Shelby G. Floyd
It is so good to see all of you and we have almost all of our seats filled. I am glad to be able to stand before you today and speak on one of my favorite subjects. Just a few weeks ago we spent some time in 1 Peter 2:3-8 on the topic that I am speaking today. I love to preach on things that we have just studied because it is fresh on my mind and on the minds of those of you who are in our Bible class. And so my subject is The Chief Cornerstone. It is amazing how many times that phrase is found in Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. The topic is taught in 1 Peter and in Paul’s letters, as well also by Jesus when He was on earth. And so let us zero in on this subject—The Chief Cornerstone!
On the overhead screen the founder of our country, George Washington is pictured when he laid the cornerstone of the US capitol building, September 18, 1793. You can see that he was dressed up in his Masonic uniform. Most of our Founding Fathers were Masons. It seems the Masons started in the Middle Ages. And they were kind of like when you work someplace, and you learn a trade, then later that trade is passed on to the next generation. So those Masons were the builders of big buildings and cathedrals. They had special knowledge and skills. Some even say that these skills had been passed on from the days of Solomon when God gave special skills to those workers who built the Temple in Jerusalem! I do not know if that is true. They became members of a Guild and passed that knowledge on to other generations. So George Washington laid the cornerstone of our U. S. Capital.
CHRIST IS THE LIVING STONE IN THE CHURCH OF LIVING STONES
In the first place, we shall look upon the church the church that Jesus built (Matthew 16:18) as the spiritual house of living stones. The picture presented here is a spiritual house in which Christ is a living Stone and all of us who are members of the body of Christ are pictured as living stones. Peter writes: “…if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious” (1 Peter 2:3, 4). Since Christ is a Living Stone, then we who are also “living stones” have hope that we will live forever through him. Peter declares this hope in the very beginning of this letter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Back in the Old Testament we find out that the false gods were stones, but they were dead stones! I remember Elijah challenged the false prophets to call down fire from their god and consume their sacrifice. This they could not do, but the God of Elijah—the Living God consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. (1 Kings 18:38).
The children of God are also living stones. These living stones become a spiritual house which is the church of the living God (Matthew 16:18, 19). Peter writes to the scattered pilgrims of Asia, “…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” (1 Peter 2:5). This means that:
God’s children who are coming to The Living Stone are also “as living stones”
They are being build up as a spiritual house
They are a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices
And their spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ
Paul also speaks of the church under the same metaphor when he writes to church at Ephesus:
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-20 NKJV).
Therefore in your mind see this temple that is being built of living stones. We are incorporated into this temple in which Jesus Christ is a living stone who is to become the chief cornerstone—the most important stone in this building!
JESUS CHRIST THE REJECTED STONE AND STUMBLING STONE!
In second place, Jesus Christ who is the chief cornerstone actually becomes the Rejected Stone and a Stumbling Stone. So the apostle Peter reveals that those who are disobedient, the chief cornerstone becomes a rejected stone and a stumbling stone. They reject him because they are offended of him:
7 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,” (1 Peter 2:7 NKJV).
They are offended at the chief cornerstone and therefore stumble at his doctrine: 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 2:8).
When anyone is disobedient to the gospel message they are in danger of spiritual stumbling and rejecting the only means of salvation from sin—they reject the chief cornerstone!
THE REJECTED STONE LEGEND
But now I share a legend of how some believe the material chief cornerstone became a stumbling stone and then the rejected stone by the builders. In the history of the building of Solomon’s temple you will recall that David actually wanted to build a house for God. But God said to David no, because you are a man of blood–you have shed much blood on the earth. But your son Solomon will build me a house! But David did everything he could to prepare the materials, the place, and the site where the temple—the House of God was going to be built. He purchased the ground from Arunah to offer up sacrifice to the Lord when they the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to Jerusalem. It became known as Mount Zion. It is believed that Solomon’s temple was built on the ground that Davis purchased on Mount Zion.
There were no sounds of a hammer or saw. Everything was cut to the exact size, then brought to the building site. It was like you could almost say—a prefabricated building. If the pieces were cut to the right dimensions they would go exactly in the place where the blueprints called for! It seems like the builders were working on this building one day and a large stone cut out at the rock quarry and measured to the exact size, was brought to the building site. But the workers did not know where it was supposed to go, so they pushed it over to the side, and some of the workers stumbled over it. One day they just pushed it over into the valley. So they rejected this big stone and kept on building. But finally the man in charge said we are ready for the cornerstone. They sent word to the rock quarry that they were ready for the cornerstone. They sent back word that it had been sent long ago! Then the workers remembered a big stone that they had rejected. When it was retrieved it fit exactly into the place intended—it was the cornerstone.
