In the Old Testament, God dwelt among his people, the Israelites. As they travelled to the Promised Land, they carried with them the Tabernacle. They encamped with the tabernacle at their centre symbolizing God dwelling with them. When they settled into the land Solomon built a temple. When Solomon’s temple was commissioned, the glory-cloud of God filled the temple, again symbolizing that God was dwelling among his people. But in 1 Peter 2:5, we see a radical shift in this idea for the NT disciples, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” God would no longer dwell among his people. Instead, God now dwelt IN his people because of the work of Christ on the cross. Peter describes Jesus as the cornerstone of the church (1 Peter 2:5a), “see, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone”.
Two ideas spring from the word ‘cornerstone’. One is ‘a stone representing the nominal starting place in the construction of a monumental building, usually carved with the date and laid with appropriate ceremonies’. A second definition is ‘something that is essential, indispensable and forms the chief foundation on which something is constructed or developed’. The first definition is seen in the fact that Jesus Christ, our cornerstone, constructed the church through his death and resurrection. However, Jesus is not just the founder of the church but he is also the foundation on which we, the living stones that form the church, are built. This illustrates the second definition.
In this life, all of us are builders. We build our lives and we also seek to build the lives of those around us. To build a life, we need a cornerstone too. The question is who is our cornerstone? If we are not building our lives on Jesus then we are must be building our lives on something else.
Do we know what our cornerstone is? One way is by tracing our thoughts when the chips are down. When we go wrong, who or what do we turn to? Is it our own personality, our own morality, our own intellect, etc.? In my former ministry at the Helping Hand, I observed something interesting. Many of the residents were able to follow the program faithfully while in the program. They woke up early each morning to read the Bible and pray. They would write what they learnt in a journal. Before morning chapel, they would go early and prepare themselves in silent meditation. This attitude would also be seen in their work. They served willingly and even cheerfully when given extra duties. They become shining examples of the delivering power of Christ. But yet when they finished their program, they would relapse almost immediately. Why?
It could be that the cornerstone of their faith was not Jesus Christ. Could their cornerstone have been obedience to the ministry rules? They wanted a trouble-free stay so they followed the program faithfully just as they used to while in prison. But when the program ended, their cornerstone was taken away. Without that cornerstone, their freedom became shaky and immediately they fell from grace.
What is the cornerstone on which our faith and our church stand on? Is it Jesus Christ? Is it our own intellect? Is it the programs that are offered? Is it our service to the church ministry? If it is Jesus Christ, we will endure whatever may threaten or afflict us. “…the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame” 1 Peter 2:6b.