1 Peter


1. The holy people of God, 1:3-2:10

iv] The Christian fellowship - one in Christ


Having challenged his readers to live differently in the world, 1:13-2:3, Peter goes on to speak of the privileges that belong to the members of God's new community, 2:4-10. When a person responds to the gospel, they become members of this new community, the church (a "spiritual house"). In this "house" the members function as a "priesthood" in service to God. Christ is the unifying centre of this new community and those who share with him are blessed, but those who reject him face judgement. Those who accept Christ become part of God's new community; they enjoy his mercy, and are privileged to shed the light of his grace to the ends of the universe.


i] Context: See 1:1-2.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: A holy people one in Christ:

In the stone of destiny we find our destiny, v4-5;

A destiny revealed long ago, v6-8;

A destiny of one people in Christ, v9-10.


This passage is built around six quotations from the LXX which are fulfilled by Christ and realised by those who are in Christ, thus revealing the true identity of the people of God. Ps.118:22; Ex.19:5-6; Isa.8:14; 28:16; 43:20-21; Hos.2:23. Jobs suggests the following arrangement:


Christ as a Living Stone, v4a;

Believers as living stones, v4b.


Believers as a spiritual house, v5;

Christ as a cornerstone of the house, v6a.


Believers will never be shamed, v6b;

The Cornerstone is honour to believers, v7a.


The downfall of all who reject the Living Stone, v7b-8a;

Stumbling as the destiny of unbelievers, v8b.


The new identity of believers - a chosen race, v9;

Believers receive God's mercy and are his people, v10.


iv] Interpretation:

Peter addresses his readers as those who have left the secular city and become citizens of God's eternal city, the holy city Zion, as such he has encouraged his readers to live in a manner appropriate to their membership - be what you are, be that holy people, 1:13-2:3. Peter now sets out to provide a doctrinal justification for this exhortation to holiness by describing the nature of the community into which Peter's readers have been born again, so Hiebert, Beare, Jobes, Michaels, Selwyn, ..... Citizenship of this new city, this divine society, this people of God, this spiritual temple, this new priesthood, this true Israel, this holy nation, this chosen race, this possession of God, this building of which Christ is the cornerstone and believers the building blocks, of itself demands our all.

The passage may continue Peter's series of exhortations, being the fifth in the series, the third concerning life in the Christian fellowship. This is prompted by reading oikodomeisqe, "to build", v5, as an imperative rather than an indicative; "So then, you must come to him, as if you yourselves were living stones, and you must let yourselves be built into a living temple", Barclay, cf. also Goodspeed, Moffatt, Cassirer, TNT, REB, Knox,.... None-the-less, oidodomeisqe is best read as an indicative such that the whole passage serves to support the call to be what we are, 1:13-2:3.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Set apart to sing God's praise.

Text - 2:4

A spiritual temple and holy people, v4-10: i] In the stone of destiny, believers find their destiny, v4-5. Although Peter uses Old Testament language here, he is describing, in very simple terms, the "narrow way" - the call to follow God's stone of destiny, Jesus. When a person comes to Jesus they are incorporated into the fellowship of believers - a community, a "spiritual house", a heavenly assembly gathered in the presence of God and eternally secure before him. In this assembly believers function as priests in service to God, "offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable through Jesus Christ." Peter does not define this service, but "faith expressing itself through love" is probably the sum of it. The rest of Peter's letter fleshes out this service, a service which is acceptable to God.

The opening Gk. sentence has as its main verb oikodomeisqe, "are being built up", found in v5. As noted above, this verb is best read as an indicative, not an imperative.

prosercomenoi pres. part. "as you come" - coming = because you have come. The present tense is durative expressing a continuous coming, a holding onto, a resting on, Christ the living Stone. The participle is most likely adverbial, as NIV, causal, "because", "since you have come to him, the living stone ....... you are being built up into a spiritual house .....", or instrumental, expressing means, "by coming to him", Dubis. There has been a tendency to treat some of the prominent participles in this letter as imperatives, this being one such example; "So, come to him ...... [and] be built up", REB - oikodomeisqe, "are being built up", being read as an imperative, the participle, being attendant on it, then read as an imperative. See Selwyn p.467-480.

