1 Peter 2:4-10 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
So far, in 1 Peter 2:4-10, we have seen and been amazed by the fact that Jesus is the living cornerstone of the Church, chosen and precious to the Father because he, through his death, makes us acceptable to God. We’ve also seen and been amazed by the reality that those who build upon this living cornerstone are blessed beyond belief, both in this life and eternally in the next. This morning, then, we are going to wrap up this section of Peter’s letter by being amazed again at the reality that all of this, along with all things, was destined by God, the destiner of all.
Remember, Grace, these amazing realities are presented by Peter to his readers (faithful Christians who’d been exiled because of their faithfulness) in order to help them remain faithful even in their persecution. The things Peter writes were all meant to help struggling Christians endure in ways that are honoring to God. The point of this sermon can be hard to hear (Peter and Isaiah call it a stumbling block), however, nevertheless, Peter knew that rightly understood it would be a significant help to the scattered Church.
Let’s pray that God would grant us eyes to see these amazing things in his word, to understand them, to love them, to order our lives according to them, and to be helped in times of trouble by them (as Peter intended).
THE FATHER: DESTINER OF ALL
As I mentioned in the introduction, in our passage for this morning, Peter makes quite a claim. He claims that both the Savior (Jesus) and salvation of mankind have been determined by God. That is, he claims that God is the destiner (the one who destines; the one who assigns destiny) of the Cornerstone and the Church. That’s quite a claim in its own right and we’ll consider it directly in a few minutes.
However, in order to really appreciate this claim (and, therefore, in order to really receive the help we’re meant to get from it), we need to back up a bit and consider it in light of an even bigger, and more significant claim made by the biblical writers: not only is God the destiner of the Savior and salvation of man, he is the destiner of all things.
To be clear, God’s sovereign reign over creation is not the point of 4-10. Peter does not defend, explain, or even state it explicitly in this passage. But, even though he does not teach God’s universal destinizing here, it is his belief in it that undergirds and informs and even drives the things he does directly teach (God as destiner of Savior and salvation). And because of that, it seems good for us to give a few moments to this doctrine in order to help us better understand Peter’s point.
One theologian (Wayne Grudem) helpfully summarizes this doctrine in the following way: “God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them [we call this preservation]; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do [we call this concurrence]; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes [we call this government].”
Collectively, these things are known as God’s providence. In Peter’s language, the fact that God is involved with all created things in these ways means that he is the destiner of them all. Let me quickly ground each of them in the bible.
It is passages like Hebrews 1:3 (“…he [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power”.) and Colossians 1:17 (“…in him [Jesus] all things hold together”) from which we come to believe the doctrine of preservation.
It is passages like Acts 17:26 (“And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…”) from which we come to believe the doctrine of concurrence.
And it is passages like Ephesians 1:11 (“[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will”.) from which we come to believe the doctrine of government.
Obviously, that’s quite a lot to swallow. In fact, I remember first being introduced to this idea as a new Christian and being utterly resistant to it. Over the course of several Saturday mornings I had a friend who patiently walked me through the biblical doctrine of divine providence. Though my friend was able to share many passages in the bible that seemed to teach this (including the ones I just shared with you), it just didn’t sound right to my mind which was so new to the faith and still trying to make sense of what the bible actually taught.
Since then, I’ve come to understand that even though there is mystery around this doctrine (which we’ll consider a bit more at the end), the bible clearly, unapologetically and even joyfully teaches it. What’s more, I’ve come to increasingly love it and receive it as the good news and great help it is. That’s Peter’s point in sharing one particular aspect of it to the suffering saints.
Again, my point is that the bible clearly teaches the universal providence of God. And it is only after we’ve come to understand that, that our passage for this morning has its proper context.
THE FATHER: DESTINER OF THE CORNERSTONE AND THE CHURCH
Since God is the destiner of all, as we have just seen, then he is, necessarily, the destiner of each specific thing as well. In this light, passages like 1 Peter 2:4-10 (which assume God’s general providence and teach God’s particular providence) should be of no surprise to us.
Back to 1 Peter 2:4-10, then. Once again, the point of this sermon is to highlight Peter’s teaching that God is the destiner of the Savior and salvation of his people. God chose Jesus to save mankind and he chooses from among mankind those whom he will save. There are several ways that Peter makes this point in our passage for this morning. Let’s consider them now.
