Growing & Building

1 Peter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:06
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If you have your Bible (and I hope you do), please turn with me to 1 Peter. It’s there toward the end of the Book. It’s short, but packed with wonderful truth for us here today.
Peter writes this letter to a group of believers scattered across Asia Minor. As a reminder, let’s look at the opening verses of this letter:
1 Peter 1:1–2 NIV
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
As these believers would have read this letter in their gatherings, much like we are doing here this morning, they would have been reminded of: God’s great mercy, the living hope we have in Jesus, an imperishable inheritance kept for us in heaven, inexpressible and glorious joy, salvation full and free (preached to them).
After those magnificent truths, they would have read Peter’s urging them to set their hope on God, to be holy, to fear God, and to love one another deeply.
The first part of the letter was: “Listen to what God has done for you in the person and work of Jesus. And now, in light of that, here’s what you ought to do.”
What Peter wants is for us to grow up into Christ as members of His family. He is longing for the church to mature, to keep growing.
And so Peter continues with this train of thought. He writes this in 1 Peter 2:1-3. Look with me.
1 Peter 2:1–3 NIV
1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Connecting, of course, to what Peter just wrote at the end of Ch. 1, Peter is talking about the new life believers enjoy by God’s grace.
By the grace of God, His people have been born again (v.23) through the living and enduring word of God.
Through the Word of God (which endures forever) believers are exhorted, encouraged, urged to lay aside everything in their lives which doesn’t jive with their new life in Christ.
Put away evil attitudes and actions, says Peter, but why? Because these things destroy love and he’s just told his readers to love one another deeply.
“These sins listed—malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander—tear at the fabric of the church, ripping away at the threads of love that keep the church together.” - Tom Schreiner
Malice is ill-will toward one another, destroying harmony.
Deceit and hypocrisy (lit: “play-acting”) are both a kind of falseness, the opposite of the sincerity called for in verse 22.
Envy doesn’t desire the best for others, it actually hopes the worst for the other, for the downfall of that person so I can move up in line.
Spreading of false stories and disparaging others is what slander does; slander is well-timed words that carry insinuation and accusation about others.
What Peter wants is for us to grow up into Christ as members of His family. He is longing for the church to mature, to keep growing. In order to grow-up and mature in our faith, we have to get rid of these things: rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
We are to rid [ourselves] of these things, and then are to crave pure spiritual milk or long for the pure milk of the word.
We’ve been given new birth by the Word of God, the Word preached to us. And now, we are to crave the Word, long for the Word.
This craving, this longing is likened to way newborn babies crave milk. A newborn cries for a few reasons, one of those reasons: HUNGRER!
This reference to newborn babies is linked to our new birth, being born again, begotten of God. New life.
This doesn’t mean Peter’s audience are new believers; they aren’t identified as infants in the faith. They are compared to infants who have a longing for milk. It’s simply an illustration of longing, craving.
In this way, all Christians are to be like newborn babies. In this ONE way, ya hear? Don’t act like a baby when you’re mad you don’t get your way. Don’t act like a baby when your preference isn’t met.
Don’t be a baby in church unless you’re actually a baby, then, by all means act like a baby.
The only reason for you, Christian, to act like a baby is because you’re craving the Word, longing for the Word of God, desiring the Word.
Because, the Word of God is

What Grows Us:

