top of page

1 Peter 2:1-10

Lesson Focus

Jesus calls us to become living stones that have been formed a shaped to serve God’s work in the world.

Catching up on the Story…

Previously, in Peter’s letter, he called his friends to respect and value the great gift of salvation they have received from God by seeking to be holy as God is holy. Because we have been given this new birth and have become children of God, we are called to be like our Father in heaven.

What does it mean to be holy? Peter will flesh this out a bit as he continues with his letter. Given what Peter has already written, holiness can be described as living with genuine mutual love.

In our day and time, love conjures up some rather varied images. The same was the case in Peter’s day. There were at least three different words in the Greek language for love, each with a slightly different meaning. Peter qualifies the type of love we are to have; the type of love is part of our holiness, genuine and mutual. Our love is genuine when it intentionally seeks the other person’s good, even if that means we must sacrifice something of ourselves. Genuine love returns good for evil. Genuine love forgives. Genuine love is selfless.

The mutuality of our love is visible in the community we seek to create as the children of God. This is sibling love, brotherly and sisterly love. It’s the type of love that binds people together through thick and thin. To quote a children’s bible, it is the “never giving up, always and forever kind of love.” At the end of the day, genuine mutual love is the kind of Love God calls his church to exercise. To be sure, this isn’t easy. But those God calls, God equips.

The good news of this new birth and living hope, the great gift of salvation we have received from God through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, compiles us to do other things. This week’s passage begins with a “therefore,” which connects it to the preceding verses.

“Therefore, rid yourselves…” 1 Peter 2:1-3

The image that Peter invokes here is one of taking off clothes. Have you ever engaged in an activity where your clothing becomes messy and dirty? The kind of activity where, if you were to walk into the main portions of your home, your wife or mother would immediately scold you for dragging your filth into the house?

Or, perhaps, you went to an event and found that you were severely under or over-dressed for the occasion? In a way, that’s the image with which Peter is working.

In their previous lives, Peter’s friends wore the clothes of malice, guile, insincerity, envy, and slander.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, but the picture is clear. In the lives these people lived before their new birth in Christ, they were clothed with those vices.

At the same time, clothing made of malice and guile, envy, and slander are filthily and soiled garments that must be removed. Or, to shift the image, they are clothes that leave the wearer fairly underdressed for the occasion.

Peter calls them to take off those old clothes. Peter doesn’t fill out the image by encouraging his friends to put fresh clothes on, but I believe that is implied. But Peter doesn’t leave his friends without instruction. In a change of metaphor, Peter encourages his friends to become “like newborn infants who long for pure, spiritual milk.”

With images like this in the Bible, we often view those being encouraged as infants in the faith. While Paul takes that tone with the church at Corinth, it isn’t what Peter is doing here. Rather, what Peter is doing is making a comparison of the desire that he wishes his friends would have.

Those of you with children can attest to infants’ insatiable thirst for milk. It. Never. Stops. I think that was one of the things Lori and I were unprepared for when we first had children. What do you mean the thing has to eat every three hours, around the clock?!

A newborn’s thirst is prodigious due to the rate at which the baby grows. For the child to grow and mature into what it has been created to become, it must eat, and often, the right things.

Peter admonishes his friends to be like newborn infants, not in their maturity; there is no indication here that they are immature, but in their thirst for that which will enable them to grow into what they were newly born to do. They must crave, with an insatiable appetite, “pure, spiritual milk” so that they might grow into their salvation.

A caveat here, Peter isn’t saying that his friends won’t experience salvation unless they have this same newborn thirst. After all, his friends have been given a new birth. But Peter does mean that his friends must participate in their own growth as they move toward the completion of their journey.

Peter is confident that his friends will crave this pure, spiritual milk, that is, the study of the scriptures, communication with God through prayer, and worship and fellowship with the body of believers because they have already tasted this milk and have found it good. Peter isn’t so much encouraging his friends to drink for the first time, but that they might not stop drinking.

