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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:God is Building us into a Spiritual House
Text:1 Peter 2:4-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Church Building
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-01-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 122:1,2,3                                                                                  

Ps 50:7,11

Reading – 1 Peter 1:1-2:3

Ps 118:6,7

Sermon – 1 Peter 2:4-8

Hy 50:1,2,3,4

Ps 133:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, God has given us a real blessing in this church building. In many ways, it’s a hub for congregational life. It serves as a centre of our worship, our learning and study, and it’s a place for our communion together. It’s a good gift of God to us.

Yet how does the Bible speak about our places of worship, like this one? It doesn’t actually call them ‘churches.’ It doesn’t call them ‘houses of God.’ Reading the New Testament, there’s little interest in where Christians gathered. They would meet at a river. They’d assemble in a lecture hall. They’d find someone who had a big house and go there. It didn’t matter, because ‘the house of God’ isn’t made of bricks and mortar. That’s because we—you and I and everyone here—are a holy house for God!

To grasp what a miracle that is, we should go back to the Old Testament. Then the Israelites worshiped at one central place. God was pleased to show his presence at the tabernacle or temple. He even called it his “dwelling-place.” That was God’s house, where the people met for prayer and sacrifice and instruction in the law.

But something fundamental has changed. Christ ended the services at the temple. And God no longer makes his dwelling in one place, but in the hearts of all who are washed with Jesus’s blood. So believers are called ‘temples’ in the New Testament, temples of the Lord. And this is why Peter calls us a “spiritual house.” We don’t drive to the house of God on Sunday morning—we are the house of God, every day!

This is a glorious truth, one with implications. It means that we, as a house, need to be built together on our firm foundation. It means that we as believers need to be a centre of holy worship and communion. It means that we must be holy because the holy Lord has made his home in our midst. I preach God’s Word to you from 1 Peter 2:4-8,

God is building us into a spiritual house. We are:

  1. established on the one Cornerstone
  2. made up of many stones
  3. called to temple service   

 

1) We are established on the one cornerstone: Peter is going to talk about buildings. He’ll tell us about how believers form the dwelling of God on earth, a temple that is being put together, stone by stone. And Peter begins in the right way. He starts with the foundation. Because without a good foundation, everything else is worthless—even our good fellowship and best works. The basis for the church needs to be in place.

And it is! For Peter begins, “Coming to him as to a living stone…” (v 4). Believers are coming to Christ, every day! And as we seek out our Saviour more and more, as we strive to be built up in him, as we look to him for strength—coming to Jesus, He’ll never disappoint. Because He is “the living stone.”

Scripture often pictures our God as a Rock. This image speaks of God’s faithfulness, his trustworthiness. God isn’t a being who will change with time, a God who crumbles under pressure. We can count on our Rock, year in and year out, even hour by hour.

We don’t usually think of rocks as being very exciting. They might be dependable, but for the most part, the rocks in your garden just sit there. Yet notice how Peter puts it: our Saviour is the living Stone. That is to say, our Rock is personal, He is full of life, and He even gives life to those who go to him.

For this living Stone is the very cornerstone of God’s house. Isaiah spoke of him already centuries ago in Isaiah 28. And now Peter quotes the prophet, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious” (v 6).

You’ve probably learned before that the cornerstone is vital to any house that is made of stone. The mason will carefully build up the walls, by fitting each stone together according to its size and shape. But he has to start this work somewhere. And he does so by using a specially chosen stone as the very first, for the first corner. It’s an important decision. This stone needs to be well-shaped, and solid, and of just the right size. That’s because on this single rock, the builder will build all the rest. On this single rock, the entire house will depend.

Christ is our chosen and precious stone! He’s the one God always wanted as the basis of his temple, his people. He was even set aside for this task, Peter tells us in chapter 1, “before the foundation of the world” (1:20). He is the living Stone, one who gives new life to sinners.

Yet, unbelievably, this precious stone was “rejected…by men” (2:8). Keep in mind that Peter knew all about it, for he’d been there when Jesus was discarded like so much rubbish. Those who were expected to know better decided that Jesus wasn’t the one. So the Jewish leaders opposed him throughout his ministry. Blinded by jealousy and led astray by a spirit of unbelief, they had Jesus arrested, tried, and killed. They turned the people’s will against their Messiah and they didn’t rest until He was dead.

Many took a pass on Christ. They threw the cornerstone away and said He was worthless. He wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t big enough, didn’t conform to their expectations enough: He was “rejected by men.” Peter saw how Jesus’s own countrymen refused the Author of salvation.

When we open the book of Acts, we hear Peter preaching to the same ones who had been so blind. He argues that Jesus was the promised Christ and he urges them to take back the stone they had rejected. If only they’d open their eyes, repent, and be saved! If not, they’d be lost forever. Peter quotes Isaiah again, who said of the Christ that He is “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (v 8). And so it was. For despite Peter’s preaching, so many refused the gospel.

