First Mennonite Church
October 29, 2023
Newborn Babies and Living Stones
Text: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Last Sunday, I said that the letter of First Peter was used for baptismal services. Therefore, within the scope of counsel and directives Peter’s letter gives, are those for new and all believers, regardless of how long they have been members in the household of God. The apostle calls the new believers “newborn babies,” to whom he commands to “crave for the pure spiritual milk.” Peter, not only encourages new believers to seek spiritual nourishment but commands them to crave for it—that is: to desperately desire to be nourished spiritually.
These newborn babies are not born out in the elements, they are born within the household of God—the Christian community of faith, the church. Therefore, the birth of these newborn babies, however few or many they might be, lays a heavy responsibility on those who are mature in the church. For those of us who are mature in the faith, for those of us who have been here for a long time, we have an obligation to see that the babies in the faith get nourished spiritually. We have the task of teaching them about God’s love, forgiveness, call to godliness, and summons to serve in his name, and we need to teach them the language of the kingdom of God. We need to see that these babies grow and are formed into the likeness, not ours, but of Christ. We should make every effort to see every new believer develop and mature in the Lord.
How long have you been in God’s household? Do you continue craving for the spiritual milk? How are you involved in providing care and nurture to those who are new to the faith?
As we know, sometimes some who come to the Lord do not grow spiritually nor mature in their relationship with the Lord. Or as Jesus says in the parable of the sower, the seed sprouts in a rocky place, so its root does not develop and it dies (Matthew 13:5, 6). But those who stay and continue in the house of God, not only keep seeking to be nurtured, but they also become active in the household of God, serving and providing care for others.
In principle, we all should crave for the pure spiritual milk. Yet, we also know by experience that it does not matter if we eat a delicious meal or even gorge ourselves at a sitting, we will need to eat again. That is also true about spiritual nourishment. We cannot eat just once or from time to time, but constantly. In this regard, the worship service, Sunday school, and Bible study times provide that ongoing nourishment we need. Spiritual nourishment mostly happens when we come together in worship. That was exactly the reason why the New Testament writers exhort believers to continually gather together for spiritual nourishment (1Corinthians 14:26; Colossians 3; Hebrews 10:25). Hebrews points out a common danger Christians can fall into: the “habit of failing to meet in worship.”
What could be a reason why some fall into the habit of not meeting together, as Hebrews says? Why is it that some do not see the importance of seeking to be spiritually nourished? Peter gives us a very important clue. This is what he says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Craving for spiritual nourishment will only be felt when we have tasted the goodness of the Lord. Peter’s words here remind of Psalm 34, which reads:
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
When we commune with God in prayer, meditation, or worship, we get to taste the sweetness of God’s goodness. When we experience God’s reassurance and comfort through his word, we can say together with the Psalmist, “Your word, oh Lord, is sweeter than the honey dripping from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). It is when we taste the goodness of the Lord that we will crave for the pure, undefiled spiritual milk that is the word of the Lord.
After Peter’s comparison of new believers to newborn babies, he moves on to compare the church family as “living stones” being built into a “spiritual household to be a holy priesthood in the service of God.” In this metaphor, Jesus is the cornerstone, each of us is a living stone, and God is the builder. God is building a new temple with you and me as living stones.
In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Only the western wall keeps standing today, but worshippers keep flocking to pray to God by it, every day. The plaza where the wall stands is divided with a metal barrier separating men from women worshippers. For centuries, the majestic temple was considered the sacred place where God met with his people. There the Israelites brought their offering of animals, grains, oils, and other offerings to God. The priest and Levites were in charge of the sacrificial offerings to God.
Peter using that very same background of the temple, its purpose, the priesthood, and the offering, reinterprets it and applies it to the Jesus community. For these Christian communities of Jewish background living outside Judea, Peter reminds them that Christ is the “Living Stone.” Therefore, no temple is unnecessary to offer sacrifices to God not to worship him. Christ has become the place and the sanctuary where we meet with God. In Christ, we now offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.
While Jesus is the Living Stone and the Cornerstone, we are also living stones. And God is the architect building a spiritual house, placing each living stone according to his holy design. Therefore, the idea that God is using us to build a spiritual house tells us of the great privilege God has given us. You and I are the building blocks, the little living stones God is using to build a holy temple where he is worshipped, served, and where he makes himself present. Every place there is a community of believers, there is God’s holy temple. Thus, we should allow God to take us and use us as he is building this “spiritual house.” This phrase “spiritual house” can also be understood as “a house where the spirit dwells.” And that too is true. God’s Spirit lives in us as individuals, but the Spirit of God also lives among us as his people.
In verse seven, Peter writes: Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
The beauty, importance, and power of God as revealed in Jesus Christ is not perceived by all. For you and I who have believed in him, Jesus is precious. He is worthy of our praise and worship. For us who have believed in Jesus, he is Lord over our lives. Therefore, we yield to him the way we use our time, resources, and talents. We seek counsel in his word. We surrender to him our lives.
But for those who do not know him nor believe in him, any claim Jesus wants to make over their lives is seen as extreme and beyond their willingness to give him. Hence, Jesus is a stumbling block for them. Jesus is an obstacle to their freedom, choices, and way of life.
But for us who believe in Jesus, he has granted us the privilege of being God’s chosen people and has conferred to us the status of a royal priesthood. That is, we are priests of Christ the King. When God established the priesthood, he set apart the tribe of Levi to be in charge of all the duties in the house of God. Priests are mediators between God and his people. Priests are the ones who represent the people’s needs and offerings to God. In Christ, every believer has been given the privilege to serve in the house of God. To you and I God has given the duty to intercede for one another.
We have also been declared to be God’s special possession. Now that you stand before God in the righteousness of Christ, that is, now through God’s forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, God sees you, not as a wretched sinner, but as one of his precious sons and daughters. You are God’s treasure and delight. God sees you with all kindness. But all of these for one singular purpose: that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. [Because] Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
My dear brothers and sisters, God has conferred to us privileges beyond anything we can ever achieve for ourselves. God is building a spiritual house out of each of us. God has made us the “apple of his eyes.” We are his treasure and special possession. God sees us in the beauty of Jesus’ perfection and holiness. So, do not see yourself anymore according to what people say you are. Do not let your past failures define who you are. Do not allow any label others have given you to be your defining identity. God says you are a living stone, his special possession, his chosen representative in this world. Therefore, live according to what God says you are. You see, if we only remember what God says we are in Christ, we will live joyous, content, and hopeful lives. If we only trust and accept what God says about us, we will live victorious lives. If we only take God for his holy word, we would crave the pure and undefiled milk that is his word. So remember, you are God’s special possession in Christ. Amen!