1 Peter - Lesson 6
By Curt Niccum
1 Peter 2:4-10
Background Information for the Teacher
- The class can state how Peter uses temple imagery to portray the Gentile Christians as part of God’s people.
- The class can explain that a Christian’s true identity requires a separation from the world both here and at the Last Judgment.
- The class can share the necessity of being “in alignment” withJesus by understanding the concept of Jesus being the“cornerstone.”
- The class can prove the corporate nature of the church from this passage.
- Bibles for every student
- Copies of the worksheet for lesson #6
- If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.
Concerned about the impact of persecution on the church, Peter writes 1) to assure the Christians of their place in God’s kingdom and 2) to urge them to live as members of that kingdom rather than to capitulate to the surrounding culture. By relying on traditional “rock” language from the Old Testament, Peter assures his readers that 1) they are God’s holy temple and priesthood and that 2) there is a definite qualitative difference between them and unbelievers. Despite their origin among the unbelievers, they are now in light, not in darkness, God’s people, when formerly not a people, and shown mercy, when previously without mercy. There is also a continued emphasis upon spiritual growth. The seed metaphor now transforms into an architectural one.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Devotional Period (5-10 minutes)
- Read 1 Peter 2:4-10.
- Sing at least two songs (you may choose from the following)
- My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (538)
- Praise the Name of Jesus (579)
- Let the Beauty of Jesus be Seen (722)
- I’m Not Ashamed to Own My Lord (609)
- Romans 1:16 as a verse of Blue Skies and Rainbows
- Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
- For members to grow together into a spiritual temple and priesthood
- For the education ministry of the congregation as it helps to build the congregation into a holy temple.
Introduction (2 minutes)
- Welcome visitors.
- Have study sheets and weekly devotional guides handed out.
Review (5-10 minutes)
- Have the class reflect on the importance of the temple imagery in this passage. You could ask the following questions: What is important about a temple? What is its purpose? How is the church both the temple and the priests officiating in the temple?
- Note that the letter was apparently written around A.D. 64.Since the temple in Jerusalem was not destroyed until A.D. 70,have the class discuss the importance of Peter describing the church using this language. (In Peter’s mind the Jerusalem temple is at least irrelevant for approaching God and perhaps even viewed as destroyed. See also Ephesians 2:11-22 forPaul’s similar approach.)
Evaluation (2-5 minutes)
- Remind the class of last week’s study about how God’s qualities and characteristics determine the qualities and characteristics of our actions.
- Our love towards Christian brothers and sisters should never end, because God’s word never ends and we have been reborn with imperishable seed.
- Our love towards Christian brothers and sisters should never be evil, for the Lord is good.
- We must be devoted to God’s people in the same way God is devoted to me.
Learning Experiences (20 minutes)
- Q: To what does Peter compare the church in 2:4-10? A: Living stones built into a spiritual house, a priesthood, a nation. Peter switches from an agricultural metaphor (seed growing in 2:1-3)to an architectural one (a building being erected). He still focuses on spiritual growth, but now connects it with the growth of the entire church. One cannot be a Christian without the church. Many Americans, influenced by their individualistic culture, feel that a person’s religion is “between him and God.”This explains why so many people can claim to be Christian in the U.S. (over 80%) and yet only about 50% attend worship services more than twice a year. This ignores the unanimous testimony of scripture that God has called us together to be a nation, a people, a kingdom, a church (“church”= the Greek for“gathering”), and the body of Christ. Note that Peter begins and ends this section emphasizing the corporate nature of the church: living stones constructing a building (2:4-5) and a race,a priesthood, a nation, and a people (2:9-10). We are part of each other and together are something for God.
- Q: For Peter, what type of building, race, and priesthood are we to be? A: The answer, of course, is “holy.” Although this section challenges Christians (as a church) to live up to their spiritual heritage as opposed to their old one (1:14 and 18), Peter continues to hold up Jesus Christ as the standard of Christian conduct. He does this by calling Jesus the cornerstone. Q:What is a cornerstone? A: Obviously it is a brick on the lower corner of a building. Usually it is the first stone set in place at a construction site. Although today it primarily serves an ornamental or ritual purpose, in ancient times it determined the angles of the building. All was aligned with that first stone.
- Discuss why Peter might have chosen this particular metaphor.The following questions might be useful for generating discussion.
- Q: What meaning would have been conveyed to the original readers by referring to Jesus as the cornerstone? A: The entire building (the church) gets its bearing from the cornerstone (Jesus).
- Q: What event in Peter’s life might have made this particular metaphor meaningful to him? A: The great confession (see Matthew 16:13-20).
- Q: Peter relies on Old Testament passages for this metaphor. Why?
- A: It is the Bible of the early church.
- A: Jesus fulfills scripture (He is chosen by God to replace the sacrilegious worship of the Jerusalem temple, Isaiah 28:16, but he is rejected by people, Psalm 118:22.)
- A: Jesus’ role as judge of believers and nonbelievers has been foretold (Isaiah 8:14). (This relates to verse 8. “Which is also what they were destined for” refers to God pronouncing beforehand that unbelievers would be judged by Christ, not that God had “predestined” some not to believe.)
- The stone language emphasizes Christ’s role in our salvation.We are stones as he is. We live because he does. We have honor due to his honor.11 Verse 7 is usually translated in a way that makes Jesus precious in the sight of believers. Most scholars, though, believe the passage speaks of the honor that belongs to believers. This honor for believers contrasts with the shame that belongs to unbelievers because they stumbled over Christ the rock.
- The temple language centers on our relationship to God. Temples were where people would go to approach deity,worship deity, and offer sacrifices to deity.
- The church, made up of people rather than a building,now becomes the location where humanity and God meet. We are God’s presence in the world.
- The sacrifices offered by the church, although not specified here, should be understood as the content of what follows in 1 Peter.2 We worship God by treating others the way He treats us. The church has a rich tradition of describing its ethical and moral treatment of others as an “offering” or “sacrifice” to the Lord. Note how “acceptable” worship also mentioned in Romans12:1 and Hebrews 12:28 is defined as concrete physical actions towards others (Romans 12:3-13:10 andHebrews 13:1-16). Good conduct is our sacrifice toGod.
- The word “living” perhaps only helps readers recognize thatPeter employs metaphorical language, but it may serve additional purposes.
- Describing Jesus as a “living” rock could be a way Peter connects our hope to the resurrection of Jesus. A church faced with persecution needs the assurance that God rewards those who are “faithful unto death.” Jesus’ resurrection is proof. Jesus lives! For Christians, then,eternal life is no mere hope, but a reality into which they are growing or being built. They are “living” stones.
- There may also be a subtle contrast between the “living” temple and those cold edifices spread throughout theRoman Empire where people worship dead gods.Whether intended to draw this contrast or not, Peter does want his readers to see how different they are and must be from the world around them. Note the following contrasts in this section:
- Living as opposed to dead
- Honored as opposed to shamed (verses 6-7)
- Believers as opposed to unbelievers (verse 7)
- Light as opposed to darkness (verse 9)
- Being God’s people as opposed to not being a people at all (verse 10)
- Shown God’s mercy as opposed to not shown mercy (verse 10)
- Peter closes this section with a reminder of who the church is.He does not randomly pile up descriptions. Each of these phrases is an Old Testament designation for God’s people. Peter2 It may be necessary to explain that many Old Testament sacrifices were offered to give thanks to God. Whereas Jesus clearly offered himself as the “once for all” sacrifice of atonement, Christians continually offer up sacrifices of thanksgiving in the way they display brotherly love.began the letter addressing Gentile Christians with biblical terms reserved for the Israelites as God’s nation. Now Peter collects an impressive array of similar designations to assure the Gentile Christians of their precious and honored place in the kingdom of God. “You,” as opposed to “them,” are:
- a “chosen race” - chosen just as Christ (2:6)
- a “royal priesthood” - God is our king (1:1, implied in“resident aliens”)
- a “holy nation” - holy as God is holy (1:15-16)
- a “people for possession” - a people formed by God with the result that they proclaim his excellent deeds (see Isaiah 43:15-21). These deeds are specified with references to the first chapter of Hosea.
- Those previously not a people are now God’s people
- Those previously not shown mercy now receive God’s mercy.
- This contrast provides two important lessons.
- The church is favored by God. Physical circumstances cannot jeopardize spiritual realities. Temporary suffering cannot displace eternal delight.
- The church is distinct from society at large. The people of God must be identifiable. We must be distinct from the world. Peter begins to address this in the next verse.
Application (10 minutes)
- Emphasize the corporate nature of the church. Q: What terms used by Peter in 2:9-10 suggest the church is a group rather than individuals? A: All of them! Race, priesthood, nation,and people. Continuing the building metaphor you might generate discussion about how stones constitute a building.(For example, the way many American Christians viewChristianity, the temple is merely a cornerstone surrounded by other stones scattered here and there on the ground. Peter certainly had a more impressive structure in mind, one with stones stacked upon one another for strength and aligned properly for appearance.)
- You may wish to interject about the importance of class activities and service projects for building community.
- Another possible topic could be small groups. They can facilitate building closer relationships, especially groups that hold their members accountable to living the Christian life.
- Discuss how the church thinks and acts differently than the culture around it. Ask for specific examples of how the congregation has done this.
- Have the class reflect on Jesus’ statement, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” based upon the study of these verses.
Assignment (2 minutes)
- Each member should read 1 Peter 2:11-25.
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