So why would some reject the Christ? What reason could a person possibly give for ignoring him—what reason could there be, not just back then, but still today? The answer is hard to swallow. Peter says, “They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (v 8). The fact is, some people were never meant to be included in God’s house; they were ‘appointed’ (or destined) to be disobedient. Yet it’s still their own fault that they stumble: there was nothing lacking in Christ, but everything lacking in them. And we would be no better.

At first Peter himself had stumbled on this Stone. When Jesus told the disciples that He needed to suffer and die in order to be the Saviour, Peter resisted: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” He stumbled, but by God’s grace, he was able to get up. For Peter learned who Jesus really was, that Jesus was the chief cornerstone in God’s building—the very basis and ground of salvation.

The quotation from Psalm 118 tells the whole story, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (v 7). Sometimes that last word is translated as ‘capstone,’ which is different from ‘cornerstone.’ We said that the cornerstone forms the key part of the foundation, as the first stone set in place. But the capstone is often the last in a building, set right at the highest peak of the house, or perhaps at the centre of the archway over the main door. It’s like the culmination of the project. And this too, was an important stone, one to celebrate, because it meant the job was finally done!

Cornerstone and capstone: the crucified and risen Lord Jesus is both! He is both the beginning and the end of our salvation, the Author and the Finisher. Christ is both our stable foundation and our highest joy.

For God turned the rejection of Jesus into something great. All the terrible pounding of that stone actually moved forward the Architect’s plan. For by his suffering, Jesus became the perfect fit. By his death, He became the Rock we can build on. By his resurrection He showed that He’s truly the Stone who is ‘living.’

As God’s house, this is our sure foundation. When we’re connected to Jesus Christ by faith, we have every benefit: in Him we have the complete forgiveness of our sins, the restoration of our hearts, and the assurance of everlasting glory. Whatever happens, we know we can depend on Christ. Because He’s our Rock! Christ won’t leave us unsupported and all alone. He never has, and He never will.

And this blessed reality calls us to action. If Jesus is so precious, how do we respond to him? If there’s someone dear to you, you cherish him, you appreciate her, you refuse to take them for granted. So cherish your Saviour, in the preaching, in your devotions, in your prayers and worship. Realize how priceless He is, how excellent and beautiful, and then keep coming to Him as our living Stone. Seek him out; draw near to Christ, and depend on Him.

Think of Jesus’s words in Matthew 7, “Everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (vv 24-25). We must establish ourselves more and more on the living Rock who is Christ. And how can we? By putting his words into practice.

Let’s put into practice what He says about forgiving those who do wrong against us. Practice what He says about helping one another. Practice what He says about letting our light shine in this world. Practice what He says about prayer. When we live by the Word of Christ, we have a foundation that is firm.

 

2) We are made up of many stones: If Christ is the cornerstone, then what are we? We are “living stones… being built up [into] a spiritual house” (v 5). Notice how the Spirit describes us in the same way as our Saviour: like the ‘Living Stone,’ we too are living stones! This is a miracle, because we used to be dead: as lifeless as rocks. But the living Stone made us alive. He connected us to himself and gave faith and love.

And Christ has a very important purpose in doing this. He made us living stones who are meant to be connected—not scattered here and there, on our own. When you drive through the countryside, you see that. Along the highways and at the edges of the fields, there are countless loose rocks and boulders. Some in big piles, other stones just lying there, all by themselves. No rhyme or reason to their order, just left where they fell from the farmer’s wagon, or in the same place since the day of creation. Random heaps of stones…

But if we are living stones, we are meant to be joined together. First, we are joined to Christ by faith—that is essential, and without being united to the Cornerstone, we’d be dead. And then we’re also meant to be joined together as believers. He wants each of us to be “a building block” in a stunning structure for him. God wants every one of us to take our place like stones in a vast wall, carefully fitted together to form a spiritual house.

For every house is formed of many parts. You take various materials and you put it all together: today it’s concrete, bricks and lumber, wiring and plasterboard. And you put it all together in the right way, by careful planning and secure fastening, until you have a house. By themselves, all these materials are just the separate piles of stuff you find at the hardware store. All that material by itself has potential, nothing more—like lonely rocks in a field. But putting it together, you have a house where someone can live.

That’s what God wants us to be: to be a house for Him, to be a temple—just like the Jerusalem temple used to be the place of God’s presence. That was a glorious reality, how the living God came down and had his dwelling on earth.

But now there’s something even more remarkable. For now God dwells not in a building of shining gold and luxurious wood; He dwells among ordinary people like you and me! Holy God lives among all those who are joined to Christ. Just like Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “In [Christ] you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (2:22).

“Built together.” This means that as Christians, we can’t be content to be random stones, lying here and there, separate and apart from everyone else. Sometimes we’re only comfortable being with a few other members, only our family and friends—these are the ones we associate with. It that’s how it went in the congregation, we wouldn’t really be forming a house for God. You can’t build a house out of a handful of stones, or a few scattered planks of wood! But it takes everyone being ‘built together.’

