The Cornerstone

John Telgren

"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 people picture 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 a structure that included an arch. It was impossible to build an arch, much less complete the structure without it. From what I understand, 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.

The image, then, is that Jesus is this capstone, or keystone, without which completion is impossible. We have this idea in Hebrews 12:2. Jesus is called the "perfecter" or "completer" of our faith. Without Christ, anyone who has ever placed their 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! All of us are living stones and he is the capstone that completes us. Without him, we would not stand. Without him we could not hold together. Without him, we could do nothing. With him, we become living stones and he puts us to use toward the completion of his plan.

So, unlike the foolish builders that rejected Christ, we accept him and rely on him. He becomes central to everything. He becomes our strength and our confidence. Notice:

"Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, 'See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: One who trusts will not panic' " (Isa 28:16 NRSV).

In whatever situation we find ourselves in, we need to stick with the capstone and draw our strength from him. There is nothing that anyone can do to separate us from him.