In today’s reading, twice Peter reminds us that we are a new nation of priests:
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.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Pe 2:9
This is a fulfillment of the Royal Priesthood of Israel:
And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.
Now we know that Israel was a kingdom of priests, and that they had a high priest, and a ministerial priesthood that offered sacrifice at the temple. So in the NT, the kingdom of priests is fulfilled in the baptized, the high priesthood is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the new high priest. Doesn’t in follow that the ministerial priesthood must be fulfilled as well? Of course, we have seen that it, in fact, has been.
However, notice what else the passage says,
4 Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; 5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
If we are priests, we must offer sacrifices. What sacrifices? Spiritual sacrifices.
What are these things? It can be anything. Anything offered to God when we are properly disposed. Our lives, our jobs, our kindnesses, our forgiveness of others, etc.
How is this done? Most simply it is done through prayer. By habitually turning our will and thoughts to God.
And notice, these sacrifices are ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. How is it possible that anything a mere finite, imperfect, creature does is acceptable to the infinite Father? It is simple, it is acceptable to God because it is offered THROUGH the son, Jesus Christ. This is a hard concept to understand (I know because it is a hard concept to explain in writing). Through baptism we are united to the son. This is a radical union. It makes us born again and a new creation. We are so closely united to the Son that we become his body in the world. Since we are united to the son our sacrifices can be offered through him and be acceptable to the father. What has finite value and is imperfect gains infinite value and is perfected.
Peter CONFIRMS THIS UNDERSTANDING:
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
1 Pe 2:15-16
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
1 Pe 2:24
Here Peter confirms we must use our free will for good works. Thus we must become a Christ-like example to everyone. For this we will suffer but he took our sins and our suffering to the cross. Thus on the cross Christ experienced what we suffer, therefore our suffering can be and in fact are meritorious.
Further, notice what Peter says about salvation:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
If we are to “grow up into salvation” then it cannot be complete at our conversion. This is an important concept to understand. Scripture describes salvation as a past act, an ongoing process and a future state:
Ephesians 2:4-5. “4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, …even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”
Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith;…”
1 Peter 1:8-9, “Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 2:2-3, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord”
Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; …”
Romans 13:11, “Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; …”
1 Corinthians 3:14-15, “If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
1 Corinthians 5:5, “…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
Hopefully, if you see the verses laid out next to each other it is easier to understand. What is important to remember is that we cannot focus on one aspect of salvation to the exclusion of others. We cannot say, “I have been saved” and think we can sail through the rest of our lives. Equally so, we cannot say, “I’m working out my salvation” and deny the sufficiency of the sacrifice on the cross. Finally, neither can we take a fatalistic view and say, “God decides and there is nothing I can do.” Rather, we must seek to humble ourselves before the Lord. We must decrease so that he may increase in our lives. We must pray, repent, do penance and give alms. We must do good works, for they both are pleasing to God and help to perfect us strengthening our will, habituating us to the good and by purging our sinful natures of our tendency to sin. We must go to Church, particularly the Mass, and receive the Eucharist.
Finally notice one last aspect of Peter’s instruction:
2 Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; 3 for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
In other words we cannot drink of false doctrine. It is valueless. It is the pure milk that causes us to grow. Many people call themselves “truth seekers” and this is good but one cannot just seek the truth partially. You must not be satisfied with a partially right answer. Milk is good, pure milk is better. Any you must be a person who LONGS FOR IT. What does one do when they long for something? They relentlessly search it out. They do their own research. They let no obstacle stand in their way. They spend time and effort on it. When they find it? They run to it. They abandon their old ways, their old assumptions, their old habits and completely dive in and embrace the new.