First, we see it in the tense of the verb Peter uses describing the salvation of God’s people. Peter says that God’s people are “being built up…” (2:5). He uses a passive verb to indicate that that it is something being done to them. God has determined to build them up and so he does (he is the destiner of their salvation). Peter does this in many other passages as well. In 1:3 we read that God “caused” his people to be born again. In 1:4 we read that the inheritance of the saints is “kept” in heaven for us. In 1:5 Peter writes that the salvation of God’s people is “being guarded” by God. In 1:18 we read that the salvation of men is the result of being “ransomed” by God. There are plenty more such examples, but the point remains: the passive tense of many of the verbs in 1 Peter teaches that man’s salvation is ultimately according to the providence of God.
Grace, after the initial wave of uncomfortableness wears off, it’s not hard to see that this is really good news. The fact that our salvation is ultimately in the hands of God—the good and perfect and loving and just God—is our only hope of salvation. It is our only hope of persevering faithfully through hardship. The bible consistently presents God as sovereign over salvation, but it always presents it as good news for the people of God.
Second, Peter teaches God’s providence over salvation by revealing that it is God who determines the reasons for our salvation. God determines our salvation and the purpose of it. As destiner of all, God declares his people are being built up “To be a holy priesthood…” (2:5). The god-given purpose of salvation is “To offer spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God…” (2:5). God has providentially determined that his people are saved and blessed “That [we] may proclaim his excellencies” (2:9). Only one who is destiner of such things can declare such things. And only one who can declare such things can truly give hope in suffering.
Third, we see Peter’s understanding of God’s providence over both salvation and Savior in the prophecies he quotes. Peter quotes from Isaiah and the Psalms in order to remind his readers that Jesus’ work and mankind’s response to it were foretold by God, the destiner of all, before the Son became incarnate and before his readers were alive to believe in him!
In quoting Isaiah 28:16 (1 Peter 2:6 – “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”), Peter is declaring God’s providence over Jesus as the Savior of God’s people, the cornerstone of the Church.
And in quoting Psalm 118:22 (1 Peter 2:7 – “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”) and Isaiah 8:14 (1 Peter 2:8 – “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense), Peter is declaring God’s providence over Jesus’ rejection as cornerstone.
Who, besides the destiner of all can determine with certainty all things before they come to pass? God alone can do this. And in that knowledge, Peter writes, is great help in times of great trouble.
Fourth, we see Peter’s understanding of God as destiner of the savior and salvation of mankind in his indicative statements. There are several of these in 1 Peter 2:4-10. The clearest of them are found in v.9. Only one who providentially rules can declare things to be. That’s who God is and, therefore, that’s what he does; declaring those whom he has saved to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” God’s people are saved to these things because God, in his providence, declared them to be so.
I may declare that all the children of Grace Church are perfectly obedient, but that does not make it so. I may declare that MSU will win the national championship in basketball this year, but that does not make it so. And I may declare Jack to be the governor of Minnesota, but thank goodness that does not make it so. Peter’s point is that God alone is destiner of all and, therefore, things are what God declares them to be; which is great news for God’s suffering people, as God has declared them his and declared their salvation certain.
Finally, and most clearly, we see the sovereign providence of God in Christ’s coming as the living cornerstone, and over those who would build upon him, in Peter’s explicit language. In other words, we see God’s providence over salvation and Savior in the fact that Peter directly states that God is sovereign over them.
Specifically, we see God’s providence over the person and nature of the Savior in the fact that we are explicitly told that Jesus was chosen by the Father (2:4) to be so.
1 Peter 2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious…
Peter plainly teaches that Jesus being the living cornerstone was the providential plan of God. It did not just happen to work out that way. God is the destiner of the Savior of mankind. Of course, there are many, many other prophecies which teach the same thing. Peter was not teaching anything new in this passage. He was simply reminding the Church of this great truth as a means of helping them in their season of trial. It is good news that Jesus was chosen by God as the Savior because it means that Peter’s readers, who were building their lives upon him, would certainly be able to endure whatever suffering may come their way.
Similarly, Peter also explicitly teaches God’s providence over the salvation of mankind.