proV "to [him]" - to [whom]. Spacial; movement toward.

zwnta (zaw) pres. act. part. "[the] living [stone]" - [a] living [stone]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "stone", accusative in apposition to the pronoun o}n "whom"; lit. "coming to whom, a stone which lives." Temple imagery is being used here. Christ is a living person unlike a pagan temple which is mere stone. Yet, "living" implies a metaphorical use, so "spiritual". "Spiritual, because as the temple, as the priests, as God, so the offering", Alford.

men .... de .... "- ... but ...." - Adversative comparative construction; "on the one hand [rejected.....] but on the other [...]"

apodedokimasmenon (apodokimazw) perf. pas. part. "rejected" - having been rejected. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "stone", forming the relative clause "who was rejected ....", ie., regarded useless after examination.

uJpo + gen. "by [men / humans]" - Expressing agency.

eklekton "chosen" - [but with god] chosen. Used of the Servant in Isaiah. Through faith in Christ we are united with the chosen one of God and so become, in him, the elect of God.

para + dat. "by" - with. Spacial; on the Godward side, in the presence of God, before God. Humanity may have rejected Jesus, but to God he is chosen, precious.

entimon adj. "precious " - precious, valuable / honourable, respected. Dubis suggests that the adjective eklekton, "chosen", serves as a noun, "a chosen one", with entimon serving as an attributive adjective, "a precious chosen one / stone with God / in God's sight."


kai autoi "you also" - and you = yourselves. It is possible, although unlikely, that the subject of this clause is God, the passive oikodomeisqe being deferential. It is though more likely that the "you" of oikodomeisqe, "you are being built up", is the subject, in which case kai is adjunctive, "also", and the personal pronoun autoi functions as a reflective pronoun; "you, yourselves, also as living stones." Christ is the "living" stone of prophecy, and in him we are like that stone, "built with him into the spiritual structure of the divine household", Beare.

wJV "as" - like / as. As already noted, Peter seems to use this particle in two ways, as a comparative, or expressing manner; "as if / as it were", or, "in the manner of / functioning as", so Achtemeier. Here the particle expresses a comparative relationship.

zwnteV (zaw) pres. part. "living" - living [stones]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "stones".

oikodomeisqe (oikodomew) pres. ind. pas. "are being built" - are being built up. Best treated as a passive indicative rather than a middle imperative, see v4.

oi\kov pneumatikoV "a spiritual house" - a spiritual house. Possibly a spiritual family, but house, in the sense of temple, is better; a spiritual temple to house a priestly community. It could even mean "you are being built up into God's true temple", cf., John 2:17. Yet, the fact that this phrase is nominative, rather that accusative, indicates that it is not the object of the "being built up." Elliott suggests an ellipsis with the words "you are" missing; "you are a household of the Spirit." Schreiner suggests that "spiritual house" stands in apposition to uJmeiV, "you", implied in the verb "to build." We are best to follow Dubis who suggests it is the nominative complement of the subject autoi, "you", in a double nominative construction. With an active verb the sense would be "God is building you as a spiritual house" (double accusative construction - "you" = object, "spiritual house" = accusative complement), but as a passive, "you yourselves ...... are being built as a spiritual house" (double nominative construction).

eiV "to be" - to, into. Here expressing purpose, "for"; "to the end that they be a body of priests (a community of priests, although possibly "to exercise priestly functions", so Beare)", Achtemeier. Therefore, describing the vocation of the church, so Selwyn. This preposition is missing in some important manuscripts leading to the possibility that "holy priesthood" was originally nominative and stood in apposition to "household of the Spirit." "Its right to be in the text is strongly attested", Metzger.

iJerateuma (a atoV) "priesthood" - a [holy] priesthood. One who performs the role of a priest, presumably here emphasising the role of providing access to God. This is a collective function for God's household such that the church, believers themselves, provide a way into the presence of the living God, rather than just specially appointed functionaries = the priesthood of all believers. This priesthood is holy, in that it is unlike a pagan priesthood.

