Sabbath School Lesson for April 8-14, 2017
Continuing to identify his readers as God’s chosen elect, pilgrims deserving of His inheritance, Peter begins to explain further (in chapter 2) what their rights and responsibilities are as members of this royal priesthood of believers.
- How is it possible for those grafted in to be molded into the spiritual house of Israel?
- How can Jesus be the chief cornerstone of this building, and yet also be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8)?
- How can it be possible for all of us in the church family to be priests, and how does this reality affect our conduct and ministry?
These and other questions will be explored this week, as we focus on the first twelve verses of 1 Peter, chapter 2.
Scripture Gem: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NKJV
This is definitely Old Testament covenant language, referring to the special status of Israelites, prior to the Messiah’s appearance. Notice its similarity to Exodus 19:5, 6…
” ‘Now therefore if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special [“peculiar” in KJV] treasure to me above all people, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” NKJV
But what about Peter’s added description of them as being called out of darkness into His light? This is an important feature of Peter’s call for them to be faithful.
- The Israelites of old seemed to be unaware of their true purpose, which was to draw people, enslaved in idolatry, into the wonderful light of God’s love and truth.
- The darkness now seems to be of a different nature in Peter’s day and ours, but with the same effect of preventing the Light to shine on our sins.
Sunday: Living as a Christian
The first verse of 1 Peter, chapter 2, presents us with a double duty that consists of…
- not desiring to harm others, deceive them, be envious of them, or speak evil of them
- desiring good for others, being honest with them, being content with our lives, and speaking well of others
Then, moving on to verse 2, we see another image of a Christian as that of a baby, hungry for milk. That milk is identified as the word of God, a substance which will make us grow into loving, mature disciples.
Nothing matches the fervency of a baby crying for its mother’s milk. Are we striving to feed on God’s word as we should be? After all, the Bible is the fullest revelation we have of Jesus that is available to us. And yet, we often neglect the spiritual nourishment it provides, when we should be desperately crying out for it.
To sum up these two verses, living as a Christian involves both our human interactions and how we interact with God’s word. Being a model citizen of this world alone is not enough. We must foster our friendship with the Maker of this world by feasting on His word every day. It’s the only way we can grow spiritually into the full man or woman God intends us to be.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 2:1-3. How does spiritual nourishment we gain from the word enable us to correct our bad actions and attitudes? What is it about God that we are to taste from His word?
Read Hebrews 4:12, Matthew 22:29, and 2 Timothy 3:15-17. What benefits does the Bible provide us? Why is it important is ask for the Holy Spirit’s help when opening God’s word?
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2 and Hebrews 5:12-14. How does Paul’s warning about only desiring milk affect Peter’s words about milk? Are their messages related? What prevents Christians from moving on to solid food?
Monday: The Living Stone
Once again, Peter uses Old Testament language and imagery to describe God’s church. The next five verses in chapter 2 talk about a chief cornerstone and the living stones that make up the temple of God.
Historically, the story is told of a cornerstone that was intended for Solomon’s temple being rejected and set aside. See Psalm 118:22. When other stones were tried to take its place, they all failed to meet the requirements, until finally the original one chosen was brought back and used to create the perfect dwelling place for God, with each stone in exact alignment with that chief cornerstone.
What Peter is telling us is that the church is founded upon Jesus, the chief Living Stone (or Cornerstone); and it is made up of His believers, who also serve as living stones, fitting snugly together to make the church whole.
Evidently, God’s will is best served when His followers work side by side, not in isolation. When we are baptized, we are also joined to a priesthood of believers, offering “spiritual sacrifices” to God, as verse 5 tells us.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 2:3-5, Psalm 4:5, 51:17, 107:22, Romans 12:1, and Hebrews 13:15, 16. What kind of “spiritual sacrifices” is Peter talking about?
Read 1 Peter 2:6-8, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16, and 8:14, 15. What is Jesus’ role as Chief Cornerstone for God’s church?
Read Matthew 21:33-44. How does this parable of Jesus explain how He can be the chief cornerstone and also a stumbling rock of offense? Why does it matter what you do with the “Rock”?
Tuesday: God’s Covenant People
Although Peter doesn’t mention the word “covenant” in his epistle, the perspective he takes is that of the Old Testament, which includes a great deal of “covenant” theology.
The relationship God holds with His chosen people incorporates the idea of a covenant, which is a treaty or formal agreement between them. The basic requirements and promises of God in this covenant have never changed, but they were dependent on the people’s response.
In the Old Testament, the overall response of the Israelites was that of rejection, as the nation of Israel was torn back and forth by taking up the idolatrous practices of the surrounding pagan tribes. But even when they later assumed they were keeping God’s law, they failed to keep it out of love.
