Whenever Dr. C. F. W. Walther (1811-1887) signed his name he would cite 1 Peter 2:9 beneath his signature. Evidently it was his favorite passage. Christians often have favorite passages. Beneath a famous portrait of Luther, Psalm 118:17 is written out with Luther's signature. Evidently this was his favorite passage.
Read the three verses which precede our text. Note the sins of which Christians are guilty, by implication, in verse 1. Note also that one of these is "deceit." Then note that in verse 2, the Word is called "without deceit." Christians are to desire this Word, this Gospel, as avidly as babies just born. Why? That thereby they may grow UNTO SALVATION. Verse 3 does not mean that tasting that the Lord is good is uncertain. It should be translated in this way: "It, as is surely the case, you have tasted that the Lord is good (gracious)."
Stoeckhardt: Glancing briefly at the entire section 2:4-10, it is at once obvious that the keyword is 'priesthood.' This is the main thought.
He translated this way: "And since you are attaching yourselves to this one, as to a living stone . . . build yourselves up as living stones into a spiritual house, into a holy priesthood."
Verse 4 alludes to Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16 but does not directly quote them.
Note the contrast between mankind and God. All men, not just the Jews, examined and rejected the Christ. "He was despised and rejected of men."
Selwyn: 'Stones' is one of a number of adjectives used in these verses to point the contrast between the Christians Church and the pagan temple. . . In the passage before us the stones are living people, as opposed to the dead stones of the temples of cults now superseded; it forms a 'spiritual house,' where 'spiritual sacrifices' are offered, in contrast to the centers of idolatrous heathen worship . . . Alford sums up the argument well; 'Spiritual, because as the temple, as the priests, as the God, so the offering.' . . . God often does His most wonderful works by instruments which the world rejects. Such as use of Psalm 118:22 is wholly in line with His use of Isaiah 53, which embodied a similar reversal of values . . . When applied to Christ or to His gifts, it adds to the idea of 'living' that of 'life-giving.' Look at John 4:14 and 6:51.
Meyer: 'Stone' is to be taken here as in John 6:51 and similar passages . . . What is said in Psalm 118:22 of the builders, is here applied generally to mankind, in order that perfect antithesis may be obtained . . . chosen as the object of love. Look at 1 Timothy 5:21.
"Also." The point of comparison lies in the word "stone." Because Christ is "life-giving" the Christian is "living," spiritually alive. And just as Christ is THE "Stone," so Christians are stones. He is the Stone on which the church is built. We are the stones in the church.
Stoeckhardt: We have the life from Christ, the Living Stone, the Source of all life . . . The life of conversion is sharing in Christ's life after resurrection. . . It is one and the same to say that Christians as living stones attach themselves to Christ, the Living Stone, or that they build themselves upon Him . . . The outward growth of the Church is not being discussed here . . . Peter at once introduces another concept 'holy priesthood.' Believing Christians appear, on the one hand, as living building-stones, on the other, as priests of God within the sanctuary . . . What the temple, the priesthood, Israel's offering was outwardly, imperfectly, typically, has now been fulfilled in the New Testament by the Christians and become fact and truth, and the perfect now stands in contrast to the imperfect . . . Christians are the antitype of the Old Testament priesthood. In the Old Testament the priesthood was restricted to the house of Aaron. It was their privilege to draw near and stand before God. In Exodus 19:22 they are called those who 'come near the Lord.' Look at Leviticus 10:3 and 2 Chronicles 29:11 . . . It is a holy priesthood, a priestly congregation which, since it is built on Christ even now has passed through the curtain into the Holy of Holies. Heaven already now stands open for this priesthood, and it is nigh unto the throne of Majesty.
Notice that "spiritual" is used once of the Church itself is pictured as a house or a temple and a second time the qualifying the sacrifices of the Church which is a priesthood. Both are of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings Christ to us. He makes us spiritual and the result is spiritual sacrifices.
Stoeckhardt: These are no longer sin and atonement offerings since through the one offering of Christ sin was completely atoned, but they are offerings of praise and thanks. Look at Hebrews 13:15 . . . To the spiritual offerings of the New Covenant belong all the good works, works that flow from the Spirit and from faith and by which Christians praise their Father in heaven . . . Look at Hebrews 13:16. Serving God in the New Testament is, according to Romans 12:1, reduced to this that Christians give their lives as offerings to God.
Selwyn: The Church's sacrifices are acceptable THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, because and in so far as they are brought into the ambit of His own perfect and sufficient sacrifice offered on the cross.
Apology (Tappert 567.22): Spiritual sacrifices are contrasted not only with the sacrifices of cattle but also with human works offered ex opera operato, for 'spiritual' refers to the operation of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul teaches the same in Romans 12:1.
Meyer: Israel had a house of God; the Christian Church is called to be ITSELF the house of God. That house was built of INANIMATE stones, this of LIVING stones; it is a spiritual house. Israel was to be a holy priesthood, but it was so only in the particular priesthood introduced into the church. The Christian Church is called in this sense, that EACH INDIVIDUAL IN IT IS CALLED UPON TO PERFORM THE OFFICE OF PRIEST. The sacrifices which the priests in Israel had to offer were beasts and the like; those of the Christians are, on the other hand, SPIRITUAL sacrifices, through Christ, well-pleasing to God. . . The idea of a universal priesthood, here expressed, is opposed not only to the catholic doctrine of a particular priesthood, but to all teaching with regard to the office of the administration of word and sacrament which in any way ascribes to its possessors an importance in the church, resting on divine mandate, and NECESSARY for the communication of salvation.
The words of this passage in the Old Testament are quoted neither literally from the LXX nor exactly according to the Hebrew text, but contain the same thought as the original Hebrew. NKJV renders Isaiah 28:16 thus: "Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Behold I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.'"
The Concordia Self-Study Commentary: Faith in God, not in human resources, provides the only solid basis for hope. He will indeed carry out His threat to destroy Jerusalem. But He will not give up His plan to build an indestructible ZION, made up of 'living stones' and founded on A PRECIOUS CORNERSTONE. The New Testament proclaims the fulfillment in Jesus and His Church. (1 Peter 2:4-6; Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:20).
Zion is a term used for the Church. In our text Peter speaks of Zion in verses 5, 7, 9 and 10, the temple of living stones, the priesthood of all believers in Christ.
Rienecker: The word 'corner stone' refers either to a massive cornerstone placed at the upper corner of the building in order to bind the walls firmly together, or it refers to the keystone in the middle of the archway.
Selwyn: Extremity and not height is the point connoted. The chief features of a cornerstone are that it controls the design of the edifice and that (unlike a foundation stone) it is visible.
Stoeckhardt: The Cornerstone of the New Testament temple appears as a Rock of salvation. the congregations of believers, which is built upon this Rock, will not be overpowered by the gates of hell; it is a building solidly constructed; it moves onward toward heavenly salvation. Yet in what follows (verses 7-10) the apostle dwells upon the description of the Church's present glory.
Note "dearly beloved" and "precious." The incarnate Christ is dearly beloved by and precious to His Father. And to the church too.
The translations are interesting: KJV: "Not be confounded." RSV: "Not be put to shame." TEV, JB, AAT: "Never be disappointed."
"Never" is the emphatic negative "not at all." This line, of course, does not mean that the believer will never suffer disappointment, heart-ache and shame in this life. But it does mean that Jesus, the Rock of Salvation, will never disappoint, embarrass, undercut the believer or go back on His Word. The believer will be able to stand boldly before his heavenly Father on judgment day.
Note that verses 7-8 pertain almost wholly to unbelievers, while the verses 9-10 pertain to the believers. The unbelievers end in hopelessness, the believers live under the shadow of God's mercy. All our versions translate: "precious." KJV, NKJV, RSV and AAT have: "He is precious." Some commentators do not agree.
Rienecker: This honor includes their privileged status here and now and also their triumph over their mocking assailants and their salvation on the last day.
Selwyn: The meaning is that the honor which Christ has by virtue of God's choice is imparted to, and shared by, the faithful.
But Bengel says in all simplicity:
He is precious to you.
Stoeckhardt: The great value God sets on the Cornerstone, is also of value to them.
