1 Peter 2:4-9
Perhaps there is no form of evil we so easily slip into as that of clericalism. I do not mean elders or deacons, who were from the beginning, appointed by the apostles, or by men like Timothy or Titus who were commissioned by the apostles to do this (Acts 6:3; Tit. 1:8). These cannot be appointed today, for we have neither apostles nor their delegates, but where we find men who have the qualifications for such offices, it is our privilege to recognize them. This is nothing but godly church order; but to attempt to put them into office is another matter.
There are two reasons for the insidious way in which clericalism has crept into the church of God, and for the hold it has got upon His people. One is that saints are so busily engaged with the things of this world that when they come together they feel themselves unable to take up the service of the sanctuary, and they are relieved if they can find anyone willing to approach God on their behalf. Another reason is the desire on the part of some to occupy a position of honour, and to be of some importance in the assembly of God; and this is considered by them adequate compensation for the extra burden by this means heaped upon their shoulders. This soon develops into a paid ministry, a priesthood, and popery. Such are, if you believe them, the clergy (Greek kleros). They are lords over God’s kleron, and monopolize the name that rightly belongs to all believers.
All believers, whoever they may be, are the lot, heritage, kleros, of God, separated to Him out of this world, purchased by the precious blood of His own Son, born of God, possessing His life and nature, priests holy, and priests royal, and all these things are as true of the babe in Christ, as they were of the apostle himself, for this we are taught in the first and second chapters of this epistle.
And all these things were true of those believers whom Peter here addresses as “newborn babes.” They had not made great progress in the knowledge of God, but they were the fruit of His testimony, as rendered in this evil world. Every one of them had a living link with the living God; for His word had got into their hearts, and had taken deep root there; and the word when it gets rooted in the heart, is the link between the soul and God. It was this, from Abel down to this present day, and it shall be while this world lasts, for there can be no other link with God. It is the revelation of His grace and love, the light of the knowledge of Himself in the heart of the believer. It is the incorruptible seed, and it lives and abides for ever. Where that seed is, there is the vital spark of divine life; and where it is not, there is moral death. The word of truth is that by which we are born again (Jas. 1:19); and the word of truth is the gospel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13).
Now the gospel is that which has turned us to the Lord, He whom the Spirit of God here calls “a Living Stone,” a stone rejected of men, but chosen of God, and precious. We have an early intimation of this in Matthew 16:13-18, where Peter is said to confess Jesus as the Son of the living God. This was a definite revelation of the glory of His person made to Peter by the Father; and our Lord says “Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This power of life that was in Him was manifested in His resurrection: He could not be bound by the cords of death. By dying He annulled death, and by the same act He broke the might of him who ruled over man, holding him in bondage by the fear of that which was the expression of the judgment to which man was liable on account of sin.
Now to this Living Stone we come. The believer is a living stone by the life-giving power of Christ. He is of the same nature as the rock upon which this glorious edifice is being built. Everything in this building is of the same nature, from the foundation to the top stone. The stones are instinct with the life of the Son of God, and by Him are they put in their places, and the whole building is growing to a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:21). Here the hand of man does not appear. Here can enter nothing that defiles. The Lord Himself is the builder, and therefore is everything secure. I have no doubt that when it is revealed in the day of the glory of Christ, it will be seen to be the Holy City, that comes down out of heaven, having the glory of God. Then the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it.
It is being builded of living stones; not like the temple that Solomon built, which, though the wonder of the world, was built of stones cut out of the natural rock; all lifeless material; this house is instinct with the life of the Son of the living God.
But the stones that compose the building are the priests who offer the sacrifices. Every stone in the building is a priest and qualified to offer sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But as the building is a spiritual house, so are the sacrifices spiritual. The temple in the past dispensation was a material house, and the priests were a carnal priesthood, and the sacrifices were of a carnal order also. Here everything is spiritual, everything divine, everything pulsating with the life of Christ. Every stone in the building is radiant with the love of God. The house is resplendent with His grace, His righteousness, His holiness, His faithfulness, His truth. The temple built by Solomon was glorious, but the temple being built by the greater than Solomon has a glory that excelleth.
And the priests are the stones that compose the building, and they are the aggregate of the redeemed of this dispensation. They have boldness to enter into the holiest. They can draw near, not at stated times only, but at all times. And their sacrifices are spiritual. They draw near to present Christ to God. As the Israelite brought his offering to God, whatever it may have been, it was typical of Christ, so does the priest of God in this dispensation draw near to God with Christ upon his lips, to tell Him what He has learned of Him. He may be but a babe in Christ, and may have as yet learned little of the glories of his Saviour, but such a sacrifice is ever welcome to God. His offering may be small, like two young pigeons in the old order, but it is acceptable to God, because it is Christ. He may have learned much about His Redeemer, and may be able to present that which in the past might be represented by a bullock, but it is no more acceptable than the smallest presentation of Christ. A man rich in faith brings a large offering, and a poor man brings a small offering, but both speak in the ears of God what they know of the same Person, and both are acceptable, for Christ is precious to God, and also, through grace, to us. And this priestly service is to go on continually, not only when we come together, and not only when we retire into our chamber and shut the door, but at all times, and in all places. We can always draw near to God, and we shall always find a welcome.
There is another character of priestly service spoken of in verse 9, that is, a royal or kingly, priesthood. We are kings as well as priests. Melchisedec was both, and so is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. We also are both, and in the meantime, before the day of reigning comes, we exercise this priestly service by showing forth the virtues of Him that called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. We are to come out down here in the heavenly characteristics of Christ. These are to be displayed before the men of this world. On the one hand, as holy priests we present Him to God; and on the other hand, as kingly priests we present Him to the world. With God this meets with acceptance, but with the man of this world it meets with utter rejection, and awakes persecution from the haters of Jesus. We have been called out of darkness into His marvellous light, and in His light we are to shine in this dark world. But the light is always hated, and therefore we are not disappointed if we meet with the same kind of opposition that fell to the lot of our Lord, for He has said that if they hated Him, they would hate us also. But next to being saved, to suffer a little for Christ is the greatest favour He could confer upon us.
May we be thankful for our privileges.