Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:4‭-‬5 RSV

Peter here combined the thought of Isaiah 28:16ff; Isaiah 8:14ff, and Psalms 122:18 in his presentation of Christ the Stone, living, elect, foundation, precious, rejected, the chief corner, and the stone of stumbling, in one of the most beautiful metaphors of the word of God.

It must surely be true, that Peter could hardly have spoken of Jesus in this manner without thinking of Jesus’ words to himself:

“On this rock I will build my church, etc.” (Matthew 16:13ff); and yet Peter, in this passage, made no connection with his own person, stressing the view that Christ is the foundation, not Peter.

He did not use either of the words [PETROS] or [PETRA], but spoke of Christ as the [LITHOS].

“A living stone” This is an appropriate metaphor for Christ who is the Lord of life. He is the eternally living one.

Jesus Christ the Messiah was the true and only foundation of this spiritual temple; but he did not fit the designs and purposes of the “builders” in Jerusalem who found him totally unsuitable for any use at all in the building they had in mind; therefore, they rejected him.

Really, this should have been expected, because their concept of a temple for God was precisely like that of the idol temples which filled the world of that era, namely, a pile of stone, timber and gold.

The idea of such an edifice being in any real sense God’s temple was a human conceit from the very inception of it.

The purpose of building a spiritual temple upon the Lord Jesus Christ was God’s purpose from the beginning.

He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

It was of Christ and the spiritual temple “in him” that Nathan spoke to David (2 Samuel 7:13); and in the light of that promise, it is clear enough that even the temple of Solomon was not God’s plan for a temple.

It was David’s idea, not God’s; God never gave a pattern for the building of it, as he did the tabernacle; and, if it had been truly God’s temple, God would never have destroyed it.

The ASV margin gives “honorable” as an alternate reading of precious, the idea being that all honor and glory are due to Jesus Christ who is the cornerstone and foundation of God’s true temple.

The contrast is between the worthless status accorded Jesus by the Pharisees, who found no use at all for him in their plans, and the fact of our Lord’s being God’s most precious and only begotten Son.

The great prophecies of Isaiah which formed the background of the apostle’s thought here, and which he would immediately quote, foretold, the formation of the Christian church, for the spiritual worship of God, under the image of a temple, which God would build on Messiah as a foundation-stone thereof.

Both the foundation stone of Isaiah 28:16 and the rejected keystone of Psalms 118:22 are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

He is both the Foundation on which the church is built and the Keystone into whom it grows up.

The conception of Christ as the Stone goes back to the Saviour himself (Matthew 21:42f).

That Peter who had heard the Lord use this very figure would have needed to borrow it from either Paul or Mark (who received practically all of his information from Peter!) is one of the little conceits of New Testament critics which true students of the New Testament view as preposterous.

Long before this epistle was written, Peter had himself also used the same figure of the chief corner set at naught by “you builders” (the Jewish hierarchy) (Acts 4:11).

“Ye also, as living stones” The figure of the spiritual temple of God is continued in this; just as Christ is the living stone, so also are the Christians.

And why “living”?

Because the Lord is the living One, and the life-giving One, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

As members of Christ’s spiritual body, Christians partake of the same nature as their Lord, and they too are “living stones,” endowed with a measure of the Spirit which shall raise them up at the last.

There’s a contrast between a spiritual temple of born-again believers with the stone temple in Jerusalem.

The words “living stone” and “living stones” are to be understood as distinguishing the Christian church, the spiritual temple of God, both from the temples of the idols and the temple in Jerusalem, which were built of dead materials.

It is not enough, then, to see the spiritual temple of God, which is the church, as merely attaining a higher glory than the Jewish temple; the true temple is of a totally different kind, the same being the only kind God ever wanted.It is important to note that house here bears its ecclesiastical sense of temple.

Jesus himself used the word in that same sense when he declared, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38).

In this statement, Peter gave the same teaching that Paul gave, who said, “Ye are a temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16f), and “being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 3:20).


This was never the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

True, God permitted that temple to be built and accommodated himself to it in exactly the same manner as he did the secular kingdom of the Jews; but neither that secular kingdom nor the temple was ever, in any sense, a fulfillment of God’s will.

It was the rejection of God’s government that led to the formation of the secular kingdom (1 Samuel 8:7); and it was the rejection of the tabernacle that led to the building of the temple (2 Samuel 7:13).

That this is true regarding the temple is apparent from a number of considerations.

  • (a) It is called in Scripture Solomon’s Temple, and that is exactly what it was; and who was Solomon?

He was a debauchee whose life was the scandal of ten generations.

As the martyr Stephen sarcastically put it, “Solomon built him a house” (Acts 7:47); that remark coming after Stephen had just recounted all the glories of Israel that had come to them while they were worshipping in the tabernacle, “even as God appointed,” a tabernacle that had been constructed after the pattern that God gave Moses; and it was followed by the key declaration that “The Most High dwelleth not in houses (temples) made with hands.”

