+27 (11) 867 3505 church@bbcmail.co.za

Doug Van Meter - 10 July 2022

A Holy Community (1 Peter 2:4–10)

The local church is God’s chosen and holy community, which displays a holy conduct (1:1–21) as it grows in holy communion with one another and with the Lord (1:22–2:3). In 2:4–10 Peter reminds his readers that they are a holy community. He employs uses several descriptive phrases, grounded in the Old Testament, to remind them of their identity and to show them that, if they will live properly as a community of faith, they must appreciate their amazing identity as assigned by God. We will consider these verses under the following headings: 1. A Community that is Drawing Near (v. 4) 2. A Community that is Building Up (vv. 5–8) 3. A Community that is Speaking Out (vv. 9–10)

Scripture References: 1 Peter 2:4-10

From Series: "1 Peter Exposition"

An exposition, by the elders of Brackenhurst Baptist Church, of the first epistle of Peter.

Download Audio     Read Online

Powered by Series Engine

When God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus did what he said he would do: He built his church. He built what Paul referred to as the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). Peter, in our text, refers to the church as the house of God; a house being built by God’s Spirit (2:4–5). The local church is God’s chosen and holy community, which displays a holy conduct (1:1–21) as its members grow in holy communion with one another and with the Lord (1:22–2:3).

In 2:4–10, Peter reminds his readers that they are a holy community. To make this clear he uses several descriptive phrases, grounded in the Old Testament, to remind them of their identity. He understands that, if they will live properly as a community of faith, they must appreciate their amazing identity as assigned by God. This matter of identity is crucial for holy living (1:1–21). And just as Peter’s original readers needed to grasp their identity as the holy community of God, so do you and I.

There is much talk today about identity, but the concept has been largely corrupted. One’s identity (whether gender or even ethnic) is no longer considered fixed by nature. Rather, identity has become a matter of personal choice, largely informed by feelings. This, of course, is nonsense, and leads to sub-flourishing living. But I would argue that the same can be said of a failure of believers to embrace their God-appointed, God-fixed identity.

When the local church fails to embrace its identity as God’s holy community—as God’s Israel—she, too, will fail to flourish as God intends. Failure to embrace our God-destined identity results in failure to appreciate our place in redemption history, failure to appreciate our purpose in redemptive history, and failure to appreciate our potential in redemptive. All of this makes us both less productive and more pessimistic.

While the church, Gods holy community, may be persecuted and afflicted, nevertheless her identity keeps her focused and faithful. This was Peter’s concern and so he wrote to encourage his readers to press on, exercising their privileges of being God’s holy community. May we do so as well.

We will study this passage under three major headings.

  1. A Community that is Drawing Near (v. 4)
  2. A Community that is Building Up (vv. 5–8)
  3. A Community that is Speaking Out (vv. 9–10)

A Community that is Drawing Near

The church, first, is a community that draws near: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” (v. 4).

Much, if not all, of Peter’s epistle is characterised by thematic continuation and expansion as he moves from section to section. He uses statements like a hinge to make his argument flow smoothly from section to section, as here.

Having addressed the matter of holy unity, he continues by reminding them that they are a holy community.

Having just quoted Psalm 34:8—reminding these persecuted, suffering believers of their experience of the gracious Lord Jesus Christ—he assumes that they are continually experiencing him. Hence, he writes, “As you come to him a living stone.”

He employs the present, active Greek tense, which can be rendered, “As you are coming to him.” This statement is not an imperative (command) but rather an indicative (a statement of fact). Peter assumes his readers will take seriously the exhortation of v. 3 so that they will be continually coming to Jesus Christ, the “living stone.”

Peter perhaps still has Psalm 34 on his mind, for the word translated “come” is used in Psalm 34:5 of looking to the Lord amid troubles. This word is used in both the Greek translation of the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament with reference to “drawing near” to God, as he instructs (cf. Leviticus 9:7; 21:18; Numbers 16:40; Hebrews 4:16; 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22). Clowney observes, “Our approach to God in worship is now our coming to the living Stone of God’s appointment.”

Two observations are necessary at this point.

First, whereas old covenant saints drew near to Yahweh, Peter makes clear that the new covenant believer draws near to Jesus Christ. He wants his readers to understand that Jesus Christ is Yahweh. As Schreiner says, “The use of the Old Testament is significant Christologically since it demonstrates that what is true of Yahweh is also true of Jesus the Christ.”

Jesus Christ is Almighty God. He is the “living stone,” once dead and now resurrected. The Lord Jesus is the cornerstone of the new and true temple (Matthew 21:42ff).

