Where do you find your identity? Where do you find your value? Typically, people are finding their identity and value in what they do. We identify ourselves by our profession. We are something (a teacher, a lawyer, etc) rather than this is what we do (I teach, I practice law, etc). The world pressures us to think that it is in secular work that we have value, and if we are not working then we are valueless. But our identity is not found in our achievements. Our value is not tied to our work or the things that we do. Peter is going to remind us of our identity in this section of scripture.
4 Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: Look! I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and valuable cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame! 7 So the honor is for you who believe; but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected— this One has become the cornerstone, and 8 A stone that causes men to stumble, and a rock that trips them up. They stumble by disobeying the message; they were destined for this. (HCSB)
The Living Stone, Rejected But Chosen (2:4)
The stone imagery is historically rooted in Messianic hope. Peter is about to quote a number of Messianic stone images. But before we get to those scriptures, let us consider one important Messianic stone image.
44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” (Daniel 2:44-45; ESV)
Jesus is the living Messiah. We already noticed that we have a living hope and now we are coming to the living stone. He is the living stone because he was raised from the dead in victory. There is stability offered to us from the resurrection of our Lord. We noticed in our study of 1 Peter 1:21 that our hope and faith are resting upon Jesus’ resurrection. We can come to this resurrected Lord. We can have a personal relationship with him. We are to be drawn to him and come closer to him.
But here is the picture: Jesus, the resurrected Messiah, the living stone, was rejected by people. The resurrected Lord was rejected. But even though he was rejected by people, he is chosen and valuable to God. It did not matter that Jesus had been rejected by the people. That did not alter the truth that he was chosen by God and extremely precious and valuable to God.
You Yourselves, As Living Stones (2:5)
In the same way, Peter’s audience is called “living stones.” They are in a similar circumstance as Jesus. Rejected by people, they are living in exile in Asia Minor. But even though they had been rejected by various authorities, they were still chosen by God (see 1:1). Though rejected by people, they were still valuable and precious to God. We must take hope in the knowledge that we may be rejected by people but we are still chosen by God. In fact, we should expect to be rejected by people because we are living stones, that is, imitating Jesus. We are not conforming to our sinful desires and passions (1:14). But even though people reject us because our lifestyle reflects Jesus does not mean that we are not valuable. It does not mean that we do not have an identity. Our identity and our value is found in God. I believe this is part of the idea of “getting our minds ready for action” (1:13). We know that we are going to see things differently and that will cause us to be exiles in this world.
As living stones, that is, as we are modeling the life of Jesus, God is using us. We are precious, valuable, and chosen. We are being used to be built into a spiritual house. This is who we are! This is where we find our great value and identity! We are God’s house. We are God’s temple. We are God’s family. Being the people of God and having our identity in Jesus is where our great value lies. We are a spiritual house of God. This is who we are. We are not plumbers, teachers, pilots, or customer service representatives. We are living stones! We are Christians! That is who we are and that is where our value is found, not in our achievements and not in our occupations.
The picture is amplified that we are a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. We are people set apart for God’s use and God’s service. We must be different, just as the priests were set apart from the rest of the people. But the beautiful picture is that all of us are priests. Everyone who comes to the living stone is a priest. This means you have direct access to God through Jesus Christ and each of us personally serve God. We do not need a separate ranking of priests to confess our sins. We are priests and we go with our sins to God directly because Jesus has opened the way, giving us this access.
This image is a call to our holiness. We are holy priests offering sacrifices to God. So what are we offering to God? Are our offerings acceptable? I cannot help but be reminded of Romans 12:1-2 that describes our lives as living sacrifices being offered to God. We are holy priests and our lives are to reflect that spiritual worship to God. Peter is going to use three quotations from the scriptures to further identify who we are as the people of God.
