The Stone The Builders Rejected Has Become The Cornerstone

Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone of the temple (church) and Christians as living stones (lively stones) from 1 Peter 2 and Psalm 118. Jesus, the stone the builders rejected, wears a crown of thorns symbolizing Christian persecution. In the background imagery from Psalm 22 and Ezekiel 2-3, dogs, lions, bulls of Bashan, thorns, briers and scorpions symbolize the opposition and persecution against God's church.

JOHN THE BAPTIST ARTWORKS SERIES 2

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SOLD, 74 cm x 55 cm (29″ x 21.5″), Watercolor Pencil, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Watercolor Paper

 

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22-23 NIV 2011)

“As you come to him [Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and, ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:4-10 ESV))

The idea for this drawing came to me during a time of prayer and worship. I was in a season where God was rebuilding me from damage I sustained during past opposition, specifically that which had come from those who professed to be Christians. I was repenting of not standing firmly for the truth but buckling under the pressure of man. I was also praying for my persecutors and for God to heal me.

As I continued my “worship walk” I specifically asked the Lord to make me bold and courageous in the face of future persecution and opposition, for I knew that now that I had repented and resolved to stand for the truth again, that persecution would be the inevitable result all over again. That is just the simple truth of the Scriptures:

“You, however, know all about my [the Apostle Paul’s] teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:10-15)

“We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-4)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)

The opposition I had encountered in the past was stronger than my ability to withstand in my own strength. Inwardly, however, I felt like Paul when he said, “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8). In the future, I would not be able to back down from what I know to be the truth, but if I faltered in the past, how would I be able to stand again in the face of even more fierce opposition (due to my refusal not to “recant”)? In my crisis of human inadequacy I needed an outpouring of God’s grace (and when we walk in God’s perfect will, his grace is always outpoured in wholly sufficient measure for us to fulfill it. Absolute surrender is the road of God’s unlimited grace and strength).

My ipod was set on random as I prayer-walked through my crisis, and at the very instant I cried out to the Lord to give me grace to stand in the face of future persecution, the song “The Stone by Jars of Clay came on (Listen to the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oe7Mv7R1hyk).

All of a sudden I had a marvelous flash of revelation of what it meant to share in the sufferings of Christ. In an instant my focus was transformed from what happened to me into beautiful fellowship with Christ as I participated in his sufferings.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

It was as if God lifted me out of the dark shadows of earth into the light and joy of heaven (Luke 6:22-23, Acts 5:41, Acts 7:54-60). In a single moment, the pain of my sufferings was transformed into a flood of the joy of the Lord. I could truly rejoice under persecution, for I have Jesus, the joy of my heart (Psalm 16:11; 21:6)! Along with the flood of joy came a flood of revelation:

God tells us that we are to follow in Christ’s footsteps in regards to suffering and persecution for his sake and for the sake of the gospel.

“But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:20-24)

Even when we believers are rejected by man, we are chosen by God.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:3-5)

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10)

Christ was also rejected by men (Isaiah 53) but chosen by God (1 Peter 2:4) as the precious Cornerstone of the Church.

But by whom was Jesus rejected?

The Scripture specifically likens Christ’s rejection to a stone, in essence a building material, that has been rejected by builders.

Who were these builders, what were they building, and why is that of significance to us?

We must remember that Jesus’ fiercest opposition did not come from the pagans but from the religious leaders of his day. The Pharisees were busy building a false “church” (a religious ’empire’ of sorts, over which they could exert their ‘authority’,  (See John 11:45-50, Matthew 23)), but it was out of touch with the living God and had no way of salvation in it. Like the builders of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), the Pharisees were building their own “Babylon” (Revelation 17-18) in order to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). (I personally believe Babylon in Revelation is, at least in part, symbolic of the false church and is typified in the Scriptures in the references to Babylon and The Tower of Babel). See “Come Out of Her, My People (Babylon the Harlot)” (Signs of The Times Series).)

This false, religious ‘church’ stands in contradistinction to the temple of God, which is the true Church (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Scripture tells us that we believers are like “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) which are founded upon Christ the Cornerstone and are being built up into the temple of God. Throughout the ages, the false ‘church’ has always persecuted the true Church (Luke 20:9-19, Matthew 23:33-39, Acts 7:44-53, 1 John 3:11-15).

The builders rejected Jesus, the Word Made Flesh (John 1:14), because he spoke as one who had authority (See Matthew 7:28-29), a spiritual authority which challenged and undermined the earthly “authority” the Pharisees possessed over the people. Likewise, true believers also possess an inherent spiritual authority because of the indwelling Christ. The authority of Christ within his people continues to unsettle and cause discomfort in religious people today, for Jesus in us continues to challenge their authority (Acts 4:13). If the religious leaders rejected Jesus back then, they will continue to reject him (within us) today. This is why Jesus warned his disciples:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’…

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you… (John 15:18-25, 16:1-4)

Within many visible churches these days there is often a great mixture of sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46), those who are truly born again of the Holy Spirit and those who simply profess to be. We must remember that sheep and goats are members of two entirely different buildings, Babylon and God’s temple, just as there are two different sets of builders.

