“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 2:4-5 (ESV)
A joke has been made about those people who eat such unhealthy foods, that when they eat any vegetable, they exclaim, “I feel so healthy now...my body is a temple!” All (bad) jokes aside, if you asked a believer to describe themselves, very rarely would you get an answer like “I am the temple of God,” or, “I am a priest unto my God through Jesus Christ.” This is because the theme of the temple which is so critical in the Scriptures is rarely emphasized with regards to the believer’s identity. Basically, what this means is that the believer is God’s dwelling place. And if you read the verses carefully, you will realize that in this particular instance, Peter refers to the gathered body of believers (the church) as God’s dwelling place. This spiritual house where sacrifices are offered to God is a very direct image of the temple. Therefore, the question becomes, “Why should this be important to me?”
Firstly, notice that our identity as living stones is crafted after the fashion of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the “living stone.” With the image of a temple as God’s dwelling place, it is critically important for us to find out what exactly it is made from. In verse 6, Peter will show that Christ is the Cornerstone. But here, first and foremost, he wants the believers to understand that in their union with Christ, He was the ultimate living stone who was “rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” It is an undeniable fact that Christians do not fit in with the world. And usually when they do, they need to repent for it. Therefore, they are pointed to Jesus who is their head and chief example—that though He was rejected by men, He was chosen and precious in the sight of God. This should encourage us as believers to find our identity squarely in what God says about us, and not on what men think or say. Through Christ’s life, death and resurrection for us, we rightly belong in this building. We are rightly referred to as God’s dwelling place.
Secondly, not only are the believers, and the gathered church as a whole, the actual temple of God where His presence dwells on earth, they are also made into a “holy priesthood.” We who were only deserving of death and condemnation as a result of our sin have now received mercy. We who were destined to die, not belonging to God, are now referred to as a “holy priesthood.” This refers not only to a sense of belonging, but ultimately to a unique type of belonging. We have been purified in Christ, given life, and we can now stand before our God as those who “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” It is critical to note that our title as “holy” is based on Christ. And on top of this, the acceptance of any of our sacrifices is solely “through Jesus Christ.” Christ is our only hope. None of our confidence is found in our works or performance. Aside from Him, we are sinners condemned to death, but when united to Him through faith, we are rightly referred to as “a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Our identity is completely redefined by Him!
Therefore, believer, you cannot possibly continue to walk as one who is not the dwelling place of God. You must realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit whom you have from God. Therefore, glorify God with your body. Also, actively pursue membership in a healthy local church. These believers are said to be built up as a spiritual house together. Individually, they are living stones, but corporately they form the spiritual house. Become a member of a healthy local church and it shall do your soul much good! Also, it is a command from your Lord. Finally, let your thoughts, words and actions be an obedient response to a loving God. Offer all of them up as “sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Think about the Biblical theme of the temple and consider the ways in which Christ is defined as being the actual temple, priest, and sacrifice. How are these categories extended to the church?