Open your Bibles to 1 Peter, chapter 2; 1 Peter, chapter 2. I trust this will be a helpful, instructive, and practical portion of Scripture for our edification. And I will read 1 Peter, chapter 2, verses 1 through 10.
“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation since you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
“For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense;’ for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God. You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Peter is making use of the Old Testament, a number of portions of the Old Testament. He is, we would say, expositing the Old Testament, as we saw in verses 6 and following. But I wanna to draw you back to a statement in verse 2. The driving action, the driving verb is a command - it’s an imperative - and it reads, “Long for the pure milk of the word.” Everything in this passage supports that. That is the main thrust of this entire passage. It is a command to desire Scripture, to desire the Word of God.
This has always marked those who have a love for God, who are in Christ. Jesus said this in John 8, “He who is of God hears God’s words.” In that same chapter, Jesus said, He who is of God not only hears God’s words but keeps God’s Word.
Paul expressed this love for God’s Word in the believer’s heart when he said in Romans 7:22, “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” Job said, “I have treasured His words, the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” Job 23:12. The psalmist in the first psalm said that the godly man is blessed because “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 19 says, “The words of God are more desirable than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than the drippings of the honeycomb.” Again, in Psalm 40, and verse 8, the psalmist says, “I delight to do Your will, O God. Your law is within my heart.”
The richest and most generous portion of Scripture describing the believer’s love for and delight in the Word of God is Psalm 119, and it celebrates this love and this affection and this joy starting in verse 16, and doesn’t stop ’til it gets to 174. And it repeatedly, repeatedly says, “I love Your law.” “I delight in Your law.” “I rejoice in Your law” in various ways.
This is the believer extolling the love of his own heart for the Word of God. It is not something imposed upon him from the outside; it is something that rises up within him from the inside. Love for Scripture, delight in Scripture, a craving for the Word of God, and to know God through His Word is what Peter is commanding us to.
Look back at that main statement in verse 2: “Long for the pure milk of the word.” “Long for” is an imperative verb. It comes from epipotheō, “to desire” or “to crave.” And anytime Greek verbs have prepositions tacked onto the front they are thereby intensified. This word is used, for example, in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after You, O God.”
In Psalm 119:174 it is used to express the psalmist’s desire and delight in the law of the Lord. This verb “to long for, to desire, to crave,” this strong, intense, compelling craving is found nine times in the New Testament; this same verb, seven of them by the apostle Paul, one by Peter, and one by James. And James translates it as “a jealous desire,” that kind of desire that is a solo, solitary desire that literally expects everything else to fade away.
In Romans 1 and Philippians 1, Paul used it to describe his craving for effective ministry. In 2 Corinthians 5, he used it to describe his desire, his longing for heaven. In 2 Corinthians 9 and Philippians 2, he used it to describe his love’s yearning. And in 1 Thessalonians 3 and 2 Timothy 1, his deep need, his deep hunger for fellowship. It reflects intensity and ever-recurring passion, an insatiable longing.
Peter is demanding that. He’s demanding a consuming craving, for what? For something that is pure in the midst of a world of impurities, amidst of a world full of corrupting things, contaminated things, which the evil heart lusts for. He calls for this singular kind of craving for what is unadulterated, uncontaminated.
This word “pure” is used in an agricultural context to talk about food that has been purified so it’s edible, oil that has been purified so it’s usable, wine that has been purified so it’s drinkable. In this case it’s milk - uncontaminated, pure milk - the kind that comes out of the breast of the mother to a newborn; milk that first comes into the world into the mouth of that little baby.
What is this milk? It is the “milk of the word,” of the logikon, of the logikon. In fairness to that word, it is translated several ways in Scripture. First of all, it is translated in Romans 12 as “reasonable service” in some translations, or “spiritual service.” But, originally, it means “belonging to speech.” It came to mean “belonging to reason,” and speech is the reflection, the verbal reflection of reason.
The Stoics used it to refer to rational speech. They used the phrase zóon logikon: “Man is a rational being, he’s a reasoning being; therefore, he speaks.” It then came to reflect more than just reason, but the spiritual realities of man, and some translators have therefore changed “reasonable service” to “spiritual service.”
