Friday, January 22, 2010

Honored by God or Destined to Fall?

Writing to new believers, exiles experiencing persecution and rejection because of their faith in Jesus the Messiah, Peter offers this encouragement:
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. (1 Peter 2:4-8)
Peter speaks of Jesus as a living stone, one rejected by men, but chosen and honored by God (the Greek word for “precious” means to be highly valued and esteemed). Then he goes further and speaks of believers as living stones. Jesus is the chief foundation stone God has laid for a spiritual house and we, as living stones, are together being built up as that house. We are also a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices in that spiritual house. Just as the Lord Jesus is accepted and established by God, we, too, are accepted by God in Him.

Quoting from Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation,” Peter highlights the connection between Jesus and those who believe in Him: “He who believes in Him will by no means be put to shame.” Those who believe in Messiah, though they be rejected by men, are accepted by God. They will not be put to shame but will be honored by Him. The NKJV has “To you who believe, He is precious.” However, the words “He is” are italicized to indicate that they do not have an actual basis in the text but are supplied by the translator. The ESV offers a better translation: “So the honor is for you who believe.” (This is supported by the HCSB, NASB, Young’s Literal Translation, Weymouth’s New Testament and other versions; also by Robertson’s Word Pictures, Vincent’s Word Studies and other expository works.)

Peter draws a sharp contrast between those who believe in the Messiah and those who are disobedient, that is, those who refuse to believe. Though Jesus is rejected by some, it does not change the truth about who He is. He remains the chief cornerstone, chosen and honored by God. But to those who refuse Him, He becomes a stone over which they stumble and fall.

At this point, Peter brings out Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” This is an important theme for him. When he was hauled before the Sanhedrin to explain himself — “By what power or by what name have you done this?” — Peter identified the power and name of Jesus the Messiah, and alluded to this verse very pointedly:
This is the “stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:11)
Jesus used this same passage to identify Himself in the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17), in which they expelled the King’s son from the vineyard and killed him. Jesus asked, “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees, recognizing themselves in that parable protested, “Certainly not!” Then Jesus looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Luke 20:15-18).

Peter adds in another Scripture, a line from Isaiah 8:14. The stone which the builders rejected, which turned out to be the chief cornerstone, has become “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” To those who reject Jesus the Messiah, the rock that should have been a sure foundation for them has become and a judgment. “They stumble,” Peter says, “being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” There is only one chief cornerstone, and God knew all along that some would reject Him. Those who do are destined to stumble and fall.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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