The Church has a very important place in the life of a Christian. So it was with the early Church. In Matthew we read, “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ÔWho do people say that the Son of Man is?’
“They replied, ÔSome say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
“ÔBut what about you?’ he asked. ÔWho do you say I am?’
“Simon Peter answered, ÔYou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
“Jesus replied, ÔBlessed are you, Simon the Son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it'” (Matthew 6:13-18).
While Peter had the right answer, he did not fully understand what he had said. The days following were a revelation to Peter as he saw Jesus crucified, buried, and raised from the dead.
Then came Pentecost, which was fifty days after Easter. Many people were in Jerusalem celebrating a Jewish festival. Suddenly the Holy Spirit appeared in a most unique way. The visitors in Jerusalem were perplexed, for they heard the disciples speaking the Gospel in their own language. They asked, “How is it that each of us hears (the apostles) speaking in his own language?” (Acts 2:6).
Some in the crowd made fun of the disciples and said, “They had too much wine.”
Then Peter stood up and preached his famous Pentecost sermon, which is recorded in Acts 2. He presented Jesus to the crowd telling how he was crucified, buried and on the third day raised from the dead. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.
When the people heard this, they were under a great conviction of sin. They asked Peter, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Those who accepted this message and were baptized numbered about three thousand. This is often referred to as the birthday of the Christian Church.
Then, when all settled down, the disciples were obedient to the Lord’s Word and became witnesses of Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, and to the far parts of the world. Peter was among those witnesses. He went out and planted new churches in all parts of his little world. It was about A.D. 64 when Peter wrote his first letter to these churches.
Today’s text is taken from 1 Peter 2:4-8, where Peter is drawing a verbal picture of the Church. Christ is building his Church, which Peter calls a “spiritual house.” Christ is the cornerstone, and believers in Christ are described as living stones being built into Christ’s spiritual house. Peter gives the believers, these living stones, a great promise when he says, “. . . and the ones who trust in him will never be put to shame.”
Peter continues, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,” Jesus is an offense and “a stone that causes men to stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.”
People have responded to Jesus in these same ways throughout the ages:
Believers Ð Using Peter’s picture, they are living rocks in Christ’s spiritual house.
Indifferent Ð The most common response today, they have no interest in being a stone in Christ’s spiritual house, which is the Church.
Unbelievers Ð Jesus is an offense and among them. They would be anxious to destroy the Christian faith, because it is divisive to society (Christians – Moslems is an example) or a threat to other ways of life (Christianity vs. Communism or Nazism).
Yet Christ continues to build his spiritual house. Today in this world, many people will become Christians (stones built into this spiritual house). The Word of God is being taught, the Holy Spirit is at work through this Word, and people are responding positively. It is happening where we least expect it. Let me illustrate.
Some years ago my wife and I were in Jerusalem. An acquaintance, who once lived in our community, was now living in Jerusalem. When this man heard we were visiting Jerusalem, he invited us to attend the English speaking synagogue with him. We accepted his invitation and attended their worship service. We were introduced to the congregation and invited to be their guests after the service in the garden where they had cheese and wine. We were enjoying their fellowship when a young Jewish lady, who once lived in Iowa, came to me and asked, “Are you one of His?”
When we told this lady that we were believers in Christ as Savior and Lord, she said, “I too am one of His.” That week she was going to meet with the chief rabbi to learn if she could continue to be a member of the synagogue even though she had become a Christian.
This lady, a converted Jew, was one of Christ’s stones having become a part of the spiritual house (the Church). The work goes on.
These stones are people of all ages. Sometimes we wonder if the youth of our day are serious about their relationship with the Lord. We were reminded of how serious they can be when my wife and I received a card from our granddaughter. She is spending the summer in Spain teaching children of the naval people stationed there. In the card she writes, “I am having a wonderful time. Every day I wake up and look forward to shining Christ’s light to these children.” She is one of the stones in Christ’s spiritual house. How encouraging!
Another lady in her early 60s is facing a serious examination to learn if her cancer is growing. Although she wants to live with her family on this earth for a few more years, she is one of those living stones in Christ’s House (the Church). She claims Christ’s promise that she “will never be put to shame.” Her eternal destiny is heaven.
St. Peter wants us to know that Christians are a part of the community of believers. C. B. Cranfield writes, “The free-lance Christian, who would desire to be a Christian but is too superior to belong to the visible church upon earth, is a contradiction in terms. The individual finds his true place when he/she is built into the edifice of the Church.”