Both those who accept and reject Jesus as the living cornerstone do so because they have been destined by God to do so. We don’t just choose Jesus on our own. God is the destiner of the salvation of mankind.
That God providentially rules over those who would believe in Jesus is made clear in the first few words of the letter. In v.1 Peter indicates that he was writing to the elect exiles. That is, Peter was writing to those chosen by God for salvation. We see this again in 2:9 where Peter declares that his readers will not ultimately suffer defeat because they are a chosen race.
But Peter goes one step further still. He not only declares Jesus to be Savior and God’s people to be saved because of the sovereign choice of God, he also declares that those who reject God do so because of God’s sovereign choice.
Quoting Isaiah 8:14, Peter writes, …”for those who do not believe [that Jesus is the living cornerstone of God]…[Jesus is] a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” And of their stumbling, Peter notes, “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
That’s quite a clear statement. But that’s also quite a provocative statement. It’s one thing to suggest that God is the destiner of all good things, it’s quite another to suggest that he’s the destiner of disobedience. But, again, that’s exactly what Peter claims.
The apostle Paul makes a similar claim in Romans 9.
Romans 9:16-18 So then it [salvation] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Once again, the main point Peter sought to make by highlighting the providence of God in Jesus as Savior and the salvation of mankind, was to provide hope to the suffering saints of the dispersion. And yet, it’s hard to hear these hard truths and not wonder how this is fair. How is it just for God to destine obedience and disobedience? In the very next words of Romans 9, Paul anticipates just this question.
Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
And that leads to the last section of this sermon.
THE DESTINING OF THE FATHER AND THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCH
I’m not sure how anyone could miss the biblical teaching that God is sovereign over all creation. From the first pages to the last this is taught, assumed, and displayed. This leaves us, again, with a glaring question: If God rules his creation in this way (as the destiner of all), what does that say about the nature of our personhood? Our free will? Our responsibility?
Simply, while we may have a number of philosophical questions that arise from the idea of God’s providence as it relates to man’s responsibility, the bible does not really entertain such a conflict. It simply teaches both, often side by side. And the focus is always on God’s right to rule and the goodness of his rule for his people.
Consequently, Paul’s answer to his own question may not do much to appease those who want the bible to answer their questions (rather than come to the bible to know which questions to ask). Again, Paul asks, if God is sovereign over Savior and salvation, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” And he answers, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”
God does as he wills with his creation, which is his to do with as he wills. And for his elect this is the best news we could possibly hear. Throughout the bible God’s sovereign rule and man’s responsibility are placed side-by-side without the slightest blush.
Of the real sinful choices of his brothers Joeseph says, “You, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Perhaps most clearly of all in Philippians 2:12-13 Paul writes, “[Christian] …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
In other words, while many get tripped up by the seeming contradiction between God’s providential rule and man’s ability to make real choices, that’s simply not the way God’s word presents the situation. While there may be a place to ask such questions, we must do so with the understanding that in so doing we are imposing our own perspective on the bible rather than allowing God’s word to determine our perspective.
The primary perspective of God’s word concerning God as the destiner of all things is that it is great news for God’s people. It is great help in times of trouble. In our suffering we may not always know why God has destined our suffering, but we do always know that he did so for his glory and our good; which is to say that we know we will come out of it better than we came into it. We know that in our destined suffering God is working great glory.
There is a lot more that can be said about God as destiner of all. It was not Peter’s point in this passage to do so and, therefore, it is not mine in this sermon either. Let me just quickly note four things in conclusion:
- The bible teaches that God providentially rules all things…always in love and for his glory and the good of his people.
- In this passage Peter emphasizes two specific things that God providentially rules over: the salvation and Savior of mankind.
- That God providentially rules over our salvation does not mean that he bypasses our wills. We must chose to come to him in faith (as Peter writes in 2:4). If we do not come to him, we cannot be saved. And all who desire to come to him will be saved.
- Peter’s point in sharing this great reality, and the point of the biblical authors, is that this is good news for God’s people because it means that God will keep us in his Son, Jesus.
And so, Grace Church, know that God is sovereign, that he providentially rules over all his creation, that he is destiner of all. And know that this is as much good news today as it was for Peter’s readers. Our hope in our suffering is not that it will end in this life. Our hope is in the fact that God is using it for his glory and our good!