In ancient biblical times the cornerstone was the stone at the corner of two walls that united them. It was the visible corner and most important stone of the foundation of the building. It set the level, angle, and outer dimensions of the building. It had to be level and squared true (vertical) so that all the other future stones could be set from it.
Once in place, the rest of the building would conform to the angles and size of the cornerstone. If removed, the entire structure could collapse. It was the most costly stone because of its beauty and strength. It was also the largest, most solid, and carefully constructed stone.
Jesus describes Himself as the Chief Cornerstone that His church would be built upon, a unified body of believers, both Jews and Gentiles.
The prophet Isaiah made many references to the Messiah to come as “the Cornerstone.” One such reference is found in Isaiah 28:16 (NLT), “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.’ ”
Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone and foundation of the New Testament church (Ephesians 2:19-22). But the cornerstone could not be a freshly cut or an untested stone that might fracture under the weight of what it supports. The stone God laid as the foundation, His only Son, was precious to Him, and tested over and over in the crucible of life. Indeed, Jesus serves not only as the foundation of the church but also for each Christian’s individual life.
So what does it mean that Christ is the cornerstone of God’s building? In the Psalms we see that Christ is the refuge rock, the blessed rock, the protecting rock, the higher rock, the cleft rock, the strengthening rock, the habitation rock, the unfailing rock, the salvation rock, and the trusting rock! But He is also the foundation stone, the living stone, the cornerstone, the precious stone, the top-stone, the crushing stone, and the stone of stumbling!
Psalms 118 tells us that without Christ as the cornerstone, the revelation concerning Christ in the whole book of Psalms is not complete. Christ is the Chief Cornerstone! We need to ever celebrate Christ as the Chief Cornerstone!
In Peter 2:4-8, we see that Christ is the Stone and we also are living stones built together into God’s dwelling place. As the Cornerstone, the Rock, He beseeches us to become living stones to be transformed into a holy priesthood for service!
“Christ has given to the church a sacred charge. Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that the Saviour desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and His character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour’s love. All heaven is waiting for men and women through whom God can reveal the power of Christianity”—Acts of the Apostles, p. 600.
May we permit God to make us His living stones and “stonify us” by infusing His “cornerstone-likeness” into us until we become like Him, living witnessing stones for God’s building!
Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees.