I mentioned in our last lesson that one of the ways the Holy Spirit keeps His Word relevant is with the use of timeless illustrations. For example, babies have been essentially the same from the day in which Eve first gave birth. The Spirit uses what we know about babies to talk about our spiritual birth. Another tool which the Lord uses for this purpose are metaphors. As an example, we read that the Bible is like a hammer; it is like a fire; it is like a sword. Perhaps we no longer use swords, but we can quickly understand them. And we certainly know how hammers can be used. We can see the importance and the use of the Word of God, when we picture it as fire.
Another group of Biblical metaphors have been used to describe our Saviour, the Lord Jesus. The Bible says, and even Jesus Himself says, “I am like a door; like the door to a sheep pen.” Christ is the Good Sheperd who puts himself into the doorway of the sheep-fold, becoming the door. And He is the bread of life and the water of life. He is the vine and His people are the branches. These are all images which we can understand with just a little bit of thought or instruction. Have you feasted on the bread of life? Have you drunk the water of life? Have you gone through the door? Remember, “no man cometh unto (God the) Father but through (Jesus Christ)” the door.
Another metaphor of Christ is that of a cornerstone: the first foundation stone in the construction of a building. The idea is first laid in place prophetically back in Psalm 118:22 – “The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” The Lord Jesus, in His rebuke of Israel’s priests, said in Matthew 21: “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
Peter, after the healing of the lame man in Acts 4, said in his defense: “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” And Paul used this same metaphor in a more positive way when writing to the saints in Ephesus: “(I) came and preached peace to you (Gentiles) which were afar off, and to them that were nigh (the Jews). For through (Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” These are just some of the scripture references to Christ as a large the corner stone in a construction project.
Peter combines each of these references as he speaks of Christ here in our text. Beginning with Isaiah 28:16, he says, “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” Christ is the perfect place to begin to build a life which is worth something. In fact He is the only place. Those who believe on Him will never be ashamed or confounded. No one has ever regretted his second birth – his regeneration. But – if someone refuses to recognize the value of the Son of God, then that cornerstone will become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. The Bible declares the eternal value of the Son of God. Don’t stumble at the word which reveals Him. Those who refuse to listen, deliberately disobeying God’s command to repent and trust Christ, will find Him to be their eternal judge. That stone will crush the person who rejects Him.
Now lets step back to verse 4 and consider Christ specifically as THE LIVING STONE.
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious.” Just because Peter is using a metaphor, that doesn’t mean he can’t play with the image just a bit. In this case He gives life to his illustration calling Christ “a living stone.” John said of the Son of God, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Everything about the Son of God includes life, even the metaphors which we might use of Him.
Despite Christ’s importance as the source of life, Peter points to the fact that so many reject Him. He was “disallowed indeed of men.” The Psalmist said that He was “refused,” and Jesus used the word “rejected.” Christ “came unto his own and his own received him not.” The Creator came to His creation, taking upon himself human flesh, but sin had so corrupted that creation it refused to recognize Him, rejecting and killing the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15).
But as we are told, that living stone was chosen and commissioned by God the Father for a special work. The simple incarnation of the Son of God was not the point of His coming, and His rejection was not an after thought. The rejection of Christ was a part of the divine decree to bring the Lamb of God to the altar for sacrifice. Perhaps we shouldn’t push the language too far, but Christ was “chosen of God” for that purpose. “Chosen” is the word “eklektos” which is often translated “elected.”
And in accomplishing God’s eternal and glorious purpose in salvation, it is no wonder that Christ, this living stone, is “precious.” How should we define or describe the word “precious?” It is difficult to qualify, because different people have different estimates of value. And, the more wealth a person has, the less valuable each part of that wealth is to him. For example, the Apostle John saw, the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven, “having the glory of God; and her light was like unto a stone most precious…” He goes on to talk about the abundance of pure gold in that city and that part of it was constructed with huge gem stones. But Christ the living, precious stone, will be more glorious than all the sapphires, emeralds and amethysts of that perfect city. And to those who know Him and love Him, His value exceeds anything currently found on this earth. Take whatever is the most precious stone to you, a diamond perhaps, and imagine something a thousand times more precious or beautiful, and still you will still not come close to the preciousness of God the Son. He is precious to God the Father, and he is precious to every child of God, because he hath “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.”
Okay, but Peter also refers to THE STONES which are MORTARED ONTO that living stone.
“To whom coming… ye as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” The same words translated “living stone,” speaking to Christ, are translated in a plural sense as “lively stones,” speaking of God’s saints. The people to whom Peter was writing had been given the life and to some degree the nature of their Saviour. We are AS alive as He is, and we will live as eternally AS He is eternal. We are “in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
But Peter is not talking about what shall be when we enter that glorious new Jerusalem where “there shall be no night, and they need no candle, for the Lord God giveth them light.” And he is not talking about the past, referring to the day we first came to Christ in repentance and faith. He is talking about right here and the right now. And he is talking about several aspects of our current position and responsibilities.