anenegkai (anaferw) aor. inf. "offering" - to offer up. The infinitive is probably epexegetic, explaining the ministerial function of the priesthood, here the function of a priest offering sacrifices to God; "so as to become a holy priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices", Cassirer. On the other hand, the infinitive may express purpose; "in order to offer ..."; "a body of priests whose purpose is to offer acceptable sacrifices to God", Achtemeier.

pneumatikaV adj. "spiritual" - spiritual [sacrifices]. Attributive adjective. The sacrifices offered are figurative - in the form of prayer, praise, brotherly love, self-surrender...... as distinct from animal sacrifices.

euposdektoV adj. "acceptable" - Predicate adjective; "that are acceptable." Such offerings are not acceptable in themselves as they would always be compromised, but "through Jesus Christ", that is, under the canopy of his perfect obedience, they find acceptance. The ancients were always very concerned as to whether their sacrifices were acceptable to the gods.

tw/ qew (oV) dat. "to God" - Adverbial, expressing reference / respect; "with respect to God."

dia + gen. "through" - through, by means of [jesus christ]. Instrumental, expressing agency.


ii] Peter now explains that his proposition concerning the stone of destiny was long ago revealed in the scriptures, v6-8. Peter quotes three passages from the Old Testament to support the point he has just made: Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:14. One of the titles for the Messiah is "the Stone". Christ is the chief cornerstone of God's new building - the new Israel, the Temple, Jerusalem, the people of God. Those who link themselves to Christ, who "come" to Christ, who "trust in him, will never be put to shame." They will become a "living stone", sharing in the life and glory of the "precious cornerstone". For those who reject Christ, the stone will cause them to stumble and inevitably crush them, ie., those who reject the gospel align themselves with apostate Israel, a people destined to destruction. This is not a predestined damnation of individuals, but rather the predestined damnation of those who stand outside God's community of grace. The individuals who "come" are saved, but those who "reject" "the precious cornerstone" are damned.

See Selwyn for the argument that these verses are taken from a Christian hymn, and Elliott for a counter argument. Note the omission of "a firm foundation stone", as also in Rom.9:33, since this may imply that the cornerstone is buried and would not be easily tripped over.

dioti "for" - because, therefore [it stands in writing = scripture. This conjunction is not necessarily causal here, nor is it necessarily drawing a logical conclusion, because Peter commonly used it to introduce a scriptural quotation; "it is just as God says in the scriptures", CEV.

idou "see" - behold [i place]. Interjection; "Take careful note."

en + dat. "in" - in. Local; expressing space.

Ziwn "Zion" - Usually referring to Jerusalem, sometimes particularly to the temple; identified as the seed-bed for the messianic kingdom.

eklekton adj. "a chosen" - [a corner stone] elect, chosen. The adjective is attributive, limiting "stone", a stone which is "the specific object of God's approval and election", Hiebert.

entimon adj. "precious" - precious. The third limiting adjective describes the stone as of immense value.

akrowniaion adj. "cornerstone" - "A chosen precious cornerstone", accusative, standing in apposition to liqon, "stone". Some argue the meaning is "keystone", a stone which ties together, eg., of an arch. It does probably mean "cornerstone", a stone at the extreme edge of a building establishing the line for its construction.

oJ pisteuwn (pisteuw) pres. part. "the one who trusts" - [and] the one trusting, believing. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to be shamed." Often expressed as "whoever believes in him", Barclay, although the participle properly means "trusting", with the preposition giving the sense of "on / upon". There is no real difference in meaning, although it is useful to understand "faith / trust / belief" in the sense of a resting upon / relying on Christ.

ep (epi) + dat. "in" - upon, on. Spacial.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Technically "it", seeing "stone" is neuter in English, but usually translated "him".

ou mh + aor. pas. subj. "never" - not never [will be shamed]. A subjunctive of emphatic negation; "will never ever / shall in no wise be disappointed."


