In 1 Peter 2, an image is referenced that is uniquely popular among Biblical writers – namely, that of “cornerstone.”* Here, Peter states it one more time, and expands the idea – saying that we, too, are stones:
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (1 Pet. 2:6-7).
Frankly, I have never given this metaphor a lot of thought. I should have, because it’s so abundant in the text! Martin Luther serves me wel in his commentary by taking a good, long look at this idea … and, specifically, about the idea that we are “being built up.”
Luther paraphrases Peter’s intent toward Church leaders: “You are the builders, and God has charged you with the building of his house, that is, his people, making them better and teaching them to way of salvation…He has made you builders, so that you should esteem the stone which he himself laid, and build yourselves and your people upon Him.”
Church life is a construction zone! (Instead of clerical collars, perhaps our church leaders should wear orange vests and hard hats!) But, truthfully, this has most often not been my experience. Consumer-driven churches can become places of entertainment and coddling rather than challenge and change. Not much work being done … lots of leaning on shovels. But, to be a part of the Christian community should be to be consigned to a life of ongoing transformation. (And Advent is a season uniquely designed for refurbishing and upgrading!)
“How can we build ourselves up?” asks Luther. ”With the Gospel and that which is preached. The builders are the preachers; the Christians who hear the Gospel are they who are built and are the stones which are to be fitted on this corner-stone. I must take heed to myself that I have the form which this stone has, for if I am laid upon him by faith, then I must also bear such marks and polish as he had, and everyone else with me … the Christian congregation, where we are all alike in one faith, one resembling the other, and all laid and fitted one to the other, and locked into one another by love.”
Luther says church leaders are to be “making people better.” And what is the definition of “better”? Jesus! He’s the first stone down on this building, and every other stone used for building needs to match it with “such marks and polish”. This reminds me of Paul in Ephesians, when he says “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). In other words, through the ministry of the church (water and word, baptism and teaching, cf. Matt. 28:19-20), we are to become just like Christ – after all, He’s the cornerstone, and we’ve got to match!
Advent is a good season to stare at that cornerstone, then take a good long look at yourself, and note the differences. Then, through appropriate church activities and personal prayer and study, allow the Holy Spirit to birth the changes needed to prepare you for the return of Christ!
E * O
* As God laid a cornerstone in creation (Job 38:6), so also He has laid a cornerstone in Zion as a spiritual foundation (Isaiah 28:16). God’s cornerstone will “come from Judah” (Zech. 10:4). . The prediction is that his stone, which the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone of the new covenant (Ps. 118:22). God’s cornerstone will be one that is initially rejected by the builders (Ps. 118:22). Jesus claimed that the religious leaders of His day were the ones rejecting that cornerstone (Matt. 21:42). Peter asserted that the Old Testament cornerstone was, in fact, Jesus (Acts. 4:11). Paul also references Christ as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).