When God’s people come together, we are all important and we all have work to do. Each one of us is a royal priest. The priesthood of every believer was lost to Catholic doctrine. The priests controlled the church and all the work of the church was done by the priests. They were viewed as the only ones able to do God’s work. The members just “showed up” and enjoyed the show—so to speak.
The Reformation changed all that. One of the major themes of reform was that every Christian was a priest of God and should be involved in God’s work. Everyone was called to rally under the banner of the cross. It didn’t matter what sort of labor you were involved in, that work was to be for God. When it came to the church and its work, the separation between the professionals and the people was torn down. Now everyone could participate in the church. In fact, everyone was expected to participate in the life of the church.
This wasn’t just a Reformation doctrine. It is a Bible doctrine. Every Christian is a priest serving under Jesus—the High Priest. Sadly, we often go back to having a professional priesthood. You will probably recognize some of these emotions.
I can’t wait until we get new leaders. Then everything will be good.
If only they would have done it this way, then it would be ok.
Well, I can’t do anything about it. I’m not an elder.
Well, nobody cares what I think.
Well, I could have told you that was a bad idea.
We have all felt and said those things. Do you know what they reveal? Those emotions point to either an abusive leadership or an absent membership.
So many of these types of problems can be governed by an active, invested, heard, and submissive church membership. This involved church membership is what happens when church members recognize that we are all priests entrusted with God’s service in our local congregation.
Y’ALL ARE ONE
1 Peter 2:4-5 says, “As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God—5 you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (CSB).
At the very front of the verse, we see an important word—you. Now, this is a second person plural in Greek and should be translated as “y’all.” It isn’t talking about individual activity. Everything that follows is a corporate activity. It is something we do together. We aren’t isolated. We are incorporated into the body of Christ.
This is also the way that our Triune God works. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate equally divine persons. They do everything together. Theologians call this “inseparable operations.” One member of the Trinity may be emphasized in an activity, but everything that they do is done together. The same principle is taught by God for his church. We are supposed to do church work together.
We are y’all. We do not sit back and critique the leaders we have chosen. We do not sit on the sidelines while the work is being done. We do not allow others to work hard while we take it easy. We are y’all.
This principle is highlighted again when we see what y’all are supposed to do. The Bible says, y’all come as a living stone. It didn’t say we come as living stones here. It says that all of us come together as one stone. This same thing happens in Romans 12:1 where Paul said, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” The “you” should be “y’all.” The sacrifice is one sacrifice. In other words “y’all come together and present your bodies as one sacrifice to God.”
So we do not lay all the work at the elders’ feet. We don’t make the ladies do all the work. The elders shouldn’t have to make every little decision. We are all involved in this work together. We are all priests entrusted with God’s service and God’s church.
It’s also nice to remember that we are a stone. We aren’t a complicated mechanism like a flux capacitor on Doc Brown’s Delorean time machine. We are just a stone. The only reason we have value and potential is because we are in God’s hands. We don’t have to be amazing, we just have to be in God’s hand. We don’t have to be able to do great things, we just have to let God do great things with us. We don’t have to know it all. God is omniscient. We don’t have to be everywhere. God is omnipresent. We don’t have to be the best speaker. God works through the message. We just have to be a stone in the Master’s hand. He knows exactly what stone needs to be where. He knows exactly what stones need to be together. He knows exactly how to use each stone. Be a stone. Be His stone. That’s enough to be amazing.
This is why Peter said that when we come to God in his congregation this way that, we “are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We together are being built so that we may together worship God. Notice the first thing that happens when we come together as a living stone is that we “are being built.” This is a passive verb. This is something that God is doing to us as a group. In verse five God does use the plural “stones” instead of the singular, but still, even these stones are a spiritual house and a holy priesthood. All of y’all come together as one for God.
Christians, remember that we are the temple of the living God. 2 Corinthians 6:16 tells us plainly–”we are the temple of the living God.” This reality we experience is the fulfillment of the plan in Leviticus 26:12, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” So now we are in God’s presence, but it gets even more amazing, God is in us too! “God, who is present everywhere and wholly present everywhere, does not dwell within all men, but only in those whom he has made into His most blessed temple or temples, delivering them “from the power of darkness,” and translating them “into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col 1:13), which began with their rebirth.”
