Christ Is Our Cornerstone”

(1 Peter 2:4-10 – Easter 5 – May 10, 2020)

1 Peter 2:4-10 – 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. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Dear Redeemed in Christ, who is our Cornerstone:

When a person builds a house, he is wise to start with a plan. You don’t just go to the lumberyard to buy thousands and thousands of dollars worth of building materials, and then get to the building site and begin willy-nilly throwing foundation blocks here and there and slapping up lumber this way and that. No, you start with a plan. Following that plan, you first lay a foundation, square and sturdy; then, from that foundation, you build up walls that are plum and true; and on top of it all, you set the roof, secure and protective.

Our text says that God is building His house by His infinitely wise plan. It is not speaking of a physical house, but a spiritual house – God’s church, the family of believers whom He is bringing together and building up in Christ. It begins with the Cornerstone God has chosen, from which the whole foundation is made square and sturdy. Christ is that “living Stone,” the Savior of the world who gives life to His household of believers. All the angles and lines in the Church are determined by that Cornerstone – Christ and His truth. Based on that Cornerstone, God builds up the walls of His Church, plum and true. This refers to us and all believers who, it says, “as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.” So God has joined us with Christ in His house, covering us under the secure and protective roof of His salvation and eternal life.

Therefore we consider as our theme today, “Christ Is Our Cornerstone”: 1) On Him alone we build, and 2) In Him alone we serve.

1) On Him alone we build

Our text begins: “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.” Jesus is the one and only cornerstone chosen by God, on which His church is built. He is the “living Stone,” the crucified and risen Savior, who has taken away the sins of the world and defeated death for us. Therefore, He is the one and only source of spiritual and eternal life. God has connected us to Christ by faith, and built us as living stones into a spiritual house that can never fall.

Yet, while Jesus is God’s chosen and precious cornerstone for eternal life, He is rejected by many. As it says in verse 8, He is “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” No one can be neutral or indifferent to Christ. Either God’s chosen Cornerstone is precious to us as our only Savior, or else He is offensive and gets in the way of our building plans.

When an architect’s design for a building is under review, either people will like it or not. Some may look at the design and say, “That’s beautiful! That’s just what we needed!” But others may look at the same design and say, “That’s ugly. That won’t work. We need to start all over.”

This is how it was with the Jewish leaders when they saw Jesus. They thought, “How could He possibly serve as the cornerstone for God’s house?” They were looking for a Messiah who appeared more attractive and sturdy on which to build their designs. They wanted to build themselves up as the people of God on the foundation of their own works-righteousness, rather than trusting the blood atonement of God’s Son to remove their sins and make them right with God. They wanted to build themselves up on the foundation of a powerful worldly kingdom, with a Messiah who would restore glory to Israel. So they took offense at Jesus, thinking: “He looks so weak! He has no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” So He was despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:2-3). Jesus was like an extra stone, lying around on their building site just getting in the way, a stone on which they kept stubbing their toes and stumbling over. So they wanted to get rid of Him.

But in rejecting and condemning Him to death on a cross, them they were only playing into God’s wise design. Hadn’t Scripture said: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22)? Wasn’t it God’s design that His Son would come in humble form, and suffer and die an ugly death on the cross to take away the sins of the world; and that He would rise again to establish His everlasting Kingdom and bring salvation to sinners?

Many people take offense at the message of the cross of Christ. It sounds weak and foolish to human reason to think that He who was condemned and crucified could ever save the world from sin and death (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). 1 Corinthians 2:14 says: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” Natural man does not want to believe what Scripture teaches, that he is so sinful that it took the blood sacrifice of God’s Son to redeem him from sin, death, and hell. Natural man does not want to hear that all his righteous acts are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6); and that the only life that can save him is the perfect life God’s Son lived in his place. Instead of building his hope on a crucified and risen Savior, natural man wants to build on his own design. He wants to build on his own goodness and merit before God, hoping to earn a place in heavenly glory.

