Christ: Firm Foundation and Stumbling Stone (1 Peter 2:6-8)


Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | September 18, 2011


Text:

6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Isa 28:16)  7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Psa 118:22)  8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (Isa 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Pet. 2:6-8)

Notes:

John MacArthur tells the story of a university student who had a rather lofty view of his intellect. He said to a pastor on one occasion, he said, “I have decided that I do not believe in God.”

“All right,” the pastor replied. “Could you please describe for me the God you do not believe in.”

And the student proceeded to sketch a rather strange and twisted caricature of an unfair God, not a God of goodness. And he portrayed the God that he didn’t believe in. And the pastor turned to him and said, “Well, we’re in the same boat. I don’t believe in that God either.” It’s a wise response.

Having a clear sense of personal identity based on a Biblical view of God is important in this world. When we’re surrounded by people who are unfamiliar to us, we feel overwhelmed and disoriented. Story of Beth in Wal-Mart in FL. When we’re surrounded by people who do not hold the same values as we do, we feel overwhelmed and intimidated. Story of “nice sox” after move to BG. I felt embarrassed by the comments of one particular bully, but since everyone joined in, I felt intimidated by them all. They seemed so powerful because they were so many.

In similar situations – at work, in school, at the coffee shop, or on the playground – we’re tempted to blend in with the crowd, rather than insist on what we believe or who we are. That was the situation Peter’s audience were facing. Surrounded by unbelievers, they wondered, “How can we say with assurance that we alone are right? Why do so few share our belief that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy about Messiah?” We may feel the same at times – overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer number of unbelievers surrounding us.

In verses 6-8, we learn that though we may feel overwhelmed at times, we can rest assured that believers who accept Christ will ultimately receive honor, but that unbelievers who reject him by disobeying the word will ultimately receive dishonor. God has appointed that people will stand or fall depending on whether or not they believe in him.

We will see two things in this passage:

1. The significance of the stone to believers

2. The significance of the stone to unbelievers

Let’s consider first

The significance of the stone for believers

(6)For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Isa 28:16)

  1. The stone is a source of comfort for believers.

Believers are comforted to know that the stone was foretold in the OT Scriptures. What God was doing in the time of Isaiah was a pattern of what he is doing now. Isaiah wrote in chapter 8, “In both houses of Israel, the stone would be a sanctuary for some and a stumbling stone to others” (Is 8:14), and in chapter 28 he wrote, “but those who believe in him will not be ashamed.” (Isa 28:16).

We can be comforted to know that what we are experiencing is nothing new, nothing unforeseen or unplanned by God. So we should not be surprised nor do we need to remain overwhelmed or intimidated.

Paul reminded the Roman church of this same thing so they would not lose heart. “Now the Scripture says”  – referring again to Isa 28:16 –   “Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame…”  (Rom 10:11)

Peter, later in this letter, reminds his readers not to be surprised by their persecutions. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1Pe 4:12-13 (ESV))  It comforts us to know that what is happening to us now is a part of God’s plan and is under his control no matter how out of control it may feel to us.

Do you need his comfort today? Remember that the Scriptures tell us God has been and is currently working out his plan through his precious chosen cornerstone to complete your salvation on the day of the Lord.

The stone is not only a source of comfort for believers, also

2. The stone is a source of honor for believers

In verse 6 it says, “whoever believes in him will not be put to shame, and in verse 7 it says, “the honor is for you who believe.” The opposite of shame is honor. Believers will not be put to shame on the last day. Though you may suffer shame in this life, you will not be ashamed on the last day. You will receive the reward God has promised to you because you believed in Christ the cornerstone.

Jesus certainly suffered dishonor and shame during his earthly life. Though he had done nothing to deserve it, he was put through a fake trial, lied about, had his beard torn out, was spit upon, mocked and insulted, beaten and executed on a cross as a criminal.

We too will suffer shame in this world. We are not greater than the master. When we do, we should “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” We should, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb 12:2-3 ESV)

But we will enjoy honor on the day when Christ returns as we saw back in chapter 1, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 1:6-7 ESV)

 Do some of your so-called friends or your co-workers or neighbors or relatives who know you are a Christian try to embarrass you, or call you names, or trip you up, or catch you doing something wrong so they can shame you? Remember, no matter how much others may shame you in this life, Christ will honor you on the last day for continuing in your faith toward him.

We’ve looked at the significance of the stone for believers, now let’s look at

The significance of the stone for unbelievers

 (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Psa 118:22)

 1. The stone is a source of dishonor for unbelievers.

The implication in verse 7, quoting Psalm 118 is that in contrast to the honor which believers receive, unbelievers receive dishonor. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had the responsibility to lead their people in righteous living. They are the builders spoken of here. They should have built up the faith of their people in Jesus, the promised Messiah.

