Before dedicating myself primarily to ministry, I spent years working all over the housing business. When people use metaphors about building, I just can’t help but imagine the actual process; so vividly I start building a building in my head. This actually translates to some interesting imagery when I read building metaphors in the Bible. When I get to 1 Peter 2:4-9, the author illustrates a vivid, rich and profound description of what it means to be a Christ-follower, and writes it under a surface of building metaphors.
In 6 verses, Peter illustrates the construction of the entire church. We look down the corridor of time to see what that church as become, and the passage becomes even prophetic. The passage composes its illustration on a personal level, a local church level, and on the level of the entire church of Jesus Christ through all time. All of that, in 6 verses. Let’s look at them.
1 Peter 2:4-9 (ESV) 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 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. 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.” 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,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
On a personal level, this passage prepares me for the foundational transformation that will occur as I come to him. We come to Jesus to become joint heirs with Jesus, inheriting the gift of eternal life in heaven. Those who don’t have the faith to believe don’t receive the greatest gift. Their sin and lack of faith condemn them to eternal death. Rather than reject their sin, they deny it and reject God. Being a Christian is not an easy road, but it is a prize worth any persecution that the world may visit upon us. We really need to understand what Jesus tells us about when we come to him:
John 15:18-22 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin”
Going to Jesus means He constructs a new home for us, here and in the hereafter. We’re not physically pouring concrete over re-bar and building our home from there up. We’re the spiritual soil that he forms into a bedrock foundation. At the corner He is the Cornerstone, and everything we build in our new spiritual home is grounded to and comes straight off of a measure from Him, the truest and most perfect start of our building. As we are seekers, we are soil being prepared to build on. Jesus is running the track hoe, preparing the place where He will be eternally as the cornerstone of our eternal life. He tears down the foundations of our old life so He can build a new one. Imagine life construction with a track hoe. On a church level, you can imagine each of us being built up starting from before the cornerstone is placed. We each become part of the structure that is the house where God dwells. The readers of what Peter says here would
intimately know the temple in Jerusalem, and the massive ashlar limestone courses at the base of the temple. There are other stones in a variety of shapes and sizes that make up the entire temple. This is what is in view as Peter illustrates his image of the spiritual “living stones”. Inside the temple, there were priests who, as Jesus reminded them (to their disdain), were the “whitewashed tombs”, dead inside but superficially embellished outside. Rather than these unfit priests, the new Temple in view is of each believer. On an historic church level, looking down the corridor of time, what comes into view is the Body of Christ that was prophesied in Isaiah 28:16. We need to understand the image
from Isaiah, so we can clearly know what Peter’s metaphor means. The prophet Isaiah foretells of the ruin of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrian King Shalmaneser V who was appeased by King Ahaz who showed weakness in his drunken, debaucherous, double-dealing leadership. God speaks through Isaiah,
Isaiah 28:15-16 (ESV) 15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”; 16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
Jesus, being Prophet, Priest and King, would have interpreted Isaiah to Peter, which would have guided Peter to use the metaphor in 1 Peter 2. The corrupt Jewish leadership would be interpreted by the reader as much like the corrupt King Ahaz. The prophesy had come to full fruition in Jesus Christ, who is “laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone and sure foundation.” Carried forward 2000-years later to you and I, we see in full view after the entirety of Israel and Judea has fallen, The Temple is gone, but the new temple, The Body of Christ, composed of Him as cornerstone and each believer as a living stone connected to him.
Today we see how the world finds Jesus to be a stumbling block. They are still unwilling to hear of their sin, so they deny God. They mock Jesus, and mock His believers, who are the living stones of His Temple. The life of an uncorrupted priest is not about profits or fame, flesh or debauchery. Everything this world idolizes is exactly what Jesus isn’t. But we were bought with the greatest price, for the greatest life that goes on forever. We are the living stones that the world can see, and if we are living a great sermon, we just may have the opportunity to share with the world “Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”