Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 15, 1971
NUMBER 48, PAGE 7b-8

The Stone Set At Naught By The Builders

Bobby Graham

Soon after the gospel had been preached for the first time, Peter and John were making their way to the temple at the hour of prayer when they saw a lame beggar familiar to all who frequented the temple. Instead of giving to him the alm that he requested, the apostle Peter granted to him the healing of his infirmity. The miracle that Peter wrought produced great wonder and amazement and demanded an explanation of the source of this unusual event. In giving the explanation, Peter showed that the God whom these Jews worshiped had sent his son Jesus and had by Him made this man whole. Peter further mentioned the resurrection of Jesus and, in so doing, grieved the Sadducees, who denied such teaching. These offended Sadducees brought the captain of the temple to arrest the men and put a stop to their teaching. On the morrow the Sanhedrin met to hear the case of the apostles and asked of them, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" (Acts 4:7) Peter was quick in his reply that the miracle had been done by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom these had crucified but whom God had raised from the dead. The crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews was identified by Peter as rejection of the very stone that God had chosen and made head of the corner.

Possibly one of the outstanding features of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is the rejection of the Christ referred to by the apostle in Acts 4:11. From the time that John began preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins to prepare the house of Israel for the ministry of the Messiah, his appeal was to these who later set Him at naught. The mission of Jesus was the salvation of all men, but he first aimed his work at the children of Abraham. His commission recorded in Matthew 10 and parallel passages sent the chosen twelve to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. His constant and enduring appeal was to his Jewish brethren.

An excellent picture of Jesus' appeal to the Jews is provided for us during his last week on the earth before his death. Matthew records these closing days in chapters twenty-one through twenty-seven. Pervading these last days are the final appeals to his own people and likewise the spirit of rebellion in the hearts of so many of them. The son of God began this last week with his victorious entry into the city in an environment of homage, excitement, and blessing. If only the people had really accepted him as their savior rather than their mighty conquering king, this day would have provided a preview of later things. Upon entering the city Jesus went to the temple and cleansed it of the merchandisers whose thievery had defiled it. He foreshadowed the rejection of the Jewish nation in consequence of their failure to yield fruit to repentance when He cursed the barren fig tree. The stubbornness of His Jewish brethren is again pictured in the parable of the wicked husbandmen, who killed both servants and son sent to receive the fruits of the harvest, and in the parable of the unrepentant son. The parable of the slighted invitation portrays the Jews as they refused to come to the feast. The four questions intended to entangle Jesus, recorded in Matthew 22, describe their attitude for us. Their question concerning the authority by which Jesus did His works indicates their insincerity. The eight woes of Matthew 23 show us that the sin underlying many of their other sins was hypocrisy. The lamentation of Jesus over the city of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-38 assigns the condition of the Jews to "would not," not "could not." The utter destruction of the temple as foretold in chapter twenty-four tells us God's judgment upon such people. The climax of their resentment and rejection, of course, comes in their crucifixion of Jesus, an innocent man, and their demand for the release of Barabbas, a guilty man. All of this, and possible more, was involved in Peter's charge that the Jews had set the stone at naught.

In addition to his charge that his Jewish persecutors had set Christ at naught, Peter's statement also contains a description of the stone set at naught. Let Peter identify Him for us and tell what the Jew rejected. Verse ten shows that the Jew rejected the one whom God raised from the dead. The Jews were continuing to reject the resurrection, as is evidenced by the mention of such teaching leading to the arrest of the apostles. In rejecting the resurrection, they rejected God's supreme sign, his leading testimony that Jesus is His son with power. (Rom. 1:4) Since they rejected God's testimony concerning His son, it is no wonder that they also rejected his power or authority. On this occasion and on another one — Matthew 12 — the Jew denied that the miracle had been worked by the power of Jesus. These who rejected God's testimony concerning His son and the power of Christ also denied to Him the position that God the Father had reserved for Him and was going to grant Him. Since Christ's position as head of the corner is the natural consequence of the power or authority of Christ demonstrated by the resurrection, when men deny the resurrection and power of Jesus, they also deny His position. "Head of the corner" is probably a general expression comprehending every position Christ occupies in God's arrangement. Peter also shows that those who deny Him as head of the corner miss the salvation that is in Christ; in fact, they miss all salvation, for there is salvation in no other. Finally, they rejected the word of God. Psalm 118:22 is the Old Testament reference from which Acts 4: 11 comes; they had to deny this passage to deny the Messiah whom it announced.

The danger of rejecting Christ has not passed: we, too, can set Him at naught. We might not do it in the same way, but we can do it by the same means — a rejection of His word. Remember that the Jews rejected Christ by denying what God's word said about Him; we can reject Him by rejecting what His word says about Himself. Jesus noted in John 12:48 that rejecting Him and refusing to accept His word are identical. Let men who claim that they have received Christ as their "personal savior" take note: we cannot receive Christ as any kind of savior unless and until we are willing to accept the teaching of His word. Members of the body of Christ should take heed: we can reject Him whom we have already accepted and deny Him whom we have already confessed by simply turning from Him and His word.

— Decatur, Ala.