January 5, 2020
The first verse in the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It is frequently and rightly noted that at the beginning of creation – when there was nothing – no earth, no sun, no moon, no stars – no universe, notice, there was God. He alone is the uncreated One. He existed before time and will exist after time. He has always and will always exist. It is also rightly noted the Bible does not seek to prove the existence of God – how would you do that when there was nothing with which or to whom to prove Him. He just is. And so the Bible rightly accepts His eternal existence. John Piper writes, “He never had a beginning. Every child asks, ‘Who made God?’ And every wise parent says, ‘Nobody made God. God simply is. And always was. No beginning.’”
Well, the question is, who is this God? He’s obviously the Creator. The word in Genesis 1:1 is Elohim – which is plural for God. That name is used of God over 2000 times in the OT. The word is plural because it at least speaks of His divine majesty. But, even though the name is plural, the verbs are singular – God created – one divine, majestic God who alone created. Because there is no other. I want to be clear about that – the Bible claims this God to be the one and only God. And this was one of many names by which He was known – but while there were many names for God in the Bible (for example, Elohim, Adonai, Shaddai) – there was and is only one God.
Now, it wasn’t till much later, when God called a man named Moses to go to Egypt and deliver His people, that God’s personal, covenant name was revealed. You remember the story. It’s found in Exodus 3 and 4. After spending his first forty years in Egypt being raised in Pharaoh’s house, Moses spends the next forty years in the Midian desert. One day, as he was doing his shepherding, he saw a bush on fire, yet not consumed. He thought to himself, I will go over and see this strange sight. As he approached, a voice came from the bush saying, take off your shoes, Moses, because the place you’re standing is holy ground. It was clear, the One in the burning bush was God Himself. But who is this God?
It was then God gave Moses instructions to return to Egypt. Moses was understandably concerned about that, and among a number of questions and excuses, he said to God, when I get there, the children of Israel are going to ask me, who sent you – what is His name? How should I answer? Who are You, God? Interesting. That’s the question I’d like us to consider today.
You may remember. God introduced Himself by His covenant – the name by which He would be known for generations to come. It’s interesting to note that while the name God is used of false gods in the Bible, the personal name of God is used of no one, except the true and living God. You see, when God answered, He said, “I AM WHO I AM. Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” And that became His personal name – I AM. We know it as Yahweh. Again, that name is only used of the true God. [Michael] And it is used almost 7000 times in the OT – always referring to the God of Israel, the one true and living God.
The word/name became so holy to the Israelites, they wouldn’t say it – they would say Adonai or Lord instead. In fact, in your Bibles, when the word LORD appears in all capital letters, it is the word, Yahweh. It is said that scribes in Qumran, who preserved the OT – from which we get the Dead Sea scrolls, were fastidious in the way they copied the Scripture. If they made a mistake, there was no backspace. They would simply roll up that scroll, store it in a clay jar, and place it in the “discard” cave.
Every morning, before they started writing – copying the Scripture – they would take a bath in what is called a mikvah– a ritual bath for cleansing and purification. But, as they were copying, if they came to the name Yahweh, they would take another bath, grab a new quill, and write it. It was a most holy name, reserved for God Himself. Are you starting to understand how singular and special that name is?
Now, one word of clarification. As you are reading through Genesis, you will note as early as chapter 2 – way back at creation, the account refers to Yahweh. But, you say, God wasn’t known by that name until Exodus 3 – about 1440 BC. So, what’s up with that? Well, very simply, we must remember who wrote Genesis. It was Moses, and he knew God as Yahweh, and he simply used the name, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, when he wrote Genesis.
So, why all this introduction, except perhaps to remind us what Peter said in I Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”? I am separate – there is none like me. So, who is God? There is one God, and His personal name, and His alone, is Yahweh.
Which brings us to our text today in our continuing study of I Peter. [dinner] I want you to understand today, there is one God, and so regarding Him, you must make a decision. You will either come to Him, and confess Him as God, or you will be ashamed at the judgment, and perish. Last week, we started in I Peter 2, where Peter reminded us we should put off, like a dirty shirt, any sinful actions which destroy community – which put our deep love for one another at risk. Further, he challenged us to continue to crave the pure, spiritual milk of the Word of God – by which we grow. After all, we have been born again – born anew – we are new people. So grow up in your salvation, if in fact, you have tasted of the kindness of the Lord. Have you tasted of the Lord? Then continue to consume His word.
