A Tried Stone

In the groundwork of any significant building project there comes a moment when the foundation stone is laid. Traditionally this stone determines the dimensions and the alignment for the rest of the structure. Particularly in ancient stone buildings – which didn’t often use mortar – getting the foundation stone just right would bode well for the project, whereas if the foundation stone wasn’t level and true then everything built on top of it would be off-kilter and the building would eventually fail.

The ceremonial laying of a foundation stone signifies a fresh start, a new project that should inspire optimism and hope. No mayor, or celebrity, or city dignitary has ever fumbled with a shovel and cut a ribbon with words like “It is our hope that this new building will soon be grimy, rat-infested, and with any luck will crumble to the ground inside fifty years!” No, the hope is always that the new work will bring about fresh life in the community, and a sense of civic enthusiasm.

So when God, through the prophet Isaiah, declared that He “will lay in Zion a tested and precious cornerstone” (Isaiah 28:16) the immediate reaction would be at least twofold. First it would generate incredulity, perhaps tinged with concern. A new building for God’s holy hill (Psalm 2:6)? In Isaiah’s day, Solomon’s magnificent temple had been standing on Zion for over two centuries; a natural response would be “why do we need a new building there – what’s wrong with the old one?” (Isaiah’s context here shows us that the existing complex on Zion had become the haunt of the corrupt and the idolatrous).

A second reaction would be curiosity concerning the new work about to start. The shape and the alignment of the cornerstone would always give hints about the configuration of the completed building. Well, the dimensions would be measured on a scale of “justice;” not inches, metres or cubits. And the whole structure would be tested for plumb and level against the perfect vertical of “righteousness” (Isaiah 28:17). What architect can work in those units? What surveyor can measure in those degrees? Only God Himself. This will be His project, and He will oversee its completion.

When we come forward seven centuries to Christ’s time on earth, several of His own sayings, and several subsequent writers in the New Testament, point to Christ Himself as being the cornerstone upon which God, the chief architect and surveyor builds. Every stone is to be measured against Christ’s justice, and every new course is to be checked for plumb against His righteousness. Peter calls us living stones, building up a spiritual house of worship to God, with Christ as the precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6). Paul employs the same image, with Christ as the crucial cornerstone, accompanied by the prophets and apostles who form the rest of the foundation, and from Him the entire structure of the building – the Church – is determined (Ephesians 2:20).

So as we join this amazing construction, we become part of its stonework – quarried and cut. Our fit isn’t measured in feet or centimetres, and our plumb isn’t measured in terms of gravity. We are evaluated in the terms determined by the foundation stone; units of justice and righteousness. Each of us is declared useful for the project by the master builder. This is because we, by faith, become like the cornerstone, unshakeable. And while none of us is perfect – after all, there’s only one precious and tested stone – we all have a strategic place in the grand design.

Copyright © 2010 by Dr Terry Boyle. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Dr Terry Boyle serves as Pastor for Insight for Living UK. His ministry involves teaching a weekend radio programme, hosting the weekday Insight for Living broadcast, helping with issues that come in from listeners, and providing a personal and local approach to Chuck Swindoll’s ministry.

Terry was born in Windsor, England. He moved to the United States in 1981. Although he began his professional life as a biochemist, Terry holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Ministry and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.

Terry served as senior pastor of Skillman Bible Church in Dallas until he and his family moved back to the UK in 2007, to take on the role of pastor for Insight for Living United Kingdom.

Terry and his wife Rose Ann have been married for twenty seven years, and they have three grown children: Hannah, Emily, and Terence.