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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone
Text:1 Peter 2:4-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:03/26/2017
Added:2017-09-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone”
1 Peter 2:4-8
 
The Apostle Peter had a great love for the Old Testament Scriptures. In chapter 1:10-12 he described how the prophets in the Old Testament searched intently and with the greatest care trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that were to follow.
 
He writes in such a way that you can almost picture the Old Testament prophets eagerly and intently looking at the scrolls that the Holy Spirit inspired them to write. They searched intently as they sought to know more clearly the Messiah – the eternal Christ – who was foreshadowed and typified in so many ways in the Old Testament era.
 
Later on in the first chapter Peter quoted from Isaiah 42 to describe how all men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:24-25).
 
And here again, in the passage before us, Peter quotes from three Old Testament texts. He quotes them to teach us, first, that Christ is the chosen and precious cornerstone upon which the church is built, and whoever trusts in Him will never be put to shame. In verse 6 he quotes from Isaiah 28:16: For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
    
Picking a favorite verse, or in Peter’s case picking the most appropriate verse, is a lot like picking the most appropriate, favorite hymn. There are so many wonderful hymns and Psalter selections that often it is hard to pinpoint which one is the favorite. Often it may differ depending on the circumstances which we face.
 
As Peter reflected on the Old Testament Scriptures, he must have gone through that “sifting” process, as the Holy Spirit worked within him, to bring up the most appropriate Scripture. And Isaiah 28:16 must have struck him as such an appropriate passage because it gives us a beautiful description of Jesus Christ. And it gives a promise of exceeding comfort to all who trust in him with saving faith.
 
As Peter began the paragraph, in verse 4, he referred to Christ as the living Stone; throughout Scripture the Lord is often referred to as a mighty rock as well as an integral cornerstone. The cornerstone of the building is crucial to the building’s strength. The entire structure rests on the cornerstone.
 
In verse 5 Peter had referred to the church as being a spiritual house in which we who believe in Jesus Christ with saving faith are likened to living stones. The church, made of so many different individuals unique and different from one another, is yet built up into a great spiritual building. Together we form the New Testament temple of God with each individual believer, along with all the others, resting on the solid rock of Christ, the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
The quote from Isaiah 28:16 describes Christ as both chosen and precious, and Peter has already pointed that out in the first chapter. Whenever we take the Lord’s Supper we are reminded that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that (we) were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to (us) from our forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for (our) sake (1 Peter 1:18-20).
 
We know that our redemption through faith in Christ was established long before the world was created. He is indeed that chosen cornerstone, chosen by the Father because there is no other cornerstone upon which the church could be built. In the same way there is no other blood that can redeem sinners from their sin.
 
He is also our resurrected and exalted King, the head of the church. In verse 7 the old NIV describes Him as “the capstone.” Most translations, including the new NIV, translate that verse as “cornerstone”, because in the original it is rendered “the head of the corner.” The point is that Christ is both the solid foundation for the true church, and also the head of the church.
 
So we see in this passage a beautiful portrayal of Christ. He is the eternal and precious cornerstone upon which the church and individual believers find their sure and eternal footing; He is both the foundation and pinnacle of glory for God’s elect. And then the quote from Isaiah 28:16 adds this promise of exceptional comfort: And the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
    
Do you think that promise meant very much to Peter? Do you think the promise that the one who trusts in Christ will never be put to shame gave comfort to the disciple who denied that he knew Jesus three times over before the rooster crowed twice?
 
Do you think that promise gave any comfort to Peter and the other disciples, each one of them having deserted the Lord in his time of need? First they slept while he pleaded with them to pray. And then when Judas came and betrayed him with a kiss, they all turned and fled. Peter came slinking back to warm himself by the fire, only to deny his Lord who was undergoing incredibly cruel, painful and humiliating treatment.
 
But now, what a blessing to be able to look back in the Old Testament scrolls! What a blessing to be led by the Holy Spirit to this passage in Isaiah which assured Peter that Christ is the eternal Lamb without blemish, the cornerstone of the true church! By his precious blood all our sins are removed from us. Therefore, the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame!
 
But it’s not just Peter who took great comfort in that promise. I take great comfort in that promise. I’ve done so many things in my life for which I am deeply ashamed. My sin is always before me, even now as a Christian man and as a pastor, my life is composed of one sin after another.
 
But Christ, being the cornerstone upon which my life is built, and Christ, being my Redeemer who paid the penalty for my sin with his precious blood, promises to me what he promised to Isaiah. He promises to me – and to you, to all who believe on him – what he promised to Peter, the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame!
 
The Stone the Builders Rejected
 
Because of the beauty of that promise, as well as the accuracy of the description of Jesus as the chosen and precious cornerstone, you might expect that everybody would put their faith in Him.
 
After all, everyone is a sinner, there is no one righteous, no not one; we all like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way (Romans 3:10ff). So we might expect that each one would cling to Christ and take great comfort that the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
 
But in verse 7 Peter quotes from Psalm 118:22 to remind us that Christ is also the stone the builders rejected – (and) – has become the cornerstone (capstone in the old NIV). The reference to the builders is a reference to the Jewish leaders. Throughout Israel’s history, Old Testament and New, there has been a rejection, for the most part, of Jesus Christ.
 
But in the historical context of rejecting a stone that is used in a building, we realize that a stone was only rejected after careful consideration. For example, when Solomon built his palace, great care was used in the selection of the stones. We read in 1 Kings 7:9-11, All these structures, from the outside to the great courtyard and from foundation to eaves, were made of blocks of high-grade stone cut to size and smoothed on their inner and outer faces. The foundations were laid with large stones of good quality, some measuring ten cubits and some eight. Above were high-grade stones, cut to size, and cedar beams.
 
By contrast, 1 Kings 6:7 describes how in building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built. The principle behind that concept is based on the Lord’s command in Exodus 20:25, “If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.”
 
We begin to see then, that any structure built of stones, back in biblical times, involved the examination of each stone. The stone would not recklessly be thrown aside, but rather thoughtful consideration would be given before a stone was rejected.
 
And those who reject Christ most often have their reasons, their foolish thoughts, for rejecting him. Ultimately their rejection is rooted in their refusal to acknowledge their sinful condition and their need for salvation through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone. They are blinded in their reasoning, sharp in their sarcasm, and usually unbending in their ridicule of Christ as being the chief cornerstone. They have stumbled over Christ, the only Redeemer, the only Solid Rock upon which life can be built.
 
A Stone that Causes Stumbling
 
Unfortunately, the majority of the human race is described in the third quote from the Old Testament which Peter brings up. In verse 8 he quotes from Isaiah 8:14 describing Christ as a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.
 
There is a great irony in that the stone – that is, Christ Jesus – is the precious and chosen cornerstone for those of us who believe in him and a stone of stumbling to many others. We find Jesus to be precious, as the first part of verse 7 says, Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But the same Christ who is precious to us becomes a stone of stumbling for so many others.
 
Peter uses a portion of Isaiah 8:16, but not the entire verse. In the context of Isaiah, the verse speaks about the rejection of the Messiah by both Israel and Judah. Isaiah 8:14 in its entirety declares: And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
 
That verse so accurately describes how both houses of Israel, both Judah and Israel, the southern and the northern kingdoms for the most part rejected Christ and still do. We are thankful for messianic Jews who have saving faith in Yeshua, Christ Jesus. But we recognize that they are a minority. And the reason that they are a minority is that most of the Jews have stumbled over Christ, as have most of the Gentiles.
 
Some stumble over the doctrines associated with Christ. “How could he be born of a virgin?” some ask. Such a concept is too much for them and they stumble over the virgin birth. Others question the validity of the miracles. They ask, “Am I really to believe that he had the power to call Lazarus out of the tomb? If he had such power, why didn’t he have power to avoid death himself – especially death on the cross?” And they stumble over the record of the miracles of Jesus Christ.
 
Many others have trouble with the concept that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). They might say, “We know that salvation is found in Christ, but certainly God would not refuse the sincere believer in Allah the privilege of heaven.” And they stumble over the truth that there is no other name under heaven by which someone can be saved (Acts 4:12).
 
And still others stumble because of the last phrase in verse 8. That last sentence says, They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for. That verse teaches a double predestination. The verse teaches the doctrine of reprobation, a teaching that is offensive to most people. Many people, hearing about election and predestination, and the counterpart of reprobation say, “I could never believe in a God who would decree such a destiny for human beings. That simply is not fair. I want no part of such teaching, no part of Christianity.”
  
I have great sympathy for those people, because there was a time in my life when I was one of them. Most of you know that I wasted more than a decade of my life; I lived apart from Christ from my late teen years until I was 30.
 
But there was a time toward the end of that spiritual drought when I had a growing interest in the things of the Lord. I began to read the Bible again. I went to church, at least occasionally. And then, because my brother at the time was a minister in a nearby town, I went to his new member’s class. I found much of it to be very interesting, but the part about election really bothered me.
  
When the class was over, my brother asked, “So are you ready to join the church?” He anticipated an eager affirmation. After all, he and the rest of my family had prayed for me for many years. But I asked, “What if I’m not elect?”
 
He scoffed at the idea that I would even question my election. But it was something that bothered me deeply. I struggled with the whole area of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. I reasoned, “If it is true that I am elect, then why do I even need to join the church or be a part of it? Wouldn’t I automatically be saved?”
 
