People tend to have different mental images when they think of “Christianity” or “Christians”. There’s “following the rules” or “being nice people” or “going to church” or “mission trips” or “potluck dinners” or “ice cream socials” or “food kitchens” or “homeless shelters”. Christian do tend to do all of those things — the potluck dinners and ice cream socials are especially well-known 🙂 — but those are all secondary. First and foremost, what defines “Christian” is “Christ”. Without Jesus, all the other stuff is just another social club.
The Cornerstone Defines Everything Else
A cornerstone is the anchor point of a building 1. If the cornerstone is secure and accurate, then so is the building. If not, the building is vulnerable. The Old Testament books of Psalms and Isaiah predict a specific cornerstone, one that determines the foundation for mankind’s relationship with God. Not everyone recognizes the importance of this particular stone, though. Here are the relevant passages:
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.Isaiah 28:16
The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.Psalm 118:22
In the New Testament, Peter emphatically stated that Jesus is the fulfillment of these passages:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “ Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:8-12
This was not the only time that this point is made. Jesus Himself said it in Matthew 21:42-43, Mark 12:10-11 and Luke 20:17. In the “building” of Christianity, Jesus is the absolute, secure, accurate, perfect anchor. Without Him, Christianity wouldn’t just be weaker or different; it would not exist at all. Everything about it stands or falls in Him, in who He is and what He has done and continues to do for us. Note: I didn’t say who he was; nothing about Him is past tense. Does that seem exaggerated or overstated? It’s not.
The Worldwide Building
For some reason, Christianity often is considered to be the religion of white Westerners. In reality, the first Christians were Jewish, orthodox Jews who believed the evidence that Jesus is their long-predicted Messiah. Then, the good news expanded to include non-Jews — but still non-Caucasians like Ethiopians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs — who had previously been considered un-clean and unacceptable. Those Gentile believers are the ones to whom Paul said:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.Ephesians 2:19-22 (See also 1 Peter 2:4-8)
Today, there are millions of Christians in China, throughout the Middle East , in India, Africa, and South America. It is not just a religion of the U.S. and Europe! What all of these very diverse believers have in common is Jesus. All who have chosen to become Christians 2 have accepted Him as their Savior, the One who provides reconciliation with God. All are depending on Him, and not on themselves, to make them fit to come into God’s presence.
If Not a Cornerstone, then a Stumbling Block
To those who reject Jesus, from the 1st-century Jewish leaders to today’s atheists and everyone in between, that precious stone becomes just an obstacle in the way, something to trip over. When there is only one answer, but someone is not willing to accept that answer, they are left stumbling around trying things that can’t work. As Isaiah predicted, and both Peter and Paul pointed out:
It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. “Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over them, Then they will fall and be broken; They will even be snared and caught.”Isaiah 8:13-15 (See also 1 Peter 2:4-8 and Romans 9:30-33)
Jesus is Everything
Just as the cornerstone of a building provides its identity, Jesus provides the identity of the church throughout the world. Just as the cornerstone is the starting point, Jesus is where we start…and end. Just as the cornerstone is the focal point, everything we do focusses on Him.
As I’ve written articles for this site, I’ve noticed that no matter what topic I start with, I always end up with Jesus. That’s not a bug; it’s a feature that is necessary to a “Tell Me Why” website. He is always the “why”. He’s the Cornerstone.