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First Peter chapter 2 verses 4 through 10. We're talking about spiritual privilege, what the Lord has granted to us by way of privilege because we are His children.
There was a university student who had a rather lofty view of his intellect. He said to a pastor on one occasion, he said, "I have decided that I do not believe in God."
"All right," the pastor replied. "Could you please describe for me the God you do not believe in."
And the student proceeded to sketch a rather strange and twisted caricature of an unfair God, not a God of goodness. And he portrayed the God that he didn't believe in. And the pastor turned to him and said, "Well, we're in the same boat. I don't believe in that God either." It's a wise response.
Who is the God that you believe in? And what is the character of the God that you believe in? Most people, I'm afraid, and even many Christians can have a warped view of God, seeing Him perhaps as less than good, less than kind, less than benevolent, looking at the general difficulty of life, the general circumstances of humanity, the conditions that plague our existence in this world, and assuming that God is less than good and kind and gracious and merciful. But, you see, that's because men look at physical things and not spiritual things. And anyone who sees with spiritual eyes can recognize that God is good and God is kind and gracious and merciful and benevolent. And that is the God in whom we believe. Not a caricature of some unkind, ungracious, unmerciful, overbearing deity. But the God in whom we believe is the God of whom the psalmist said, "The goodness of God endureth continually," Psalm 52:1. The psalmist affirmed that in all of life there is an overpowering sense of the goodness of God.
The people, however, who really experience that goodness of God are those who are His children. The others, in choosing to reject God, choose to reject His goodness. But those of us who by grace have come to believe in God through Christ understand that He is good. God, in fact, in Himself is an infinite and an inexhaustible treasure of all blessedness, enough to fill all things. For example, the goodness of God, the benevolence of God, the kindness of God is seen in creation. I mean, just look at the vastness of creation and see in it the goodness of God, the beauty, the variety, the intricate design of the created order. And I think about the vast variety of natural pleasure that shows how good God is. You realize, don't you, that God could have created a brown world filled with ugly people who all looked alike and ate dirt. It could have been that way. But God is good and He has filled days and hours with wondrous beauty.
The goodness of God is also seen in the fact that when man transgressed God's law initially and when man blighted God's created pleasures and skewed them, God did not dispense unmixed wrath at once and wipe him out of the earth. God tempered His judgment even on the ungodly with mercy and in fact He allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. In fact, more unjust people saw the beauty of the sunset tonight than did just people. Mercy rejoices against judgment, says James 2:13. And God gives happiness to man along with the sorrow that sin produces.
But most of all the goodness of God is seen in redemption. The goodness of God beyond creation, beyond benevolence as falls upon all mankind, the goodness of God is most clearly seen in redemption and experienced by those who have received the gift of eternal life. We above all creation know the goodness of God. We know how good God is. Particularly Peter wants us to focus here on the goodness of God as expressed in spiritual privileges. God's goodness comes to us in this text, 1 Peter 2:4 to 10, through a series of ten great privileges that are granted to us. They are all of grace. We do not deserve them. We do not deserve them now as Christians anymore than we deserved them before we became Christians. We could not earn them then, we cannot earn them now. They are gifts of grace from a good God who is the Father of lights from whom comes every good and perfect gift, and in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
And so, as we come again to 1 Peter chapter 2, let us rejoice in the goodness of our God. Let's focus on the immensity of His goodness as demonstrated in spiritual privileges given in this text. May I remind you of the first two privileges to which we have given our attention now for several weeks?
Privilege number one is union with our Lord. Go to the text for a moment. Verse 4 says, "And coming to Him as to a living stone rejected by men but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Now first of all, do you remember what we saw? In coming to Him we come to a living stone. We went into that in detail. But then verse 5 says, "We also are living stones, joined together with Him to be built up a spiritual house." We talked about that one of the great privileges we have is union with the Lord. He is the cornerstone and we are built up as one spiritual house with Him. We have union with the living Christ. What a great truth.
Secondly, we not only have union with the Lord but we have access to the Lord, that because we are priests. Would you notice it in verse 5? We are a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. Only the priests had access in the Old Testament. We as priests have access to God. God has given us access. God has given us an open door. God has cried out for us to come into His presence. He has opened up the throne of grace to us. The writer of Hebrews says, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace."
