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The Rejected Stone
No other Name
In quoting the prophecy of the rejected stone, Peter referred to an actual occurrence in the history of Israel. The incident was connected with the building of the first temple. While it had a special application at the time of Christ's first advent, and should have appealed with special force to the Jews, it has also a lesson for us.
When the temple of Solomon was erected, the immense stones for the walls and the foundation were entirely prepared at the quarry. After they were brought to the place of building, not an instrument was to be used upon them; the workmen had only to place them in position. For use in the foundation, one stone of unusual size and peculiar shape had been brought; but the workmen could find no place for it, and would not accept it. It was an annoyance to them as it lay unused in their way.
Long it remained a rejected stone.
But when the builders came to the laying of the corner, they searched for a long time to find a stone of sufficient size and strength, and of the proper shape, to take that particular place, and bear the great weight which would rest upon it. Should they make an unwise choice for this important place, the safety of the entire building would be endangered. They must find a stone capable of resisting the influence of the sun, of frost, and of tempest. Several stones had at different times been chosen, but under the pressure of immense weights they had crumbled to pieces. Others could not bear the test of the sudden atmospheric changes.
But at last attention was called to the stone so long rejected. It had been exposed to the air, to sun and storm, without revealing the slightest crack. The builders examined this stone. It had borne every test but one. If it could bear the test of severe pressure, they decided to accept it for the cornerstone. The trial was made. The stone was accepted, brought to its assigned position, and found to be an exact fit.
In prophetic vision, Isaiah was shown that this stone was a symbol of Christ. He wrote:
"Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He shall be for a Sanctuary; but for a Stone of stumbling and for a Rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin[trap] and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken."
Carried down in prophetic vision to the first advent, the prophet is shown that Christ is to bear trials and tests of which the treatment of the chief cornerstone in the temple of Solomon was symbolic.
"Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believes shall not make haste [or run about aimlessly]."
In infinite wisdom, God chose the foundation Stone, and laid it Himself. He called it "a sure foundation." The entire world may lay upon it their burdens and griefs; it can endure them all. With perfect safety they may build upon it. Christ is a "tried stone." Those who trust in Him, He never disappoints. He has borne every test. He has endured the pressure of Adam's guilt, and the guilt of his posterity, and has come off more than conqueror of the powers of evil. He has borne the burdens cast upon Him by every repenting sinner. In Christ the guilty heart has found relief. He is the sure foundation. All who make Him their dependence rest in perfect security.
The Rock of Offence
In Isaiah's prophecy, Christ is declared to be both a sure foundation and a stone of stumbling. The apostle Peter, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly shows to whom Christ is a foundation stone, and to whom a rock of offence:
1 Peter 2:3-8
"If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, you also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief Cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believes on Him shall not be confounded. To you therefore which believe He is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the Stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the Head of the corner, and a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient."
To those who believe, Christ is the sure foundation. These are they who fall upon the Rock and are broken. Submission to Christ and faith in Him are here represented. To fall upon the Rock and be broken is to give up our self-righteousness and to go to Christ with the humility of a child, repenting of our transgressions, and believing in His forgiving love. And so also it is by faith and obedience that we build on Christ as our foundation.
Upon this living stone, Jews and Gentiles alike may build. This is the only foundation upon which we may securely build. It is broad enough for all, and strong enough to sustain the weight and burden of the whole world. And by connection with Christ, the living Stone, all who build upon this foundation become living stones. Many persons are by their own endeavors hewn, polished, and beautified; but they cannot become "living stones," because they are not connected with Christ. Without this connection, no man or woman can be saved.
Without the life of Christ in us, we cannot withstand the storms of temptation.
Our eternal safety depends upon our building upon the sure foundation. Multitudes are today building upon foundations that have not been tested. When the rain falls, and the tempest rages, and the floods come, their house will fall, because it is not founded upon the eternal Rock, the chief cornerstone Christ Jesus.
Christ the Cornerstone
"To them which stumble at [reject] the word, being disobedient," Christ is a rock of offence. But "the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner." Like the rejected stone, Christ in His earthly mission had borne neglect and abuse. He was...
"despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: . . . He was despised, and we esteemed Him not."
But the time was near when He would be glorified. By the resurrection from the dead He would be declared "the Son of God with power." Romans 1:4. At His second coming He would be revealed as Lord of heaven and earth. Those who were now about to crucify Him would recognize His greatness. Before the universe the rejected stone would become the head of the corner.
And on "whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Matthew 21:44
The people who rejected Christ were soon to see their city and their nation destroyed. Their glory would be broken, and scattered as the dust before the wind. And what was it that destroyed the Jews? It was the Rock which, had they built upon it, would have been their security. It was the goodness of God despised, the righteousness spurned, the mercy slighted. Men set themselves in opposition to God, and all that would have been their salvation was turned to their destruction. All that God ordained unto life they found to be unto death. In the Jews' crucifixion of Christ was involved the destruction of Jerusalem. The blood shed upon Calvary was the weight that sank them to ruin for this world and for the world to come.
So it will be in the great final day, when judgment shall fall upon the rejecters of God's grace. Christ, their Rock of offence, will then appear to them as an avenging mountain. The glory of His countenance, which to the righteous is life, will be to the wicked a consuming fire. Because of love rejected, grace despised, the sinner will be destroyed.
The Rock of Salvation
"You . . . are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone."
Centuries before the Saviour's advent Moses had pointed to the Rock of Israel's salvation.
"... I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe you greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He."
The psalmist had sung of "the Rock of my strength." Psalm 62:7. Isaiah had written, "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation." Isaiah 28:16.
Peter himself, writing by inspiration, applies this prophecy to Jesus. He says,
1 Peter 2:3-5, RV.
"If you have tasted that the Lord is gracious: to Whom coming, a living Stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, you also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house."
1 Corinthians 3:11
[Paul wrote] "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
"Upon this Rock," said Jesus, "I will build My church."
In the presence of God, and all the heavenly intelligences, in the presence of the unseen army of hell, Christ founded His church upon the living Rock. That Rock is Himself - His own body, for us broken and bruised. Against the church built upon this foundation, the gates of hell shall not prevail.
How feeble the church appeared when Christ spoke these words! There was only a handful of believers, against whom all the power of demons and evil men would be directed; yet the followers of Christ were not to fear. Built upon the Rock of their strength, they could not be overthrown.
For six thousand years, faith has builded upon Christ. For six thousand years the floods and tempests of satanic wrath have beaten upon the Rock of our salvation; but it stands unmoved.
Peter had expressed the truth which is the foundation of the church's faith, and Jesus now honoured him as the representative of the whole body of believers. He said,
"I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
"The keys of the kingdom of heaven" are the words of Christ.
All the words of Holy Scripture are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God's word is a savour of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results.
The Saviour did not commit the work of the gospel to Peter individually.
The same in substance was spoken also to the twelve as representatives of the body of believers. If Jesus had delegated any special authority to one of the disciples above the others, we should not find them so often contending as to who should be the greatest. They would have submitted to the wish of their Master, and honoured the one whom He had chosen.
Instead of appointing one to be their head, Christ said to the disciples,
Matthew 23:8, 10
"Be not you called Rabbi; ... neither be you called masters: for One is your Master, even Christ."
1 Corinthians 11:3
"The Head of every man is Christ."
God, who put all things under the Saviour's feet, "gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all." Ephesians 1:22-23. The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. The Saviour declares, "All you are brethren." Matthew 23:8. All are exposed to temptation, and are liable to error. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. "Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm." Jeremiah 17:5.
The Lord "is the Rock, His work is perfect." Deuteronomy 32:4.
"Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him." Psalm 2:12.
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