1 Peter 2:4-6
“As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God— you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and honored cornerstone,
and the one who believes in him
will never be put to shame.”
When I was in high school, we had a room at church where we would gather to after football games. We would listen to music, talk, and play games. One of the albums (yes, I’m old!) had a song called “Cornerstone” on it. I can still remember that song forty years later. “I lay in Zion, a Foundation, a Stone…A tried Stone, a precious Cornerstone, a sure Foundation…He that believeth shall, shall not make haste…” Maybe you remember it? Every time I read these verses, I can’t help but sing these lyrics!
Peter is quoting from Psalm 118:22 here. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” I want to take a minute before we dig into the passage from first Peter to look at this Psalm. It’s a beautiful Psalm, and although there is no author listed, many believe it is David who wrote it. This is one of the Psalms that would have been sung at Passover and Jesus would have sung this at the Passover dinner the night before his death. When David wrote the verse, he may have been referring to himself, but it was definitely a prophetic verse about Christ.
We see this verse again in Isaiah. Isaiah 28:16 says, “Therefore the Lord God said: ‘Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.’” In these verses, God is promising that he will reject the leaders in Jerusalem (see vs. 14-15) and instead establish a ‘sure foundation’, a precious cornerstone that will be the beginning of a new work by God. The earlier verses show that the rebellious leaders in Jerusalem will reject Jesus. And of course, we know that is exactly what happened!
No other Old Testament passage has been quoted in the New Testament as much as this one. We see it here, but Peter first used it in a sermon in Acts. “This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders,
which has become the cornerstone” (Acts 4:11). Jesus himself quoted it in Matthew 21: 42. “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is what the Lord has done and it is wonderful in our eyes?’” The parallel passages to this can be found in Mark 12:10-11, and Luke 20:17. Paul quoted it directly in Romans 9: 33. “As it is written, Look, I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and the one who believes on him will not be put to shame.” And lastly, he alluded to it in Ephesians 2:19-22. “So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.” I will be referring to some of these verses again as we go on in today’s study.
I’m working backwards, and I apologize for that! I thought it was important to cover the main part of the passage, Jesus being the cornerstone, and where that comes from. We’ll go a little more in depth now. Peter starts with calling Jesus a ‘living stone’. Edmund Clowney, in his commentary The Message of I Peter: The Way of the Cross puts it like this: “Christ is the living Stone, however, not just because he is a living person, but because he is alive from the dead as the risen Lord. God set his cornerstone in place by the resurrection.” Wayne Grudem in his commentary writes, “The fact that Christ is the living stone shows at once his superiority to an Old Testament temple made of dead stones…”
Peter then contrasts Jesus being rejected by people (see Psalm 118:22-the stone the builders rejected) with being chosen and honored by God (see Isaiah 28:16- a tested stone, a precious cornerstone a sure foundation). There is a lesson for us today. The world today is rejecting the historic Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, and instead creating a Jesus made in their own image. When we take a stand for Truth, we can expect to be rejected also. This verse came to my mind as I wrote this. Jude 1:3. “Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.”
Peter goes on to call us living stones, a spiritual house. Peter started his letter by writing about a ‘living hope’ (1:3). He then writes about us being born again through the ‘living and enduring word of God’ (1:23). Jesus is the living stone (the cornerstone) and we are the living stones, a spiritual house. Paul talks about this in Ephesians 2, when he writes about the church being built together as a temple of the Lord. Today we are so focused on individualism that we forget these verses. So yes, our individual bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), but there are many more verses that talk about the church being the temple of God. I Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” It is so important for us to be functioning in the body of Christ, and that is impossible to do if we are not fellowshipping with other believers.
Peter writes that we are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. As priests, we no longer offer animal sacrifices, but spiritual ones. Let’s look at some verses. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship” (Romans 12:1). “Therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15). “Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices” (Hebrews 13:16). Anything we do in service to God is a spiritual sacrifice. There is another important thing that Peter is addressing here. The priesthood is no longer relegated to a select group of people. I like how Grudem phrases it: “This verse gives explicit statement to the doctrine of the priesthood of believers. Since all who come to Christ are now a holy priesthood, able to continually draw near to God’s very presence and offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, there can no longer be an elite priesthood with claims of special access to God, or special privileges in worship or in fellowship with God.” This is so important! Paul in I Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” We do not need a priest to intercede for us! We see here that we are a holy priesthood. We can go directly to God through Jesus, because of his sacrifice.
And that brings us back to where we started. Peter ends this section with “For it stands in Scripture.” The word for Scripture is translated as graphe. This term was used by New Testament writers to refer to what we now have as our Old Testament and some of the New Testament writings as well. Peter is referring to Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22. Perhaps he was also familiar with Paul’s letter to Romans, where he uses the phrase ‘will not be put to shame’. We know that even though we may be rejected here on earth, we will have ultimate victory because we trust in Christ. We know our salvation is in him.
I am going to wrap up this post with a quote from Charles Spurgeon. Although this was written about 150 years ago, it is still so valid for today!
“Still do the builders reject him: even to this day the professional teachers of the gospel are far too apt to fly to any and every new philosophy sooner than maintain the simple gospel, which is the essence of Christ: nevertheless, he holds his true position amongst his people, and the foolish builders shall see to their utter confusion that his truth shall be exalted overall.”
Grace be with you!
After I finished my blog, I read this excellent blogpost by Natasha Crain. It is about the “He Gets Us” campaign that you may be seeing on commercials and billboards. It goes back to my point about making Jesus in our image. I would encourage you to read it when you get a chance. She has a podcast that is well worth listening to, and her book Faithfully Different is one I highly recommend! Here is the link: