This picture is one of my favorites from our trip to Charleston a few years ago. I was an Interior Design major in college and I spent a lot of time studying architecture and building structure. Because the exterior of a building is often an influencer of the interior, all the details of architecture help tell the story of a particular style or time period. The style of building is almost always taken into consideration when designing an interior, and to a design student like me, each aspect is to be considered and studied. You can imagine then, how I soaked up the abundant and rich architecture of Charleston, South Carolina!! It was completely overwhelming to walk down those old cobblestone roads from centuries past and to take in all the amazing architecture of the historic city. The moldings, the materials, the intricate carvings, the grand columns and sweeping porches of old plantation style homes; such beauty and so reminiscent of an era gone by. I don't know which building this is, I'm certain my Charleston-expert brother in law could tell you, but I love the majesty of it against that amazing blue sky. You can see the incredible detail and artistry with which it was built. Just by this shot, we can deduct that this building was built with intention, to reflect something grand. To make a statement in its' size and stature and impressive intricacies. If I had to guess, I'd guess this is some sort of government building.
The name I am writing about today, fits in beautifully with this building. In 1 Peter 2, we hear Peter refer to Jesus with a construction term, when he calls Him the living Stone, a precious and chosen cornerstone.
The term cornerstone means: a stone at the corner of a wall, uniting two intersecting walls; a stone placed at the corner of a building during a ceremony to mark the start of construction; a person or thing of prime importance; the basis or foundation.
A cornerstone is crucial in construction and as this name refers to Jesus Christ, we can also imply the same importance. Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith; He is the foundation upon which everything is built in Christianity and the One who both unifies and sustains, holding everything together. There is so much meaning packed into this one name of Jesus and as we look at some of that meaning, the question I want to pose to you of greatest importance is, "Who do YOU say He is?" What you think of Jesus and what you do with Him is critical. If He is the cornerstone as God's Word says He is, then to reject Him is to build your own thing on a foundation that is not eternal or solid. To accept Him as cornerstone is to rely on Him as the foundation of your faith and to find your place in the building of living stones that GOD is building. Let me unpack that a little bit...
"As you come to him, the living Stone- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone. and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone and
A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.
The stumble because they disobey the message- which is also what they were destined for.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 1 Peter 2:4-10
This is a rich passage written by Peter in a letter to the early Church. At the time Christians were being persecuted and suffering for their faith in Jesus. Both by the Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah and self-proclaimed Son of God, and by the Romans who were threatened by Jesus as a King. Those who believed in Jesus were facing opposition from every side and they were being scattered all over the region, being forced to flee out of fear for their lives. So Peter, as a disciple of Jesus and a leader in the Early Church, is writing to them to encourage them and also to remind them of truth so that they could stand strong in the face of all this persecution. He gave them comfort and hope and urged them to remember who Jesus is and to remain loyal to their faith in Him. That's the context for this beautiful name of Jesus and for the many significant truths from this passage.
Peter uses the imagery of a building to describe the Church and our role as believers, and also to make very clear who the foundation of the Church truly is.
-He tells us that believers (those who have been redeemed and saved by Jesus Christ alone, through faith alone) are like living stones. Every new believer is like a new stone that is laid in the master plan. We are likened to a building material, because that is exactly what God is doing with us. He is building His Church and each one of us has a place in that building. We were made to reflect the glory of God and when we come together in community, and like a building being built, the world can see the glory of our Lord and Savior in us. Just as we were created in His image, if we function as one body and stay focused on our role within the body, we display a beautiful picture of Christ to the world.
Think of the picture above. As it stands today, that building is a beautiful monument made of stones, each one in their proper place and staying true to the role for which it was created. And the end result?? A strong, sturdy, timeless display of craftsmanship and artistry. Now imagine if even one of those stones, had decided to go rogue. If a column decided, "I'm done bearing this much weight. I'm over it and I'm out of here", what would happen?? The roof would sag and eventually collapse without something to bear that weight. What about the stones that are pretty ordinary, but are wrapped around the middle of the building, one after another in a very uniform pattern. What if one of them decided to "flee the ship" so to speak and pulled itself out of the stack? Suddenly the interior of the building would be exposed, the structural integrity of the building compromised, and the beauty of the building marred because of the gaping hole now clearly seen. Just like a building needs each stone to be complete, we each have a role to play in the Church. When we do our part, the body functions as it was intended. We were made to be in community, to be built into the master blueprint of the Church. Because we serve a 3 in 1 God, and we were made to reflect the image of our God, all of His creation finds its' meaning and purpose in Him, including us. We can't reflect His image if we stand alone. A pile of stones says nothing of it's builder. But stones that come together and are laid with care, build something worth seeing.
