Humans like the concrete realities. A stone or metal idol is better than an invisible God. The more impressive the religious sanctuary, the better people are supposedly reminded of the greatness of God. Signs of stability and success are house, vehicle, boat, the biggest widescreen available, the best and latest cellphone. People want things they can see and touch.
This human desire enters the church of God. Even things that may not be wrong of themselves can be wrong if they appeal to sight, rather than faith, 2 Corinthians 5.7. It is a real problem and one that ought to be exposed and discussed among us. Denominations have given in to it almost whole-hog. For a long time, what they do winds up having an influence among us. (And that’s a whole ‘nother discussion worthy of having.)
In his first letter, Peter wrote to disenfranchised Christians. Some say these saints were outsiders from society and excluded from participating in normal daily activities. Peter emphasizes that Christians’ lives matter to God. How he sees them and what he creates in them is the spiritual reality that ought to be important to them — not how they are placed in society.
you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2.5.
They not only have a spiritual house, but there are themselves that house. They are everything that Israel was, and more. They are priests, royalty, temple, nation, and people all rolled into one group, 1 Peter 2.9-10.
So how can we see this spiritual house? In two ways, principally:
- In concrete expressions of brotherly love. This is what we were saved for: “You have purified your souls by obeying the truth in order to show sincere mutual love. So love one another earnestly from a pure heart” 1 Peter 1.22. The word “show” is not in the original Greek text, but the idea is there. Love must be demonstrated. The saints must demonstrate in specific ways the love they have for their spiritual family. (Church attendance is just scratching the surface, but it’s a start.) See also 1 Peter 2.17; 5.9.
- In evangelism. I have yet to see it mentioned anywhere, in any commentary (I confess I’ve not read them all), but academics are not naturally given to evangelism, and often don’t see it when it’s staring them in the face. The book of 1 Peter reeks of this major emphasis. Even under fire, even suffering for their faith, Christians must continue proclaiming Christ to pagans. See, for example, 1 Peter 2.9-10; 3.15. Peter wants wrongdoers to “see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears” 1 Peter 2.11-12. Glorifying God here means, in its essence, conversion. So the good deeds include, perhaps at the front of the list, speaking the Good News.
First-century faith is obvious. It can be observed, not in fine construction or pretty programs or staged sermons, but in weekday living out the gospel — loving God’s family and working to enlarge that family by new births of water and Spirit.
This is what it means to be a spiritual house.