JESUS CHRIST -- "UPON THIS ROCK".
Jesus and His apostles were up in Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked what the people were saying about who He was. They replied with a number of people, and then He asked: "But who say ye that I am?" Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Mt. 16:13-18.
Jesus is often called a rock or a stone in the Scriptures. In prophecy the inspired record said of Him, "The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice." Deut. 32:4. David, fleeing for his life when he was being pursued by King Saul, said confidently, "Jehovah is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer, even mine; God, my rock, in him will I take refuge; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge; my savior, thou savest me from violence." 2 Sam. 22:2, 3.
Rocks and stones are used for many different things, even today. Because of the diversity of the services which Jesus renders on behalf of man, and the diversity of blessings which He bestows upon mankind He is compared with many different rocks and stones.
CHRIST IS THE FOUNDATION STONE. A building can only be as strong as its foundation. The Lord uses a graphic illustration of building in Mt. 7:24-27. The "wise man built his house upon the rock" v. 24, and when the storms came, that house endured. The "foolish man built his house upon the sand" v. 26, and when the storms came upon it, that house fell. As Paul writes, "The house of God, which is the church of the living God" 1 Tim. 3:15. When the Lord Jesus made the promise to build the house of God, His church, Mt. 16:18, He knew the value of the proper foundation. That church is built upon the rock, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
The apostle Peter, after the death and the resurrection of Jesus, preached the gospel for the first time publicly on Pentecost, Acts 2. After showing that Jesus was the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies, and declaring that God had raised Him from the dead, he declared: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" v.36. We then read, "The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved" v. 47. There is the foundation upon which the church is built, that Jesus is both "Lord and Christ". That foundation is sure and steadfast.
CHRIST IS THE CORNER STONE. For buildings in Bible times, the cornerstone was vital to the structure. Was the foundation important? Well, the cornerstone was the first stone laid of the foundation. From that corner, each wall was laid out and the vertical tiers were laid on top of that. If the cornerstone was "off" a little, the walls would never properly line up. And if it were not level, the entire structure was in danger.
The apostles Peter and John, on trial before the Jewish council, declared of Jesus: "He is the stone which was set at nought of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner" Acts 4:11. Paul echoes that theme, also: "So then ye are no more strangers and so- journers, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone" Eph. 2:;19,20. Make no mistake about it. The church is built upon Jesus Christ! "According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" 1 Cor. 3:10,11. Jesus quoted from Psa. 118:22 when He told the Jews: "Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; this was from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes?" Mt. 21:42.
CHRIST IS OUR ROCK AND REFUGE. Rocks have become places of refuge to many different kinds of animals, as they flee from predators Thus, the prophets of God often used the illustration of a "rock of refuge" to refer to the safety which God provided them against their enemies. The psalmist wrote, "The foreigners shall fade away, And shall come trembling out of their close places. Jehovah liveth; And blessed be my rock; And exalted be the God of my salvation...God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble" Psa. 18:45,46; 46:;1. In the same way that Jehovah was the "rock of refuge" for people of olden times, Christ is our "rock of refuge" today.
David prayed to God, "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, For thou hast been a refuge for me, a strong tower from the enemy" Psa. 61:2,3. This idea is stated this way in the New Testament Scruptures: "We may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us: which we have as an anchor of the soul, (a hope) both sure and stedfast and entering into that which is within the veil; whither as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" Heb. 6:18-20. In this world of sin, there are many trials, temptations and tribulations -- but there is refuge in Christ. For those who are troubled in this world, the Bible promises: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus" Phil. 4:;7.
CHRIST IS A LIFE-GIVING ROCK. When God delivered the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage, they were without water. At their complaint, God gave them water: "Jehovah said unto Moses, Pass on be- fore the people, and take with thee of the elders of Isreal; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Isreal" Exo. 17:5,6. This rock saved the lives of Israel by providing water for them. (Actually, God supplied the water by using the rock. JS).
Notice how the apostle Paul explains that event in Exo. 17. "For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual food; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ" 1 Cor. 10:1-4. Christ is that Rock, who provides "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" for us Eph. 1:3. The apostle Peter writes of Jesus, "A living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house" 1 Pet. 2:4,5. Christians have life, but Christ is the giver of life. From Him comes all the nourishment that results in spiritual life. He is the only life-giving stone.
CHRIST IS A STONE OF STUMBLING. God knew when He sent Chrst into the world that some people would not accept Him. Thus, the apostle Peter wrote, "Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, the stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner; and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient" 1 Pet. 2:6-8. But for those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the result is different: "They stumbled at the stone of stumbling; even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence; And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame" Rom. 9:32,33.
Do men "stumble at the word" today? Let the apostle Paul answer that: "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God...Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" 1 Cor. 1:18,22-24.
Again, Christ is "the stone of stumbling and rock of offense" for those who are disobedient. When some accept the "teachings of men" instead of submitting to the will of God, Mt. 15:8,9, they "stumble at the word". Religious leaders and their followers often "stumble" today at what the Lord said about religious unity, Jno. 17:20,21; Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. l:10-13, about baptism, Mk. 16:16; Acts 22:16, about the value of the church, Mt. 16:18; Acts 2:47; 20:28, about how we are to worship, Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-28; Eph. 5:19 and many other such subjects. As Paul wrote about the Jews: "Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God", Rom. 10:1-3. They still stumble at the word.
THE STONE OF DESTRUCTION. There will come a time when this stone will hurl itself in judgment against all who have abused it on earth. The exact language of Jesus Christ is: "And he that falleth on this stone shall be broken to pieces: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust", Mt. 21:44. John must have had this in mind when he said "For the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand?" Rev. 6:17. The same question, with the answer, is found in Psa. 24:3,4 "Who shall ascend into the hill of Jehovah? And who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; Who hath not lifted up his soul unto falsehood, And hath not sworn decietfully."
Which "stone" or "rock" do you want? Why not choose Christ as your foundation stone, as the corner stone, as your rock of refuge, as your life-giving stone? If you will, you can live with Him forever, Jno. 14: 1-6. But, if you do not, He will be a "stone of stumbling" which will become your stone of destruction.
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 49, No. 43, Oct. 27, 2000.
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