Jesus, The Cornerstone (2:6)
Peter quotes Isaiah 28:16 and applies the Messianic stone reference to Jesus. The imagery is vivid that Peter references from Isaiah. God placed Jesus as the chosen and valuable cornerstone. The cornerstone was every thing when building a structure in those days. The cornerstone needed to be straight and square so that the rest of the builder would be built straight. A building that leans will not endure. I was able to appreciate this idea better when building the clubhouse/swingset in our backyard. Dan and I made sure that the foundation was level and straight so that as we built up to the second story, we would be building a sound structure. We did not want a “leaning tower of Pisa” for the kids to play on. We constant checked our work to the level base that we had built.
This is the idea that Peter is giving to us through Isaiah. Jesus is the perfect cornerstone upon which the spiritual house of God is built. We are the spiritual stones in this house. But we cannot be built just anywhere on this structure. We must be measured against the living stone to ensure that we are in line with it. As we are built upon this cornerstone, we must keep our lives aligned to Jesus. He is the foundation and we are to build our lives directly on him. Consider that Jesus is never out of alignment. He is the perfect, precious cornerstone chosen by God. We are the ones who get out of alignment and must constantly measure ourselves against Jesus as our standard.
When we build our lives on Jesus, we will not be put to shame. When we work to built upon Jesus, we will be established in our lives and will not be shamed. We will be rejected by people, but when we are built on Jesus, we are not rejected by God. Our trials and hardships are not a symbol of God’s rejection. Our identity is not found in the opinions of humanity. Our value is in being living stones built into a spiritual house aligned with Jesus, our cornerstone. The concluding thought here is in the beginning of verse 7: “So the honor is for you who believe.” The honor is being joined with Jesus. The value in our life is by being united with him. Those who put their trust in the living stone and are built on the valuable cornerstone will be honored.
For The Unbelieving (2:7-8)
But Peter is going to quote two scriptures to show what will become of those who choose to not believe. In verse 7 Peter quotes from Psalm 118:22. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This relates to the problem of those who thought they were doing God’s will. These people thought they were the people of God. They were building their lives to be part of God’s family and be part of God’s kingdom. In building the way to God, they left out the most important piece, the perfect cornerstone. In an effort to come to God, they rejected the most important stone, Jesus. You cannot get to God without Jesus. You cannot have a relationship with God and draw near to God without Jesus. These people were building their lives to God, but they did not have the proper foundation. They did not recognize Jesus as the chosen cornerstone placed by God. You cannot come to God without building on Jesus. The apostles applied this point to the Jewish leaders who were attempting to find their own way of righteousness to God and had rejected Jesus. Notice what the apostle Peter said while standing before the Sanhedrin council:
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:11-12; ESV)
But there is something interesting about this text. Even though we may reject Jesus as the cornerstone of our lives, he is still the cornerstone. Regardless of what you believe, Jesus is still the cornerstone that God has set in its place. You can build your life however you would like. But you will not find salvation with God except for a life built on Jesus. You can go your own way, but you are not going to find the way to God. The kingdom of God is built on Jesus. We must be aligned to Jesus if we are going to living stones in the spiritual house.
Notice the second quotation which is from Isaiah 8:14: A stone that causes men to stumble, and a rock that trips them up.
You can reject Jesus, but you are building your life in such a way that will end up in disaster. You will not have the life that God wants you to have if you reject Jesus as the basis for your life. You are going to be tripped up. You are going to stumble. When your life is not built upon Jesus, you are going to find all sorts of problems and disasters. We get ourselves into so many messes because we are choosing to do things our own way. We are not aligning our lives to Jesus, the cornerstone. We think we know what is best for ourselves and so we think we can live our lives the way we want while claiming to be following God. But we are deceiving ourselves. A life not aligned to Jesus brings disaster. Notice the comments Peter makes on this quotation at the end of verse 8: They stumble by disobeying the message; they were destined for this.
Those who do not believe in Jesus and follow the word he has given us are destined to stumble and fall. You and I are destined for problems when we reject the word and disobey. We are setting our life on a course for destruction when we reject Jesus as the cornerstone of our lives. Don’t put your life on the wrong course. If your life is going the wrong way, you have time right now to change course. It is time to tear down our lives that have been built on improper foundations. Now is the time to build a new life of Jesus, aligned to his will and word.