But what fits here better is to go back to the very root, “belong to speech,” and to see the connection with logos, the Greek term for word. That it’s translated that way is no surprise - that the translators understand that it is referring not to human reason or even to something spiritual, but to the very word is drawn into these verses from the previous verses at the end of chapter 1. Go back.
What’s he talking about? Verse 23 ends with, “The word of God.” And then verse 24 says, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you. Therefore, long for the pure milk of the word.”
The rabbis actually referred to God’s Word as milk, as milk - the pure, spiritual milk of the Word. And maybe that’s why Peter chose logikon rather than just logos, because it carries that reasonableness and that spiritual reality into the word itself.
And Peter doesn’t command them to read the Word. Paul did that in 1 Timothy 4. He doesn’t command them to study the Word, as Paul did in 1 Timothy 2. He doesn’t command them even to meditate on the Word, as we are commanded to do at the end of Psalm 19. He doesn’t command them to teach the Word, as he did in 1 Timothy 4, Paul did. He doesn’t command them to preach it, as he did in 2 Timothy 4. He doesn’t even suggest to us, as we read in Acts 17, that we are to search the Word.
He doesn’t say that we are to wield the Word as the sword, as in Ephesians 6. He doesn’t tell us to hide the Word, as Psalm 119:11 does. But all of those are essential. But at the foundation of all of that is the necessity to long for it. That’s the foundational component, to desire it. And Peter chooses a simple analogy, a simple analogy. He says, “Desire the pure milk of the word like newborn babies.” He reaches into the physical world to find what I think is the most apt illustration that could be used.
Babies crave milk and only milk. You care about the color of the blanket; they don’t. You care about the crib; they don’t. You care about the curtains; they don’t. You care about the cute little outfits; they don’t. They don’t scream because they’re offended by the color of their pajamas. They scream because they want milk. They come into the world with an obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are OCD at the outset.
And isn’t it amazing that everything about a baby is wonderfully genteel and wonderfully soft and cuddly and inviting, except their voice, which is horrific and almost completely alien to everything else about them. It is necessary. You’re not going to forget to feed your new baby. You’re not gonna forget to feed your new baby because he or she will scream his or her head off until you do. This is the singular focus that draws the illustration that Peter chooses.
Do we have anything even remotely like that kind of craving for the Word of God? Do we get to the place where we desire it more than our necessary food? If we had a choice between reading the Scripture and eating, we’d read the Scripture? Now this is not out of legalistic fear; this is not out of some threat; this is not out of some religious duty or compulsion. This is something that should rise out of our hearts the way that longing rises out of a baby, and there is such a compelling discontent because we’re not receiving it that we cry out for it.
Quite a far cry from saying, “Think we should go to church today? You think we should read Scripture?” So we look at our own lives and we say, “Whoa, I think I like hearing you preach, sometimes, maybe a lot. I think I enjoy reading the Bible occasionally, readin’ good books about the Bible. But I’m a long way from that. I’m not OCD on the Bible. I’m not obsessed. How does that happen? How did I get to where I am?”
Everything we’ve ever said – listen – everything we’ve ever said about inspiration, authority, inerrancy, everything we’ve been saying all week and all these services about the authority of the Bible is designed to come down a funnel that comes out the other end right into your life. It’s all about accepting and desiring the Word of God so it can do its work. So Peter wants to help us. He’s one of us. He wants to help us. And under the inspiration of the blessed Holy Spirit, he lays out elements that are part of a craving for the Word of God.
Element number 1 is remember your life source, remember your life source. So this is the pathway to get to that craving, and the first thing is to remember your life source. Where is that? Well, look at the word that begins the chapter: “Therefore.” “Therefore.” In that one word is this whole point: “Therefore.” “Therefore.” And that’s coming off the previous passage because of what he has just said.
Let’s go back to verse 22 of chapter 1. “Since you have in obedience to the truth, purified your souls.” That’s a staggering reality. “The heart of man is deceitful, desperately wicked. Who can know it?” We are wretched. We are vile.
