Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Chief Cornerstone

Episode Resources

Watch "Jesus—Chief Cornerstone."

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth knows a lot of people resist acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: That’s about as futile as an angry toddler rushing a 310-pound offensive lineman—kicking him, pummeling him with his fists. Who’s going to get hurt?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Wednesday, November 21, 2018.

Nancy’s continuing in the series “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus.”

Nancy: There are many times in the Scripture when you will see God likened to a rock. That can mean many things, but often it speaks to us of comfort and security. For example, we read in Psalm 18:2, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge.”

He’s a safe, a secure place. Isaiah 26:4: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock.” Then, in 1 Corinthians 10, we learn about the rock that provided water in the wilderness for the children of Israel, and we’re told that that rock was a picture, a type, of Christ. First Corinthians 10:4: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

In this session today, we want to focus as we’re looking at the wonder of His Name (and isn’t a wonderful Name?) by looking at Jesus as the Stone, the Cornerstone. There are many words related to rock or stone that we could focus on, but I want to focus on this important New Testament concept of Jesus being the Cornerstone.

That New Testament concept is actually laid for us in a number of Old Testament, prophetic, passages that point to the coming Messiah. So we’ll look first in the Old Testament and then at the New Testament application.

Isaiah 28:16:

Thus says the LORD GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be in haste.'”

That’s a Messianic prophecy that we see quoted later in 1 Peter 2, because it’s a prophecy that was fulfilled in Jesus, who is our Cornerstone.

This word, “cornerstone,” is not a word we use in everyday language, so it’s a concept that may not be familiar to everyone. Wikipedia says that a cornerstone is “the first stone set in the construction of a [stone] foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.”

So a cornerstone, as the ESV Study Bible says, ensures that a stone building is square and stable. The cornerstone is the most important stone, because it sets the course for all the rest of the stones and for the whole building. That cornerstone is basic, essential, foundational, and it supports the weight of the entire building.

There’s another important Old Testament reference to this cornerstone. It’s found in Psalm 118, which as you may know is the last psalm in what is called the Hebrew hallel—that’s a set of psalms (Psalms 113–118). This is the psalm that is likely the one that Jesus and His disciples sang together after the Last Supper.

Scripture says, “After they went out, they sang a hymn.” This is probably the psalm they would have sung. The Hebrew hallel would have been sung during Passover, and so as they left the upper room to go out to the Mount of Olives where Jesus would be arrested, this is probably the psalm that they sang. Someday, read all of Psalm 118 in that context, and it will really, really bless you.

Let me focus on one verse in that psalm: Psalm 118:22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone” (NASB). Now, imagine Jesus singing the words of that psalm. He would have been singing about Himself. The Stone is Messiah, it’s Christ, and as the Cornerstone, Jesus is absolutely foundational—essential. The whole rest of the building is built around Him. The whole weight of the building rests on Him.

The builders in this passage (the stone the builders rejected), we come to realize in the New Testament, are the Jewish religious leaders—the scribes, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law. They rejected Jesus as the Messiah sent from God. The stone which the builders rejected . . . They refused to believe that He was the Messiah.

But God highly exalted Jesus. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone . . . rejected by men, chosen by God. God highly exalted the One the others had rejected. They threw Him out; they tossed Him out. They didn’t feel like they needed Him for their building, but God said, “No, this is the chief cornerstone—the One on whom the entire building rests.”

God vindicated Him, established Him as the foundation stone, the cornerstone, of a new building that we know as the church. So Psalm 118:23 and 24 go on to say,

This is the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (NASB).

Did you ever realize that’s the context for that very familiar verse?

So as Jesus is heading toward Gethsemane and the cross, this is what He’s singing: This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. What day? The day that the stone the builders rejected becomes the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

You see, what appeared to be the worst day in all of human history—the day of humiliating defeat on the cross—was like every other day—the day that the Lord has made, and therefore a cause for great joy. Isn’t God’s perspective so different from ours?

We look at those hard days, those days of the cross, those days of bearing a burden, those days of hardship and pain, and maybe even suffering, and we say, “Oh, this is a horrible day!”

But Jesus says, “No, this is the day that the Lord has made. This is why I came into this world. He is still with Me. He is My God. I will trust Him. I will do this, for the Father has sent Me to accomplish His purposes. This is the day the Lord has made. This is His doing. It is marvelous in our eyes. We will rejoice and be glad in this day.”

This very psalm, Psalm 118, is actually quoted by Jesus in the gospels. The context is Jesus telling that parable of the wicked tenants who killed the son of the owner—remember that story?

In that context, Jesus says to His listeners in Matthew 21: “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (v. 42).

Jesus knew this psalm, and He quoted it in the context of talking about how He, as God’s chosen stone, would be rejected by men, but established and esteemed by God. Nothing and no one can stop God’s eternal purposes from being accomplished. Jesus was rejected by men. He was crucified.

Men thought they had put an end to that “Messiah-talk.” But, no way! They could not thwart God’s eternal plan. Jesus’ death actually accomplished God’s great plan of redemption. His enemies thought that death was their greatest weapon, but God said, “No, death’s my greatest weapon—and death is not the end of the story,” for there was a resurrection after that death.

