Building the Spiritual House of God
July 17th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
1 Peter 2:1-5
BUILDING THE SPIRITUAL HOUSE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 2:1-5
7-17-60 7:30 p.m.
Now let us turn to the Book, in the second chapter of the first letter of Simon Peter, and all of us together read the first ten verses. First Peter chapter 2, verses 1 through 10. First Peter 2:1-10. Almost to the back of your Bible; after fifteen years preaching through the Word of God, we are almost to the end of the Book. First Peter 2, now everybody reading together the first ten verses:
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.
Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light:
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
[1 Peter 2:1-10]
May I make two observations? Do you notice how it rises in ascending grace and glory? It begins in darkness; and in the refining graces of God, the passage ends in the glory of the light of heaven. Do you notice that it begins with people who are estranged by malice, and guile, and envying, and evil speaking, and it rises to the sanctified society of God? Do you notice how it begins with unpolished stones that are rough and unhewn, and it rises to the spiritual temple of the Lord? Do you notice how it begins with individual units, and it rises to a perfect union?
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and guile, and hypocrisy, and envying, and evil speakings,
As newborn babes, desire the milk of the word, that ye may grow: If you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, chosen of God, and precious,
Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus.
[1 Peter 2:1-5]
Do you notice a second thing: the centrality of our blessed Lord in it all? “To whom coming” [1 Peter 2:4]. I could not find in all the Bible a better definition of the whole Christian life than that; “To whom coming.” For the Christian life begins, and it continues, and it is perfected in Jesus our Lord, our Savior all the way through, “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” [Hebrews 13:8]. And under two figures does he present it here: “To whom coming” [1 Peter 2:4], as a babe, as a child, as a youth, growing up unto God; and then in the figure of the building of a spiritual house [1 Peter 2:5], joined to Christ, built upon the foundation of our Lord. That’s it. All the way through, “To whom coming” [1 Peter 2:4]; we need no other guide, no other leader, no other savior: He is all sufficient and all adequate.
Some of you have been abroad. Some of you are preparing to go abroad from country to country and place to place and tour to tour; you will change your guide. Not so in our pilgrimage to heaven: He carries us all the way through. Not like Moses, who guided His children through the wilderness [Acts 7:35-36], but Joshua carried them in [Deuteronomy 31:23]. Not like David, that gathered the materials for the temple [1 Chronicles 22:5], but Solomon constructed it [2 Chronicles 6:2]. Our Savior is our leader and our builder and our guide, our beloved Physician and friend forever, carrying us through this pilgrimage clear through the gates of glory [Matthew 28:20]. It is Jesus all the way. When a man begins aright he begins with, “Christ is all.” When a man continues right he continues with, “Christ is all.” When a man finishes right, he finishes with, “Christ is all.” It is Christ in the morning, in the strength and youth of our life; it is Christ at the noontide, in the burden and heat of the day; and it is Christ in the evening, when for very age we lean upon a staff.
Are we rich? Let Christ crown us. Are we poor? Let Christ cheer us. Are we in honor? Let Christ come and still us. Are we in dishonor? Let Jesus cheer us and comfort us. Are we in health? Let Him sanctify us and use us. Are we in illness? Let Him heal us and strengthen us. Are we in life? May He use us and bless us. Do we face dissolution and death? May He keep us and save us. It is our Lord all of the way; “To whom coming” [1 Peter 2:4]. I repeat: there’s not a better definition of the Christian life in the Book than that, “To whom coming,” always coming, coming to Jesus.
Now he speaks here of the temple of the priesthood and of the spiritual sacrifice [1 Peter 2:5]. Evidently, the purpose of God in the temple, as with the tabernacle, was to teach us; it was a type, it was a figure. It was by no means a permanent institution; but one that it was transitory and temporary. For example, when David had in his heart to build the house of God, God spake to Nathan [2 Samuel 7:4] to say:
Go tell My servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build Me an house to dwell in?
I have not dwelt in a house from the days when I brought up the children of Israel. . .
In all the places wherein I have walked with My people, did I speak to anyone of them about a house to dwell in? Why build ye Me a house?
[2 Samuel 7:5-7]
Then when I turn the page, I find in the sixty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me? And where is the place of my rest?” [Isaiah 66:1]. When I turn to the Book of Matthew, they show Him the gigantic stones of the temple—some of the foundation stones are still there, I’ve looked at them three times; it’s an overwhelming sight, the massiveness of those gigantic stones. And His disciples showed Him those stones, and Jesus said, “See ye not these things and ye marvel at them. Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” [Matthew 24:1-2]. Only those stones that were in the depths of the earth remain, that you see today. In this last book of the Bible, the twenty-first [chapter] it says, “And I saw no temple therein” [Revelation 21:22]. Evidently then, this temple, like the tabernacle, is a picture of something else. And it is a picture of the heavenly construction and the celestial building as God raises up His temple with spiritual stones, with converted men and women [1 Peter 2:5]. For you see, it is a heavenly and the spiritual that is eternal and abiding; and what is seen is transitory and temporary. We have just the opposite idea of things. To us things heavenly, things spiritual, things celestial are somehow dreamy, and mythical, and transitory, and unsubstantial; when the very opposite is the truth. The material is transitory and temporal, while the eternal is the invisible, the heavenly and the celestial.