-The second thing and most important truth that Peter lays out in this passage, is that Jesus is THE Living Stone and the Cornerstone. We have a role as believers in Him, but HE is the foundation of it all. HE is the one we are built around. HE is the one who brings it all together. Because that's what cornerstones do. That's why they exist and are named as such. God clearly intended to build around His Son. I heard this passage explained in this way:
"The Bible is not a collection of precepts and moral principles, or only a code to be followed. It's about JESUS. He is the definition of everything. The Cornerstone, the One through whom all things are made and by whom all things hold together. (Col. 1:15-18) Don't be too busy adhering to a code and miss Jesus, the person!"
In other words, as Christians we aren't all about rules, we're all about a relationship with a person. We are followers of Christ, not followers of a law. And it's not any person either, he is The LIVING stone. Because any religion or group can be centered around their own cornerstone. That's a common way to build. But what makes our community and our faith so different than any other?? JESUS!!!!! He is unlike anyone who has ever lived or ever will. He is transcendent. He is eternal. He is God. He is creator. He is before all things. He is the fulfillment of the law. He is the promised Messiah. He is the Resurrection and Life!!! He is the Cornerstone, the one who holds it (our faith) all together.
Every other religion has a cornerstone who has died or who will die. Jesus is the ONLY GOD and the ONLY ONE who has ever been resurrected and who lives today. He sets us in place as it pleases Him, as members of His Church and as part of the building HE is building (1 Cor. 12:18). Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 3:11, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." He is the foundation of everything regarding Christianity and if He's not regarded as the foundation or the Cornerstone, than it's not Christianity.
And so we circle back to that question I asked earlier, "Who do YOU say Jesus is?" Peter reminds us that if He is our Cornerstone, than He is precious to us. But if we reject him, we are also rejecting the capstone. And what's a capstone? It's the highest point, a rock on top of a wall, the crowning achievement. The cornerstone is the foundation and the capstone is the pinnacle. To accept Him is to accept the most important part of Christianity. Some people may not say they reject Him, they just don't really believe everything He said. He may be admired by them, but His true purpose is dismissed and not regarded. He is rejected as God and simply becomes "just another stone" that causes people to stumble, to trip up. He's the rock that causes their fall. Many, many people admire Jesus and credit Him with miracles and morality. They see the good things He did and that's as far as they're willing to go. They deny or reject Him as anyone more than a good person or a prophet. They might accept Him as the Son of God but refuse to believe that He and the Father are One, that He is GOD made flesh. When that happens, they are knowingly or unknowingly, tripping on the foundation of Christianity. They are stumbling over Jesus and it's a stumble they can't recover from until they are willing to accept Him as Cornerstone and Capstone. As the foundation, the only way through which they can access the Father and be saved (John 14:6) and as the highest pinnacle, the most important belief in our faith (Psalm 2:12). You can't believe in God and reject His Son at the same time. To reject the Son is to reject the Father. To kiss the Son, is to kiss the Father.
So Jesus as Cornerstone, has huge implications for each one of us. Either we look to Him for everything and we find our place in Him, or He's just another stone to us and we reject the One that God the Father chose to send as the Savior of the World. Isn't it amazing the power of a name? The depths of understanding God gives us and paints for us, just by way of the names He chose to reveal for His Son. Our Cornerstone and our Capstone is Jesus!
So maybe some questions to ask yourself...
Who do I say that He is?
Is He my foundation? Do I believe that all of Christianity is built on the person and work of Jesus Christ?
Is my faith and my claim of Christianity, built on the truth of Jesus Christ? Or am I simply claiming to be a part of something that I don't really believe to be true?
What is my role in the Church? Am I delighting in the place where God set me in His building? Or am I fighting my role and trying to break free, distracting and marring the beauty and reflection of Christ to a watching world?
With my kids today...
I've always been a kid who loved to build. I liked Lego's, I liked Lincoln logs and as I grew older I loved to draw houses and floor plans. It's just the way God made me! This is a great way to teach this name of Jesus to your kids. With little ones, building towers is always a fun thing because what do they love to do with a tower?? Knock it over!! That's a perfect way to explain the concept of a foundation and to name Jesus as the foundation of the Bible, of what we believe. When the foundation is solid, the building (or tower) stands. One thing I really love about my Carter (and I'm sure I'll love it about Walker too) is his LOVE and AWE for construction sites and vehicles. He's all about the excavators, the diggers, the dump trucks, the loaders, etc., etc. Because he cares and notices, Trav and I have had to get some knowledge about all these vehicles too! He can spot a truck from a mile away and it wasn't long before he began asking us what it was?? We used his books to teach ourselves what all of those vehicles are called so that we could answer his questions. As my son(s) grow up (and Ava too!) I look forward to stopping to watch construction unfold with them. I love watching a home being built or seeing a building go up. I can take those opportunities now and in the future to marvel at construction with them and explain Jesus as our Cornerstone and our role in and as the Church He is building. There are so many opportunities on a daily basis to weave theology in with our kids, we've just got to open our eyes a little bit and help them connect the dots! So you Mamas of little ones who love trucks, teach your vehicle loving kids that God is all about construction too. He's the Master Builder and He's given us a solid foundation to build upon.
Happy Saturday, friends!