“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” — 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NLT)
Peter uses architectural language to describe our relationship with God, one another, and the world. Clearly he has the Temple of Jerusalem in his mind as he unfolds this imagery. In the analogy, Peter cites Jesus as the cornerstone. Several years ago I participated in a mission trip to Haiti, where the chief objective was to build a church in a small village. When our team arrived, we discovered that the floor had been poured in preparation for construction of the block building. I stood and watch for what must have been two hours as the team leaders laid the very first cornerstone. It had to be placed perfectly because that first cornerstone was what would bring the entire building to square.
That experience added color to my previous understanding of Jesus as the cornerstone. He is the first stone laid, and his work brings the entire Kingdom to “square.” As Peter fleshes out his analogy, he states that the believing community of faith are living stones as opposed to the dead stones of the Temple. Believers are the living stones of a new temple that house the presence of God. We are built on top of the foundation of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, and we lean on one another as we rest on the cornerstone.
Peter then switches gears and suggests that the living stones of the new temple also have a second function: serving as priests to the world. Old Testament priesthood was a position of privilege. To be a priest one had to be born of the trive of Levi. Today we are qualified as priests by rite of the new birth. Peter makes the argument that every believer functions in the role of priest, offering the spiritual sacrifices of their bodies in continual service to God (cf. Romans 12:1-2). As living stones and priests, we house the presence of God’s Spirit who empowers and guides our work. We live as the incarnational presence of God in our communities and our world.
As believers, we are to function as priests in a world in desperate need of priesting. How can you be a priest to the world today?