Question: "What does it mean that Jesus and believers are living stones in 1 Peter 2:4-5?"
Answer: The term “living stones” in 1 Peter 2:5 is used as a metaphor to illustrate the secure and intimate relationship believers have with Jesus who, in turn, is described in the previous verse as the “living Stone” (1 Peter 2:4). Together, these two verses vividly picture how Christ and His followers are a building being built by God Himself: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4–5).
The foundation of God’s building is His Son, Jesus Christ, the “living Stone.” The “living stones,” in turn, are believers who come to Jesus and place their lives upon this foundation. One of the striking things we learn in this passage is that God not only chose this Stone who is eternal, but there were men who rejected the Stone because they wanted to build the building of their lives the way they wanted, not God’s way (Psalm 118:22). As a result, these men cast this living Stone aside, not caring that Jesus is the only true foundation upon which man can build his eternal life (1 Corinthians 3:11).
Elsewhere, Jesus is also described as the chief cornerstone upon which is built the universal church, a unified body of believers, both Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:19–22). Peter referenced Jesus as the cornerstone in Acts 4:11–12, stating that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” God accepts no one who refuses to become a part of His building. And God is just like all builders—He has a foundation upon which all workers must lay the stones of their lives (Matthew 7:24–27).
Believers, then, are the “living stones” of the church. As such, we must remember that God is eternal, which means His building is eternal. The foundation Stone laid by God shall never decay nor waste away. Christ lives forever and ever. In placing our lives upon the living Stone of God, we find that He supports and holds us up eternally. We, in turn, become living stones, stones that will live on forever and ever. A physical house is not permanent; it ages, deteriorates, and wastes away. But being the spiritual house of God, we do not age, deteriorate, or decay. We live on in God’s eternal spiritual house.
Peter goes on to describe the living stones as those who are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:7–9). Peter is saying that, as living stones, we have certain functions. As a “royal priesthood,” we are a “kingdom of priests,” a term that was used of Israel in Exodus 19:6. Also, in Revelation 1:6, we are called kings and priests, referring to the exalted rank and dignity which we will have in the future kingdom of heaven. Believers, in common with our Savior, will reign triumphantly over all enemies and, having gained a victory over sin and death and hell, we will be reigning together with our King.
In the meantime, the function of the living stones is to “declare the praises” of Him who called us out of the darkness of sin into the light of life and glory. This is the “job description” of a living stone: a declarer of truth and love and light, both by our words and the life we live before others in the world.