Israel and the Church [1 Pet 2:3-10]

 

All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

1 Peter 2:3-10

3 if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: 4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 7 For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; 8 and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

I’ve included this passage into the discussion before, but it’s so key to our understanding regarding Israel and the Church (and the Kingdom of Christ) that it needs our full attention.

Perhaps clearer than any other place in the New Testament, Peter reveals the true nature of Israel under the New Covenant. He reveals that Israel is now Spiritual Israel. This conclusion is unmistakable as he compares national Israel (Old Covenant) to who we are in Christ (the Church).

It’s important that we first identify Peter’s audience. The Jewish terms that Peter uses in this passage (also 1 Pe 3:6) suggests that Jewish Christians were among them. They would naturally understand Peter’s references. But it’s clear that he was also addressing Gentile Christians, based on what he says in 1 Peter 2:10:

 

10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

This is a reference to Hosea 2:23:

 

23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them that were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.

 

So we see among Peter’s audience both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. And that’s most fitting because of how he compares national Israel to all believers in Christ, which make up the Church, “Peace be unto you all that are in Christ” (1 Pe 5:14). That Peter is making a comparison between national Israel and the Church, there can be no doubt, as we shall see in this study.

In this passage Peter describes a “house,” which is a reference to the temple. He also describes a “nation.” Regarding this nation, Peter quotes Isaiah 51:16:

 

16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.

 

In the Old Testament, Zion is a reference to Jerusalem, which was the place of the temple, and represented all of Israel (Ps 87:2-3; 2 Sam 5:7; 1 Ki 8:1; Is 40:9; 60:14). Thus Zion is a general reference to the nation of Israel, the people of God.

 

With that background, we can now begin to interpret what Peter is teaching in this passage:

 

4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.

 

In this passage, Peter alludes to the OT temple. Here he reveals that the temple of God is now a “spiritual” temple, a “spiritual house.” That’s who we are in Christ. That’s who the Church is:

 

2 Corinthians 6:16

16 And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 

The OT temple was a type and picture of the spiritual temple of God that was yet to come in Christ. In Christ, we as the Church, are a “spiritual house,” a spiritual temple. The OT temple represented all of Israel. As a spiritual temple in Christ, does it not not follow, yes, does it not require, that Israel also now be spiritual in nature? How could it be any other way? If the physical temple of the OT represented a physical people, then it follows that this spiritual temple must represent a spiritual people. Thus true Israel is the body of Christ, the Church. Is this not in harmony with what Paul taught regarding the temple of God (2 Cor 6:16) and the true Jew?

 

Romans 2:28-29

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

 

“he is not a Jew who is one outwardly”

“he is a Jew who is one inwardly”

 

(see also Gal 3:6-9,16,27-29)

 

Paul reveals that the true Jew is a spiritual Jew. Thus, true Israel is spiritual Israel, those of the faith of Abraham (not physical descendants). Peter and Paul describe the same thing, but from a different viewpoint.

The OT temple represented the people and faith of national Israel. The NT temple (the Church) represent the people and faith of spiritual Israel, those who are in Christ. Both the OT temple and national Israel were looking ahead, and was a type and picture of what would be fulfilled in Christ. This was God’s plan all along.

The idea that national Israel still has a place in God’s plan is contrary to what is taught in the NT. If the fulfillment of Old Covenant Israel has already occurred, then what sense does it make that things would revert back to OT Israel and OT temple under the New Covenant? I think the whole book of Hebrews SHOUTS against that idea.

 

With that further background, I want to continue to look at our text in more detail:

 

4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious,5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.

 

Jesus is a “living stone.” We in Christ are also “living stones.” The OT temple was built with physical stones. The spiritual temple of the NT is built with spiritual stones, and Jesus is the “Chief corner stone.” In Christ, we are a “spiritual house.”

Notice that the dead animal sacrifices of the OT are done away in Christ, and that we as a “holy priesthood,” are to offer up “spiritual sacrifices.” As believers, the spiritual sacrifices are the yielding of our bodies and lives to God:

 

Romans 12:1

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.

 

The OT dead animal sacrifices give way to the live, spiritual sacrifices of God’s people in Christ.

 

7 For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner;

 

“The stone which the builders rejected,” refer to the Jews, who built the temple. They rejected Christ as their Messiah, who is “the head of the corner” (cornerstone), referring to what has become the spiritual temple of God.

 

8 and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

 

The Jews “stumbled” over the “stone” which is Christ. He was an “offence” to them, and so they rejected Him and crucified Him. They were not “obedient” to what their own Scriptures taught about Him. Instead of obedience to “the word,” they “stumbled” over it.

 

9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

Notice all these terms:

elect race

royal priesthood

holy nation

a people

God’s own possession

the people of God

 

These are all Jewish terms. They describe OT Israel. One of the OT passages that Peter obviously had in mind was Ex 19:5-6:

 

Exodus 19:5-6

5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: 6 and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

 

They were an “elect race (Hebrews), they had a “royal priesthood,” who served in the temple, they were called to be a “holy nation” set apart unto God as “a people for God’s own possession.” Yet, Peter applies them to the Church.

God chose Abraham to become the father of the nation of Israel. They were the people of God, whom He would carry out His will and His Word and His plan of salvation to the world. All of this was fulfilled in Christ and His Church. We are the elect race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people of God.

The physical nation of Israel continues as a spiritual nation in Christ. That the people of Israel would find their fulfillment and continuation in Christ and in His Church, was God’s plan from the very beginning. This was always in view in the OT Scriptures.