Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25th - A Firm Foundation

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Text – 1 Peter 2:4-8

The section of scripture we are going to look at today is a great passage; I used to think that Peter stuck it in here because he wanted to say it and didn't know where else to say it; I didn’t realize he was maintaining a theme.

I mean, how could he go from talking about being born again and then go to talking about rocks without a transition? But there is definitely a progression here and this passage is where it is for a reason.

Last week we talked about something that Peter tells us we need to desire if we want to grow up in salvation, what is it? Spiritual Milk. What exactly is that? Specifically it’s the Bible, and the only way we will desire spiritual milk is if we have tasted that the Lord is good.

This is important because it sets our affections on the right thing. I heard a comic last week who was not a Christian and didn’t understand why Christ is so great, and he got big laughs by saying, “What if you got to Heaven and they gave you a harp and a cloud and said, ‘Have fun.’?”

If our goal is Heaven because we want to forever be without pain, there will come a point where it gets boring. If we our goal in Heaven is to fellowship with the saints, then some trillion years down the road we will know everything there is to know about everyone. If our goal in Heaven is to learn everything, there will come a point when we know everything there is to know.

The comedian went on to say that he asked some Mormons what the benefit of Mormonism would be for him, and the answer was that he would get to spend eternity with his family. He answered, “I spent eternity with my family once, it was a road trip, and it was Hell on Earth.” A misunderstanding of Heaven draws from the fact that we so often miss the goal, that we taste that the Lord is good, and he is our goal forever and ever.

In one of Robin Williams’ movies, he goes to Heaven and asks where God is, and an angel tells him that God is up there. The Heaven of Hollywood is without God. Shai Linne has a song that says, “I don’t wanna go to Heaven if God is not there.”

The reason Heaven will be so great is because God will be there, and we will need eternity to love, learn about, and fellowship with our infinite God.

Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

So once we’ve realized that, once we’ve tasted that the Lord is good, then we desire the pure spiritual milk to grow up into salvation. The first thing we need is a firm foundation, so despite Peter not having a transition, he is moving toward a definite purpose. Now Peter is going to accomplish four things in the following verses, first he is going to tell us why we need to build our foundation on Christ through the scriptures, then he is going to refute any idea that he is the first pope, then he is going to tell us who we are in Christ, and finally what happens if you fail to include Christ in your foundation.

1 Peter 2:4-8 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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. 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." 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," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

The Roman Catholic Church is built on a foundation made up of two things, first, the Mass, the resacrificing of Christ over and over for the forgiveness of sins, and second that Peter was the first pope. Ironically, and showing their pagan roots, they never cite from Peter’s Epistles to back that up, but from a way misinterpreted verse in Matthew.

Matthew 16:13-20 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" (Note: The context here is who is Christ, not who are the Apostles) Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Based on this passage, the Catholic Church has made up a pretend succession of popes throughout history. Really the first person who wanted to be pope was Constantine in the 4th century. He was a pagan and totally wrecked Christianity by making it the legal religion of the Roman Empire and making everyone call themselves a Christian no matter what they believed or if they were saved or not. He called himself the Pontifex Maximus, or the “Great Bridger”. He set himself up as a mediator between God and men. It wasn’t for another hundred and fifty years did another guy try to be in charge, Leo the First in AD461 called himself the Chief Bishop and the “Supreme Head of all Christendom.” But it wasn’t for over another hundred years after that that someone would be called papa, father, and that was Gregory the First in AD590. The Roman Catholics believe that there is a Papal Succession from Benedict the 16th to Peter, but that’s ridiculous, they’ve had to make up popes to fill the void. In general there has always been a bishop in Rome, so some of the people they pick were genuinely in charge of the Roman church, but some they just made up. Was Peter ever a bishop? No. He was an Apostle, as evidenced by the first verse of First Peter, what he ever in charge of any church? No, he hung out in Jerusalem and James was the bishop of that church, at best Peter was a Presbyter, of which we will talk more about at the end of chapter four and beginning of five.

In about AD1400, there were two popes operating in two different locations, both chosen legitimately by Roman Catholic councils. In 1414 they picked another pope to supersede those two, and so for a couple of days there were three popes operating at once. There is no such thing as papal succession, and Peter wasn’t the first rock.

In Greek, Jesus would have said, “You are Petros, and upon this Petra I will build my church.” Petros is a piece of rock, slightly bigger than a Lithos, a stone, and Petra is a complete rock. So the proper interpretation is that “You are a piece of the rock, and on the Rock that I am the Living God manifest in the flesh is where I will build my church.” So this passage is going to shed more light for us that the great rock is made up of the smaller rocks. We are the Corpus Christi, the body of Christ.

The main gist of the passage we are in is that it is imperative to have Christ as the foundation.

v.4-5 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house...

