The Christian is a Living Stone
Reading 1 Peter 2:1-
What is a christian
The word ‘living’ appears many times in our English Bibles. It is used as an adjective but also very often as a substantive noun as, for example, in the phrase ‘in the land of the living’.
In addition to such ordinary use ‘living’ is used in spiritual contexts where it describes God as the ‘living God’; the Father as ‘the living Father’, bread and water as ‘living bread’ and ‘living water’.
The word stone(s) also appears many times. But usually the terms are not combined.
Peter, in his first letter, is in fact the only Bible author to combine them and he does so twice. In both instances it is clear that he is writing about spiritual truths in this figurative manner. Firstly he referred to Jesus as "a living stone" but he didn’t stop there but secondly went on to speak of Jesus’ followers as ‘living stones’.
So this evening we will consider what it means to describe the Christian as a living stone.
Let’s begin by saying that it is meant to be understood as something positive. We have an expression in English which is perhaps not as popular as it once was which illustrates this for us.
To say to someone: "you’re a brick" or "you’re a real brick" is no insult. What it means is that the person spoken to is good, solid and substantial person, someone who can be relied upon. And the origin of that expression can be traced back to Ancient Greece when the King of Sparta who was questioned about the absence of defensive walls around his city:
'There are Sparta's walls,' he replied, pointing at his soldiers, 'and every man is a brick.'
You will often find bricks and stones on a building site and both Peter and Paul use building analogies to describe what God is doing with his people. We have already read what Peter had to say now hear what Paul wrote:
1Cor.3:9 "You are... God’s building."
Paul then went on to describe his own role as the master builder who had laid the foundations upon which others were then building. He also spoke of the need to build with quality materials.
Writing to the church in Ephesus he employed a similar picture:
This building imagery is itself constructed upon what had already been intimated in the OT and so we must turn there as we begin our investigations.
The OT speaks of stones in various different ways:
Altar – Ex.20:25; Deut.27:5-
No mark of human effort or ingenuity upon the stones as this would only pollute them.
We are to learn from this that in God’s construction of the church man’s efforts/good works have no primary role to play.
To become a "living stone" in God’s building we’re not called to renovate ourselves but to come as we are "Just as I am.."
Acts 20:21 "repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."
Law – durability and readability – of course the Law of Moses was originally graven on stone tablets but that was not the only time the law was written in stone!
The Israelites were told that when they entered the Promised Land one of their first tasks would be to take stones and copy God’s Law on them so that it might be easily read:
In the Book of Joshua we find that they carried out this instruction to the letter. (Jos.8:32)
The Christian’s life should be similar – lived in harmony with the law of God and easily "read" by others!
Memorial or testimony stones:
On several occasions we find the people of God using stones to commemorate victories or deliverances. This use of stones was to serve as a visible reminder of what God had done on behalf of his people in the past.
They were not idols to be worshipped but memory aids to keep the people from forgetting what God had done for them.
Crossing the Jordan – 12 stones taken from the river and set up after the people had all crossed over. Jo.4:20
King of Ai Jo.8:30 – he had opposed Israel and the battles at Ai had taught the people the seriousness of setting aside the Lord’s commands. A heap of stones is piled up over the dead king’s body.
Ebenezer 1Sam.7:12 Samuel set up this stone as a monument to the Lord as a testimony to the faithfulness and support the Lord had shown in defeating the Philistines "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us".
The presence of such monuments also provided occasions for instructing children as they came with their questions: what’s that? Why’s it there? What does it mean?
In the same way each Christian as part of God’s NT building, the church, is to function in this same way. Each of us is to be a monument to God’s grace. As we look at each other in the church we should be moved to consider God’s work in the life of the other person. Nb. Our sheer presence in the church should do this – the primary reference is not to witnessing however laudable that might be.
But in order to be a memorial our lives must have something to which to testify! We must experience God’s grace and receive God’s grace in order to be able to be a testimony to such grace!! Then we can give an answer for the hope that is within us.
Precious stones – there is one last thing to which I wish to draw your attention while talking about stones in the OT.
The idea of value is taken up much later when he writes of the final salvation of God’s people: Zech.9:16 "On that day the LORD their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land."
Peter writes of Christ as "a living stone" the chief cornerstone and God’s building in the NT is fully based upon this stone which is Christ! We cannot and must not try to go beyond the Lord Jesus Christ!
He is our great high priest and he himself is the sacrifice – link to altar.
He is solid, dependable -
He is a testimony too – cf. Rom.5:8 "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
He is precious beyond all measure – the only begotten of the Father!
And Peter uses similar language to describe the Christian! If Christ is "a living stone" Christians are described as "living stones"!
The buildings God used in the OT times were designed to speak to the people of his presence amongst them – it was his presence that made them special! And yet the buildings in the OT served to remind the people that his presence was not readily accessible – the Holy of Holies was off limits for men and women. But in the NT with the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the remaining problem of sin has been fundamentally dealt with. Men and women, boys and girls can come and be added into God’s building.
I need to ask you "Is this true of you?" I need to press you to with warnings! This Christ cannot be avoided – he will be encountered by each and every one of us.
We are all on a journey through life and there are two alternative routes that men and women chose to follow. One is a broad road which leads to destruction and the other is narrow but it leads to life, eternal life.
The broad road attracts so many and indeed you can reject Jesus in a variety of ways on that broad road. But there is only one way to life and that is not found on the broad road at all. It all depends upon our response to Jesus Christ as Jesus himself taught when quoting Scripture concerning himself:
Lk.20:17 (quoting Ps.118:22) Jesus "looked directly at them and said, "What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?"
He went on to add:
Lk.20:18 "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him."
An active opposition to Christ is like falling upon him – such attacks may look impressive and bold but the end is destruction.
You can also be indifferent to him and ignore him – but you will still encounter him – it will be rather as though this stone falls on you! The result is the same – destruction.
But today is a day a grace, the day of salvation. We can still come to Christ today with repentance and faith – and he will not cast us out.
A Final Word:
Stones can be isolated or grouped together: we’ve seen some good examples of isolated stones in those monuments which recall some significant past event.
Another good examples of isolated stones would be milestones indicating distance and direction or trig points on tops of hills and mountains.
But the best use of stones will be when they are grouped together though we must notice that groups of stones can be organised or disorganised:
A pile of bricks in a garden would most likely be regarded as rubbish that needs to be tidied up
And yet a pile of bricks cemented nicely together and in a regular fashion with windows and doors would be someone’s home.
As we are being built together as "living stones" to form God’s household we are not meant to be a haphazard heap. There is a world of difference between a river full of rocks and a river crossed by a series of well-
What a privilege to part of God’s building plans, an integral part, as a "living stone"!
To God be the glory,