Read: 1 Peter 2:4-12
“Welcome to the priesthood”. This passage teaches us that these are words God speaks to every Christian. Peter encourages Christians who were shaken and surprised by their suffering by reminding them of the priestly life they have been called to by God. This life gives purpose that provides hope when hardship and resistance come. It’s a purpose that is often only discovered and fully embraced in suffering and struggle. It’s a purpose that Christians must remember as they navigate following Jesus in difficult situations.
1) The Position We Have
Before we can find or live out our true purpose, we first have to know our position. Just like having a position or title precedes doing a job, so a Christian must know their position in the world before fulfilling their purpose in it. In verses 4-9, Peter is saying when you come to Jesus, you have a new position in the world. It’s the most choice and honored position you could ever have! Every person who comes to Jesus by faith has the same positions and titles as Jesus: He’s a living stone, you are living stones in a spiritual house; He’s the perfect priest, you are a priesthood, he’s chosen and honored, the one who believes in him is chosen and honored too (they will never be put to shame, they are chosen, royalty!).
In piling up all these positions and titles (which come from God’s description of Israel in the Old Testament), Peter is saying all the things that we look to in the world for position and identity, no longer define us. He subordinates all these things to the position and identity we have in Christ. Here’s how that plays out:
1. A chosen race – Your culture and race don’t define your position/identity.
2. A royal priesthood – Your profession/work and social class in the world don’t define your position/identity.
3. A holy nation – The country and nation where you live don’t define your position/identity.
4. A people for his possession –Even your relationships don’t define your position/identity. You belong to God first.
Peter drives all this home to encourage his readers that they are acceptable, valuable and worthy to God no matter what others say about them and do to them. But that’s not all – he’s saying all this so they would also remember the purpose that comes with this position.
2) The Purpose We Are Given
Peter describes the purpose every Christian is given as a “priesthood” (v5 and v9). What did it mean to be a priest in the Old Testament? To have the position of priest meant your whole life was dedicated to bringing people to God and bringing God to people. There are three important aspects to this priestly purpose that Peter emphasizes here:
1) It’s a Purpose Given to Us For Others – To be a priest was to be given a sacred and esteemed position. But a priest was never given access to God for him/herself. They were given this access for others.
2) It’s a Purpose Given to Us in Community with Others – This priesthood is not something that can be carried out alone. All the positions Peter describes here are corporate and communal. This purpose can only be fulfilled in the context of a connected, embodied community.
3) It’s a Purpose Given to Us to Be our Primary Purpose – The priestly life is the Christians’ primary purpose. This means all other positions God gives us in life are carried out as priests first. Glorifying God with what we say and do in community for the sake of others is our chief end in life. It’s what we were made to. It’s what gives purpose to all other (secondary) purposes we have in life.
3) The Power to Live It Out
Being called to the “priesthood” is intimidating. Who feels adequate enough, holy enough or qualified enough to bring God to people and people to God?! No one who really knows themselves. So how do we get the power to live out this great purpose in all we do? Peter says the power has to come from deep deep down inside us. It has to start with the very foundation of our lives.
The reasoning goes like this - ultimately, we all must build our identity and purpose on something. It’s the thing that – if it is removed – our sense of identity crumbles. We feel like we have no purpose. It’s the thing that if it is taken or shaken – we no longer know who we are or what to do. Peter says this foundation, this cornerstone, must be Jesus himself. There’s no other way. When He’s our cornerstone – our lives are fitted onto his so that the very power and presence of God is with us (this is the point of the temple imagery in verses 4-5). His power is active in every life built on him. It comes down to this - our priestly life is only possible because of his priestly life. Jesus came to bring us to God and bring God to us despite our sin and resistance (see 1 Pt. 3:18). How did he do this? Through rejection, suffering and death. Why? The gospel says – the only answer is because he chose to out of love. We are chosen, honored and precious to Him. Knowing what Jesus did to bring us to God, we can do what he calls us to to bring others closer to Him.
1. What about the sermon impacted you the most? What left you with questions?
2. How do we look to positions and titles to give us a sense of purpose in life?
3. What are some implications for an individual Christian that our primary position/identity in life is no longer defined by our race, culture, profession, social status, country or even our relationships?
4. What would v9 look like in action as a community, as a church (where race, culture, political persuasions, and different professions/social classes subordinated to a primary identity in Christ)? Why would this be so hard to live out? Why might this kind of community offend some people? How might it attract others?
Use the following definition of priesthood in answers questions 5-7 - The purpose of the priesthood is to bring God to others and to bring others to God.
5. Why is it important that we remember our purpose in life is for others and not just ourselves?
6. The image of living stones built together in v4-5, and the plural titles given in v9-10 clearly teach us that we’ve been given a purpose that cannot be found or fulfilled on our own. Has this proven true for you?
7. If our priestly purpose is the primary purpose given to us by God, how does this impact our secondary purposes in the following areas:
· I am called to be a… Priest-student
· I am called to be a… Priest-friend
· I am called to be a… Priest-citizen
· I am called to be a… Priest-wife, Priest-husband
· I am called to be a… Priest-mother, Priest-father
· I am called to be a… Priest - (fill in your job)
· I am called to be a… Priest-neighbor
· I am called to be a… Priest-volunteer (PTA parent, Coach or Room Parent)
8. Using section 3 above – what would you say is currently your “functional” cornerstone (the thing you are really building your identity and purpose on)? Why is Jesus the only cornerstone that can give us a stable identity and purpose that can withstand any suffering and struggle?