We come to Christ as our firm foundation, and as we come to him, we ourselves are building blocks to build up a house. This is reminiscent of what Christ said in his Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 7:24-26 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

When Peter speaks of us building on the living stone of Christ, Peter is saying two things here, first likening the body of believers to a temple that is made up of many stones, and second the "house" that he is talking about is referring to the collection of people. Like the royalty of England is the House of Windsor, or the House of Tudor, or the House of Normandy. This is important when we consider that Peter uses the world "living" to describe these stones, that he isn't just talking about rocks, not just talking about doctrine, but he is specific to be talking about people and specifically the Person of Jesus Christ.

So a house is both a building and/or a collection of royal people, so the house here, Peter tells us is,

v.5 to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Are any of your last names Cohen? In this day and age, if your last name isn't Cohen, then you're probably not a descendent of Levi. Since Israel and Jerusalem we given to the Jews, there has been a massive effort to determine who the priests are so that they can minister in the new temple, if/when it is built. Cohen is Hebrew for priest. Peter was likely not from the Tribe of Levi either, probably from Simeon albeit that is not 100% sure; Paul was from the Tribe of Benjamin but he agreed with Peter that all Christians are priests, he makes an extremely audacious claim as a Benjamite,

Romans 15:15-16 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God...

So which priesthood do you think we are a part of if we're not Levites, and one that Peter and Paul could be members of? And especially Jesus, he had no claim to the Levitical priesthood either,

Hebrews 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

This is important because a king couldn't be a priest and a priest couldn't be a king under the old covenant, and God did that to show that he was the great High Priest and King of Israel, not a fallible man, and the priesthood we belong to and that Jesus Christ belongs to is one of much older lineage than Aaron in the tribe of Levi,

Hebrews 7:15-17 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."

I wish we had more time to spend on Melchizedek, but consider this just a foundation and introduction to his life. He was the priest that ministered for Abraham, he was never born, and he never died, his name means the King of Righteousness, he was declared to be the King of Salem, or the King of Peace. Does anybody know where Salem was? It was Jerusalem before Jerusalem became Jerusalem; the first time we hear it called Jerusalem, new Salem, was when it was conquered by Joshua. Melchizedek was both priest and king, he was Jesus Christ manifest in the flesh, and now we are priests under our Great High Priest, and as Paul and Peter tell us, our duty is to proclaim the gospel of God, and to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.

What is a spiritual sacrifice you can offer? Your life (Romans 12:1-2), your words and praise (Hebrews 13:15), your works and sharing what you have (Hebrews 13:16), your prayers (Revelation 8:3), and bringing others to Christ (Romans 15:16), all of this walking in love (Ephesians 5:2); I wish I had time to share with you the verses that say these things, I've included them on the website if you want to look. This was and is one of the most important concepts of the Reformation, that there is one priesthood of believers, in Latin it is Sola Sacerdos, that Jesus Christ is our only intercessor, that a priest cannot confess your sins for you, and that all Christians stand on equal footings of grace before Almighty God.

In order to finish this passage, and stay true to Peter's flow, we'll talk more about priests next week briefly on the requirements of being one, and more about how to be a good priest of the Most High God.

From here Peter sums it up beautifully on why we must build on the firm foundation of Christ and what happens if we try to build on anything else but him.

v. 6-7 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." So the honor is for you who believe,

For those who believe, there is honor and glory and blessing forever,

v.7-8 but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

The Pharisees were in love with the Bible, they weren't so in love with the God that the Bible points to, but they loved being authorities on the Bible and trying to make people obey every last law and then some laws they made up, in order to go to Heaven. They couldn't keep the commandments either, but they were harsh on those who failed. When they met a Man who did keep all of the commandments, they didn't like him, they refused to see that he was the God whom the Bible pointed to, and they rejected him as their Great High Priest.

Even as they rejected him, he still stands in their way and was the downfall of them. They stumbled over Christ because they disobey the Word, as was the plan for everyone who rejected the Chief Cornerstone, the Foundation of Life and godliness.

So in conclusion, we learn four major things from this passage.

First, that Peter was not the first pope, nor is there any Papa other than our Father in Heaven, whom we are able to call Abba, Father, because we are sons and daughters of God adopted and sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ. There is one mediator between you and God, it is not any mere man, but it is the Godman Jesus Christ, he is the only one that can intercede on your behalf to the Father, having borne your burden to the cross and paid your fine in his own life's blood.

Second, Jesus Christ is the only firm foundation. If you try to build your life and hope on anything else, great will be your fall.

Third, we are figuratively being built on that foundation to the full body of Christ in the church, and literally we are priests, Sola Sacerdos, of God after the line of Melchizedek, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, if you reject Jesus Christ, be assured that he will be your downfall. The stone that the builders rejected is the cornerstone of believers and the stumbling stone of the unbeliever, and when they fall, great will be their demise.