The characteristics of all of us are laid out in Romans, chapter 3, in a cacophony of quotes coming out of the Old Testament that define us as without God, without righteousness, without interest, we are hopeless. Paul tells the Ephesians we’re alienated from the life of God. We are in horrendous corruption. We are unwilling and unable to escape our depravity. And then the Word of God purified our souls. The power of the word of God to purify the soul, to create “a sincere love of the brethren,” so that we “fervently love one another from the heart.”
To say it another way, “You have been regenerated, not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” And then “all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you” - therefore, desire it.
So why are you desiring it? Because you remember the very source of your transformation. It has that same power still, does it not? Was your salvation not the most monumental, incomparable thing that ever happened to you in your life, and was it not effected by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God?
Remember that. The Word is the seed that gave you life. Some sower came along, in the language of Matthew 13, threw seed into soil, prepared by the Spirit of God, and it bore fruit; and out came thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold. By His own will James says, in 1:18, “He begot us by the word of truth.”
“It is the word of life,” Philippians 2:16. It is the living Word, “sharper than any two-edged sword,” Hebrews 4:12. It is alive itself because God is the living God. Christ is the Prince of Life, the Spirit is the life-giving Spirit who is the Spirit of Life, and the Word has been exalted to the name of God - to that level. It is alive as God is alive.
The living Word is the very breath of God. It is as alive as He is. It is spiritual as He is spiritual. It is inexhaustible as He is inexhaustible. It is inextinguishable as He is inextinguishable. It is eternal as He is eternal, and it generates eternal life through His power. You find this laid out all through Scripture.
We’ve been looking through the gospel of John, and we’ve become very familiar with John’s purposes where he says, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” You read this book and you will be given life by believing in His name. The book - by the Holy Spirit, through the Holy Spirit - gives life. It gave you life, did it not? Ask yourself how precious it is. Ask yourself how powerful it is. Ask yourself what significance it should play in your life. It not only does that, our Lord said, it sanctifies. And God is not finished.
Several times this week, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 was referred to. But let me read it again for you. Paul is so thankful to the Lord for how the Thessalonians received the Word, so he says this: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you receive the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” It caused you to be saved, and now it goes on to perform God’s work in you who already believe.
Do you want the work of God? Do you want supernatural working of God in your life? You can’t just set this aside without setting aside the work of God. There’s no magic to this. There’s no momentary emotional experience that’s going to catapult you to some other level of spirituality. You just need to constantly realize that all the power is in the book; and when you’re in the book, the power transfers by the Holy Spirit to you.
Now Peter has a second critical component that drives us toward desiring the Word. It is this: eliminate your sin, eliminate your sin. Remember, your life source. Eliminate your sin. Verse 1 again, chapter 2: “Putting aside.” And that is a participle modifying the main verb “to long for.” “Putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
It’s actually a middle-voice verb. In Greek, a middle-voice verb is reflexive. It modifies, as I said, the main verb. Take a look at your life and start shedding things. This word, this verb, refers to stripping off. And, again, it’s a compounded verb. So it’s an intense kind of tearing off – like tearing off filthy clothes, soiled garments - used a number of times by the apostle Paul in Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, and also used by James.
There was an interesting routine that was followed by some early Christians in their baptism where they would be baptized in their old clothes, and then when they came out of the waters they would go to a dressing room and they would be given new clothes. This was a symbol of the fact that salvation marked the shedding of all that was old and the beginning of all that was new. Accustomed to symbolize this truth, the old is put off. And Paul talks about that; he uses that very language.
So in the light of new life begun, in light of new love given, the ugly, old hindrances hanging on from our residual fallenness, all those components of the old life need to be thrown off; they need to be shed. They will otherwise spoil your spiritual appetite. They are barriers, the stench of the old destroys the fragrance of the new, the taste for holy truth. You wear the shroud of the old and everything smells like the old. The aroma of the new is lost.
This goes for all sin, and Peter makes that clear in his first word “all.” Notice “all” is repeated three times in the verse, “All malice.” This is an all-inclusive word. I know we think of malice in a more narrow way, sort of evil intent towards someone. But it is literally the word kakia; in Greek means “evil.”
