Summary: As living stones built on Christ the Cornerstone we become the temple for God’s Spirit and a priestshood serving one another.
Christ the Cornerstone
What is the primary Biblical image Jesus’ disciple Peter used to describe Jesus? You might think Messiah, Savior, Lamb of God, Shepherd. Actually the primary Biblical image one of his disciples, Peter, used to portray Jesus is the Cornerstone. The first time Peter mentions Jesus as the Cornerstone is shortly after Pentecost, after Jesus’ resurrection and the Holy Spirit came filling the disciples like tongues of fire. Peter and John were dragged before the religious leaders to explain how they had healed a man. With the courage of the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly proclaimed in front of the very same religious leaders that had Jesus put to death, that the man was healed in the name and power of Jesus and then he quoted Psalm 118:22, Peter said, “He [Jesus] is ‘the stone the builders rejected, which has become the capstone (cornerstone).’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:11-12).”
In our day and age, unless you’re a stone mason, you probably don’t think much about cornerstones because most of our houses don’t have a cornerstone. We have poured concrete foundations, and studded walls. But in the 1st century Israel the primary building material, or at least their foundation material, was stone. And the most important stone in the whole house was the cornerstone. The cornerstone was the first stone to be laid in construction. It became the foundation upon which all the other stones were set. The cornerstone had to be the perfect stone and set just so because if it was off, even a little bit, the whole building was off. Those who are in construction know how frustrating it can be when a foundation is not plumb.
Peter tells us Jesus Christ is the stone that was rejected. He was rejected by the Jews, he was rejected by the Gentiles (Romans). When Jesus took the sins of the world upon himself, even his own Father rejected him, at least for a little while. But because he himself was sinless, God raised him up and placed him as the Cornerstone. He is the foundation, there is no other foundation upon which we can build our lives which will result in our salvation because any other foundation would be flawed.
Peter tells us no one can avoid the cornerstone, you are either going to trip and stumble over it, and reject him, or you are going to accept him, and build your life upon him. Not just on his teaching, but on the person of Jesus. The one thing you can’t do is ignore him.
Living Stones Built into a Living Temple of the Holy Spirit
In the NRSV 1 Peter 2:5 reads a little differently, it says, “…Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” In other words, there is a choice I need to make. First, am I willing to build myself on Christ as the cornerstone? Are we building on Christ as the cornerstone or on some other foundation? Building on Jesus means we put our faith in him, but it also means we set our lives according to his. We line our lives up according to his.
Second, will I allow God to work on my rough edges to be built into God’s spiritual house? Stones that come out of a quarry usually aren’t ready to be used for building, at least not right away. They need to be chiseled and formed to fit the location the mason wants to place it. Without taking the rough edges off it makes it difficult to set it stably on the foundation. It is also difficult for any other stones to rest next to it or on top of it.
The imagery Peter is giving us is a human version of the Temple in Jerusalem. It’s interesting that today if you go to Jerusalem you can go down to see where Solomon’s Temple was built and they say in some places they had stones that weighed tens of thousands of pounds, yet you can’t even slip a piece of paper in between them. They were perfectly shaped to fit together into a foundation for God’s Temple.
Even when we are saved by God through Jesus we still have some rough edges in our life, our mouth, our attitude, our anger, our self-centeredness, our pride. They still haven’t been changed yet. Jesus has given us new life, he has forgiven us our sins, but our attitudes and behaviors haven’t caught up with our new life yet. We require a process of chiseling off our rough edges. We can’t do this on our own, but we can allow God to do it. As we were reminded last week in reading Peter, God said, “be holy because I am holy.” In our new life in Christ we are meant to be set apart for him, that’s what it means to be holy, set apart for God. Our life should reflect the Cornerstone, we are citizens of God’s kingdom, not our cultures. So we must each ask ourselves, "Am I willing to be shaped and used as a living stone for God’s purposes, am I allowing God to take off the sharp edges which do not reflect him, so he can fit us into where he wants us?