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The Church as Spiritual House


In architecture, the cornerstone is key to the integrity of the foundation. The rest of the construction relies on accurate placement and structural soundness of the cornerstone.

That metaphor is used in today’s reading for Christ, described as the living cornerstone, “rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him” (v. 4). And the building constructed on that cornerstone is the church itself: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” (v. 5).

Notice, however, that the church is built up as the house of God for a purpose. The church is not merely an ornamental or decorative structure with no functional purpose. Rather, we are “to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 5; see v. 9; Ex. 19:6). The Israelites had to offer physical sacrifices of bulls and goats in order to worship God, but now through Jesus we offer the spiritual sacrifice of lives in service to the Lord.

The church was never designed to be a place to hide away from the world. Being God’s priestly people—the spiritual house built on Christ—is intended to bless us so that we can bless others and lead them to the saving knowledge of Jesus. Having encountered the reconciling mercy of God, we are called to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (v. 9).

An awareness of our identity as “the people of God” who “have received mercy” (v. 10) should compel us to be a missional church. Rather than seeing our identity as a matter of exclusivity or pride, we should embrace our call to proclaim God’s love and mercy to a world in desperate need.

Apply the Word

On the day after Christmas some countries celebrate Boxing Day, traditionally a time to extend gifts of charity and mercy to those in need. As you clear away the wrapping paper and the leftovers from your Christmas feast, prayerfully consider how you can serve someone in a homeless shelter or rescue mission in the name of Jesus today.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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