You see, God’s plan for His people—and God’s plan for your life—cannot be thwarted. Others may oppose you, they may reject you, they may persecute you, but God will have His way. And if God says you’re chosen and precious and useful for His purposes, then what God says is what matters—not what men say.

Now to those who believe and put their trust in this Cornerstone, Jesus, this is a marvelous truth; but to those who do not believe that Jesus is God’s Cornerstone, that Stone will turn out to be their undoing.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 21 as He’s talking to these people. He’s just given this parable about the owner of the vineyard, and the people who kill his servants and his son. Then He tells the story about “I am this cornerstone that is rejected, but God has made this stone the cornerstone.” And then He says, “And the one who falls on this stone [He’s speaking of Himself] will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (v. 44).

You don’t believe? If you believe in Him, this is marvelous in your eyes, but if you don’t believe, this Stone will be your undoing. I’m reminded that Jesus is in no way diminished by the rejection of those who don’t believe in Him. Even though they may attack Him, they may seek to destroy Him, ultimately, they will be broken, crushed, destroyed by this Stone.

That’s why it’s so important that we appeal to people to believe in Jesus, and when they do this, He will be marvelous in their eyes. People kick against Jesus, they push against Him, they reject Him, they attack Him. In my mind, that’s about as futile as an angry toddler rushing a 310-pound offensive lineman—kicking him, pummeling him with his fists. Who’s going to get hurt? Not the 310-pound football player!

You push against Jesus, you reject Him—He’s not going to get hurt. You’re going to get hurt. So Peter says in 1 Peter 2:4, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” Do you get that? Jesus was rejected by men. But how did God view Him? Chosen and precious. That which is despised and rejected by men is chosen and precious to God.

So the question is, “Is He precious to you? Do you choose Him? Do you view Him the way God does?” Peter says,

As you come to him, 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 (vv. 4–5).

What’s all that talking about? Jesus was chosen by God. He was precious. He is the living Cornerstone, the foundational stone that bears the weight of the house and establishes the entire structure. Through faith in Christ, as we are in Him, we become living stones built on Christ.

We get a new identity. We’re no longer defined by our fallen, sinful nature—by the failures of our past. Our identity is not found in our performance or our gifts or our abilities. We are chosen ones, precious to God, just as Jesus is. Now, how can you know that and have self-image problems?

If we have self-image problems, the problem is we’re listening to the wrong source, the wrong voices. Men’s voices say, “Yes, you’re rejected.” You may have tapes playing in your head from years ago. “You’re not worth anything. You’ll never amount to anything. You’re just a . . . (whatever) . . .” If you’re listening to those voices, you will be discouraged, you will be riddled with self-image problems.

But if you listen to God’s voice, and you can know that if you’re in Christ, you are chosen and precious. You’re a living stone, and together we’re joined into this holy construction project—the building of a temple for God.

That gives us hope when we’re struggling to overcome a particular sin or trial—that we are a new creation. We are living stones, a dwelling place for God, set apart to serve Him as priests, offering sacrifices that are acceptable to Him through Jesus Christ.

Peter goes on to say in 1 Peter 2:6–8:

For it stands in Scripture [and now he quotes from three different places in the Old Testament]: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame" [that’s a quote from Isa. 28:16].
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," [that’s a quote from Ps. 118:22] and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense" [and that’s a quote from Isa. 8:14]. 

As you read this passage in 1 Peter 2, you realize there are only two possible responses to Jesus: to reject Him or to believe in Him. For those who believe Him, this is a message of hope and of honor. But it’s a message of judgment for those who reject Him, to those who refuse to believe in Him.

Those who reject Christ—the precious Cornerstone that God has chosen; those who refuse to believe and obey Him, will end up stumbling, falling, tripping over that Stone, and be put to shame, and ultimately, they will be crushed by that Stone. We don’t like that message so much in the Scripture; we don’t hear a lot of preaching on that message today.

But, you know, salvation isn’t precious until you realize what you’ve been saved from. People are not going to run to Christ until they know that if they don’t run to Him, they will be run over by Him. So we have to preach judgment, because the God of grace and mercy is a God who delivers us from judgment.

For those who believe, whose hearts are soft and pliable and responsive toward Him, they will never be put to shame.

My dad, who’s been with the Lord since I was twenty-one (so I never knew him as an adult), I have this distinct memory of him from my childhood and teenage years. He had an amazing gift of evangelism. He wasn’t a great preacher, but God would take him to people who were ready to believe in Jesus.

He didn’t care what their background was—Gentile or Jew—he would just kind of witness to everything that moved. He had this little thing he would do that I sometimes thought was a little embarrassing—and so did some other people—but it was amazingly effective.

Sometimes when he sensed that someone was just wanting to “sit on the fence” and not declare themselves one way or the other, for or against Jesus, he would hand them this little card and say to them: “Would you read this to me?” On one side, it would say, “I hereby reject Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.” And he would say, “and sign your name right here.”

The person would say, “But I don’t reject Him. I don’t want to sign that!”

