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An overseer appointed by the Holy Spirit has a uniquely spiritual work (Acts 20:28). How do elders shepherd in the Spirit? First Peter 2:4–5 says:
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.
A three-part blueprint of the church as God’s temple emerges that guides its shepherds.
The Costly Cornerstone. Peter calls Jesus a “living stone.” What a mixed metaphor. Obviously, stones are not normally considered living. And in one very true sense, we can say that no one was ever “more dead” than Jesus. He was eternally destined to be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8, KJV). He came to Israel but was the “stone that the builders rejected” (1 Peter 2:7). At Calvary, with the weight of all His people’s sins on Him, He died and was buried.
Yet no one was ever more alive than Christ now is. For the Spirit raised Him to life from the grave. As the psalmist says, “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation” (Ps. 18:46). Elders must devote themselves to teaching the Spirit’s Word to God’s people so that their lives are built on this cornerstone.
The Beautiful Building. Peter describes those in union with Christ as living stones themselves. Charles H. Spurgeon says:
The house of God is built with the living stones of converted men and women, and the church of God, which Christ hath purchased with His own blood—this is the divine edifice, and the structure wherein God dwells even to this day.
As people from all different cultures, classes, and conditions come to Christ, they are fitted together by the Spirit of God into a beautiful temple. God’s shepherds are to work diligently to help this “priesthood of all believers” achieve their service in the household of God.
The Acceptable Actions. This service is described in the New Testament with sacrificial language. God’s people are to learn to worship and “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” (Heb. 13:15). Their prayers are to rise as incense to the Lord (Rev. 5:8). They are to care for one another, “for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb. 13:16). They should evangelize, seeing this work as “ministering as a priest the gospel of God” and hoping the “offering . . . may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16). Ultimately, believers are to “present [their] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” by offering themselves fully each day to God (12:1).
Following this blueprint will help elders describe the church as the elder in Revelation did. He said of God’s people, “They . . . serve him day and night in his temple; and . . . the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd” (7:15, 17).