A couple times in his letter, Peter has called us “strangers in the world.” We are strangers, because we don’t fit in—we shouldn’t fit in!—with the godless society around us. In this world, we stand out, as strangers.

Yet here’s the thing: we shouldn’t be strangers to one another! There should never be a church full of ‘strangers,’ people who are essentially ignorant of each other, a church full of people doing their own thing. It shouldn’t be that way, because we share one cornerstone. If you’re building your life on Christ, then you’ll get to know the others who are doing the same. Don’t be a stranger, but a brother, a sister!

In chapter 1, Peter said that these Christians are “dispersed,” for they were scattered over a wide area of Asia Minor, in villages and cities and towns throughout the region. We too, are scattered—in the sense that we can be so busy with our own lives that we almost forget everyone else. We assemble here on Sunday, but then scatter to our own lives and callings all week, and seldom think of the other members.

But by calling us “living stones,” the Lord calls us to be linked with one another, tightly integrated like stones in a wall. And that requires us to strengthen our connections with each other. Be built together by getting to know each other better. Be built together by spending time together in fellowship and in the study of Scripture.

What if we all took more time to pray for each other? Pay attention to those around you at church and then pray for them, your fellow members. Or what if we all committed to showing hospitality to another family, or a single member, or a group of young people or seniors, at least once per month? Prayer, hospitality, service, acts of kindness, giving, encouraging—give some thought to how you are contributing to Christ’s church.

Being built together takes an effort—it’s the effort to reach out to new members. It’s the effort to speak with those who are still ‘strangers’ to us. It’s sometimes the effort too, to forgive someone and to learn to accept them in Christ.

But as many stones of many varied shapes and kinds, we share our salvation in the Lord. That means we should overlook every other difference, and be united in Him. We’ll only stand as a beautiful temple for the LORD if we join together.

             

3) We are called to temple service: So what happens in God’s new temple? In a word: worship. At the temple people present thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. Peter has called us God’s house, but now he changes the image slightly. We’re not only the stones that form the building, but we are the priests who work in it! “[We are] a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v 5).       

Day and night, the Old Testament priests presented their offerings to God. Oxen and birds, bread and oil—all of it, given to God, in thanksgiving for his goodness, to atone for sin. But the temple changed since the finished work of Christ. The priesthood has changed too. It’s not just adult males from the tribe of Levi who are set apart to serve. It’s everyone who is anointed with the Spirit of Christ! It’s the women and men, the boys and girls. 80-year olds and 20-year olds. All these stones, all these priests, called to offer sacrifices to God.

So what do we give him? Not animals any longer, nor bread and oil. God calls us to give “spiritual sacrifices” (v 5). Think of the similar words of Paul in Romans 12:1, “I urge you…to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”

That means everything we are. Offer your hands to help fellow saints and neighbors. Use your eyes to study God’s Word. Present your ears to listen to someone who needs to talk. Sacrifice your mouth to speak uplifting words to the discouraged, to sing praises to our Saviour. Use your mind to meditate a while on the goodness of God in Christ. As priests and as temples, we’re called to give ourselves to God continually. Not just on Sunday. Not just at devotion time. But to keep on offering ourselves, each and every day!

And, the Spirit says, be mindful about what you give to God. Your holy sacrifices must be pleasing; it must be “acceptable” to God (v 5). That’s one of those words we wish that God defined for us, where He gave us a checklist or a set of rules. But He didn’t. So what is “acceptable” to God? Think again of the Old Testament. God didn’t love every sacrifice they brought, but He wanted the best and the purest. That was the principle.

The best and purest, the peak and prime: so for us, God doesn’t want the leftover bits of our energy or our money or our day. Is that what we sometimes give? And God also doesn’t want top-quality offerings which we make with wrong motives, when we’re looking for people’s praise. The Lord desires your genuine sacrifice: your whole life presented in faith, your gifts presented in thanksgiving, our communion presented to him in love.

In closing, let’s marvel at how highly the Spirit speaks of us in our text. As local church, this is what we are: we are God’s holy temple, we are the LORD’s holy priesthood. That’s surprising if you think about what kind of weak and sinful people make up this church!

But is the church made of perfectly formed and fitted stones? Is the church populated by priests who never fail in their duty? The church is a collection of sinners who have humbly come to Christ for salvation. The church is an assembly of weak saints who are now committed to serving him in the Spirit, finding their strength from him, and drawing closer to God every day. We are broken stones built on the living Stone!

As congregation we’ve got building to do. There’s a lot of ‘renovations’ still needed. As church we need to be busy with the ongoing process of growing in faith, and improving in our love, and strengthening in hope. We have work to do, but God regards us as living stones, ‘building blocks’ with great potential.

So may God be pleased with what He sees in us, his church. May God be pleased by our unity and our loving communion. May God be pleased by our holy worship. May God find acceptable the sacrifices that we present. So may the LORD God make his home among us!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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