Peter had learned from Jesus how to paint pictures with words. He specializes in the strategic use of similes. For example, in I Peter he says that we "were as sheep going astray." (2:25). It is astonishing how often the Bible likens people to animals, to wolves and dogs and sows. Jesus called Herod a fox. He likened Himself to a hen. We are all likened to sheep.
A sheep is not strong, and it is not swift, and it is not smart. It has a tendency to stray and put itself in peril. Moreover, a sheep that strays soon finds itself lost and with no ability to find its way back to the fold. Peter said that we, wayward sheep that we are, have "now returned." A sheep can be returned to the shepherd only if the shepherd seeks and finds it. That, then, is what happened, and what rejoicing that causes in heaven. As the hymn writer puts it:
But all thro' the mountains thunder-riven,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav'n,
"Rejoice! I have found my sheep!"
And the angels echoed around the throne
"Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own."
We were "as newborn babes" (2:2). The one characteristic of a newborn babe is its utter helplessness and obvious need. Therefore a local church is to be an incubator, not a refrigerator. Some churches are so cold, it is no wonder that they see no one saved. They remind us of the little girl who learned a text in Sunday school: "Many are called, but few are chosen." When asked to recite it, she said, "Many are cold and a few are frozen!" New converts need love and care; and when they get themselves in mess, they need to be cleaned up. They need to be fed. We cannot expect babes in Christ to act like mature saints of God. We need to feed them "the sincere milk of the Word" so that they will grow in grace and increase in the knowledge of God.
We are "as obedient children" (1:14). Peter contrasts "the former lusts" with "the family likeness." Babes in Christ must be taught obedience to the Word of God. The Lord Jesus Himself "learned . . . obedience" (Heb. 5:8) and became "obedient unto death" (Phil. 2:8). Peter says, "It is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16). This Old Testament quotation is appended to a chapter that lists all the dietary "do's" and "don'ts" of the Law (Lev. 11). There is always the danger of thinking that we have discharged our religious obligations when we have conformed with some rule or ritual. God demands much more than that. He demands holiness.
Moreover, we are "as strangers and pilgrims" (I Peter 2:11). Cain described himself as a fugitive and a vagabond. By contrast, Abraham confessed himself to be a pilgrim and a stranger. The sons of Heth, however, said he was a mighty prince among them. Nobody ever said that of Lot, who gave up being a pilgrim and a stranger in order to get on in this world. A stranger is a person away from home. He is an alien and out of his environment. His looks, language, and likings are all different from those round about him. He is a citizen of another country. A pilgrim is more than a person away from home; he is going home. He has his mind set on a long-desired place. Our affections are to be set thus on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. We're going home.
Finally, we are "as [living]stones" (2:5). The Lord once called Peter a pebble (petros) and Himself a rock (petra) (Matt. 6:18). Peter carries the simile over to all believers. We are to be living stones, hewed out of nature's dark mine, shaped and fashioned by the Holy Spirit, and fitted by God into that "habitation of God through the Spirit" He is now erecting for eternity (Eph. 2:22). When David Livingstone went to Africa, it was to evangelize, to explore, and to emancipate. When he died, a grieving nation followed his coffin to Westminster Abbey, where he was buried along with many of England's greats. One of the nation's most popular periodicals wrote his epitaph. It read: "Granite may crumble but this is living stone." Well may we strive so that some such epitaph might one day be ours.