Last Sunday in Sunday School I shared three figures that are used to describe the church in the New Testament, and while these are certainly not the only ones that are used they illustrate several important truths about the nature of the church and the role of every true Christian in it. Today I would like to take a closer look at one of these figures. In 1 Peter 2:5, the apostle described the church as a “spiritual house” and its members as “living stones” who have become a holy priesthood so that they might offer up acceptable spiritual sacrifices to God. It is interesting that it is only by coming to Christ, who is first identified as a living stone that was rejected by men but chosen by God, that men may themselves become living stones and part of the spiritual house, the church. Thus the entry-point into Jesus’ church is by means of the Savior himself, and no one can truly become a member without first coming face-to-face with the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. And no mere introduction to Jesus will do, because we must receive his nature and life in order that we may become living stones just as he is, which explains why v.7 says that “to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient…[He is] a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” Anyone who refuses to trust in Christ will stumble over him and fail to receive genuine life or gain entry into his church.
As a spiritual house, the church is no less real than if it were a physical house, but the significance of this description of the church is very revealing, for entry into a spiritual house cannot be obtained through physical means. Therefore religious rites such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper are unable to bring one into this spiritual reality, because they are nothing more than temporal means, and without the precondition of having received Christ by faith they are ineffectual. You see Peter explains in this passage that the church is a spiritual entity in which believers serve as priests offering up spiritual sacrifices. This means that everyone who comes to Christ by faith is enabled by the Spirit’s presence and power to have immediate access to God, to serve God personally, and to minister to others on the Lord’s behalf. There is no need for a priestly class within the church for its members are all members of a holy priesthood, having received life through faith in Christ and so acts of worship such as baptism and communion are reflections of a spiritual reality already present in the life of the believer. They are not and cannot be the means by which one enters into the spiritual fellowship of the church.
The figure of the church as a spiritual house made up of living stones who derive their life from the One who is the chief cornerstone is a powerful and instructive image. By it we realize that one cannot become a Christian on the coattails of another, for apart from Christ we are not living stones but dead. We also see that every believer is empowered to enter boldly into the Lord’s presence, and so we must reject any form of religion which would interject a human mediator between God and men, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)