“So honor will come to you who believe; but for the unbelieving,
The stone that the builders rejected—
this one has become the cornerstone,
A stone to stumble over,
and a rock to trip over.
They stumble because they disobey the word; they were destined for this.”
These verses are a continuation from verses 6 and 7, which I wrote about in my last post. Peter quotes the verse from Isaiah. Let’s review it. “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’” (Isaiah 28:16). Peter continues in verse 7 by saying, “So honor will come to you who believe.” The continuation from verse 6, that we will not be put to shame, is followed by this phrase. This is contrasted with what Peter writes next.
Peter continues with the cornerstone analogy, but now he quotes Psalm 118:22. “The stone the builders rejected…” He then goes on to quote Isaiah 8:14. “He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, he will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” In Acts 2:23, Peter says this in his sermon at Pentecost. “Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him.” Now, in this letter, Peter broadens his language to include everyone who rejects Christ.
Edmund Clowney writes in his commentary The Message of I Peter: The Way of the Cross, “The severity of God’s judgment falls not only on the builders who had rejected God’s chosen stone, but on all unbelievers. Peter repeats the solemn warning of Jesus. Those who stumble at the word of the gospel are broken in their unbelief.” I like the way he phrases it as ‘broken.’ It brings to mind the words to the familiar hymn: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
When we see the word ‘disobey,’ we often think of simply ‘not obey.’ But here, it can also be an active opposition to God’s word. Let’s look at some other verses with this word in it. Acts 19:9 says, “But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.” Paul writes in Romans 2:6-8, “He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and anger to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness.” And Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:17, “For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?” Grudem writes in his commentary, “Thus, because they disobey the word means not just that they refuse to believe the gospel- though it certainly includes that- but that they are living lives of disobedience and rebellion against God generally.”
Today, we see both of these things. We see many people who refuse to believe the gospel, but this has been true for a long time. Now we also have an active opposition to Christianity and everything it stands for. Atheism is growing at an alarming rate. A recent Barna study shows that the influence of Christianity in the United States is waning. We have entered a post-Christian society. What does that mean for believers? I don’t know. But I do know that this is nothing new. We have had the blessing of living in a country founded on Christian ideals. But we are moving in a direction which questions the very foundations of this. God is in control. He puts governments in place, and he takes them down. Peter wrote this letter to a church that was about to be persecuted by Nero. They knew suffering. Peter encouraged them to remain faithful and that encouragement extends to all the readers of this letter through history, including us today.
The last phrase Peter uses is, “…they were destined for this.” This is a difficult one to understand. We have many verses this that support this idea. Paul writes in Romans 9:22-24, “And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory— on us, the ones he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” Jude 3-4 states, “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. For some people, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.” When I wrote the blog on Ephesians 1:4-6, I covered the topic of election. I wrote then that election is clearly a biblical principle. God chose Abraham, he chose Paul. But how much free will versus predestination is involved in our choice is a mystery. I quoted John Stott from his commentary on Ephesians, and I will quote him again here. “Scripture nowhere dispels the mystery of election, and we should beware of any who try to work it out too precisely or rigidly. It is not likely that we shall discover a simple solution to a problem which has baffled the best brains in Christendom for centuries.” If you are new to my blog, you can go back to the beginning and see the post I did explaining the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.
Grace be with you!