Babies long for milk that will sustain bodily growth. Similarly believers should desire milk for growth in salvation.
The reference to milk in 1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5 occur in contexts where believers are spiritually immature.
But Peter doesn’t say anything of the sort here.
Peter is simply pointing out how believers grow.
Milk is the substance of life; the Word of God is the substance of life. It’s not that these believers in Asia Minor need elementary or basic teaching.
This exhortation to long for the pure milk of the word, to crave pure spiritual milk applies to all believers throughout their lives.
What grows us? Pure, spiritual milk.
Pure is the opposite of deceit (v.1)—it’s unadulterated and uncontaminated.
Spiritual means, most of the time in Greek literature, that which is reasonable and rational.
Peter uses a little word-play here to make his point. The “word” (logos) was the means by which God gave life to believers. “Spiritual” (logikos) is connected to “word” (logos), used by Peter so that we’d understand that the pure spiritual milk by which they grow is nothing other than the Word of God.
Peter says to crave pure spiritual milk, SO THAT by it you may grow up in your salvation. By means of the Word, believers grow.
What grows us is the Word of God.
This is true for us all, no matter who we are or where we are in our faith. Some of you are babies in your faith, new believers. What you need is to read the Bible. Listen to the Bible. Hear the Bible taught and preached.
Some of you are not new believers by any stretch. You still need to spend time reading the Bible, studying the Bible, talking about the Bible with friends and family.
The Bible sits on your bookshelf or on the coffee table (it’s a nice looking decoration, maybe), but have you opened it up and read it?
Don’t feel shame here. Feel the encouragement. Open your Bible and read. Turn to the gospel of John and read about Jesus. Read Genesis and see what love the Creator has for His creation. Open the Psalms and worship the LORD.
None of us will ever graduate from this Book. We won’t ever master it. It keeps working on us, growing us, challenging us. I’ve read Bible for as long as I have been able to read. I have studied this book diligently for 25 of my 40 years. And I’m still growing and learning and seeing new things.
This—the Word of God (the Bible)—is what grows us.
What’s your favorite food? Someone tell me. Why’s that your favorite food?
Edmund Clowney poses the question: “What quickens our desire for the life-giving word of God? The taste!”
Reading the Bible is addictive when we begin to get the taste for it. As we come to His Word we will, as Peter says (referencing his favorite psalm), taste that the LORD is good.
The Word shows us that the LORD is good; His words are sweeter than honey to our taste because, in them, the Lord gives Himself to us.
What grows us is the Word of God (the Bible).
If you don’t have a Bible, Richard will buy one for you. Just kidding. I mean, he probably would, but if you don’t have a Bible of your own, I’ll give you one.
I know you can read it online (and that’s great; I use the YouVersion Bible App and the Dwell Bible App often). But I’ll never get over having my own physical copy of the Bible, with all my markings and notes and coffee stains.
What grows us is the Word. Longing to grow spiritually comes from a taste of the beauty of the LORD, an experience of His kindness and goodness. The desire to grow springs from an experience with the LORD’s kindness. An experience with Him will leave you desiring more, craving more—a daily personal relationship with Jesus.
This is what Peter writes about next:
1 Peter 2:4–8 NIV
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
Believers are those who come to Jesus, the living stone. He’s the foundation of the new temple. In Him is life.
Jesus is referred to as the living stone, no doubt because of His resurrection (living hope, living stone). Psalm 118 is used in other places to speak about Jesus, as Peter uses it here.
Jesus is the stone the builders rejected which has become the cornerstone. In Acts 4, Peter uses this same verse to refer to Christ’s death and resurrection/exaltation.
In Acts 4, the LORD healed a paralyzed man, and Peter and John were questioned by the religious leaders who asked them: By what power or name did you do this [heal this man]?
Acts 4:8–12 NIV
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
The religious leaders had despised Jesus by crucifying Him, but God made Him the cornerstone by raising Him. Though some people rejected Jesus, Jesus was chosen by God and precious to Him. The resurrection shows us definitively, once for all, Jesus’ place as that One which hold everything together.
Jesus is the Living Stone. But Peter also says believers are like living stones...
In a few places in the Bible, Christians are described as God’s temple or house. But only here are believers referred to as living stones.