We agree with the translations, Bengel and Stoeckhardt. Christ is THE value, THE preciousness. There is none other. The great preciousness and value with which God regarded Christ is mine by faith. I need nothing beyond that.
First Peter quoted Isaiah 28:16. Now he quotes the LXX version of Psalm 118:22. Note Matthew 21:42 in the margin of the Nestle Greek text. There you'll find all its references in the New Testament. The rejecters, the unbelievers caused Christ to become the Chief Stone.
Bengel: They who rejected the stone, were truly disobedient. Second, the same persons, in rejecting the stone, were unconsciously contributing to its becoming the head of the corner; nor can they now prevent this, however they may chafe, and they shall experience, to their great misery, that he is the head of the corner, Matthew 21:44. The Head, Christ, is the head of the corner, especially as respects believers, who are built upon him; yet unbelievers experience this in another way.
No one can be indifferent to Christ. Verse 7 is very comforting for the believer but very ominous for the unbeliever. The reason for this is spelled out in the next verse.
"And" means "namely." This quotation from Isaiah 8:14 explain in what sense Jesus has become the headstone for the unbeliever. This verse denotes the awful final fate of the rejecters who eventually become obdurate, hardened in their rejection of Christ. AAT translates: "A stone they stumble over and a Rock they fall over." RSV has: "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall." The genitives are more easily translated than explained as to usage. RSV translates here: "For they stumble because they disobey the Word."
Stoeckhardt: 'To stumble' literally means to strike against something so that one stumbles and falls, and 'stumbling' is the obstacle over which one trips, causing the fall . . . . Since they will not build upon Him, desire not to believe in Christ and b e saved by Him, inevitable result is that they rush headlong into Him, abhor Him as they would an abomination, become more hostile to Him as time goes on, and in the end fall prey to destruction, even to eternal destruction. . . . The unbelievers are called 'disobedient'. . . . The closer their contact with the Word, the greater is their feeling of repulsion, the greater becomes their nausea and loathing for the same unto their own eternal loss and damnation. . . . The unbelievers, who absolutely choose not to obey the Word, are according to God's righteous judgement destined and appointed to become more and more soured and hardened through the Word. For them the Word of salvation becomes a smell of death unto death.
Peter does not refer to predestination, but to a punishment for their rejection. In verse 6 we were told that he who believes in Christ will never be put to shame. Here, at the end of verse 8, we have the antithesis: Those who reject the Word (which tells them of Christ) stumble over it with the result that, by the just appointment of God, they suffer spiritual shame in time and eternity.
Selwyn: Opposition to Christ is verified in the stumbling ways, the confusion and lack of direction which characterize ages of unbelief.
Just prior to the deportation of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C., just prior to the deportation of the southern kingdom in 606 B.C., and during Jesus' earthly life, all the way up to the destruction of Jerusalem, there was nothing but stumbling and confusion. And we see it today in the confusion, stumbling, madness and godlessness of the unbelievers. Evangelism is not easy work.
Meyer: The apostle returns again to his readers, contrasting them with the unbeliever he has just spoken of.
Bengel: After so sorrowful a subject, he consoles the godly as at 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
Note that this verse is a reference to Exodus 19:6: "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." But the term "chosen people" is not found in the Old Testament. "People" denotes a type of people, not a span of time. "Chosen" refers back to 1 Peter 1:1 and note again its used in our text at verses 4 and 6. Note that "priests" occurred already in verse 5. TEV and AAT translate "priests of the King" but the others have "a royal priesthood" which is better.
"The praises" is "the ability to do heroic deeds. The manifestations of His power, His might and glorious deeds. (Rienecker)" Peter is speaking about redemption in Christ Jesus. That is God's great "heroic deed" if one wants to call it that. "Declare" means "to broadcast." "Him who called you" is the work of the Triune God, excludes all synergism. It here denotes the effective call of the Gospel.
Note the antithesis between light and darkness. The first denotes the effect of the call. It is amazing and marvelous. The second denotes the hopeless condition of fallen, human nature.