So we have access as well as union with the Lord. And you went in detail with me into the privileges and all that is inherent in them. Let me bring you to a third one. And this is one that will thrill your heart, I know. We have security, security in our Lord. We have security in our Lord. That's the word I want you to land on. Peter turns the kaleidoscope again, this kaleidoscope of spiritual privilege, and all of the little, beautiful, colored stones of spiritual blessing rearrange themselves in another wonderful, wonderful panorama of beauty. And the rearranged privileges this time take the shape of security, or the confident conviction that we are secure in Jesus Christ forever. What a great goodness, what a privilege.
Look at verse 6. "For this is contained in Scripture, ‘Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.’" Now that's where we focus for the moment, right on verse 6. The key idea is not being disappointed, not being ashamed, not being disillusioned, not finding out that the one in whom we put our hope failed us. But notice how he gets into this point in a wonderful way. It says at the beginning of verse 6, "For this is contained in Scripture." Now here Peter, following on in this wonderful list of spiritual privileges, introduces a series of Old Testament texts. And he introduces them with that phrase, "This is contained in Scripture." It is significant that he doesn't say, "It is written," because they are not direct quotes. He is not specifically quoting the Scripture, he is merely referring to its truth and thus rather than saying, "It is written," he says, "This is contained in Scripture." Scripture is the writing of God. And he is referring to Old Testament passages.
And this is the first one to which he refers. "Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone." That is taken from Isaiah 28:16, Isaiah 28:16. The stone he has in mind is Christ. Christ, called in verse 4 a living stone, is here called the cornerstone. He is a living stone in the sense that He is the foundation of His spiritual house upon which we are built as living stones. He is a living stone in the sense that He is a risen-from-the-dead stone, and thus is alive. Now we find that He is not only the living stone foundation but He is the cornerstone, a very important truth. In fact that text of Isaiah 28:16 is also quoted by Paul in Romans 9:33. It was a very familiar and a very important Old Testament text. It spoke of the Messiah. It spoke of the coming Christ. And it promised that when the Christ came He would be the cornerstone to fashion the new temple of God, the new house of God.
The word "behold" calls our attention. It is God calling us to attention to view this stone. He says, "I lay it in Zion." In Isaiah, by the way, it refers to Jerusalem. Zion is the city of God also known as Jerusalem. Isaiah calls it Jerusalem, and here, as I said, Peter taking liberty to give the general thrust of the text uses the word "Zion." Both refer to the same, since Jerusalem is the city that Mount Zion occupies.
Figuratively, Zion is the realm of the New Covenant of grace. Sinai is the realm of the Old Covenant of law. And I think that's why Peter chooses to refer to Zion because he's emphasizing the new covenant.
Notice that he says, "This Christ...this stone that is laid in Zion is a choice stone." Choice means elect, the elect stone, chosen by God. Christ is elect, the chosen one of God. You might be interested to note that this would fit much into Jewish thinking. If you go back to 1 Kings, chapter 6 you find that when Solomon built the temple the temple was built from stones that were already prepared before they were brought to the site. This is a marvelous analogy. The stones were prepared and then brought to the site. Already having been shaped and cut and with a very careful diagram of how the temple was to be built, all the stones were marked with a number so that they would be put into the perfect place. And only minor adjustments would even need to be made to make them fit perfectly. All the stones were prepared first, then fitted together like parts of a puzzle.
And what a beautiful analogy it is of the fact that when the Lord set out to build the new temple of covenant people under the New Covenant, when He set out to build the spiritual house from cornerstone on up, all of them were elect. All of them were previously prepared for that destiny. All of them were made to fit together in a perfect pattern by the Spirit of God, who would be the builder and organize the stone according to their elect position.
But more than that, he also says, quoting Isaiah that Christ was not only an elect stone as well as a living stone from verse 4, but a precious cornerstone. “Precious,” an interesting word, that Greek word is used in Luke 7 and verse 2 to speak of the centurion's servant, you remember, who was sick and it says he was precious to his master. It means valuable, it means valuable. It means irreplaceable. So Christ was not only a stone elect but a stone irreplaceable.
Now may I note for you for that the most important stone in any building was the cornerstone? The cornerstone, and that's why He was so irreplaceable. The word can also mean costly. It basically means without equal. That's why I say irreplaceable is a good way to express it. But cornerstone is very, very important. The Greek word akrogōniaios means literally, at the extreme angle. That's what it means, at the extreme angle. And what that intends to say is that the cornerstone set all the angles. You lay down one stone at a corner and that sets, if it's a perfect right angle, all of the proper angles. All those angles are correct. Not only that, because it's a large stone it not only sets the horizontal lines but it sets the vertical lines as well. So all the angles of the building are kept in symmetry by that one cornerstone, against which all stones are laid. The right angle stone, every other stone being laid against it, is going to determine whether it is straight or not.
