In the previous article we considered three of Peter’s uses of the word precious – the trial of your faith, the blood of Christ, and Christ – the Living Stone. In this article we now look at two more.
CHRIST – THE CORNERSTONE
1 Peter 2. 6 is a quotation from Isaiah 28. 16, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation’; God Himself laid this stone and men are to pay attention to behold it, for this stone is Christ. Its locality is Sion, signifying the new covenant of grace, as against Sinai, representing the old covenant of law. It (He) was chosen in the mind and purposes of God before creation, and is thus precious, held in great honour and valuable beyond all comparison.
The cornerstone of an edifice is that large stone placed at the foundational corner, uniting two walls together, from which all the measurements for the rest of the building are taken. It symbolises the whole foundation on which the structure rests. Christ unites the old and new covenants in Himself; He brings into union Jew and Gentile. In Him, ‘mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed’, Ps. 85. 10.
All believers are now being ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building … grows into a holy temple in the Lord’, Eph. 2. 20-22. As we perceive His role in relation to the church, we surely acclaim Him as precious – the One who is honourable and worthy to receive all our praise and thanksgiving. So we sing:
Jesus is worthy to receive honour and power divine;
And blessings more than we can give,
Be, Lord, for ever Thine!
Now we come to 1 Peter. 2. 7 which reads, ‘Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious (lit. the preciousness). Here we have the superlative. Christ is not just precious, nor is He just more precious than other things and other people, but He is the most precious One to all true believers. We cannot conceive of anything or anyone more honourable or worthy to be esteemed – for there is nothing and no one to be compared with Him! With all our hearts we confess:
Fairest of all the earth beside,
Chiefest of all unto Thy bride,
Fullness divine in Thee I see,
beautiful Man of Calvary!
MANIE P. FERGUSON
Well might we borrow the language of Solomon as we glory in the expression that He is ‘the Chief among ten thousand. Yes, He is altogether lovely’, S of S. 5. 10, 16.
There is no neutrality, or can be, concerning Him. People either believe, and to them He is precious, v. 7, or they reject, and to that group He becomes a ‘stone of stumbling and a rock of offence’, v. 8. The rejecters stumble over the stone of unbelief on the pathway of life, as being blind, unable to see the truth of God’s word. It is a cunning work by the ‘god of this age’, who thus seeks to hinder God’s work in the human heart, 2 Cor. 4. 4. The guiding principle of these unbelievers is ‘seeing is believing’, but the Lord says, ‘if you would believe you would see the glory of God,’ John 11. 40, and ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’, John 20. 29.
To those who reject Him
If, during their lifetime, unbelievers find Christ a ‘stone of stumbling’ then, in the ultimate, they will find Him a ‘rock of offence’ – the great unavoidable One, the barrier rock at the end of life’s journey. There will be no escaping Him as the Judge at the great white throne. How solemn and significant then is the declaration, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation’, Heb. 2. 3. Though God does not desire that any should perish, He has established an appointment and a destiny for those who deliberately choose to be ungodly and this appointment is eternal perdition.
To those who receive Him
In marked contrast, believers are a ‘chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people’, v. 9; ‘a people for God’s own possession’ RV. Adam was created as the federal head of a race known as humankind. Christ is the federal head of a new chosen race, known as saints, believers, or Christians, composed of all those who have been born again.
These have become in Him ‘a royal priesthood’. The Old Testament priesthood had failed and forfeited its rights to priestly service, and is now defunct. We, under the covenant of grace, have the privilege of being a holy and royal priesthood to offer worthy spiritual sacrifices in the immediate presence of a holy God, then to move out in authoritative divine service to people in the world.
We are now ‘a holy nation’ – separated from sin and separated to God. This people has no special clothing, language or titles to mark them out as belonging to God; those things were left behind with the old covenant.
As none before us, we have become ‘God’s own possession’. We belong to Him in a unique way, we are His special possession, purchased at the all-transcending cost of the precious blood of Christ, 1 Cor. 6. 19-20.
As such then, we have the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming the ‘praises of Him who called (us) out of darkness into His marvellous light’. It follows then that we should be as Philippians 2 puts it, shining, ‘like stars in the universe, as (we) hold out the word of life’, Phil. 2. 15-16, NIV.
(to be continued)