1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue us from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who trust in Him. It is this Son who is the subject of Peter’s epistle. He is the One who was in the beginning with the Father, full of grace and truth; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born of her; who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; and who rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended up into heaven. Jesus is the object of our faith.
Peter describes Him in our text as a living stone, the foundation stone of God’s Holy City Jerusalem and the cornerstone of God’s Temple. This stone, Peter tells us, was rejected indeed by men – rather than bowing before Him in worship and praise, we crucified Him. So deep is our depravity as human beings that we rejected the One who would deliver us, killed the physician who would heal us, trampled the shepherd who would lead us, and betrayed the king who would rule over us.
Yet it is this stone, Peter tells us, that was chosen by God and precious. The One we crucified rose again from the dead. He is the Living Stone chosen by God to build up a Temple, a spiritual house, to the glory of God’s Name and to establish a universal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. So how does He build this Temple? Establish this priesthood? As the Living Stone, Jesus builds God’s Temple out of living stones; He sends forth His Spirit and imparts His resurrection life to men and women and children who are, by nature, spiritually dead. He causes our hearts of stone to live, to beat again in love of God and neighbor, that we might become living stones, members of a spiritual house, and priests of God Most High.
So why has God enlivened our stony hearts? Why is He constructing a spiritual Temple from us naturally lifeless stones? Why is He establishing a holy priesthood from us sinful men and women? Peter gives us the answer – to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In other words, God has enlivened us that we might worship Him. Listen to the 9th verse of this same chapter:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
God has chosen us in order that we might proclaim His praises, declare His wonders, and extol His excellencies before all nations. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is seeking people to worship Him.”
This Advent our sermons focus once again on Jesus in the Psalms. As we consider the psalms, I would remind you why God has given them to us in the first place – they are meant to be sung. God saved you that you might proclaim His praises, that you might offer up spiritual sacrifices, that you might offer up the fruit of your lips to God. Singing praise to God is not optional – it is the reason God delivered you from your sin. So sing; don’t be self-conscious. Sing; don’t make excuses. Sing; don’t deprive the assembly of your voice. Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!
As we gather in the Lord’s presence to praise Him, therefore, let us lift up our voices with joy remembering that God has saved us so that we might praise Him. Let us not mumble; let us not be silent in coldness of heart; let us not complain or grumble at God’s ordering our affairs. He saved us that we might offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. So reminded that we were saved to sing His praises, let us confess that we have often failed to praise the Lord as we ought and that our country has increasingly turned away from God to idols – and let us kneel as we confess our sin together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.