One of the curiosities in the construction of our new building is that they are building a building that wraps around our previous building and they have come to find out that when the laying of the bricks reach the top, it is significantly off in terms of a straight line. And they are now dealing with a dilemma of how to match up a straight building with a building that's off. Don't worry about it, you can still go upstairs. I don't want to start a riot here. But the idea is because somehow there was a deviation from the plumb line, things are off. And in the building of the household of God, the building of the temple that we know as the New Covenant church, the cornerstone had to be perfect and the perfect, elect, prepared cornerstone, living stone is none other than Jesus Christ, the stone that sets all angles so that the church will be perfect as the household of God.
It had to be perfect. That's why the builders had to examine it. Would you please notice the text again? "And he who believes in Him,” he who trusts in the perfection of that cornerstone “shall not be” what? “ashamed,” or disappointed. And one of our great privileges, beloved, mark it down in your heart, one of our great privileges as Christians is that we will never be disappointed in Christ, never.
John Mason Neale, writing in the nineteenth century, penned these words and you have sung them on numerous occasions, "Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and cornerstone, chosen of the Lord and precious, binding all the church in one, holy Zion's help forever and her confidence alone." That is literally a poetic summary of this verse. He is our confidence because as the perfect cornerstone He binds the church together in perfection and we will never be ashamed. The word "disappointment" or "disappointed" has the idea of being deceived in some confidence, putting some hope in someone and having that hope disappointed. We will never be disappointed. We will never be ashamed. For the Lord Jesus Christ will never let us down. He will never disappoint us. He will never fail to come through, fail to provide, fail to fulfill all His good promise.
Listen to Isaiah 50 and verse 7, "For the Lord God helps me," said the prophet, "therefore I am not disgraced, therefore I have set my face like flint and I know that I shall not be ashamed." That's the confidence of one who believes in the true God.
Listen to Isaiah 54. Let me read you the first few verses. "Shout for joy, oh barren one, you who have born no child, break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed, for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman, says the Lord. Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out the curtains of your dwelling, spare not, lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs for you will spread abroad to the right and to the left and your descendants will possess nations and they will resettle the desolate cities." This, of course, is the promise of the kingdom to Israel. "Fear not," says verse 4, "for you will not be put to shame, neither feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced.” You will not be disgraced. Why? "For your husband is your maker whose name is the Lord of hosts and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel who is called the God of all the earth. For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid my face from you for a moment but with everlasting loving-kindness I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer." Verse 10: "My loving-kindness will not be removed from you."
You will never be disappointed in the Lord. Paul really gives us the very same thought, doesn't he, in that wonderful 8th chapter of Romans. “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And then this, "Whom He predestined He also called, whom He called He also justified, whom He justified, these He also glorified." You say, "You sure we'll all be glorified? You sure we won't be disappointed?" And to that Paul replies, "If God be for us” what? “who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Not death, not life, not angels, not principalities, not things present, not things to come, not powers, not height, not depth, not any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ," not anything. We will never be ashamed, never.
In the text of Isaiah 28:16 from which Peter draws this, Isaiah, as I mentioned a moment ago, words it a little bit differently. It's basically the same idea and as I said, it is definitely the place from which Peter has drawn his words. But Isaiah says it in a bit of a different way. Listen to what he says. "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed." Or literally, you know what the Hebrew says, "will not be in a hurry."
What do you mean? Here's what he means. Will not be in a hurry to run away out of fear because his God has failed him; that's the idea. You'll never be confused. You'll never be ashamed. You'll never be disappointed. And you'll never have to run in fear because your God has disappointed you.
Someone has well said, "Often on the rock I tremble, faint of heart and weak of knee, but the mighty Rock of Ages never trembles under me." That's the promise. Never; we will never be disappointed.
What are our privileges? Union with Christ, access to Christ, security in Christ. Can we turn the kaleidoscope one more turn and give you a fourth marvelous spiritual privilege? Let's call it affection for our Lord. Union with our Lord, access to our Lord, and then that wonderful thought of security in our Lord, now affection for our Lord. Would you look at verse 7? I'm going to read it to you in the NAS and then I'm going to tell you what the best understanding of the Greek is. "This precious value then is for you who believe, but for those who disbelieve the stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for they stumble because they are” disappointed...rather because they are “disobedient to the Word and to this doom they were also appointed."
