasks, and nobody is looking at the bigger picture, the group can fail because its focused on a series of small individual goals rather than a larger, community goal.
In our Scripture passage today, Peter wants to make sure we understand that while we each have individual goals to take care of, to live holy lives, to love the brethren, to lay aside the ways of our former lives, we are also part of a larger community and we need to be careful not to lose sight of that larger community, which is made up of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Before getting to our part in the community, Peter begins in verse 4 by saying that we are “Coming to Him as to a living stone…” Peter is going to liken the Christian Community to a building in this passage, and he begins by letting us know that Jesus Himself is a living stone in the building, and in fact later in the passage Peter identifies Christ as the Chief Cornerstone. As Christians, we come to Christ, as Peter says in verse 5, as “living stones” ourselves, prepared to be built up...into what? That’s the question Peter wants to answer for us today...What are the goals of Jesus Christ in building His church?
I. The first goal, as we see in verse 5, is to build us up into a “spiritual house.” Does Peter mean that the goal of the church is to have a building that looks more spiritual than the one down the block? No, what he’s saying is that, as we come together in Christ as a body, we become a temple of the Holy Spirit. We often think of this in individual terms, that each of us is indwelt by the Spirit, but there is also a sense in which we are corporately, together, the temple of the Holy Spirit...
Look over at Ephesians 2:19, where the Apostle Paul uses the same imagery—(READ 2:19-22)—What Peter and Paul are both saying is that there is no need for any specific physical location that we must come and worship...what is crucial is that we come together to worship so that God’s spiritual house is strengthened through the community of Christ.
Some people say coming together and worshipping isn’t important...they insist that watching some sermons at home on the TV or listening to a good Christian radio station is just as good for them as being part of the Christian community and attending church. The Bible never says anything like that, however...the Bible tells us, in Hebrews 10:25, not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Do you know why? Hebrews 10:24 says we need to encourage one another to love and to good works, and that we do that by coming together. There’s no place in the building of Christ’s church for “Lone Ranger” Christians.
II. The second goal of Jesus Christ in building us up as living stones is to make us a holy priesthood as it says in verse 5...the purpose of a priesthood is to act as a go-between, an intercessor, between God and Man...in the Old Testament, the physical building that was the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem, was designed to keep those who were unworthy of touching or even seeing holy things away from them...in Jerusalem’s temple there was a court of the Gentiles, where the non-Jews could congregate, and then there was an area the ordinary Jew could enter, then there were places only the priests could enter, then there were places only certain priests could enter at certain times, and then there was the Holy of Holies, which only one Priest, the High Priest, could enter on a single day of the year. And in that area was the very Presence of the Lord Himself. Nobody, not even the High Priest, had free access to the presence of God whenever He desired it. But Peter says we are all to be part of a holy priesthood...in other words, we have no need of an intercessor between us and God...and that brings us to the third goal of Jesus Christ as He builds us into the Church He wants us to be and that is…