(Today's post by Adam Cooper)
When I sit down to study and prepare for writing what the Lord would have me to write for Wednesdays I always find myself going through moments of mis-direction and lack of concentration. I find that my mind begins to want to drag me in directions that may not be as effective as God may have them but then I realize that my inability to focus and my inability to grasp a specific direction is because of my lack of trust in what God is telling me to write. I never want to be apathetic to His Word. That is what makes todays verse so poignant.
In 1 Peter 2:4-17, as in the rest of his epistles, Peter does a superb job of bringing the Old Testament into a justifying position for the skeptics of that day. In my study Bible it says that this epistle was written for “Jewish Christians that had been driven out of Jerusalem and scattered across Asia Minor, and all believers everywhere (NIV Life Application Bible).” Peter knew that persecuted Jewish Christians would read this letter, or he at least hoped they would, and he used the Old Testament as a way of documenting the accuracy and efficacy of his statements. Peter dips into Isaiah and Psalms and reminds his readers that Jesus is the cornerstone of their new faith. But he doesn’t stop there. He also uses the Old Testament to show that Jesus is also a tripping stone (the actual Greek word used is πρόσκομμα, pronounced pro’s-kom-ma, which means an obstacle over which the soul stumbles, as in sin) for those who will not believe in Him. He says they stumble because they disobey the message. But then Peter goes a step further and calls his audience “chosen people” part of a “royal priesthood” a “people belonging to God (v.9).” Peter also reminds them that once they “were not a people” and now are; having received God’s mercy. He continues to outline a number of behaviors that he feels are extremely important in the lives of Christians. To the normal list of avoiding sinful desires and the like he throws in an exhortation to obey those that are placed over you; showing proper respect to “everyone.”
So how can we unpack this Scripture to bring meaning to our current life and times?
Merriam-Webster online defines a cornerstone as “a basic element: foundation.” At least that is the second definition and probably the one that we would most likely assume Peter to be referring to when He refers to Jesus, but if you will allow me a little leeway let’s look at the primary definition of a cornerstone: “a stone forming a part of a corner or angle in a wall.” The cornerstone joins two parts of a whole that approach from differing angles. Jesus meets both of those definitions by being the foundational element of our Christian faith and by being the lynch-pin of the unity between the Jewish people and the Christian people. We will leave Jewish-Christian unity for another discussion however.
Peter also says that Jesus will become an obstacle to those who “disobey the message (v.8).” This translation (NIV-84) is kind of misleading because it would lead you to believe that this describes anyone who disobeys. The actual Greek work used is ἀπειθέω, pronounced ä-pā-the'-ō, means “not to allow one's self to be persuaded; to refuse or withhold belief; to refuse belief and obedience; not to comply with.” So here Peter is emphasizing disbelief, uniting it with disobedience, in the message more so than the translation would lead us to believe. Refusing to believe in God and Jesus when faced with the message of the Good News that we find in Christ is the stumbling block.
The next part I find extremely meaningful because so many of us do not live like we are part of a “royal priesthood (v.9).” A royal priesthood in the Christian church would seem to me to be one that exhibits a life as close to that of Christ’s as possible (here in this sin filled world) and is constantly in pursuit of the commands of Christ in regards to the great commission, etc. Everywhere you went would be your mission field: the line at the grocery store, eating lunch at a restaurant, and very importantly right there in your own homes. Just like Christ and God are, will be, and always have been, we must also be unchanging in our commitment to Him. We must never allow ourselves to become apathetic to the plight of the unbelievers around us. The days of putting on different faces for different groups of people need to end. We should remain Christian in all that we think and do and say so that our life stands out in comparison to the lives of non-believers. No we are not perfect; but how we handle our imperfections and failures sets us apart from the non-believers of this world.
And lastly we look at Peter’s admonition to “submit [ourselves] … to every authority instituted among men (v.19).” Now although I would love to expand on the failures of our government under the current administration I must remain apolitical and simply say that God wants us to submit to our “rulers.” No matter what we may think of them. Our “rulers” have been placed there by God. No they are not Holy ordained representatives of God Himself like in the Old Testament, but they are allowed to be in power by God who we all know has the ability to remove any ruler at any time. The crux is that even if we disagree with our “rulers” we can still learn from their regimes. We can still honor God during their reign because we know that in the end the one true KING will be the ultimate ruler of us all. Our life here is merely a blink and time we spend under these worldly “rulers” is inconsequential in comparison to the big picture.
Bring it all home….this portion of Peter’s epistle had a number of interesting tidbits that when combined lead to one glaringly real understanding: God is great. His mercy is complete, His grace is complete, and we are heirs to His Kingdom because we have been adopted into His family. A family of all different kinds of people, from all different kinds of places, who all have one common cornerstone that is Christ!
My questions for you today are:
Do you find yourself being apathetic to the mission God has for you in His Kingdom?
Do you find yourself living up to the “Royal Priesthood” that our lives in Christ should be?