Living Stones, Chosen and Beloved
This Sunday at New Life, we saw another encouragement from Peter to scattered, first-century Christians experiencing trials of various kinds. In this case, the specific trial in view was that of rejection (1 Peter 2:4-10). Likely, the rejection they experienced was due to leaving their former pagan lifestyles, which Peter had earlier described as an “empty way of life handed down to [them] from [their] ancestors” (1 Peter 1:18 NIV). If you’ve ever had any dialogue with unbelieving friends and loved ones, you can probably identify with the rejection our early brothers and sisters-in-Christ were experiencing. Whether it be exclusion from an outing with friends or outright antagonism against us for our faith, we’ve probably all experienced some form of rejection in our walks with Christ.
A Spiritual House
What is interesting is how Peter chose to encourage his early readers. He used the analogy of a spiritual house in which Jesus is the living cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4, 6, 7) and God’s people are the living stones built upon the foundation of Christ (1 Peter 2:5). One of the great lessons from this analogy is that God no longer dwells among his people as he did in Old Testament times: through the mobile tabernacle or the permanent temple (Exodus 25:8). Rather, God now dwells among his people through his Spirit within his people (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). God’s people today—the church—are together the living temple of God. Ultimately, the day will come when Jesus himself will dwell among us as our heavenly temple (Revelation 21:22). But until the Lord returns to welcome us into his heavenly kingdom, the church itself is currently the temple of the living God.
As Paul similarly states in Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV):
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Rejected by the World
In all this, Peter reminds his early readers—and us today—of the rejection Jesus had similarly experienced (1 Peter 2:4). The imagery Peter uses evokes an appallingly jaw-dropping scene:
Before erecting a building, stonemasons search piles of rocks for boulders with the size and shape to become foundation stones, cornerstones, and capstones. [These stonemasons are depicted] as discarding one [stone] after another. They finally see the perfect stone, which represents the Messiah. But when they examine it, they reject it, too. So Israel’s putative leaders searched for their Messiah, but when they found him, they judged him a false prophet (or worse) and killed him.
Jesus, as the cornerstone, experienced outright rejection by those who shouted for his crucifixion. It’s a rejection that continues to this day by those who do not believe (1 Peter 2:7-8). Following the thought-line of the analogy, it makes sense why Peter’s early readers were experiencing rejection. If Jesus, the cornerstone, had been rejected by the unbelieving world, so too will Christians experience rejection from the world. Jesus assures us of this (Matthew 10:22).
Chosen by God
But here is where the encouragement comes in. Though Jesus was rejected, he was nonetheless chosen and beloved by God (1 Peter 2:4). He is the chosen and precious cornerstone of the spiritual house we, as believers, are being built into (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6, 7). In the same way, those who belong to Christ, though rejected by the unbelieving world, are chosen as God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9). We are unwanted stones tossed away by the world but picked up by God, for God. Can you see the stirring beauty in God’s gracious choice? Despised by the world yet loved by God. Rejected by the enemies of the cross yet chosen by God. Spurned by hardened hearts yet welcomed into the very heart of God. No wonder Peter culminates his analogy with, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10 NIV).
In God’s glorious grace, he has chosen some from this evil world to belong to him as his special possession. Of course, this raises the concerned question: “If God has chosen some to belong to him, does this also mean he chooses others for condemnation?” As your pastor, I cannot sugarcoat the answer. All I can do is point you to God’s Word. In Peter’s use of the cornerstone analogy, we are told those who trust in Christ will never be put to shame (1 Peter 2:6). Jesus is precious not just to our Father, but to us, as well (1 Peter 2:7). But as the cornerstone, Jesus is simultaneously a stumbling stone for those who reject him—those who do not believe (1 Peter 2:8). Here is the pill that is hard to swallow: Peter tells us, “They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for” (1 Peter 2:8 NIV).
I cannot speak for God. His choices are his prerogative (Romans 9:10-13). But I can assure you: in all that God does, he is always good; he is never unfair nor unjust. We must remember God would have been perfectly just in leaving us to our own sin. In other words, even if he never displayed mercy to a single human being across the entirety of history, he would still be just in leaving us to the consequences of our own sin. The fact that he does choose some for salvation simply reveals to us his mercy and grace. Election, from a theological perspective, is always mercy, never injustice (Romans 9:14-15).
Responding in Light of the Gospel
And what is Peter’s response to such wonderful mercy and grace? A life of worship and genuine praise (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Paul would agree. He tells us the purpose of God’s grace in choosing and electing us is a life of worship (Romans 12:1) and praise (Ephesians 1:3-14). In the face of rejection, our election in Christ motivates us to glorify God through worshipful living and praise!
It can be easy to respond to rejection in any number of sinful and unhelpful ways:
Badmouthing those who snub us.
Cutting off any friendship with those who reject our faith.
Returning antagonism to enemies of the cross.
Using harsh language against anyone who does not agree with us (Can you see how easy it could be for us to become the antagonizers?).
Peter wants to guard our hearts from these types of fleshly responses. And he does so through the loveliness of his analogy. As imperfect stones among a myriad of imperfect stones on a rocky beach, the Lord has looked past our imperfections, shortcomings, and blemishes, and with great love he has chosen us to belong to him. Oh, may you be deeply encouraged by the beauty of God’s election! May it be a truth that guards your heart from fleshly responses. And more than that, may it be a truth that stirs your heart toward the right response of worship and praise of the one who chose you.
In the end, the truth of God’s election motivates us to worship God amid antagonism and rejection. So, my dear New Life Community Church, the next time you experience rejection from the world around you—whether it be at your workplace, among your friends, at your next family gathering, or even on social media—remember you have already been chosen by God to be a partaker of his glorious grace in Christ. Then, allow that truth to soften your heart toward humble praise of the one who chose you. Even in the face of hostility and animosity against you, may your election in Christ spur you toward a soft response to those who antagonize you, and—ultimately—praise of the one who has graciously chosen you.
With love for you in Christ,
 Daniel M. Doriani, 1 Peter (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014), 67.