New Babes and A Rejected Cornerstone

1 Peter 2:1-10

 

Tom J. Nettles

 

I.                   New, Not Immature – 2:1-3 – in these verses Peter emphasizes that Christians should yearn for every gift of the new life that the new birth has given them and put away every remnant of the former evil propensities.

 

A. Put Away – Peter takes a look at issues in human relations that once dominated the mind of the unbeliever and were sharpened to an art for self-advancement (malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander) and warns that they are to be put away. All of these attitudes are the opposite of the “sincere brotherly love” [1:22] that comes from the new birth. The Bible teaches that when we are born again, the flesh no longer has dominance; it is put into a position of being put to death , but it is still present and is active against the operation of the Spirit of God. See Galatians 5:16, 17. The newness of the “new” birth and the “new” covenant, however, is that there is a strong and progressively dominant action by the Spirit that marks Christians off from a merely natural person, so that they are continually putting to death the deeds of the flesh  Romans 8:12-15. So here, in this text, Peter identifies some especially sinister and corrupting attitudinal issues that Christians should recognize as activities of the flesh, and left unchecked would present to the soul a virtual hell of internal torment and hostility toward others.

B.  A New Longing – He is not speaking of immaturity by using the image of babes and milk. That image is the thrust of Hebrews 5:12, 13.

·        Here Peter refers to a new life that comes from the new birth that brings along with new longing like the natural urge that babes have for milk. That propensity is built in by God in natural birth and is also intrinsic to the Spirit’s work in giving the birth from above. The pure truth of God as contained in the Bible is the natural yearning of the soul that has now become a child of God. In the way that brotherly love, which can and should be pursued and developed, and that the presence of the flesh must be progressively mortified, so the yearning for unadulterated nourishment of the spirit by the Spirit from the word of God must be expanded and enticed by placing the inexhaustible riches of truth before those yearning spiritual eyes.

·        By this means, the intake of spiritual purity both for the mind and for the heart, the goal of the salvation that God gives is advanced. We grow up in salvation by this yearning. God not only saves from the condemning curse of sin, but also saves from its corrupting power. Paul expands this ideas when he said that Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

·        These actions will be taken—negatively putting away destructive mental attitudes, and positively embracing a thoroughgoing purity instructed by the word—if we have tasted that the Lord is good. His own goodness has invaded the soul of the newborn, and this child wants more. He has been enticed by the taste that he has had of the divine goodness and will walk the path that flows beside the stream of living water and is daily strewn with the bread of life.

 

II.                A Living Stone, living stones and a Spiritual House Peter emphasizes the contrast between rejection and acceptance shows the blinding nature of human sin on the one hand and the power of divine grace on the other.

 

A.  [4] “As you come to Him” – Peter begins to show how God will bring believers into a corporate fellowship to bring eternal praise to God. It begins by showing the infinite contrast

·        He is a living stone. Peter has emphasized a living hope [1:3], the living word [2:23] and in 3:10 marks some traits of those that ”love life.” How strange that men would reject this living stone, but their blindness to the true nature of life has made them conclude that they have tested him and found him wanting. [“rejected”]. They looked only at his lowly appearance and his calls for repentance, and to his promise of suffering, and to a call to a narrow way and found it completely unappealing and not consistent with their preconceived notion of life. They saw him only as dead as a stone and thus failed to grasp the power of his redemption from sin and his resurrection to true and eternal life for those that believe.

·        The truly egregious character of their rejection is seen in this contrast—to God he is “chosen and precious.” Men reject him, but God, who knows the true intrinsic value and worth of all things has chosen him—the pre-ordained messianic person [see 1:20-21] and sees him as precious [cf precious blood].

 

B. Verse 5:  Those that believe partake of the nature of the life that resides in the crucified and risen saviour, they are living stones being constructed into a Spiritual house. In the same way that Christ’s death burial and resurrection shows the incontrovertible justice of God and is a manifestation of his infinite mercy, so those that have believed will sing and shout the worthiness of God throughout eternity. They are being built into just such a “spiritual house” and can offer the fitting “spiritual sacrifices.” Paul wrote that in viewing God’s mercies we offer a spiritual worship by submitting our bodies as “living sacrifices.” The writer of Hebrews points to the reception of an unshakeable kingdom as motivation to  offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” [Hebrews 12:28].  In the same book, the author points to Jesus’ humiliating sacrifice outside the city gates as preparing us for an eternal dwelling for which we should “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” [Hebrews 13:12-15]. Here in 1 Peter the swelling chorus of praise to God is a confession of indebtedness to grace poured out in a gift of one that was precious [dear, of peculiarly intimate value] to God as the author of salvation.

 

C.  verse 6, 7a. Peter quotes Isaiah 28:16. The prophetic Isaiah looked at the massive apostasy around him, the aggressive hostility of the covenant nation of Israel against the Lord and, nevertheless, saw God by his determined sovereign pleasure establishing a bulwark of certainty and faithfulness in the midst of this rebellion, the Messiah. He would be a foundation stone, a precious cornerstone so that those whom he called, even “one by one” [Isaiah 27:12], would not be put to shame. In believing in this cornerstone their foundation would be secure and immovable, fully satisfying the justice of God in punishment for sin as well as the righteousness of God as the proper response to His holy Law [Isaiah 28:17]. When God’s judgment comes, the true knowledge of which will be “sheer terror” [Isaiah 28:19], all other refuge will be found wanting [Isaiah 28:20]. To those that believe, the preciousness and honor of this cornerstone is transferred by imputation, so that all that is pleasing to God in this chosen and precious cornerstone is theirs by union with him. “The honor is for you who believe” [1 Peter 2:7a]

III.             A Rejected Stone – Peter now quotes Psalm 118:22 as the negative corollary to Isaiah 28. Jesus quoted this verse as an application of his parable of the murderous tenants Luke 29 [see Matthew 21 and Mark 11 also] If this stone is the only one that can give stability, security, and blessing when the wrath of God comes, than those that reject it will have no refuge and will be crushed.

