“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter is here using Old Testament temple language, both the actual building and the rituals of the priesthood serving there. The OT temple was the representation of the presence of God among his people. It was the place where man and God could meet through an elaborate system of rituals and sacrifices – which was a visual demonstration of both God’s justice and his mercy. How did you know that God was present among Israel? The presence of the temple was a powerful symbol that God is among his people.
It is not insignificant that when the people of Israel come under the judgment of God and are taken away into exile that the temple is destroyed – the presence of God is no longer in that land.
However all that the temple stood for and represented is fulfilled in Christ. He is the true presence of God among man – Emmanuel – God with us. He fulfils all the rituals of the sacrificial system – He is the Great High Priest who offers the once for all sacrifice for our sins. He himself is the spotless sacrifice, never to be repeated for the sins of the whole world. It is in his body that the justice and mercy of God meet as he bears the full brunt of the wrath of God as he in love lays down his own life, so that I may be forgiven, restored, healed.
That is perhaps assumed, but it is not Peter’s point here. Here Peter talks not about Christ’s fulfilment as about our inclusion. Christ’s work and sacrifice has as its goal our inclusion & our restoration.
We too like living stones are built into this new temple that God is building, with Christ as the cornerstone. We are being built into this new temple in order to continue the priestly function of Christ. We are those who in Christ mediate the presence and blessings of God to the world.
The problem with the old priesthood and temple? It was static! You had to go to a large building in Jerusalem in order to experience/see the presence of God. But now this new temple is built with living stones – it is a mobile temple – wherever you see the people of God living as the people of God – there is the presence of God. This temple is free to move and to go anywhere the Spirit of God leads us.
We are the presence of God in the world – demonstrating that it is good to live under the reign of King Jesus.