The Cornerstone


“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” (1 Pet 2:7).

This is a passage most people have heard. The context makes it clear that the stone the builders rejected is Jesus Christ himself. But what does it mean to say that Jesus is the corner stone? Many imagine this to mean the first stone laid from which the rest of the building is built. But the Greek lends itself to a different interpretation. The Greek phrase used in this passage is, lithos … kephalen gonas, which means, “the stone … the head of the corner.” The head of the corner could refer to a corner stone, or a capstone/keystone. The imagery of a capstone is a powerful one. In ancient architecture, the capstone was absolutely necessary to complete an arched structure. It was impossible to build an arch without it. Ancient engineers who designed them would take accountability for the reliability of their work by standing under the arch after the capstone was lowered in place. It was to be a dependable, perfectly cut stone in order to perform its function faithfully throughout generations.

The image Peter may be using, then, is that Jesus is this capstone, or keystone. Without Jesus the new covenant temple of God is an impossibility. This similar idea is in Hebrews 12:2. Jesus is called the “perfecter” or “completer” of our faith. Without Christ, faith in God and his plan is incomplete. Jesus is the author and pioneer of our faith (Heb 2:10), the builder (Heb 3:3), our forerunner to God (Heb 6:2), our guarantee (Heb 7:22), our great shepherd (Heb 13:20), our mediator (Heb 8:6; 9:15;12:24), our priest (Heb 2:27; 4:14); and our source of eternal salvation (Heb 5:9).

No wonder Jesus is called the capstone! We’re created as living stones and Jesus is the capstone that secures us in place. Without him, the church would not remain standing. Without him the church can’t hold together. Without him, the church can accomplish nothing as a spiritual building.

So, unlike the foolish builders that rejected Christ, we accept him and rely on him to make us stones that are spiritually stable. He becomes central to everything.

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