As the chief cornerstone, it is Jesus who determines our position and placement in the temple of God. As living stones, we must live in surrender to Him.
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)
The cornerstone – not to be confused with the capstone, that often triangular central stone in an arch – was critical in ancient buildings. It was the first stone laid in the foundation, and defined the placing of each subsequent stone. As such it defined and supported the entire building, ‘holding it together’ as each stone was put into place. It’s a concept that our modern methods of building have almost completely erased from familiar understanding.
The chief cornerstone and our modern ‘replacement.’
Back in the old days, the chief cornerstone was the one described. Today’s buildings often boast visible cornerstones that contain carving and dedication plaques, but they are simply for show. Sadly, this is a common issue in the church. God’s temple is built as believers choose, and the ‘cornerstone’ is little more than an outward show of faith that all but eliminates the chief cornerstone from the equations.
Today’s verses bring us back to the critical truth that Christ alone is the chief cornerstone. He is the first, and He defines and strengthens the building of this spiritual home for our God. It’s very clear that without this cornerstone, ‘our’ building lacks stability, strength, and correct form. It’s subject to the vagaries of the flesh, where every stone seeks its own direction and man-made techniques replace spiritual submission.
Living stones are still subject to the chief cornerstone.
The fact that we are called living stones does not mean our will can replace the authority of the chief cornerstone. The living stones of today’s temple are also the living sacrifices of that same temple. Every single stone is still subject to the chief cornerstone, which is subject to the will of the Master Builder. Every single aspect of our faith is determined by our position in Christ – in relation to the chief cornerstone – who was the first and put in place by God Himself.
It is Christ who determines where and how we fit in this holy temple. Without Him, we are worth nothing and have absolutely no relevance. Stones piled any which way do not make a building. Any wall erected in this way will fall, sooner or later, because it has no proper foundation. Anything of the flesh or the world will be shaken, and only that which cannot be shaken will remain. Our own attempts to build a temple are doomed to failure if we ignore the chief cornerstone. We may be living stones, but the life in us is the life of Christ Himself. It’s no longer our own – for me to live is Christ.
Finding our position in relation to the chief cornerstone.
In order to find our proper place in this new temple, we have to reference the chief cornerstone. Jesus determines what type of stone we will be, where we fit, and alongside which stones. From a purely practical perspective, this relates to our position in the body of Christ. But it has a greater relevance because it means that we acknowledge we have absolutely no choice. Whether it be our place of work or which church we attend, it’s not up to us. Jesus decides where He wants us, and we must surrender to His will.
To understand this clearly, we can look at the original tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem. Both were built according to strict and detailed instructions from God. He left no room for personal preference, artistic licence, or even minor deviation. God doesn’t change, and what He insisted on in the physical temples is still what He demands in His spiritual temple. He set Jesus as the chief cornerstone for one single reason – to determine the position of every single other living stone according to His plan.
Only the chief cornerstone retains its individual identity.
In a world where ‘me’ is centre stage, this is often a difficult concept to grasp. We use expressions like our ‘destiny’ or ‘identity in Christ’ to set ourselves apart as someone special. While on one hand it’s absolutely true that we are ‘special’ to God who loves us as individuals, the original ‘self’ must lose its entire identity and identify only in Christ. That’s the principle behind baptism – being buried in Christ and rising in Him. This is the power of the chief cornerstone. It’s Jesus who God and the world should see when they look at us.
The reality is that the stones, when built together, have no individual identity. They are simply part of the temple. None is more important than another. Together, however, they reflect the chief cornerstone. Everything they are and do is connected by the one who holds them together in perfect balance to the glory of God. This spiritual temple is the dwelling place of God, and there is no place for individual agendas and preferences.
The chief cornerstone requires perfect submission.
Living stones must be living sacrifices, just as the chief cornerstone sacrificed Himself for the glory of God. If it were not for the cross and what Jesus achieved there, we could never even consider being part of the awesome privilege of being a temple for God. The greater our submission and surrender, the greater the presence of God Himself. When there is no room in us for self, He works us together in perfect symmetry and joyful worship for the glory of God alone.
Thank You, Jesus, for the cross and for making it possible for each and every one of us to find a place in God’s spiritual temple. Help us to surrender all, to yield to the perfect authority of our chief cornerstone, so that You can work in us to shape us for our part in revealing the manifest glory of God.