A living stone… 1 Peter 2:4-8

This first image works in tandem with what Peter will say next. In their growth, his friends will come to Christ as a “living stone, though rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight….”

The word Peter uses here for stone isn’t just any stone. It is a stone carefully hewn, cut, and shaped for a particular purpose. It is a stone that is suitable for the building of a house. Indeed, that is what Peter has in mind. Even though the culture around his friends has rejected them because their new birth has shaped them in radical ways, they are being built into something, a spiritual house.

Scot McKnight comments on this passage, “let yourselves be built” should be translated as “build yourselves into.” They must unify themselves. “…instead of being a simple group of social outcasts, they must find their identity and cohesion in their spiritual relationship to the living Stone.” (Mcknight, 106).

This spiritual house is to become a place where Peter’s friends serve as priests, ministering to the world outside, a world which rejected them as it had rejected Jesus for the sake of the world’s salvation. The spiritual sacrifice that Peter’s friends are to offer is the love of God and the love of neighbor.

Peter connects his admonishment to his friends to grow in their faith and to build themselves into a spiritual house to the work of God in the Old Testament and its fulfillment in Jesus.

Peter brings three different OT quotes into the conversation showing that Jesus was a stone, indeed the most special stone, the cornerstone. Those who build on the stone will not be put to shame. But, Peter goes on that stone was rejected, and because it was rejected, it has caused many to stumble because of their disobedience.

This draws a parallel between Jesus and Peter’s friends. Jesus was the cornerstone that was rejected. Peter’s friends are called to be living stones, who have been and will continue to be rejected for the very same reasons Jesus was rejected.

Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation - 1 Peter 2:9-10

Peter ends this section declaring to his friends, to those who have been born anew, who have craved and drunk deeply of pure, spiritual milk, and those who are living stones built into a new house of God, are now, like Israel, a chosen race. God has chosen them, and God will not abandon them.

They are a royal priesthood. This image levels the playing field, bringing everyone up to the same level.

None of Peter’s friends could have imagined themselves being royalty or priests.

In short, Peter declares that God has created his church, of which Peter’s friends are a vital part, to be his representatives in the world. Representatives that proclaim the mighty acts of Christ, the acts which bring the world from darkness to light.

So What?

Peter’s admonishment is the same to us as it was to his friends scattered around the known world.

Because we have been given this new birth, we are to take off our soiled and inappropriate clothes, the clothes of malice, envy, and slander, which make it impossible to build ourselves into a spiritual house of living stones. We are called to crave pure, spiritual milk with the same. We are to drink deeply and often so that we might continue to grow into our salvation.

As we mature, we become the means by which God becomes known in our world. Though we may be rejected, we will continue to be God’s people, sharing his light with those sitting in the darkness of this world. We will become a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy church.

Discussion Questions

Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.

  1. Write a simple definition for each of the traits Peter lists in verse one. What might they all have in common?

  2. Describe how you felt when you first came home from the hospital with your first born child. How do newborns long for milk? What’s the connection between infants longing for food, and the crowing Christian?

  3. In verse four, Peter calls us to become “a living stone.” The word Peter uses for “stone” designates a carefully chosen and hewn stone suitable to be used in the wall of a building. Have you ever tried to shape a rock, stone, or cement block so that it would be suitable to be used in a given situation? If so, what was your experience? Was it easy or hard?

  4. In verse five, Peter admonishes us to “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…” The language is passive, the action is being done to us. Is the Christian life passive or does it require our participation, too? Justify your answer.

  5. What does a “living stone” need if it’s going to truly become what the builder intended it to be?

  6. The metaphor Peter uses comes from the passage he quotes in verses 6-8. How do our stones fit in with the larger picture the quoted passage paints?

  7. In verse nine, Peter reminded his readers that they are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into the marvelous light.” What does Peter mean when he calls his readers (and us, too) a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation?”

  8. Notice that God has created and set us