It’s often translated “wickedness.” It’s sort of without any more narrow definition. It conveys the general idea of baseness, disgracefulness, the general evil of the heathen. It’s translated, for example, in Acts 8:22 “wickedness.” This is the general, pervasive malignancy of the flesh out of which all manner of other evils emerge. It is that generic, inherited, wretched wickedness. You have to go after the elimination of that.
And then he adds, “All deceit.” The word is dolos and it was used to refer to bait on a fishhook, which is very deceitful. The fish thinks it’s a meal and it becomes a meal. That’s the ultimate deception. Deceit, deception, dishonesty, falsehood – that is a massive category of sin that is hidden sin. Malice, wickedness – that’s the open sin. Shed that and then go after the secret stuff, the stuff that’s deceptive, the stuff that people don’t know, that you can hide in your private moments. You remember when Paul exposed Elymas in Acts 13:10. He used this word; “Elymas, you’re full of all deceit.”
And then, thirdly, he says, “Hypocrisy.” Originally, the word for an actor wearing a mask, “Your phoniness.” Hypocrisy – get rid of it. We all know what that is. And then “envy,” wanting what others have, wanting to be who others are, resenting their situation, resenting their status, resenting their opportunities, which leads to grudges, bitterness, hatred, conflict. Get rid of all that.
So you start dealing with the wickedness, the general wickedness of your own heart. Then you go inside and find all the hidden deceit, and that goes. And then the hypocrisy goes. And then you start to work on the attitudes you have that caused you to have bad relationships with the people around you, and you get rid of the envies.
And then he says, “All slander.” “All slander.” That’s an onomatopoeic word, katalalia – “la-la-la-la-la.” It is defamation, disparagement, malicious gossip, tearing down other people. Certainly, general evil leads to deceit; deceit leads to hypocrisy; hypocrisy masks envy; and envy will always be followed by slander, always.
And this is the opposite of chapter 1, verse 22, “Your heart, your soul was purified for a sincere love of the brethren. Fervently love one another from the heart.” Strip it all off, all these filthy rags of the flesh. Deal with your sin. Confess your sin; repent. Cry out to God to remove it.
This we know, this true repentance, is the work of the Holy Spirit. But you have to cry out to the Holy Spirit to do that work in you. If you don’t have a desire for the Word; if you don’t have a desire to read it, to learn its truths, to hear its joys and its convicting realities; if you don’t expose yourself to the hearing of it preached and taught regularly, you need to go back and remember the power it displayed at the beginning when you were regenerated, and you need to begin to take a look at yourself and think about eliminating your sin.
Thirdly, admit your need. Admit your need – “like newborn babies.” The word here for “babies” is brephē, and that word means “infants,” “suckling infants,” “nursing infants.” In fact, when a child stopped nursing, that word would no longer be used to speak of that child. That would be enough. It could say, “Like babies” - and brephē would be enough that we would know this is a nursing infant. But Peter is inspired to add another word that means “newborn.”
So he pushes us all the way back to the hours and the moments after a child comes out of its mother’s womb. And the instant that baby is born, it goes right to its mother to provide the milk that God has already prepared, that pure milk. This is the baby’s only desire. It knows no other desire. It has no other desire. It isn’t particularly impressed with the looks of Mother, and for sure Dad. It doesn’t care what family it’s in; doesn’t care what town. It has one God-given, driving, obsessive, instinctive craving, and that is for milk. And milk is necessary to survival because it provides, on the positive side, nourishment, and on the negative side, antibodies that protect the child, sustain its life. And that child will not give up. That child will get that milk or drive you crazy, screaming at the top of its lungs. Thank God, right? You can’t forget.
Is he talking about recent converts here? No, he’s not talking about babes in Christ. This is an analogy. Forget that. He’s saying every believer all the time should be craving the Word of God as a baby craves milk. It’s that singular craving.
Is he talking about the milk of the Word as opposed to the meat of the Word, like 1 Corinthians 3? No! Don’t mix your metaphors. Don’t jump around. No, that’s a completely different illustration.
This is crystal clear. It’s a plain, graphic analogy. A newborn baby craves one thing, milk. Why? Because he can’t survive without it, and mechanisms go off in that precious little body that create agitation and irritation and screaming because it’s so critical.
