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1 Peter 2:6-8

6. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

6. Propterea etiam continet scriptura, Ecce pono in Sion lapidem angularem, electum, pretiosum, et qui crediderit in illo, non pudefiet.

7. 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,

7. Vobis ergo qui creditis, pretiosus; incredulis vero, Lapis quem reprobaverunt aedificantes, hic positus est in caput anguli;

8. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

8. Et Lapis impactionis, et petra offendiculi iis qui impingunt in Sermonem, nec credunt; in quod etiam ordinati fuerant.

 

6 Wherefore also it is contained in Scripture; or, Wherefore also the Scripture contains 2020     Several copies have ἡ γραφὴ instead of ἐν τὣ γραφὴ; and this reading Calvin has followed. But the verb περιέχω is used by Josephus and others in a passive sense. — Ed. They who refer the verb “contain” (περιέχειν) to Christ, and render it “embrace,” because through him all these unite together, wholly depart from the meaning of the Apostle. No better is another exposition, that Christ excels others; for Peter simply intended to quote the testimony of Scripture. 2121     The quotation is not exactly either from the Hebrew or from the Sept. The Apostle seems to have taken what was suitable to his purpose. — Ed. He then shews what had been taught by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, or, which is the same thing, that what he adds is contained in them. Nor is it an unsuitable confirmation of the preceding verse. For we see for what slight reasons, and almost for none, many reject Christ, and some fall away from him; but this is a stumblingblock which above all other things stands in the way of some; they are drawn away, because not only the common people despise and reject Christ, but also those who are high in dignity and honor, and seem to excel others. This evil has almost ever prevailed in the world, and at this day it prevails much; for a great part of mankind judge of Christ according to the false opinion of the world. Moreover, such is the ingratitude and impiety of men, that Christ is everywhere despised. Thus it is, that while they regard one another, few pay him his due honor. Hence Peter reminds us of what had been foretold of Christ, lest the contempt or the rejection of him should move us from the faith.

Now, the first passage, which he adduces, is taken from Isaiah 28:16; where the Prophet, after having inveighed against the desperate wickedness of his own nation, at length adds,

“Your perfidy shall not prevent God from restoring his church, which now through you lies wholly in a ruinous state.”
(Isaiah 28:16)

The manner of restoration he thus describes, “I will lay in Sion a stone.” We hence learn that there is no building up of the Church without Christ; for there is no other foundation but he, as Paul testifies, (1 Corinthians 3:11.) This is no matter of wonder, for all our salvation is found only in him. Whosoever, then, turns away from him in the least degree, will find his foundation a precipice.

Therefore the Prophet not only calls him a corner-stone, which connects the whole edifice, but also a stone of trial, according to which the building is to be measured and regulated; and farther, he calls him a solid foundation, which sustains the whole edifice. He is thus, then, a corner-stone, that he might be the rule of the building, as well as the only foundation. But Peter took from the words of the Prophet what was especially suitable to his argument, even that he was a chosen stone, and in the highest degree valuable and excellent, and also that on him we ought to build. This honor is ascribed to Christ, that how much soever he may be despised by the world, he may not be despised by us; for by God he is regarded as very precious. But when he calls him a corner-stone, he intimates that those have no concern for their salvation who do not recumb on Christ. What some have refined on the word “corner,” as though it meant that Christ joins together Jews and Gentiles, as two distinct walls, is not well founded. Let us, then, be content with a simple explanation, that he is so called, because the weight of the building rests on him.

We must further observe, that the Prophet introduces God as the speaker, for he alone forms and plans his own Church, as it is said in Psalm 78:69, that his hand had founded Sion. He, indeed, employs the labor and ministry of men in building it; but this is not inconsistent with the truth that it is his own work. Christ, then, is the foundation of our salvation, because he has been ordained for this end by the Father.

And he says in Sion, because there God’s spiritual temple was to have its beginning. That our faith, therefore, may firmly rest on Christ, we must come to the Law and to the Prophets. For though this stone extends to the extreme parts of the world, it was yet necessary for it to be located first in Sion, for there at that time was the seat of the Church. But it is said to have been then set, when the Father revealed him for the purpose of restoring his Church. In short, we must hold this, that those only rest on Christ, who keep the unity of the Church, for he is not set as a foundation-stone except in Sion. As from Sion the Church went forth, which is now everywhere spread, so also from Sion our faith has derived its beginning, as Isaiah says,

“From Sion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3.)

Corresponding with this is what is said in the Psalms,

“The scepter of thy power will the Lord send forth from Sion.” (Psalm 110:2.)