A.       The Builders Rejected – Teachers of Israel who should have known – John 3:10; John 5:32-47

·        His own witness – Jesus, in his interview with Nicodemus< pointed out that the teachers of Israel did not understand something as fundamental as the new birth, spelled out with clarity in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, then neither would they grasp his teaching on the necessity of redemptive suffering for the forgiveness of sins.

·        John the Baptist – John the Baptist bore witness to him but they refused to hear his message, even thought John the Baptist himself was a fulfillment of prophecy [Malachi 3:1, 4:5]

·        Works – John 5:36 Jesus own works bore irrefutable testimony to his status as Messiah

·        Father – John 5:37 - cf. Mt.11:25-27; 16:17; John 6:44, 45

·        Scripture- John 5:39

B.      Verse 7b - The Very Corner Stone –Everything else depends on Him  Psalm 118:22. Nothing in the edifice of salvation can be maintained without the blessings procured in the atoning work of Christ.

·        Knowledge of God

·        Forgiveness and righteousness

·        Adoption and the gift of the Spirit

·        Restoration to the divine image

·        Eternal life

C.     Verse 8a - Stone of Stumbling, Rock of offense

·        Jesus Himself is the clearest evidence of a heart of unbelief – John 16:8, 9  Concerning sin because they do not believe in me.”  A spirit of unbelief resident in the fallen human heart no where is more evident than in the rejection of Christ as a complete redeemer. This, of course, is not the only sin for which sinners will be condemned [Ephesian 5:6, Colossians 3:6] but poses the premier instance of the depth of human unbelief, from which all sin flows.

·        Rejection of Him is the chief work and highest manifestation of unbelief. In him true humility, meekness, and submission to perfect authority and justice are embodied. To reject him is to show our hatred of these traits. In him also is unsullied honor, reverence, respect, and love. To reject him is to sneer at these traits of character. In him and his teaching about the Father we find a clear perception of the justice of God in providential chastening as well as eternal condemnation without any questioning of the rightness and goodness of God in these manifestations. To reject him is to reject the justification of God in his dealing with sin.

·        Rejection of Him shows a misuse of the Law – text “because they are disobedient to the word.”  Cf. Romans 9:30-33, where Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16 after referencing the text in Psalm 118. Also Romans 10:3 continues Paul’s assignment of  the Jews’ rejection of the Law to their unbelief.

IV.            The Appointment of God – The idea of divine appointment must not escape us in this passage. Even as Jesus is chosen and precious, appointed by God the Father to this task, so the responses to him come from divine appointment. Some the Father will appoint to stumbling by leaving them to their “free will” that is their natural inclination of sinful resistance to all that is holy and good and excellent in the divine wisdom.

A.     Unto which they were appointed

·        The just rejection of God is the same as the appointment of God – Romans 9:22

v     Mt 11: “Hid”

v     No love of truth>”deluding influence. 2 Thessalonians indicates that God leaves unbelievers to their own natural disposition of a refusal to love the truth and then justifiably aggravates their hostility to the truth by sending them strong delusion, giving further evidence of their willingness to believe a lie, no matter how destructive, vicious, and absurd, rather than the truth about human sin and divine redemption.

v     John 10:26- “Not my sheep” – Jesus indicated clearly that some that were in his presence even as he spoke would continue in their unbelief because they were not his sheep; They were outside, therefore, of the special provision of divine grace necessary for the cordial reception of saving truth.

·        All the while, Scripture treats those that are appointed to punishment through continued unbelief as responsible moral agents, choosing exactly what they want to choose. God is neither the proper nor the immediate cause of their sin, but appoints it as a means to demonstrate his holiness and wrath in them in particular.

B.      But You are chosen – The contrast, even a in 2 Thessalonians 2:12, 13, shows that believers are such, not because their intrinsic nature is different, but because God has specific designs of grace for them, that the contrast between his justice and mercy would be the cause of an eternal manifestation of the excellence of his moral attributes.

·        Exalted status – As the prophecies of Isaiah 27 and 28 indicate, in the context of just judgment, some are appointed as vessels of mercy and they constitute the true recipients of the blessings of the covenant, the true Israel, inheritors of all the promises

v     Chosen race – Ps 33:12; Isaiah 43:20-44:5

v     A royal priesthood – Ex. 19:5, 6

v     Holy Nation

v     Peculiar People “God’s own possession” Titus 2:14

·        Excellent task – “Proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” Cf. Col 1:12, 13

·        Amazing contrast

v     Not a People, People of God

v     Not received mercy, received m--

V.               Application

A.   Engage the task to which we are appointed

v     Excellencies of Him –Learn now to think about the majesty of God’s justice and wrath and how that presents such a striking contrast to his redemptive work. That in turn shows the ineffable wisdom of God in devising a way in which some can receive displays of grace without any loss of his necessarily unrelenting justice. This then cause us to see the “cornerstone” in a light that give some true representation to the infinite glory of a Christ on the cross and now seated at the right had of the Father interceding for us on the basis of his shed blood.

v     Throw aside everything that is inconsistent with your being the people of God. God sanctifies us through his word. Admonitions, exhortations, threats, warnings etc play their essential part in this. But also an enlarged and ever-enlarging view of the mercies of God, the new longing for pure truth, the initial taste of the unalloyed goodness of God drives us positively, not just to avoid God’s displeasure, but to enjoy his love.