Now here you have Peter continuing to quote Old Testament passages. And now he moves to a contrast. Still on the motif of the stone he then brings up this passage regarding the stone which the builders rejected which became the cornerstone, and also a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. He starts out by saying, "This precious value," that is the value of Christ as a precious, living, chosen cornerstone, belongs to those who believe. What he's saying is, if you believe He's precious, if you believe He's precious. And so we say then that this privilege is affection for Christ.
I believe that one of the great privileges we have is that the love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts. That encompasses our love for Him. I like to translate it this way, "To you who believe He is precious." And that's... That's a fair way to translate it from the Greek. "To you who believe He is precious." Not only precious cornerstone to God but precious to us. This preciousness is felt only by believers. That's what he says. This preciousness is for you who believe. For those who disbelieve they don't see Him as precious, they don't have any affection for Him. They reject. For them He's a stone of stumbling, He's a rock of offense. There's nothing precious about Christ. But to us He is beloved, to us He is honored, to us He is esteemed, to us He is precious, priceless, prized above everything. And if you say there is anything in your life more precious than Jesus Christ, you can't be a Christian. He is the most precious.
And may I suggest to you right here at this point that we have here what I believe to be the bottom line characteristic of a true Christian? And I have mentioned this to you in previous messages and here's the text I've mentioned. If you want to find out if a person is a true Christian, it starts here. To you who believe Christ is what? Precious. A true Christian will be marked by an affection for Jesus Christ. He loves Christ. That is a privilege given to him, to enjoy that love, to exhilarate in that love, to rejoice in that love, to abound in that love. That is a privilege. It is characteristic of every true Christian to have a great affection for Jesus Christ. He becomes precious.
Listen to what He said in John 8:42, "If God were your Father," in other words, if you were truly a child of God, "you would love Me." That's the bottom line. That is the bottom line. The way you identify a Christian is not have they made a past decision, but do they have a love for Christ. If you were of My Father you would love Me. That's basic. In John's gospel chapter 14 from verse 15 on, "If you love Me you'll keep My commandments." And then verse 21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father and I will love him." You see, being a Christian is all about loving God, loving Christ and obeying Him.
Verse 23, "If anyone loves Me he'll keep My Word and My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him." Then verse 24, "He who does not love Me does not keep My words." And you can see there salvation, obedience, and love all the same. You can speak of a person as a Christian because they believe in Christ. You can speak of a person as a Christian because they as a characteristic of life obey Christ. Or you can speak of a person as a Christian because they love Christ. That's basic, loving Christ.
In the 16th chapter, almost as if John wants to echo His words, and verse 27 he says, "For the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed." Believing in Christ and loving Christ go together. They are inseparable.
Backing out of the gospel of John to a familiar text in Matthew chapter 10, the great section on discipleship, looking at verse 37 Jesus said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." And again I remind you that it is basic to salvation to have a surpassing love for Jesus Christ, a surpassing love for Jesus Christ, a compelling love for Jesus Christ. Paul says it in 2 Corinthians 5, "The love of Christ constrains me."
And how does that love show up? In obedience, in obedience. Believing means loving means obeying. But, look back at our text, "But for those who disbelieve,” for those who don't count Christ precious the opposite is not believing and for them this is no precious stone, this is the stone which the builders rejected, “the stone which the builders rejected, which has become the very cornerstone." Here he pictures the world looking at the cornerstone saying, "Nah, we don't believe the alignment is right, this isn't the stone we want, get rid of this stone," throwing it on the trash pile. And here Peter quotes Psalm 118 verse 22. That's the Old Testament text he quotes here. The word "rejected" means disallowed after close examination. They examined Christ, they looked at Him, the Pharisees, the religious rulers, and they said, "Nah, we don't want Him. He's not the stone we want."
And, you know, when you think about it, the whole story has...it's almost like a story with a surprise ending. Here's the way it goes. The Jews, the religious Jews, set out to build a kingdom to God. Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, elders, scribes, and they're searching and searching and waiting for the cornerstone to show up, praying for the Messiah. Every Jewish mother hoping she'll bear the Messiah. Centuries go by as they wait and they wait. And following the closing of the Old Testament era, 400 years, no prophet, and their hearts are longing for the Messiah and they're longing to see who it is. Then John the Baptist comes along and says the Messiah is near, the kingdom is near. And so they're in a mood to examine and see whether the cornerstone is come. And finally one comes and His name is Jesus Christ. And He's offering Himself as the cornerstone on which to build the temple of God, the church. And so their religious leaders examine Him, they scrutinize Him and they question Him. The Sadducees questioned Him, and the Pharisees questioned Him and the chief priests questioned Him and the scribes questioned Him and the elders questioned Him. And they examined Him. And they picked Him up and turned Him over and measured Him. And when they were all done they threw Him out and said that's not the stone we want. He doesn't fit. He's not the kind of Messiah we want. We want a political, earthly, military benefactor. And they threw Him away. And they're still doing it today. They're still saying that's not the ruler we want.