Did God dwell in Solomon’s temple?

Of course not.

  • (b) Every statement Jesus ever made concerning the temple corroborates this view.

“My house (the true temple) shall be called a house of prayer; but ye made it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).

“Behold your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38).

“Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise” (John 2:16).

This is not an endorsement of the temple as God’s house, but a condemnation of their house of merchandise.

Matthew has, “Jesus entered into the temple of God”; but even if the text is valid the passage must be understood as Matthew’s use of a common popular name for Solomon’s temple (rebuilt by Herod the Great); but as the margin indicates (ASV), “Many ancient authorities omit of God.”

  • (c) The very idea of building a temple for God was David’s idea, not God’s (2 Samuel 7): and Nathan’s prophecy that after David’s death one of his seed should rise up after him and build God a house, whose kingdom would be established for ever (2 Samuel 7:13), refers to the kingdom of Christ and the true spiritual temple of which Peter was writing in this passage.

The whole chapter reveals that any thought of a secular temple was no part of God’s purpose.

  • (d) When the apostles and elders in Jerusalem sent out that letter to the churches, they quoted Amos 9:11,12, which records God’s promise of rebuilding again “the fallen tabernacle,” not the ruined temple.
  • (e) All of the typical material in the book of Hebrews has reference to the tabernacle, not to the Solomonic and Herodian temples.

While true enough that the temple had been constructed after the general pattern of the tabernacle, the writer of Hebrews ignored it (Hebrews 9:2), which under the circumstances is tremendously significant.

  • (f) God permitted the destruction of the Solomonic temple, which he would not have done had it been God’s true temple.

The Herodian temple, which in time replaced it, was also destroyed by divine flat, Christ himself pronouncing the doom of it, and decreeing that “not one stone shall be left on top of another” (Matthew 24:2), an inconceivable fate if that temple had indeed been the true house of God.

  • (g) The early church found the Jewish temple to be the center of enmity and hatred against the church. It was the masters of the temple who bribed witnesses to lie about the resurrection of Christ; they imprisoned, beat and threatened the holy apostles; they forbade them to preach in the name of Christ; and, as for the character of the temple establishment, it was as corrupt as anything that history records.
  • (h) The apostle Paul, upon his conversion, went to the temple; and while there he saw a vision of the Lord, but the Lord commanded him to get out of the temple and even out of the city of Jerusalem (Acts 22:17ff); but Paul had difficulty understanding this, and seemed to think that something could still be accomplished in the temple.

Although expressly forbidden to go back to the city of Jerusalem (Acts 21:4), Paul, through some misunderstanding of the Spirit’s message, even though it was reinforced by the entreaties of Luke (Acts 21:12), nevertheless went to Jerusalem and even into the temple, where, except for God’s repeated intervention, he would have suffered death.

The temple establishment organized a mob to slay Paul; through the duplicity and reprobacy of the high priest himself, they set up a phony trial in the hope of assassinating him; a group of brigands under the direction of the high priest bound themselves with an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had slain Paul.

After those wicked events, there is never any record of any child of God subsequently entering that temple again; but it was tragic that they were compelled to learn the hard way the truth that Jesus had spoken, namely, that the temple was a “den of thieves and robbers.”

  • (i) It was the secular temple that, more than anything else, blinded Israel to the recognition of the Messiah.

Jesus plainly spoke of himself as the true temple, even from the first: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19); and “One greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6); but the religious leaders were so blinded by their own ideas of a temple that they were never able to understand the nature of that holy institution which Jesus came to establish.

It was Stephen’s stress of the spiritual nature of the true temple that unleashed the full fury of the temple mob against himself and which issued in his martyrdom.

  • (j) The fundamental error of David himself in planning to build God a temporal house was evidently the same identical error that led to the formation of the secular kingdom, the desire to be like the nations around him.

There were great idol temples all over the world in David’s day; and, in the last analysis, Solomon’s temple was exactly like all the rest of the human temples, a beautiful edifice enshrining the nation’s vanity, and controlled by an unscrupulous band of pirates.

The original purpose of God was that all of the Israelites should be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6); and the subsequent development of a special priestly class came about as a result of the weakness and sins of the people.

God’s purposes are eternal; and therefore the same goal of having a “holy nation” a “kingdom of priests” still prevails.

The priesthood of every believer in Christ (that is, obedient believers) is evident in a statement like this.

This conception is also in the book of Hebrews and in Revelation 1:6, where it is written that God made Christians to be a “kingdom and priests unto God.”

It should be noted especially that it is a “holy” priesthood to which Christians are ordained.

All wickedness must be put away, stripped off, renounced by all who would participate in the priesthood mentioned here.

The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days?

But he spake of the temple of his body.

John 2:20‭-‬21 ASV

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