Lesson 4
I Peter 2:1-8

E-Mail - Henry Mahan

There is no subject more important than the nature and extent of the inward change that takes place when a man is savingly joined to Christ. Some think that this sanctification is God's work and that man has nothing to do with it. They say that God saves us, sanctifies us, and works His will in us; and we need give no concern to the matter of holiness. Others think that the work of sanctification and personal holiness is man's work entirely–that God gives us the means and waits to see what we will make of ourselves.

Peter cuts both of these errors out by the roots. On the one hand he teaches that we are the elect of God, born of the Spirit, given a new nature, a new heart, a new direction, and indwelt by the Spirit of God. But on the other hand, this dramatic change is accomplished through knowledge and belief of the truth (II Thess. 2:13; Mark 16:15-16). We are born again, but we are babes who must mature and grow. God has appointed means of growth–the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, trials, personal determination and effort (II Peter 1:5-8). "God worketh in you both to WILL and to DO His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).

(Vs. 1) Peter exhorts us to lay aside (to be done with) these things that are disagreeable and contrary to spiritual life. Unfortunately, it is not a "once for all" accomplishment but a continual effort of "laying aside" the following: (1) MALICE–ill-will and ill-feeling toward others. Malice is born of self-love. (2) GUILE or deceit. The word is used for all dishonest ways of gaining our goals. We must be men and women who speak the truth and who deal honestly with all men. (3) HYPOCRISY. This is the opposite of sincerity. It is pretending to be what we aren't and speaking with our lips what is not in our hearts. (4) ENVY is the natural effect of malice and reveals the absence of love. Envy is the uneasiness a person feels in the happiness, prosperity, or success of another. (5) EVIL SPEAKING. When we think of evil speaking, we usually think of blasphemy or dirty words; but perhaps the worst and most damaging form of evil speaking is gossip, slander, and criticism of others. Whispering and fault-finding do not reveal a work of grace in the heart. The exhortation is to lay these sins aside.

(Vs. 2-3) "As new born babes." He takes for granted that we are born again and are little children in the family of God. Therefore, as a baby desires the breast, we should have the same hunger and thirst for the Word of God that we may grow in grace, in love, in knowledge, in patience, in humility, and in faith. "Sincere" milk is the pure, unmixed Word of God. This is our real food–not tradition nor man's ideas and thoughts about the Word, but the Word of God itself.

Verse 3 is in reference to Psalm 34:8. If we have indeed tasted and know by our own experience that the Lord has been good and gracious to us in Christ, WE WILL seek to lay aside these fleshly deeds that are dishonoring to Him and uncharacteristic of His children; and we will feed on His Word, which is our bread and meat. The new man lives on spiritual food. "The ear is the mouth of the mind."

(Vs. 4) "To whom coming." Believing on Christ and living in Christ are not isolated acts of faith but a CONTINUOUS COMING TO CHRIST, a continual exercise of faith in His love, His grace, His blood, and His intercession. We came to Christ and we continue to come to Christ, "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."

"As unto a living stone." Peter is not the rock upon which the church is built, but Christ is that foundation stone (that stone that has life and gives life to the whole building). He was rejected and refused by religious leaders but chosen of the Father as SURETY, HEAD of the church, SAVIOUR of the body, and HEIR of all things.

(Vs. 5-6) Believers are stones found in the same quarry as all men, dug out by God's grace, separated by God's Spirit, and given life by Christ. We are made a spiritual building and become the house of God (Heb. 3:6). This is in distinction from the material tabernacle of old in which the presence of God dwelt in type. We are the tabernacle of God. We are a holy priesthood (like the priests of old) who offer sacrifices of faith, love, and praise, acceptable to God in Christ Jesus.

Verse 6 is a quotation from Isaiah 28:14-16. These false religionists sought acceptance, deliverance, and protection from judgment and condemnation in form, ceremony, and works. They were not afraid, for they felt secure in their false refuges. But their refuge of lies shall be destroyed. However, we can have assurance and confidence if our refuge is Christ; for He is the stone (precious and sure) that God laid and tried. He who rests in Christ shall never be put to shame.

(Vs. 7-8) Unto you who have seen your guilt, who have seen your inability, who have seen your need of the Saviour, who have seen His grace and power to save, and who have received Him as Prophet, Priest, and King, HE IS PRECIOUS! He is precious in His person, in His sacrifice, in His offices, and in every way! But to the unpersuaded and the unbelieving, the very stone which they rejected and refused has become the main cornerstone by the decree and act of God. Therefore, instead of being to them their foundation and refuge, He is a stone which causes them to stumble and is an offense to them (I Cor. 1:23; Rom. 9:32-33; Matt. 26:31-33). They stumble at His birth and parentage, at His outward poverty, at His friends, at His doctrine, at His death. "Whereunto they were appointed." The Scripture says that Pharaoh hardened his heart, but it also says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart! The Scripture says that wicked men crucified Christ, but it says they did what God determined before to be done. We can say that stumbling and destruction is the appointed end of all who reject Christ, the cornerstone (Matt. 21:44); or we can say that those who willingly refuse Christ and stumble at His gospel of grace and substitution were vessels of wrath from the beginning (Rom. 9:22-23); and we would be right on both counts.

Henry Mahan is pastor of
Thirteenth Street Baptist Church
Ashland, Ky.