When we are together, God makes us a royal priesthood—all of us. The paid staff, elders, deacons, and all the members are all priests. No one is excluded from God’s service. Just as the Father, Son, and Spirit operate inseparably, Christians are to operate inseparably. Origen, the 3rd-century theologian, wrote: “each of those who are led by the word of God to strive together in the duties of piety, will be a precious stone in the one great temple of God.”
All the work we do is for and by Christ. Remember that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Leo the Great said that God “adorns the whole body of the Church with countless gracious gifts, that through the many rays of the one Light the same brightness is everywhere diffused, and that which is well done by any Christian whatsoever cannot but be part the glory of Christ.”
Y’ALL HAVE ONE PURPOSE
God said we are one spiritual house and one royal priesthood and one living stone because we are to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). God has one people and this is their one work—to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus. This reminds us of what Paul said in Romans 12:1, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Both Peter and Paul tell us that we come together and work together so that we can praise God through Christ. We often think about our service to God as limited to 10-11 AM on Sunday morning. Some of you wisely extend that to 6-7 PM on Sunday and Bible classes on Sunday AM and Wednesday PM, but then we get to go do our stuff the rest of the week. Isn’t that our weekly idolatry?
Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). We get this in reverse. We seek first all these things and hope there might be time for his kingdom and his righteousness. When we follow this model, we are practicing idolatry. We are putting “all these things” before the One who made all these things for his own glory. We are seeking for all these things when there is One who has promised to give all these things to us if we seek Him.
We can see this principle in lived out in the Triune God. Notice that God does all things for his own glory. Look at God’s words in Isaiah 48:9-11, “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” In Ephesians 1:6 we are told that God saved us “to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the beloved.” Isaiah 43:7 records that God created his sons and daughters for his glory.
At first, it sounds like God is egotistic. But in reality, it is just that God isn’t an idolater. He doesn’t place anything above himself because if he did he would be committing idolatry. Now, if God refuses to be an idolater, we should as well. We must view God as the singular prize in all our efforts.
In fact, the Bible tells us that we cannot really have faith if we are not living for God’s glory. Jesus said, “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another and don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God.” Are we living for God’s glory? Are we living to praise Him and Him alone?
God has made us holy royal priests. We are his spiritual house–the replacement of the temple. We are his family. At 12 years old Jesus recognized that he “must be about his Father’s business.” We must be about our Father’s business too. All of us together. Every member is a priest. Every member has a role to fill. Every member has a significant contribution to make.
We Christian priests must be about God’s business. We must exhaust our opportunities to praise him here to be ready to praise him inexhaustibly. Worship is our greatest activity and greatest purpose. “The ultimate purpose of the church is to worship God through Christ.” We have been saved and made priests for this purpose. Ephesians 1:4-6 tells us, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” We are created to praise him. We are created for his glory. Praise God that he would choose us for this most honorable service.
ARE YOU Y’ALL?
1 Peter 2:4 emphasizes how y’all (the Christians) are coming to God and are made into a living stone by God so that God can build his temple with these stones. As special as that is, don’t miss the fact that all this is through Jesus–the original stone. 1 Peter 2:6 quotes Isaiah 28:16, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” In verse 7 Peter quotes Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected–this one has become the cornerstone.”
In effect, Peter said you are the living stone, but Jesus is the stone of life. You are the spiritual house that God is building, but Jesus is the Temple rebuilt in the resurrection. What does this mean? It means that you are in Christ! You have been exalted with Him! You have been raised with Him! You have been glorified with Him!
Unless you haven’t. Peter reminded his readers of a reality with which they were very familiar. There are lost people. Jesus is, and by extension, his church is, “a stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over” (Is. 8:14 quoted in 1 Peter 2:8 cf. Rom. 9:33; 14:20). The Bible says, “they stumble because they disobey the word; they were destined for this” (1 Pet. 2:8b).
Who are you? Are you one who will stumble over Christ? Or are you one who will be built in Christ? I hope you are one who is part of God’s “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I hope you are one who “once were not a people but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10). I hope that is you.
If you have not yet received that mercy, been made God’s people, been made a holy and royal priest, and been made a living stone in God’s Temple you can be! You can be saved. You can be added to God’s church. You can be a part of God’s work. When you come by faith and are baptized into Christ’s body you are a part of the Stone, a part of the Temple, and a priest for God. Why wait?