Now it’s amazing how well you get along - Isn’t it? - how well you get along without crying for the Word of God. It’s amazing how much junk food you can feed on. A baby cries for life, for life. You can’t give a baby potato chips – although grandparents are tempted to do things like that. We have a desperate need for the Word, don’t we? We have a desperate need for the Word.
My heart goes out – and one of the reasons we do a shepherds’ conference – my heart goes out to true believers who can’t get fed. They just can’t get fed. They may go to a church and go to a church, and they’re malnourished. They have a sort of anorexia imposed upon them – weak Christians, weak churches, weak pulpits. And, consequently, they have a deficient immune system and they die of a thousand illnesses, a thousand heresies. Our need is so profound that God three times in Scripture said we don’t live by bread alone but by - What? – “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” That’s how we live. It is milk. It is bread.
There is a fourth very important element in this. Remember your life source, eliminate your sin, admit your need. Fourth, pursue your growth. I’m pretty sure of this. If I were to say all of you who are 100 percent content with where you are spiritually, please stand up so we can meet a perfect person. No, you’re not content with where you are, and neither am I. Neither was the apostle Paul, who’s kind of my model: “O wretched man that I am! I am the chief of sinners. How do I get ready, the body of this death? I press toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of Christ. I’m nowhere near, not as though I have attained.”
He keeps saying that, doesn’t he, one way or another. And he knows for his church,he’s in birth pains until Christ is fully formed in them. He’s literally bearing some kind of agony. This is the concern for the church that he talks about in 2 Corinthians 11. That’s not administrative duties; it’s the agonizing birth pains of people who aren’t conformed to Christ. And his greatest fear he said to the Corinthians, “I’m going to come and find you not to be what I want you to be. And then I’m going to feel like my whole life was a failure, my whole ministry a disaster. I’m going to come and find sins of disunity and sins of immorality.”
No. Look, we all know we aren’t where we need to be. So the end of verse 2, “Long for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Now we’re back out of the metaphor into the reality of salvation. You need to grow. You grow by the Word. You’re fed by the Word like a baby’s fed by milk.
“Grow.” That verb used there is used for the growth of children. We are children and we need to grow. John picks that up in 1 John 2:12-14. We start out as spiritual babies, children. We become spiritual young men, strong in the Word. And then we become spiritual fathers who not only know the Word, but we know the God who is behind the Word. We come to know the One who is from the beginning. This rises out of our discontent.
Part of the responsibility of the church and part of the responsibility of the preacher is to continually make the people see their discontent. You must be discontent with where you are. You know, we would like to come up here and say flowery things all the time and make you feel good about yourself, and tell you you’re wonderful and you’ve got all that you could possibly have inherent in you, and you all have to do is think it into existence, and the Lord will make you rich and wealthy, and life is all roses if you just kind of get yourself in the right channel. But the truth of the matter is the faithful preacher, the faithful preacher hammers on the hearts of the people what is the burden of his own heart, and that is that we’re so far short of what we should be that we have to constantly go back to the Word to elevate the reality of our own failures so that we can live in a certain kind of discontent that motivates us. There’s a discontent in a baby. It needs to be in us as well.
We want to go as 2 Corinthians 3:18, “From one level of glory to the next” - to the next, to the next – “being conformed to the image of Christ.” What are the factors of spiritual growth? If I look at my life, how can I isolate out a few things that might help you? Number one: an increase in spiritual understanding - spiritual growth. Listen. Spiritual growth has this foundational component: a deeper, richer understanding of the Bible. It doesn’t happen in some kind of spiritual fog. It doesn’t happen by some mystical experience. Spiritual formation is the new kind of buzzword where you look into yourself and kind of contemplate your own navel and think you’re going to grow spiritually. It’s not that way. It starts, spiritual growth starts with an increase in spiritual understanding, which means an increase in biblical knowledge. As your theology grows, as your grasp on Scripture grows, your growth is fueled by that.
Secondly, a deeper delight in those things. A deeper delight in those things. One of the reasons that you sing the way you sing is because you know what you’re singing about, right? You know what you’re singing about. People say, “Well, hymns aren’t popular. Why do you sing hymns?” Because if we told our people to sing the same verse, the same line, 11 times in a row, they’d be bored to death because they know too much to get stuck on one note and one line.
