Between AD 63-67, the apostle Peter was inspired to write to the "elect" who were dispersed throughout Asia Minor—and to us today—that Christians are to offer up spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the praises of God. We are in training now, learning how to be priests of God for His spiritual priesthood, and a primary reason is to offer up spiritual sacrifices. A spiritual sacrifice is an act of giving up and offering to God our time and effort in a way that is pleasing to Him.
What makes a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God? Is it merely the sacrificing of our time and effort? No, it is more than that. Comparing the sacrifice of Noah to the hypocritical sacrifices of the children of Israel shows that the attitude and righteousness of the offerer is important to God (Genesis 8:20-21; Amos 5:21-27). A spiritual sacrifice must be offered in an attitude of obedience, humility, and reverence.
Martin G. Collins
The Sacrifice of Praise
It helps to consider the word "house" in I Peter 2:5 meaning something a bit different from the common definition. Most commonly, we think of a building people live in. Here, "house" can just as easily mean "dynasty," as in the "house of David."
God is building us up into a dynasty, a spiritual house, a spiritual Family, one that we know will last forever. Verse 5 adds that God is forming us into a holy priesthood, the purpose of which is to offer up acceptable spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ. Verse 9 confirms that we are already a royal priesthood. This is especially important in light of the sacrifices, because those sacrifices were the activity of the priesthood under the Old Covenant.
Those priests went through the entire ritual physically. God does not require us to follow those procedures, yet He does require us to understand the spiritual concepts and apply them to the best of our ability. Why? Because we are being built up into a spiritual Family whose function is to glorify God by offering spiritual sacrifices that He will accept.
We must not allow ourselves the liberty of detaching ourselves from this by saying, "Well, that is really interesting information and nice to have, but of what value is it?" It is of great value, as the prophet Malachi clearly shows. In Malachi 1:6, God chastises the priesthood for the irresponsible manner in which they were carrying out their charge from God: "'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?' says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name." Those are strong words for failing to offer sacrifices pleasing to God.
The priesthood may not have come to a deliberately reasoned conclusion that the worship of God was something unimportant, but their inner disrespect surfaced in their slipshod and lackadaisical approach. God says He looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7), and His evaluation of their performance is that they considered their responsibility of offering sacrifices to Him to be shameful. Their real problem lay in their heart. Distracted by concerns they considered more important, their goal of being a whole burnt offering dedicated to God became a secondary occupation for their attention and energy.
The focus of their attention may easily have been given to functions and duties considered normal, everyday concerns, not sin per se. Nevertheless, these things are of lesser importance than fulfilling their charge from God. They reply to God in a manner that can be interpreted as offended surprise, asking, "In what way have we despised Your name?" God replies that the food they offered on His altar was defiled (Malachi 1:7).
Recall that a basic feature of the offerings is of God eating a meal. The altar is His table, and the sacrifice is His food. The fire consuming the offerings pictures God devouring it. As a result of "eating" the meal, He is satisfied just as we would feel a sense of well-being following a fine meal. God, however, is not satisfied with the sacrificial "meals" the priests of Malachi's day offered; He complains of their poor quality. They give Him no satisfaction and are not acceptable.
The quality of their offerings had become so poor as to be downright evil. The priests would never have served such blemished beasts to a leader they could see, but they gave them to the invisible God. Their faith was so weak that He was not only out of sight, He was almost completely out of mind (Psalm 10:4)! They had no thought of the greatness of His power; His merciful, loving providence; the desire of His concern for their well-being; or of His nearness to them. They apparently never gave it much thought that He was aware of all they were doing!
King David was cut from an entirely different bolt of cloth. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles clearly portray the external flaws in his behavior. We see his lust and adultery, his scheming deceit in conspiring to have Uriah die in battle, his childrearing errors, and his mistakes within the intrigues of government.
Like us, David was encompassed with human nature. In principle, we do many of the same things as he did, and also like him, it is an ever-present reality. It can break out at any time we get far from God and let our defenses down. However, in the Psalms we receive insight into his heart. In them, we see the real man, the one after God's own heart, and this forms the basis of God's judgment of him.
Malachi teaches us that we must strive to offer to God the best we can. Not everybody is the same. Each of us has our own package of abilities, intelligence levels, and skills. We have different attitudes about things and circumstances. We have been reared in different kinds of environments, and so our attitudes toward things are not always the same. We have different sins and weaknesses to overcome.
On the one hand, the ideals of the offerings are shown in the life of Jesus Christ, but on the other is the reality of what we are. We do not come anywhere near the ideals; we are frequently unstable and inconsistent. God nonetheless wants the general trajectory of our lives to be consistently aimed toward achieving them.