Then he’d turn over the card, and on the other side, it would say, “I hereby receive Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.” He’d say, “Sign on the dotted line.”

“Oh,” they would reply, “I don’t want to sign that!” They wanted to be in the middle.

But he wanted people to see, “No, you’re on one side or the other. You believe or you reject.” There’s no middle ground. So many people in highly churched America today think, I don’t believe, but I don’t reject. I’m just drifting. You don’t drift. You believe Jesus or you reject Him. It’s important for people to see that their eternal destiny rests on how they treat Jesus.

You believe Him or reject Him. You consider Him precious or you despise Him. There is no middle ground.

In Ephesians 2, beginning with verse 19, we see another reference to this Cornerstone.

So then you are . . . members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (vv. 19–22).

So we see that there is a household here . . . a house that’s being built. It’s the household of God, the church of Jesus Christ that is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone. And we’ve been made living stones, being built on that foundation. We’re part of that building that God has established on Jesus Christ.

“On Christ the solid Rock I stand . . .” That’s what we’re singing about. Jesus Christ. He supports the entire structure—the weight of that building. The weight of the church rests on Him and His finished work on the cross. Aren’t you glad that your salvation doesn’t rest on you? Aren’t you glad it all rests on Him?

And aren’t you glad that the success or the failure of the church doesn’t rest on you or your church or your pastor? It rests on Jesus. He’s the One who joins the whole building together.

We’re held together because of Him. What’s the purpose? That one day, when it’s all finished, this would be a splendid, glorious, holy dwelling place for God—a temple for God.

Today we see, around the world, many whose hearts are hardened and resistant against Christ—many who attack His people. For example, you’re reading these days about how Christians are being systematically persecuted in Syria, in Iran, in other parts of the world, and this is a grievous heartache to us.

I want to encourage us that, as we pray for those believers in those countries, we need to pray for them, that they would not despair, that they would not lose hope. Know that God is giving those attackers, those persecutors, time to repent. They may be powerful, but they will not be able to resist this solid Rock—Christ, the foundation Stone, the Cornerstone. They cannot resist Him forever.

We see a picture of that. Let me take you to one final Old Testament passage, Daniel 2, where Daniel reveals a dream to Nebuchadnezzar. Remember in that dream there was this great, frightening image that had a head of gold and chest and arms of silver and a middle part and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron, and feet that were partly of iron and partly of clay?

Verse 34 tells us, as Daniel was telling Nebuchadnezzar about this dream,

A stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.

Now what happens if the feet of this image are destroyed? What’s going to happen to the whole image? It’s going to topple. And, sure enough, that’s what happened.

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (vv. 34–35).

That’s the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. Now, what’s the interpretation of the dream? What does it mean? Daniel, who saw dimly, the vision of the coming Christ—the Cornerstone—was given wisdom by the Spirit of God to interpret that dream. Here’s what he said in verse 44, those different parts of gold and silver and bronze—they all represented successive world powers. They were mighty; they were powerful, and we still have those kinds of world powers in our world today.

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It [that is that Stone made by God, Jesus Christ] shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it [God’s kingdom] shall stand forever (v. 44).

That Stone is Christ Jesus. As we read in the last book of the Bible, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:10).

Oh Lord, chosen by God and precious, though rejected by men. We worship You as the chief Cornerstone, the foundation stone, the stone upon which all of us as living stones are being built, the stone on which the whole structure rests. And we say as the church of Jesus Christ and our lives as living stones—we are safe, we are secure. The building’s going to be square; it’s going to be right; it’s going to be stable because the Cornerstone is Jesus.

We want to affirm that we believe. We rest our lives on You, Lord Jesus, and we pray for those who still do not believe, who resist that Stone. We pray, Lord, that they might turn, repent, and believe before that stone crushes them and they are broken into pieces.

Thank you for the hope of that coming day when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. And He shall reign forever and ever. Amen and amen!

Leslie: Jesus is our Cornerstone. That’s another name of Jesus that’s packed with meaning. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been unpacking thirty-two names of Jesus—one each day—in our current series, “The Wonder of His Name.”

To see the video version of this teaching, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Throughout this series, you can see short, sharable videos from each teaching session. 

We are able to provide audio and video on Revive Our Hearts because of listeners who support this ministry financially. Without that support there’d be no Revive Our Hearts podcast.

When you donate any amount this week, we’ll say "thanks" by sending you a new Advent devotional by Nancy, The First Songs of Christmas. This is a beautiful book with a devotional and journaling space for each day in December. Each day’s reading will take you through lines from one of the songs found in Luke chapters 1 and 2. These include the songs of Elizabeth, Mary, Zechariah, the angels, and Simeon.

This devotional is a great way to go even deeper into your study of Jesus as you listen to the current series. Ask for the Advent devotional when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us with your gift at 1–800–569–5959. 

When you hear God’s name, I AM, what comes to mind? Moses at the burning bush? Did you realize how many times Jesus used this name to describe Himself? Nancy will tell you about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you build your life on Jesus. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Dawn Wilson, Lindsay Swartz, and Darla Wilkinson provided helpful research assistance for this series. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.