So many stumble over Jesus, God’s chosen Cornerstone, and the only foundation for salvation and eternal life. Verse 8 says: “They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” In this regard, Jesus said in Matthew 7:26-27: 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.” If it were up to our own design, by nature we would not build on Christ and His Word. We would build our spiritual house on the sandy foundation of our own sinful works and false righteousness. Such a house built by sinful man must come crashing down in the last judgment.

But we can be thankful that by God’s gracious design, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” of our salvation. God sacrificed His Son on the cross to pay for all our stumbling and falling into sin. As God foretold in 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” (Isaiah 28:16). As we confess our sins to God, trusting Christ as our Savior, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-25: “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.” In Christ, our spiritual house is built on a rock-solid foundation that can not be shaken, even by the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). Even in the last judgment we will not be put to shame, for Jesus’ blood and righteousness present us forgiven and holy before God.

So it says in verse 7: “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.” He is precious because He has saved us by His grace, and He continues to lead us in the truth of His salvation. He is precious because in times of trouble and hardship, sickness and even death, when the winds and floods of life beat against our house, yet Christ our Cornerstone and Foundation is always there to uphold us by His almighty strength and eternal life. We can rest on His firm promise that He is working all things in our lives according to His eternally wise and gracious design for us.

2) In Him alone we serve

Therefore, on Christ alone we build; and now, in Him alone we serve. By building us as “living stones” into His spiritual house, connecting us to His Son through faith, God has given us a special place in serving Him.

It says in verses 9-10: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

What a great turnaround God has brought in our lives! We were stumbling along in spiritual blindness and the darkness of death. But in mercy, God sent His Holy Spirit to give us spiritual sight, to bring us into His marvelous light of salvation by faith and set us on His foundation of eternal life in Christ. Now that God’s Son has made us holy by own His blood, He is not ashamed to call us His family (Hebrews 2:11). He has made us members of His royal household. In Christ, we have access to God’s throne of grace (Romans 5:2; Hebrews 4:16).

Now God calls us His “royal priesthood.” Verse 5 says He calls us to serve in His house as “a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” In Old Testament times, God chose some to serve as priests in His temple. The role of those priests was to represent the people before God, bringing sacrifices for their sins and praying in their behalf. Then they represented God to the people, declaring His forgiveness and promises of salvation. But now, all believers make up “a holy priesthood.” Since Christ our great High Priest has sacrificed Himself once for all, no more sacrifice for sin is needed. God counts our service in His church holy and acceptable because He has cleansed us by the blood of Christ.

What are our “spiritual sacrifices”? They are simply sacrifices of thanksgiving, all the ways we show our thankful response of faith to God’s gift of salvation. Paul wrote in Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” God’s grace in Christ inspires us to live our whole lives as sacrifices of thanksgiving. God’s Spirit leads us to want to serve our Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us. We want to use the gifts He gives – time, abilities, money, and possessions – all to His glory. We want everything that we do to be in line with the Chief Cornerstone, Christ and His Word. We want to share His love with others.

Verse 9 says that an important reason God has made us His royal priesthood is “that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We want to share the good news of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only Son as the Savior for all (John 3:16). As God’s priesthood of believers, we can represent Him before people by declaring His Gospel of full and free forgiveness and salvation, which Christ has won for all.

At the same time, we can represent people before God. We can come before His throne of grace, with prayers and requests for all people – praying for our leaders and peace, praying that the Gospel would proceed freely to the ends of the earth, so that many more may come to faith. Such prayer and intercession “is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

As God is building His Church, He is no willy-nilly builder. It is no accident that He has us where we are today. He has chosen and called us to faith. He has set on His foundation, square and sturdy, in Christ our Cornerstone. He is building us up, plum and true, in line with Christ’s truth. As living stones, He raises us up in the walls of His house, and covers us by His secure and protective roof of salvation. He puts us together that we may serve Him in thankfulness and proclaim His praises. Through the Gospel we share, He will build more souls as living stones into His spiritual house, resting on Christ’s salvation. Until at last, we will take our place in heavenly mansions with eternal foundations, which Christ is preparing for us (John 14:2).

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.