The Christ Community, Part 3: The Church as the People of God (1 Peter 2:4-12)

One of the most tragic changes Christianity has experienced in the last 50 years is the minimizing of the centrality of the local church in the life of believers. The Lord’s Day used to be considered sacred. It was dedicated to the worship and service of God, but now it’s treated like any other day. And local church life, which was once considered indispensable to the Christian life, is now treated like an extra-curricular activity rather than an essential part of our spiritual formation.

In his book, Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life, Kent Hughes presents six images describing today’s “de-churching” trends—trends that are held even by those who wish to retain some sort of connection to the historic Christian faith:

- Hitchhiker Christianity
- Cafeteria (or Consumer) Christianity
- Spectator Christianity
- Drive-through Christianity
- Relationless Christianity
- Churchless Christianity

It’s hard to square these images with the lofty vision of the church found in the New Testament. In 1 Peter 2:4-12, for example, the Apostle Peter sets his sights extremely high. He writes to 1st-century believers about their continued need for Jesus, their continued need for each other, and their continued need for a genuine spiritual commitment. He knows they won’t make it or be effective in this world without these three things. In this message, we learn that the people of God are living stones being built together by Jesus Christ to reverse a crumbling world. Masonry imagery is used to describe both Christ and the church he is building:

- Jesus is the living stone. (4a)
- Jesus is the rejected stone. (4b, 7a)
- Jesus is the chosen stone. (4c, 6a)
- Jesus is the precious stone. (4d, 6a)
- Jesus is the cornerstone. (6a, 7a)
- Jesus is the capstone. (7b)
- Jesus is the stumbling stone. (8)
- Jesus is the coming stone. (12)

To the masonry image, Peter adds the temple and priesthood metaphor in his description of the church:

- We are living stones. (5a)
- We are a spiritual house in progress. (5b)
- We are worshippers with direct access to God. (5c)
- We are a chosen people. (9a)
- We are a royal priesthood. (9b)
- We are a holy nation. (9c)
- We are a people belonging to God. (9d)
- We are a people of praise. (9e)
- We are a people called out of darkness into light. (9f)
- We are the recipients of divine mercy. (10)
- We are aliens and strangers in the world. (12)

Peter cites numerous Old Testament passages to make his case. He calls the people of God to live good lives and subdue the war around us (v. 12). But for that to happen, the church must also live godly lives and subdue the war within us (v. 11). The challenge is great, which is why drive-through Christianity doesn’t cut it.