Thursday, February 9, 2017

Stumble or Stand (1 Peter 2:6-8)

“For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.” (1 Peter 2:6–8, NASB95)

The contrasts in stone analogies is amazing. For one group of people the stone is a very good thing, while for others it is the source of great trouble. Scripture points to both groups in relation to how they respond to this stone. The first quote from Scripture is from Isaiah where we read, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed [or literally “in a hurry” or “in haste”].” (Isaiah 28:16, NASB95) This passage is quoted several times in Scripture, with three of the gospel records reflecting that Jesus used it Himself as we see in Matthew. 21:42; Mark 12:10; and Luke 20:17. Then Acts chapter 4 we have the words of Peter when he was brought before the scribes, rulers, and elders and questioned after the lame beggar was made to walk, and under whose authority he had done this.

“if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, 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. “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. “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.”” (Acts 4:9–12, NASB95)

Peter did not mince any words. He identified Jesus Christ the Nazarene who these very rulers had crucified, but whom God raised from the dead as the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by them. It is Him who BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone [stone not in text but implied by context]. Then He went on to say that it is Jesus who is the only way of salvation. No other person has that power. There is no other authority to call upon to be saved. It is in His name and His name alone that salvation is given to man. Reading past verse 12 we find that in response to this, his questioners were speechless. They did not know what to say, so they talked among themselves and charged Peter and John not to speak these words to anyone else. Of course, Peter and John could not keep their mouth shut. “But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” (Acts 4:19–20, NASB95)

I find it interesting that Peter would later say that those who believe in the stone—Jesus Christ would have no reason to hurry or be in haste. For many it might have been very easy to zip their lips and rush off after being told to go and say nothing else. But Peter and John had full confidence in Christ and they knew they could stand on Him and the foundation that He laid. They had no need to rush off, but were emboldened to stand firm and speak the truth. After that, they walked away. They knew the precious value of the salvation they had received.

But this is not true for all. In Acts 4:4 we read, “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4, NASB95) There is a big difference between the amazing “many” that believed and the word “all.” The reality is that not all will believe, though many do. For those who do not, Jesus is not a precious corner stone, but rather “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”, as quoted from Isaiah.

In our world today we see the resistance that the it has for Christians, Christ, and the ways of God. In some parts of the world Christians are being intensely persecuted and martyred, while even here in our own country they are being ridiculed and even lashed out against. Judges are ruling against those who live their faith in their work and their business. Colleges and Universities are making it extremely difficult if not impossible for Christians to succeed within their walls. And, we are even seeing riots in the streets as people demand full acceptance of their immorality. Just as it was then with the Scribes and Pharisees and so many others, so it is today with those who deny Christ and reject God.

In Isaiah 4:11-15 we read, “For thus the Lord spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary; but to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over them, then they will fall and be broken; They will even be snared and caught.”” (Isaiah 8:11–15, NASB95)

From history, we know what happened to Israel when the rejected God, and from Scripture we know what happens to all who reject Christ. One day they will all be taken away and cast into the lake of fire built for Satan and his cohorts. The end is not good. But Isaiah, and all of us, are instructed to regard our Lord as holy and to trust in Him fully regardless of what those around us might do. And when the heat is turned up and things around us might seem to be crumbling, we are told that Christ is our Rock. In Him we are made to stand. We have a great hope to share, a sure foundation on which to stand, and in Him we surely will not be disappointed.

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