Bringing us to verse 4, “And coming to Him” – stop right there. Who is Him? Now, my translation capitalizes pronouns that refer to God. The challenge with that is it requires some degree of translator judgment. The translator decides which pronouns refer to God. Here, it’s capitalized – but here’s the question – should it be?
That is, what is the antecedent of the pronoun Him? Well, clearly and without doubt, it takes us back to verse 3, “if you have tasted of the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him…” So obviously, He is the Lord of verse 3. But that’s not in capital letters – in the Greek, it’s the word kurios, which corresponds to the Hebrew Adonai. But remember, I told us last week that verse 3 is a quote of Psalm 34:8. The only two places in the Bible that talk about tasting the Lord. Look at that, “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” I’m suggesting that having quoted that verse, Peter now goes on to explain it.
And we note right away that LORD is in all capital letters! Which means LORD is Yahweh – the personal name for God, the one and true living God. And so, when Peter references this verse in I Peter 2:3, he’s talking about tasting the kindness of Yahweh – the personal name for the true and living God. But, verse 4 doesn’t end with “And coming to Him…” It goes on, “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God.” Wait – so this Him to whom we come is clearly Yahweh since Peter references Psalm 34, but Peter goes onto call this Lord to whom we come as a living stone, one who has been rejected by men. Who is that? That is, the question of the day, who is this Lord, this God?
Well, we could go back to Acts 3 to listen to Peter’s second sermon. The first one we talked about last week – it was on the Day of Pentecost when he told his listeners to repent and be baptized. This second sermon takes place a little later, when Peter and John go to the Temple, and heal a man who had been lame since birth. The guy went into the Temple, walking – more, leaping and praising God. This gathered a crowd, and not one to miss an opportunity, Peter preached Jesus again – his second message. This made the religious authorities irritated since they were the ones who crucified Jesus. So they arrested Peter and John and put them in jail overnight. And they brought them before Annas and Caiaphas, the high priest, the next day and asked Peter and John, “By what power or in what name have you done this?” Who did this? Again, not wanting to miss an opportunity to share Christ, Peter responded:
10 “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead– by this name this man stands here before you in good health.
11 “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS [remember who he’s talking to – the religious leaders who rejected Jesus], but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.
12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Right there, Peter tells us who this rejected cornerstone was – none other than Jesus Christ – and by His name, we must be saved. You have a decision to make. He says the same thing later in I Peter 2:4 – Jesus is the stone that was rejected – he’ll say it clearly in verse 7.
All that to say this: Peter clearly saw Jesus, the Lord whom we have tasted, as God. More – Yahweh. Those who say the NT never clearly says Jesus was God have never really read the NT. And you say, oh, I know – we actually have three Gods, right? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not exactly. We have one true and living God, who manifests Himself eternally in three persons – Father, Son, and Spirit, such that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. They cannot be confused. And yet, we are monotheists – we worship one God. His name is Yahweh. And that personal name can be applied to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. And that Son came in human flesh to die for the sins of His people.
So, who is God? In this passage, the one to whom we come is Yahweh, the Son. He is not only the Creator, but He is also the Savior. Remember to whom Peter was writing – people suffering for their. Through this book, Peter reminds them, and us, Jesus too was rejected and suffered. But He was vindicated – at His resurrection and ascension – and you will be, too. Hang on. And further, you have the decision to make about the Son, who is God. You must come to Him – because as Peter said, there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. If you would be saved from your sin and its eternal consequences, you must come to Jesus. You have a decision to make. You can come to Him, or you can reject Him as many have. Which brings us to the rest of the text. Let’s read it today – I Peter 2:4-8.
I have two purposes today. One is to answer the question, who is Him – that is, who is the Lord? And I trust we have seen He is Jesus. But I also want to suggest we must come to Him, that is Jesus, or be disappointed, put to shame, and be lost. This is what the text says. Let me give you the outline:
- Coming to the Living Stone Jesus (4)
- Becoming Living Stones (5)
- Jesus the Cornerstone (6-8a)
- Come or Stumble (8b) – you have a decision to make.