Stoeckhardt: The apostle substitutes the word 'priesthood' for 'priests' in Exodus 19. Upon this word lies the emphasis, as in verse 5 as also in verses 9 and 10. . . . the appellations enumerated in verse 9 are taken from the Old Testament. The main passage upon which Peter reflects is Exodus 19:5-6, which see. Similarly in Deuteronomy 7:6. These two passages do not contain statements concerning Israel as a people was at that time (physical Israel) but promises that concern the true, believing Israel, which promises have been fulfilled in that believing Christendom assembled from Jews and Gentiles. On the other hand, when in the prophets Israel is simply called the chosen people and other names like that, the true, spiritual Israel is denoted; and this Israel, which believed in the future Christ, through faith shared in the honor and glory of the New Testament flock . . . . 'Chosen generation' is not derived from Exodus 19:5-6, or from any other Old Testament passage but agrees only in content with such passages in the prophets in which true, believing Israel is called the servant of the Lord and chosen. Isaiah 43:10, 20; 44:1-2; 45:4ff. . . . God has before the foundation of the world chosen for Himself those who believe in Christ and elected them to be what they now are and some day will be. The word 'generation' indicates that the elect form an entity, a homogeneous family.
On the latter part of verse 9 Stoeckhardt says:
Christians fulfill their priestly mission when they instruct the ignorant. To this the apostle now draws attention. . . . As priests of God we should above all extol to all the world the goodness, kindness, mercy, and grace of God, particularly that virtue or divine attribute implied in the designation of God as 'him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light .' This calling is the efficacious, successful calling, identical to conversion.
Selwyn: In the case before us, the author has in mind especially the redemption brought about by Christ's death and resurrection, and the divine wisdom, love power and mercy which lay behind it and in it.
On "light" and "darkness" look at Acts 26:17-28.
Meyer: The nature of believers, as such, is described by the same predicates which originally applied to the Old Testament church of God but have found their fulfillment in the New Testament. . . . The apostle does not here state to what the Christian Church is destined, but what she already is.
In Power and Primacy of the Pope, Tappert 331.69 we read:
These words (1 Peter 2:9) apply to the true church which, since it alone possesses the priesthood, certainly has the right of electing and ordaining ministers.
According to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, priests call a pastor. The congregation is composed entirely of priests.
Just as "you" in verse 8 referred to the rejecters, here "you" refers to the called, the believers. Note that the verse is made up of two parts. Like Hebrew poetry, the two parts explain each other. The verse is clearly referring to Hosea 1:6-9; 2:23. Note the antithesis between "not a people" and "not mercied," on the one hand, and "the people of God" and "mercied" on the other. Note also the antithesis between "were not" and "now are." On this verse compare Ephesians 2:12-13.
Bengel: The former half of the verse refers specially to the Gentiles; the latter, to the Jews.
But he admits that Hosea 2:23 refers to both Jews and Gentiles. Israel, unlike the Gentiles, was "a people." But, when they rejected God they became a "not people." Israel had been "not mercied" but, when by grace they repented they were "mercied."
Note that we have two participial forms of "Once you were/had not." Both are passive. Both are predicate adjectives. But the first is perfect tense, denoting the long night of the unconverted state. The second is aorist denoting the single act of conversion. If ever a verse of Scripture is an example of the grace of God in Christ, this one is.
Stoeckhardt: The selection and calling of Christian pastors on the part of Christian congregation is discharge and application of the universal priesthood of all believers. . . . In the Smalcald Articles the special call of the clergy is traced back to the universal priesthood of all believers. . . . There is an external distinction on account of the office of the ministry to which one is called by the congregation; before God, however, there is not distinction; that some are chosen from the mass of people occurs so that they, in the stead of the congregation, may carry on and execute the office which they all have.
Conclusion: Under verse 4 we quoted Selwyn who says: "God often does His most wonderful works by instruments which the world rejects. Such a use of Psalm 118:22 is wholly in line with His use of Isaiah 53, which embodied a similar reversal of values." How very true! Christ was the Stone which the builders rejected. He was despised and rejected by men. But, God's values are the reverse of the values of men. Christ is the King of kings, sits at the right hand of the Father and accomplished what no one else could: the redemption of all people. Like Jesus, His children are often rejected by the world, despised and rejected of men. When you feel that way (and you may be right) read this text. Preach it to repentant sinners, the despised among men, those, who though they are pilgrims and strangers in this world, are beloved of God.