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,”
“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, just like every other apostle, lived with an expectation of spiritual growth. Stagnancy and the status quo were not acceptable options for a follower of Christ. So, he reminds his readers that they are being built upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. He is the chief cornerstone, the key stone upon which the rest of the structure will rest. And Peter is not just emphasizing individual growth, he wants to drive home the idea of community and the corporate nature of our mutual transformation into Christ-likeness. He begins by quoting a passage from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
“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. Whoever believes need never be shaken.” – Isaiah 28:16 NLT
These are the words of God Himself, as He speaks of the future coming of His Son, the Messiah, who would become that precious cornerstone, a solid unshakeable source of strength and assurance. But Jesus would later speak of Himself as the cornerstone, but as one whom the people of Israel would reject.
17 Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what does this Scripture mean?
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.’
18 Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.” – Luke 20:17-18 NLT
Jesus was quoting from Psalm 118, and Peter will pick up those very same words in this portion of his letter.
“The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.” – Psalm 118:22 NLT
By the time Peter had written his letter, Jesus had been rejected by the Jews, crucified for claiming to be the Son of God, placed in a borrowed tomb, and then raised to new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter referenced this very fact in the opening portion of his letter.
Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. – 1 Peter 1:21 NLT
Jesus was rejected, but He become the very foundation of our faith. It is upon His death, burial and resurrection that our spiritual formation is founded. It is on this incredible reality that the hope of the church rests. Peter drives home an eye-opening, confidence inducing point when he writes, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4 ESV). Jesus had been rejected by men, but He had been chosen by God for His role in the salvation of mankind. He was precious to God. His rejection by men did not diminish His value or worth. In fact, it had all been part of God’s grand plan. And Peter would have us realize that, we too, have been chosen by God (1 Peter 1:1). We too, are precious. And while we may find ourselves rejected by this world, it is not a sign of our value or worth before God. And we are not alone. We are being added alongside other believers, carefully crafted and placed by God in order to form “a spiritual house.” He describes us as “living stones.” We’re not lifeless and static. We’re not bricks in a wall that get placed there by the Master Builder and become nothing more than energy-lacking, non-contributing parts of a whole. Like Christ Himself, we are alive and active. Together with other believers, we form the very temple of God. And not only that, we become members of the holy priesthood that serves within that temple. As such, we “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV). The apostle Paul conveys this same idea in his letter to the church in Rome.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, 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
Notice Paul’s emphasis on the plural:
“…let them be a living and holy sacrifice…”
It is together that we form God’s temple. It is together that we bring glory and honor to God. It is together that we offer a living and holy sacrifice – ourselves – living and loving together as one, built upon the foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ.
Over in the book of Matthew, there is a conversation recorded between Jesus and His disciples. He asked them who the people believed Him to be. The disciples gave their best guess, then Jesus asked them, “who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NLT). Peter, the author of this letter, happened to be the first to speak up and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NLT). And Jesus gave an interesting response:
17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” – Matthew 16:17-18 NLT
Jesus says He is going to build His church, the temple of God, on “this rock.” What was he talking about? Peter? No, Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It is this testimony that links us with every other Christ-follower. And Jesus promises to build the church, the community of faith made up of sons and daughters of God, upon this statement of belief in Himself as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
But Peter makes it clear that not everyone has believed in Jesus. There are many who have refused to acknowledge His Sonship and status as the Savior of mankind. And Peter sadly states: “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall” (1 Peter 2:8 NLT). Paul put it this way to the Corinthian believers:
23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NLT
Some stumble over Christ. Others, like us, have placed our faith in Him and have been made a permanent part of a spiritual house, dedicated to God and destined to bring Him glory. There will always be those who reject the message concerning Jesus. They will see it as foolishness. It will come across as offensive and off-putting. They will refuse to accept Jesus as who He is and they will stumble over the very one who could have saved them. Rather than Jesus becoming the foundation upon which their lives are built, He becomes a rock in the path of life over which they stumble and fall. In His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke a those who refuse to build their foundation on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.
26 “But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:26-27 NLT
No firm foundation. No solid ground. No hope in the storms of life. But as believers in Jesus Christ we are to build on our relationship with Him. We placed our faith in Him, and we are to continue to do so all throughout our lives on this planet. If we truly believe He is our Savior and the source of all our strength and hope for the future, we should build like it. We should act like it. But not alone. This is a team sport. We are in this together with every other Christ-follower, forming a Christ-supported, Spirit-empowered, God-glorifying temple against which the gates of hell will not prevail.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.