The Church Is God’s Temple

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As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—5you 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.

1 Peter 2:4–5 (NIV)

Understanding the Word

Today and tomorrow, we are going to be looking at 1 Peter 2:4–8. These verses are sometimes referred to as the “stone passages” because images of stones appear in both verses. This imagery is connected to our earlier metaphor of family. We are becoming God’s house. And it is connected to a new image as well—a temple. The word “house” can also mean temple.

Our passage begins “as you come to him.” In the previous verses we read about longing like babies for pure spiritual milk and tasting that God is good. Our longing should draw us toward Jesus, and we take steps to move closer to him. Jesus is the living Stone. Stones, of course, do not live, so this is a metaphor. It reminds us that Jesus is resurrected and lives and reigns with the Father and the Spirit. This is the living Stone to which we draw near.

Humans rejected Jesus, the living Stone. During his life many people heard Jesus’ message but chose not to follow him. And, in the end, they put Jesus to death—the ultimate rejection of his identity as God’s chosen Messiah and the ultimate rejection of his message. But in the sight of God, Jesus was chosen and precious. Remember that our audience was also experiencing rejection by those around them who did not believe the message of Jesus. Like Jesus, our audience is also a group of people whom God has chosen (1 Peter 1:1).

In fact, believers, like Jesus, are also living stones. When we experience new birth, we become like Christ. Together, we are being built by God into a spiritual house. We do not build ourselves into God’s house. Rather this is something that God does for us. It is also not about any one individual person becoming God’s house. In other words, this is not about our individual bodies being God’s temple. Instead, we might imagine a building site. God is the builder, and he is creating a house (temple) where he will live. He has created a whole host of living stones through the new birth. Now, he selects those stones and places them together to form the walls of his house. The group together becomes God’s dwelling place.

Together they become a holy priesthood. The role of priests is to mediate between God and others. One thing the gathered people of God do is help others enter the presence of God. The other thing that priests do is offer sacrifices. These sacrifices are acts of worship, repentance, and thanksgiving. Today, the people of God continue to gather to acknowledge that together they form the temple God built. God has built the whole worldwide church as his dwelling place. We might think of each local gathering of believers as a room in God’s greater temple. And when the church gathers, it offers God sacrifices of praise and repentance.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How does thinking about the worldwide church as God’s temple impact how you think about your own local church?
  2. How do you experience the sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, and repentance in your communal life with other believers?
  3. What stands out to you about the image of being living stones?

Did you enjoy this entry? It’s an excerpt from Ruth Anne Reese’s Bible study, The Letter of 1 Peter. In this work, Reese helps readers understand and respond to 1 Peter’s call to live as the new family of God within the context of a challenging world. This eight-week study will encourage participants to think about what it means to be the church and to take up practices that demonstrate the love of God in community.

In these pages you’ll:

  • Become familiar with the cultural context for Peter’s writings to the church in Asia Minor
  • Better understand and respond to 1 Peter’s call to live as the new family of God within the context of a challenging world
  • Be encouraged to think about what it means to be the church and to take up practices that demonstrate the love of God in community

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Dr. Ruth Anne Reese is Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. Reese is also the Chair of the New Testament Department at Asbury Seminary and serves on the board of the Institute for Biblical Research.

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