Earlier in the service we learnt about the Ebenezer stone – the stone of help, a monument set in place by Samuel to commemorate a victory over the Philistines. It stood there, set in place to remind people of the help God had given them. Jesus is our Ebenezer, our stone of help. However, Jesus is not a monument stuck in one place, but the Living Stone, dynamic, and active. Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the whole church is built. He is foundational to our relationship with God.
The new Christians of Peter’s day were often ostracised by their communities, losing their place among family and friends. So where did they fit, where did they belong, where was their security to be found? Peter wanted his readers to understand their new identity as followers of Jesus and to learn they belonged in God’s family. He wrote … , “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:5) You also – not just Jesus, not just the apostles, but “you also”. You also are part of this living, dynamic new temple. You are not just a visitor; you belong in this temple –put in place by the master builder. Peter linked this image back to Isaiah 28.16. “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.’” (1 Peter 2:6) The people of Israel believed Isaiah 28.16 prophesied about the Messiah. Peter believed Jesus fulfilled that prophecy.
Jesus is the Cornerstone tested, precious, and reliable. Imagine the comfort these words would bring to the early Christians. It helped them see they were part of something bigger than themselves, not merely a building of stone that will eventually crumble, but living stones formed as an eternal dwelling for God. In light of this Peter made one of the greatest statements of corporate Christian identity you will find in the bible. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, 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 2:9–10). Peter took these descriptions of the people of Israel and applied them to the people of the church. They speak of our identity in Christ. The fact that you also like living stones are being built into this spiritual house underlines the reality of our identity and belonging.
• Have you ever visited the ruins of an ancient temple? What do you imagine it would have been like to be there when it was first built?
• What is the purpose of a temple? What does God want from us as a spiritual temple? 1 Peter 2.5
• What do you imagine when you think of the people of the church being built as a temple?
• If we are a spiritual temple, what life materials are we building with (1 Co 3:12. How can we help each other build well?
• What do the descriptions in 1 Peter 2.9-10 tell us about God’s desire for the church and how can we help our church to better reflect these?
Rev John Malcolm