We sing hymns with verses. We understand theology. We understand the Word of God. We have a richness. And we saw that this week with the singing of the pastors. They were just singing their convictions, singing out the truths of the Word of God that have captured their mind. So spiritual growth is marked by an increase in biblical understanding and a deeper delight in those kinds of things. As your understanding and your theology expands, that fuels your worship, your delight.
Another component of true spiritual growth, as a result of that, you have a greater love for God. Why? Because God is continually greater and greater and greater and greater, and more wonderful and more wonderful. You’ve come here and you hear the Word of God, and you hear this passage and that passage, and this book and that book, and you hear message after message, and you read great books. This is the revelation of God, right? So you’re getting to know God and your love for God expands.
And the fourth component in spiritual growth is strengthened faith. Now that I know so much about God, I trust Him no matter what happens. So people come up to me and say, “I just found out that I have terminal cancer. But don’t worry about me, pastor, just pray the Lord will use me as a witness.” There’s no collapsing. Why? Because faith has been strengthened by the love of God from the knowledge of Him through the Word.
And then the fourth component of spiritual growth is constant obedience, constant obedience. We believe in and we love God, and we obey Him. Pursue your growth. So remember your life source, eliminate your sin, admit your need, pursue your growth.
Number five: survey your blessings, survey your blessings. Verse 3, he adds this - there’s almost a little bit of sarcasm in this, Peter - “If you’ve tasted the kindness of the Lord.” It’s really “since.” It’s a first-class conditional, “Since you’ve tasted the knowledge or the kindness of the Lord.” Based on Psalm 34:8; he’s referring to God. He’s certainly referring to God in Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Survey your blessings. Survey how kind the Lord has been to you, how good.
Ephesians 2:7 talks about the kindness of the Lord. Titus 3:4 talks about the kindness of the Lord. Lamentations 3, “Your mercies are new” - What’s the next line? - “every morning.” Since you’ve tasted it, and you’ve tasted it, and you’ve tasted it, and you’ve tasted it. And it’s your life since you’ve “been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.” Since you have “all things pertaining to life and godliness.” Since all of that is your constant, ongoing experience, and all of that is coming to you from a good and gracious God, wouldn’t you want to go back to Him and hear from Him and commune with Him?
As I always do – and did it this morning – I like to read the Scripture to you and then go back in and pray through that Scripture, back to God. That’s what Scripture does. It, again, it elevates and sustains your worship and your gratitude.
God has been kind. God is kind to us – consistently, constantly, lavishly kind. And He will spend all eternity unfolding the fullness of His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2. Since you have tasted the kindness of the Lord, go back to the treasure of His Word. Commune with Him.
And one final thought. Remember your life source, eliminate your sin, admit your need, pursue your growth, survey your blessings. Here’s a final one. Wish I had more time but I don’t. Cherish your privilege, cherish your privilege.
What is privilege? According to the dictionary, privilege is the right and benefit enjoyed by someone beyond the advantages of most. The right, or rights, and benefit enjoyed by someone beyond the advantages of most.
Now as Christians, we know the Bible speaks a lot about duties. There are a lot of commands. We just saw one in verse 2, “Long for the pure milk of the word.” And we need to remember our duties for sure; that’s what we’re talking about. But we need to always remember our duties in the light of our privileges. So look at verses 4 and 5: “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Staggering statement!
There were all kinds of priests in the pagan world, they were all over the place. Every city had temples and deities, and priests and priestesses, and prostitutes and all the folderol that went on. And they were considered to be some kind of elite class, almost like sort of super-human mediums who could ascend beyond the hoi polloi and commune with the deities. And the only way the people could commune with a deity was through that priest, that intermediary. And all their gods were rocks, carved idols.
But you, “You are a holy priesthood. You’re not a corrupt priesthood like all of those, you’re a holy priesthood. You as a holy priesthood have full access, verse 4, “and coming to Him” - present tense, continuous action. You come all the time. Even the priests in Israel couldn’t do that.
