STUDIES IN FIRST PETER
"2:6Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." (1 Pet 2:6-8)
He must never allow ourselves to lose an acute sense of the absolute centrality of Christ. He, and He alone, is the point at which our present acceptance and destiny are determined. God will not receive a person or a church that has relegated His only begotten Son into the background of their thinking and purpose. As simplistic as that may appear, it has remarkable ramifications. A considerable percentage of activity called "Christian" has little place for the Lord Jesus. His presence, Word, and power are rarely sought, being supplanted by an institutional emphasis. This is all the work of our enemy, the devil. He had flooded the contemporary church with the distractions of religious success, appearance, and career-thinking. But Christ remains the Head of the corner. Those who reject Him in that capacity, choosing to establish their own priorities, will stumble, falling upon the "Stone of stumbling," and finally being rejected by the God who sent Him.
THE ONE WHO WILL NEVER BE PUT TO SHAME
" Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded."KJV The Holy Spirit always sends us to the Scripture, anchoring our faith in Divine utterance. In the Kingdom of God, the ultimate proof of a matter is not human logic, visible evidence, or popularity with the people. It is always God's Word-what has He said on the subject. And, if God has said nothing concerning the matter, it is unlawful for it to be the primary focus of our thought. This is a principle of God's Kingdom, and is to be embraced.
Now the Spirit will confirm the truth stated in verses four and five. He will justify the choice of Jesus as the Foundation for life, as well as our total dependency upon Him. He will also confirm why our sacrifices are accepted of God "by Jesus Christ."
The word "contained" is an unusually strong word. Most of the Standard versions are consistent in using this word. The RSV reads, "it stands in Scripture," and the NIV reads "in Scripture it says." But this means more than saying it is in the Bible-although it surely is. The emphasis of the expression is not what is contained, but what does the containing. It is as though the Spirit said, The Scripture is wrapped around this truth. Isaiah was used to provide the actual statement (Isa 28:16), but all of Scripture supports, and is about, this reality. God Himself placed His Son in Zion-where He works, and where He has placed His name-in these capacities. (1) The One through Whom every aspect of God's working is determined: "Chief Corner Stone." (2) God appointed Jesus to this saving ministry, and He has no relevance for men apart from salvation: "Elect." (3) All Kingdom values find their apex in the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone brings value and worth to every facet of spiritual life: "Precious." No word of Scripture has been written without regard to the Son of God, Savior of the world. It is all wrapped around Him, testifying of Him (John 5:39).
The positioning of the "Chief Corner Stone" was itself evidence of God's Sovereignty. The devil sought to thwart the laying of this Stone, and provoked men to do their best to stop it also. Thus it is written, "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break Their bands asunder, and cast away Their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon My holy hill of Zion" (Psa 2:2-6). The placement of the "Corner Stone" occurred when Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God (Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:3; 1 Pet 3:22).
Because Jesus is the "elect," nothing done independently of Him, or in disassociation from Him, will be recognized by God. God has chosen Him, and will receive no one who fails to choose Him also. Because of the effectiveness of His ministry toward believers, He is "precious," for in Him our hopes are brought to fruition, and our deepest desires satisfied. He is "precious," held in honor and prized most highly, to us, because that is how the Father regards Him. In a very real sense, what God thinks of Jesus is the very root of our acceptance. When we regard Jesus in the same manner as God, He fully receives us. That regard for Jesus is summarized in a single word: "believes." We receive Jesus as God has presented Him, and have cast the weight of our soul and destiny upon Him.
Here we have one of the great promises of God: "he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." "Confounded" means "put to shame,"NIV or "disappointed."NASB It means the person who believes on Christ will never be disgraced because of that faith. Such a person will never be made to blush for his unwavering faith in the Chief Corner Stone. Jesus is everything God has declared Him to be, and those who rely upon Him will find that to be true. The believer will never find a single aspect of life that is not supported by the Lord Jesus. There is not a single facet of our being that does not find its ultimate goal in the Son of God. There are no exaggerations about His accomplishments or the value and effectiveness of them. No statement concerning Him is merely rhetorical or metaphorical. The faith that is bold enough to fully embrace Christ, abandoning the poverty of this world and its wisdom, will never be proved wrong, or be dissatisfied.
THE DIFFERENCE IS FOUND IN BELIEVING
"7Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the Stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the Head of the corner, 8And a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word."KJV The most significant difference in people is not found in their works, but in their faith. To be sure, believers are different from the world in their manner of life. That is why their "light" can shine among men. They express themselves differently from the world. Yet, the root of all of their distinctiveness is their faith. Believing is the cause of an acceptable life! Apart from faith, it is not possible to please God, or to live for Him.
The Spirit now articulates the first and foremost effect of believing: it makes Jesus "precious" to us. He is "the pearl of great price" (Matt 13:46), and the "bright and Morning Star" (Rev 22:16). When it comes to nourishment, He is the "Bread" than came down from heaven, giving life to the world (John 6:35,41). The insatiable thirst of the human spirit is satisfied alone in Him (John 4:14; 6:35). To us, Jesus is most highly esteemed and honored. We are willing to give up anything but Him, and declare war on anything that threatens our possession of Him. "He is precious!" As Isaiah said, He is "a beautiful crown and a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people" (Isa 28:5).
