The Great Divide: Believers and Unbelievers
1 Peter 2:6-8 ESV
6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
We’ve spent several sessions thinking about the phrase “as you come to Him” that we read at the beginning of 1 Peter 2v4 and, of course, the “Him” to whom we come is Jesus Christ. Everything in the Christian life centres on Him. Everything that we have as Christians results from our coming to Him. Every blessing that we have is in “in Christ”. As we’ve seen in verse 5, it’s in and through Him that we “are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”.
Now we’re going to move on.
Peter continues by quoting from Isaiah 28v16. We read in chapter 2v6: “For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame””. We’ve already referred to that quotation and considered it because Peter quoted it in support of what he was saying in verse 4 about Jesus, the one to whom we come, being “the living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious”. In particular, it was the first part of the quotation from Isaiah 28 that Peter was appealing to in that connection. As we then move on to 1 Peter 2v7 we find that Peter goes on to pick up on the second part of the quotation from Isaiah, in particular where it says: “and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame”. This is speaking of those who come to Jesus Christ as “the living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious”.
Then, in verse 7, Peter goes on to say: “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”. Before we consider that verse in any detail let us be clear about its structure and its connection with the context.
The first thing to notice is that the verse begins with the word “So”.
At least, that’s what we find in the ESV. The NIV has “Now” but that really fails to convey the correct sense. The Greek word really means “therefore”, so Peter is drawing an inference or a conclusion from the preceding quotation about “you who believe”. That quotation had said: “and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” and now he’s saying, in view of that, “the honor is for you who believe”. He’s showing what is true for all who believe in Jesus Christ. He’s concluding that there is honour for them because they believe in Him.
The second thing to notice is that word “but” at the heart of the verse.
That immediately tells us that a contrast is being drawn or a distinction is being made. What two things are being contrasted or being distinguished? We see that very clearly because, having spoken of “you who believe”, Peter then goes on to speak of “those who do not believe”. Peter is highlighting a real distinction. There is a real division and significant difference between believers and unbelievers. The distinction that’s being highlighted is between those who believe in Christ and those who do not believe in Christ.
Then, having mentioned “those who do not believe” he goes on to give two more Old Testament quotations.
In verses 7 and 8 where we read: ““The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense””. The first quotation is from Psalm 118v22 and the second is from Isaiah 4v14. He then applies those quotations to “those who do not believe” before going on to comment on them by saying: “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do”. Having shown what is true for believers in Christ he’s now showing what is true for those who do not believe in Christ.
So, with that structure in mind, we’ll consider the next three points beginning with point 1 for this post:
- The wonderful reality for you who believe
- The awful reality for those who do not believe
- The inescapable reality of the great divide
The wonderful reality for you who believe
Peter is going to give much more detail about those who believe in Christ when we come to verses 9 and 10 but, for now, we’ll just consider what he says here in verse 7. What does he say about those who believe? Well, in the ESV, verse 7 begins by saying: ”So the honor is for you who believe”. If you’re using the NIV you’ll notice that it says something that sounds quite different. It has: “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious”.
There is a very significant difference between those two translations.
The ESV is speaking of an objective reality.
It’s saying that honour is given for those who believe.
The NIV is speaking of a subjective reality.
It’s saying that those who believe in Christ consider Him to be precious.
They count Him to be precious to them. Which is the correct translation?
Well, although it is undoubtedly true that Christ is precious to all who believe in Him, that is not what the Greek text is saying here. The Greek word is “time” and the commentators and Greek scholars are all very clear that it means “honour” rather than “precious”. It’s used forty one times in the New Testament and it never has the sense of something being “precious”. I’ll just give a few examples, from the NIV, of verses that contain that Greek word “time” and we’ll see how even the NIV consistently translates it.
Firstly, look at John 4v44 where we read: “Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country”. “Time” has been translated as “honour”.
Then look at Romans 2v9-10 where we read: “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”. “Time” has been translated as “honour”.
For one last example, look at 2 Peter 1v17 where we read: “He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’”. “Time” has again been translated as “honour”.
So, we’ve looked at three different writers and three different contexts and every time the Greek word “time” has been translated as “honour”. You’d find exactly the same if you checked all the other instances of “time” being used in the New Testament.
If that isn’t convincing enough, also notice that the NIV says “this stone is precious”. The ESV doesn’t mention “this stone”. That’s for the very good reason that the words “this stone” aren’t in the Greek text. The NIV has had to add those words in order to provide something that can be considered to be precious. The fact is that the ESV has got it right in saying ”So the honor is for you who believe”.
The quotation that Peter had been drawing from had said: “and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame”. Peter is now saying that, far from being put to shame, there is honour for whoever believes in Christ. What is this “honour” that Peter is referring to?
I think it’s the honour that he mentioned back in 1 Peter 1v6-7 where we read: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.
The point is that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will not be put to shame, you will not be disappointed because genuine faith in Him results in “praise and glory and honor” when Jesus returns. Yes, you might have to suffer trials and persecutions in this life as Peter’s readers did but, ultimately, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you can’t lose.
Remember the sure, eternal inheritance that Peter spoke of back in chapter 1v3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. That is true of all who come to Jesus as the living stone and put their faith in Him. For those who believe in Jesus He is the foundation stone that lifts them up to honour and glory.
Next post: Point 2. The awful reality for those who do not believe
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!