He that believeth The Prophet does not say in him, but declares generally, “He that believeth shall not make haste.” As, however, there is no doubt but that God sets forth Christ there as the object of our faith, the faith of which the Prophet speaks must look on him alone. And, doubtless, no one can rightly believe, but he who is fully convinced that in Christ he ought wholly to trust.

But the words of the Prophet may be taken in two ways, either as a promise or as an exhortation. The future time is referred to, “He shall not make haste;” but in Hebrew the future is often to be taken for an imperative, “Let him not make haste.” Thus the meaning would be, “Be ye not moved in your minds, but quietly entertain your desires, and check your feelings, until the Lord will be pleased to fulfill his promise.” So he says in another place,

“In silence and in quietness shall be your strength,”
(Isaiah 30:15.)

But as the other reading seems to come nearer to Peter’s interpretation, I give it the preference. Then the sense would not be unsuitable, “He who believeth shall not waver” or vacillate; for he has a firm and permanent foundation. And it is a valuable truth, that relying on Christ, we are beyond the danger of falling. Moreover, to be ashamed (pudefieri) means the same thing. Peter has retained the real sense of the Prophet, though he has followed the Greek version. 2222     As to this verb he has, but in the previous parts he comes nearer to the Hebrew than to the Sept. Paul quotes this sentence twice, Romans 9:33; 10:11, and follows the Sept. as Peter does. Indeed, the difference between יחיש he shall make haste, and יבש, he shall be ashamed, is very small; and further, the former verb admits of a similar meaning with the latter. — Ed.

7. Unto you therefore which believe God having pronounced Christ to be a precious and a chosen stone, Peter draws the inference that he is so to us. For, no doubt, Christ is there described such as we apprehend him by faith, and such as he proves himself to be by real evidences. We ought, then, carefully to notice this inference: Christ is a precious stone in the sight of God; then he is such to the faithful. It is faith alone which reveals to us the value and excellency of Christ.

But as the design of the Apostle was to obviate the offense which the multitude of the ungodly creates, he immediately adds another clause respecting the unbelieving, that by rejecting Christ, they do not take away the honor granted him by the Father. For this purpose a verse in Psalm 118:22, is quoted, that the stone which the builders rejected, is become, nevertheless, the head of the corner. It hence follows, that Christ, though opposed by his enemies, yet continues in that dignity to which he has been appointed by the Father. But we must take notice of the two things here said, — the first is, that Christ was rejected by those who bore rule in the Church of God; and the other, that their efforts were all in vain, because necessarily fulfilled must have been what God had decreed, that is, that he, as the corner-stone, should sustain the edifice.

Moreover, that this passage ought properly to be understood of Christ, not only the Holy Spirit is a witness, and Christ himself, who has thus explained it, (Matthew 21:42;) but it appears also evident from this, that it was thus commonly understood before Christ came into the world; nor is there a doubt but this exposition had been delivered as it were from hand to hand from the fathers. We hence see that this was, as it were, a common saying even among children respecting the Messiah. I shall, therefore, no longer discuss this point. We may take it as granted, that David was thus rejected by his own age, that he might typify Christ.

Let us now, then, return to the first clause: Christ was rejected by the builders. This was first shadowed forth in David; for they who were in power counted him as condemned and lost. The same was fulfilled in Christ; for they who ruled in the Church, rejected him as far as they could. It might have greatly disturbed the weak, when they saw that Christ’s enemies were so many, even the priests, the elders, and teachers, in whom alone the Church was conspicuously seen. In order to remove this offense, Peter reminded the faithful that this very thing had been predicted by David. He especially addressed the Jews, to whom this properly applied; at the same time, this admonition is very useful at this day. For they who arrogate to themselves the first place of authority in the Church, are Christ’s most inveterate enemies, and with diabolical fury persecute his Gospel.

The Pope calls himself the vicar of Christ, and yet we know how fiercely he opposes him. This spectacle frightens the simple and ignorant. Why is this? even because they consider not that what David has predicted happens now. Let us, then, remember that not those only were by this prophecy warned who saw Christ rejected by the Scribes and Pharisees; but that we are also by it fortified against daily offenses, which might otherwise upset our faith. Whenever then, we see those who glory in the title of prelates, rising up against Christ, let it come to our minds, that the stone is rejected by the builders, according to the prediction of David. And as the metaphor of building is common, when political or spiritual government is spoken of, so David calls them builders, to whom is committed the care and power of governing; not because they build rightly, but because they have the name of builders, and possess the ordinary power. It hence follows, that those in office are not always God’s true and faithful ministers. It is, therefore, extremely ridiculous in the Pope and his followers to arrogate to themselves supreme and indubitable authority on this sole pretense, that they are the ordinary governors of the Church. In the first place, their vocation to govern the Church is in no way more just or more legitimate than that of Heliogabalus to govern the empire. But though we should allow them what they unblushingly claim, that they are rightly called, yet we see what David declares respecting the ordinary rulers of the Church, that they rejected Christ, so that they built a stye for swine rather than a temple for God. The other part follows, that all the great, proud of their power and dignity, shall not prevail, so that Christ should not continue in his own place.