But why has this preciousness occurred? What has caused the people of God to regard Jesus so highly? It is their faith: it is because they have believed the record God has given of His Son (1 John 5:10-11). When they believed, the Father turned His face toward them, and opened the greatness of His Son to them. It is in this manner-by beholding, or believing in, the Son-that the Father draws us to Him (John 6:44). Note, the Spirit does not say Jesus OUGHT to be precious to those who believe, but that He IS precious to them. Their faith has made Him precious-indispensable, and worthy of aggressive pursuit.
Believing in Jesus has brought God's view of the Son to us. It has brought us into harmony with heaven, so that we regard Jesus in the same manner, though not as fully, as our Father. God will do nothing toward us without the Son. The believer, obtaining the same mind, will also offer nothing to God apart from the Son.
Humanity is ultimately divided into two classes: believers and unbelievers, those who accept the Chief Corner Stone, and those who do not. Here those who fail to believe are referred to as "them which be disobedient." This is so because the consummate disobedience is failing to believe in, and rely totally upon, the Son of God. Those who fail to believe on Christ have done precisely the same thing as "the builders"-the Jewish leaders. They have emphatically rejected Jesus as God has presented Him. God has said His Son is indispensable, and unbelievers have said that He is not. God has said men cannot be received apart from His Son, and unbelievers have dogmatically rejected that fact.
Although Jesus has been placed as a Chief Corner Stone and sure Foundation, He is also a "Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence." The NIV reads, "A Stone that causes men to stumble and a Rock that makes them fall." Men will be led to glory because they have received Jesus as their "all in all," or they will fall into hell because they have rejected Him in that capacity. Jesus will NOT take second place, for God has already exalted Him "above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Eph 1:21). Flesh is willing to make some place for Jesus, but not the preeminent place. Thus it constrains unbelievers to stumble over Jesus to their own destruction, rather than rely completely upon Him.
Only the preaching of Jesus will reveal the hearts of men. As long as men preach a social gospel, or a message that centers upon humanly perceived needs, the truth will not be known of men. But when the Son of God is preached in power, those who are approved of God, and those who are not, will be revealed. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Sure Foundation and the Stone of stumbling-the means through which the destiny of all men is determined. He is the appointed basis of all God's dealing with men.
THOSE APPOINTED TO DESTRUCTION
" . . . being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."KJV The strength of this expression is apparent. Those stumbling over the Lord Jesus instead of building upon Him are "being disobedient." Such have heard the message, yet have chosen NOT to believe it. That is easy enough to perceive. It is the next statement that summons us to a higher plateau of reasoning: "to which they also were appointedNKJV . . . and to this doom they were also appointedNASB . . . which is also what they were destined forNIV . . . as they were destined to doNRSV." However you choose to read this verse, it will prove to be challenging.
There are some Divine utterances that are especially destructive of humanly devised systems of thought. This is one of them. Here is a human response-"disobedient"-that is associated with an appointment. This cannot be an appointment made by men, for they are not capable of making such determinations. Nor, indeed, is it a determination of Satan, for he has not been granted such power. This is a Divine appointment-one that occurred BEFORE the deed of reference (disobedient) took place.
That such appointments are possible is confirmed in Scripture. Pharaoh: "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth" (Ex 9:16; Rom 9:17). Some False Prophets: "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation"NKJV (Jude 4). Judas: "Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place"NKJV (Acts 1:25). It is evident that these texts, and the one we are considering, do not handily fit into lifeless patterns of theological thought. They do, however, confirm that nothing is by chance in the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. They also attest that the Lord rules over all.
The chief difficulty in this text is the possibility that men are consigned to an eternal state, glory or perdition, against their will. But nothing in our text hints at the possibility of such a thing. Further, this cannot refer to God merely knowing ahead of time that these people would "stumble," being "disobedient," for that response is associated with God's appointment. Admittedly, this is a lofty view, and care must be taken not to diffuse its power by placing it into the container of human opinion.
The thrust of this passage hinges upon believing, or receiving the Son in precisely the capacity in which the Gospel presents Him. I understand the determination of God to, in this text, be based upon that premise. This by no means exhausts the "determinate counsel" of God, but does present one of its key perspectives. The reasoning of the verses that follow, in my judgment, justifies the view I will here briefly develop.
God has determined the stability or the stumbling of every individual upon the basis of their response to the message of His Son. Those who receive Him as the Sure Foundation and Corner Stone are appointed to obtain salvation, stability, and eternal life (1 Thess 5:9). Those who do not believe are appointed to disobedience and ultimate destruction. I am certain that this only touches the hem of the garment, but feel it to be the thrust of this text. There is such a thing as being "ordained to eternal life"(Acts 13:48), and being "chosen" before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). But all such appointments are always represented as contingent upon Christ Jesus.
Seen correctly, this does not diffuse the strength of this text. Those who imagine they can be a Christian, gain acceptance with God, and receive blessing from Him, independently of the Foundation of Christ are deluded. They have stumbled over the Stumbling Stone, been offended by the Rock, and are disobedient. By ignoring the appointed Foundation, they have come into an area of Divine determination, shutting themselves up to disobedience. In my judgment, this accounts for the dreadful condition of most churches. They have, in fact, rejected the foundation of God. They are building on another foundation, imagining their work to be good and acceptable.
Over and above all of this, we will no doubt find in the end that their unbelief and blindness of heart were actually a judgment from God, just as it was with Israel (Isa 29:10; Rom 11:8). Woe to the individual who dares to ignore the Lord Jesus, or fail to build upon Him! Such are tempting God, and, in that state, there is no way to escape His judgment.