“Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture; Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but, unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.”
Wherefore . . .
This word shows that there is a very close connection with the preceding verses in this chapter, to which we called attention in our last Meditation. We then wrote under the theme: Built Into A Holy Temple. Briefly we noticed, first of all, the idea of this temple. It contains a covenant conception. And this covenant idea is divinely worked out historically in such a way that there is a gradual development, which we described in the geometrical figures of a rectangle, a square, and a cube. The temple, when it is finally completed, will be realized in the city which is foursquare, and embracing heaven and earth. Secondly, we drew attention to the manner in which this temple is built. The living stones which make up this temple in which God is pleased to dwell, are the chosen people of God. They come to Christ, only after He has first come to them, in regeneration, through faith, and the efficacious calling through the gospel. And lastly, we dwelt on the purpose of this built temple. It is that we offer up spiritual sacrifices; and again, this purpose is realized in us through Christ, the perfect Mediator. Thus the sacrifices are well-pleasing to God. Not because of what we bring, you understand; but because God recognizes in us what is His own work, accomplished in us through Christ.
In one word, the holy temple which God is building is all built around the central idea that Christ is the chief corner stone. All the members of the Church, as living stones, are intimately connected to Him. Easy it is to see how that the apostle could not speak of the holy temple without calling attention to the central stone about which and upon which the entire temple is constructed. So you can understand how it is that he speaks now in our text about the precious corner stone.
Concerning this precious corner stone the apostle points up especially three things. First of all, he refers to the corner stone as contained in the scripture. Secondly, he looks at that precious corner stone as embraced by faith by the believers. And finally, he shows us how this precious corner stone is rejected by the disobedient, the unbelievers.
The precious corner stone!
As contained in the scripture!
By the scripture the apostle refers especially to the Old Testament, which was the only scriptures the apostle had at the time when he wrote this epistle. He refers undoubtedly, first of all, to what he read in the prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 28:16). “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Sion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”
We have not the space here to give the exegesis of this passage; nor is that necessary. What is pertinent is the question: Why did Peter refer to this passage? We notice that he does not quote it literally, but in such a way that it may serve his purpose. And undoubtedly that purpose is to show that the idea of the holy temple with its precious corner stone did not originate with him as something, new or strange, but it was always in the purpose and plan of God.
Of course, the scripture to which Peter refers is more than the passage quoted above. We read also in the same prophecy (Is. 8:14), “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the house of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Also in Psalm 118:22, reference is made when the psalmist says: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”
For us of the New Testament era, these scriptures are more complete, and the references to the precious corner stone are many. According to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus also referred to these Old Testament scriptures. “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner, this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be take from you, and be given unto a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” According to the book of Acts, Peter, on another occasion, made use of this scriptural reference, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:11). And the apostle Paul in his letters to the Romans and Ephesians makes reference to this truth of the scriptures. “For they (Israel) stumbled at that stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” And again, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”
This Christ, this elect and precious comer stone, as He is spoken of in the scriptures, is to be presented in the preaching of the gospel; so that all may see Him and show forth their reaction with respect to Him. This is obviously what the apostle has in mind, as is clear from the preceding context.
Christ Jesus is God’s elect, and precious corner stone!
God had chosen Him when He chose His people. The scriptures, in fact, always present Christ as the elect of God, while His people are chosen in Him. Therefore He is exceeding precious. He is above all precious, and to be highly honored. God’s people are precious only as they are in Him, and share with Him in His honor.
And what is God’s purpose with Him as chief corner stone? According to the figure, the comer stone has a chief place in the foundation, and it determines the shape of the foundation not only, but of the entire structure that is to be built upon it. Now, whereas God has determined to build a temple in which He will dwell, the entire structure is contingent on that comer stone. As chosen and precious corner stone, Christ is laid by God; and the foundation and superstructure of His holy temple is dependent on Him. Moreover, as God causes the gospel to be preached, the gospel concerning the house of His covenant, men are brought into contact with that precious corner stone. And they reveal their reaction over against Him. Unto some, who believe on Him, the comer stone is also precious, and they shall never be ashamed. But unto the disobedient, those who reject the comer stone, to their utter dismay the stone is made the head of the comer, while at the same time He is become to them a rock of offence.
Precious comer stone!
Embraced by faith!
Here faith evidently contains emphatically the element of confidence. We know, of course, that faith contains the elements of “certain knowledge” and “hearty confidence.” And these two come to their own in the exercise of faith. But here it is apparent that the element of confidence is on the foreground. This is emphasized in the text when Peter says: “he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” Believers therefore rely on Him, place all their confidence on Him. And in this they shall never be ashamed. While Isaiah says: “he that believeth shall not make haste,” Peter says: “he that believeth on him shall not be confounded, or be ashamed.” The difference is not essential, it is only one of viewpoint. He who does not hasten to flee is unafraid of the enemy. He remains. He who is not ashamed, is not disappointed. If one were ashamed, he would flee for fright. This, however, is not the case with believers. They trust that stone. In the ultimate sense, it means that one that believes on Christ shall certainly inherit glory, and therefore will never be disappointed.
O, how precious is that comer stone to them!
To God, He is elect, precious!
But also to the believers, believing children of God!
They love that stone. Through faith He is become precious to them. Without Him they are nothing, nor do they have anything. In and through Him they also have their place as living stones in the temple of God. Unto them He is their Saviour, and the Word through which He is presented to their faith becomes for them a savor of life unto life.
But there is more, much more!
This precious corner stone is also rejected by unbelief!
Unbelief would also have a house. Not the house of God’s covenant, not an holy temple, a spiritual house in which to offer up sacrifices pleasing to God. But a house nevertheless, which is in harmony with all their carnal hopes. Not a glorious kingdom of God, wherein God shall be all in all, but a kingdom of this world, the kingdom of man, in which man shall be exalted and extolled. And so they are always building. This they did at the tower of Babel. They were doing it in Isaiah’s day. And when the chief corner stone appeared in the flesh, He also observed their building, and especially how scrupulously they avoided putting Him in their building. O, they could not avoid Him. They had to make a decision respecting Him. But He did not fit into their plans. In their building, Christ did not fit at all. Nor was there any place in their building for the living stones who believed on Him. That is why He was rejected. They cast Him out as worthless.
They stumbled over Him because they were disobedient,—disobedient to the Word. Here it becomes very apparent that disobedience is actually unbelief. This rejection of the precious comer stone we see clearly demonstrated at the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate; and it reached its highest point in the crucifixion at Calvary. But always throughout history this rejection goes on. Never does unbelief have room in their plans, nor a place in their building for God’s chosen and precious corner stone.
The Headstone is a rock of offence!
O, indeed, in spite of the builders, Christ is made headstone of the comer! No one, and nothing shall interfere with nor frustrate the eternal wisdom and plan of God. The house of His covenant shall be built. And the corner stone shall fit in its proper place. This is precisely what the psalmist declares: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” And this is precisely what Peter is emphasizing in our text.
But in the process of building God always confronts unbelief and the disobedient in such a way that they must do something about His precious comer stone. To them that stone is always in the way; as we said, it does not fit into their plans.
Unbelief continues to stumble over that stone. They cannot remove it so as to destroy it. So it remains to be in their way, and they stumble over it. As Jesus Himself describes it: “Whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken to pieces, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
Unto this unbelief is appointed!
Behind all their action, their rejection of the stone, their falling over that stone, their being crushed by the stone, stands the righteous and holy God. Not only election, but also reprobation is of the Lord.
So the ungodly shall be brought to shame!
But they that believe on Him, through the grace of God shall never be ashamed or confounded!
World without end!