Notice the tense of the word“coming.” As I say, this is not a reference to the day in the history of man when those saints “came” to Christ. This is speaking to a never ending “coming” to the living stone. This is referring to our duty, and need, to constantly attach ourselves – to latch upon – the chief cornerstone. To borrow from another illustrative metaphor: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
As newborn babes, we need to feed on the milk of the Word every few hours. As branches of the grape plant we need to draw sustenance and strength from the true vine. And as lively stones we need to be mortared to the living foundation stone.
A couple streets east of here, there is a major remodeling project going on. And on the corner of the property there is a pile of bits and pieces: short 2x4s, small sections of plywood and so on. If they were attached to the house they would be of value to the builder, but unattached they are nothing but trash.
I wouldn’t want to say that any saint is trash, but our value to God and to the world, is greatly diminished when we are not attached to the cornerstone; when we are not in constant fellowship with Christ. He is the stone which gives our life purpose, and upon which we must build. He is the criteria which the chief architect uses to determine our value to the construction project. We cannot serve the Lord without constantly “coming” to Him. We cannot begin to glorify Him without our attachment to Him on a regular basis. Have you deliberately come to Christ today? It is something we need to do constantly.
And how do we do that? We go back to the preceding verse and thought. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby.” And don’t stop with simply longing for that milk, groaning and earnestly hungering for it. Latch on and drink it in. How do we come to the living stone? Through prayer and through meditation on the Lord. How do we come to this stone? Through earnest thanksgiving to God for His great grace. We must put our hand on the head of the sacrifice to enjoy its efficacy. We come to this living stone, keeping in mind the reason why the Lord has chosen us and saved us.
Peter speaks of these stones as being a part of a living sanctuary – A SACRED EDIFICE OF STONE.
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” This sounds very reminiscent of Paul’s thoughts in Ephesians 2: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” We are not the building stones of the New Jerusalem – diamonds, sapphires and rubies. We are granite slabs to be useful in the building of a functioning earthly sanctuary for God.
In the Bible there are two Greek words used to speak of God’s temple. “Hieron” is often used to speak of the physical building and grounds where Peter preached Christ. Then there is the word “naos” which usually speaks of the more intimate“holy place” within the temple. The difference is somewhat like the holy place in the tabernacle and the holy of holies in which the Ark resided. That was the word Paul used in Ephesians 2. But I find it interesting that Peter didn’t use either of those words. It is as if he wanted us to stay real – and perhaps to stay a bit more humble. And yet, we are still a part of God’s spiritual house where His priests offer up acceptable spiritual sacrifices.
I admit, as a preacher, to quickly jumping between illustrations and metaphors; often not giving you time to process the change. It is not an excuse on my part, but I will point out that the penmen of the scriptures do that as well. In one verse Peter describes us as babes and then in the next as living stones, but following that we are a holy priesthood. With verse 9 he will come back to this wonderful position in which the Lord has placed us. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
I think we can say that God has begotten us and given us a spiritual birth that we might become His priests. We might have been doctors, lawyers, nurses and mothers, but God has offered us jobs as servants in His holy place – his spiritual house. There is no honor greater than this. We have been given the privilege to offer up spiritual sacrifices to His praise and glory.
What are those “spiritual” sacrifices? When it comes to sacrifices, I suppose we could talk about our tithes and offerings, sometimes sacrificially given. We might talk about our ability and knowledge of plumbing or landscaping, sometimes given to God. We could talk about Martha and her serving of a special meal to the Lord. But I think it would be better to point to the worship of her sister Mary at the feet of Jesus. In addition to our physical service, there are the offerings of love and worship, thanksgiving and simple surrender. “Lord what would thou have me to do?” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.” “Ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Notice that Peter speaks of sacrifices which are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” – verse 5. Once again, it is only as we are in the vine that we will bear fruit for the glory of the Lord. And it is only as we daily come to Christ that we will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices.
I hope that you can see the responsibilities Peter lays out before us. First, he tells us that we must feast on God’s Word. And we must constantly be coming to the Lord by faith for strength, guidance and sustenance. And then as priests, it is our task to offer up the morning and even sacrifices of our praise and thanksgiving.
Are you the babe in Christ, the child of God, the Lord intends for you to be? Do you conscientiously and consistently come to the chief cornerstone for strength and guidance? Are you a part of Lord’s temple and a priest for the purpose of offering spiritual sacrifices? No, you are not? Then tell me why it is that the Lord has saved you? Yes, I know that we all have limitations according to our strength and opportunities, but to surrender and to feast upon the Lord are things any baby, strong man and even old man can do. Are you the kind of Christian Peter is describing here?