In this, and the next verse, Peter's quotations establish that the positive and negative responses to "the stone" are accommodated in God's plan for the human race.

oun "now" - therefore. Resumptive, so "now" as NIV, rather than an inferential "therefore".

uJmin "to you" - to you. Emphatic by use and position. Dative of interest, advantage, "for you", so Achtemeier, or dative of possession, or dative of reference / respect, "with respect to", so Hort.

toiV pisteuousin pres. part. "who believe" - the ones trusting. The participle may be classified as a substantive in apposition to "you", or adjectival, attributive, limiting "you".

hJ timh (h) "the stone is precious" - is the honour, reverence, respect / valuable, precious. Nominative subject of an assumed verb "to be." Note how the NIV has the noun apply to Jesus, "the stone"", but it more likely applies to believers; "the honour is to you who believe", ESV.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrast, as NIV.

apistousin (apistew) dat. pres. part. "to those who do not believe" - to the ones unbelieving. The lack of an article serves to increase the indefinite nature of this group who do not believe. The participle functions as a substantive, dative as for pisteuousin above.

oiJ oikodomounteV (oikodomew) pres. part. "the builders" - [a stone which] the one's building [rejected]. The participle serves as a substantive. Fulfilled in the rejection by Israel's religious leaders of Jesus the messiah, cf., Matt.21:42, Acts 4:11.

ou|toV "-" this one [became]. This demonstrative pronoun stands in apposition to "stone".

eiV + acc. "" - to, into. In conjunction with ginomai, serving as a predicate nominative in OT quotations, see Wallace p.47 - a Semitic construction.

gwniaV (a) gen. "[the cap]stone" - [a head] of the corner. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, limiting the "head" stone. This leading stone is best understood as the pivotal "cornerstone" to which the whole building is aligned, although some argue for a keystone, a stone that locks the highpoint of a portal; "capstone" / "the apex of the building", NEB margin. "The very stone which the builders rejected as unworthy has become the cornerstone", Cassirer.


kai "and" - Connective, linking to the third quote from scripture.

proskommatoV (a atoV) gen. "[a stone] that caused men to stumble" - [a stone] of stumbling, falling, ruin [and a rock of fall, offence]. As with skandalou, "makes them fall, causes offence", the genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of producer; "a stone which causes someone to stumble." "A stumbling stone, a rock to trip people up", NJB.

apeiqounteV (apeiqew) pres. part. "because they disobey" - [who] being disbelieving, disobedient. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, "because", as NIV, but possibly instrumental, "by means of." "The word" is obviously God's divine revelation, particularly his self-revelation in Christ, or more particularly the gospel.

tw/ logw/ (oV) dat. "the message" - [stumble at] the word. Dative of direct object after the pro prefix verb "to stumble at."

eiV "-" - to, into [which]. Expressing purpose / end-view / goal; "to which end", Zerwick.

kai "-" - Adjunctive; "also".

eteqhsan (tiqhmi) aor. pas. "they were destined for" - they were appointed. "Their appointed lot" is best linked with the main verb "stumble" rather than the modifying participle "being disobedient." It is somewhat crude to take these words as a support for the idea that "God predestines [people] to stumble", Best. In the giving of the law, Israel is placed under a curse and thus destined to destruction. Yet, under God's sovereign grace, another way is provided for a person to become covenant compliant and thus, with Abraham, gain eternal blessing. This way is the way of faith in the mercy of God, finally realised in God's messiah, Jesus Christ, who was destined not to stumble. It is in him, by grace through faith, that a believer appropriates the promised blessings of the covenant. So, those who "stumble", by rejecting the gospel, align themselves with the ones destined to destruction, while those who accept the gospel align themselves with the one destined for glory. "They stumble because they refuse to obey the word - a fate for which they were destined", Barclay.


iii] Having described what God does for those who, through faith, are united to the stone of destiny, as opposed to those who have rejected him, Peter now concludes "with a vivid portrayal of [the Christian community's] corporate nature and function", Hiebert, v9-10. The new community, in union with the "precious cornerstone" (the true Israel, the remnant people of God), consists of the true children of Abraham, the children of faith. As such, believers bear the glorious nature and function of God's special people (God's royal residence, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a special possession of God). As God's special people, we are called on to be a "light unto the Gentiles", to proclaim the wonderful mercy of God realised in the person of Jesus Christ.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here contrastive in that Peter now moves the focus from unbelievers to believers.

uJmeiV pro. "you" - you [are]. Emphatic by use and position.

genoV (oV) "are a [chosen] race / people" - a [chosen] generation, race. Predicate adjective; "are a chosen people", TNIV, is better. "Chosen / elect" is being used again in a corporate sense, "the elect people of God", membership of which is by grace through faith. "God's own people."

basileion adj. "a royal" - a royal, kingly. Quoting the LXX (Greek) version of Isaiah 43:20 we have "royal priesthood", whereas the MT (Hebrew) has "a kingdom of priests." It is unclear whether the adjective in the LXX is to be read as a noun; in the MT it is a noun:

* If basileion is an adjective, Peter is saying that believers are "a royal priesthood", ie., priests who are in service to God, or belong to God; "the king's priests", NCV.