You’ll remember Peter spent the first half of chapter 1 talking about this great salvation we’ve received, even though following Christ may bring trials. But our endurance in the midst of those challenges will result in praise and glory and honor at the return of Christ. So, until then, Peter gave us five commands through the rest of chapter 1, and the first three verses of chapter 2. Fix your hope on the return of Christ, be holy like your Father’s holy, conduct yourselves in fear, love one another deeply from the heart, and long for pure, spiritual milk so you can mature. And now, he returns to encouragement, reminding them, us of our identity in Christ.
And coming to the living stone, Jesus Christ. He’s called the living stone because of His resurrection from the dead. And this stone or rock will be the thread through our text. Jesus had been crucified, dead and buried, but God raised Him from the dead. You see, this One to whom we come, the Living Stone, was rejected by men. I’ll talk about that more in a moment, but it’s clear when Jesus came, He was largely rejected by men, especially the religious leaders – who are called the builders. Be that as it may, He was choice/chosen and precious in the sight of God.
Here’s how it went. When builders were about to construct a building, the first stone they would choose would be the cornerstone. It was incredibly important because it would be the major foundation stone that would set the direction for the rest of the building. So builders would examine various stones, rejecting many, and finally selecting the precious or perfect cornerstone. Here’s the point. They examined Jesus for Messiahship and rejected Him. Nope, He won’t do – He doesn’t fit the criteria. He doesn’t have the pedigree, He’s not from Jerusalem, He’s not a Pharisee or a Sadducee, He’s a blue-collar worker, He’s not educated by one of our rabbis in one of our approved schools, He doesn’t teach with our authority, and He certainly cannot handle Rome. Rejected.
And yet, He was chosen and precious in the sight of God. He was God’s chosen means by whom He would redeem humankind. How precious/honored. We see at least a couple of times in the Gospel narratives when the voice of the Father was heard from heaven to say of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” While rejected, He was still the Father’s chosen, precious Son. You have a decision to make – will you side with the builders or God?
And so, secondly, those who come to Him become living stones, being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. This is filled with OT language, actually through verse 10. But the amazing thing is, coming to Christ, we become God’s chosen people, with the language of the OT applied to us. Notice, when we come to the Living Stone Jesus, we come from death to eternal life, becoming living stones. We were dead stones before with hearts of stone. But by grace through faith in Jesus, our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh. We come alive. And we are built on the foundation of Christ, who is the chief cornerstone. We receive our life and direction and purpose from Him. Jesus Himself said, I will build my church – and He was talking about saving His people, not brick and mortar.
Now, please notice we are built on Jesus, but together into a temple in which God dwells. Meaning, we are not individual stones, laying in a heap somewhere, not scattered in a field with no association – we are together a temple in which God dwells. We need each other to fulfill purpose and meaning.
I can’t help but think about this nice new space in which we meet. Many used to ask me when we were meeting in the gym, when are we going to finish the church? Or, when are we going to build a church that looks like a church? Or now, it’s so nice to meet in a room that looks like a church – complete with a cross. To be clear, I love this new space. It is beautiful and comfortable. But God never called me, or you for that matter, to build a building and call it the church. He called us to build the church of Jesus Christ, made up of living stones – brick by brick, block by block. If we meet out in the parking lot, we’re still the church.
And we are being built into a spiritual house – spiritual in that we are spiritual people, made alive in Christ – and spiritual in that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 3 talks about Christians, the church, being the temple of the Holy Spirit. Again, this is filled with OT imagery. In the OT, under the Old Covenant, the Israelites built a tent, then a temple, that housed the ark of the covenant. Above the ark was the mercy seat, with two golden cherubim. And it was there God dwelt. But now, under the New Covenant, we become a spiritual house in which He dwells by His Spirit.
The spiritual house also houses a holy priesthood. I’m going to save that for next week when we look at verse 9, but believers, living stones, become believer-priests by which we offer spiritual sacrifices of praise and service to God. Under the Old Covenant, only the priestly class of the tribe of Levi served as priests, representing the people to God, and God to the people. And only the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies in the Temple which held the ark of the covenant. Only one priest went into the presence of Yahweh, to offer sacrifices for himself and the people – and only once a year on the day of atonement. But now, Jesus is our High Priest, and we have access into the holy of holies, the very presence of God, to offer sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.
Who is the cornerstone, bringing us to our third point. Peter quotes three OT texts, which were seen as Messianic, and applies them to Jesus. The first is found in verse 6 and is a quote of Isaiah 28:16, “For this is contained in Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” God the Father is speaker, talking about His Son to come – a choice stone, a precious cornerstone. Peter alluded to that in verse 4, and we’ve already talked about it. Jesus is the precious stone, while rejected by men, chosen by God to be the cornerstone. And the ones who believe in Him – that is, His work in the gospel through His death and resurrection – will never be disappointed. He or she will find life and satisfaction in Christ. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2:
19 So then you [Gentiles] are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household [God’s family],
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Do you see? We as living stones are being built on the precious cornerstone chosen, laid by God, being built together into a dwelling of God’s Spirit. Please notice the corporate nature of this language. We’ll talk about this more next week, but we are way too individualistic in the American church. But we are together believers in Jesus – being built into a spiritual temple by believing in Jesus. One stone doesn’t make much of a temple. It takes all of us together. And that is what God is doing.
The next OT verse is quoted in verse 7, “This precious value [or this honor], then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve [who refuse to believe – who reject the precious cornerstone like the builders], Psalm 118, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone.” Again, we’ve already talked about this. The religious leaders rejected Jesus, they refused to believe. And so too, down through the centuries, many have refused to believe. Many today disbelieve. But the honor of becoming living stones, of being built into a spiritual house, of joining a holy priesthood, belongs only to those who believe. You see, you have a choice to make. [broad road – destruction; narrow gate, eternal life, and honor]
Jesus used this very text one day during His passion week. The time had come for Him to die. He made His way to Jerusalem – and the leaders sought to test Him, trap Him. On Tuesday of that week, He came to the temple. The chief priests and elders came to Him, asking Him by what authority He was doing these things. Remember – He wasn’t chief priest approved. After asking them a question they couldn’t answer, Jesus told a couple of parables. They’re found in Matthew 22. In the second one, He talked about a landowner who planted a vineyard and left it with some people to care for. He later sent his slaves to receive his produce from the vine-growers. They beat one, killed another, then stoned the third.
So the landowner sent his son, thinking, surely they will receive him. But they thought this is the heir – if we kill him, the vineyard will be ours. So they did. Jesus asked them, what then will the landowner do? They responded rightly – he will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers. Jesus then applies the parable to them. He said:
42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES ‘?
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.
44 “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.
Because if you disbelieve – you will come to a wretched end. And if you refuse to believe, then verse 8 comes into play for you. It’s a quote of Isaiah 8. This living cornerstone you reject, refusing to believe, refusing to come to Him, this cornerstone becomes a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. You will stumble over the stone because of your disobedience to the word, taking us back to the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2. The word was preached to you in the gospel, and you have a choice to make. Fall on the stone, repent and believe, or the stone will fall on you. It will cause you to stumble and fall. It becomes a rock of offense – it will cause you to sin by your rejection.
And to this doom, those who disbelieve in their disobedience are appointed. That verse could be taken two ways – one is they were destined to disbelieve, or they were destined to be doomed by their unbelief. Either way, the truth is this. By refusing to believe, by remaining in disobedience, your appointed doom is assured.
But the good news is this – you can come to Him. You can fall on the rock and repent. You can become a living stone with us by believing. I urge you to do that – there is one God – and this personal God came in the flesh so that, you could be saved. You have a decision to make.
Communion – It is incredible that God the Son – Yahweh the Son – would take on flesh to die for the sins of His people. But remember, He was vindicated in His resurrection. And the church observes two ordinances to proclaim faith in that finished work. One, at the beginning of spiritual life in baptism; one on an ongoing way in communion. We partake of, together, the bread and the cup – the bread to remember His broken body; the cup to remember His shed blood. And by His resurrection, He is proclaimed the Living Stone; and by coming to Him, we become living stones.