2017-4-23 The Living Stone, and Living Stones

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          April 23, 2017

“The Living Stone, and Living Stones”
Text: 1 Peter 2:4-5

For the past two weeks, we have looked at various passages concerning the final week of Jesus’ ministry—culminating, of course, in His death and resurrection.  This Sunday we return to our punctuated sermon series through 1 Peter.  Our sermon series, now resumed, continues to be timely.  We are seeing how we shall live, as Christians, into today’s cultural milieu.  We have received a number of commands from the Lord, through Peter, concerning this—namely, to set our hope fully on Christ, to be holy, to love one another earnestly from a pure heart, and to long for His Word, the Bible.

Today—and for the two following weeks, God willing—we consider God’s call to be holy more corporately than personally.  We will note this as we consider 1 Peter 2:4-10, in sections, today and for the two following Sundays.  Today, let us hear the Lord as He speaks to us in 1 Peter 2:4-5.

HERE READ THE TEXT)

Peter, led by the Spirit, calls Jesus Christ the living Stone.  We shall note the fact that Jesus is the living Stone in greater detail next week, God willing, but—to our purpose this week—we see Him in two lights.  First, we see Jesus rejected by men.  We saw this well during Holy Week as we noted that the crowds shifted their prevailing cries from “Hosanna” to “Crucify.”  We see more clearly this week that this rejection of Jesus by most fulfills prophecy.  Note Isaiah’s testimony concerning the suffering Servant, Whom we know to be Jesus, the Christ: “…He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as One from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not” (Isaiah 53:2b-3).  This prophecy, written several centuries before its occurrence, promises what came to pass—wholesale rejection of Jesus, the King of glory.  Happily, though, this is not the end of the story.

Second, we see Jesus chosen and precious to God.  The eternal second Person of the triune God, extant from eternity past with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was chosen from eternity past to reconcile a covenant people to God via His work.  Jesus’ work of atonement and reconciliation includes His active and passive obedience; He actively obeyed the Father by keeping the moral Law at every point without failure and, hence sin, and He passively obeyed the Father by submitting to agonizing death on the Cross.  This, though a staggering work, is not the end of His work.  Jesus’ work of atonement and reconciliation also includes His resurrection from the dead, His ongoing ministry of intercession for His redeemed, and His glorious return—and that to consummate history and the eternal plan of God.[1]

Jesus, both very God and clearly chosen of God, also is precious unto God.  The Father says of His Son, at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  The Father speaks similarly of His Son at His transfiguration, “This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him” (Mark 9:7).  Doubtless Jesus is of infinite value and worth—both as considered by His Father and as rightly esteemed by us.

Jesus Christ is the living Stone, rejected by men, but chosen and precious to God. We too, who are in Christ through faith in Him, are living stones.  We are such as we come to Him—and that by grace alone, through faith alone, for the glory of God alone.  We may have enjoyed life and breath before coming to God in Christ, but, once we find ourselves safe in His saving love, we have supernatural life and breath.  In short, then—and only then—do we truly live.  Our coming to Him, and all that leads to it, is predicated on the prior work of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord uses His living stones—to wit, the likes of you and of me—to build His spiritual house.  He builds us into His house in order that we may be a holy priesthood unto Him.  Let’s look first at Christ’s priesthood unto God for our benefit, and then we shall see more clearly our priesthood unto Him.  Christ’s priesthood involves two elements: intercession and sacrifice.  We mean by Christ’s intercession that, from the right hand of God, He prays persistently on our behalf (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25)—and that in perfect accord with the will of the Godhead for us.  We mean by Christ’s sacrifice His utter suffering and abasement unto death for our sakes.  This, then, is the priestly office of Christ unto God the Father for our sakes.

Our holy priesthood cannot occur to like degree of Christ’s priesthood, for that simply is impossible—for He is perfect, and we are not; for He is infinite, and we are not, etc.  Yet we can emulate His priesthood in like manner.  We can intercede for others.  We can pray—and, by the Spirit’s aid, persistently, with considerable—for people and for the situations that impinge upon them.  We can offer ourselves as a sacrifice, in a sense, foremost to God and also in behalf of others, especially fellow believers singly and the Church collectively.

The Apostle Paul, led by the Spirit, urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, for this is our spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).  We can yield such time as God allots us—even that time we can afford to spare least—unto Him for His purposes in us and in others.  Perhaps we need more time with Him in prayer or Bible intake.  Perhaps someone needs our sympathetic ear.  These take time, and by God’s power we can yield such time unto Him.  We also can lay such talents as God gives us—whether natural abilities, developed abilities, or outright spiritual gifts—at His disposal for His best in us and in others.  Perhaps our ability in music, or in repair of broken things, or in some other arena will bless your fellow Christian or another human being—and, thus, glorify God in the process.  We can also place our material blessings—our treasures—into His service for His aims in us and in others.  Such may not seem like much to you—or it may hurt to part with them—but it will seem like much to another, and God both is glorified and shines His pleasure upon you.  This sacrifice, taken both as a whole and in its parts, is acceptable to God.  Be careful, here, for we may be tempted to read our sacrifices as meeting only a minimum threshold of acceptability to God.  On the contrary, these sacrifices—God-initiated and God-empowered at that—are both quite pleasing to God and vehicles through which He conveys His particular favor.

Easter 2017 has come and gone, but don’t forget that Jesus is alive—and is alive forevermore.  Jesus Himself tells us, “Because I live, you will live also (John 14:19).  Because Jesus, the living Stone, ever lives, we—living stones as well—are built into a spiritual house.  Each of us has a place and a function in that spiritual house, and it has Christ Jesus as the Cornerstone—of which next week, God willing, we shall hear more.

AMEN.

[1] The phrase to consummate history and the eternal plan of God rises from that confessional document of The Evangelical Presbyterian Church known as “Essentials of Our Faith” (available at http://www.epc.org/file/beliefs/essentials/TheEssentials.pdf., accessed April 21, 2017).

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