One of the finest things that I ever studied in my life was the philosophy of Plato. He was a spiritual man, though a pagan and didn’t know God. And the heart of Plato’s philosophy is this: that the real things, the abiding and enduring things, are the spiritual things. He called them ideas, patterns. And he said the transitory temporal things are the materialities of life. And he illustrated it with mundane appointments. For example, a chair; a chair is a material, transitory thing. It is there now; someday it’ll disappear. But the idea of the chair is the real thing, and the eternal thing. A man, a man is temporary; he’s here, he’s gone, and you never see him again. But the idea of man, the pattern, is eternal; it’s the real thing that abides forever. That was Plato’s interpretation of life, and it is the interpretation of the Word of God. These materialities, whether they be temple or institution or sacrament, are transitory and ephemeral and temporal, and they pass away. But the great eternities of God are the invisible, the things that man cannot see; and they abide forever.
So it is with the temple of the Lord. Where could a man build a house to contain the great omnipotent, omnipresent God? However the roof of cedar, however the marble polished walls overlaid and encrusted with solid gold, how could the omnipresent God be encompassed in four walls and surmounted with a roof? The great eternal Almighty, who filleth all in all, who maketh all things, who stretcheth out the heavens as a tent, who rideth in the fury of the winds, how could a man build a house to contain God? Surely these earthly adumbrations point toward great spiritual substances and realities. And the temple showed forth that type and that figure of the spiritual household of God.
And that’s what Peter is saying here, “To whom coming, our great foundation, you, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house unto God” [1 Peter 2:4-5]. For you see, in the building of a spiritual house, the stones are called “living.” An earthly temple is a dead mass, and the stones in it are dead and lifeless. But the spiritual house of God is made up of the living converted souls and the dedicate lives of Christian men and women. And out of the devotion of their lives and their love for Christ, they are joined to Him on the foundation, and they rise up through the ages, building the temple, the house of the Lord. And in the building of the house He quarries stones.
Underneath the city of Jerusalem are the most vast extensive labyrinth that you ever could conceive of in your life. And out of those vast caverns, underneath the city of Jerusalem, King Solomon cut out of the rock those great massive stones by which he erected the temple on Mt. Moriah. Those stones are so great, they’re so large, they’re so vast, no man could ever understand in this present day how Solomon was able to separate them from the massive rock, and elevate them to their place in the temple above.
But that, but that is the exact thing that God does with us today: we who were dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1], God hath separated us from the mass and hath placed us in the great building of His house [1 Peter 2:4-5]. And the years and the providences of life polish us, and God makes it possible for us to be joined to our Lord, and we’re made one with Him, the house of God. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus [1 Corinthians 3:11]. And on that foundation is built up as living stones, God’s spiritual house” [1 Peter 2:4-5]. And you are a part, and you are a part, and all of us have a part; the living temple of God.
Then he says, “To whom coming as a holy priesthood” [1 Peter 2:5]. He calls us, all of us, a holy priesthood, to serve before our living God. He calls us a holy priesthood because he’s making a contradistinction between the true priesthood of all believers who belong to Jesus and the nominal worldly priesthood that you see sometimes strutting around on the face of the earth with all kinds of robes of divers colors, and ornaments hanging therefrom, a gallant show for fools to stare at; servitors of idols, graven images before whom they bow down and worship, before whom they swing incense; idolaters who disobey the great second commandment of God, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . neither shalt thou bow down thyself before them” [Exodus 20:4-5]. They are servants of a visible shrine. But the people of God, the born again children of the Lord [John 3:3, 7], they are all God’s priests. In the first chapter of the Book of the Revelation, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto our God . . . to Him be glory and honor for ever and for ever” [Revelation 1:5-6]. “Ye are come unto him an holy priesthood [1 Peter 2:5]. Ye are a chosen generation,” he says in the ninth verse, “a royal priesthood” [1 Peter 2:9]. You.
“Pastor, I didn’t know I was a priest.” You are. When you were born into the kingdom of God [John 3:3], you were born into that holy intercessory mediatorship. No man could take the office unto himself; he was born into the priesthood, according to the Aaronic family [Exodus 28:1]. And no man chooseth that office today, nor is it assigned to any living man. As the sons of Aaron were born into the priesthood, so we are born into our priesthood before God [1 Peter 2:4-5]. And when a man is born into the kingdom of Jesus, when he’s born anōthen, from above, again [John 3], he is born a priest unto God. The Aaronic priest was consecrated with blood that was placed on his right ear, on his right thumb, and on his right toe [Exodus 29:20].