Therefore Jesus came to renew His covenant with them, promising once again to first change their heart, which would allow them to keep the commandments in the true spirit of love, as God always intended. See Deuteronomy 30:10.
Thus Jesus often reminded them to “love God and their neighbor”. Love had largely been lost sight of, in their untiring efforts to add their man-made regulations to God’s plain and simple ten commandments.
God came in person to once again invite them to put His law into their hearts, replacing their carnal hearts of stone with ones of flesh.
Discussion Questions: Read Genesis 9:13-15, 17:7-10, Exodus 31:16-18, and Galatians 3:29. How were each of these covenants ratified? What were the signs given by God and how important are they? Why has circumcision ceased to be a sign of God’s people (Acts 15:23, 24)? And why has the Sabbath remained with us, yet is so often ignored or misunderstood?
Read Matthew 14:15, 1 John 5:3, and Revelation 12:17. What prevents commandment-keeping from being a burden? Will commandment-keeping be a sign of God’s covenant in the final days of earth’s history?
Read Exodus 24:3-8, Hebrews 9:20-22, and Matthew 26:27-29. Why is blood so important to the sealing of this covenant?
Wednesday: A Royal Priesthood
Moses, at Mt. Sinai, reminded those freed from slavery in Egypt that God intended for them to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, His special treasure. Peter uses the same language to describe the newly formed Christian church that was evolving after Christ’s ascension to heaven.
This “spiritual house” Peter spoke of would be formed from living stones, meaning people who were aligning themselves with the Chief Cornerstone (namely, Jesus Christ). Peter sounds like he is speaking to each believer or stone, as he declares each of them to be members of the royal priesthood of God.
Does this mean that, after Moses’ people had fully received enough instruction from the Levitical priests, each person in the other tribes would eventually become priests as well? Unfortunately, the Israelites failed to become all God desired, so we never saw the nation of Israel reach that holy standard. Even so, Bible stories reveal that many individual Jews, who weren’t even Levites, were blessed with this priesthood status and upheld God’s cause.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 2:9, 10 and Exodus 19:3-6. What were the duties of the Levitical priests and how can those duties be carried out by church members today?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 2:17, 18. What is one thing that defines someone who is a priest?
The word “priest” in Hebrew may designate a principal officer or even a prince. Why is it fair to think of ourselves as princes and princesses of God? What are the duties of all those in a royal family, and how do these relate to what Christian believers are called to do when they become a member of God’s family?
Thursday: Proclaiming the Praises
By this time, we must ask ourselves what would God have us do as His priests, His agents for reaching out to the world. What is the message we are to bring to those around us?
Verse 10 of 1 Peter 2 points to the mercy of God as our major theme to share. Each of us were mercifully brought out of something, when we first joined this priesthood. Only God’s mercy delivered the Jews from Egyptian slavery, and only God’s mercy today delivers us from the darkness and suffering of this world.
Praising the mercies of God is certainly part of our duty as priests, but showing that mercy by loving acts of kindness will also get the message across and draw others to want to be part of God’s kingdom. Both avenues are essential in keeping God’s love and mercy alive, not just in the world, but in our own hearts, as well.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Peter 2:9 and Acts 26:18. What does it mean to be called out of darkness? Describe this darkness and where it comes from.
Read 1 Peter 2:10, Hosea 1:10, and Romans 9:24-26. In what way was Israel restored, in Peter’s time, by calling the Gentiles to become His people?
Read Deuteronomy 4:6, 26:18, 19, Isaiah 60:1-3, and Zechariah 8:23. How was it prophesied that the word of God would go forth across the nations?
We must be acquainted with the history of ancient Israel in order to fully understand Peter’s references to us as a royal priesthood and a holy nation. God’s will was the same for them as it is for us Christians now. We must assume our duties to spread the gospel around the globe, just as God had hoped would happen for the descendants of Abraham.
In essence, that did happen through the birth of the Messiah and then the Christian church starting at Jerusalem and spreading as it did across the world.
- 1 Peter 2:1-3 described how we should live as Christians (Sunday)
- 1 Peter 2:4-8 talked about how the church is made up with living stones with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone (Monday)
- explored who God’s covenant people are (Tuesday)
- 1 Peter 2:9 brought out that they were to be a nation of priests (Wednesday)
- 1 Peter 2:10 examined the mercy we are to proclaim (Thursday)
Embracing the Message
Review these “spiritual sacrifices” that Peter mentioned in 1 Peter 2:5 and consider how you are making them every day…
- “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4:5 NKJV
- “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart…” Psalm 51:17 NKJV
- “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” Psalm 107:22 NKJV
- “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1 NKJV
- “Therefore by Him let us continually offer he sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews 13:15, 16 NKJV
Next Week: Social Relationships, Lesson 4
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/