1 Peter 2:7
To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed…
The Authorized Version's rendering of these words has been felt by many devout souls to contain a truth which their deepest experience joyfully confirmed. The true meaning is no less great and beautiful. Literally, they read, "Unto you who believe is [or, 'belongs'] the preciousness." What preciousness? The definite article points us back to the attribute of the "Cornerstone" in the previous verse. It is "elect, precious." Peter's thought, then, is that all in Christ which makes him precious belongs or passes on to us by faith. That is a profound thought put in very simple and homely words. Faith makes us owners of all Christ's infinite worth.
I. THE TRANSFERENCE TO US OF THE PRECIOUSNESS OF THE FOUNDATION'. There are two possible meanings of this phrase, and probably both are included in the apostle's thought. It may either be that the qualities which make Christ precious pass over to us and become our qualities and character, or that the qualities which make Christ precious become available for our benefit. The first of these thoughts is in accordance with the immediate context, for we find the same idea expressed in several aspects in ver. 5, where the living Stone is said to make those who come to him also living stones, and Christians are represented as being like their Lord, living temples, consecrated priests, and acceptable sacrifices. The idea that vital union with Christ brings about a communication of qualities from him to his followers, as if the virtue of the Foundation rose through all the building, is surely taught in a hundred places in Scripture, and is the very climax of the gospel. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. He that is grafted into the true Olive Tree partakes of its root and fatness. We share our Lord's life; and his character shall growingly become ours. Whatever makes him precious in the sight of God we may partake of, and so be accepted in the Beloved, and be found in him, not having our own righteousness, but clothed with his. We may hope for progressive assimilation to his character, which will not cease till entire conformity has been realized, and we have absorbed all the preciousness of his infinitely worthy and spotlessly pure nature. Water stands at the same level in two communicating vessels, and if our hearts are open to the influx of Christ's life, the flow will not cease till all his is ours, and his fullness has filled our emptiness. Looking at the other aspect of the thought, it implies that the preciousness of the Foundation is available for us rather than communicated to us. The "therefore" of our text suggests that it is substantially equivalent in meaning to the closing words of the previous verse, "He that believeth on him shall not be confounded." So that part of the meaning, at all events, is the security of building on that Foundation. The preciousness of a foundation is its solidity and power to bear the superincumbent pressure without yielding. That steadfast capacity to sustain all our weight if we build ourselves on him is available to behest and bless us. Therefore we need not fear that our Foundation will settle or give. We need not fear to pile upon it all the pressure of our cares and sorrows, or to rear on it a fabric of our hopes and security, it will stand. Those who have reared their lives on other foundations will stand aghast when they feel them crumbling away in some hour of supreme need. They will have to flee with the haste of despair from the falling ruins. But if we have built on Christ, we shall have no need for haste, and no pale confusion need ever blanch our cheeks. The steadfastness of the Foundation will avail to make us builded upon it steadfast too, and, if we believe, all its preciousness will be ours and for us.
II. HOW THIS PRECIOUSNESS BECOMES OURS. The order of the sentence in the original puts emphasis on "who believe." The purpose of the clause is to mark the persons to whom alone the preciousness belongs, in sharp and solemn contrast with another class, to whom none of the saving, but only the destructive, powers which lie in the Foundation pass over. The worth of Christ is ours on one condition, but that condition is inexorable; faith, simple trust, which takes him for what he is and rests the whole being on Jesus as incarnate Son of God, Sacrifice for my sin as for all men's, Inspirer of all my goodness, Pattern, Friend, my Life, my All in all, - is the simple, sole, and indispensable condition of receiving his blessings and being enriched by his preciousness. There is nothing arbitrary in such a condition. It arises necessarily from the very nature of the case. How can Christ's sacrifice benefit me if I do not believe in it? What possible connection can be established between him and me, except through my trust in him? Faith is but stretching out the hard to grasp his extended hand. How can he hold me up, or give me the blessings of which his hands are full, if mine hang listless by my side, or are resolutely clenched behind my back? Faith is the opening of the heart for the inflow of his gifts. How can the sunshine enter the house if doors are barred and windows shuttered? Faith is but the channel through which his grace pours. How can it enter if there be no channel? Faith is the sole condition. Let us learn, then, how much and how little it takes to put us in possession of the preciousness of Christ. How much? Nothing less than the surrender of our hearts to him in entire self-distrust and abasement, and in absolute reliance on his all-sufficiency for our every need. How little? No external connection with Churches or Church ordinances; no efforts of ours after self-improvement nor fragmentary and partial goodness; but simply trust in the Christ whom the gospel reveals. That faith must be a continually active faith. It is "you who believe," not "you who believed," to whom the preciousness belongs. The transference is continual if the faith be continual. Every interruption of the latter causes a cessation in the former, and is marked by breaks like those on a telegraphic ribbon where the contact was suspended. Builders put a film of pitch between the foundations and the upper courses to keep the damp from rising. How often Christians put a film of impenetrable unbelief between Christ and themselves, so that his grace cannot rise in their hearts!
III. THE GRIM ALTERNATIVE. If the condition of possession be as the apostle declares it, then the absence of the condition means non-possession. The freeness and. simplicity of the gospel of salvation by faith has necessarily a dark under side, and the more clearly and joyfully the one is preached the more clearly and solemnly should the other be. Therefore Peter's message would not be complete without the awful "but" which follows. Christ is something to every man to whom he is preached, and does something to him. Mark how significantly the following clause varies the statement of the condition, substituting "disobedient" as the antithesis of "believing," thereby teaching us that unbelief is disobedience, being an act of the rebel will, and that disobedience is unbelief. But observe, too, that while faith is the condition of all reception of Christ's blessings, unbelief does not so isolate from him as that he is nothing to the man. Unbelief, like some malignant alchemy, perverts all Christ's preciousness to harm and loss, as some plants elaborate poison in their tissues from sunshine and sweet dews. One thing or other that great Savior must be to us all. We cannot stand wholly unaffected by him. We cannot make ourselves as if we had never heard of him. There is a solemn alternative offered to each of us - "either... or." Either our life is being received or being rejected - our death. There will come to us from him either the gracious influences which save, or the terrible ones which destroy. He is either the merciful Fire which cleanses and transforms, or the awful Fire which consumes. Faith builds on him as the Foundation, and is secure. Unbelief pulls down that Rock of offence on its own head, and is ground to powder by the fall. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,