So it is when we’re born into our holy priesthood unto God [1 Peter 2:5]; with an ear to hear the word of the Lord. Are you listening? To hear the word of the Lord, “Speak, speak Lord, thy servant heareth” [1 Samuel 3:10], blood of consecration on his ear. Blood of consecration on his thumb that his hand might work; that we might do for God. And blood of consecration on his toe, that we might walk in the way and in the will of the Lord. Born into that priesthood, “To whom coming an holy priesthood [1 Peter 2:4-5], ye, a chosen generation and a royal priesthood” [1 Peter 2:9]: represented the people unto God, and our prayers day and night are never to cease in behalf of the people. “Lord, bless our people. Remember our people.” And representing God to the people: teaching the best we know how the word and the revelation of God. And the priest, to blow the trumpet, to sound the alarm, to call together the great devoted energies of the children of the Lord. And the priest, to pronounce God’s name upon the people, to bless them in the name of Jehovah. “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face to shine upon thee. . .The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” [Numbers 6:24-26]. You, in the hands of God, under the directive will of heaven, making intercession for the people, praying for the lost, and teaching God’s will and Word in appeal to the people; a great deal of that is in this church. Rarely will a man every pray here in this pulpit that he doesn’t pray, “And dear Lord, bless the message of the pastor, that somebody who’s lost might this night find Jesus.” And the heart of our congregation is lifted up in praise and in gladness when somebody finds Jesus as Savior—“an holy priesthood,” you [1 Peter 2:5].
I haven’t time to speak of “the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Christ Jesus” [1 Peter 2:5]. I have one, two, three, four, five of them here in my Bible that I’ve marked. May I just say them, and that’s all? The first was obedience; the sacrifice of obedience [1 Samuel 15:22]. The second was the sacrifice of a broken heart, “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” [Psalm 51:16-17]. The other one was, “To love God with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength” [Mark 12:30]. And the scribe said to the Lord, “Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth: for to love God with all the soul and heart and mind is better than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” [Mark 12:32-33]. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, Jesus said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” [Mark 12:34]. And I’ve often wondered if that scribe went all of the way. “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God”—the sacrifice of a devoted love [Mark 12:34].
The next one I had here was the sacrifice of ourselves: “I beseech ye therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto the Lord” [Romans 12:1]. And the last one is this incomparable passage – and don’t you wish we had an hour here for the pastor to preach about it?—–the last is this incomparable passage in the thirteenth [chapter] of the Book of Hebrews:
Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.
Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one that is to come.
By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually—
Let’s sing about it, let’s shout about it, let’s speak about it.
The sacrifice of praise to God continually, the fruit of our lips giving thanks in His name.
And to do good and to koinōnia, to share, to fellowship, to love, with such sacrifices God is well pleased [1 Peter 2:5]. And that’s what says my text: “To offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” [1 Peter 2:5].
And that’s our appeal in this invitation that we extend to you tonight, to come unto the Lord. “Dear God, I offer myself, my heart and my hand, my walk and my way, the love of my soul and the hope of my life, dear God, coming unto Thee.” Somebody, openly, to tell to angels that look above, and the vast congregation in this house tonight, “I do take Jesus as my Savior now, and I give Him my heart and my life [Romans 10:9-10]; here I am, and here I come.” A family, put your life with us in the fellowship of this glorious church, “Here I come, and here’s my family.” In the throng in this balcony round, coming down this stairway or that, would you make it tonight? Clear to the topmost seat in that last balcony, we wait. We’d wait all night long if somebody you would fight through to a victory, coming to Jesus. As the Spirit of God shall open the door, shall lead the way, would you make it now? Into this aisle and down to the front, “Preacher, here’s my hand; I have given my heart to God.” Will you make it tonight? Will you make it now? As the Spirit shall say the word and God shall lead the way, “Here I come, here I am, I do it now,” while we stand and while we sing.
BUILDING THE SPIRITUAL HOUSE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 2:1-5
A. Observe the rising scale of values
B. Observe the foundational centrality of Christ in it all(1 Peter 2:4-7)
1. “To whom coming” – Christian life begins, continues, perfected in Christ(Hebrews 13:8)
a. A child growing up, coming again and again for help
b. A building rising to His glory – living stones
2. The whole way it is Christ – one guide, one leader
a. If we begin, continue and finish with Christ, we begin, continue and finish triumphantlyII. The spiritual temple
A. God meant the temple, tabernacle, to be typical, figurative, temporal(1 Chronicles 17:3-6, Isaiah 66:1-2, Matthew 24:1-2, Revelation 21:22)
1. Material is transitory, temporal; eternal is the invisible, heavenly(2 Corinthians 4:18)
a. Philosophy of Plato
2. Could God be contained in a temple of walls?
3. Spiritual house of God is made up of living converted souls – joined to Him on the foundation
B. As Solomon cut out of the rock great stones by which he erected the temple, so God has separated us, who were dead in trespasses and sins, and placed us in the building of His house(1 Corinthians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:4-5)III. The Holy priesthood
A. Dramatic contrast to the worldly priesthood, servants of a visible shrine(Exodus 20:4-5)
B. God’s true priesthood composed of all born-again children of God(Revelation 1:5-6, 1 Peter 2:9)
1. Represent God to the people, the people to God(Numbers 6:24-26)IV. Spiritual sacrifices(1 Peter 2:5)
A. Broken spirit and contrite heart (Psalm 51:16-17)
B. Loving God, loving neighbor (Mark 12:28-34, Deuteronomy 6:4, Matthew 22:37-39)
C. Our bodies (Romans 12:1)