When Peter, enabled by God’s grace, confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus responded by designating Peter the “rock” upon which he would build his church (Matthew 16:16–18). Peter never confused Peter as a rock with Jesus being the Rock, the promised “stone” upon which the church would be built. Peter was the rock that would proclaim the saving work of the “stone.”

Peter was an eyewitness of man’s rejection of Jesus Christ, and an eyewitness of God’s acceptance and endorsement of Jesus Christ, the one who “in the sight of God” was “chosen and precious” (or honoured). Jesus was God’s “choice stone,” while those in spiritual darkness viewed him as a worthless stone to be rejected. And Peter boldly proclaimed this (Acts 4:5–12). This is the message to be embraced if one will be a member of the holy community. Have you?

Those who have experienced the power of God through the saving word of God, see the value, honour, and preciousness of Christ. By God’s grace, the eyes of our understanding have been enlightened, and he “has caused us to be born again” (1:3). And having experienced the grace, the goodness of our sovereign Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (2:3), we keep experiencing that he is gracious as we continually draw near to him in worship. And we do so in community.

Second, whereas only Levitical priests could draw near to God under the old covenant (and experience the “excellencies” of God in the “light” of the holy place [see v. 9]), every believer is invited, exhorted, and expected to do so under the new covenant. This drawing near a corporate, rather than an individualistic, expectation and experience. “Christians exercise priestly functions but always as members of a group who all exercise the same function” (Best). In other words, the whole holy community is to draw near to God together. This is always important, but how much more when under pressures of persecution and affliction!

Again, Peter was not writing with an individualistic goal. Instead, he was saying to his readers, “Even though we are surrounded by those who reject our Lord, we continue to engage in worship before them. We continue to gather to experience his grace together.”

Brothers, sisters, don’t allow the spiritual blindness and those with no appetite for Jesus Christ to mess with your eyesight and appetite. Rather, keep drawing near together with other believers. Don’t give in to pressure from family, friends, coaches, teachers, employers, etc. to keep you from experiencing Jesus Christ on the Lord’s Day. Don’t embrace the lie that your family devotions can replace gathering with the community of faith.

Peter’s indicative points us to our identity. That is, it is simply a fact of spiritual life that those who have been born again will supernaturally keep on drawing near to Jesus Christ—with others—to experience his grace afresh. And how we need this!

Sadly, many who claim to have this identity have not yet been born again. This explains their lack of appetite. They lack a “taste” for the Lord. If “drawing near” is always a drudging duty, then perhaps you have not yet been drawn near by the grace of God. It is more than merely theoretical that a church has not only sheep, but goats among the flock as well. Long serving Scottish pastor, William Still, famously wrote,

It is to feed the sheep on [biblical] truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness. Do we really believe that the word of God, by his Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the word of God.

Here’s the point for us: God’s people draw near to him in community around the trough of God’s word. To taste the Lord, we need to feed on him. This is precisely why we corporately gather for worship. The entire worship service—grounded in God’s word—strengthens our identity as God’s holy community. So let me ask you, how hungry are you?

A Community that is Building Up

A church community that is continually drawing near to the Lord is one therefore that will continually be built up. Peter tells his readers this in vv. 5-8

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:


“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and precious,

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”


So the honour is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,


“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone,”




“A stone of stumbling,

and a rock of offence.”

(1 Peter 2:5–8)

Spiritual Construction

Peter uses a present passive participle in v. 5, which has been translated as “being built up.” In Paul’s words, “God gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). God is causing his people to be built up as a “spiritual house”—that is, a household of God’s Spirit. Peter is not alluding to a non-material household of God’s people but rather a physical assembly of God’s people brought about and indwelt by God’s Spirit. When you consider this, it will be hard to take the church for granted.

As each member of the faith community experiences the Lord and communes with the Lord and with each other, the church is continually being built up. No gimmicks, no compromises, no worldly marketing, no worldly entertainment—just simple, biblical Christianity. In this way, the church is built up, despite setbacks and problems and opposition. This can be humbling.

Biblical local churches are being built up (despite the times) as each member refuses to be controlled by the times. As each in the community stewards a holy hunger for the Lord, Christians grow in Christ, and help others grow. Being built up (ordinarily) includes numerical growth, but it is more: It includes growth in Christlikeness.

God-feasting corporate worship is essential for church growth; it is essential for remembering our identity.

Special Stones

We must not miss that Peter makes an encouraging comparison between Jesus Christ, the Living Stone, and those saved who likewise are living stones. Just as Jesus Christ was rejected by men, so will be Christians and the church. Yet, more importantly, God’s opinion is what matters, and, to him, we are “chosen and precious,” for Peter writes, “You yourselves like living stones.”