Instead, they rejected him. The meaning of the word translated “rejected” also includes the concept of carrying out a close inspection which was then followed by rejection. It says they inspected the stone carefully and found it wanting, unsuitable for their purposes. Think about how they treated Jesus, even when they were pretty sure he was the Messiah. They watched and listened to everything he said to try to trick him in something they could call a lie, they accused him of breaking the Jewish law by healing on the Sabbath, they asked him questions to try to trap him with their words. Finally, they made plans to kill him and carried it out. They inspected him and rejected him.

Have you ever had your house, or your locker, or your abilities –  inspected? It can be very unsettling. When the second phase of our house was being built we were preparing to move to FL to start seminary. The final inspection was scheduled for the Friday before the Sunday we were to move!!! This was the final inspection and I knew he would be looking at every detail. I was so nervous that the inspector would find something that would cause us to fail the inspection – to get a rejection notice – that would further complicate our move.

Have you ever stood in a line waiting to be selected (or not) for a team? The captains walk around you, look you up and down, ask their friends about you, then reject you. That’s what the religious leaders did to Jesus. They gave him a rejection notice in the form of a cross.

However, God overruled their inspection report. He tore it up and threw it to the ground by raising Christ from the dead and vindicating his son. He dishonored the religious leaders by overruling their judgment of his precious chosen stone.

Dishonor is typical of what unbelievers will experience at the end of their lives. Jesus’ parables are full of stories to warn unbelievers of the dishonor that awaits them if they do not repent and turn to him in faith. There was the parable the unwise brides-maids who didn’t bring enough oil to spare and had gone to buy more when the bridegroom arrived – symbolic of being unprepared to meet Christ at his return – they were ashamed when they were shut out of the wedding feast. The parable of those who didn’t wear the proper clothing at another wedding feast – symbolic of not being clothed in the righteousness of Christ – they were ashamed when they were sent home. In the parable of the house builders, unbelievers are warned not to build their house – symbolic of their life of faith – on the shifting sand lest they be ashamed when the wind and rain wash it away. The stone is a source of dishonor to unbelievers.

Paul concurs in his letter to the Corinthians, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame those who think they are wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame those who think they are strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that think they are.” (1Co 1:27-28 ESV)

Have you up till now inspected and rejected Christ? Have you mounted every argument you can find to reject his claim on your life? Are you like the unwise bridesmaids, the improperly clothed wedding guest, or the person who is building his house on the sand? Will you be ashamed when Christ returns for his own because you will be sent away?

Remember, “Now is the acceptable time, today is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2) As Peter said on the day of Pentecost, “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you…” (Act 3:19-20 ESV)

The stone is a source of dishonor for unbelievers, and

2. The stone is a source of stumbling and falling for unbelievers

 (8) and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (Isa 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Christ is a stone of stumbling that refuses to get out of the way. This stone remains in the path of those who are trying to reach God by other means. Have you ever seen the signs in the mountain roads that say “watch for falling rocks? For the unbeliever, it’s like rounding a curve in the mountains and finding the road completely blocked by fallen rocks. You can’t get around them and if you go on you may be crushed by more of them.

In Acts 4 (10-12), Peter when being examined by the high priest for healing a man, said, “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” The high priests council considered this and didn’t know what to do to stop them. All they could say was not to preach any more in this name.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,” (ESV 1 Co. 1:23). The nation of Israel attempted to achieve righteousness by keeping the law perfectly. That’s salvation by works.

In FL, during my internship with a local pastor we visited many homes and asked people why God should let them into heaven. Many replied, “Because I’m a good person” or “Because I do more good than bad,” or “because I usually go to church.” That’s salvation by works which denies the need for repentance and faith in Christ. Salvation is “by grace through faith, not of works lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) Christ is a stone of stumbling for unbelievers.

He’s a rock of offense. As one pastor said, Christ offends people’s dignity through the gospel by calling them sinners or ungodly. Businessmen and women, professionals, teachers, housewives, mothers, fathers, teens and college students are offended by the message of the gospel that says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3.23) But they shun Christ to their own demise.

They stumble because they are disobedient to the Word (as they were destined to do). The unbeliever is active, not passive in his disobedience. Jesus said, “he who is not with me is against me.” James wrote, “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” There is no neutral ground. They disbelieve the gospel found in the Scriptures that presents to us our sin and Christ’s offer of forgiveness. Jesus told the parable of the vineyard and the evil tenants who killed the owner’s son, then  asked the Pharisees, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “’The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luk 20:15-18 ESV). Their stumbling is caused by their disobedience and it leads to their ruin.

Next week, we’ll talk more in depth about their destiny which we don’t have time to go into today.

However, for you who believe, listen to the words of Jude (1:24-25 ESV) 24 aNow to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.


Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.

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