And a stone of stumbling After having comforted the faithful, that they would have in Christ a firm and permanent foundation, though the greater part, and even the chief men, allowed him no place in the building, he now denounces the punishment which awaits all the unbelieving, in order that they might be terrified by their example. For this purpose he quotes the testimony of Isaiah 8:14. The Prophet there declares that the Lord would be to the Jews a stone of stumbling and rock of offense. This properly refers to Christ, as it may be seen from the context; and Paul applies it to Christ, (Romans 9:32.) For in him the God of hosts has plainly manifested himself.

Here, then, the terrible vengeance of God is denounced on all the ungodly, because Christ would be to them an offense and a stumbling, inasmuch as they refused to make him their foundation. For as the firmness and stability of Christ is such that it can sustain all who by faith recumb on him; so his hardness is so great that it will break and tear in pieces all who resist him. For there is no medium between these two things, — we must either build on him, or be dashed against him. 2323     There are in this verse two quotations, one from Psalm 118:22, and the other from Isaiah 8:14. That from the Psalms is literally the Sept., and is the same as quoted in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; and Luke 20:17. In all these instances it is λίθον, and not λίθος according to the Hebrew. It is therefore necessary to consider κατὰ as to, or, with respect to, as understood, a thing not uncommon in Greek. With regard to ἡ τιμὴ, a noun for an adjective, it refers to the stone, or to him, in the preceding verse; but as the metaphor of stone is still continued in this verse, it is better to retain it here, “it is precious,” that is, the stone; and especially as Christ is represented before, in verse 4, a stone “precious” in the sight of God. — Ed.

8 Which stumble at the word He points out here the manner in which Christ becomes a stumbling, even when men perversely oppose the word of God. This the Jews did; for though they professed themselves willing to receive the Messiah, yet they furiously rejected him when presented to them by God. The Papists do the same in the present day; they worship only the name of Christ, while they cannot endure the doctrine of the Gospel. Here Peter intimates that all who receive not Christ as revealed in the Gospel, are adversaries to God, and resist his word, and also that Christ is to none for destruction, but to those who, through headstrong wickedness and obstinacy, rush against the word of God.

And this is especially what deserves to be noticed, lest our fault should be imputed to Christ; for, as he has been given to us as a foundation, it is as it were an accidental thing that he becomes a rock of offense. In short, his proper office is to prepare us for a spiritual temple to God; but it is the fault of men that they stumble at him, even because unbelief leads men to contend with God. Hence Peter, in order to set forth the character of the conflict, said that they were the unbelieving.

Whereunto also they were appointed, or, to which they had been ordained. This passage may be explained in two ways. It is, indeed, certain that Peter spoke of the Jews; and the common interpretation is, that they were appointed to believe, for the promise of salvation was destined for them. But the other sense is equally suitable, that they had been appointed to unbelief; as Pharaoh is said to have been set up for this end, that he might resist God, and all the reprobate are destined for the same purpose. And what inclines me to this meaning is the particle καὶ (also) which is put in. 2424     The most obvious meaning is, to consider the phrase, “who stumble at the word,” as the antecedent to εἰς ὃ “to which:” they being disobedient or unbelieving were destined to stumble at the word, and thereby to fall and to be broken. (Isaiah 8:14,15.) To the believing it was precious, but to the unbelieving it became the stone of stumbling; and this stumbling is a judgment to which all the unpersuaded (literally) or the unbelieving, are destined. I would render the two verses thus, —
   “To you then who believe it is precious; but to the unbelieving (with regard to the stone which the builders have rejected, the same which has become the head of the corner) even a stone of stumbling and rock of offense; that is, to those who stumble at the word, being unbelieving; to which also they have been appointed:” that is, according to the testimony of Scripture. — Ed.
If, however, the first view be preferred, then it is a vehement upbraiding; for Peter does hence enhance the sin of unbelief in the people who had been chosen by God, because they rejected the salvation that had been peculiarly ordained for them. And no doubt this circumstance rendered them doubly inexcusable, that having been called in preference to others, they had refused to hear God. But, by saying that they were appointed to believe, he refers only to their outward call, even according to the covenant which God had made generally with the whole nation. At the same time their ingratitude, as it has been said, was sufficiently proved, when they rejected the word preached to them.


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