The Priesthood of All Believers, Part Five
P. G. Mathew | Monday, August 5, 1996
Copyright © 1996, P. G. Mathew
Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church. In 1 Peter 2:4-8 we read, "As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 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.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,' and, 'A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.' They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for." (1 Peter 2:4-8) In this study I want to make nine points about this stone: four relating to unbelievers, and five relating to those who believe.
He is the rejected stone. In Psalm 118:22 we read, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." Jesus identified himself as this stone which the authorities, after examination, rejected.
He is the stumbling stone. In the eighth chapter of Isaiah we see how the unbelieving people of Israel refused to listen to Isaiah. They rejected God's word and claimed Isaiah and his fellow believers were in a conspiracy when they talked about trusting in God who would help them. To them, Isaiah and the others were just a minority group which offered a divergent view to the popular solution of making political alliances.
But God spoke through Isaiah: "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it." You see, Isaiah, the minority and those who believe in the gospel are given this great promise: You don't have to fear what unbelievers fear and dread. "The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy; he is the one you are to fear. . . " Remember the hymn, "Amazing Grace"? One verse says, "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. . . " When we fear God, all other fears are relieved. So Isaiah continues, "The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary. . ." meaning a refuge, a hiding place, a shelter for Isaiah and those who believe his message "but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." You see, God becomes a Savior and a fear-reliever for those who trust in him, but that same God causes unbelievers to stumble and fall. And Isaiah is not finished: "And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare," because they refused to believe what Isaiah was preaching. "Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken," and this is what Jesus Christ himself spoke about when he said those who fall on him will be broken. And finally Isaiah says, "they will be snared and captured." To those who reject the gospel and Jesus Christ after examination, this stone becomes a trap, a snare and a stone that causes them to stumble, fall, and be broken in this life and in the life to come.
He is the immovable stone. In Zechariah 12 we read, "This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: 'I am going to make Jerusalem a cup. . . '" Jerusalem here stands for the believing remnant of God's people, "'that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.'" God becomes the Savior and Defender of the people of God who are related to him. He is seen here as a rock which is so massive that if anyone tries to move it, he will injure himself. This is the rejected stone, the stone that makes people stumble, fall, and be broken, but it also an immovable stone. When the enemies of God attempt to move it they will only injure themselves.
He is the supernatural stone. In Daniel 2 we read, "You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue--an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay." Now this is a description of the secular world governments that are rebellious against God. "While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands." It is a supernatural rock. "It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them."
This describes the end of history. Jesus Christ is the Lord of history and this is how he is going to deal with history. That is why I do not worry. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of history. And so, what did this rock do? It smashed the feet of the statue. "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:31-35). Here we see the judgment of God coming against all who would examine this stone and reject it. Even now they stumble and fall on him and are broken, but he is coming again to judge everyone who rejected Christ and his gospel. Here we are told of the utter destruction of all who will not believe in Jesus Christ.
He is the tested stone. In reference to Jesus Christ Peter quotes Isaiah 28:16: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone. . . ." meaning tested and approved by God. God said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." What further certification do we need? Heaven has declared that Jesus is tested and approved by the Father. He is a tested stone-- tested by the Father, tested by the world, and even tested by Satan. And unlike Adam, Jesus Christ passed the test. So to us who believe he is the tested stone, the approved stone, the stone that is fit for a sure foundation for our life.
He is the precious cornerstone. Peter said Jesus is a chosen, precious cornerstone for a sure foundation. Why is he precious? He is the eternal Son of God in whom dwells Deity in its fullness bodily, and his blood is precious for our salvation. No one else can be our substitute. This precious one hung on the cross in our place. He is God/man, the one without sin, separate from sinners, undefiled and holy. That is why to you who believe he is precious. He is the one who saves us.
He is the foundation stone. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our life. It is not Peter or any human idea or religion. Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matt. 7:24). What does this mean? Everything is sure and certain. Nothing in the world can shake a life that is built upon this foundation. He is the foundation stone to us who believe.
He is the saving stone. Isaiah 28:16 says this: "The one who trusts will never be dismayed."And Peter clearly says in 1 Peter 2:6, "The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame," meaning what? That one will be saved forever.
He is the living stone. Peter writes, "As you come to him, the living Stone. . ." (1 Pet. 2:4). We were dead human beings, but he is the living Stone who makes us alive. And after he makes us alive, he builds us onto this foundation in relationship with other living stones, and he continually nourishes that life with himself. Together we are growing into a spiritual house in which God dwells. Jesus said, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matt. 18:20). If God dwells with us by his Spirit, what more do we need? When we come together, we come together to meet with God.
God Is Building a Temple
In Old Testament times God told Moses to build a tabernacle according to the pattern shown to him. What was the purpose? That the presence of God would come and dwell on the top of the mercy seat. When Solomon built the more elaborate, beautiful temple, God's presence also came into the temple. After the temple was destroyed and after the exile, there was a small attempt to build another temple. In due time Jesus was brought to this temple which had been extended by Herod. There Simeon took Jesus in his arms and prayed, in essence, Now let me die, for I have seen the salvation of the Lord. Of course he was speaking about Jesus.
Later Jesus said that he himself is the temple. When he said in John 2:19, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days," he was speaking about himself. Here was the only person who ever lived who loved God so completely that God dwelt in him, without relation to any temple. And what did he mean by, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days"? On the third day he rose from the dead.
But Jesus also said in Matthew 16 that he would build his church. He is the foundation and the builder, and he is building a new temple with human beings. He is chosen and precious and in him we were chosen from the foundation of the world. Any time and every time an individual comes to trust in Christ, he or she is made alive and instantly brought into relationship with this foundation, Jesus Christ, and with other believers. And together we are all being built by God to become his temple in which he dwells.
Does God Dwell with Us?
In John 14 Jesus said that if anyone obeys his commands, that person loves him and he and his Father would come to such a person and make their home with him. What more could you want if you have God dwelling with you? Adam was expelled from paradise because of his sin, and from that point on no one can go to God except through sacrifice of Christ. But here, once again, paradise is restored and God dwells with his people.
That is all we want, isn't that true? If God dwells in us, he is not a dumb, mute idol housed in a place. He is the Lord, the Savior, the Healer, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is everything for us. In the home in which I was brought up, if there was any problem we only needed to report it to my father, and it would be handled by him. But, you see, my father could not handle all problems. Through Jesus Christ we have one who is God dwelling in the midst of us, and he handles all our problems. We must tell him our problems, have simple faith, and trust in him. His promises are sure and his threatenings are certain.
To Us Who Believe. . .
Praise God, we did not reject him! He is not a stone of stumbling for us or a stone that will judge, pulverize, and destroy us. In God's mercy and grace, he has become the tested, chosen, precious, foundation stone, saving stone, and living stone for us. I will build my church, he said, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.
Praise God for making us living stones! All of a sudden we have been brought into relationship with brothers and sisters from around the world and from various tribes and languages. There is no difference--Jew, Gentile, masters, slaves, men, women, black, white--all are loved by the Father from before the foundation of the world. We see a certain particular manifestation of this church all over the world, wherever there are people of God who praise and worship God.
Praise God for his eternal plan of building a temple with human beings in Jesus Christ! He has chosen us and made us part of this great, beautiful, supernatural edifice, and nothing and no one can destroy it. We are safe, immovable, secure and God dwells in us. May we praise God always for this eternal plan and high privilege he has given to us.
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Copyright © 1996, P. G. Mathew
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