We all have our peaks and valleys. God is not overly concerned about the occasional valleys we go through as long as we are consistently bouncing back, making strenuous effort to bring the very best offering we possibly can into God's service. This approach will work to produce the maturity God desires to see in us; the image of Jesus Christ will be formed. This attitude will produce the satisfaction in God and us that is the fruit of the peace offering.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Five): The Peace Offering, Sacrifice, and Love
Notice the phrase "being built up." It is active and dynamic, indicating that the building is being done by somebody else.
Peter calls us living stones. Step away from the idea of human beings and imagine stones out in a field or a pile of bricks. Peter's illustration is of a construction job. In his mind's eye, as he was writing this, he saw a literal building being built by a stone mason, God, with His Son Jesus Christ.
We are "being built up." The stones are not taking themselves out of the field, shaping themselves, and fitting themselves into the building. Somebody else is picking up the stones, knocking off the rough edges, and fitting them exactly into the place where the Builder wants them to go. Peter is describing a building that is not being constructed haphazardly but according to an intelligent plan, as if the Builder is working according to a blueprint drawn far in advance of construction.
"Chief cornerstone" is mentioned in verse 6, and like the chief cornerstone, each of us, as living stones, are being individually set apart from all of the other rocks in the field, then prepared and fitted into what is called "a spiritual house." The word "house" simply means a dwelling place, and since this is a spiritual house, it implies "a dwelling place for God." The picture Peter wants us to imagine is that each one of these stones is chosen individually and pulled out of the field, fitted and shaped, and put into the building.
We see sanctification at work in this. In Peter's illustration, the stone mason looks over a selection of stones in a field, but only chooses certain ones, which he then crafts to His specifications for its place in the building. It shows Christians being transformed into a suitable dwelling place for God—individually and as an institution, as a church. This begins to place responsibilities on each of the living stones that are set apart and made a part of the dwelling place for God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)
In verse 5, the church is called "a spiritual house." In verse 9, it is called "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [God's] own special people." Each of these terms indicates a group, a society, or a community that is unique in what they are and what they are to do in God's name. The implication is that there is nothing like them on earth. The church is unique. The church is chosen, royal, holy, and "God's own" in a way that no other people are.
The term "house" can be understood either as a building that people inhabit (or, in this particular case, that God dwells in) or in the sense of a dynasty (as in "house of York" or "house of Windsor").
Interestingly, some modern Bibles translate "generation" as either "kindred" or even "race." These terms have interesting differences, because a generation indicates people all born within the same period of time—as in "the Boomer Generation" or "Generation X." Kindred has a slightly different implication, suggesting a people or group related by something held in common such as blood, character, or spirit. We even say, "So and so are kindred spirits."
Race, however, indicates an entire, major division of mankind—similar to red, yellow, black, or white. Seen in that light, the church represents something entirely unique, new, different from all other races of mankind. In other words, if "race" is the proper translation, then a new race of people is being formed. What distinguishes this new race from other races is not something external (like skin color) but the way that they live and what they do. Peter writes that this new race "proclaims the praises of Him who called [them] out of darkness."
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part One)
Solomon's Temple was only a type of the true House of God, the real Temple, the church of God (I Corinthians 3:17; II Corinthians 6:16). Solomon's building was the "Temple of God" because of God's presence, and so it is today. God now lives in us by His Holy Spirit, just as His shekinah glory hovered above the golden Mercy Seat covering the Ark in the Holy of Holies. If God is active and present in us, we are living stones and part of His spiritual Temple.
Just as the Temple had many types of stones, rocks. and boulders making up the foundation, flooring, walls, roof, and pillars, so will God's spiritual Temple. The spiritual Temple of God is a work in progress. Undoubtedly, God is excited to see its different elements taking shape. He is building us, as living stones in a living Temple, "on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19-20).
Jesus Himself says that a well-constructed house is built on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25). The foundation of the spiritual Temple has been laid and cannot be changed (I Corinthians 3:11); Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which He builds His church (Matthew 16:18). The eminent Jewish historian Josephus says about the foundation of Solomon's Temple: "Now, therefore, the king laid the foundations of the temple very deep in the ground, and the materials were strong stones, and such as would resist the force of time" (Antiquities of the Jews, 8.3.2). Impressive, certainly, but the spiritual Temple's foundations are even deeper!
Living Stones in God's House
We have been called to become a royal priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices. This means that even now we have priestly responsibilities; they are not off in the future. Indeed, it is just as important now that we be a priest as it is that we rule properly in God's Kingdom. If we are not practicing being a priest right now, we are not going to be prepared for that responsibility then. We know we have to practice ruling according to God's way right now, particularly ourselves. Similarly, we have to practice being a priest right now.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 Peter 2:5: