Updated: May 8
I have a question for you. What is your identity? What would you say if I asked you to finish this sentence in your mind?
Some may say; I am... a mother. I am... a sports fan. I am... a biker. I am... a grandparent. I am... a Native American. I am... a machinist.
I am... a book lover.
We may define our identity in many different ways. For example, we may define our identity in our career, online image, cultural heritage, hobbies, or where we live.
Understanding who we are shapes our today and forms our tomorrow. Our identity is important. Our past influences, the values we learned, and the families that surrounded us all come together, in part, to shape who we are today.
As Christians, it's not that our past is not important, the lessons learned, the difficult trials, or the joy we have experienced. However, understanding our identity in Christ is to shape us today and form us for tomorrow.
Continuing lessons from 1 Peter, Peter stresses the importance of our identity as the community of Christ in 1 Peter 2:4-10. He teaches us about our new family identity as God's household. Peter continues to pull his readers into the story of Scripture. He wants them (and us) to understand we are part of God's family.
As we focus on our text, we will again see language associated with the Old Testament covenant family of God, Israel. However, in (2:4), Peter begins with us personally and habitually approaching Christ as the "living stone." Peter now shows us the living stone. Jesus is life, and He extends life to others. He is the living stone. We would not often think of a rock or stone as "living." Peter emphasizes the living Christ as he has talked about our "living hope" in (1:3) and the living and abiding word of God in (1:24).
1 Peter 2:4 (NIV)
"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him"
Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life (ref. Jn. 14:6), was rejected by some. But He was chosen and precious to God. As Peter considers his audience, Christians who were suffering trials and hardships for following the lifestyle of Jesus, he reminds them that Jesus was Himself rejected (ref. Jn. 1:11).
As we have mentioned, following the way of Jesus will often lead us in a direction opposite of many around us. Moving counter to the culture will create tension. Jesus experienced this tension, a tension that placed Him on a cross. However, as Jesus navigated the tension, honoring God, He was chosen and precious to God.
At times, following Jesus will create tension. In the tension, remember your identity, chosen and precious to God.
In following the way of Jesus, Peter identifies Christians with Christ as living stones (2:5). Living stones that are being built up into a spiritual house.
1 Peter 2:5–6 (NIV)
"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. For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
Again, Peter associates the language of God's covenant people, Israel, with Christians as he draws us into the story of Scripture. Temple language and the language of priesthood connect us to God's covenant people. Our identity is in the history and story of God's people. Peter wants Christians to understand they are part of the story and the family of God.
We are built into a "spiritual house," a temple. We are a holy priesthood set apart for service to God in offering spiritual sacrifices. Our praise and spiritual sacrifices, gifts of generosity, grace, forgiveness, and selflessness are offered as we follow the lifestyle of Jesus. Spiritual sacrifices are modeled from the example of Jesus.
Jesus is a chosen and precious cornerstone in which we can trust and have confidence. I suppose in many ways today, living in our modern culture, we lose the significance of a cornerstone. Today, builders can align and plumb walls, level foundations, provide layouts and surveys, all with laser alignment. In the ancient world, they did not have these types of tools. Instead, cornerstones were used, and builders could construct foundations and walls with remarkable accuracy. They gave the building or structure a firm foundation leading to stability. Cornerstones needed to be straight and square so the rest of the building would be true.
Peter quotes Isaiah; "So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic." (Isaiah 28:16). Peter applies this Messianic reference to Jesus. Jesus is to be the true pattern for our lives. As living stones, our lives are to be aligned with Jesus.
With our identity built on the true foundation of Jesus, we may face hardships and trials, but we will overcome as we put our trust in Him. We will "never be put to shame.”
A Stone of Stumbling
Peter shows a vivid contrast between those who trust Jesus and those who reject Him.
1 Peter 2:7–8 (NIV)
"Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for."
The People of God
But to those who follow the wisdom and way of Jesus, Peter says:
1 Peter 2:9–10 (NIV)
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
Our identity is in Christ, and we are God's family. Our purpose is to declare His praises.
Bridging The Context
Understanding who we are shapes our today and forms our tomorrow. Our identity is important. Peter wants his readers to realize their identity in Christ. He wants us to see how we are connected to the story of God.
Aligning our lives with Jesus allows us to be built up together, facing today's trials with confidence in our tomorrow.
Who am I? We may answer this question in many ways because we are many things. However, as Christians, our identity should be formed first in Christ.
notes: Unless otherwise notes, Scripture quotations are from: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
article: Living Stones
handout: Living Stones
slides: Living Stones