A New Nation
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 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 corner stone, 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 offence, 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: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”—1 Peter 2:1–10
Just as Israel, who went down into Egypt as a family of seventy souls, emerged from that land of bondage a new nation, under the divine leadership, so now believers in Christ, having been born of God, are constituted a new nation, whose citizenship is in heaven; and who, though living in this world, are not of it, nor to be fashioned according to it. Their habits and motives are of an altogether different order to what once characterized them as walking according to the flesh.
It was this that was symbolically emphasized of old, in the imperative command to put away all leaven out of their houses and to eat only unleavened bread with the bitter herbs and the lamb that had been roasted with fire. We are told in 1 Corinthians 5:7–8 to “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” This is that of which Peter exhorts as this new section opens.
One of our hymns says:
“Lord, since we sing as pilgrims
O, give us pilgrim’s ways;
Low thoughts of self, befitting
Proclaimers of Thy praise.
O make us each more holy,
In spirit pure and meek,
More like to heavenly citizens
As more of heaven we speak.”
Even so are we admonished to lay “aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings.” What a clearing out of the old corrupt leaven is suggested here! How tightly these things cling to us even after we have been saved! With what readiness do we yield to the dictates of the old nature, giving way to unholy feelings, engendering evil humors, and forgetting we are to speak evil of no man. A thorough searching of our hearts for leaven such as these words describe, and burning it in the fire of self-judgment is most important as we begin the heavenward journey.
In order to obtain strength for the way we need nourishment and that of a divine order. So, just as newborn babes desire milk we should thirst for the genuine milk of the Word, the revealed truth of God that, feeding upon it, we may grow unto salvation, as the revised version adds; not in order to obtain salvation in the sense of deliverance from the guilt of sin, but that salvation which means complete conformity to Christ to which we shall never attain until we see Him as He is. In the meantime, the more we meditate upon the Word, the more like Christ we shall become, provided of course we have tasted already that the Lord is gracious. If we do not yet know Him we have not taken the first step in the pilgrim way.
Peter’s two Letters were based upon two great events in his life, two high and precious experiences which he was never able to forget. The first Epistle links definitely with that confession of Christ as the Son of the living God which Peter made in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus declared, “Blessed are thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou are Peter (a stone), and upon this Rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17–18).
The second Epistle is linked just as definitely with the glorious vision on the mount of Transfiguration, as we shall see when we come to consider it.
Whatever man may think, and however theologians my wrangle about the meaning of the Lord’s words to Peter regarding the Rock on which the church is built, there can be no room for doubt as to how Peter himself understood them. He writes “To whom (referring to the Lord of whose grace he had just spoken) coming, as unto a living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.” The house is the church. The Rock upon which it is built is Christ Himself, the Living Stone. Every believer is also a living stone (made such by grace), builded upon Christ and cemented to his fellow members by the Holy Spirit. So, too, teaches the apostle Paul in the closing verses of Ephesians 2.
“View the vast building; see it rise.
The work how great; the plan how wise!
Nor can that faith be overthrown
Which rests upon the Living Stone.”
But not only are believers viewed as stones builded together for an habitation of God in Spirit, we are also “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” How different this from Rome’s claim to have authority to appoint a special priesthood who offer material sacrifices as they present a wafer before God and pretend it is changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ who is again immolated on their altars as a perpetual sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. The blasphemy of it all chills one’s blood even as we pen the words!
In Israel of old there were three special groups: the priesthood; the Levites, and the warriors. In the Church, or assembly of God, all are priests to go unto God as worshippers; all are Levites to serve their brethren in holy things; all are soldiers to fight the good fight of faith. There is no separate priesthood now; no clerical order recognized by God as distinct from and with authority over those who are content to be called and call themselves mere laymen, or the laity.
All believers are a holy priesthood, as we learn in verse 9, a royal priesthood also. We offer up the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15). This was the real sacrifice even in the days of types and shadows (Jeremiah 33:11).
Reverting to the Rock foundation Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16 where of old God declared, “Behold, I lay in Sion a chief Corner Stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.” He who in God’s eyes is the infinitely precious One is the Elect Stone, the Head of the Corner and the solid Rock upon which the spiritual edifice is builded. To those who believe in Him He is indeed, not only precious, but also the preciousness; but unto the disobedient He is the rejected Stone whom God nevertheless has made Head of the corner (Psalm 118:22). Disowned by Israel and crucified, God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to this high place. But despite all the many witnesses to His resurrection there are myriads who refuse to believe. They stumble at the Word because of their disobedience and to this they are appointed. Do not misunderstand; they were not appointed or pre-destined to be disobedient. God does not so deal with any man. The supralapsarian theologians dishonor His name while imagining they are defending His rights when they so teach. But when men are determined to go in the path of disobedience, God gives them up to strong delusion, thus appointing them to stumble.
Believers are a chosen generation, not after the flesh, but after the spirit; they constitute a royal priesthood who, like Melchizedek, go out from the presence of God to bless mankind, and magnify the name of the most High God; they are a holy nation, thus taking the place of that polluted nation which God has, for the time being, disowned. This new nation of pilgrims is now His peculiar people—that is, a people for His own possession, whose high calling it is to show forth His praises who has called them out of the darkness of nature, of sin, and of unbelief, into the marvelous light and liberty of the Gospel.
In time past, as Hosea predicted (Hosea 2:23) they were not a people; now they are recognized by God as His own. They who were once Lo-ruhamah (not having obtained mercy) now have obtained mercy through faith in Christ Jesus the Lord.