To the people of Israel, to the leaders of Israel, He was worthless. You can't use a cornerstone that isn't straight, that isn't right. But they were wrong. And to God and to us He is choice, precious and we who believe in Him will never be what? Disappointed. But this preciousness is only for those who believe. The rest who disbelieve, no, He's a stone which the builders rejected and it was prophesied in Psalm 118:22 that they would reject Him and they did. But it was the very stone that they rejected that became the cornerstone.
And it didn't end there, look at verse 8. He also became not just a cornerstone, now Peter changes his metaphor a little and says, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. And this is quoted from Isaiah 8:14 and 15 and he's drawing on that rich knowledge of the Old Testament. In Isaiah 8:14 and 15 you have the Messiah presented as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. What does that speak of? What does that refer to? Judgment, He makes men fall. He makes them stumble. A stone of stumbling would be a stone that makes men fall as they move in the road, a rock of offense is a cliff that literally men are crushed against. So you have men walking down the road and it's as if they fall over the stumbling stone and are crushed against the cliff. Lenski says, it should read, “A stone of stumbling and a rock that knocks their brains out."
And that stone, isn't it interesting, that stone which was the cornerstone they threw it away and they wound up stumbling over it and being crushed by it. Peter turns from lithos, the small stone, to petra, the massive rock against which men who disbelieve are finally crushed. Christ is that crushing stone.
Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 20 verse 18, "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls it will scatter him like dust,” or literally grind him to powder. And why does this happen? Verse 8 says, "They stumble because they are disobedient to the Word." What Word? The gospel, they're disobedient to the gospel. Unbelief and disobedience reflect the same unsaved state. Faith or believing and obedience reflect the same saved condition. One writer says, "Christ is the great unavoidable. You will come to the Rock. You either come to Him as an elect, precious cornerstone or you come to Him as a stumbling stone and a crushing rock of offense." He is either the cornerstone or the petra skandalon, the barrier rock against which men are crushed. And why does He become a rock of judgment? Because men reject the Word, they don't obey the Word. What is the Word? The gospel message. "And to this doom they were also appointed." They got exactly what their choice demanded.
May I mention that their disobedience is not destined. Their unbelief is not destined or appointed. Their doom is appointed because of their unbelief. The penalty for their sin is appointed because of unbelief.
What did we say this point was? We have affection for Christ. What a privilege. There is a world of people and there has been since the time when Christ first came that reject Him. For them He is an unacceptable stone. He will not be the cornerstone in the religious temple they will build. They throw Him aside and they will stumble over Him and be crushed to powder by Him in judgment. Why? Because they were disobedient to the gospel. And out of their disobedience comes their appointed destiny of doom. But us, by God's goodness and His grace, Christ is no stone of stumbling to us, He is no rock of offense to us, He is a precious, precious, living cornerstone. And we love Him. And He is precious to those who believe.
What God do you believe in? Do you believe in the good God, the God of the Bible? The God who gives to His undeserving people these privileges, union with Christ, access to Christ, security in Christ, and affection for Christ? And, beloved, that's not even half the list. The kaleidoscope will turn six more times before we are filled up with the spiritual privileges that come from the goodness of our great God. Let's bow together in prayer.
Father, we thank You tonight for this wonderful time together. What a wonderful evening it's been, what a blessed time. How rich we are. Oh what You've done for us in our unworthiness. Thank You for the privileges. And, Lord, even as we think about the privileges, privilege of security in You, we think about the fact that we'll never be disappointed and we'll never be ashamed and we say to ourselves, we wish You could say the same about us, for we must disappoint You so often. We shame You so often. Forgive us. You have every right to be ashamed of us and You aren't. We have no right to be ashamed of You and we are. We have no right to be disappointed in You and yet sometimes we are, so wrong. You have every reason to look at us and set us aside and say, unworthy. But You never do and thus You never disappoint us. We're so secure in You.
And then to know that You have allowed us to love You, to feel the exhilarating joy of that affection. Thank You for that privilege, filling our hearts with that surpassing love that makes life rich even when there's no one humanly around us, we can bask in the love we have for You.