The cornerstone should be the first stone that is laid, just like George Washington laid the cornerstone of the capitol building. Everything else relates to the cornerstone. In some of our translations they translate it “the capstone!” No, this was a cornerstone not a capstone. If you want to look at a capstone you can look at your dollar bill and on the pyramid there is a capstone! David prophesied of this rejected stone that became the chief cornerstone: “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone” (Psalms 118:22).
THE PARABLE OF THE VINEDRESSERS
One time Jesus spoke a parable about the rejected son that illustrated the rejected chief cornerstone. It is recorded in Luke 20:9-19 to illustrate why the chief cornerstone was rejected. Jesus said one time there was a man who planted a vineyard, and he hired these workers to take care of his vineyard and then he went away for a long time. Then one day he sent a servant back to his vineyard to bring back some of the fruit of that vineyard that he had planted so long ago. He said our master wants you to send some of the fruit back. But they grabbed him and beat him, and they tossed him out. So he went back to his master and said, well I went to the vineyard, and asked for some fruit of the vineyard for you, and they rejected and beat me. Later on he sent another servant to bring back some fruit and they did the same thing to him. They said we are not giving you any fruit from this vineyard; you go back tell your master that he is not getting anything. So he sent a servant back the third time and the same thing happened again. Finally the owner of vineyard said I will send my son to request some fruit from this vineyard. Surly they will respect him! But when he arrived they said he is the heir. We will beat and kill him, and we will take the vineyard for ourselves.
This is an exact illustration of what actually happened to Jesus Christ. Israel was pictured as God’s vineyard. Israel persecuted the prophets, John the Baptist and then finally they rejected God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Now take notice what Jesus said in Matthew 21 about this parable:
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. (Matthew 21:42,43).
What Jesus was really saying is since the Jewish people rejected Jesus the son of God, the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to the Gentiles who would bare the fruits of it. Generally speaking the Gentiles have accepted God’s messenger Jesus Christ and they have borne the fruit, so according to Paul Israel stumbled because they did not seek the law of righteousness by faith, but by the works of the law:
but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:31-33).
Paul says Israel pursuing the law of righteousness has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith but as it were by the works of the law. They stumbled at that stumbling stone, so they not only stumbled, but they rejected the chief cornerstone of the building!
JESUS CHRIST IS THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE
Therefore, Jesus Christ is chief cornerstone that was laid in Zion. This speaks of the ancient practice of placing a cornerstone in a building. The cornerstone was the first stone to go in the building and became a symbol of the building. Sometimes it was of a different type of material to set it apart from the rest of the material in the building. Historians have said that a cornerstone could be as large as twenty feet my seventeen feet. In modern times the cornerstone is not the first stone that goes in the building, but it is the last stone. It becomes more of a decorating plaque added at ground level where all of us that walk by it can read it. It usually has the name of the architectural firm, the name of the building and the date that it was completed. I remember very well as a boy I would go to downtown Indianapolis with my mom, and we would walk on those different streets of Washington, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. And I would notice the cornerstone on the buildings: Blocks, Ayers, and Wasson!
Now the apostle Peter sums up the fact that Jesus who was the rejected stone has become the chief cornerstone and quotes Psalms 118:22: “The stone which the builders rejected—Has become the chief cornerstone.”
Now all of you who have you been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27); you have become members of the body of Christ—the Church of Christ (Ephesians 1:19-22). You are built on that chief cornerstone Jesus Christ. Paul declares that no other foundation can be laid other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).
If you have not already done so, are you ready to believe and obey the foundation stone–the chief cornerstone–the precious stone Jesus Christ? I close our thoughts today with the words of Jesus spoken at the very conclusion of the sermon on the mount:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:21-27 NKJV).
Have you built on that rock foundation—the chief cornerstone? Or will you go away from this building today and continue to reject the stone and stumble over Jesus Christ? Why not confess your faith in the Lord, repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ?*
Copyright © 2022 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon July 3, 2022, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142