Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | September 4, 2011
4 As you come to him, a living stone, who was indeed rejected by people, but who is a select, precious stone in God’s eyes, 5a you also yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual house…
Notes: 1 Peter is a message of hope for the present and hope for the future for a chosen people living in a land that is not their own who are suffering persecution for their faith. It tells us not to give up on our faith and not to give up on our identity as the people of God just because bad things are happening to us.
The first verses of chapter 2 remind us that we are a community of God’s chosen people. We have a common identity in Christ. Last week we saw that we are to be people that depend on Christ the Word. This week we will see that we are to be people who depend on Christ the Cornerstone.
As we said last week, when we feed on Christ the Word – not just once, but over and over, we taste the kindness of the Lord. This week we will see that when we come to Christ the cornerstone by faith – not just once, but over and over – we are corporately being built up into a spiritual house where God dwells among us.
This passage tells us two things about the spiritual house God is building among us:
It tells us about
- The nature of the cornerstone of the house
- The nature of the house itself
First, it tells us about
The nature of the cornerstone of the house
4 “As you come to him, a living stone, who was indeed rejected by people, but who is a select, precious stone in God’s eyes”
First, the cornerstone we are coming to is a living stone. The living stone of verse 4 is the same stone found in Psalm 118(:22) and Isaiah 28(:16) as we read earlier, considered by Old Testament writers to be the Messiah. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” “I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.”
He is the promised Messiah who, unlike the inanimate stones of the temple, has life in himself and is able to give life to others. Because of his death and resurrection he is not only be a living stone, but a life-giving stone. Because he conquered sin and death, he possesses eternal life in himself, and therefore is able to give eternal life to all who would trust in him.
Second, the cornerstone we are coming to is the stone that was rejected by people. He was “the stone the builders rejected.” (Ps 118:22).
Imagine a builder surveying all the stones available to him for the cornerstone of a great palace or cathedral. He goes to the greatest and deepest quarries in the world to find the choicest stone – to him. He does not consult with owner of the palace or the architect of the cathedral. His only concern is the bottom line – what it might cost him in time or expense or inconvenience. On his search he may find the choicest stone, the strongest stone, the costliest stone, but he will pass it over, he will reject it.
Some people look only at the bottom line. They reject Christ by asking, “Will attending this church benefit my business; will I make enough business contacts here to make it worth my while attending every week? Will the money I give in the offering plate give a sufficient return on my investment? Will I get back ultimately, more than I put into this?
Others look more at external trappings. They reject Christ by only attending churches where there are beautiful people who appear to have no problems. Isaiah foretold that Messiah would be rejected and dishonored because he did not appear beautiful to the human eye. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (NIV Isa. 53:2-3)
Even many of Jesus’ own race, the Jews, rejected him because he was too different and too radical. He was not like them. The apostle John wrote of him later, “He came to his own people but they did not receive him.” (John 1:11)
Christ is the stone the builders rejected, but is chosen and precious to God. Isaiah and the Psalmist foretold this as well: “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.” (Isaiah 28:16) …he “has become the cornerstone.” (Ps 118.22) God looks beyond the bottom line and external beauty to the heart. He saw Christ’s willingness to do his Father’s will in spite of what it might cost him.
Symbolic of the preciousness of Christ to God, King David, before his death, chose costly and choice stones for the foundation of the temple of God, “Then the king commanded, and they quarried great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with cut stones. (NAU 1 Ki. 5:17) And Solomon did likewise for his royal palace, “All these were of costly stones, of stone cut according to measure, sawed with saws, inside and outside; even from the foundation to the coping…” (NAU 1 Ki. 7:9).
How much more chosen and precious to God is his son, Jesus, who gave his very life as a sacrifice for our sins. God, the architect and owner of the house he is building has rejected the assessment of unfaithful builders, and has chosen and honored Christ as the living stone, the cornerstone of his spiritual house.
“…I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV Isa. 53:10-12)
“The Lord says to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Psa 110:1).
Once when we were having a house built, we hired a contractor that we trusted. We knew him well and trusted he would build us a good house. We felt he had our best interest at heart and would build it as if it were his own. However, some of his sub-contractors, we learned later, were not as faithful or trusted as he was. We came home one day to discover the brick masons were laying a number of courses of bricks that were not running level. The rows of bricks were running downhill – and there was no hill! We immediately called the contractor, and he came and had them tear it out and lay the course of bricks properly. He cared, as we did, more than the brick masons, about how the house would look when it was finished.
When we were in the house market awhile back we saw a couple houses in Wilmington that never sold because the foundation was improperly constructed. On one, we could see a sizeable crack in the ceiling of the house caused by the foundation problems. On the other, we could see how a nearby creek had begun to wash away the foundation of the house. Needless to say, we did not choose to buy either house. We wanted a house with a firm foundation.
God is building a spiritual house with Christ as its foundation because has been tested and proven faithful as a sure foundation.
