God’s Word for You
1 Peter 2:4 The precious stone
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 8, 2022
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—
The reference to a “stone” goes back to Peter’s time with Jesus. And, of course, it also goes back to Isaiah, to David, and even to Moses (more about them later). There was a day when Jesus turned down a group of Pharisees and Sadducees when they asked him for a sign from heaven (“None will be given except the sign of Jonah,” Matthew 16:1-4). Later that day, Jesus warned the disciples about the “yeast” or infectious teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then the Lord asked his followers: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). After various answers (John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets), he asked them, “Who do you say I am?” and Peter answered: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus said to Peter, “You are blessed, Simon, because this was not revealed to you by man, but by God the Father. Now you are called “stone,” and on this “bedrock” you have confessed, I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus used the word petros (Πέτρος) for “stone,” which became the nickname “Peter.” The other word Jesus used was petra (πέτρα), a feminine term meaning “bedrock,” the stones that castles are built upon.
From this it’s clear that by building the church on this rock, which is not only the confession of Peter’s but the substance of that confession, which is Christ the Son of God: This is the common Christian faith. For whoever believes in Jesus Christ the savior will attain salvation in heaven, and whoever does not believe in Christ must be damned. This is the simple meaning of these words of Jesus. For if he meant, “Upon Peter I will build my Church,” then we would also expect that he meant that salvation is found only in Peter and not in Christ at all, and that anyone who rejects salvation through Peter would be damned. But not one Old Testament prophecy points to Peter except the testimony of Zechariah: “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7) which Jesus used to predict Peter’s denial of Jesus rather than his confession of faith (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27). No one looks to Peter for salvation, because every Christian in the world understands that we are saved through Christ. Even those who misunderstand Jesus’ words, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” do not think that we are saved through Peter apart from Christ. But Jesus used two different words, petros and petra, to distinguish between his friend who had faith, and the confession of that faith shared by all believers.
Now, writing to the Galatians, Peter himself explains that Christ is really the one who is the stone, the Living Stone. He uses another word entirely different from Peter’s nickname: lithos (λίθος). Lithos is more often used of precious stones, such as the lovely “green stones” (NIV “onyx”) to be found on the banks of the River Pishon in the land of Havilah near the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:12) or valuable ore in mines (Job 28:30).
Jesus is the precious stone that men rejected. This began already at the birth of Jesus, when a dumb object (a star), a train of foreigners (the wise men) and some of his own people (the chief priests consulted by Herod) confessed his identity (Matthew 2:1-11), but Herod himself tried to kill him. Herod’s rage and jealousy would infect all of the rulers and priests of Judea even though Herod himself died soon after (Matthew 2:19-20).
He would be rejected by others. The priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, ordinary Israelites, his family, his disciples—they would turn from him in jealousy, spitefulness, doubt, or fear. Some of those were signs of unbelief, some were transgressions soon forgiven.
He is precious to the Father. Every child is precious to their parents; this is the love of a parent. But our parents love us despite our flaws, and we who are parents love our children because they are (at least in my case) finer Christians and less flawed than I am. But God the Father loves his Son Jesus because he is flawless. Jesus is so very unlike everything else in heaven and on earth. There is no one else born of a woman who is perfect, so absolutely and unwaveringly holy, so ideal in every way. Christ is the precious Son of the Father. If the word of the Lord is flawless (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 12:6, 18:30; Proverbs 30:5), how equally flawless is the Word become flesh, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
What we didn’t expect was that Christ would say of us what the husband says of his bride: “My darling, my dove, my flawless one” (Song of Solomon 5:2). How are we flawless in the eyes of God? Only in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. We are precious to him because we have been drawn to him by the gospel, made holy by his holy, precious blood, and we have received forgiveness through his innocent suffering and death. This is our precious Jesus; more precious than any precious stone. He is our Savior.
Pastor Timothy Smith