Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. [Isaiah 28:16 (NLT)]
Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. [Ephesians 2:20-22 (NLT)]
The cornerstone metaphor continues into the New Testament with both Paul and Peter referring to Jesus as the cornerstone of our faith. Nowadays, cornerstones are structurally unneeded and a growing number of commercial buildings no longer have them. Symbolic rather than functional, many serve as time capsules holding material relevant to the building and the year it was built. Because commercial buildings so frequently change hands, even the custom of inscribing the building’s name on a cornerstone is disappearing. The latest practice is a freestanding cornerstone/time capsule resting on a pedestal placed in a prominent part of the building. That way, a new stone can replace the old one every time the building’s owner changes.
While cornerstones may be superfluous to a modern structure, there is nothing superfluous about Jesus as our cornerstone. Moreover, He can’t be exchanged for a newer version or sold to the highest bidder. While buildings may change owners, our owner remains God and we are both His children and His servants. Our cornerstone does not serve as a time capsule of 1st century Judah; Jesus is our living stone and as relevant today as He was 2,000 years ago.
Both Paul and Peter carry the building metaphor further by calling us the stones in God’s temple. Unlike the temple in Jerusalem, this isn’t an earthly building with walls and a roof. Nevertheless, it has a cornerstone in Jesus. Since a cornerstone connects two different walls, the metaphor illustrates how Jesus connected both Gentiles and Jews into one cohesive church.
Peter likens us to living stones and Paul says we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Let that image sink in for a moment and consider those foundation stones: people like John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and John. Others in that foundation are less famous but no less essential: people like Lydia, the cloth merchant who housed Paul; Tabitha (Dorcas), the generous seamstress who came back from the dead; the eloquent Apollos, one of the first Christian apologists; the devoted Mary Magdalene; Aquila and Priscilla, the tentmakers who opened their home to Paul; the generous Phoebe, a deacon at the church in Cenchreae; Silas, who sang with Paul when they were prisoners; and Paul’s fellow missionary, Barnabas. Through the centuries, others were added to the structure: defender of the Trinity, Athanasius; Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation; theologian and philosopher, Augustine of Hippo; the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett; Bible translators John Wycliffe and Martin Tyndale; Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan; reformer John Calvin; founder of Methodism, John Wesley; and the “Saint of Auschwitz,” Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe. Set beside these well-known Christians are people whose names we wouldn’t recognize; nevertheless, they too are the stones of the church. Think about it—people just like us are being set into this same edifice with the likes of apologist C.S. Lewis, humanitarian Mother Teresa, Olympian Eric Liddell, evangelist Billy Graham, and the “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon! We are living stones being mortared into place, shoulder to shoulder, with the apostles and prophets who went before us! We are the temple of God and its cornerstone is Jesus Christ!