(If we true believers are not careful to protect our relationship with God (just as Lot was uncareful by moving into Sodom, Genesis 13:10-13; 19:1-2), we can come under the influence of the maddening wine of Babylon’s spiritual adulteries (Revelation 17:2). Drunkenness distorts our sense of reality, that is, God’s truth. Even though we belong to the temple of God, we can become inebriated by Babylon in our thinking, and thus we begin to act more like the false church than the true Church. This is why the Lord commands us to come out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4)–so that we will not share in her sins or receive any of her plagues. See 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and Revelation 17-19:9, especially Revelation 18:4, for further study. See also“Come Out of Her, My People (Babylon The Harlot) (Signs of The Times Series)” and “Coming Out of The Confusion of Babylon Back to The Way of Zion” (John the Baptist Artworks Series 2)).

Therefore, it should not surprise us believers when the builders of Babylon, who have rejected the living Christ as the Cornerstone of the ‘church’ they were building, also reject us little stones as their building materials. Jesus did warn us, “They will put you out of the synagogue…” (John 16:2). This is exactly what they did: “…the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22).

When we encounter such rejection and persecution on account of Christ, sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by it, especially if it comes from those who profess to be Christians. We may feel tiny, outnumbered, defenseless and surrounded (Psalm 22:11-21).

When we find ourselves in such a situation, we must keep a proper spiritual perspective. (Psalm 22 and Psalm 69, the two foremost prophetic psalms about Jesus’ suffering, demonstrate this glorious transition of a sufferer finding a true spiritual perspective, even in the midst of their suffering.)

We must keep in mind that despite Christ’s rejection by those who were building a ‘church’ here on earth, God ultimately exalted him to the highest place and made him the Cornerstone of his enduring temple.

Likewise, my dear brothers and sisters, let us remember that even when men reject us, WE ARE ACCEPTED BY GOD,  for we are chosen and precious stones, just as Christ is the chosen and precious Cornerstone, of an indestructible temple that will endure throughout eternity and against which even the very gates of hell can not and will not prevail (Matthew 16:18)! This is the true spiritual reality.

God’s holy temple is the only building that will endure throughout eternity. Babylon is destined for destruction (Revelation 18:1-19:9). Our great consolation in the face of suffering is that we as living stones have marvelously and gratuitously been exalted by God, who has built us together with Christ into his holy, enduring temple. The Lord has done this and it is indeed marvelous in our eyes!

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22-23 NIV 2011)

Whenever we suffer, may we also take to heart this famous Scripture:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:18, -31-39)

My drawing features the temple of God, the true Church, which is made up of living stones that are founded upon Christ, the Cornerstone. Jesus wears a crown of thorns, which symbolizes his sufferings (in which the rest of the Church also participates.) Nevertheless, both Jesus and his people are rejoicing in God.

The foundation of the temple is made up of the apostles and prophets, which references the following Scripture:

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s 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.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

The temple stands large, established, firm and immovable, even as it is confronted by the false church (and more widely, the world), which is symbolized by thorns, briers, scorpions, dogs, bulls and lions. The imagery of the dogs, bulls and lions comes from Psalm 22, a prophetic psalm of Christ’s suffering on the cross.

“Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me…Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” (Psalm 22:12-13, 16)

The imagery of the thorns, briers and scorpions comes from Ezekiel 2, which is the passage about Ezekiel’s call as a prophet to Israel. At that time Israel had strayed from God and had been exiled to Babylon. For years I have wanted to do a drawing based on this passage of Scripture because I feel that there is a great need for the true remnant Church to be a prophetic voice, just as Ezekiel was, to the greater professing “church” in Babylon.

Going hand in hand with this Ezekiel passage is one from the commissioning of Jeremiah the prophet. While Ezekiel prophesied to the exiled Jews in Babylon, Jeremiah had been sent by God years eariler to warn the Israelites of their impending exile. Because Israel was so hardened and unrepentant during that time, both prophets needed supernatural fortification from God in order to preach the truth, to stand in the face of opposition and to endure rejection from their fellow countrymen. I find these Scriptures very relevant and encouraging for the remnant Church today. May they strengthen and embolden her in her prophetic calling.

“He said: ‘Son of man [Ezekiel], I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen–for they are a rebellious house–they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house…’

…You are being sent…to the house of Israel…the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.'” (Ezekiel 2:3-8; 3:5, 7-9)

“Get yourself [Jeremiah] ready! Stand up and say to them [the Israelites] whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 1:17-19)

(See also “The Fellowship of Sharing in Christ’s Sufferings” (Believer’s Road Series), “The Martyr” (John the Baptist Artworks Series), “Follow Me” (John the Baptist Artworks Series) and “Though None Go With Me, Still I Will Follow You, Jesus” (John the Baptist Artworks Series 2).)