Monday, July 19, 2010

Cornerstone and Capstone

In normal architectural theory, a cornerstone and capstone are usually two different things. A cornerstone is a foundational stone that is placed first. All the other stones are placed in relation to it and so its solid placement and solid resting place are key to the structure and survival of the building. By contrast, a capstone is usually the last stone placed in a stone building. It is the stone that finishes off the building and finally holds the completed walls in place or finishes off the appearance of the wall by being the last stone put in place. In 1 Peter 2, Peter quotes two passages from the Old Testament with reference to Christ:

“4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame."Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
"The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone, and,
"A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

When my wife Julia and I were discussing this other day she pointed out to me something I had never heard or seen even though I have read this passage many times and had it quoted many times. Lots of people notice that Jesus is the cornerstone and we are like blocks that are built on him, our firm foundation building a house dedicated to God. We are included in this structure because of Christ and our position is made firm and secure by Christ. We are here by virtue of our relationship to Christ. In other words, our relationship to God through Christ is analogous to the relationship of the stones of a building to the cornerstone. I have heard this before, but I have heard very little about the capstone. What’s interesting is that Jesus is a capstone to those that reject him. The capstone is the final stone in a building. That means that when the capstone is put in place, no other stones are needed and no other stones are allowed in. This means that when people reject Jesus and he is the capstone to them, they find no place in the church and no place in God’s building. It is already completed and capped off. They are excluded by their relationship to the capstone. This too is of course a set of verses that deals with the question of predestination and god’s election. Thanks be to God that our salvation depends upon him and not on our good works or the lack thereof. And thanks be to God that we have come to Christ as a cornerstone rather than rejecting Him. Naturally we cannot know if anyone will final reject Christ in this life. Only God knows that. So we should see our fellow human beings as potential stones in the church - potential members of the elect who need to hear the gospel and be blessed with our good conduct and good faith. So this passage should ultimatly be encouraging.