We’ve looked at the nature of the cornerstone of the house, now let’s look at
The nature of the house itself
5a “you also yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual house…”
The house being built is you (plural) – you also yourselves – believers in Christ, the church. Paul writes similarly, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (NIV 1 Co. 3:9). You and I are the ones God is using to build his spiritual house in which to dwell among us.
The house is also being built of living stones because they are coming to – or joined to, – the living, life-giving stone who is Christ. These stones are believers, those who have trusted in Christ the living, life-giving stone.
We were not always living stones. They were once “dead” – like lifeless stones – “in trespasses and sins…but God made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:1-8). We are living stones because of God’s grace.
These stones are also by implication, built or resting or dependent on the cornerstone. Isaiah says the cornerstone is “firm, tested, and safe to build on.”
The stones of an ancient stone or masonry palace or temple rested on, and found their strength and stability in the cornerstone. The cornerstone (or foundation stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
The ancient cornerstone served the same function as a concrete foundation of a modern house. For a modern house, the builder digs deep trenches in the earth and pours eight to twelve inches or more of concrete on which the house rests. If we were to speak in modern terms, the members of the house – the joists, the walls, the roof trusses, the windows and doors, all rest ultimately on the foundation. Similarly, the stones of an ancient building all depend on the strength of the cornerstone of the building. If it crumbles, they fall as well. If it stands, they will stand.
Jesus told the parable of the two houses to tell us that He is the “solid rock” on which we should build the house of our lives. He is not like “shifting sand” that will wash away when the rains and floods come.
When I worked for a framing contractor for a few years, my first job was to help dig footers for the foundation of a house. I couldn’t believe how long it took and how backbreaking the work was. But we saw the result of all our labor when yards of concrete were poured into those many deep trenches. It provided a solid foundation for a great house. The stones of the house God is building are built upon, are set in reference to, are dependent upon Christ, the cornerstone.
These stones are also being built together with one another. They are not lying scattered about alone, but are joined together; by the perfect placement of the Spirit to form the superstructure of the house. Just as the temple stones were perfectly cut and placed with no mortar between them, we are put in place as the structural members or stones of God’s spiritual house. Paul writes, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.” (Eph 4.19-21)
I led a team of high school students on a mission trip to inner city Pittsburg several years ago. My team’s job was to tear out and rebuild a stone retaining wall that held up the hill behind an older man’s home. It was painstaking work to rebuild the wall. Each stone had to be set in just the right place so the whole wall fit together to do its job of keeping the hill from washing into the house. God is painstakingly building a house with individual stones the likes of us, fitting us together in a way that pleases him.
There are no truly independent Christians. Some people float from church to church because they can’t find the perfect church or the perfect pastor or the perfect worship service. There is no perfect church, only a perfect Savior.
Some people stay home and watch Charles Stanley or some other pastor on TV because they’ve been hurt by their last church or by several churches. When we float or stay home for a lengthy period of time, to mix metaphors a bit, we “hide under a bushel” some of the stones God would use to build his spiritual house. Remember what great things David accomplished with just five stones. Imagine what God can do with all the stones that are floating about or hiding at home.
We are all part of the spiritual house God is building. We must allow ourselves to be joined together to form the house the God is building. We may not like the stones we’ve been placed beside, but it’s not our house; it’s God’s house. We have to learn to get along. We have to squeeze in together even when it’s not comfortable.
Neither have we been completed as God’s house. It says we are being built. So be patient with yourselves and with each other. We are all in process. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” We can trust him “who began a good work in you to be faithful to complete it.”
Finally, these living stones are being built into a spiritual house or temple, a place where God dwells with his people. He no longer meets with his people in tents made of porpoise skins or a temple of stone. He meets with his people wherever they gather together in the name of Christ. We are at the same time individually the temple of the Spirit, and also corporately the spiritual house where God dwells among us. Scripture says, “Through him you…are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph 2:22)
In Christ, God is building a spiritual house where he dwells with his people. God has always desired, and will always desire, to dwell among his people.
In Eden, God walked in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve. In spite of mankind’s fall into sin, God has provided a way through the death and resurrection of Christ for men and women and children to enjoy fellowship with him. Under the old covenant, God dwelt among his people by means of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
Under the new covenant, there is no longer any need for a physical tent or temple located in a particular place. Christ has become the temple where God meets with man. As Jesus said of himself, “I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'” (NAU Mk. 14:58) And because we are in Christ, we – corporately – become the temple where God meets with his people by his Spirit.
And one day, when Christ’s returns, in the new heavens and the new earth, God will dwell with his people in an even more immediate way. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, (NAU Rev. 21:2-3)
- Jesus is the living, life-giving foundational cornerstone of the spiritual house that God is building among us
- We are the living stones, resting on the foundation of Christ, and being built together with one another into a spiritual house for the dwelling of God and his people
As we come to the table today, we are aware that as God’s spiritual house, he dwells among us by His Spirit. We partake of spiritual food and spiritual drink that nourishes our souls.
Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.