As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 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. 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.”
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,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. – 1 Peter 2:4-8 ESV
Peter reminded his readers that they have “tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:3 ESV). He is χρηστός (chrēstos) – kind, gracious and benevolent.And as a result, we come to Him – not just once for salvation, but continually and repeatedly for help and hope as we live our lives on this earth. By coming to Jesus, our Lord, out of our longing for “pure spiritual milk,” we grow. And together, as the body of Christ, we are “built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV). Jesus becomes the foundation stone upon which the body of Christ, the church, is built. We come to Him, in spite of the fact that He has been rejected by the vast majority of our peers. To us, He is a living stone, the chief cornerstone on which our spiritual lives are built, both individually and corporately. But to others, He becomes nothing more than a stone in their path over which they stumble. To us, He is foundational and supportive. To others, He is fictional and irrelevant.
The key point in this passage seems to be that God desires to build something out of those who place their faith in Christ. He has a grand plan for their lives. Like an architect, He has a design for each and every individual whom He has set apart as His own. Like our Savior, we are living stones, no longer lifeless and dead in our trespasses and sins. We have had new life breathed into us by God Himself, and He has plans for us. He is building us into a spiritual house. Peter compares us to the temple itself. Together, as God’s people, we are the temple, the habitat of God. Paul supports that same thought when he writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV). It is interesting to note that the personal pronoun, you, that Paul uses is plural in these verses. He is referencing the corporate body of believers in Corinth, not individual believers. While the Holy Spirit dwells within individual believers, He also inhabits the corporate body of Christ, the church. Paul says this very same thing in his second letter to the Corinthian church. “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (2 Corinthians 6:16-17 ESV).
But not only are we the stones who make up the temple of God, we are the priests who offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV). Paul told the believers in Rome, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:1 NLT). We are to be living stones and living sacrifices, offering ourselves up to God for His use. Like the priests who served in the temple, we belong to God. We live to serve Him. One of the greatest sacrifices we can make to God is to willingly and submissively allow Him to do with our lives what He sees fit. When we allow Him to use us as stones in His spiritual house, we are sacrificing our desires to Him. We are giving up our dreams in order to fulfill His. And we will not be disappointed. Peter assures of this very thing when he quotes from Isaiah 28:16:
…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.” – Isaiah 28:16 ESV
The phrase, “will not be in haste” refers to someone acting in a panic, rushing about in disappointment and surprise.When we build out lives on Jesus, we will never end up disappointed or let down. And when we allow God to use us as stones in His spiritual house, we can have every confidence that the final product will be perfect and complete, without flaws and designed to last for eternity. And we should see it as an honor to have God choose to use us as part of His grand, eternal construction project.
But the sad truth is that Jesus was rejected by His own people. The gospel of John reminds us, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:10-11 ESV). But the rejected one became the chosen, precious one. They stumbled over the very one who would become the cornerstone of the true house of God. They found Him to be an offense to their religious sensibilities. He was not the one for whom they were waiting. He did not fit the bill of the Messiah for whom they longed. So they rejected Him. They had Him crucified. And Peter tells us, “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (1 Peter 2:8 ESV). God was not surprised by the reaction of the Jewish nation to His Son. It was all part of His plan. Because, as Paul tells in his letter to the believers in Rome, the rejection of Jesus by the Jews opened up the gospel to the Gentiles. “Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Romans 11:11-12 ESV). They failed to recognize Jesus as their Messiah and, as a result, the gospel was taken to the Gentiles. But as Paul goes on to say, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:25-27 ESV).
The Jews will one day be added into this grand structure which God is constructing. He is not done yet. He is building something beautiful and eternal. His plan is flawless and His timing is perfect. He knows what He is doing. Each stone has been personally selected by Him and is being placed where He wants it in order to create a living temple in which He will dwell for eternity.