The Chosen Stone
1 Peter 2:4-8
Many figures of speech are used in the Scriptures to describe Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the body, the church. He is the Vine, and we are the branches. He is the Shepherd who guides the sheep. He is the Light of the World. He is the Bread of life which we eat. And He is the Water of life which we drink.
“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed’” (1 Peter 2:4-8).
Peter was writing to Christians in the first century who were suffering persecution. They needed something more than the material things of this life in which to place their trust and on which to build their lives. In these verses, the inspired apostle pictured Jesus as a stone which was rejected by men but chosen by God and could serve as a solid foundation for their faith and hope. What we can learn from this passage concerning Jesus Christ as the chosen stone?
He is a living stone, v. 4
We know that stone, as opposed to plants, animals, and humans, is non-living material, although some stone may contain material that once was alive. However, Jesus is called a living stone. Why? It is because though He was dead He is now alive. Jesus Himself said, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18).
The reference to Jesus as a living stone, then, is related to the fact that He was raised from the dead. The Bible, established by eyewitness testimony, records the resurrection of Christ as a historical fact. When the women came to His tomb, they saw two angels. “Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again”’” (Luke 24:5-7).
Thus, Jesus Christ is not just a dead hero who was a martyr for a good cause, but a living Savior. And there is a special benefit to God’s people in the fact that Jesus lives. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). We can ever come to God through Christ because He is a living stone.
He is a foundation stone, v. 5
Peter says that Christians are also living stones who are being built up a spiritual house. Just as a house needs a good foundation, so the foundation of God’s spiritual house, the church, is Jesus Christ. “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).
This foundation was initially laid down by the apostles and prophets. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22). Paul goes on to explain that this laying the foundation was accomplished as they revealed the word. “How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-5.
Thus, we build our lives upon this foundation as we hear and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed through His inspired messengers. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27). For the church as a whole and for the lives of its individual members, Jesus Christ is the only sure foundation stone.
He is the cornerstone, v. 6
Peter quotes a prophecy from the Old Testament about the Messiah that would help identify Him when He came. “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isaiah 28:16). This passage and a similar statement from Psalm 118:22 about Christ as the chief cornerstone are quoted or cited several times in the New Testament as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ
A cornerstone is a stone, cut as perfectly as possible, from which the rest of the foundation is laid so as to make it as straight as it can be. To say that Jesus is the chief cornerstone means that He is the perfect standard by which our lives should be measured. Peter will go on to tell his readers, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
In laying the foundation, the builder must always look to the cornerstone and measure the placement of the other stones by it. In like manner, throughout our lives, we should always be looking to and measuring ourselves by this cornerstone to make sure that our lives are straight and true. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that in running the race of this life, we should be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Therefore, it is important to look to Jesus as our cornerstone.
He is a precious stone, v. 7
Certain kinds of stones are not your ordinary, everyday, run of the mill rocks but are gemstones and therefore considered precious. The word translated “precious” means valuable, even expensive, and hence honorable, and Peter calls Christ a precious stone. In his two epistles, Peter uses the word precious to describe several concepts that are related to Christ. For example, the blood of Christ by which we’re redeemed is precious. “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
The Bible teaches that in being redeemed by the blood of Christ we are justified by faith. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Thus, Peter also says that the faith by which we are justified before God is precious. “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).
And Peter tells us that the promises which God offers to those who are redeemed by the blood and justified by faith are precious. “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4). One of these precious promises is that of eternal life. “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25). All of these precious blessings which are provided for us in Jesus Christ truly make Him more valuable than a precious stone.
He is a stone of stumbling, v. 8
Peter cites another quotation from Old Testament prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 8:14). The prophet foresees that the Messiah would be a sanctuary for some but a stone of stumbling and rock of offense for others, including both houses of Israel and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Picture a large piece of rock which has been chosen as the cornerstone for a foundation but is sitting out and waiting to be installed. The same stone which could be useful in a foundation might cause someone who walking nearby but is not paying attention to stumble and fall. Jesus was just such a stone to many in His day. “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13). Even in Israel, some received Him, but others, rejecting Him, stumbled and fell.
Furthermore, in the first century and in every century since, Christ has been a stone of blessing to those who believe but a stone of stumbling to those who reject Him. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God....For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Each person would be wise not to let Christ become a stone of stumbling to him or her.
In the physical realm, stones can be put to both good and bad uses. If a large stone is used as a weapon against a person or falls on him, it could harm or even kill him. However, if someone would use that same stone wisely, it could become part of a building that is beneficial to folks. Those who are Christians need to make sure that their lives are built upon Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Those who are outside of Christ but want him to be a foundation stone rather than a stone of stumbling need to believe and obey Him.
By Wayne S. Walker
From Expository Files 21.2; February 2014