And on the flip side of the theological coin, how can God condemn those who were destined to stumble over Christ?  That hardly sounded fair to me. I read Romans 9 many times over. I read about God’s purpose in election as explained in the example of the twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Romans 9:11-15 declares:
 
Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
 
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,
        “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
          and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
 
Those verses bothered me greatly. What if my brother was elect like Jacob? And what if I was reprobate, an outsider looking in on the salvation of my elect family?
 
And then I read verses 19-24:  One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you… to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
 
     What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
 
I struggled with those questions for some time before finally coming to see that fairness has nothing to do with God’s electing love. If God treated me fairly I would be headed straight to hell along with each one of you and all the rest of humanity.
              
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, all humanity fell with them. There are no innocent babies. Each one of us, Ephesians 2:1 declares, along with many other Scriptures, were dead in our transgressions and sins. We were not born innocent and we have not lived innocent lives. Each one of us has sinned more times than we could ever count.
 
So if God was going to be fair about it he would have to consign each one of us to eternal judgment, because that is what every human being who has ever lived deserves. But in grace God was pleased – for his own good pleasure, through no merit within any one of us – to save us.
            
Because he is just he had to pronounce the punishment for our sin; the penalty had to be paid, but he knew that we could never pay the price for that punishment. So he punished himself by giving us his only begotten Son to be the precious and chosen cornerstone of the church. He gave us His only begotten Son to redeem us, not with silver or gold, but with His precious blood.
 
And that is what grace is all about. Grace is God’s unmerited favor to us. Why did he choose to save me? Why did he choose to save you? It wasn’t because he looked down through a tunnel time and saw that you were going to make the right decision, or that I was. No. Scripture tells us, in Ephesians 1, and in many other passages, that he chose us before the beginning of time, for his own good pleasure, that we might live to the praise of his glorious grace.
 
His electing love does not take away our human responsibility and neither does his reprobation. People who face eternal judgment will face it because they brought the judgment on themselves. There is a sense in which God does not send anyone to hell; people send themselves to hell by their disobedience and disbelief of the gospel message.
 
Only Two Responses
 
In this passage we see two responses to the solid Rock of Christ. Every individual either finds Him to be precious or they find Him to be a stone of stumbling. May you and I, by God’s grace, find Him to be precious, professing the same faith that Peter professed in John Chapter 6.
 
In that chapter Jesus described how he is the Bread of Life. And then he made this statement which the Pharisees, and many others, stumbled over. In John 6:53-55 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
 
Many of his own disciples – not the 12, but other followers of Jesus – deserted him. So Jesus asked his disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
 
If by God’s grace you and I can echo that statement, then we are to live our lives as sacrifices of praise. That is how this passage begins. In verse 4-5 it assures us that by faith in Him, we too, like living stones are being built into a “spiritual house” as we offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ. Those spiritual sacrifices involve living lives of deep and sincere gratitude for our redemption in Christ. As Romans 12:1 puts it, I urge you... in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual act of worship.
 
As Isaac Watts, the well-known hymn writer, put it:
 
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.  (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, v. 4)
 
May those words describe your life and mine as we are built into a “spiritual house” offering the totality of our lives as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ, deeply grateful for His electing love. Amen.
__
 
Our closing hymn, by Isaac Watts, summarizes election – including double predestination – with accuracy and beauty:
 
3 "Why was I made to hear Your voice,
and enter while there's room,
when thousands make a wretched choice,
and rather starve than come?"
 
4 'Twas the same love that spread the feast
that sweetly drew us in;
else we had still refused to taste,
and perished in our sin.
 
6 We long to see Your churches full,
that all the chosen race
may, with one voice and heart and soul,
sing Your redeeming grace.
 
(How Sweet and Awesome is the Place, Isaac Watts, 1707)
 
 
For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”- 1 Peter 2:6
 
“A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone”
1 Peter 2:4-8
 
I. Three Old Testament passages are used to teach that:
   1) Christ is the chosen and precious cornerstone upon which the church is built; whoever trusts in Him will never be put to shame (6; Isaiah 28:16)
 
 
 
   2) Christ is rejected by many, but is the capstone, (literally: “the head of the corner”) of the church, being both its foundation and exalted head (7; Psalm 118:22)
 
 
 
   3) Although He is precious to those who believe in Him (7), many others stumble because of Him (8; Isaiah 8:14)
 
 
 
II. Our response: Since we are being built into a “spiritual house” we are to offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ (5; Romans 12:1), deeply grateful for
    God’s electing love (7-8; 1 Peter 1:1)
 
 
 
 
 
 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 03/2, Rev. Ted Gray

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