The Holy Priesthood of the Believer

1 Peter 2:4-5

In 1 Peter 2:4-5, Peter describes the privileges the believer has in the new temple, the church, and the new priesthood. He claims, “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We should notice how Peter makes Christ the center of 1 Peter 2:5. This “living stone” should be understood as Jesus Himself! While He was indeed God, He also became man. He was disallowed, despised and rejected by apostate and ungodly religious men. There was not even room for Him in the inn at His birth. Metaphorically speaking, men both then and now have no room for Him in their hearts.

Peter begins by describing how in God’s sight, the Lord is “chosen and precious.” (1 Peter 2:4) Why is He precious and chosen in God’s sight? He is chosen as the Living Stone because there is no other! In God’s purposes and plan He is indispensable, the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is also precious because His value to God is inestimable and beyond computation. The Lord Jesus is the indispensable and incomparable one in God’s plan for the church and His plan of salvation. He is the living, precious cornerstone in every generation. Quoting Psalm 118, Peter goes on to say, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:7) Not only was He perfectly suitable to meet God’s demands against sin, He was the only one who could meet man’s need. He was the only sure foundation upon which to build the Church.

In 1 Peter 2:5, we are also introduced to the concept of “spiritual houses” in contrast to the inanimate temple, which is a building of beautiful but lifeless stones. While there are obvious contrasts between the temple and the church, there are also similarities. The main one is that the Temple is the dwelling place of God on earth - Jesus - and the church is the dwelling place of God on earth today. Who then are these living stones dwelling in the church today? Ephesians 2:19-22 addresses this. Paul says, “You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” This means that believers themselves are also living stones, built into a spiritual house, to become holy priests.

Let us consider the fact that in Old Testament times, the priesthood was restricted to the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron. However, even the normal priests were not permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could enter within the veil and be immersed in the Shekinah glory of God, and this is permitted only one day of the year on the Day of Atonement. In our new relationship with God, changed by Christ coming to Earth, all believers are priests and have immediate access into God’s presence day or night. Their purpose as holy priests is to offer up spiritual sacrifices rather than the animal, bird, and meal offerings specified by the Law. We should gather around Christ, by the Holy Spirit, in order to serve God.

Let us look at these “spiritual sacrifices” that are acceptable and pleasing to God, through Christ Jesus, in more detail. (See 1 Peter 2:5) Hebrews 13:15-16 gives us some direction about the nature of these spiritual sacrifices and the scope of worship related to these. We are told, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Then we are reminded that these spiritual sacrifices involve good works as well as the sacrifice of possessions by sharing. We are told, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16) We also know that this sacrifice involves our whole body and being. Paul teaches us in Romans 12:1, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul also teaches us that the service to others is a priestly spiritual offering to the Lord.

In Romans 15:16, Paul says, “I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” How are our offerings made to be “acceptable” to our Lord? 1 Peter 2:5 tells us that it is through Jesus. Mary Bowles Peters, in her hymn, The Holiest We Enter, writes, “To all our prayers and praises, Christ adds His sweet perfume, and love the censer raises, these odors to consume.” In other words, our offering may be imperfect and flawed, but as it passes through the Lord Jesus, He sets it in order and makes it acceptable to the Father. Beloved, what glorious news this is for us who, in our sin, cannot offer anything perfect to Him. He makes it acceptable and pleasing to our Father for us!

Peter continues to draw our attention to some other privileges that believers have today. In 1 Peter 2:9, he says that we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” God had originally intended for Israel to fulfill the role of being a chosen nation and royal priesthood, but they failed miserably. Israel is plagued with unbelief and disobedience throughout the story of the Bible. During this present age of grace, the Church is privileged to occupy these distinct positions.

We are a chosen generation. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” We are also a royal priesthood called “to proclaim the praises of Him” to the world. (See 1 Peter 2:9) As holy priests, we go into the sanctuary of heaven by faith to worship. As royal priests, we go into the world to witness through the Gospel. We can see a great example of this through the story of Paul and Silas in the jail at Philippi. As holy priests, they prayed and sang praises to God. As royal priests, they preached the Gospel to the jailer. (See Acts 16:25-34) Lastly, Peter here is telling us that we are a holy nation, God’s special people. The last part of 1 Peter 2:9 shows what we must do with our lives. We should “proclaim the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Beloved - let us go forth as priests to this world proclaiming what the Lord has done for us!