A Spiritual Hoouse (com.), 1 Peter 2. 4-7

John B. D. Page, Harrow

Part 2 of 7 of the series Temple Teaching in the Epistles

Laying the Stones. A mason selects each stone carefully and lays it in its intended position. The principle applies to a "spiritual house" where each "living stone" has a place ordained by God, the divine Mason, and we should recognize that the Lord has placed us according to His plan and purpose. Solomon's Temple provides us with an illustration. In a subterranean quarry, "every stone of the temple'*, says David Baron, "(was) prepared and marked for the position it was to occupy in the building above". A similar placing of "living stones" in a "spiritual house" is the Lord's doing and accord­ing to His pleasure, which is brought out in I Corinthians 12. 18 (by changing the metaphor), where God has "set the 'living stones' every one of them in the 'spiritual house', as it hath pleased him"; thus the placing is not of man's choice but the Lord's.

Not Uniform. In masonry, there is nothing uniform about the stones when working to, say, an ashlar bond, for both large and small stones are needed, each having a distinct purpose and place to fulfil. Continuing with the changed metaphor in i Corinthians 12, this is brought out in verses 21 and 22. " 'One living stone' cannot say unto 'another living stone', I have no need of thee . . ., (and) those 'living stones' of the 'spiritual house', which seem to be 'small' (and of no import­ance) are necessary". Therefore, no "living stone", owing to its apparent inferiority compared with another, should be rejected by another, for the Lord chose it and placed it in the "spiritual house". "Living stones", which are seemingly unimportant, have a distinct function to fulfil. The unity and efficiency of a "spiritual house" depend upon all, not merely some, "living stones".

Unity. Much is said and written about church unity to-day, but it is ecumenical rather than spiritual in outlook, and it savours of the false church that is yet to arise, Rev. 17, and not the true Church now being built. Ecumenical unity, being the merger of several denominations at the sacrifice of doctrinal principles, is patent, but spiritual unity, which is organic amongst "living stones" through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, is latent. Spiritual unity is the first necessity in the building of a "spiritual house", for we all share a "common salvation", Jude 3. Then there is doctrinal unity, because we share "the common faith", Tit. 1.4, and this is not subscribing to a set of tenets but a common acceptance of Biblical doctrines.

Organic unity, which has a divine Source, cannot be broken, but doctrinal unity can be breached, resulting in dissensions and divisions. In order to avoid such disasters, somebody has wisely said concerning doctrines, "In essentials there should be unity, in interpretation there should be liberty; in non-essentials there should be charity".

Bonded Together. As a building is certainly not a heap of stones, so a "spiritual house" does not consist of a heap of "living stones"; rather there is a place for each "living stone"., as already noted. In a building, the stones are laid to a certain bond., of which there are several, and it means that the stones are kid to "break joint" and not to "make joint"; that is., the vertical joints between the stones are not continuous but broken by alternate courses,, which gives stability to a building. If the stones were laid to "make joint", there would be no bond, and a building would collapse. Therefore, the laying of stones to a recognized bond is essential for its strength, especi­ally in times of storm to withstand a battering from the elements.

In "an holy temple in the Lord", the living stones are "fitly framed together", Eph. 2. 21, which conveys the thought of being "joined harmoniously to one another", and that is a spiritual bond between one another. Where such bonding together is missing, there is a lack of stability in a local assembly and it may eventually collapse. In a "spiritual house", there is only one bond which is "the bond of peace", and it is linked closely to unity, for Paul exhorts, "endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace", Eph. 4. 3.

The Head Corner Stone. In a "spiritual house" built of "living stones", Christ is the Head Corner Stone, says Peter by quoting and applying Psalm 118. 22 to Him, "The stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner", 1 Pet. 2. 7. This reference to a chief corner stone is not an allusion to one at ground level but high up at eaves level. According to David Baron, the Psalmist alludes to an incident in the building of Solomon's Temple. "The tradition in reference to the Headstone of the corner is as follows: in planning and preparing the stones in the subterranean work­shop, one was marked to occupy this crowning position, but 'the builders', when they were actually putting the structure of the Temple together on Mount Moriah, and came to the point when the crowning stone should be put on, which should give the building the look of finish and completion, looked upon it, and regarding it as too insignificant for this place of honour, 'refused' or literally 'despised' it. They took up one stone after another which they thought more worthy of this commanding position, but they did not fit. At last, driven by necessity, or by divine interposition, they after all took up the stone with the mark on, and placed it there, and lo! it fitted beautifully, and they sang: 'The stone which the builders rejected is after all become the Headstone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes'." With such tradition as the background of verses 22 and 23 of Psalm 118, Peter was undoubtedly familiar. Several years, earner Peter, alluding to these verses in his defence before the Sanhedrim, said, "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner", Acts 4. 11. In this statement, Peter sets forth the humiliation of the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh and His present exaltation. In his first Epistle, Peter relates this truth to a "spiritual house" where Christ is, and must be, the Head Corner Stone, for He alone is worthy of the position and the authority of Headship. In a "spiritual house", Christ is the "head of the corner" and we are the "living stones"; thus "Christ is the head of the church, and... the church is subject unto Christ", Eph. 5. 23, 24. In an assembly, there is one Head and that is Christ. In all spheres of assembly life and work, the Lordship of Christ must be acknowledged and then blessing will ensue. Amongst overseers, whose responsibility is to edify but not to entertain the saints (see 1 Tim. 3. 2), there should be a recognition of Christ as the Head Overseer, and they should not function "as being lords over" an assembly because there is only one Lord and He is the "Lord of all". See 1 Pet. 5. 1-4; Acts 10. 36.