There were 24 courses of priests. Each one would serve a couple of weeks a year, twice maybe - the high priest, once a year – into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, never else. “You are a holy priesthood.” You just keep coming. “You have” - in the words of the writer of Hebrews – “boldness to enter the holy place to obtain whatever mercy you need” at His disposal.
“Coming to Him,” access. That verb “coming to Him” again means “to come near” or “to come next to.” Erchomai means “to come”; pros means “to come next to.” You not only come in and you’re way off, you come right up to Him. Proserchomai, by the way, is the Greek basis of the English word proselyte. Proselyte is somebody who was far was made near.
That word is used in the Septuagint for drawing near to God in worship. Here, it is habitual. You habitually come near to Him. You live in His presence. Who? The “living stone.” Not a dead idol, not a carved rock, but a living stone. That’s an oxymoron. We say people are stone dead. Nobody is a living stone. But Jesus is making comparison between the dead idols and Himself, the true God.
We are coming to Him. We are nobody – “not many noble, not many mighty.” We are low lives of the world – the nothings, the nobodies. In the language of Paul, we’re non-existent people - he uses that term. But we have continual access to the Living One. “Rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God.”
Can you just think about that? The most precious one, “This is My beloved Son.” “This is My beloved Son whom I’m well-pleased.” You sinners, by grace, I give you constant, complete, full access to Him.
When a prostitute touched Jesus, the Pharisees exploded. Jesus moved among sinners, didn’t He? Ate with sinners. He cannot be contaminated by sinners. He decontaminates those who are allowed to come near. He is the Living Stone.
So we are a new royal priesthood. We are not only coming to a living stone – this is amazing, verse 5 – but we are also “living stones.” We are made into His image. We become “like Him, changed into His glory, from one level of glory to the next.” And He is the foundation, and the apostles and the prophets. Christ the cornerstone. As it says later, “the choice stone,” the “precious corner stone.” “The stone” – yes – “that the builders rejected,” all taken from the Old Testament. He is the cornerstone, the apostles are in the foundation, and then we’re the “living stones, being built up as a spiritual temple,” the very dwelling place of God. And we are the ones offering “spiritual sacrifices.”
What is a spiritual sacrifice? Giving yourself, your body, Romans 12:1-2, as a sacrifice. Your prayers are a sacrifice. Our praise, the sacrifice of praise. Our righteous deeds, our love, our obedience, our service - we offer it all in the name of Christ, and the Father accepts it.
Some people might be impressed that they met some kind of royal figure, that they once met some kind of famous person. That’s a lot of nonsense really. You are constantly coming to Him. And this is where you’ll meet Him, as you gaze at His glory in the Word and be changed into His image. This is your privilege.
I close with verses 9 and 10. People who reject Him, “they stumble... disobedient to the word,” verse 8, they’re doomed, appointed to doom. “But you, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession... you were not a people, now you are a people. You had not received mercy, you have now received mercy.”
Incredible privilege. And why have you been given these privileges? Back to verse 9, “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The word “excellencies” is “the mighty deeds,” “the mighty power.”
Why has He made you this? Why are you a royal priest? Why are you part of a chosen race, a holy nation? Why have you been given mercy and become a people for God’s own possession? In order that you might put God on display.
How do you put Him on display? Well, you could preach and you could put Him on display with your words. But if you’re going to do that, that needs to be supported by what? By your life, by your life. You need to proclaim with your example. And when you study the Word, “the word,” in Colossians 3:16, “begins to dwell in you richly.”
The parallel to that is Ephesians 5, and the Holy Spirit begins to fill you, and you become Christ-like, and you put God’s power on display. All of the talk about the Bible is for this, that you might show forth His excellencies to the world around you.
Lord, we ask You to confirm to our hearts Your truth. We hold in our hands this precious, so often underestimated treasure. And sometimes we underestimate it because the work that it does is imperceptible and slow. But it’s inexorable and it’s ongoing, and the steps from glory to glory may seem like very small ones. But You are working them through the blessed Holy Spirit. Give us a love for this book, an obsession with its truth, and the Father, Son, and Spirit who are revealed in it, so that we can both speak and live, showing forth Your excellencies. This we pray in the name of the Son, and our Savior. Amen.