When we meet another Christian, it is not uncommon to ask, “What church do you attend?” It is not an inappropriate question, but it tends to put a focus on the building or institution that we go to for corporate worship. In reality, we do not attend church; we attend corporate worship services, church fellowship events, and so on. In reality, we do not attend church; we are the church. Peter makes this point in 1 Peter 2:9–10.
At the same time, although the church is not a physical building, Scripture does often use building metaphors to describe the church. We find one of these in today’s passage, where Peter describes us as living stones being built up into the spiritual house of God (vv. 4–8).
No doubt, Peter was especially attuned to the imagery of stones and construction because of the name Jesus gave him, which means “stone,” and our Lord’s teaching that He would build His church on solid rock (Matt. 16:13–20; John 1:42). Yet, when Peter uses the metaphor of stones and a building for the church, he does not tell us that Christ is building His church on him as the rock. Instead, he tells us that we are coming to Jesus, who is the cornerstone of the house of God—the people of God as His church (1 Peter 2:4–8). Peter and the other Apostles are part of the foundation of the church, particularly their teaching (Eph. 2:20), but the building block upon which the whole edifice rests is Jesus Himself. Moreover, the cornerstone of the church—Jesus Christ—is precious (1 Peter 2:6). As gemstones stand out from other stones on account of their preciousness and value, Jesus stands out for being particularly precious in the sight of God.
As the cornerstone, Jesus is the crucial support of the church’s foundation. The whole building is held up by Him, and if you were to take Him out of the building, the whole thing would collapse. We are called to come to Him and to rest our faith on Him alone. And yet, when we come to Him, we are joined to one another as living stones and built up into God’s holy temple (vv. 4–5). Those who reject Christ the cornerstone will be crushed by Him, but those who trust in Him alone for salvation are united to Him and to one another. Coming to Christ entails being incorporated into the church, and we cannot love Christ without also loving His church, which is His body (1 Cor. 12).