Building on this, Peter says that God has chosen his new covenant people “to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” In other words, what was implicit in v. 4 is made explicit in v. 5.

Each time God saves one of his chosen and therefore precious people, the church gains another “brick” in the proverbial wall. And each new “stone” is active. There is no category in the New Testament for an inactive church member.

The Priesthood of All Believers

At the risk of redundancy, Peter was not thinking of individuals (though there is a place for legitimate individual application). Instead, he had in mind the corporate priesthood. Just as the priesthood was a corporate function under the old covenant, so under the new covenant. The church is built up, not by a select order of ministers, but rather by each member being a minister. Though God certainly gifts certain individuals to teach and lead, the purpose is that each member will be fed up, so that they will get up and grow up, so that the local church will be built up (Ephesians 4:11–16). This is how we “offer up spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ.” If you have the Spirit of God, count yourself in, for “spiritual sacrifices … are sacrifices offered by virtue of the work of the Holy Spirit” (Schreiner).

Having been born again by God’s grace, we offer our lives as a living sacrifice. When we do so appropriately (cf. vv. 1–3), our sacrificial service is “acceptable to God.”

The words “offer up” could be translated “bring to the altar”. This altar is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:10). Our Spirit-gifted service is brought to our Saviour. This frees us to serve when others don’t notice, or when others do us wrong.

Scriptural Confirmation

In vv.6–8, Peter uses a barrage of Scriptures to make his argument “stand.” As observed previously, these are not merely random proof texts used because of language that substantiates Peter’s words. There is a thematic connection. Peter was writing to a church in exile, and he wanted them to realise that their situation was in accordance with God’s plan to fulfil his exilic and messianic promises to Israel in his new covenant people. As Schreiner reminds us, “The new exodus, the return from exile, and the fulfilment of all God’s promises to Israel have become a reality through the gospel.”

Verse 6 is a quotation of Isaiah 28:16. The context is that of rebellious Jews trusting lies and falsehood (v. 15) rather than God’s promised deliverer. Those who rejected God’s deliverer would be put to shame but those who trusted him would not be disappointed. The prophecy points to God’s appointed Messiah—“chosen and precious”—who is trustworthy. By God’s grace, Peter’s readers had believed on him and so had no reason to feel ashamed as a community of faith. When they gathered, and as they served, they had no reason to be intimidated. Peter reenforces this in vv. 7–8 by quoting Psalm 118:22 (one of the most quoted Old Testament texts in the New Testament), along with Isaiah 8:14 (another passage encouraging faithfulness amid unfaithfulness).

Again, as in vv. 4–5, Peter appears to be driving home the point that God’s holy community is an honoured community, and should therefore be an honourable one. The church is honoured to be the recipients of God’s grace to see the glory of the rejected stone (v. 7). Church members are, in fact, the graced and holy community that is built upon the chief cornerstone, just as Jesus predicted (Matthew 21:42). It is indeed “marvellous in their eyes.”

However, those who do not grasp the glory of Jesus Christ, who refuse to taste and see that he is good/gracious, will stumble over the stone of Jesus Christ (v. 8).

The cornerstone of an ancient building was a massive stone from which the rest of the building would need to align. The irony of the picture is that this cornerstone, which is so big that it seems impossible to not notice, is in fact that over which some stumble and trip. Peter is saying that, though the glory of Jesus Christ and the gospel are so clearly visible and appreciated by believers, yet those who “stumble because they disobey the word” just can’t see it. And their present unbelief, while so ludicrous to Christians, is in line with what God has “destined.” Is Peter thinking primarily of Jewish unbelievers? Perhaps (see Romans 11:1–10, 25), though this truth applies to all who do not believe.

The present tense implies that their current disobedience was destined without commenting on their final condition. Peter’s point is that those who were disobedient were presently “destined” to be so. Perhaps God had chosen them for salvation, but the time was not yet according to his timetable. We should never assume that because one is lost today they will be lost tomorrow. Keep praying, keep proclaiming, and keep persuading as you have opportunity. This brings us to our last point.

A Community that is Speaking Out

The faithful local church is a community that speaks out: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10).

Peter continues to highlight the contrast between the holy community and the unbelievers surrounding them. The “but” in v. 9 makes this clear: “But, whereas they have stumbled into dishonour, you have been placed in a position of honour.”

In describing the immense privileges God has bestowed upon believers, which will encourage them to persevere amid persecution, he alludes to Exodus 19:5–6.

In that passage, the people of Israel, having only recently been delivered from Egypt, were at Mount Sinai. God called Moses to meet with him. The Lord reminded Moses of his grace in bearing the nation on eagles’ wings, bringing them to himself. In other words, they had been drawn near to God by his grace (19:3–4).

Yahweh then spoke covenantally with if/then language. If Israel remained near, and if they remained faithful to “obey my voice and keep my covenant,” then God would make them his “treasured possession among all peoples … and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Peter uses similar language here. He is saying that the new covenant church is the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel.

The church does not replace Israel, but God’s promises to Israel are fulfilled in the new covenant church. This is one reason Peter (with Paul) often quoted from Isaiah. As Grudem puts it, new covenant believers are “a new ‘people of God’ who have come to possess all the blessings of Old Testament Israel but in far greater measure.” This passage could not make this any clearer.

Another evidence is found in the expectation of the new covenant church, which is the same as the expectation of the old covenant people of God: “that you may proclaim [to declare abroad, to celebrate] the excellencies [praise] of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous [wonderful] light.” This is rooted in Isaiah 43:20–21 (note that darkness and light are huge Messianic themes in Isaiah [9:2; 42:7,16; etc.]). To drive home this privileged responsibility, Peter quotes from Hosea 1–2 where God promised that, though Israel would no longer be his people due to his judgement upon them, nevertheless there was coming a day when they and those who believe him would once again be his people. That is, this assignment to proclaim God’s praises, to proclaim his virtues would be restored. This is precisely what the church—the Israel of God—is doing.

The new covenant church is to speak up about the greatness and the glory of God, especially as revealed in the gospel. The book of Isaiah, which, to Peter, was evidently influential, highlights the coming of Jesus the Messiah. We could actually title the book, The Gospel According to Isaiah. The good news that God saves sinners and delivers them from the enslavement of spiritual darkness to the liberty of living in God’s light—that those once disobedient and stumbling are now made a holy people with direct access to God alongside others who have been redeemed—is the good news that the holy community declares. As Clowney says, “Our praises to God bear witness to the world. The heart of evangelism is doxological.” Are we declaring it? Are looking for opportunities to declare it? Are we in a condition to declare it? That is, are we regularly drawing near? Are we near enough to build up, so that we can better speak up? These are not theoretical questions. If we are not aware of and responding to our identity, we need to.

Too many Christians minimise the holy community. They might be members, but they don’t seem to be “living stones,” drawing near with other “stones.” They don’t connect with others or they think their spiritual gift is the ability to be cynical and critical. Enough of that. Repent and embrace the privileges and responsibilities that attend being a part of God’s holy household.


We can conclude Peter’s argument that, indeed, the new covenant church is God’s appointed holy community—the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). The old has passed away and the new has emerged in a greater measure, with greater blessings, with greater potential. Consider the evidence from this passage alone:

  • The church is God’s spiritual house; that is, his temple (v. 5).
  • The church is God’s priesthood enabled to draw near to him, equipped to corporately offer up acceptable sacrifices (v. 5)
  • The Isaiah passages are applied to the new covenant people of God (vv. 6, 8).
  • The language of Exodus 19:5–6 and Deuteronomy 7:6, originally applying to old covenant Israel, is now applied to the new covenant church (v. 9).
  • The assignment to Israel to be a light to the nations and to declare God’s praises (Isaiah 43:21) is now that of the new covenant church (v. 9).
  • The reference to Israel being set aside as God’s people and then reconstituted and resurrected as God’s people (Hosea 1:1, 6, 9–10; 2:23) points to the new covenant church.

As Grudem concludes, “What more could be needed in order to say with assurance that the church has now become the true Israel of God?” So, why is this so important?

It is important because the local church needs a great(er) appreciation of her identity. The church is not a mere parenthesis in redemptive history awaiting the day when Israel, the real people of God, are converted. Though we should rejoice and long for the day when God saves a large number of Jewish people, per the teaching of Romans 11 (which will be followed by even more Gentiles being converted), nevertheless we must not minimise what God is doing today. We must not minimise the great potential of the new covenant temple which is ever-growing.

Brothers and sisters, our place in God’s redemptive history is not an accident. It is not an afterthought. The church is God’s destined place—his destined temple—and hence is the destined place where corporate worship meaningfully and powerfully takes place.

Further, the local church’s purpose in redemptive history is to proclaim the glory of God, and nowhere is this better displayed than in the glorious gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Finally, the local church, the holy community of God, has immense potential amid an unbelieving and disobedient world. Keep praying, keep proclaiming, and keep drawing near. Experience the power of the gospel—the power of God for salvation.