*If it is read as a substantive, then it may mean "kingdom", ie., priests of the kingdom of God, "a kingdom of priests", NJB, "kingdom" being understood as a national community.

*As a substantive it could just mean "king", ie., kings and priests, cf., the reign of the priesthood of believers, Rev.20:6. The reign of the people of God in eternity is certainly promised in the scriptures.

*Finally, taken again as a substantive, basileion may mean "a royal house / building / palace / residence", a community indwelt with the presence of the divine. This sense is adopted by Elliott who translates the opening clause "you are a royal residence, a priestly community, a holy people."

iJerateuma (a atoV) "priesthood" - priesthood. Nominative standing in apposition to "race". Taken as a collective noun, "priestly community", Elliott. Believers function as holy priests by providing divine access to God through the gospel.

laoV eiV peripoihsin "a people belonging to God" - [a holy nation] a people to god's possession. Nominative standing in apposition to "a holy nation." The preposition eiV is expressing purpose / end-view; "a people for possession", "for the purpose of belonging to God", Dubis. From Exodus 19:5, a peculiar, or special people. Israel was a people of God's special affection, and now that people are the followers of Christ.

oJpwV + subj. "that [you may declare]" - so that [you may tell out, declare, advertise, express]. This construction introduces a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that.". The word exaggellw, "to make known, proclaim", is a very strong word. "Now you must tell of the wondrous things that he has done", CEV.

taV aretaV "the praises" - the moral virtues, heroic deeds. Accusative direct object of the verb "to tell out." "The perfections of him", Berkeley, or better "noble deeds", Barclay, ie., all that Christ has done, his wonderful deed of redemption.

tou ..... kalesantoV (kalew) gen. aor. part. "of him who called" - of the one having called [you]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, idiomatic / of producer. "Called / summons / invite" here in the sense of "choose for receipt of a special benefit or experience", BDAG.

ek + gen. "out of" - from [darkness into the marvellous light of him]. Expressing separation; "away from".


Peter again employs Old Testament imagery. Israel was once no people, and the heathen too were without mercy, lost. Yet now, in the church, believers stand as God's eternal children, "the people of God." This verse alludes to Hosea 2:23. In Romans 9:25 the quotation applies to the inclusion of the Gentiles, but Peter uses it of the Christian community which replaces apostate Israel.

pote adv. "once" - Temporal adverb.

oi{ rel. pro. "you were" - who [once, formerly]. Somewhat technical and beyond my pay-grade, but an article which is followed by a word like potev, shortened to pote, takes on the accent, so actually it is the article oiJ, standing in parallel with oiJ ouk ....., instead of the relative pronoun oi{; "The ones formerly not a people, but now a people of God" - standing in apposition to "people", v9, cf., Dubis.

ou .... de ... "not .... but ....." - were not [a people] but [now are a people of god]. A negative-positive correlative construction.

nun adv. "now" - Temporal adverb.

oiJ ... hJlehmenoi (eleew) perf. pas. part. "once you had [not] received mercy" - the ones [not] having received mercy. The participle serves as a substantive, with the nominalizer oiJ covering elehqenteV as well. "The perfect tense portrays their entire preconversion life as characterised by no conscious experience of God's forgiving compassion", Hiebert.

ouk .... de "not .... but [now]" - A second negative-positive correlative construction.

elehqenteV (eleew) aor. pas. part. "you have received mercy" - are now the ones having received mercy. Again the participle functions as a substantive; "but they [you are the ones] who have received mercy." The aorist is punctiliar indicating "that at a definite time God acted to bestow His mercy on them, thereby terminating their former state", Hiebert.


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