What's Being Built Up:

The picture here is of a house in which believers constitute the building stones. The term house is an allusion to the temple, which is commonly called a “house” in the Old Testament.
This house is spiritual because it’s indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The church—the people of God in Christ Jesus—is God’s new temple.
The physical temple pointed toward and anticipated God’s new temple, and now that the new temple—the Church—has arrived, the old temple is superfluous, unneeded.
As living stones which make up a spiritual house, Christians are being built up into a holy priesthood.
Some object here, saying Christians can’t be both the new temple and the priests who minister in the temple, but I say (along with many others) that the Risen Jesus can do whatever He pleases.
It’s not a physical temple; the old temple is no more. The Jesus who transcends all things can make us both the temple and the priests. Who’s gonna tell Him He can’t do that?!
In essence the church has become God’s people and God’s place in the world.
This is especially good news for these early Christians, scattered around Asia Minor, a good distance from Jerusalem’s great stone temple. It’s possible, even likely, that these early readers would never see the Jerusalem temple again (if they ever had). It’s not like they could hop a flight from Bithynia to Bethany and rent a car to drive into Jerusalem.
These are dispersed people, far from home.
Now, by way of one single metaphor, Peter proclaims that they are at the very heart and center of God’s activity in the world. They are God’s building in Christ, and are His priests, serving Him wherever they’re at, in God’s presence all the time. They were God’s special building project.
If you have come to Jesus as God’s living stone, you, Christian, are (along with the rest of God’s people) at the center of what God is doing in the world.
Believers are God’s dwelling place by the Spirit and also His priests. The church corporately is the Lord’s priesthood. This is not an individual thing; there’s a emphasis on community.
We, as a people, living stones built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood have a purpose: offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
What are these spiritual sacrifices?
The priestly calling of the church is understood from v. 9 to be evangelistic, a praising of God’s name so that people from all over the world will join in worshiping Him.
However, it’s not limited to just this, or any one item. Sacrifices being plural probably includes everything that is pleasing to God, through Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, there is nothing we can offer that is pleasing to God.
Are you tracking with Peter’s argument here? As we come to Jesus, the living cornerstone, we, the Church—the people of God—make up the new temple and are corporately a holy priesthood, offering sacrifices to God through Jesus.
What an unmatched blessing! Peter writes to share all these blessings bestowed by God on those who believe, and here’s more.
The Holy Spirit indwelling us and then using us to share the Good News about Jesus, and offering our praise back to God—what an unspeakable blessing!
Peter quotes from the OT prophet Isaiah to show that the LORD God chose Jesus as the cornerstone, and those who put their faith in Jesus, trusting in Him will never be put to shame.
Those who put their trust in Jesus will escape judgment. Isaiah urged the people not to put their trust in any alliance or military strength, but only to trust the LORD.
Those who do not trust in the LORD will perish, plain and simple.
Jesus is the foundation of what’s being built up—this is the key to verses 6-8. And there are those who will believe and those who will not.
For those who believe, there is life and honor and blessings in Jesus.
For those who don’t believe, there is death and shame and stumbling, because of what they do with Jesus.
Jesus is:
1 Peter 2:8 (NIV)
8 “A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
Some stumble and fall because they disobey the message, the Word, the gospel—the same word God uses to bring new life.
This stumbling is rebellion; they don’t come to Jesus, they refuse. Those who believers, on the other hand, do come to Jesus, the living stone.
A person either trips over Jesus, stumbling to shame and destruction,
A person comes to Him, and in Him are being built into something for His use.
Which describes you?
Friends, come to Jesus.
1 Peter 2:4–5 NIV
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Peter is writing to a people. To a group of people, but people. He’s not writing to an institution or a club or an organization.Peter’s writing to a people, the Church.
I love the Church. I’ve given my life to serving the Church. And I’m not talking about the building (though I have fixed a few toilets and painted a few walls and cleaned out a few storage rooms and, with Big Joe’s help, even trapped that pesky raccoon that was messing with the sound board).
I love the Church—the people of God who belong by faith to Jesus. I love the Church.
There’s nothing I want more than to see the Church grow; that is, the Church’s individual members growing in their faith and in the knowledge of God.
What grows us? God’s Word. We need to read and study and seek the LORD in the pages of His Book.
I love the Church.
And I love seeing the Church built into a spiritual house and a holy priesthood—a people and place of God’s possession and indwelling.
The people of God are God’s sacred place; it’s not a building. God’s Holy Spirit dwells within those who have placed their faith in Jesus.
I love the Church, the people whom Jesus is growing and building.
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